Pacific Coast Highway… Simple as it is, this route was given the number “1” in the California highway numbering system. I suppose they had the map open on the table and started numbering the roads from left to right. It is one of the most spectacular roads in California. The heavy commercial traffic between San Francisco and Los Angeles is directed to Interstate 5, a more inland and flat road, so most of the people you see on California 1, are either locals, or there to enjoy the road. Tourists from all over the world come to California to do a coastal trip here. In a way, so did I…
We decided to do it in 3 days. It was already late in the afternoon when we left Humboldt County. The curvy mountain roads with hairpin turns made me realize how wary I had become after all. Many riders, including Bintuğ, were speeding up and taking the turns confidently, without worrying about the road conditions, animals, etc… Sport riding is something I hadn’t done in a long time.
After a short pizza stop in San Francisco, we headed straight towards Monterey. The views and atmosphere was already breathtaking but we were getting tired very fast. The day had come to an end, so we decided to turn back and set camp at the last official campground we had seen a few miles back.
This was probably the most luxurious one I had ever stayed in. Actually, sleeping in a tent and having a fire were the only things that made it qualify as camping. The wood was brought to us with a golf car. The restrooms were so clean and comfortable, that I wouldn’t mind sleeping in them. Maybe my standards have fallen a bit. It’s hard to say.
The night was a lot of fun. We were paralyzed with laughter for most of it. I don’t really remember what was so funny, but it had something to do with the deer family who lived in a house nearby. Miraculously the house had disappeared in the morning. But I clearly remember the father deer running to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I heard the footsteps and the flush.
Next day, we rode through numerous state parks enjoying the view of the Pacific from the coastal cliffs. Landslides and road closures are very common in this area especially in the rainy season. I’ve probably rode the PCH more than 10 times in the past and saw a newly repaired and slightly altered section every now and then. It would be easier to direct the road to inland sections but I hope they don’t give up the constant effort to keep it going the way it is. Every curve is worth the effort.
We arrived at our usual campsite in Big Sur, Fernwood. Bintuğ was very kind and considerate to set up his tent a few feet away from ours. He is hilarious when it comes to that sort of politeness… Again, we spent the night improving our appreciation of a fine selection of California wines.
This was the last camp of the seven we did together. It was also the last one for me on the trip. I knew that I wouldn’t be packing a tent in the morning for at least a few more months to come. It felt weird in many ways.
The rest of the road was very familiar. I spent it more in amazement of the finality than the appreciation of my surroundings.
I remember, Back in Siberia, thinking about the freeway exit I usually take coming back from the weekend runs. Leaving the carpool lane somewhere near Sunset Blvd, bearing towards the right lanes as I cross Wilshire, and releasing throttle as I descend down the exit into Santa Monica Blvd. Truth is, I wasn’t sure if I could make it. Anything could have happened. Losing the bike, having an accident or even death. Exit 55A on the 405 South meant so much, in that sense.
There I was, parked on the side of the road on Santa Monica. My wife was with me, asking why I had stopped in a “No Waiting” red curb zone. All I could feel was a big thankfulness… To her, to god, the highway maintenance crews, Suzuki Corporation, Kazakh customs, all the Lyosha’s Andrei’s and Sasha’s I met, my mom, the drunk guy in Aktau, Recep the trucker, Gollum of Samarkand, WordPress, Uzbek police, the nameless Russian family, Xado oils, Dashka the Mongol mechanic, Red Bull, you, Wendy Choi, desert camels, Sundance film festival and even Philip at Wilbers. All of it combined, at the same time.