This blog began at T-50 years (to log the first dream of the trip), the next T-39 years (recalling Nancy’s and my first road adventure) and so forth. More recently, I’ve posted at T-# of months, as the planning happened last year. All nine entries were written as if in the past. Now I post in (nearly) real time to report on the prelude trip of Wednesday, July 31.
Day 1: Kirk Creek to Roseville, CA
July 31, 2013
Routes: CA1, US101, I-680, I-580, I-5, I-80
273 mi, 18.8 mpg, 7 hrs.
Stopover here: 33 days
Thirty-three days before the cross country trek, we solved a problem that exists only in the nerdy parts of me that are still twelve years old. As my actual (and now inner) child wished for it, a proper cross-country road trip is ocean-to-ocean, touching the Pacific and days later the Atlantic. No cheating.
The problem was how to touch the Pacific. We start from our home near Sacramento on Labor Day. Though we live close enough to the Pacific to feel its breezes through the Delta, which come occasionally to cool off the Sacramento Valley, our start is not officially on the west coast.
I wondered whether even to care about this picky little detail. We could cut a route out to the coast on the first morning, then head east, but why? It had even occurred to me that we could drive to where Sacramento has a deep-water shipping channel which connects from SF Bay, touch the water there, and be on our way. That seemed enormously silly.
How about we pick a recent trip to the coast and regard it as the Pacific start? Hmm, I think that’s cheating. Besides, it’s more fun to celebrate a “mile zero” deliberately, if not as part of the actual trip, then as its own sort of prelude, not long before the trip proper.
That’s when a family gathering came up on the summer schedule, located on the Central Coast of CA, just five weeks before we leave. Perfect! We towed the trailer to this event last weekend and added some days camping at Kirk Creek near Big Sur. The last of these days, July 31, when we drive from Kirk Creek to our home, gives us our official Pacific start.
Kirk Creek is amazing. It seems to have its own camping culture, or it did on the days we were there, anyway. It’s quiet, the people seemed agenda-free, or I imagined them as such. The location is a bluff-top terrace that is slightly pitched at an angle like an auditorium-style theatre floor. There are “no bad seats”–no site lacks a view. This camp is almost unassuming, not much marring the coast but seeming to respect it, as if it is itself stunned by the views of the sharply sloped coast.
The people greet you, and you make new acquaintances, as we did, with travelers from San Diego, Washington DC, and even Leeds, England. Few generators, lots of tent campers, spacious and few sites, mostly grassy.
We were in site 13 (almost symbolic for the year of the trip), near a trailhead down the cliffs to the shore. This short walk plunges into a small ravine that gives Kirk Creek its route to the sea. This is lush, a nearly overgrown trail with sound-muffling bushes that eventually release me to the rocky Pacific. The surf takes over as the dominant voice, and I then hop rocks to find a perch and be still.
Mornings keep a gray cover, afternoons bring some open sky. The view from our kitchen table, if this were a home, would cost millions; enjoyed here for a few bucks and free from any plaster or street signs. A short drive north gives us interesting visits to another beach at Lime Kiln (a CA State Park with smaller sites, more of a Birkenstocks culture and easy access to a sandy beach) and to the Cameldoli Hermitage, a peaceful monastery worth the 2-mile side trip up to its hilltop views.
The Pacific may not always deliver on its name, but this trip it did give us an extraordinary peace. Leaving here is culturally jarring yes, but if the country is to be appreciated, warts and all, then the population centers and freeways must be taken in also. But I should not try too hard to be poetic here–we’re just getting home, after all. Even so, with thoughts of crossing the nation in mind as we leave the Big Sur, Carmel and Monterrey areas, it is hard not to look at east bay freeways differently this time, noting how with the passing of a few miles we have traded a good book and a beach for some guy cutting us off in traffic.
So this day is a prelude trip. As such, the drive lacks the “here we go!” feel of a real day one. Work looms on Thursday and Friday this week, and M-F in each of the next four. But September 2 will come soon and we’ll be on the road to touch the ocean on the other side.