Once in a while I remember why I moved to CA: The Beach. I am fortunate to live a 10-minute walk to a sublimely rocky coast, and I visit regularly. But when I want to go “Archetypal California,” I head for Big Sur. Since I don’t have a car, I’m a bit geographically challenged, but fortunately, the #22 goes to Big Sur and back. It only makes two trips, and this time of year only deigns to travel on weekends. But it gets me there.
This morning, I took the 1X into Monterey, which arrives at the top of the hour. The only 22 leaves at 10:45, so I have 45 minutes to kill, and I was killing it Twittering on my iPhone. I looked at the clock, which said 10:44, so I raced over the bus plaza, and, long story short, missed the bus. I was feeling downhearted, and a guy on the #2, who grew up in Big Sur, encouraged me to take the 24 to Carmel, and, “Maybe a [Big Sur] local will show you some love.”
I got to Rio Road, walked over the turnout on Route 1, and stuck out my thumb. Now, I’m 56, and haven’t done much hitchhiking since my hippy days, and it felt a bit weird, but I was determined to get to Pfeiffer Beach. About 15 minutes later, a black Mercedes SUV pulled over, and I got in. The driver was a jazz pianist from New Orleans, heading for a Joseph Campbell conference at Esalen. So, we had a great time talking about jazz, his trauma around Katrina, and New Orleans lore. He handed me his card as I slid out the door.
The walk to the beach is a beautiful winding two-mile road, but I stuck out my thumb again so I would have a bit more time at the beach. A nice older couple picked me up in a moss-colored Prius; they were working on the Census, trying to track people down in the Big Sur wilderness.
I had to remove my shoes to ford the small stream passing over the road, and wandered down the path through the woods to the beach. The only thing keeping it from being perfection was a headache. It was a bit overcast but sunny and warm, and as I lay on the beach, it got to be hot. I wandered up the beach, taking photographs of the rocky shore, the rocky beach. A hawk drifted overhead. I took off my pants so I could wade out to a little rock outcropping, and found a smorgasboard of black turban snails, anemone and mussels. The sun beat down, and the salt spray tinted my glasses.
I was tempted to go in; a couple of people were in the water. The guy attempting to surf wore a wetsuit. I felt a little strange wandering along the beach in my underwear, but, hey, it’s California.
I left myself plenty of time, in case I had to walk all the way back uphill to Route 1. I forded the stream again, and stuck out my thumb. Shortly, a new black Altima pulled over, and I squeezed in behind the couple. They were both art teachers, escaping the overheated Inland Empire. Before we reached the main road, the guy driving said they were going north, and could take me into Monterey. Great! We had a wonderful time, talking about art, teaching, the Rez (he teaches on a reservation), and I have them some incredibly helpful hints as to where to go in the Monterey area. We had a great time.
Last time I was down that way, I got a travel tip from a seasoned hitcher, a tall young man with long reddish hair, long beard and a huge dirty pack. “The cops don’t bother you on Route 1 between Carmel and San Luis Obispo.” I told him about my run-in with the authorities on a recent hitchhiking debacle.
I got into town earlier than if I would have if I had taken the bus, so I meandered along the bike path to Café La Strada, got an iced tea, and sat outside in the sun and looked at my photos. My goal is to get to Big Sur, or at least Point Lobos, every weekend, and, after today, I’m thinking I will skip the bus altogether.