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If you see this guy cycling the coast, be nice. This is Marcus, 24 years old, a fellow Scorpio from Switzerland. Marcus has rode that bike from Switzerland, through Africa, Argentina, and most recently from Las Vegas to San Diego and up the coast to where we found him yesterday. That’s a Swiss flag flying at the tail of his bike.


Caltrans workers informed Marcus that he could not travel north on Highway 1 all the way through Big Sur, this conversation was at Mud Creek Slide. We came through just after this discussion and our buddy David, who drives a truck for Winsor told us, “Someone needs to explain to that guy!” So we stopped at our turn home and Marcus stopped too as he saw us and he asked, “Why can’t I travel on this road?”

We explained about Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge.

Marcus explained that he and his bike forded rivers in Africa, climbed mountains in Argentina, and again he asked, “So why can’t I get around this bridge?”

And we explained that the bridge is guarded by CHP. Maybe he could do a 1 a.m. attempt to cross, maybe he could take an old dirt road down into the State Park and wade through mud and creek, but even there the Park Rangers will cite him if they see him.

We asked if he wanted a beer, he declined.

In the end, we told him to do what he wants, it’s his adventure, but we also described Nacimiento Ferguson Road, that it too is Closed, but perhaps he could use it as an outlet over to 101 then River Road to return to the coast. Being a mom, I also told him that it will be very cold tonight and that he should ensure that he camps somewhere warm. He assured me that he’s prepared.

So be nice to Marcus if you see him. He’s courageous and has the enthusiasm of youth!

dcm_cover

Almost four years ago I enthusiastically reviewed Elizabeth C. Ward’s Coast Highway 1 as “a fairly essential Coast Road Read,” and now Ms. Ward returns with another must-read for California coast enthusiasts or for anyone who enjoys a good mystery: Death in a California Landscape.

Set in Laguna Beach, Ms. Ward gracefully depicts the type of people who characterize Laguna: “Everyone who’d lived in town more than a dozen years knew Millicent. They called to offer help or stammer out their grief. They all expressed shock and disbelief. The Laguna family, that great, motley collection of eccentrics and artistic sensibilities, beach lovers, wildlife activists, gay, straight, old, young, every political philosophy on the map, con artist, best selling novelists in view houses, unsold poets living out their Waldens in the canyon, physicist and feng shui counselor shacked up together, the larger than life egos; this whole sprawling, prickery, generous, opinionated, cantankerous Laguna family was coming together to stand by one of their own.”

The callers phoned Jake Martin, the same Jake Martin from Ms. Ward’s Coast Highway 1, returning as our noir narrator and unintentional private eye. Jake’s dear friend Millicent is found shot to death. Detective Swann suspects foul play, maybe even suspects Jake.  Jake knows that Millicent, albeit in her eighties was full of life and not planning to die.  Jake senses murder, but why and by who?

Millicent was the last living member of the original California plein air artists who painted the landscape that is now covered with cities sprawling across the hills and along the coast. Could the killer be one of those who make their fortunes off subdivisions and model home communities? The art museum curator informs Jake, “Developers are the largest collectors. They seem to feel that it is their responsibility to preserve the vision of the land as it was before they sliced it up and built malls and housing tracts on top of it. One would think they’d want to get rid of the evidence of what it was before they ruined it.”

To solve the mystery in Death in a California Landscape we travel with Jake Martin up and down the California coast from Laguna Canyon to Crystal Cove, with a few trips up to Newport Beach, a side trip to Ensenada, and then north to Big Sur. Death in a California Landscape delivers on its title by including the scenery in the text. Jake Martin puts us in the passenger seat as he drives up the coast, “I drove PCH through the coast cities to the traffic circle in Long Beach, north on the 405, then west to Santa Monica and Coast Highway 1. The morning fog burned off just past Oxnard where the road widened and 101 came in from the valley. From there on the sea was blue, the kelp beds rising and falling in the swells until the road curved inland and the sea was lost behind it. I turned onto the narrower and less traveled Coast Highway 1 towards Morro Bay and the Big Sur. I made San Simeon by eleven. Hearst Castle shimmered in the distance, sun turreted and dream veiled, a mirage that had floated out of the Arabian Nights, taken a wrong turn somewhere and come to rest on the far crest of the California foothills. From there on the road began to climb along the edge of the Santa Lucia range. The Big Sur is not for the faint of heart. Cliffs drop a thousand feet straight down into the Pacific Ocean on one side. Mountains rise steeply on the other. The road unwinds between the two.”

Elizabeth C. Ward’s Coast Road Mystery, Death in a California Landscape, serves as a retreat from the holiday frenzy this December. Download to your Kindle or pick-up the book. Death in a California Landscape also makes for a fine gift. Happy Holidays!

Click for Ms. Ward’s website.

 

 

 

 

Doc Mishler and friends

Doc Mishler last rode the coast road fifteen years ago with the two horses pictured on the right: Chief Free Spirit and Keep The Faith. At that time, Doc trotted from Montana to Washington D.C., by way of California, after surviving a cancer diagnosis and its treatment and reading the book, How Then Shall We Live, a text that weighs the question, “How shall I live, knowing I will die?”

What was then a personal journey to celebrate life after beating a terminal diagnosis is now a ride to raise our awareness of hunger, in particular regard to starving children.  Doc says, “There are children in the world who are so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of food.”

This ride is Doc’s mission. For more information about his church community, please stop him on his way south along Highway 1.

Doc can use a place to board his horses each night, so stop to offer your place when you see him.  Today he’ll depart Pescadero to travel to Santa Cruz, then on to Monterey, and then El Sur Grande, a day’s ride southbound until San Diego, where he will then head east-northeast to D.C.

This post written by Anneliese Agren

After reading Where The Road Begins, I wonder why I’ve never seen on cars of Big Sur residents’, bumper stickers protesting, “To Hell With Ansel Adams!”

The author of Where The Road Begins, Peter Gray Scott, is a resident of the Oakland Hills, born and raised in Berkeley, and educated at Stanford.  Mr. Scott is an architect who wrote this three-part book,  Where the Road Begins: The Saga of Big Sur’s Pioneer Families, and Environmentalism in America.

The first part provides the history of American settlement in Big Sur, initiated by English-American William Brainard Post and his Ohlone-Rumsen wife, Maria Anselma Onesimo.  The second part focuses on the building of the coast road through the Sur in the 1930s, and the effects once the world rushed in and “discovered” Big Sur.  The third part, with only two short chapters, is about the new people in Big Sur, “. . . who were financially secure or whose income came from somewhere else.  They may have come for the beauty of the place, but they had no essential dependence on the land.”

Mr. Scott details a “Golden Age” on the south coast of about 70 years, from the 1870s to the 1940s.  This Golden Age grew out of an American idealism of individualism, self-reliance, and the pursuit of frontier and wilderness as one’s destiny.  The early settlers considered land stewardship their obligation to community: “Protect the water supply, mitigate erosion, avoid uncontrolled fires, handle waste appropriately, tend the essential plantings, and ensure the livestock had enough to eat without destroying the pasture.”

The Golden Age was an insular time when few outsiders passed through, and those who came and went, were provided food and shelter at a ranch, so long as they worked for their supper and bed.

The highway creation itself was a State-managed project, with no environmental impact reports and no strategic planning.  Promises were made to residents of culverts and bridges, and promises were broken.  Rights of way weren’t paid to residents, yet the residents’ were paying the taxes that went to the road being dynamited through their land.

Once the highway was built, the Sur opened to the world.  With the highway construction completed, the Big Sur economy changed from a dependence on the land, to a tourism economy, now comprised of serving meals and providing lodging for the many post-World War II automobile travelers.  “The highway that brought the tourists was also the breach in the fortress-like geography that had protected Big Sur for nearly a century.  The dead-end residential road morphed into a link in the State’s transportation system.”

The obligations remain the same, though, “Protect the water supply, mitigate erosion, avoid uncontrolled fires, handle waste appropriately, tend the essential plantings, and ensure the livestock had enough to eat without destroying the pasture.”

“Save Big Sur?  From what?  For whom?”

And then came Ansel Adams.  Ansel was one of the directors of the Sierra Club in the mid-sixties when he moved to Carmel Highlands.  Ansel was never a resident of Big Sur, nor did he ever ask the opinion of any of the 800 Big Sur residents, but Ansel decided that the Sur needed saving and proposed the “Big Sur National Scenic Area.”  A National Park like Cape Cod, except that Cape Cod National Seashore, with its 40 miles of wide sandy beaches, eleven nature trails, and three acre residential lots, isn’t like Big Sur.  Imagine a one acre parking structure, built ten stories high, in Big Sur, and, if truly emulating Cape Cod National Seashore, then include picnic areas, comfort stations, shuttle buses and additional parking lots.  Also, carve out a municipal airport.  All these amenities were to accomodate an anticipated twelve million annual visitors*.

How did the Sur escape such a fate?  Buy Where The Road Begins: The Saga of Big Sur’s Pioneer Families, and Environmentalism in America.

Henry Miller Library
Nepenthe’s Phoenix Shop
Amazon

*Current estimate is about three million annual visitors.

This post written by Anneliese Agren

Two Caltrans projects halt cars on Highway 1 through Big Sur.  The northern one consists of maintenance and improvements at Rocky Creek Bridge.  The southern project consists of two constructions, both well-coordinated to appear as one project; a bridge at Pitkins Curve and a rock shed at Rain Rocks.

Project #1 – Rocky Creek Bridge

Along the northern Big Sur coast, about a 1/2 hour south of Carmel, automobiles and bicycles are controlled, by stoplight, to one-way passing on the northern and southern approaches to Rocky Creek Bridge.  You’ll wait only a few minutes at the light while the opposing traffic clears, then be allowed to pass through.  The Rocky Creek Bridge job isn’t listed (as of today) on CalTrans Road Conditions, but its roadwork is mentioned in a February 2012, District 5 Status of Projects.  CalTrans is stabilizing the roadway, widening the shoulders, upgrading guardrails, and installing a retaining wall.  Judging by the multiple scaffolds, it appears that the bridge, built in 1932, is undergoing a multi-point inspection.

Projects #2 & #3 – Pitkins Curve Bridge and Rain Rocks Rock Shed

You’ll wait about ten minutes at the site of Pitkins Curve and Rain Rocks, along the southern coast of Big Sur near Lucia.  You can shut off your engine and relax, while listening to ocean breezes through your car’s open windows.  Rain Rocks Rock Shed and Pitkins Curve Bridge is listed on CalTrans Road Conditions, but without any description of how amazing is this two-in-one project.  Pitkins Bridge and Rain Rocks Rock Shed perch atop the shifting scree of greywacke within the narrowest construction jobsite ever visited.  Steel netting is draped over the rockface to contain ceaseless falling rocks.  The netting was initially draped with helicopter assistance, then climbers fasten it tightly in place.  The rock shed will allow for cars and bicyclists to safely travel this passage and the bridge will connect the rock shed to the northern roadbed.

 

Slow for the Cone Zone.

This post written by Anneliese Agren

While Holly’s Honey Wheat Berry Bread dough rises in my warm kitchen, let me tell you of a good book about the California coast which provides three things: Intimate Authenticity of the place, a History about how and why people settled at that location, and snippets of Experiences with the Coast Road.  My Nepenthe, by Romney Steele, also forks out exceptional recipes from the restaurant’s kitchen.

My Nepenthe is a cookbook memoir written by Bill and Lolly’s granddaughter, Romney Steele, who menu planned, cooked, and served at Nepenthe’s Cafe Kevah.  Romney’s family harkens to old California, back to the second-half of the 1800s, when her great-great grandfather, Albert Gallatin, built the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento.  Romney’s great-grandmother, Jane Gallatin Powers, grew up in the mansion, and then married San Francisco attorney, Frank Hubbard Powers.  Frank and Jane established the artists’ colony at Carmel-by-the-Sea and invited artists and writers to reside there to paint and write.

In 1949, Frank and Jane’s granddaughter, Lolly, together with her husband Bill Fassett, created Nepenthe atop a projection of Big Sur’s steep land, situated a few hundred feet above the Pacific Ocean.  Bill and Lolly commissioned Rowen Maiden, a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, to develop their plans.  Romney writes, “My grandmother imagined an open-air pavilion for good food, dancing, and Sunday afternoon concerts, a place for people to come and forget their worldly cares.  She worked closely with Maiden to achieve her ideas.”

Nepenthe functioned as both home and restaurant.  “Bats and termites called the cabin home when they (Bill and Lolly) first saw it, and deer and rattlesnakes hovered.  My grandmother planted a grapevine that continues to trail up the front arbor.  My grandfather took jobs in the highway and in construction. The creation of Nepenthe Restaurant, a poet’s paradise carved from the hillside and formed to be one with land and sea, would follow.”

You read My Nepenthe two ways:  As a memoir, enjoying family photographs of good times and gorgeous meals at the restaurant, and also as a cookbook, by following its delicious recipes at your home.

As a memoir, My Nepenthe tells us of Big Sur through the lenses of each decade:

  • In the 1950s, “With a newly-minted highway and recovering economy, and Henry’s (Henry Miller) emerging fame after the ban on his Tropic books lifted, people flocked to Big Sur and hence, to Nepenthe.”
  • “The vigor of the ’60s brought a surge of interest in the coastal hamlet of Big Sur.  Hearst Castle in Cambria opened in 1959, bringing tourists from the south, and in 1962, the Esalen Institute opened its doors to the Human Potential Movement, drawing its own illustrious crowd.”
  • The Nepenthe Cheeseboard and the Vegetarian Chef Salad appeared on Nepenthe’s menu in the ’70s.  “The minute a waiter carried it (the Cheeseboard with generous hunks of cheese, fat slices of dark black bread, and fruit served on a board and accompanied by a glass of port) out to a table, surrounding tables asked for it too.”

After reading the book as a memoir, a memoir of Big Sur’s changes, a memoir of the restaurant Nepenthe, and a family memoir, you too will be inspired to cook.  My kitchen smells heavenly when making both, “Day At The Beach Minestrone Soup” and “Holly’s Honey Wheat Berry Bread.”

The Nepenthe telephone booth’s history is noted in My Nepenthe.  Lolly worried that they would be burdened with constantly answering the phone, “Everybody will call call to see if there was fog or not.”

Buy My Nepenthe.

 

 

This post written by Anneliese Agren

This is the tale of two Fradkins:

1. Philip Fradkin 1974 and 2011
2. Philip Fradkin, father and Alex Fradkin, his son.

Philip and Alex have published The Left Coast – California On The Edge, written by Philip, with accompanying photos taken by Alex.  The two have spent the past five years writing about, and snapping images of, the choices that we’ve made the past one hundred years in utilizing our shoreline.

These choices entail lumber production, preservation of open space, farming communities suffering withdrawal from the reverberating booms of mass housing developments, exploited fisheries, beaches as recipients of sewage line detritus, a globally-influential harbor, and, armed Feds.

After reading the text and viewing the photos, one walks away with a throbbing question, How does such a mixed-use coast mediate conflicting interests?

The Left Coast is not the archetypal published fare of coffee table books waxing poetic on images of uninhabited coastline or long rural stretches of the coast road.  The Left Coast charges the reader to consider how our current imagery of California is no longer that of the plein air artists, who, at the turn of the nineteenth century, captured landscapes and coastscapes without power lines, asphalt, and buildings.

Two of my favorite photos taken by Alex are not typical “landscape-y” or “coastscape-y” photos.

In the chapter entitled, “The Military Coast,” a photo of a young servicewoman is dwarfed dockside before the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier, home-ported at NS North Island, San Diego.  Philip writes,”Beach replenishment – viewed as a God-given, or rather a navy-gifted, right in San Diego – is a bit of a misnomer.  To replenish is to make complete again.  The beaches had been historically narrow, the Silver Strand being a thin barrier spit when the Hotel Del was first built.  They bulked up only when wide beaches were seen as a profitable tourist attraction, chambers of commerce promoted their mythic existence, and the navy supplied the sand – a massive thirty-seven million cubic yards to the Silver Strand since 1940, making it the most modified beach in California.  There was a second purpose for the so-called replenishment.  The sand was meant not only to give pleasure but also to protect coastal developments, which in San Diego County had been “built too low, too close to the beach, or without sufficient setbacks from the cliff edges.””

“The navy began dredging, with the clean sand going to replenish the nine beaches stretching from Oceanside to Imperial Beach.  Problems developed.  An unexploded mortar shell was found on the Oceanside beach where some of the sand had been pumped ashore.”

My other favorite photo, found in the chapter, “The Recreational Coast,” is, “RVs camped on beach.  Oceano Dunes, 2007.”  Ocean Dunes SVRA is a hot land-use debate between those who believe beaches are for feet versus those recreationists who desire to drive motorized vehicles across the beach and along its sand dunes.

The Left Coast is not Philip’s first published effort.  In 1974, Philip published California, The Golden Coast, which included photographs by Dennis Stock to support Philip’s text.  Dennis’ photos evoke that blissful, dreamy California of which we vacation along the coast road to experience, the coast that enviros fight for; photos perfectly-suited for a glossy coffee-table book. California, The Golden Coast, makes a delightful companion piece to The Left Coast, that is, if you can find it.

Alex accompanied Philip on the field research trips for this book, thus these two books tie together: In 1974, father and son travel the coast, for father to write a book. Thirty years later, father and son embark upon a journey to produce a book together.

Purchase The Left Coast – California On The Edge.

Alex’s website.

Philip’s website.

Dude gave me his name, but I didn’t ask his permission to share, so I’ll tell you that dude’s name is “Noah.”  Noah’s hitched rides from Shasta County to the San Mateo County coast.  He has no specific destination.  New Mexico, ultimately, then back home.

“Lightning Fields, New Mexico,” I suggested.  Noah hadn’t heard about Lightning Fields.  I told him about Just John, riding a tricycle, heading south a couple of years ago, and that his plan was to reach the southern end of the Coast Road, then turn east to New Mexico, bound for the Lightning Fields.

“An electrical dude,” observed Noah.  “I’ve been reading about Tesla and his inventions.”

Noah’s traveling south, dependent on hitchhiking to reach the next destination.  “Riding a bike would be better,” says Noah after I tell him about Just John riding his tricycle.  “More independence, travel at one’s own pace, stop wherever and whenever, and, more room to pack more supplies.”

Noah’s belongings fit within a modest-sized backpack, larger than what we slung across our backs when in school, but smaller than an expedition backpack, which may be more suitable for Noah’s coastal trek.  A black canvas shoulder bag holds items requiring frequent use, such as Noah’s bullet-shaped, stainless steel thermos.

Noah’s tanned skin from the past couple weeks of unseasonably warm temperatures contrast to this week’s winter weather of snow at 1,000 foot elevations and hail storms at sea level.  After a long rainy hitch that brought him through Marin County and across the Golden Gate, and a complicated navigation through the drizzly city, Noah got a ride from San Francisco, through Pacifica, around Devil’s Slide, then down the coast and up to Apple Jacks in La Honda.  “I’ve enjoyed two good woodstove fires and really good music in the past 24 hours.”

Atop Noah’s long, brown, sun-kissed curls, sits a green felt hat, with a stubby brim, adequate-enough to provide sun and rain protection.  Noah’s summer-weight, black pin-striped suit is layered underneath by a red tee, and a green wool v-neck sweater, topped by two thick scarves.  Birkenstocks on Noah’s sockless feet display signs of wear at the heels.

Next stop Santa Cruz, then maybe Monterey, unless Noah hitches straight into the Sur.

Keep an eye to the Coast Road for “Noah,” and, if you’re headed to the next town south, maybe offer him a lift.

Coast Road Twit

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Days until manuscript completion

Final DraftNovember 30th, 2013
Dot i's and cross t's.