Big Sur: For Everything Else There is Mastercard

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by smmmarti guide on October 16, 2003

The aim of life is to live, … to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. - Henry Miller

At sunset, over a glass of locally-crafted Chardonnay in the ultra-romantic setting of the Highland Inn’s treetop overlook, my husband made the nearly-tragic mistake of revealing he’d been here before.

Quick on my feet, (familiar with such things), I popped the obvious question.
"But have you been to Big Sur?"
I knew he hadn’t. During former visits he’d focused on golf, but during this visit he’d not even mentioned it; hadn’t gazed wistfully in the direction of famed Pebble Beach even once. As that was then, this was now, there was no way I’d relegate this trip to his "revisit" while it was my "first crush."

We agreed. Tomorrow we would awaken early. The light would be best in the morning, the traffic minimal. We toasted to clear skies and new memories.

Daylight brought evidence that the gods of romance found us in good favor. A rare morning sunlight shone along the typically foggy coastal road. Photo ops were astounding. My husband’s patience at my frequent outbursts, "STOP! CONDOR! SEALS! AWESOME!" on the often hair-raising, isolated, twisting, winding, climbing coastal rode, was equally amazing. He honestly enjoyed himself, relating the history of this road, the evolution from a wagon trail to paved highway in the 20s, the story of the magnificent bridges built during the Public Works era.

In contrast, I knew little about the area, limited solely to a pop culture awareness generated by poets, writers and hipsters who had crowed quietly about this place for decades. It occurred to me later that Big Sur lies below public radar because there is little money to be made here. Outside of a few rugged, rustic and esoteric lodges equally as devoted to conservation as the area’s early settlers(at least one of which is operated as a non-for-profit organization), there is nothing but wilderness; nothing money can buy.

Early pioneers of the handsome, remote, isolated area could be called the country’s first hippies--individualistic conservationists devoted to the land. Some suggestions hint that the forbearers of the area, a tribe of native inhabitants resolute in ignoring the invading Spaniards’ attempt to enslave them, is what gives the area its defiantly self-reliant and idiosyncratic spirit. I say it is the geology itself that influences such things.

Here is what I learned that day. This place, this drive, is a rare and wonderful jewel, preserved as a step back in time, accessible on a well-paved (but dangerous) road. It is like a drive through Disneyland or Vegas where all manner of the world’s wonders have been gathered in one location--a giant feasting table of geology and nature--but with a major distinction. It is authentic. It is you with nature as it lures you into its heart-achingly, mouth-wateringly-gorgeous smorgasbord for the senses.

Searching for romance? Driving Big Sur is a veritable love-in on wheels.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
47225 Highway 1
Big Sur, California, 93920
(831) 667-2315

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