Pacific Coast Highway: The American Dream

Today I am spending the whole day driving the coast of California on Route 1, more popularly known as Pacific Coast Highway. I was able to live my own current dream of driving until the point I felt like stopping, then finding an inexpensive camp site and resting for the night. The state campsites along the coast are all booked out, especially since it’s the weekend, but I managed to find a county RV park in Oceano. The tent site was only $25 for the night.

I continued north after stopping for fuel this morning in the town of Grover Beach, just north of Pismo Dunes. The skies were extremely overcast all morning, and stayed cloudy through early afternoon as I drove north through the coastal towns. I finally managed to get myself a digital camera, though not the one I originally wanted, during a short stop in the suburbs of San Luis Obispo. A few exits up the highway I stopped in the downtown area and went for a short bike ride through the bike-friendly college town, both quaintly historical and trendy.

When I got back onto the highway I forgot that 101 and 1 separate and I went a few miles inland by accident. After getting back onto route 1 it wasn’t long before I stopped at Morro Bay, another scenic and touristy coastal town, which had a trolley system and a lot of kayak rental shops. There appeared to be some sort of crafts fair going on in one of the parks as I drove past. I parked near the embarcadero and ate my take-away BBQ pork salad from one of the restaurants in San Luis Obispo.

As I continued up the coast, past roadside beach areas and sleepy coastal communities, it reminded me of my drive up the east coast of New South Wales, from Sydney to Newcastle in Australia. The same peaceful marine ambiance hung in the air. Every few miles there was another small town and another strip of coastline filled with parked cars and children playing in the water, but no two beaches looked the same.

After I passed Hearst Castle, near San Simeon, the scenery soon changed as we drove up the cliffside and onto the section of road where all commuters, motorists, cyclists, and tourists alike, take their lives into the hands of everyone else traveling through. The two lane road is narrow, windy, and scarcely has room for two cars at a speed of 30mph to pass each other, let alone the random cyclist hiding around the corner, or tourist looking for a good view. With all the safety warnings and labels and disclaimers we’ve come to expect in modern dumbed-down society, driving, the most dangerous thing we do on a daily basis, is hardly foolproof.

This is why PCH is the American Dream, a highway built so that we could enjoy nature, by conquering a small part of it, setting up a roadway, despite most safety considerations, so we can spend the day driving along the coast line. We can stop every mile or so and look out into the ocean, and down the coast, looking off onto the cloud layer below us, and the waves crashing up upon the cliffs. We can ride bicycles and motorcycles, packed down with all the belongings we need for a long solo journey, or drive our RVs and minivans full of families, dogs and camping gear, or even our sports cars we take out for a luxurious Sunday stroll.

The road trip along the coast and across the country is a symbol of the American Dream. I ramble along California’s roadways listening to country music and thinking about my life and the world, and remember the lyrics of a song I heard as I was flipping through channels on the radio earlier today, “Every day is Independence Day.”

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