Kat: In the past week we’ve been driving from LA to San Francisco. A classic route well-known among beatniks and hippies, searching for sun along the rocky cliffs of Big Sur. The roads wind around the cliffs for hours upon hours, until they disappear into the grey Californian fog, the dramatic coastline imitating the highlands of Scotland at times. Authors such as Henry Miller and John Steinbeck called this area their home. It is a writer’s paradise; the lone silver rocks forming out of the ocean, the crazed cliffs and mind-bending bridges.
The first night we camped at Montana de Oro state park, where endless coastline dissolved into fog. We were alone at the top of the world in our little tent. I’ve never felt so isolated than at this little campsite looking over the cliff tops. We hid away in the tent all night, only to be greeted by white wisps of sky in the morning.
An early start marked a long day. What would ordinarily be a one-hour drive up the coast ended up twice as long when the GPS sent us on a route around windy mountains in the opposite direction. We finally made it to Hearst Castle, what was the basis for Xanadu in the classic film, Citizen Kane. While the character of Randolph William Hearst has always been scrutinized, no one can debate the quality and sheer grandeur of his home. From the original home cinema to the Neptune Pool, Hearst Castle has a room for everyone.
After our foray into luxury, we drove for hours to the Freemont Peak state park. Justin was exhausted after a five-hour drive (what appeared as 2.5 hours in google maps is ridiculously increased in reality). The road up to the campsite was almost vertiginous. At some points the side dropped away to reveal a vista right down to Monterey Bay. We collapsed at our campsite, where strands of light brushed through the trees and flies buzzed on every part of our body… thankfully our tent had a fly screen.
Justin: Continuing on from Kat’s entry the following day we drove for about two hours and entered San Francisco, the GPS proved invaluable and definitely one of the best investments for the trip. Hello San Francisco! This city is amazing. I was mesmerized by our walk through Fisherman’s wharf – magicians, street people, fisherman, carousels, scores and scores of San Fran ‘Giants World Series 2010’ memorabilia worn by locals.
There’s a distinct feel San Fran has, like a circus invaded by Amity. I feel really free in the city, that freedom was reinforced when we went to a 9/11 church service this morning. A poignant reminder about the tragedy incurred by the people, this event really changed the collective psyche of the country and you could feel again the collective remembering and grieving today – the USA is a strong and proud country which revels in its freedom. I caught a glimpse of this after the service we went downtown and participated in a video shoot for a country and western song. What a moment, the singing, dancing and downright the coolest black cowboy I’ve ever seen spinning his moves right in front of me. In this crowd there were Indian Americans, Italian Italians, African-Americans, White Americans and the two monkeys of course.
It reminded me that America lives and fights on, the melting pot continues stir and is was a great day, bittersweet really, the pain is still there, not forgotten, but the people have also moved on and can celebrate together, I’m proud and humbled to be part of the celebration.
‘ In ’74 when Ruth and I arrived in L.A. security was still tight. We were lucky to get a ride with a fellow traveller in his parents three-car-length Cadillac, from the airport to the front door of a friend’s place in Santa Barbara. From there we hitched to San Francisco via Big Sur where we stayed overnight with a renegade cowboy on a mountaintop above the swirling sea mist. When we got to San Fran we went straight to City Lights Bookshop where Ferlingetti and the Beat poets used to read and imbibe various substances late into the night. We were a few years too late but we could still sniff the walls and scrape some grime from bookshelves and benches where famous hands had rested: Jack Kerouac, Gary Snider, Dianne Di Prima, Michael McClure, Allan Ginsberg.’ from Writing on Planes Boats & Tuk Tuks, yours truly.
Jan – sounds amazing. We visited City Lights bookshop and the Beat Museum. I wanted to buy a lot of books there… Can’t wait to read your account of it!