Into every pilgrimage a little rain must fall. Bad weather and unexpected detours can upend travel plans. Yet, it’s the unexpected places we end up visiting as a result of adjustments to our itineraries that make the journey remarkable.
On a Sunday morning in February many years ago, I headed out from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast Highway. I love to drive, especially along scenic routes. With all the dramatic juxtapositions, PCH is one of the greats. This was going to be a great day!
The first miles south of Carmel where the road rims the coastline were even more spectacular than I imagined. It’s a cliché, but around each curve or bend, thrilling vistas of mountains and ocean opened up. I was so enthralled by the beauty that I stopped the car at every opportunity to take pictures.
The 45-minute drive from Monterey to Big Sur took two hours. After a stop at some sort of roadside gas and grocery place, I continued southbound with resolve to be more aware of time. That’s when it started to mist. The mist turned to rain. The rain turned into heavy rain. If you look at a map, you’ll notice there are few options for getting off Hwy. 1 once south of Big Sur. I just had to keep going, very slowly because of the heavy rain.
Nearing San Simeon, I was tired, irritated and frustrated from inching along in heavy rain. I vowed to take the next road heading east to Hwy. 101 where I could go faster than 35 or 40 miles an hour. Maybe, just maybe, make it to L.A. after all. The decision made, I took it as a good omen when the heavy rain lessened to a mist.
There is was: Hwy 46 with a sign indicating it would take me to Hwy. 101. At last!
Turning off PCH towards Paso Robles, the skies began clearing letting the late afternoon sun cast its golden light on the green hillsides. The ruggedness of the scenery smoothed into gentle hills that melded into pretty valleys. It was one of the most amazing landscapes I’d ever seen; it brought tears to my eyes because its stunning beauty touched my heart. Easing off the road to a narrow strip, I parked the car to literally soak in all the sensory aspects of the sublime view.
The experience of connection I’d sought along PCH eluded me. Those rocks and rough surf along the winding road only wanted to be admired. Rain and tortuously slow driving conditions steered me to the first available option that could take me where I wanted to go. Scenery along Hwy 46 invited connection and communion. It took bad weather and a detour to lead me to what I most wanted to find.