Editor’s Note: Only the Road Knows is an ongoing series following Bob Cooney’s trip up the Pacific Coast highway. See day 1 here, day 2 here, and day 3 here. Look around his website for updates at OnlytheRoadKnows.com

My home away from home.

My home away from home.

Saturday morning, I awoke to sunshine.  Made coffee, sat in the wonderful peace of the old-growth forest, and just was.  After packing up, I headed back to Gorda (which is really a gas station, a cafe, a lodge and a general store.  Decided that after four days, I would dine out for breakfast.  The Whale Watcher Cafe is the definition of a tourist trap, but heir food was decent, if not very overpriced.  Service was slow but accommodating.  Ordered the smoked salmon omelet for $18, and convinced them to give me a side of one blueberry pancake instead of potatoes.  Nothing to write home about.  I will say their baked goods looked amazing. They were showcasing the most amazing pecan pie I’d ever seen.  If you are looking for treats while passing through, definitely stop here.

Thought about filling up with gas, but at $7 a gallon, decided to pass.  Ran into a three road bikers who have been riding for three weeks all the way from Vancouver heading to Mexico.  I thought I was crazy. I can’t imagine how fit you’d need to be, both mentally and physically.

I was hoping to find an internet connection, but the wifi in Gorda was reserved for lodge guests only.  Considering there’s no connectivity along Big Sur, seems like a huge missed opportunity.  Adam from @ouropenroad told me to check the surf at Willow Creek campground about 3 miles north of Gorda.  When I drove down, I saw two guys out struggling to catch what seemed like 2-4’ crumbling softies on shortboards.  I opted for the longboard.

I picked up two new wetsuits this summer from Seshday; a 3/2 and a 4/3, both Xcel X-Zip’s  Great suits.  My others are a couple of years old now and don’t seal quite the way they used to. It’s not an issue in SoCal, but as I head north I figured I’d appreciate the insulation.  Picked up both for $300, saving about 60%.  Check them out, they offer amazing deals on all kinds of camping and surfing stuff. Use this link and save $10 (and I get $10).

The others had come in by the time I climbed across the rocks.   It was gloriously sunny and warm which took some of the chill off the cold water.  (I have a feeling looking back this water will seem warm to me in about a week or two).  There was giant kelp everywhere, which initially was unsettling.  The kelp is constantly submerging and popping up with the swell.  At first I thought they were sea otters, but after a while you get used to it.

The wave was kind of a mutant.  There were about five different swells in the water, none of them really dominant.  I took off on a few, but couldn’t make the drop.  There was one spot that seemed to be working, but it was in the middle of the most dense kelp bed, and I couldn’t brave it.  Maybe next time.

I was out for about an hour, really just enjoying the clean, clear water, the salt air and the sunshine. I finally caught a makable wave and rode it to the beach.  There was a nice white sand beach just around the corner from the parking lot, kind of hidden and therefore secluded.

As I made my way back to the van, there were a group of surfers chatting it up in the parking lot.  One was a current San Clemente resident, another a curmudgeonly SC expat, and a couple of locals.  I think they were perplexed as to why I was out there.  The expat was going on about politics, so I quickly bowed out and headed north.

The drive north through Big Sur is everything you’ve heard.  The weather was perfect, clear skies, light wind.  The vistas went on forever.  Every bend the road offered another lifetime photo.  It’s the perfect road for a classic VW.  You can’t go over 45 due to the traffic and road conditions, so you just cruise.  That torquey engine just seems to love it.  And the view out that big bay window!


Without phone service, I was unable to reserve a spot at the Eselen baths. I was thinking of stopping in to try to reserve a spot for tonight, but the sign warned that entry was by reservation only, and with the weekend crowds I guessed it would be futile anyway.  I have to get back there someday, though.  It’s cut right into the cliff on the ocean side of the highway.  The place is legendary for its spiritual magic.  I will definitely be back.

After about 40 miles, I pulled over at the ranger station.  I fought some momentary panic as my brakes seemed to not want to grip.  I downshifted aggressively and coasted into the parking lot.  As I got out, I smelled burning.  I must have been distracted by the view and overworked them a bit.  I’ll have to be more conscious in the future, especially if I get to the Lost Coast.  I paid $10 for a map of the parks here in Big Sur, hoping to find a road with some turnouts for camping.  The campgrounds were all full (along with everything else.  I can’t believe the crowds!)  In the parking lot I found this behemoth (and I say that lustingly).

Look at this palace!

Look at this palace!

Their website is in German, and they’re obviously from Switzerland (.ch is the top level domain there).  Check out their site here for some great pics.

The views here are staggering.

The views here are staggering.

I found a road right before the Bixby Bridge that led to a fairly secluded Redwood forest. A couple of miles up, it leveled out and I pulled into a turnout on a gentle bend.  Put down my mat and did my first yoga in a week.  Dinner tonight was soup, nuts and some blueberries.  Worked my way through some more Oola, and decided to watch a movie.  I’ve never gotten all the way through Inception.  Every time I try to watch it I fall asleep. Hmmm.  Maybe tonight. Peace.


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