California’s Highway 1, With Memory Riding Shotgun
There’s a picture of me from the early ’90s: I’m 13, leaning against the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge, peering down into the water below. I look somber, possibly because my father had shared on approach to the landmark that it was, at least then, the most popular bridge in the world to jump off. Or maybe it was some other reason.
I was definitely freezing, my long legs in jean shorts exposed to the summer San Francisco air, which manages to look cold even in the photo. I would remember the unrelenting windy unpleasantness of that first trip to the city often after I moved to it more than a decade later, walking from work past tourists by the hundreds who were similarly underdressed, unable to fathom that there could be inclement weather in California.
That was the final stop on that family vacation, which was the first time I encountered the state, but it wasn’t the first discomfort during our trip. We’d gotten to the Bay Area via State Route 1, the epic and winding coastal road also known as Highway 1, my sister and I nauseated in the back seat and my mother panicking in the front as we took turns along cliff edges too fast. We had started in Los Angeles, where we had flown from Cleveland and stayed a night, we kids left at the motel while my parents went out. In the faraway unfamiliar city, noises through a door that opened directly to the outside, we were terrified.
It wasn’t that I was looking to reclaim the highway, or the state, when I embarked on the trip in the opposite direction from my home in Oakland last month. I didn’t have a strict agenda. I was open, as one needs to be here, to where I would end up.
I LEFT MY HOUSE IN THE CRISP, invigorating East Bay morning, elegant hills and gentrification shrouded in fog or wildfire smoke or both ― usually, recently, both ― and headed toward a bridge to the San Francisco peninsula, instantly sighing and celebrating. The city by the bay turns to bucolic beach town in about 15 minutes along the 1, as the ocean rolls into view on your right and cityscape empties out, and soon, you are in Pacifica, a seaside outpost that feels both remote and right down the street.
But this time, I skipped Pacifica for a new (to me) stop, in Pescadero, 30 miles farther south. I pulled away from the water and into the tiny town, wandering the main road waiting for Duarte’s, its 124-year-old tavern and restaurant, to open for lunch. The coffee shop across the street was playing a weird old movie in a nine-seat theater tucked in the back. Arcangeli, a grocery store and deli a block down, sells fresh-baked cookies bigger than my face, and I ate one.
When I did finally walk into Duarte’s, which I never would have done if a friend hadn’t tipped me off, I ordered a swirl of the cream of artichoke and cream of green chile soups. It’s not on the menu ― I was additionally tipped off just that morning by the same friend. This stretch of coast is frequently, as it was that day, hugged by chilly overcast, and I heard every local around me order the same. The sourdough bread from a bakery a bit north in Half Moon Bay that the restaurant serves hot was as good as any I’ve had on Fisherman’s Wharf.
There’s a goat dairy in town, with a tasting shop. Eight miles south, there’s Pigeon Point, one of the West Coast’s tallest lighthouses. There’s the famous old-timey, roller-coaster-and-arcade-studded boardwalk at Santa Cruz 30 miles past that, and plentiful beaches and parks along the way. I opted for turning off the 1 at Davenport Beach, its own bakery and roadhouse looking exploration-worthy for another time, and headed up to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest state park, because I had never been there, either.
镇子里还有一个羊奶场，里面有试吃店。往南八英里有鸽子岬(Pigeon Point)，西海岸最高的灯塔之一。再过去30英里，有著名、充满怀旧感觉的圣克鲁兹海滩游乐场，木板路边有许多过山车和街机，一路上还有不少海滩和公园。我选择在达文波特海滩下1号公路，决定把这里的看起来值得探索的面包房和酒吧留给下一次，前往加州最古老的州立公园大盆地红木州立公园(Big Basin Redwoods State Park)，因为我也从没去过那里。
I wound my car back to the ocean and rejoined the road alongside it, eyeing the options that arose: Moss Landing, with whale- and dolphin-watching boats. Monterey, of course, where my parents took us to the elaborate aquarium. Carmel-by-the-Sea, where I have only a vague memory of a street full of shops so fancy I couldn’t even really understand them. I continued straight to Big Sur.
我把车绕回到海边，重新开上沿海公路，一边打量着随之而来的选项：莫斯兰丁(Moss Landing)，可以乘船观看鲸鱼和海豚；当然还有蒙特利，父母带我们去精美水族馆的地方；卡梅尔小镇(Carmel-by-the-Sea)，那里我只依稀记得一条街上满是店铺，花哨到我甚至无法全然理解。我径直朝着大苏尔(Big Sur)走去。
Big Sur. The sound of it, even; the brevity and weight of both words. A road between rock faces, one side rising up and one sheer down ― amid a cloudscape, it looks like, when the fog hangs low over the water and it seems like you’re driving above the sky. Or, when the haze is thinner, and blurs the line between water and air on the horizon, like you’re driving next to infinity.
Tucked among trees on the landside is Deetjen’s, a 1930s-era National Register of Historic Places-designated inn, a rambling collection of dark-wood structures with thin walls and entirely varying rooms inside. The map of the property that guests are given at check-in lives in a frame in my house, from one of several stays; the room I booked this time had a shared hall bath, a twin bed and a kitchen sink. After dinner in the restaurant, I lay down and read one of the room journals that guests are invited to write in. A recent entry was from an elderly man on the precipice of a “scary and exciting” move alone to a new state, where he said he had no context. He also said that he left a joint in the teapot. I looked up and saw it sitting on a ledge. When I opened it, it was stuffed full of wishes written on scraps of paper.
掩映在陆地一侧林木中的是地杰(Deetjen’s)，一家列入《美国国家史迹名录》(National Register of Historic Places)的1930年代小旅馆，一系列乌木结构的薄墙房子，内部房间风格迥异。在几次入住的其中一次领取的旅馆地图，如今已在我的家中裱起；这次我预定的房间有一间共享的门厅浴室、一张双人床和厨房水槽。在餐厅用完晚餐后，我躺下翻开了客人可以在上面留言的房间手账。近期的一条来自一位年长男子，他写下了独自前来一个从未到过的州感到“既害怕又兴奋”，他说对这个地方一无所知。他还说在茶壶里留了一个大麻烟卷。我抬头向上看，瞧见它在壁架上。当我打开时，发现里面塞满了写着各种心愿的纸条。
I SET MY ALARM FOR MIDNIGHT. I drove, in the dark, down the 1 to Esalen, a nonprofit institute with workshops and lodging that opens its cliffside hot springs to anyone who books one of the limited $35 spots online fast enough when same-day registration opens at 9 a.m. The thing is: The spots are only available from 1 to 3 in the morning. The process of waiting by the side of the road and being rounded up and registered and led onto the property was not particularly warm or welcoming. But in the clothing-optional, open-air stone tubs, where the lighting is very dim and the crash of the waves far below is loud, the feel of it did melt off some as I soaked, breathing in eucalyptus, salt, redwood, pine.
I opted for a daylight version of the same view ― ocean forever ― on the giant deck at Café Kevah for breakfast the next morning. I could talk for hours about what I did as I continued south that day: stopped at the 80-foot, roadside McWay Falls. Stood in an exhibit on Pelton wheels (a type of water turbine) at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. I took the steep and mildly dangerous footpath down to an abandoned beach at Ragged Point Inn and Resort and decided to strip down to my underwear and plunge into the sea. I pulled off the side of the highway to watch, with a group of other travelers, a pod of dolphins apparently mating below.
我选择了这同一片景致的白天版本――永远的大海――次日早晨在咖普拜咖啡馆(Café Kevah)的巨大露台上用早餐。对于那天接着往南做了些什么，我可以说上好几个小时：在路边80英尺高的麦克威瀑布(McWay Falls)旁驻足；在茱莉娅・菲佛・伯恩斯州立公园(Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park)看了佩尔顿轮（一种水轮机）展览；在崎岖点酒店度假村(Ragged Point Inn and Resort)沿着陡峭且略显凶险的步道向下走到一片废弃的海滩，然后决定脱到只剩内裤，一头扎进海里。之后，我在公路旁侧停下车，和其他游客一起，观看下面一群显然在交配的海豚。
At a beach near Point Piedras Blancas, hundreds of elephant seals were lying around or playing, some of them 16 feet long and 5,000 pounds. I waved at Hearst Castle as I passed it, high on the hill to my left ― a place I did visit with my parents, where the tiles of the Roman pool room glitter with real gold. I witnessed a 600-foot, 23 million-year-old volcanic remnant, visible for 10 miles, rising in the distance in Morro Bay. I parked at the foot of it, where otters were floating around in the water right in front of me, their little hands rubbing their faces, rubbing their chests, holding each other as they tumbled, a stuffed-animal dream come to life.
Plans change. Landscapes change. Perilously, climates change.
BEFORE THIS TRIP, THE LAST TIME I had been on the 1 was three springs ago, revisiting with my then husband, after we had moved away from the Bay. One morning, I found myself alone behind the wheel at a sharp curve in Big Sur with a strong enough urge to drive off it that I realized I needed to change my life. Within a year, I had separated. Within another, I was finalizing plans to move again, to find my way back, to the state.
It wasn’t just how you could die in California, on a famous bridge, that my father had taught me almost exactly 25 years ago. It was also how you could live. “Lot of gays here,” he had said our first morning in San Francisco, over breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I’d wondered, heart racing, if he had brought it up because he had seen two men holding hands on the sidewalk outside the window next to our table; trying not to leap out of my chair to look, I asked how he knew that. Both of my parents sort of shrugged. Everybody knows that.
It turned out to be my place for sanctuary, too. When I moved here in my late 20s, I drank too much, and built a career I barely could have dreamed, and got evicted by tech workers and had the time of my life and had to fight for it, too. Moving back a few months ago, in my late 30s, not just queer but also openly trans, I was new but rooted in a place that is capable of holding so much complexity. That expands the definitions of what’s worthwhile, building and maintaining a road on an ever-shifting stretch at an edge of the world. That is harsh and precarious and utterly nourishing. That understands how a person or a tree or a planet can be simultaneously burned out and voraciously alive; that gender can be a construct, and a spectrum, and a death sentence. That my path here was switchbacked but perfect, and that you don’t have to be born someplace for it to be home.