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Pacific Highway, California
The sun is rising on a clear Autumn morning. There’s a car in the garage, the keys are on your bedside table and the Pacific Highway on your doorstep. Who needs an alarm clock?
The concept is beautifully simple: take a drive on one of the world’s best roads. You can argue about the exact road and the start/finish times. But you’d be hard-pressed to beat this one: California’s classic Route 1.
Escaping the city
The sun has yet to rise, but you’re already up and negotiating the exit from the bowels of the hotel parking garage. The plan is to head out of before the rest of the city wakes up.
Your destination, Big Sur, is 147 miles away and home of some of the west coast’s most dramatic scenery. It’s also home to a section of Route 1 designated an American National Scenic Byway - ‘an honor reserved for highways that are so distinctive they are destinations unto themselves.’
Driving the Surf
You power down towards Half Moon Bay, with the surf rolling in on your right, a perfect blue sky overhead, and the road ahead totally clear for miles. You drive past San Jose, soon flashing past Pigeon Point lighthouse; at 115 feet, it’s one of the tallest in the U.S.
The next planned stop is scheduled to be Pebble Beach in Carmel, just south of Monterey, where the annual Concours D’Elegance car show is held, and where an old race circuit still lurks in the woods.
It’s just past lunchtime as you roll into Monterey to admire the view across the headland to Pebble Beach. The weather is perfect and you know there’s a fantastic stretch of Route 1 just south of Big Sur that would be insane to drive.
Sweet Sea Air
With those thoughts swirling through your mind, the car crackles and lunges down the narrow ribbon of tarmac that lines the edge of the cliff road. This is perhaps one of the most dramatic sections of the great highway and the car feels more at home than ever, reeling in crest after crest in the road.
But then, just as you get into a rhythm with the car, Big Sur appears in the distance and the sun begins to set. Stopping at Rocky Creek Bridge, standing since 1932, you get out of the car to grab a last few lungfuls of the sea air.
“I really should be heading back,” you think to yourself. But on this road, who could blame you for staying out just a little longer?