DAY SEVEN – Today was a day of contrasts. First it was cold and gray, I was on the four lane and there was traffic everywhere. Later it was not like that.
While I was very complementary the other day to Caltrans for their work on Highway 1 south of Big Sur, today I will be critical of their work on Highway 1 north of Klamath CA. It seems that they are taking the top off the high grade so they are closing the road for two hours out of three all day. Brad Baum, my host for the evening and the local knowledge expert had told me that the mid-day open hours were to be 11-12 pm and 2-3 pm and closed in between and after. What this meant for me was that I needed to back time the trip from Santa Rosa to the construction zone to arrive at one of the open hours. There was no way I could make 11 and even 2 pm meant a 7:30 departure and no lollygagging around.
So off I went at 7:30 full out on US 101 which for the Elan means about 67-68 mph. I drove at this pace all the way to Cloverdale, about half an hour, bundled up so that I looked like the Michelin Tire man. Tony Bennett was right…the morning fog may indeed chill the air. As Mark Twain was reported to have said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Now I understand what he meant! While the temps didn’t change much the road sure did.
I have driven the Tail of the Dragon which is supposed to have 318 curves in 11 miles. But CA 128 is five times as long and has five times as many turns. I would call it the Intestines of the Beast! It was constant turning, shifting and bracing myself for the G loads. When I arrived at US 101, after another 62 miles on CA 1 that was more of the same as 128 except not all the time, I was exhausted and ready for some gentler turns and grades.
On I flew to my critical point near the DeMartin Beach Picnic Area. I had been warned that if I missed the window, I would have to wait until 5:00 to pass that point. Based on the urgency I had, I fairly flew all the way to my critical point arriving at 1:55 and being very proud to have done so, only to find a backlog of traffic waiting to be allowed though the single lane road during the official window. Not having any information on the way the cars would pass through the gauntlet, I simply turned off the ignition and waited. I tried to text Brad, but of course I had no cell service so I couldn’t even let him know I had made the window and was waiting.
After 15 minutes and seeing no one moving either direction, I got out, walked around and visited with the folks in the minivan behind me to warn them that I would be leaving a gap to the car in front of me to make sure I didn’t have to start uphill too often. Then we waited. Then we waited. And, then we waited. Finally, at 2:46 the line started moving. We went at a pretty good pace for about a mile and a half, and then came to a full stop again and again on an uphill spot. This time we had to wait for the downhill traffic to use the single lane road. At long last it was our turn to go, but one car (about 8 ahead of me) could not restart. So we waited some more and saw the huge gap ahead of that car being wasted. Finally, the guy behind him found a way around, as did the rest of the chain, leaving the poor sod standing alone on the hill in the warm sun.
Finally clear of the construction, I looked for Brad who had told me he would be waiting on the right just past the construction. Not seeing him, I drove another mile looking then turned back sure that I had somehow missed him. Back at the construction area, I found several guys standing next to their trucks and asked if they had seen a little red car that looked like mine. One of them enthusiastically told me he had and that the car was parked on the right at the bottom of the hill about six miles north. DOH! Off I flew and finally connected with Brad. He then led me on a series of back roads to Oregon, fuel, his home and a beer. As I said, later it was not cold and gray and straight line speed.
With his wife out of town, Brad and I adjourned to a nice place down in town for dinner and solved all the world’s problems while there then headed back to the house where the Elan is ensconced in a nice garage and I am typing this drivel for all of you. You’re welcome.
Impressions from the seventh day:
• At first I was thinking that the reason I was cold was that I’m older and my metabolism is not as robust then I recalled, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain
• The car is still running great and following Brad in his Elan was a delight as he has the local knowledge of the turns and dips that let me run faster than I otherwise would have felt comfortable doing.
• Again I recognize how lucky I am to have support at every turn quite literally. What a wonderful device to find people of like spirit simply with a little car.
• I was gobsmacked by the immensity of the redwood forest. It is another way of understanding how small we are in the grand scheme of things just as looking out at the sea does for me.