In 2008, my lifelong friend, Nick George and I embarked on what would be a life-changing journey to the Rocky Mountains in our matching black Porsche 911 convertibles. What unfolded in the decade-plus since was an annual trip full of surprises, chance meetings, and breathtaking scenery. And, importantly, it enabled us to walk away from our complicated and demanding lives in the hustle of Los Angeles and “get off the grid” to experience the stress-free freedom of being out on our own, and literally be unknown strangers to all we met.
What follows is a part of my trip journal from Day 1 of our second trip in October of 2009. I hope you will enjoy the casual banter and catch the bug to hit the road yourself one day soon. Perhaps we will run into each other. I would love that.
“Outrunning Our Troubles Tour” – 2009
3,281 miles – 7 Days 6 nights – 7 states – 2 Porsche Cabriolets
Tour dedication: “Out in the County”
Written by Paul Williams & Roger Nichols
Whenever I need to leave it all behind,
Or feel the need to get away,
I’ll find a quiet place – far from the Human race
Out in the country…
Whenever I feel them closing in on me,
Or need a bit of room to move.
When life becomes too fast – I’ll fine relief at last
Out in the country…
Before the breathin’ air is gone;
Before the sun is just a bright spot in the nighttime.
Or where the rivers like to run,
I stand alone, and take back somethin’ worth rememberin’
Out in the conntry.
Looking forward to our trip…
This latest adventure had been in the works for a year – since our arrival back from our “Race to the Rockies Tour” of 2008. Yet, as in all things that define our hectic and complicated lives, we were delayed in our departure by one of my unscheduled business trips to China. Little did we suspect at the time that this two-week slide of the waving of our green flag would affect our journey in a significant way: we would not reach our destination. Or would we?
Our original hope was to take two weeks and head to the Canadian Rockies. Banff and Lake Louise beckoned us, and we excitedly procured maps from AAA to find interesting back-country roads there and back with the ever important stop in Yellowstone – America’s oldest living National Park. Unfortunately, the new schedule (thanks to me) only allowed us six nights and seven days, so we settled on a grand loop to Old Faithful heading up the California and Oregon coasts; east through Bend, Sun Valley and in to Jackson, Wyoming where we would spend some time exploring Yellowstone. The homeward leg would take us south and west through eastern Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
As you will read, Nick and I never made our intended destination. But instead found ourselves free of the mental cobwebs we had left with and were thrilled by the sport of racing to outrun the awesome power of (and amidst the raw beauty of) Mother Nature.
This is our story (written in the third person)…
Day 1: Los Angeles to Mendocino – “California Dreaming”
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Miles driven: 619
Departure: 4:45 a.m.
Arrival: 6:00 p.m.
Temperature low: 43 degrees
Temperature High: 76 degrees
Often called “The Hippie Trail,” Highway 1 from Morro Bay to Bodega Bay along the dramatically scenic California coast, is an exotic landscape that is a mix of pastoral countryside, wind-blown cypress, redwood pines, craggy coastline and thundering waves. It is windswept and raw, sprayed with wildflowers, inhabited by sea lions and otters, cattle and horses – but remarkably calm and full of life.
It is simply impossible to journey this highway without being affected and having a soul change. It hits everyone differently. Everyone. It even depends on what greets you around every bend. Spend time on this magical coast and you feel again that which seeps into your soul: the beauty of the sunshine refracting down from Heaven making a prism through the puffy cumulous onto the deep blue, white-capped, tumultuous ocean and the green blanketed soil. Infuse the sea air into your lungs and meditate on how far it has traveled across the Pacific – and now you are breathing it; feeling it; absorbing it – before anyone else on the Continent. Once you have been here, you never let go of this place, because it never lets go of you.*
* Theme and basic descriptions courtesy of Michael Hainey, “In Search of the New Age”; Departures magazine; January/February 2010; pp. 67-72. Embellished by Lindsey.
Actual trip notes from the road:
- The night before departure, Lindsey has a business function near Nick’s home in Pacific Palisades. Lindsey becomes a most appreciative house guest, but can’t seem to get to sleep. The sheer excitement of hitting “the Hippie Highway” at 4:30 a.m. is just hours away.
- The Pacific Highway winding north through Malibu is largely uninhabited and dark. The tops are down, and our anticipations are soaring. The salty air permeates our open cockpits, and we test our two-way radio communications and our radar detectors. A quick right onto Kanan Dume Road leads us to eight miles of twisties, tunnels and testosterone.
- Lindsey and Nick lead-foot it up to Santa Barbara only to find lots of traffic. Are people actually working today? Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s a Thursday. After slithering our way over San Marcos Pass and through the Central California wine country on Foxen Canyon Road, we decide to bypass one of our favorite driving roads: a no-name smoothly paved undulating two-lane with no middle line through to the rolling hills east of Santa Maria. Getting to the Hippie Highway is a priority, so we set our sights on Morro Bay and arrive at 7:45 a.m. Don’t tell the California Highway Patrol, but I think that’s a record!
- Morro Bay is as beautiful as ever, and we marvel through our walkie-talkies at the interceding slabs of fog that mingle around Morro Rock. We are low on petrol so we start looking for gas stations and find one in scenic and quaint Cambria. The owner/operator is a grumpy local who looks suspiciously at us and proclaims, “You damn city boys with your souped-up sports cars: we don’t like your types around these here parts. Just get yourselves out of town!” Well, not exactly, but you get the picture.
- The Hippie Trail at last! Porsche Nirvana. Sweeping turns, twisties, hairpins, whoop-dee-doos, mind-bending ascents, gut-wrenching descents, sheer drop-offs – an assault of the senses like you have never experienced!
- We stop for an early lunch in Big Sur at a local classic: Nepenthe. It’s only 9:45 a.m. but it’s lunchtime for us based on our very early departure. It’s our first real break of the day, and we bring our maps and our enthusiasm to a sunny outdoor deck where we enjoy sharing a Reuben sandwich and cappuccinos. Nepenthe (Greek for “place to escape sorrows”) is perched 800 feet above the churning Pacific overlooking the vast ocean westward towards other continents and adventures for a different time. The place is rich with California lore. The property was once owned by Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles, and was sold to the Fassett Family in 1947. We don’t really know this or care. We are simply travelers on a journey stopping for cherished moment of breathtaking beauty.
- The peace and tranquility of Nepenthe behind us, Nick spies a Lexus sports car and makes chase. Lindsey loses sight of, and radio with, his friend. It takes some time to catch up, but Lindsey reunites with Nick up the windy road a bit. Special note: passing slower cars is a wonderful diversion. As each new vehicle is approached from the rear, adrenaline and 400 horsepower kick in to create a real-life game of “catch and release.” Nick says over the radio, “He was just a kid with one of those pocket rockets with the fat tailpipes. I just passed him then pulled over to wait for you. I couldn’t resist the chase!”
- The angry ocean is colossal. We are treated today with 20’ rollers relentlessly smashing into the craggy Northern California coastline. The collision of land and sea is so dramatic that one must experience it in person to truly grasp its power. Highway 1 wraps itself so tightly amongst the rocks and oceanic tempest that it is virtually impossible not to be swept up into its conflict – as Lindsey found out. It was here with a dance with Mother Nature that Lindsey surfed his first big wave (and hopefully his last) in his Porsche. In a perfect storm of not-to-be-believed factors, a massive wave broke against the foundational rocks of this stunning ribbon of asphalt. As the atmospheric plume of salt water exploded skyward, the winds of Heaven pushed the water wall over the top of the highway creating an enormous liquid tunnel. Nick, safely free and ahead of any trouble watched in horror (or laughter?) in his rearview mirror, as Lindsey hit the gas. The rest, for Lindsey, happened in slow motion: He felt the white room close around his convertible; he gripped the steering wheel and actually ducked expecting to soon be driving one of the most expensive bathtubs in the world. But, whoooooosh… Just as quickly and dramatically, his Porsche bulleted through the tube, and hearing the crashing sounds of sea on pavement, Lindsey emerged victorious – and dry – on the other side of calamity.
- It was a warm day in San Francisco, and as we entered the city limits sometime well after noon. We enjoyed the chaos of narrow city streets and the charm of row houses nestled tightly in the hills. The Golden Gate Bridge served as our transition to the true northern beaches of our home state. The twin spires were draped in fog, but as we crossed, crystal blue sky emerged.
- Once across the Bay, we immediately headed west and then north down a very narrow, partially washed-out road only to find a surprising string of picturesque hamlets and villages right out of a Hemmingway novel: Bolinas, Point Reyes, Inverness, Tomales Bay, and Bodega Bay.
- We rolled into our destination for the day, Mendocino, at around 6 p.m. tired and hungry. Our accommodations were at the Joshua Griddle House – an historically preserved hotel. Our wonderfully quiet rooms were constructed out of a converted water tower, and each had crackling wood burning stoves for heat. After taking a short break to freshen up, we headed out on foot to find a nice bottle of wine and dinner. We found our spot at The McCallum House. The food was delicious, and we talked non-stop about our adventures of the day, and what was ahead of us in the days to come.
- We don’t have late nights on our trips as we like to get up early and hit the road in what we consider the best part of the day: its birth. And true to tradition, we were in bed early, wood stoves crackling – this time falling into a deep sleep dreaming of Day 2.