The plan was to get to Frisco after things settled with the LA move, but I hand’t been able to swing it since; and so it wasn’t long after getting back from Coachella and hiking the desert mountains there that I began thinking about mysterious Big Sur in the north and finally making what would become the great drive up the Pacific Coast, when I stayed two nights in Frisco and two nights in San Simeon near the Hearst Castle, once on the way up the coast and once on the way home, guided every day and night by the angels and spirits that stood vigil over that most sacred and holy shore of America.
I left Los Angeles early in the morning and pulled aside on a beach a mile north of Ventura, where motorhomes and motorcycles and tents were strangely set up as the early waves crashed against the rocks and formed a mist along the beach and parking lot, as seagulls flew in and out of the mist appearing from nowhere like prehistoric creatures risen from a 65-million-year slumber.
A couple appeared from the distance. They were an older couple. The man was black and the woman white. Married they said for fifteen years. They spoke to me of what to expect on the way to Frisco mostly in the college towns of Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, and how kids often took trips in and around San Luis Obispo and the many regions of central California that so many people seem to know only a little about, and when you ask them if they’ve been there they act as though they cannot remember for sure. ‘Was it there that we went? Or wait, no, that was our friends who went there. No, what was the name of that one place where we went that one time? Was that you who went with me?’
But yes, they said, they’ve heard of many kids who head out into the Obispo parts for weekends and then I asked what they’d heard of the Hearst Castle and of Big Sur, and they were quiet about Big Sur, having very little to say about it as if it was the greatest mystery of all, and one that very few had really witnessed. Yes, the woman said, she’d been to the Hearst Castle many years ago, but that since it was so long ago, she now really didn’t remember what it was like. She just remembered how the drive up the mountain in San Simeon was momentous, ‘it’s like a climb’ she said, that one must make to meet the legendary mansion that supposedly overlooks the whole Pacific, like America’s great defender and lookout to the Eastern world.
They bid me a safe journey and said they would see me around. My car took a second to start, and they looked back at me as they stepped into the mist, with smiles on their faces like wise beach phantoms knowing what was in store for me. I drove off, away from the mist and back into the coastal sun.
Santa Barbara felt more like an accident when I drove in, since I thought it was still some ten miles away. I pulled over somewhere near the east side of town and I walked into a mission and stood before a statue of Mary that was surrounded by vines and roses. I stood in silence and bowed my head and bid her farewell, walked out and back in my car, stopped at the store for some food for the road, which was just off the ramp, before getting back on the freeway and heading north toward Big Sur. I would never see Santa Barbara again.