California Dreaming

To read other stories from CALIFORNIA DREAMING click on the underlined titles below.

v "Queenie and the Racoon" "Ships Passing in the Night" "Summer Journey" s "A Surfers Gift" "Volunteer Memories" "HOME"



Summer Journey

by D. "Darteo" Sommese

"The time is right....go's time, the window is open, get in that old truck and try it one more time, one more time before you get old." There is that voice again. The voice that has been calling me North to Big Sur every summer of my adult life. I call it a voice, but in reality it more like and indicator light that goes off in the center of my being. I wonder if migrating birds experience the same thing? One day it is just time to go, like hunger, the desire must be satiated. Is there some one that loves the California Coast Highway any more than I do? I don't think so. Oh God....let me go one more time before I get old.

After traveling alone as I have been doing most of my life, you would think getting started would be easier. The inertia of standing still is great. Invisible roots hold us like the potted plant who's roots have grown through that little hole in the bottom of the pot, attaching it to the soil where the pot stands that. Our natural inclination is to root. The wanderer has a gene that can snip its own roots, much like the lizard can separate from its own tail if it suddenly becomes prey.

I worry about the truck, my trusty steed and old friend now. Will it make the journey one more time? I am its first and only owner. We have both matured on each of our journeys North. We both remember all those ephemeral summer people we met along the way. My heart has a memory of its own. It falls in love with people and wants to know them forever, but like the sands in the hour glass they just slip away into an other reality, gone forever. Their passing is always sad, but knowing there are plenty more where they come from is a happy thought. Turn the hour glass over and it all begins again, like the seasons which go round and round.

Leaving LA is like leaving earth, no matter how much you want to blast off, the Earths gravity fights to hold you down. It takes a tremendous amount of thrust to break free. My plans for a before dawn escape to the open road never materialize. It was 9:30 AM before I broke free and hit then open highway. Venice, Santa Monica all passed before me. Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Gaviota, Santa Maria, faded in the distance as well. They are all spots and stops on the map of Coast Highway. Each place has a memory stored there for me. People I met on past excursions over the past 35 years have left a shade of themselves on the spot where I met them, a marker only I can see. Each memory begets another. They are strung together like shimmering pearls, a rich illusive narrative of a wandering life.

San Luis Obisbo is four hours North of Los Angeles. It was founded in the wilderness by intrepid Franciscan bothers in the 1700's as a simple mission built of adobe brick. It is one of a string of 21 missions, each placed a days ride from one another. San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco all began this way. The mission was once the only building to be seen for thirty miles in any direction. The good Friars built their mission on the banks of a small meandering river, far enough away from the Pacific which runs icy cold this far north, with equally icy winds and wet cold fog.

SLO, as it is called, has been a slow starter as far as California cities are concerned, but there in lies its beauty. The mission is still there, it now the local parish church. The river still runs through it. Along its ancient banks are now shops and outdoor cafes in a park-like setting. Live gentle music, coming from modern day minstrels, serenade diners who may live there. Some are people like myself, just passing through. The music is carried on the crisp clean air and mingles with the flowers, shrubs, and children that line the banks of the river. If I had the money I would just rent a place and move up there lock, stock and barrel. I may just do that some day.

A half hour above San Louis Obisbo is a tiny spot on the coast known as San Simeon, which was made famous by William Randolf Hearst who built his American Castle high on a hillside there. He put it together from pilfered architectural bits imported from all over Europe. It's the last stop before coast highway begins its climbs up the rocky wild coast complete with hairpin turns and thousand foot drops into water so cold you would not live more than 10 minutes if you were to fall into it. Between San Simeon and Carmel-by-the- Sea, lies Big Sur, my yearly destination. My Mecca. I am not whole unless I make this pilgrimage once a year. I have been doing this since I am 18 years old. Some of these giant Redwood trees are like old easily recognizable friends. The faces and the people in Big Sur are ever changing, but trees remain the same. Many of the trees where growing in Big Sur when Jesus walked the earth.

I arrived at San Simeon just before nightfall. I could see small herds of deer moving into the meadows in the lowlands to feed. It was time to stop moving for the day. High on a hill not very far from Hearst Castle is a primitive campground run by the State of California. The chemical toilets keep the rif-raf away. To my surprise they were amazingly devoid of any tell-tale odor. The young couple in the campsite next to me had just begun their fire and invited me over for a beer. We had it in common that we all lived on the what they call the Big Island which is the Island of Hawaii. We lived there at different times, but we still had much to talk about. We were all friends when we said our good-byes the next morning.

Having said good-by I got in my truck to continue North, but old "Betsy" would not start, the cold and the damp and mysterious magnetic annomolies had a negative effect on my starter motor. The couple camped on the other side of me came over to lend a hand. One word led to another and we also had something in common the were all artists! Jessica was student teaching in a grammar school, Jeff had just completed a masters degree in design. He was also sculptor and a puppeteer, having worked on a children's show on the Nickelodian network in Hollywood. The fog lifted and he sun came out and the truck started! Jeff and Jessica mentioned they were going stay another day. The place was amazingly peaceful for a summer week-end it was too rare to pass by so I decided to do the same. We hiked together and had dinner together around the fire. We drank beer, and talked late into the night about art and all manner of interesting things.

My truck refused to start again the next morning until the sun came out. The confusion with the truck took the edge off what could have been a melancholy good-by. They continued South down the coast and I continued North taking the less strenuous inland route. Inland the sun was blazing hot. Hot winds blew with great force across Highway 101, the other great North South artery. The grass on the hills had already turned from a bright Spring green to Summer golden. 101 is an inland route passing through golden rolling hills dotted with Lincoln green California Live Oaks. How they manage to stay green when everything else around them dries out is one of the great mysteries of nature. Where cattle do not graze, fields are plowed with endless varieties of summer vegetables. Wineries seem to be the latest addition to the land. Endless parallel furrows of bare twigs waiting to sprout and grapes and put dollars in the pocket of the speculator who planted them.

I arrived in Big Sur just as night was about to fall. I could hear the waves crashing against the granite cliffs below. No matter how many times I visit, I never get tired of the view. It is not strange or desolate as it could be it is my familiar summer home. A place where the shade of the youthful Don still roams. Each turn of the highway is familiar to me. The open sky crashing against the flower encrusted cliffs transform into a shady tunnel created by giant redwoods lining both sides of the Highway. Sounds are muffled here. Tiny minuscule Redwood leaves that fall by the millions form a thick padded carpet on the forest floor. In my youth before the forest was gentrified by the Forest Service in quieter times gone by, I would place my sleeping bag down on the forest floor under the redwood trees and sleep warm in cushioned splendor. Dreaming the youthful dreams of the vagabond in those days when all things were possible.

Big Sur is forever changing and forever staying the same. As I write I sit at one of my favorite spots. It is the first turn out on the road to the South where you can see the sunset. Nothing more than a 20 foot wide bit of ochre colored sand. This is where the sheltering Redwood stand ends and the cliffs begin once again. I am on a sheer cliff. A dirt berm provided by the Highway Department keeps my truck from rolling off into oblivion and crashing on the rocks below where the icy Northern Pacific waves crash. I have slumbered many evening away here over the years. The sun is setting as I write. The sun is hot, but cool breezes blow. An occasional car whizzes by. My truck attracts attention and some people stop to see why I've stopped, then they move on. Those who surf know this spot. Below me is surf break known as "Fullers." It is famous in the surfing world from way up here I can barely see them. They look so small compared to the tremendous waves they ride. I marvel at their fortitude. They don heavy thick rubber wet suits to protect them from the cold and then try to maneuver themselves and the surfboard in this way. I am a surfer as well, retired now, but a surfer none the less. When I wanted big waves I went to Tropical Mexico where the water was warm. I give these North Coast watermen lots of credit for their effort.

The moments between cars are silent and bathed in a golden light. On the other side of the road is another sheer cliff, so steep you could not climb it without rock climbing gear and then it would be a challenge. Native plants hang from its face. Their roots are wedged into tiny crevices. I am beneath Gods own hanging gardens. I trust that God will keep every rock and boulder in it's place while I tarry here. It is always the chance I take when I visit to this spot. The view is worth millions, thank the Lord there is no room to build a house here.

I just had a visit from a Policeman who patrols this section of the coast. I happened to be looking under the hood of my truck trying to decide weather or not I was going to try to connect this apparatus I bought that would allow me to run my laptop directly off my car battery. My truck was born without a cigarette lighter and this piece of equipment called an inverter was just what the doctor ordered. I was being very careful with it since it could either blow up my battery or the laptop if used improperly. At that moment he arrived I had many questions. He pulled up to me real slow and seemed to be suspicious. I looked at him, he continued looking at me. Then he asked me if I was having trouble with my truck. I said no and explained my dilemma. As luck would have it he had just bought the same piece of equipment for his own car and his laptop and was able to answer every question I had. So here I am, plugged in and typing away. The Lord provideth.

The Sun is receding behind a rock outcropping and rolls behind a cloud bank before dipping into the Ocean. The the lining is not sliver but the most intense pure gold. "Fill me with your glow." I say as day becomes twilight. Oh the blues, the purples, the aquamarines. I am sitting on God's own pallet. Big Sur is forever, I am only passing through it.

To read other stories from CALIFORNIA DREAMING click on the underlined titles below.

"Queenie and the Racoon" "Ships Passing in the Night" "Summer Journey" s "A Surfers Gift" "Volunteer Memories" "HOME"

Copyright D. "Darteo" Sommese 2017

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