After breakfast we decide that we want to head south along the coast and cut across a mountainous road to a winery. The plan was to buy a bottle of wine and sip the Sunday away on the beach. The cut-through road (on the map) was only a few more miles down the coast from Big Sur so we take our time to explore the scenery and stop to take a few pictures. On one scenic overlook I stop to take a video clip and Patty decides to use the Port O’ Potty.
Here’s the footage. Best quote (from the end of the clip) “I hit my head on the urinal!”
We hang a left on the only road that we see, even though it looks like a dirt road into a development, and follow it up a few feet to see multiple signs confronting us. The signs tell us that we cannot pass through with torches, camp stoves and other various fire-starting equipment. We aren’t carrying any so we drive onward and upward. We twist and wind up and up the mountain and both secretly panic that it’s not the right road until we see a truck pass us. We wave at each other like that “I’m on a motorcycle and you’re on a motorcycle so we acknowledge each other’s coolness” wave, but it’s more of a “we are both on a death road with no guard rail” wave.
The second truck we pass we slow down and roll down the window, “Excuse me. How far is it to get over this mountain…if this is even the road to go over the mountain?”
The old man tips his cowboy hat and looks down at us from his growling diesel pickup, “Well, we came from King City, so it cuts over that way. But we left at midnight last night.”
His sweet older wife says, “Awww…now Henry that’s not true.”
He mumbles something about two hours, but we can’t really hear him so we can’t tell if he’s kidding. We say thanks and move onward, up the winding road of the mountain. After 20 minutes we pass through some redwoods and see HUGE pine cones in the middle of the road. They are beautiful and majestic in their own right, so we stop the car and put them in the backseat. The two-lane road is narrower then most alleys in West Chester, has no guard rail and has hair pin turns at any moment. I film a bit of the drive up the mountain and here is the footage that doesn’t capture the scariness of the trip.
We joke that we need water and oxygen to keep moving and an hour and a half later (we thought the road would be a half an hour drive to cut through) we come to a checkpoint. There is no indication of this checkpoint on the map and we begin to think we are hallucinating. A uniformed officer is approaching the minivan in front of us as if it’s the Mexican boarder and asks for ID and other paperwork. This gives us five minutes to cover up the huge pine cones in the backseat. We aren’t sure if we collected them on a National Park or just before it became a park so we use our purses and cardigans as a blanket.
Patty tells me to stay cool and don’t blow our pine cone cover. But as the minivan pulls away, of course I wave at the officer as a reaction. “Mary, I said act COOL. Don’t WAVE at the officer if we have PINE CONES in the back.” He approaches our car, Patty gives him her ID and registration and he walks back to his booth to do whatever they do in there. He returns to the car and asks for my photo ID. Once approved we feel comfortable enough to ask, “Ummm…where are we? Why is there a checkpoint here? How do we get home?”
As it turns out, the road we wanted to take was closed five years ago (Patty has a 2000 atlas) and we were at an army base. We drive through the miles of training area until we come to a civilian highway that was nowhere near home. We pass people-shaped targets in sheds, old cars (that looked like they were set on fire for training on a daily basis) and tanks through an eerily desert-like setting and eventually end up at another checkpoint.
The Final Dish:
Hours later, we eventually end up at a winery…and we definitely need a drink.