Day 72 (5/29): Pacific Coast Highway — so far a disappointment…

Finally I’m on the world-famous Pacific Coast Highway (the 101)! Many tout it as America’s most beautiful drive.  I’ve dreamed of cycling it for years; even hung a magazine photo of one scenic stretch on the wall above my desk.

When I get out of my tent this morning, the people who shared their campsite with me tell me that the campground host wanted to see me.  I presume it’s about payment.  But I didn’t occupy a separate site, so I leave without paying.

Heavy traffic.  A large proportipon of it motor homes of all shapes, sizes, and configurations. A few are the colorfully decorated Cruise America rentals, but most seem privately owned. I am amazed at their numbers; it’s as if everybody on the West Coast owned one and suddenly got out on the road.  Owning an RV is a pretty foreign concept to me.  You don’t see many of them back East.

If you look at a map of Oregon, you’ll see that the coast is peppered with campgrounds.  By Saturday night they are all full for the Memorial Weekend.  However, I’m on a bicycle and that puts me in a privileged class: state campgrounds have “hiker/biker” areas for non-motorized travelers.  These spots are never full.  No reservation needed.

I find the famous highway disappointing.  Expected to be riding days on end through death-defying hairpin turns hundreds of feet above a roaring ocean.  Though a few stretches do cling to massive cliffs and “heads”, a good 60-70% of today’s ride is through boring, flat, densely populated tourist towns.  For all the hype about the PCH, there are much more scenic coasts out there, for instance the Amalfi coast in Italy.  Today’s ride can barely be considered scenic compared to many other places I’ve seen on this trip, like Arizona, Utah, and the Cascades.

I stop for the night at the hiker/biker area of the South Beach state campground.  Predictably, all 270 sites of the huge campground are occupied by 270 RVs.  It feels really nice to bike in right past the “campground full” sign!

The place is lively, with voices and campfires everywhere, but a strange thing:  when I come out of the shower I’m struck by total silence.  It’s a little past 11 p. m. but all fires are out, music off, nobody in sight.  I close my eyes and feel like I’m alone in the middle of a forest.  How painful!  A Russian campground would have been alive 24 hours a day.  I feel pity for these people who are just brave enough to enjoy nature from the window of an RV on a paved campground and even turn in all at once at 11 p.m.  I pass no judgment; it’s their lives.

But I do take issue with two things in this picture:  (1) the fact that these people bring their children with them and teach them this perverted view of the outdoors; and (2) their environmental impact: just imagine a Greyhound-bus-sized motor home that is carrying a family of 2-4 people and even dragging an SUV (or sometimes the other way around).

Our ability to enjoy nature up-close is one of the greatest God-given gifts.  Disregarding this gift and fouling it up like this is sinful.

I go to my tent in the foulest of moods.  Beginning to hate this place…

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