For the rest of my life or the rest of my memory, I will cherish the experience of driving Highway 1 though Big Sur with my daughter and son. To be a passenger on this awe-inspiring coastal highway is a thrill. To be the driver is even more exhilarating. It’s the most gorgeous and treacherous stretch of road I’ve ever encountered.
Highway 1 from San Simeon north to Carmel winds along jagged cliffs high above wind-swept beaches, crashing waves and pure white sea foam framing bright blue-green waters darkened by kelp beds, ocean shadows and the depths of untamed forces of nature.
Like Jason and the Argonauts resisting the temptress Sirens, I had to fight the urge to take my eyes off the narrow highway and peer over the edge to the rugged rocks and shifting sands below. The wail of an ambulance responding with flashing lights to a head-on collision near Alta Vista reminded us of the danger of Big Sur.
Rising sharply from the sea, the Santa Lucia Mountains give this region the most abrupt elevation change of California’s entire Pacific shore.
Making it possible to admire Big Sur from a car, truck, motorcycle or Jucyvan were the engineers and laborers who built Highway 1 nearly a century ago.
There are plenty of turnouts and viewing areas from which to admire the arroyos, creeks, coastline and concrete architecture of seven bridges known as the Big Sur Arches.
Construction on the scenic highway began in 1922. Convicts from San Quentin and Folsom state prisons were deployed. Much of the roadway was completed during the Great Depression under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal public works projects. Highway 1 opened in 1937.