Back on Highway 101

Leaving Carmel And heading east

We decide to give up our adventures of driving on Highway 1 with a motorhome towing our car as we head to Pismo Beach.

The marine layer

Just as we enter San Luis Obispo, a massive white cloud ho res over the hills.

Within minutes, the clouds begin turning the blue sky gray.

The pacific coast again

As we enter Pismo Beach, Highway 101 connects with Highway 1.

Pismo Coast Village RV Resort

A  very h-u-g-e complex of RV timeshares, we settle in for 2 nights…

Big Sur

Bluffs, Sea, and Sky

Point Lobos marks the north end of the Big Sur Coast. The next 90 miles have no towns, just countless cliffs, coves, and beaches linked by Highway 1. (

Bixby Bridge

This bridge  is an iconic feature of postcards, TV car commercials, and countless ads. The parabolic shape of the arch (a symmetrical U-shaped plane curve), the tall spandrel columns (the triangular space between the tops of adjacent arches) and the upright support of the superstructure contribute to its aesthetics.

It is 714 feet in total length and 24 feet wide. (

Completed in 1932 for just over $200,000, it’s concrete span soars 260 feet above the bottom of a steep canyon carved by Bixby Creek. Building the bridge was a challenge. First a massive wooden framework had to be built. Materials were brought in by truck on what was then a narrow, one-lane road full of hairpin turns. Forty-five thousand individual sacks of cement had to be hauled up the framework. Each bag was transported by a series of platforms and slings suspended by cables 300 feet above the creek.

The bridge span was completed before the rest of Highway 1 linking Monterey to San Luis Obispo. That would happen 5 years later. (

Squirrely critters steal the show in the parking areas…

Point sur Lighthouse Station

The lighthouse is the silhouette to the right, on the downwards slope of the volcanic rock just off-shore of the coast. The dwellings and supporting buildings rest on the plateau to the left.

On August 1, 1889 the first lighthouse keeper and 3 assistants reported for duty, bringing their families with them to live a very self-sufficient and isolated life.

Each family was allotted a garden area to grow fresh vegetables. There were no roads back then, only a long and treacherous trail to Monterey and a shorter mail/supplies run to what is now Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in a horse and wagon provided for by the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

Bulk supplies such as coal, firewood, animal feed, and some food arrived every 4 months on a long broad ship called a lighthouse tender, specifically designed to service remote lighthouse stations inaccessible by land.

With the completion of Highway 1 in 1937, the lives of the lighthouse keepers and their families became so much easier. (

From Fresnel to Aero Beacon…

The lighthouse originally contained a first-order (the largest) Fresnel lens. It consisted of 16 panels of prisms, each with a “bullseye” in the center surrounded by concentric rings of prismatic glass. Each ring projects a short distance beyond the previous one. Additional reflecting prisms are located above and below the center. As the cylinder of prisms turns, each panel collects and bends light into a single focused beam. Light from Point Sur’s Fresnel lens was visible for 23 nautical miles.

This lens was in use until the 1970s when it was replaced by a modern aero beacon mounted on the roof of the fog signal room. In 1978 the aero beacon was moved into the lighthouse tower. In 1974 the last lighthouse keeper left Point Sur. Today a U.S. Coast Guard crew services the lighthouse regularly. (

Docent-led 3 hour tours are available Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday for $15. For $10 more, moonlight tours are offered once or twice a month April through September.

Last stop… Esalen

The Esselen people lived in the Big Sur region for thousands of years before Europeans came to California. It was once believed that they were completely destroyed by European contact and the domination of Spanish missions in the area. But now we know that some members avoided missionization by retreating far into the Santa Lucia Mountains until the 1840s, before dispersing to find work on local ranches.

Henshaw and Harrington interviewed native elders, such as Isabel Meadows in the early 1900s, in order to preserve some of the Esselen Language. (plaque at viewpoint off Highway 1)

plaque at viewpoint

plaque at viewpoint

The Institute

Esalen is a nonprofit retreat center and a planned residential community whose members hold a common social vision and often follow an alternative life style sharing responsibilities and resources.

Founded by Stanford graduates Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962, Esalen supported alternative methods for exploring human potentialities, strongly influenced by Abraham Maslow’s theory of self-actualization. They believed the net effect of individuals cultivating their potential would bring about positive social change. Their vision was to create a venue where non-traditional workshops and lecturers could present ideas free of the dogma associated with traditional education. (

In March of 1992 I attended a 2 week healing workshop at the Esalen Institute. What an unforgettable experience for me! Walking meditation… holotropic breathing… role-playing… seaside massages… natural hot springs soaking… goddess energy releasing… anger releasing… Feldenkrais… being naked… leading an aerobics class… jogging on Highway 1… peeling carrots in the kitchen… vegetarian meals… cleaning cabin rooms… an evasion of monarch butterflies…

A Little History…

The grounds of the Esalen Institute were home to the Esselen People as early as 2600 BC.

In September of 1882 Thomas Slate filed a land patent under the Homestead Act of 1862 and named the settlement Slates Hot Springs. This became the first tourist-oriented business in Big Sur as people seeking relief from physical ailments came to soak in the natural hot springs.

Henry Murphy, a physician from Salinas, California and the grandfather of Esalen’s co-founder Michael Murphy, purchased the land in 1910.

Turning around and Heading back…

Hikes Along the Way…

McWay waterFall trail

This 80-foot falls, named after Christopher McWay, a farmer from New York who settled here in 1874, cascades onto the sandy shore.

Until 1983 the waterfall poured directly into the Pacific Ocean, but a fire, landslide, and highway construction since then filled the cove with enough materials to create a sandy beach and push it out several dozen feet toward the ocean.

About a mile out and back, this trail is more of a walk than a hike, but well worth it. (

Partington cove

This 2 mile out and back trail is a steep hike through a tree-lined canyon leading to a rocky beach detour and then through a 60 foot tunnel leading to a secluded cove. In the late 1800s John Partington set up a business harvesting and hauling bark from the tanbark oak tree down to ships anchored in the relatively calm and deep waters of the cove. Mules pulled sleds loaded with bark, with wheels in front and rails in back, down through the canyon.

During Prohibition it was rumored that the cove was a favorite landing point for smuggling liquor. (

Heading Down…

The Fork…

Heading Out to the Rocky Beach…

The Bridge…

The Tunnel…

The Cove…

Heading Back…

The Beach Overlook

Up to the Trailhead…

The Long and Winding Road… Again

Highway 1 to Bodega Bay

There’s no doubt about it. The road is narrow at times. The twists are hairpin curves. The views are gorgeous. But it’s no place for a 35-foot motorhome towing a car with a dolly! Especially with all the roadwork we encountered…

We took out 2 orange cones. Once the passenger-side mirror came too close to an obstacle and folded in on itself. And the tow dolly’s skid plate scraped many dips and steep turns. The electric cable that connects the dolly to the RV, to operate the brake lights and turn signals, now looks like a frayed piece of rope. We lost one of the small round protective screens on the propane heater exhaust. But the best mishap so far is still the one from September 17th where the cap to the leveling jack flew off and I had to walk back on Highway 1 looking for it.

Bodega Bay RV Park

We stop here for an overnight on our way to Monterey and Carmel.

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds Movie

After rolling in, hooking up, and carefully checking all the overhead storage compartments for falling items, we head out to the town of Bodega to take pictures of the school and church featured in the movie classic, The Birds.

The Potter School is the location of the scene where screaming children flee the building in panic. Nearby St. Theresa’s Church is also seen briefly.

Most of the exterior shots of the movie were filmed in and around Bodega Bay and the marina. You can read more about The Birds on these 2 websites: and

Highway 1

The California Coast

From Fort Dick and Crescent City we continue south on Highway 101 until we pick up Highway 1 in Leggett.

What are we thinking? …The curves and swerves, twists and turns, narrow and steep roads of Highway 1 in a 35-foot motorhome towing a car on a dolly? The bungee cord on the refrigerator pushes the doors of the appliance open from the weight of beverages on a shelf. Then something flies off from somewhere as we hear a noise and see an airborne disc on the camera view of our car and tow dolly. We pull over when we find some turn-off space and I walk back along Highway 1 looking for our missing object. And there it is lying in the middle of the road… the base plate of one of our leveling jacks.

But these spectacular views make it all worthwhile…

After a long, stressful day of driving, (Jeff, you have earned the nickname Mario) we reach our 2-night destination in Fort Bragg.

According to, Fort Bragg was founded prior to the American Civil War as a military garrison where troops were stationed to guard the home base. It was never intended to be a military fortification for defending the territory.

But before all this, the area was home to Native Americans most of whom belonged to the Pomo tribe, prehistoric hunter gatherers who lived along the northern coast of what is now California.

In 1856 the Mendocino Indian Reservation was established along the Noyo River. A year later, Lt. Horatio G. Gibson from San Francisco established a military post on the Reservation and named it after his former commanding officer Capt. Braxton Bragg. During the Civil War, Bragg became a General in the Army of the Confederacy. In 2015 members of the California Legislative Black Caucus unsuccessfully petitioned the mayor of Fort Bragg to change its name due to its links to the Confederacy.

In October of 1864 the military post was evacuated and abandoned. The Mendocino Indian Reservation was discontinued in March of 1866. By 1869 small lumber mills were built at the mouth of every creek. The land of the Reservation was returned to the public and sold for $1.25 per acre to settlers who established ranches.

After crossing the Noyo River you can see where we will be staying. Notice the RVs in the upper left hand corner in the picture below.

Harbor RV Park in Fort Bragg

We are backed up to the Pomo Bluffs Park. See that dot of red in the center of the picture below? That’s Jeff, and to his left is our Georgetown Motorhome.

The view from our back window…

And here’s a view of Noyo Beach and the channel leading to the harbor…

The Pomo Bluffs…

Unfortunately the clouds interfere with the sunset. Instead of colorful swirls of orange, pink, and magenta, all we see is a bright white disk sinking below the horizon. We fall asleep to the lullaby of the constant foghorn announcing the approaching harbor… 💤