Simanaitis Says

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CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF CALIFORNIA’S ROUTE 1 IN 1988

DOROTHY CLENDENIN WASN’T yet Wife Dottie in 1988 when she celebrated the 50th anniversary of California Route 1. She traveled this fabled route down the coast from Monterey to Morro Bay with notebook handy and camera filled with film. (“What’s ‘film,’ Grandpa?”) Here are tidbits of her adventure gleaned from R&T, January 1988. 

This and the following images from R&T, January 1988. Photos by Dorothy Clendenin.

The Route. Dorothy wrote that this route “is the best manifestation of paradoxes…. It challenges the driver to be the best partner this car will ever have, swirling through and up and down and on and on.”

“Yet,” she wrote, “the spectacular land and ocean eventually gain control and require introspection…. At a proper place between billions of tons of mountain shoulder and a fleeting nameless wildflower.”

Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Carmel. “There is often something exciting happening,” Dorothy wrote, “such as the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, a golf tournament, the jazz festival or a Bach festival.”

Pandemic-pending (see Google), each of these is now scheduled for later in 2021. 

A photo op along Pebble Beach’s Seventeen Mile Drive.

Point Lobos. “Point Lobos State Reserve is four miles south [of Carmel] and not to be missed: Some say it is the most beautiful of all the California state parks. There is stunning scenery everywhere you look, including Monterey cypress, cormorants, sea otters, and sea lions.” 

“Soon,” Dorothy said, “we see the first of 32 bridges… and remember the sign near Point Lobos that promised ‘Hills, Curves Next 74 Miles.’ ”  

Along the Way. Motoring south, Dorothy reported passing a super luxury hideaway (Ventana: “rates listed in the hundreds, ‘children not encouraged’ ”), Nepenthe (“a popular restaurant that clings to a cliff”), and the Henry Miller Memorial Library. All three are still there, pandemic-pending. 

Cyclists. Dorothy was not into bicycles when as a kid she pushed hers into an Imperial Valley canal, but later enjoyed the town game of Cowboys and Indians on bikes. Having moved to cars, she sure wasn’t a bicycle enthusiast by 1988: “Lord, the itinerant bicyclists. They manage to convey the idea that they just wheeled out of The Cyclists’ Expensive Tog Shop one-tenth of a mile back while wearing the expression and muscles that say they pedaled 100 miles before breakfast and they have God’s Own Assurance no one (including all you ecology perverts) is going to 4-wheel drift into their backsides.”

“You’re likely to find them,” she reported, “making manifestations in blind corners.” 

On the other hand, Dorothy said, “More predictable behavior can be counted on from dawdlers in campers who are more in tune with the centuries’ evolution of natural beauty than the sinuous and sometimes fragile road.”

The Five-Car Rule. “But good Californians,” Dorothy observed, “know the rule: If five cars are restlessly awaiting freedom, it is the lead vehicle’s obligation to pull over graciously, and it is surprising how often this happens. Psychic power, patience, and common sense are also helpful.” 

Approaching Hearst Castle. “Pretty soon,” Dorothy said, “we notice the ocean isn’t quite so far below. The drive is decidedly less demanding, the views are softer…. Finally we reach the town of San Simeon, about 100 miles from Carmel.”

“The gathering place for Hearst Castle visitors is on the left and, as with any grand house, you don’t just drop in unexpectedly,” Dorothy advised. “Reservations need to be made…. If you must press on, then look for the zebras, members of the Hearst Estate, on the left side of the road.”

“We’re definitely out of hair-raising classic Route 1,” she said, “so it is on to Cayucos and finally Morro Bay and its demon rock….”  

Concluding Thoughts. “If you drive straight through from Monterey to Morro Bay and stop only at six or eight view points,” Dorothy concluded, “the trip should take around three hours. But you can see there is room for vast variation. It is hard to believe Route 1 is 50 years old. It could be the edge of Atlantis or the last bit of old California.” 

Today, Route 1 is 83 years old, and still a delight. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021  

4 comments on “CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF CALIFORNIA’S ROUTE 1 IN 1988

  1. -Nate
    April 7, 2021

    It gets much better the further north you drive .

    -Nate

  2. Andrew G.
    April 7, 2021

    The best dance I ever had on Highway One, was on a quiet weekday (sans traffic) in late 1981. I had the roof off on my X1/9, heading south from Monterey. Patchy fog with occasional bursts of cold sunshine, but nonetheless very snug with windows up and heater on, which the Fiat excelled at. Leisurely watched vista after vista spring up under the open sky, even as the road kept me thoroughly entertained and engaged. A beautiful and memorable drive, and I’m grateful I got a perfect day. It’s been ages since I dawdled over lunch at Nepenthe. But thanks for reminding me, Dennis (and Dorothy)! I miss my stupid little car that had so much personality — do you still have your Miata, and had a good drive in it lately?

  3. Mike B
    April 7, 2021

    Immediately after getting married, I got transferred to a job requiring commuting 2-3 days a week between Santa Cruz and San Francisco for a couple of months, until better arrangements could be made. A real pain, in a Rabbit Diesel (at least the gas mileage was good). Several possible routes, but I usually used Hwy 1. Not bad traffic pre-dawn, though the return trip to SC on Friday eves could be gnarly. Beautiful views at times, and one eve I just stopped at Waddell Creek and sat watching the sunset for 1/2 hour. Oh the good old days…

  4. Michael Rubin
    April 7, 2021

    I think the “Rule of Five” is largely ignored nowadays, at least from our last pre-pandemic meander down Highway One for the MogWest gathering at Cambria. The psychic feedback seems to be: “What’s your hurry? I’m not in a hurry.” My favorite recollection is one drive back up One from Cambria with two other Morgans, our “leader” was an octogenarian who drove his Mog as though he were one fourth that age, We were stuck behind a dawdling new VW GTI for several minutes, our white haired leader cruising up on its tail then backing off until they finally got the clue and pulled over. I wondered if the VW driver realized he’d been passed by an 81-year-old driver in a 50 year old car. Wonderful drive in either direction, especially in a Morgan on a lovely summer day. (Plus a delicious though pricey hamburger at Nepenthe.)

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