The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. -Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Jack Kerouac lives on in Big Sur. I get the feeling that this stretch of Highway 1 has not emerged from the free-loving sixties. Close by Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, we pull into a rocky driveway where two young girls watch from a wide front porch made of wood. I wonder if we have pulled into someone’s home, and not the Henry Miller Memorial Library. Inside, books dangle from wooden beams by string, incense burns, and lesser known Cat Stevens songs careen us into a journey through time. I am with my mom, a child of the sixties, and she immediately feels at home in this throwback environment, so kookily decorated and curated, with records and books she hasn’t seen the likes of in years. She picks up ‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith and asks the young girl if she’s read it. The young girl is in her twenties. In a sweet but confident voice, she says, ‘love doesn’t exist like that anymore, at least mine doesn’t. I don’t know about your love.’ Interestingly, the Henry Miller Memorial Library is a highly sought after event venue. It is currently sold out for 2015, inclusive of weddings.
The scenery changes quickly; at one point, one shoulder touches the mountain while the other peters over the cliffs into the Pacific. Suddenly, I am driving through green meadows decorated with cows. When I blink again, the woods envelop me, and I am surrounded by redwoods and old wooden signs guiding me towards the ‘General Store.’
It is a challenge to keep my eyes on the road, with the wrap-around feeling of the Pacific and the sudden bursts of extended aqua water laid out before me as I slow down for curves and make my way through the mountains of the Central Coast. For sublime views, pull over at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and walk down a fir-scented staircase towards an Amalfi-Coast-like vista point. On one side, you have one of mother nature’s most incredible feats, the 80-foot waterfall gushing down from granite cliffs into a pool of aquamarine water, joining hands with the darker blue of the Pacific. Straight out, the horizon is a meeting of blues, and it feels as if the ocean is wrapping me like a hug. While the Atlantic feels like a straight horizontal line and very absolute, the Pacific feels more circular, more inclusive, if you will.
If you seek ultimate rejuvenation in a secluded, private retreat, check into the Post Ranch Inn, a few minutes from the Henry Miller Memorial Library and another few minutes from the Big Sur Bakery. The property is a haven and a hide-out, made up of individual cabins with either mountain or ocean views. The dining room is an architectural accomplishment, a combination of woods and glass, a structure that seems as natural in the nature-heavy environment as if it was created by the elements themselves.
Driving back to Carmel, I tell my mom that all I need are a few Henry Miller books about travels in Greece, a great pair of sneakers for exploring, and a view like this one to my left. I start to understand why the free-loving spirit of the sixties remains alive in Big Sur; what more do we need than these vistas?