When you are on a big road trip and you pass something cool, that you should have stopped for, you regret it instantly, but you don't turn back. I initially obsess but I eventually figure that we will just have to come back that way again and remember to stop, no matter how remote it is. That is why I've been everywhere, twice.
On a recent slow road trip up the west coast my wife and I came sailing into Big Sur in our big old pickup truck and passed a library-museum-book store-hipster coffee house celebrating Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller, some of the main reasons we love Big Sur. Maybe we didn't stop because we saw this place on a blind curve and didn't have time to process it or slow, or we had stopped several times before this.
We had just stopped for several hours at the cool Russian Fort Ross from 1812 where the Russians settled the central coast to grow food for their Alaska outposts. They had more cannons than the Spanish-Mexicans, so they were invited to stay as long as they liked. Walking around the old fort, with a precocious 12 year old girl in costume dress for a guide, transported us back to a slower more deliberate time.
We had been stopping everywhere that day, me being the new me, with our time having the new tempo of the retired leisure lower class. In fact, he road was so tight and curvy that, after several days, my left arm hurt so much from driving that I was forced to steer with my inferior right arm, forgoing shifting, climate and radio controls. We had seen elephant seals fighting for mates, whales and dolphins, otters and osprey as well as ocean overlooks and the classic coastal bridge views. We often stopped for a pic-nic and a hike, a smoke and a snooze.
We were only making 100-200 miles a day, hardly enough for a gas stop every few days but enough to make us tired and the dog sick. It was a great tempo in the large and lumbering pickup truck, as opposed to our last trip up this coast in our Mini Cooper. That trip was fast and furious and fun in a different way, with no stops or much scenery. Sometimes it's the trip, sometimes it's the destination, sometimes it's the scenery.
So for some reason we blew by the writer’s museum in Big Sur and had a pastry and coffee in this groovy café. We found out the camping and hiking in the Redwoods and on the beaches were still closed due to the big fire that summer. So we headed down to Carmel, Pebble Beach and Monterey where we had a rude reintroduction to civilization and traffic after having hunkered down on the forgotten California central coast for past month.
After a nice B&B and a tour of the Monterey peninsula and the incredible aquarium we were content again with where we were and where we were going but in the back of my mind I kept thinking of the writer’s museum we missed. Shoulda, woulda, coulda - my optimizational obsession, my engineers curse kicked in like it always does. So we will have to go back again, next time.