Last September we had a couple nights booked at Tree Bones resort in Big Sur, just the two of us set up in a yurt for the weekend of our anniversary but ended up having to cancel due to a last minute sitter fall out. This year we were determined to get up there and decided to just drive the whole family up the coast and stay wherever we could find closet to town. With plenty of warning about how slim our chances of actually booking something, last minute in such a popular season, were. By now, if you are a long time follower of this blog you know that we are not apt to much planning when it comes to mapping out these road trip destinations, booking hotels in advance, ect. I tried not to let the fact of it cloud my enthusiasm for the trip. As a new and young couple, out routes would unroll on a whim. Obviously we had that freedom then. We would make up the direction of our trips as we went and it was all part of the thrill. Parked roadside with a big map stretched out across the dashboard. Checking into hotels we spotted as we passed. These days, admittedly, it's a littler harder to keep that spontaneity up but by nature it's all we really know at this point. And for the most part I would say that it tends to work out for us more times than not. Meaning, when you go into a road trip with meager expectations, it's easy to come away fulfilled, with major gratitude for the new places you've managed to swoop in and inhabit randomly for a few days rather than be disappointed by plans that run risk of falling short, or apart altogether.
That said, I was still shocked to find a few vacancies over at the Fernwood Resort, smack dab in the middle of Big Sur with every cabin tent on site boasting "river facing views." I booked immediately and we set off in the middle of pretty heavy rain storm up the coast, dropping off a truck full of teepees in Santa Barbara on our way up. It was a long, wet, at times miserable drive. But with four kids, in close quarters, and a six - 8 hour drive, that's always to be expected right? Remedies being coloring books, iPad indulgences, chewing gum privileges and one lone country CD by our friends, The Freight Shakers, cranked up louder than the backseat chaos that played consistently the whole ride up. Helping drown out those sporadic whine fests that pose a serious threat to our sanity at on these long, trying highways.
Speaking of which, Highway 1 is a beast once you get deep into that snaking climb up that big windy mountain. 100 miles of mounting anxiety for me. And a couple nauseous boys in back. It was rough. And no matter how "pretty" the scenery proves, I just want off. Especially when my nerves start reaching boiling points and I start to slip uncontrollably into the manic shadows of insanity mirroring Tourettes that has me looking, sounding, acting like a mad women. Which of course, everyone else in the car finds rightfully assuming.
Fernwood though, is a No Cal dream. Best case scenario in an unplanned place of rest nestled amidst the redwoods with a big handsome lodge up front and a quaint general store with pretty, bare faced college girls manning the counter eager to help see you through whatever quests your vacation agenda may have on file. We stayed one night in the hotel but felt much more at ease bunkered in the cabin tents down below, next to the river. The space is airy and open, with dogs allowed and a lush romantic view from all the netted window panes. The boys explored on bikes around the dirt roads, dodged poison ivy, and rode a slow cool current in plastic tubes down at the river's edge. Over, and over and over again. I could have stayed there for weeks. Watching them collect sticks to try and redirct the damns path, skipping rocks out across the water, scooping out a small shallow pool on the sand bank for their littlest brother to slop around in. All the fighting and fussing dissolved at the river and for those few hours we spent there it was easy, sunny, slow, and peaceful. The ever alluring spell of Big Sur turned all the way up and gripping.
The nature of our daily adventurings were modest. Per usual. A quick peek at the breathtaking views of Pfeiffer Falls, lunch on the sands at Pheiffer Beach (where we managed to get our giant kite up and sailing) sitting at high tide and laughing until it hurt. That beach felt magical. What I imagine the sands of Capri might resemble. Maybe just because it's so different than what we're use to. Exotic. Unfamiliar. And until the wind turned brutal, straight bliss watching the hours slip through that incredible gaping hole between the ocean landscape I only came to know the day prior in photos in the brochures at the resort we were handed when we arrived.
Breakfast at The Big Sur Bakery was a must. Everyone said so. So we went. And it was lovely. The wild cacti, sunshine on the patio, and so many cute birds that seem to dive in and land just to watch you eat. The food was good but not mind-blowing like the hype had suggested (hence, the dangers of overly inflated expectations) And it was more expensive than I preferred for a big family breakfast. I paid a lot for my latte that was mediocre at best. Highlight being the surrounding landscape and stone walkways with a morning yoga session up the stairwell in which I found Rex watching from the stone stoop, hypnotized by the scene. He urged me to join them and seemed disappointed when I explained I wasn't wearing yoga ready clothing. He then pointed out the bruntette instructor in the mesh tank on his way out, and admitted plainly to his father on the walk back that he had seen "her boobies." He didn't. But a mesh tank play tricks on the eyes. And, he's five so it counts I suppose.
Another fun stop was wandering into the Henry Miller Library. Mike and Arlo sat on wooden benches and played dueling guitars that set the staff fawning and my heart flopping happily with pride at their matching abilities to draw smiles from strangers by way of music. Surrounded by so many beautiful books, postcards, art and beauty stacked in that place. A resident cat named Theo and a few hippy helpers tending to the grounds where we played ping pong on the deck and sipped complementary coffee on the newly shone grass. The highlight being, however, the conversation with a vibrant old lady sitting beside her friend who fell in love with Hayes and wondered (aloud) how such a "beautiful child" could possibly belong to us. Mike and I laughed, like you would, at such a thing. Until we realized she wasn't kidding. Actually, I kept laughing but saw poor Mike grow immediately insecure in light of his golden locked child with the shinning bright eyes that the old lady in the wooden bench kept claiming must have come from someone else. "OH MAMA, WHAT WERE YOU REALLY UP TO?" she hissed, laughing wickedly at her own absurdities and all I could think was, man it must be fun to be so old and crazy that you can sit in the sun with your tea telling people their DNA doesn't quite add up to the sheer beauty of their youngest offspring. - Though, to her credit Hayes IS a pretty baby. So pretty in fact that everywhere we went I was stopped and complemented on my beautiful daughter. A correction I've grown too tired to inforce so opt instead for a simple thank you for those sweet enough to stop us.
The last bit of piece of magic happened early on our evening walk around the grounds where we stopped to get a look at the vintage turquoise camper with the dull orange lights glowing in the windows and the succulent gardens wrapping round the width of the trailer. The owner took note and came out to welcome and invite us in. Arlo and I slipped inside and talked to a pretty woman with long black hair and a crop top who told us how she worked around the grounds, in whatever area they needed each day, every shift in exchange for room and board on this little slice of heaven with a makeshift bedroom off the back of the trailer made of canvas tarps, and a big bed that faced straight out to the river. She was low key and talked about her instant connection to this place three years ago. But how "they" are staying put until new land somewhere else in town becomes available. She said Big Sur is full of big money but explained that the rich are different in that they will invite you to their home and welcome you like a friend. She also described the community as "progressive"and painted a great image of some of her other artist friends hanging on the fringes of society who come here simply to rest in plain beauty. She also recommended coming back for an adult trip and doing a midnight "soak" at the Eschalan Institute (which I am only keen on because of the Mad Men finale where Don's greatest epiphany happens atop it's grand hillside in this Mid Century architectural Mecca) I mention this particular scene but she seems notably baffled. Which tells me that people who live where the river runs don't need or want cable television. Not even when it includes the chiseled visage of Mr. Draper. I gave up on explaining. . .
By the end of our trip we were all kicking and dragging our feet packing the truck up. Desperate for another day. Another hour at the water or short hike around the beach.
Because who knows about the "next time,"or just how lucky we'll be. Information on the online site claim that sites book up a year in advance so we can't be dead set on returning here on the next go round. But when and if we do, I hope to have the Airstream finished, parked and shinning on that spacious peaked campsite. That beautiful baby we somehow managed to create, skipping rocks on his own, and maybe a couple Xanax in tow to hep ease the old highway pains on the way up.
For now, I just happy that our California Dreams have all been so majestically expanded.
Until next time, Big Sur.