California One

Take a long drive with me
on California One, on California One
Take a long drive with me
on California One, on California One

And the road a-winding goes
from Golden Gate to roaring cliff-side
and the light is softly low as our hearts become sweetly untied
beneath the sun of California One

California One” by The Decemberists from the album Castaways and Cutouts (2002, 9:50).

I always enjoyed this song, but until last weekend, it didn’t fully make sense.

Some of the Berkeley biology grad students, including my predecessor at the NCSE, organized a camping trip up north on the coast. “Organized” here is a term I’m applying fairly generously. We were supposed to start driving at 8:30 pm, but didn’t wind up driving out until about 11. That meant we hit the campsite at roughly 2 am, which was time enough for smores, whiskey, and hot dogs, before going to sleep around 4.

The drive north was relatively uneventful. Once we hit the redwoods, the moonlight didn’t penetrate too far, so all I had to look at was my headlights and a winding road. Even after hitting the coastal highway, I had to take it on faith that there was ocean somewhere out to my left.

The return trip was in the full daylight. Leaving the camp on California One, I did indeed “roar cliffside,” wending along a trail perched a couple hundred feet above kelp beds and rocky beaches. Around each curve was another cove which promised mysteries for the intrepid explorer. And there were a lot of curves.

i-4653c8f17f7e3747d9532d10ccfd5919-russian_river.jpgWhen I reached the road back from One to 101, I realized why it had been so twistful. Apparently I’d spent an hour driving along the Russian River, a lovely, wide river that gracefully wends its way up through the redwoods and into the wine country.

When I interviewed for a job at the AAAS, there was a display of aerial photographs in the lobby, and a picture of the Russian River in that collection inadvertently helped make the case for my current employment. How could I pass up the chance to live somewhere like that, where there was so much to see that rivers took their time on the way to the ocean?


  1. #1 blf
    September 27, 2007

    California Highway 1, from LA to the Oregon border (except, perhaps, the bit where it passes through San Francisco) is even better by bicycle, and attracts numerous cyclists each year.

    I’ve only cycled segments of the LA-San Francisco part, albeit I confess to having driven the entire route (but not in a single trip). Either way it’s amazing, but I do strongly recommend trying it by bicycle.

  2. #2 galadriel
    October 1, 2007

    Just found your site by doing a Kansas City Blog search. I will be coming back. My husband is a Kansas science teacher. You can only imagine what kind of crazy he runs into!

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