Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reading Kerouac at Big Sur and more

We just got back from a trip to the West Coast where we got to spend time with my son and his family in California and a few days with some friends near Portland, OR. We flew to California but drove to Oregon, so, naturally, we chose to drive the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur, where we stayed two nights.

That drive is amazing, and no pictures could do it justice. I highly recommend it. As you probably know because you're reading this blog post, Jack Kerouac wrote a novel, Big Sur, about a period of time he spent -- supposedly drying out -- at Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin in Bixby Creek Canyon (called Raton Canyon in the novel).

On our way to our lodgings in Big Sur we took these pictures at an overlook, thinking it was Bixby Creek Canyon Bridge. It turned out to be the Big Creek Bridge. Bixby Bridge is north of that. As such, we didn't get pictures of the Bixby Bridge, but there are plenty on line to look at.

Our first view of the Big Creek Bridge

A closer view

My copy of Big Sur on the informational sign at the Big Creek Bridge overlook (the picture of Bixby on the sign threw us off)

Crystal holding my copy of Big Sur with Big Creek Bridge in the background

Me in the same spot
Where we stayed in Big Sur

Our room at the Big Sur River Inn

For sale in the Big Sur River Inn gift shop

On our second day at Big Sur we decided we wanted to dip our toes in the Pacific, so we went to Andrew Molera State Park where it's about a mile walk to the beach from the parking lot (all level). As I write this, the park is closed because of nearby wildfires burning out of control.

Crystal crossing the Big Sur River on the way to the beach in Andrew Molera State Park

Me at Andrew Molera State Park (11 miles south of Bixby Bridge)

Crystal at Molera
Me at Molera

It was so windy that day that we were literally getting sandblasted. Nevertheless, Crystal took a video of me reading from Big Sur. Click here to watch it:

That night we had drinks and an appetizer at Nepenthe, which Jack mentions in Big Sur and is the title of a book Crystal recently read. It's an architectural marvel of a restaurant perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean.

At Nepenthe
Nepenthe has an old school telephone - and it works (good thing: little to no cell service in Big Sur)

We had a great visit to Big Sur and the only downer for me was misidentifying the Bixby Bridge. But it's a lesson for you kids out there: when you make a mistake, own up to it. Next time we visit I'll snap some pictures of the real thing.

Here are some things to keep in mind when visiting Big Sur. Cell phone reception is spotty to nonexistent. Lodging is expensive, but the Big Sur River Inn is a good choice. They have a restaurant/bar and general store right there so you don't have to leave the property for food or supplies. The road is very curvy so don't be in a hurry (use the turnouts to let the dangerous drivers pass you). Molera State Park has fairly easy public access to the ocean. Big Sur refers to the area, so don't expect to find a specific place by that name (although there is a post office just south of where we stayed).

As to visiting Bixby Beach where Jack listened to the plowsh of the waves and wrote "Sea," I had no intention of doing that but I suppose if you are not averse to trespassing on private property you might be able to walk to it. This 2011 blog post has some info you may want to consider:, although as recently as 2005 it was possible as evidenced by Jerry Cimino, Steve Edington, and John Cassady making it:

Which reminds me, if you haven't watched the 2008 documentary, One Fast Move Or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur, I recommend it.

Peace out....


Kaleb said...

i just took a kerouac pilgrimage down to big sur with my wife. Keep in mind there is free camping spots around, with gorgeous views. i swigged port wine on the drive to bixby then had manhattans at nepenthe on the way back (and burgers with all the fixins). i didnt play chess like Neal or ramble into the ears of some military men like Jack but i had an amazing time. I am an alcoholic who has had some very disturbing "drying out" periods so Big Sur has a special place in my heart. I discovered your blog through your "kerouac and ufos" article, dont forget he hallucinates ufos twice during the course of Big Sur.

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Kaleb, thanks for your comment. Can you cite the chapters where Kerouac hallucinates UFOs in Big Sur?