Joe and Nancy

Joe and Nancy
Our Home on Wheels (Click on image above for our web albums.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Big Sur & PCH

Historic Bixby Bridge built in 1932.  There were many bridges built in the '30s as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) was being constructed.  This particular one was right at the starting point for our Jeep ride on part of the Old Coast Road.  We were about a mile away and Nancy just rolled her window down and snapped this with her new Sony 16 mega pixel 30X zoom camera.  Her photos are really good, rivaling anything I can take with my Nikons.  She's having fun taking a lot of pics we use on the blog. 
Before its completion, the area south of Bixby Canyon was severely isolated from the civilized world. A drive down the dirt Old Coast Road could take a day or two, since the bumpy road would have to cut inland, in order to circle around the canyon. (The Old Coast Road is still drivable, and can be accessed at the north end of Bixby Creek Bridge, though you might want to take a 4 wheel drive vehicle.  We did, 10.4 miles).
 Before we made it to the Old Coast Road however, we drove the 40 miles or so down PCH and took numerous pics of the high surf, 10 to 15 foot waves crashing down on the shoreline.  Thunderous at times.
 Construction on Highway One (PCH) began in 1919. Initial estimates came in at $1.5 million. Federal funds were appropriated and in 1921 voters approved additional state funds. San Quentin Prison set up three temporary prison camps to provide the labor for the road. One was set up by Little Sur River, one at Kirk Creek and later one was established at Anderson Creek. Inmates were paid 35 cents per day and their prison sentences reduced in return for their hard work. Locals like John Steinbeck also worked on the road.
From the 33 bridges constructed with Highway One comes the famous Bixby Rainbow Bridge at Big Sur that we know from automobile commercials. Eight hundred twenty-five trucks brought in 6,600 cubic yards of concrete and 600,000 pounds of reinforcing steel. The rainbow arch was first formed with 300,000 board feet of Douglas fir. 
Maintenance, like all roads, is ongoing. In the 80-year life span of the Pacific Coast Highway the most damage was from landslides. Winter storms cause erosion, resulting in the closing of the highway for extended periods. But when spring comes the road opens and once again tourists and natives alike enjoy the scenic drive. 
The Pacific Coast Highway provides the opportunity to visit some of California's best tourist spots. British sailor, Jack Swain, built California's First Theatre in Monterey in 1847. It was intended as a boarding house and saloon, however the first play was performed there in early 1848. Today it remains a popular playhouse. Fisherman's Wharf and Steinbeck's Cannery Row are must-sees, although the canneries are selling souvenirs rather than sardines. Fort Ord, a former U.S. Army base now houses California State University at Monterey Bay. 
Founded as a cavalry post in 1917, it became a major training post during World War II. Most recently, Fort Ord was home to the 7th Infantry Division until 1993. The post's airfield was turned over to the city of Marina. At beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea, Clint Eastwood's Hog's Breath Inn is a great break before touring San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission or Carmel Mission.
The El Sur Ranch was originally formed as one of several hundred ranchos created during the 1800s, in California’s Spanish-Mexican period. The El Sur grant was made in 1834 by Governor Jose Figueroa to Juan Bautista Alvarado. The ranch was managed and then assumed by Alvarado’s Uncle, Captain John Rogers Cooper. Early records indicate a 5-year contract signed in 1843, to lease El Sur to John Dye, a Kentucky native who used the ranch to raise mules. In the 1850s, El Sur was again leased to dairymen who milked cows and produced cheese for the Monterey market. Cooper himself, at this point, began to use the ranch to run his own herd of beef  cattle.
 In 1955, Cortlandt Hill bought El Sur Ranch from Harry Hunt. Since 1955, the Hill family has retained the property and manages the land in a manner that preserves its historic pastoral beauty, much to the benefit of Big Sur’s many sightseers.
Big Sur refers to that 90-mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful coastline between Carmel to the north and San Simeon (Hearst Castle) to the south. Highway One winds along its length and is flanked on one side by the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and on other by the rocky Pacific Coast.
A total restoration of the lantern room atop the Pt. Sur Lighthouse was completed on January 13, 2001. The restoration was carried out by the International Chimney Corporation, the company that moved and restored the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina.
View of the Point Sur Naval Facility from the beach looking up towards the PCH.  Most of the base is abandoned, since 1974, but Monterey Post Graduate School and Navy Undersea Commands still operate in a couple of the buildings doing research on underwater hydra-phones and listening devices.
 Becasue El Sur does a considerable of research in water sourcing for Monterey County, and other agencies, the land (I would guess millions of acres) is well guarded/protected from outsiders.
 Not sure what all is going on, but they only share with those who have a need to know or reason to be there, off of the old Coast Road.
 A recently replaced bridge at about the 5 mile mark of the old Coast Road.
 High fences protect the ranch property for about 6 miles, on both sides of the old road.
Point Sur Rock and Light from the PCH south about 2 miles.  It too lies within the El Sur boundries, and many head of livestock roam just outside the fences of the State Park of Point El Sur.
 Nancy dutifully and with lots of concentration and steady handness, snaps off a few pics of the surf far below.  I'd say we were about 800 feet above on a pullout.  Pretty dizzying for me.  Here are a few of her pics of that roaring surf.
Well, that's it for our Saturday ride down PCH and Big Sur and the Old Coast Road along the El Sur Ranch.  Tomorrow we'll get up and go to church at Pacific Grove Church of Christ, do a little driving around the Pennisula afterwards, fix us some guacomole, settle in and watch the Giants kick butt on the Patriots.  I really don't have any favorites here, just root for the underdog.  So, it's Tuesday morning, and we had a big blow come through last night.  Power lines down throughout the county and Salinas, and a few sprinkles, but we will probably relax today, and may make it over to the course and watch Tiger, or the five-hole shootout between the San Fancisco Giants and 49ers.  Still cloudy and cool.  Might just stay in today and get ready for our next four days on hole number 1 marshaling.  So, till then, RVing Beach Bums.