Quiet. Wonderfully peaceful. A soft, late morning breeze rustles through the tall, brown grass. With motorcycle resting on the shoulder on a crest of G16 in Central California, I stretch my legs for a walk about 100 yards down the deserted road for a better photo vantage of this sunny Monterey County valley. Dominating the southern panorama is the northernmost section of the Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Lucia Range. Just beyond those mountains are Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean. To the north, just over the Sierra de Salinas range, is Salinas Valley, hosting Route 101 with its northbound traffic only 100 or so miles from San Francisco. However, right now, right here…it’s just rural bliss.
G16 is less than 60 miles in length connecting Greenfield and our destination of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This skinny noodle of asphalt is primarily without painted road lines, zig zagging up and down and round and round while paralleling several different creeks. Even on this perfect-weather Saturday, there is hardly any traffic at all: which is especially heartening if you have found yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of dragging pegs around a decreasing radius turn edging towards the unfriendly side of a too-narrow road….
The University of California’s Hastings Natural History Reservation runs along a mid-section of G16 and here you can observe some unique hand-painted signage stating: “Please Avoid Newts Crossing Road When Road Is Wet.” Fortunately, the signs include a silhouette of a salamander; otherwise, I wouldn’t know whether I was hoping to avoid a well-known politician or Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests. Later, I resolved to find out more about these “newts” and was impressed to learn that these little reptiles have the ability to regenerate limbs, eyes, spinal cords, hearts, intestines, and upper and lower jaws. I’m going to have to stop in at the UofC to see if I can learn to do that.
Alas, this bit of pavement slaloming just is not long enough…but take heart…the western terminus of G16 is the ideal location to grab some gas and head south along the Big Sur Coastline for some roller coaster entertainment of Pacific Grandeur.