#49 Big Sur

I suppose you are saying to yourself, wait a minute….Big Sur?  What kind of sports story is that?

SSOMG says hey, wait a minute; there is plenty to say about the great sports activity that goes on there just about every minute of every day on the California Central coast.

I am not sure now if I visited Big Sur when I was growing up.  Our family took many trips to Morro Bay, although I am not really certain how that got nominated as the go-to get away.  I doubt we made it as far north as Monterey or Carmel, as I have no memories of that.  I do remember abalone and I do remember “Sweet Pea” on the signs along Highway 101 announcing how many more miles it was to Buellton and Andersons Pea Soup restaurant.

Maybe my first memory of Big Sur was around 1972 or 1973 when I drove my Ford Station Wagon up the Monterey coast for a week or so of escape from Southern California and a summer of making corrugated boxes.  That was probably it.  I probably camped at Big Sur campground on the river, or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  Julia died in 1928, so I am not sure how she qualified to have a state park named after her.  Somehow I think it must have had some economic roots.

Anyway, I do remember in 1976, probably after I read Richard Brautigan’s book “A Confederate General from Big Sur”, that I decided I would hitchhike from my little half-duplex on Loomis Street in San Luis Obispo up the coast.  It seemed like a great adventure, and from what I can remember, it certainly was that.  I know I had a backpack and little else, but after spending 3 months bouncing around Western Europe in 1974 with similar assets, I saw no reason not to take a little trip to see what Nepenthe and the Phoenix were all about.

Big Sur; even now, it conjures up a certain mind-frame for me.

In 1989, at the prompting of friends from Los Osos, Marijane and I signed up for the Big Sur Marathon.  Held during the last weekend in April every year since 1986, we decided to throw in and participate in one of the most amazing 26 mile runs in the world.  We had no idea of how far it was to run 26 miles.  Also, we didn’t quite understand the details, such as running south to north into the prevailing wind, and some of the painful hills, and some of the weather, and the fact that we weren’t really runners, nor felt that training for such things was important.  Big Sur…..big mistake. 

Ok, we survived, and though we set no world records, we did return to run Big Sur 3 more times in the following years.  Somehow we enjoyed the challenge and somehow we improved our finishing times.  I guess we were younger then.

I would be remiss not to mention the Bixby Bridge, where Jonathan Lee set up his Grand Piano, to inspire the runners heading up Hurricane Point; and the harrowing bus ride south from Carmel to the starting line in Big Sur at five in the morning, giving you a quick idea of just how far 26 miles really is.

We returned to Carmel and Big Sur in 2019 to witness another iconic event, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.  During our stay in Carmel we visited the Big Sur Marathon headquarters and were once again inspired to somehow rejoin this annual torture.  After much discussion and planning, I am not sure what we had decided.  Covid-19 put an end to any discussion.  The Marathon was postponed to November, and more recently was cancelled all together.  After all, running 26 miles on Highway 1 would not be a good example of social distancing…(?)   SSOMG wishes the Marathon the best of luck in 2021.

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