In 2006 I took a Road Trip from San Francisco to New Mexico and back over the course of a month, writing and taking photos all the way. Two years later I had a show of paintings based on those photographs. This is one of a series of twenty-nine posts of those paintings accompanied by the relevant diary entries.


Big Sur, oil on board, 8 x 9 inches

26. May 18th & 19thΒ 

Big Sur is a part of the California coast made famous by the likes of Jack Kerouac, who went mad there, and Henry Miller, who lived there. It has also recently featured in the finale of Mad Men, Big Sur being a big draw for the flower child generation. The oldest part of Highway 1 twists along the rocky inlets of the Big Sur Coast and I had wanted to drive it.

It was tough getting a place to stay. The hostel in Monterey had a room but wouldn’t give it to me because I wasn’t a couple even though I said I would pay full whack. They said I would be ‘allowed’ in a co-ed dorm…I kid you not.

This happens a bit. Single people must be one of the most silently discriminated against group in society. But say anything and the Couple Brigade will start yelling how easy you have it…but thats a whole other series of posts…

I was lucky to get into the Big Sur River Inn, there had been a cancellation. Though there was a swimming pool, there was no TV (bloody hippies) and at $250 for two nights it’s a rip off. The room is dark and flimsy and there are few amenities. The staff were offhand and the restaurant limited and mediocre. That the weather was cold and the Inn was surrounded by trees didn’t help.

The drive on the famous Highway One was nice though. It was foggy but sometimes between the creases and crevices of the coast the sky cleared to reveal more of those muscular hills. The sea was the same as anywhere…

When I was young I had jigsaw puzzles of various countries with graphics displaying local highlights and distinctive cultural differences. From this I deducted that all countries were essentially visually very different and it surprises me to this day that the sea, sky and often the landscape, with variations in colour, are generally the same everywhere. Anyway the sea on Big Sur was lovely when the sun came out, ultramarine fading to turquoise, frilled white around the rocky coastline…

I was expecting the road to be more hair-raising but though it’s twisty, it’s well maintained. The roads around Achill Island in Ireland are much more nerve wracking.


Big Sur River Inn, oil on board, 9 x 8 inches (approx.)

My room is quite dark and is on the opposite side of the highway from the main building and restaurant. I went for a dip in the pool, which is a bit too deep for comfort. There was a girl there who looked exactly like my sister. Later I went to the restaurant. As I was waiting for a table on a couch beside a fireplace, a grey-haired man, who I had seen earlier, came and sat on the other couch. His name is Laurence and he is, he said, a healer lately arrived from Sedona where he had healed many Irish people…

Well that’s a first…

He asked me if I had recognised his dog and strangely enough, I had seen his dog and thought it looked familiar…

I actually think I saw him and his dog in Sedona..

…he did a reading on me. I am a 5…


..and he ‘healed’ my ears. I could smell his teeth. I think he was an Indian. I was enjoying the conversation until he started to say Sedona was a landing place for Galaxians, who are from Orion and all over..

…in case you didn’t know…

…and that in two years we would all fall asleep for three days and wake up with bigger heads, using 90 % of our brain and only having to eat every three days and with much lighter bodies..

…of course..

He’s lost millions. He’s a free spirit. I am the strongest woman he has ever met and he wanted me to drive him to Lake Tahoe.Β He asked me to guess his age so I said 72. He wasn’t happy about that so I said 57 and he didn’t like that either though I’d say it was close enough. I had felt open at the start of the conversation but closed up towards the end..

Those damn Galaxians!..

I went into dinner on own, feeling a bit bad for not inviting him in, but there was a touch of ‘H’ about him..

…H was a dubious character I once knew…..

…and he smelled of rot. Anyway, he’s a free spirit so I am sure he can handle it.

He did cheer me up but I have wondered ever since if he cursed my ears, because I didn’t ask him to dinner or guess his age correctly. They’ve got a lot worse since…

Next morning…

I ran into him outside the store and he wanted a hug and I refused. He had slept outside the previous night and his sleeping bag had been soaked by the hotel sprinklers..deliberately I imagine… and he wanted me to take it into the hotel and use their dryer. I wouldn’t do that either. I walked off but I was now in a bad mood.

Sometimes my curiosity about people doesn’t come out well..

I went to the Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park on the coast and saw the waterfall on the beach which is beautiful. Too tired for much walking. I visited the Henry Miller Library and bought Kerouacs’ Big Sur (again) and Millers’ Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch..

…which I loved loved loved and which, along with Kerouacs’ Big Sur is a must-read if you are going there…

…and Henry Rollins’ Roomanitarian. I had missed a gig by Rollins by a week, damn.

Later my diary says I locked myself out of my room and ate a clove of garlic. I was coming down with a cold. Wild times.

I can’t wait to get out of here!

Further Reading

Kerouac, J., (1962), Big Sur, New York:Farrar, Straus and Cudahy.

Miller, H., (1957),Β Big Sur & the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, New York: New Directions


9 responses to “ROAD TRIP : BIG SUR

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