Hallowed Highway One
“Enthusiasm” might be too soft a word to describe our anticipation of the roads ahead of us. Excitement for the next highway is always distracting. Just last night we talked about the Carretera Austral in Chile. Great roads are often proxies for the landscapes that they border. North of California, the State acquiesced to Nature and placed its roads in the hospitable margins of mountain ranges and river gorges and splintered glacial-volcanic landscapes. Builders of highways and dirt roads worked in the safety of the low passes and river banks. Political lines were redrawn, roads rebuilt, and names re-chosen (Mount Hood was Wy’East to the Multnomah long ago) while the ancient features remained as they were. The roads ringed them and so each new turn bowed to the new landscape that bounded it.
Highway #1 was always about the ocean. As we rode out of Oregon it was Highway #1 that distracted our imaginations, bordered as it was by the same ocean that forced us southwards and will one day stop us in Tierra del Fuego. Since riding through the Redwood Forests of Northern California we have never been more than a day’s ride from the ocean. Yet while Highway #1 does respect the ocean’s borders out of necessity, it has an independent spirit and longevity that sets it apart from any other road we’ve known since Alaska.
Contrary to popular belief, Highway #1 doesn’t end at Tijuana. Technically. Where the United States ends and Mexico begins, so does Mexico’s Highway One. In Big Sur of California, Highway #1 cuts across the cliffs. Human engineering defied natural obstacles. It is spectacular to experience it by bicycle, with every sweeping turn made more exciting by the low speed warning signs. In Southern California we flew through the metropolitan areas of Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and San Diego with our eyes already set on Mexico and La Paz. Now in Mexico, we have felt like our journey has truly just begun. The vast majority of our journey takes place in the Spanish-speaking world, after all.
Highway One has a lot of stories to share from the Redwoods to the inhospitable Mexican desert. In the coming days we’ll be publishing our Highway One Diaries, a short series of posts that will illuminate our ride down this singular ribbon of road.