Straddling Severe Road

Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I took a camping trip to Anza-Borrega State Park for a long weekend. On our last day, we headed over to the nearby Salton Sea, and we were trying to find a viewing point recommended to us by the Park Ranger at the Visitor Center. She dropped a pin in Apple Maps at the place the Ranger had circled on the physical map of the area we had, and we duly followed the directions.

So, we headed down the highway that follows the west side of the sea, and turned left to get to this area. However, not far from our destination, the map had us turn off the highway onto a farm-access road. We thought this was a little strange, but despite not seeing any water in front of us, the map showed that we were very close, and so we figured that this couldn’t be too wrong.

But then Siri said something strange. “In two hundred feet, turn right on Severe Road.” I couldn’t see any road in 200 feet, so I slowed down until I came to a complete stop right at the junction. We both looked to our right. There was the sign: Severe Rd. However, this road was simply a raised line of dirt just wide enough for a car, rough terrain, and deep trenches either side.

I turned up to enter the road, Claire a little worried that this wasn’t a good idea, and slowly rolled over the rocky dirt and mud. It seemed the road had been named well. The road was perhaps a quarter of a mile long, and we could see a junction to another, paved road in the distance. Relieved, we continued ahead, assured in that we weren’t going to be stuck.

“Oh no,” Claire said. We looked ahead. A large plastic pipe, about 25 feet, lay across the road in front of us, right before the junction. We had to move this pipe, or reverse back down the whole road again. There was no way to drive over it. We pulled up behind it. It wasn’t attached to anything that we could see, but off the road on the right, it was between two telephone poles that would severely limit its ability to rotate out of the way. I looked to my left. A bush, buzzing with wasps, was inches from my window.

“Claire, do you mind moving the pipe?” I have a slight fear of wasps. I reasoned with her that someone need to drive the car while the other moved the pipe out of the way and back into place. She reluctantly did so, and we were through.

Little did we know, but another journey filled with peril awaited us on the other side of that pipe. But that’s a post for another time.


The Promise of the Road

It’d be easy for me to write a piece about why you should drive instead of fly somewhere. Of course, usually we fly because it is undoubtedly the fastest method of long-distance travel. But I think there are some distances worth travelling on the ground – and usually, it isn’t that much slower than flying. What might be more difficult is a piece about why you should take the slowest, longest route available, instead of the fastest. At first, it sounds a tad bonkers – but just hear me out.

Take a trip I’ve driven a few times: from the Los Angeles/Orange County area to San Francisco. The flight from LA to San Francisco is incredibly short. I’ve never flown it myself, but I imagine it’s both short and somewhat overpriced.

Driving, on the other hand, gives you several options. If you stick around long enough, you’ll probably read about my dread of I-5 far too often, but that’s because if you’re on the West Coast, the road is bloody everywhere, and often, it’s bloody boring and uninspired. Great for the truckers, terrible for the drivers. But that’s option #1, and it will get you to your destination the fastest.

Option #2 is Highway 101. It’s like I-5’s younger, cooler, and taller, sibling. It still has stretches of boredom, but you’re closer to the coast, and for that, you have far more scenic views. This will take longer than I-5, but at least you won’t die of boredom on the way.

And, of course, I’m a big advocate for option #3, the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). This route will take almost twice as long as I-5, and you can discard any dreams of exploring San Francisco the same day you leave Los Angeles, but bloody hell, it’s one hell of a road. You’ll drive right through Malibu, with the ocean crashing on your left. You’ll drive through beautiful towns such as (if you take the Lake Chumash Pass to bypass the Santa Barbara traffic) Solvang, Cambria, and Carmel. You’ll discover the wonders of Big Sur, drive right past gushing waterfalls, huge seals, and potentially have the waves crash up onto your vehicle before you climb the cliffs.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave that for my post dedicated to the road. But now, hopefully, you’ll understand what I’m after. The things you’ll see on Highway 1 are unique. In fact, you’re likely to never forget the wonders that are there. But if you just fly, or take the Interstate, you won’t even have a clue. So if you’re heading up to San Francisco for the week, take a day or two to take the long route, because it’s always worth making the journey part of the destination.

For some of my photos and experiences on Highway 1, click here.

Why This? Why Me? Why Now?

Rallying over Rocks by the Grand Tetons

So what’s the deal? Why am I starting this blog about the ‘promise of the road?’ What does that mean? What’s a slab of asphalt promising me?

Well, for a long time, I’ve been very passionate about driving. And not just the young-boys-going-fast passionate, but simply driving. Slow or fast, straight or windy, it doesn’t matter (unless you put me in Los Angeles traffic. That isn’t driving, that’s hell.) I’ve found other people with a similar passion for this idea, this concept, of traveling by a car. There’s just something rather romantic, perhaps even nostalgic, about it. Heading out on the open road, no agenda, no appointments. Freedom.

Of course, cars have always been an icon of freedom. Picture a movie scene of when the lead character gets out of prison. Whoever is picking him up, he or she is usually leaning against a good-looking car.

For a long time, I’ve had people to share glimpses of this passion with, but nowhere to document my journey. No other website seems to try to capture this idea. This isn’t about off-roading in huge Jeeps, this isn’t about going as fast as possible. This is about four wheels, a driver, and the road. And, of course, the places you see and the people you meet along the way.

I will be collecting images, memorabilia, quotes, ideas, and more, from my road-travels, and I will also be writing some stories from the road, because nothing lasts forever quite like a good story, and nothing harbors a good story quite like a good road.