Our first stop after leaving San Jose was Pfeiffer Big Sur out on the California coast. The map shows a paltry two hour and six minute drive from our departure point but we weren’t fooled. We knew that 45 plus miles of the drive would be down the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive would challenge the SUV with mountain climbs and tight curves as we pulled our Airstream Sport. So, we left early and gave ourselves plenty of time to navigate the trip during the short hours of daylight in early December.
As we pulled away from our vacated rental in San Jose, I could feel that the trailer was definitely on the heavy side. Our personal goods, food supplies and 80% full on the water tank started to make me think twice about the load limits I calculated. As I drove through San Jose on the way to the freeway the trailer was responding normally and all systems were a go. We switched the GMC Acadia into four-wheel drive trailer mode and the weight of the trailer seemingly disappeared. The tiny shiny outline in my side-view mirror sleekly snaked in lockstep behind our SUV. So we continued on the journey and didn’t give it another thought.
The first half of the trip was typical Cali. The roads completely full of vehicles with aggressive drivers taking daredevil risks, advancing themselves a single car length at a time against their perceived competitors. We ignored the antics and motored along within range of the 55mph speed limit for towed vehicles in California. After about an uneventful hour and twenty minutes we turned south on the famous Pacific Coast Highway.
Quickly the road compressed to one lane in each direction, we navigated the ebb and flow of the highway as it hugged the California coast. After climbing a few hills and navigating some of the broad turns, I was thinking to myself “this isn’t so bad”. Our speed was around 50mph and I thought we would make camp well before nightfall.
Then it all started to change and my anxiety level began to rise. The road narrowed, the rock face closed in and the cliff was now inches from the roadway, all the while being distracted by the memorizing views of the rugged coast engaged in a fierce battle with the angry ocean. Speeds began to slow to 25mph and less for long stretches of windy road as we ensured that the Airstream wouldn’t lose its footing or get pushed to the side by the wind of oncoming traffic. The GMC Acadia performed flawlessly and listened to my every command even though we were operating on the verge of max capacity ratings.
What should have been thirty minutes of drive time to our destination was now over an hour and we still had miles to go. Up the next turn and the sun was starting to set. At times, the bright glare reflecting off the hood completely blinded me to the oncoming traffic and, the oncoming hairpin turns. It was a game of cat and mouse with the sun, the oncoming traffic and the sheer drop of 500’ to my right.
Coming up on one of the tightest turns and nearly the highest point on the drive, a car from the vista point parking area backed into our lane, and stopped. We had just a few seconds to react. Are we too much over-weight for a safe fast stop? Should I slam on the breaks and risk a jackknife that would surely tumble the trailer and pull us over the cliff? Or hit the car and push her over the edge and then risk the jackknife? The options quickly swirled in my head as I pushed my hand into the horn with enough force to turn coal into diamond. I crossed the center-line to avoid hitting her rear bumper by mere inches then quickly swerved back into my lane to avoid hitting the oncoming traffic. My heart was racing, my grip was locked on the wheel, every muscle was tense. I was ready to be done with this drive.
Luckily that stretch was the last of the low speed traversing. As my heart rate slowed and all systems began to return to normal, I was able to speed to 50mph. We quickly covered the remainder of the drive without event and pulled into Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park as dusk was just starting to touch the hillside. A lush forested entrance greeted our arrival. We rolled the windows all the way down and let the cool evening air wash over us. After checking in with the fabulous “we absolutely love what we do and it shows” entrance crew we headed to our little spot in the trees across from the river. We detached Diego the Airstream from what will now be called the Mighty Acadia.
As we ended the day we sighed with relief and collapsed into our chairs by the fire, excited to be home for the next few days.