RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

The Phoenix One Journals      Stories from the dawn of RoadTrip America

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On the Edge

The best time to be in Southern California is right after a rain storm. The showers have washed the air clean, and the clouds leave a clear view of the mountains and coastline in their wake. We decided to drive north on Highway 101 after the last El Nino storm.

The rain had stopped two days before, and the earth-moving equipment was out in force. We watched dump trucks and caterpillars labor to unearth the railroad tracks north of Ventura.

At Refugio Beach, we decided to head inland upa narrow road through Refugio Canyon. Usually this road is passable all the way to the inland towns of Santa Ynez and Los Olivos, but today we knew we'd be lucky to cover a few hundred yards.

We were lucky. The road was narrow and curvy, and signs warned that erosion had made the road surface unstable. We pushed on slowly, past a guest ranch and several houses.

Then the road got even narrower. "It's more like a paved trail," said Mark as we met switchbacks so tight we had to back up to get around the bends. We were gaining altitude rapidly, and, as usual, I was on the cliff side. The view to the west was magnificently panoramic, lush green valleys and a vast expanse of ocean. As much as I hate roads with crumbling edges and plunging drop-offs, I loved that view.


We did have to stop short of reaching the inland towns. The road wasn't shut completely, but it was unpaved after the ridge, and strongly-worded signs explained that it was nobody's responsibility to maintain it. Reluctantly we decided that it was unwise to take a seven-and-a- half ton vehicle on a crumbling, rain-saturated, one-lane dirt road on the edge of a cliff. Instead, we made our way back down Refugio Canyon, admiring the view once more as we descended.

Farther north, we followed a sign off Highway 101 for Nojoqui Falls. We'd heard they were tall and impressive, and we figured they'd be at their best in the wake of an El Nino special. It's a ten-minute walk to the falls from the parking lot. Suddenly, there they were, ninety feet tall and roaring. Believe it or not, they're a match for Yosemite.

Yours from the Road,

Mark, Megan & Marvin
Pasadena, California
March 8, 1998

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