Enough is enough: An inside look at the master plan to close Highway 1 to thru-traffic for good.
Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, contemplating some surprising breaking news that has the potential to upend my day-to-day life. As regular readers of this newsletter know, I live in Big Sur. This means I’m used to making the long, winding and often tourist-clogged trip down Highway 1. What I’m not used to is making that journey by pack mule.
According to a secret report obtained by the Weekly, the contents of which are revealed in an exclusive cover story in this week’s print edition, I might need to get used to it.
The report in question was found, left at a table, by longtime Post Ranch server and South Coast resident Charity Waters. It was a bound, four-color, 156-page report, wrapped by a high-gloss cover featuring a picture of a heavily loaded pack mule carrying water and other supplies, crossing Bixby Bridge, and led by a young couple. The photo caught Waters’ attention because it was not historical but contemporary, and the adventurers were dressed in straight-leg jeans and hipster jackets. Mostly it was their footwear that stood out—Wool Runners from Allbirds. These were Bay Area computer geeks crossing the famous bridge, not frontiersmen.
The report had a big red stamp across its cover: “DO NOT CIRCULATE. FOR PRIVATE REVIEW ONLY.” Naturally, Waters opened it to discover its contents.
Inside was a shocking plan, recently agreed to by the top leadership of Caltrans, Cal Fire, big insurance companies, REI, the Marriott, Joby Aviation (based in Marina) and the Association for Horsemen of Northern California. (On the draft viewed by the Weekly, several potential backers’ names were crossed out with a black Sharpie‚—those still viewable under a thick black line are Ventana Big Sur, California State Parks, the U.S. Forest Service and Community Association of Big Sur.)
Entitled Big Sur: Enough is Enough, the report approved by these disparate groups representing government, entrepreneurs, large and small businesses, the massive national co-op for outdoor camping gear among them, draws a shocking conclusion: The relentless investment and expense to keep Highway 1 open, particularly in the past decade, represent good money chasing bad. It is time to turn off the spigot of public money and let Big Sur return to being Big Sur, more or less.
Their proposed solution: Shut down Highway 1 to thru-traffic. Starting immediately, after a natural or unnatural disaster that takes out a lane or two, or a bridge or culvert, Caltrans will simply install orange barricades to stop the northbound or southbound traffic from continuing, preventing drivers (already distracted by the views) from inadvertently going off the road into the ocean where the road is no more. Drivers will simply have to turn around and return to their starting point and hopefully do some more gift shopping and wine tasting in Carmel-by-the-Sea, so long as the road allows for that.
And for those of us who live on the coast? We’ll have various options for accessing our homes—a trail (on foot or on rented mules), electric bikes (until the road is impassable or just plain gone), or we can go via the sea on panga boats (recently seized during an international cannabis delivery bust near Partington Cove, and publicly noticed in tiny font in the back of the Weekly as a forfeiture).
Send mule training tips and tricks my way—I’m going to need them.
-Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, Monterey County NOW editor, firstname.lastname@example.org