In these Santa Lucia Mountains, some of the roads that run alongside creeks and up canyons are very narrow. When you encounter an oncoming vehicle, truck and trailer, Winnebago, bicyclist, hiker, or even a wide cow, it can be a tight squeeze.
Signs and reflectors aid drivers; however, there are no solid lines along the sides of these roads, no designated bike lanes, and no broken center lines. Drift and straddle that nonexistent middle line, and you’re all set for a near miss or head-on. Steer off-road onto an unstable shoulder or into a rocky runoff ditch, and you’ll want to have your AAA card handy and your walking shoes on so you can locate cell service to call them.
Winding, steep and dusty (soon to be muddy), you never know what will be around the next turn. It’s not unusual to come across cattle, as parts of these roads run through open range. Close calls with wildlife are always a possibility.
When the pavement ends and the surface of the road is dirt, that is where misguided vacationers usually get in a pickle. In an attempt to traverse an uphill grade that’s littered with stones, twigs and loose gravel, those lost sightseers get sideways and block the road.
As if those visitors weren’t flustered enough, what they have to contend with is a cliff on one side and a deep gully on the other. They grind gears, spin out, and slide around in order to get rolling in the right direction. Then, having taken a wrong turn and being many miles off course, those tourists (some of whom have faulty GPS) flag down fellow motorists. With exasperation in their voices, they often ask, “How much farther until we get to Hearst Castle?”
Ease off the accelerator
If you drive faster than other traffic due to perceived emergencies, appointments, busy schedules or a lead foot, you increase your stopping distance as well as your chances of being involved in a collision. It’s not worth the risks, especially when California Department of Motor Vehicles studies have shown that speeding for an hour only saves a few minutes!
Speed should depend on traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists, weather, et cetera. California has a “Basic Speed Law” that says, “Never drive faster than is safe for current conditions.”
Also, it’s against the law to pass when your view of the road is obstructed. This is often the case on a winding rural road. Driving too slowly can cause problems as well. When a driver who wants to go faster is close behind you, always move to the right.
Who has the right of way on a back road? The driver going uphill does. That said, when two vehicles meet on a blind curve and one must pull over or back up, consider factors such as operator skill, vehicle type, road conditions, traction and even familiarity with the road.
To surrender your right of way may be the best strategy.
Enjoy the scenery. Safety first!