Cambrian: Slice of Life

Only in Cambria could a traffic jam be fawned over

As the North Coast prepares for a couple of major bicycle rides — the Best Buddies Challenge bike ride Saturday, Sept. 10, and Lighthouse Century Saturday, Sept. 24, both of which can dramatically affect North Coast stretches of Highway 1 — I recalled our experience earlier this summer. It was a sort of bicycle “carmageddon” somewhat to the north. Be forewarned, and be careful.

Traffic jams are among the most aggravating, dangerous encounters of everyday, modern life. But not all jams involve playing bumper cars on the L.A. interchange or at Hospital Curve near San Francisco.

For instance, we were homeward bound June 5 after being in the Bay Area.

Now, given my druthers, I’druther not drive south on metropolitan Highway 101, ever, whether you call it freeway phobia, traffic terror or a wise aversion to battling too many vehicles, all going 70 mph or more, side by side by side.

So, we opted instead for stretches of relative peace, and scenery over speed, and began meandering down two-lane Highway 92 to Half Moon Bay. We take Highway 1 south to the Monterey area, cross over to a quieter stretch of 101 and head home.

This time, had we but known — but we hadn’t seen any signs warning the unaware. Yeah, we saw some bicyclists near the Highway 280 interchange, but didn’t think anything about it.

Then I drove around the corner into a hornet’s nest of hundreds of riders, as far as the eye could see.

We were about to traverse an extremely narrow, twisty, hilly, steep stretch of two-lane road — right in the middle of the massive AIDS/Lifecycle bicycle ride.

It was like driving from Lucia to Pacific Valley, sharing Highway 1 with 2,350 bicyclists.

We totally support the AIDS ride. If those stalwart souls can pedal for seven days and 600 hard miles to help raise millions of dollars to combat HIV and AIDS, then we’ll happily yield the road and donate to the cause.

However, the riders’ skill levels varied widely, from professional to rank amateur. Highway 92 does have bicycle lanes, but they range from normal width to absolutely non-existent. Some naughty riders were passing others where they ought not to have done so, which was scary.

There were other distractions beyond the bicyclists themselves. Riders’ attire ranged from sleek spandex outfits emblazoned with commercial-endorsement logos to worn jeans, sweats and an occasional hat decorated with a rubber duck, or what looked like a dead skunk.

Did I drive slowly, carefully, cautiously and with wide-eyed, wheel-clutching panic? You bet.

Why the officials didn’t close 92 until all the riders got to the coast, we’ll never know. It simply wasn’t safe. It was road hockey with human pucks, and cars were the sticks.

Finally, we turned south on Highway 1, and eventually the bicycle crowd thinned out.

What a relief. I’d much rather have cheered for those riders at the intersection of Highways 1 and 46 back home.Now, we’re not immune to traffic jams here. The next day in Cambria, I explained our adventure to Ingrid Turrey of Pacific Hair Salon. She countered with her own experience.

“On Friday, June 3, I was heading home in the late afternoon,” she said. “As I headed up Burton Drive, I saw a bunch of cars stopped in both directions near Lucille Avenue. I was surprised, because you don’t usually see traffic gridlock there. “Then I saw a tiny fawn, obviously confused, scared and running around in circles in the middle of the stopped traffic,” she said, explaining that an oblivious doe was grazing in someone’s yard off to one side of the road and another, equally unaware, female was on the other side with her fawn.

Meanwhile, people had stopped their cars and were frantically waving at oncoming drivers approaching the intersection to alert them to stop, too. Ingrid said, “One big, burly man in a serious truck seemed to be the most worried, almost in tears, doing everything he could to protect the fawn.”

Eventually, the deer wound up in the middle of the road. All the humans waited patiently until the lovely creatures finally wandered off the road, down into Strawberry Canyon.

“As the drivers passed each other both ways on the now open roadway,” Ingrid said, “they flashed big grins and victorious ‘thumbs-up’ signs to each other. Now, that's my kind of traffic jam. It was so heartwarming, so very Cambria.”

Of course, our traffic jams can be dangerous, too. But they’re ever so much nicer than the ones on big-city freeways.