El Camino Real

My prompt for Week 27 at More Odds Than Ends came from Leigh Kimmel: The song “Sausalito Summer Nights” by Diesel is the story of a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The Wikipedia article mentions that Sausilito is north of San Francisco, in a context that implies that the songwriter mislocated it as being south of San Francisco. In fact, the lyrics clearly mention crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to get into San Francisco. Why does the narrator of the song go east around the Bay to get to San Francisco instead of heading north on El Camino Real? Visiting a friend in Marin County on the way? Wanting to avoid the possibility of getting stuck in Silicon Valley traffic with a car prone to overheating? Some other reason? Tell me the story.

Just reading the prompt sent me back in time to the hundreds of times I’d made the drive from LA to SF in all sorts of weather and at all times of the year (including the Wednesday of Thanksgiving week…never again!). Single file over the Grapevine in a blinding snowstorm guided by the flashing lights of the CHP car leading our convoy. Bright sunny days that led to stops at Fort Tejon at the top of the pass. Flying down the north side of the pass and gaping at a truck in the emergency stop gravel hill. Getting stuck in Los Banos because my engine froze due to lack of oil (there was a leak) and spending four hours in the Burger King waiting for my friends’ mom to drive down from Sacramento and pick us up so we could get back to LA. Telling my dad that I left an hour or so earlier than I did because I didn’t want to get lectured on driving too fast. I think that drive up I-5 is a rite of passage for every California driver.

I had to look up the lyrics to the song and sure enough, it mentions trouble on the Grapevine and implies taking the long way around to get to San Francisco. Combining my memories of the route and the lyrics, I give you this:

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El Camino Real

“But, it’s the El Camino Real! The Royal Road! Don’t you want to travel the royal road?”

“No, it’s 101 and it’s not nearly as interesting as you think. We’ll go up 5 and then over to 580 and across the Richmond bridge. That will give us a straight shot to Stinson Beach without having to go through the City.” Like a lot of locals, Brian capitalized the word “city” when he was speaking about San Francisco.

He knew he was getting overly snippy with Madison, but he was the one doing all the driving and he sure as hell didn’t want to get stuck in that Silicon Valley rush hour traffic. It would add at least two to three hours to the trip. And, then going through San Francisco…the stuff of nightmares traffic-wise.

“Well, I think you’re cheating me out of the wonders of California. This is my first trip and all I’ve seen is Disneyland and the interstate,” Madison pouted.

Brian sighed and made sure his tone was softer. “Not exactly accurate, but I know, babe. But if we do it this way now, when we leave Stinson Beach, we can go back through Sausalito and then over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco.” She was right. He was returning home, but this was her first trip to California, and he had promised to show her as much of the state as they could afford in terms of both time and money.

They had flown into Los Angeles and spent a few days there going to Disneyland, Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Hollywood Boulevard. This morning they had pointed the rental car north and headed up to the Bay Area. There was a brief issue with the radiator on the Grapevine but since that was a common problem on that stretch of highway there were water stops about every quarter mile, thus easily fixed.

Brian wanted to show Madison something other than the primary tourist spots of LA and San Francisco, so he’d decided they would spend a couple of days in Stinson Beach and then go into San Francisco, hence his roundabout route and leaving the “Royal Road.”

“Besides,” he went on, “we can spend a night in Sausalito this way and you can sing that song you like so much while we stand on the ferry dock and look at the lights of San Francisco.” She did smile at that.

Madison would get her Camino Real on the way back to LA. Brian planned on taking Route 1 down the coast over the course of two days. He was going to pop the question on the beach in Cambria. He had made reservations at a B&B and planned for a wine-tasting as well.

He reached over and squeezed her hand.

She squeezed back. “I love you, too,” she smiled. “And I trust you on your choice of routes,” she gave him a haughty look and a wave that was meant to convey royal privilege.

He laughed. “I love you! And, thank you so much for your trust milady!”

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Fiona Grey got the prompt I sent in: Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, decides she’s done playing coy and lets a boat full of tourists see her. How does that end? and she did a very cool piece with it. Head on over and check it out!

Thanks for reading and please join us over at More Odds than Ends. We’re a bit crazy and silly, but a lot of fun as well!

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