February 24, 2004 - The Windy Road
A couple of months ago, the dedicated staff of edhat.com called up a bunch of restaurants on a Saturday night and asked how long the wait was for a table. We called all the local favorites, and we found the longest wait at Cold Spring Tavern on top of the San Marcos Pass. The restaurant is a throw back to the past; to a time long before blacktop and double-yellow lines; back to a day when the stagecoach drivers stopped to water and rest the horses and the passengers. The menu in the old log building compliments the rustic atmosphere, offering game such as venison and quail along with the tamer fare. It is a great place for romance. The bar in the tavern building next door is a great place to hear music and drink beer on a weekend afternoon.
The only trouble with Cold Spring Tavern is that in order to get home, you must “weave home a wet slick anaconda of a two lane … leaving the little joint winking in the dark warm narcotic American night” (Tom Waits again). Maybe you had a drink. Maybe the guy driving behind you had seven. It’s a little scary.
Yesterday the dedicated staff drove down the pass …stone cold sober and in broad daylight. A beautiful crisp day it was. The ocean was sparkling off in the distance, the trees were shimmering, and the traffic was light. We started counting just past the very top of the San Marcos Pass. You know the spot. There is the last passing lane before the long descent. You push your cylinders to their limit as you struggle to pass the lame driver who’s been driving 25 mph until there is a passing lane, then speeds up and won’t let you pass. This has been going on since the 246 turnoff, and you’ve just about had enough. We figure this is another reason for the dangerous reputation of the road. So you pass. And just as the road crests and the sign tells you that the passing lane is ending, the curves begin. Beware, though, just beyond the crest is a favorite spot of the California Highway Patrol.
As we drove down the pass, going easy on the brake, we counted the number of times we turned left and the number of times we turned right. We took a left, and a right, and a right, and a left. Slowly we descended toward the sea. All told, by the time we hit the 192 off-ramp, we had counted a total of 26 curves. 15 rights, 11 lefts. And the winner is Elvis Presleyed, who wins a prize from the fabulous edhat.com goodie bag. Viva Los Olivos!
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