Nerves and California’s winding roads

I think I just drove the longest 25 miles of my life, and my nerves are shot!!

Yesterday I was driving the winding roads of Redwood Canyon to and from Muir Beach, CA and today, I came winding down the California mountains on the I-5 freeway heading north to Portland. But not only was I winding down canyons and mountain roads, I was doing it in the rain and in the fog.

It all started yesterday after I followed sightseeing suggestions I took from Delores while at the laundromat. First, I headed to Muir Beach which was less than five miles away, until, that is, I missed the turn onto the CA-1 highway. At that precise moment, I was plunged into the thickest fog I’d seen in years. After taking a deep curve, I had to make a left turn on Muir Woods Road and oh-my-God! Not only was I in fog but I had to drive for eight miles on a road so narrow at times that I could literally reach out and touch the canyon.

On the way to the beach, I was driving along the edge of the cliff so it’s probably a good thing that the fog hung over the cliffs and that the narrow winding roads were forcing me to keep my eyes on the road. Otherwise, my nerves would’ve been shot by the time I reached the beach and I’d have had to sit in the car to calm them like I did after I made it to the Golden Gate Bridge. On the way to the bridge, I dealt with San Francisco’s rainy lunch hour traffic and hilly streets, witnessed an accident directly in front of me, and almost hydroplaned out of control after hitting a huge puddle. After 30 minutes or so, I took pictures in the rain, arranged my lodging and went straight there.

But back to Muir Woods. I was hoping I could show you an aerial view of the route I took down the canyon but could only find a YouTube video of it. Keep in mind, though, that the video is at 3.5 times normal speed, and I was hardly driving that fast. There were curves on Muir Woods Road that were actually sharp enough to be turns; in fact, the GPS did consider a few of them turns. There were points, too, on the way up where I had to stop on a curve to allow another car to pass and vice versa.

Incidentally, it was my intention to drive the San Francisco Bay Bridge before leaving this morning but I ended up missing it somehow. By the time I realized it, the bridge was 10 miles behind me and as much as I was tempted, I didn’t go back; I was much too ready to get out of that rainy city. I did, however, drive both the lower and upper decks of the four-mile long Richmond Bridge, which some say is scarier because its side rails don’t block the view of the water.

I don’t know what it is with me needing to cross these “super bridges” lately. Not many months ago, I was terrified of them and would start panicking at the mere sight of one. It’d be all I could do to make it across without stopping the car and screaming. I decided during my trip to Jekyll Island last June, though, that I had to overcome that fear and spent some time reading about it before talking and praying myself out of it. When I arrived in Jekyll, I crossed the bridge driving 30 mph instead of 55, looking neither left nor right, and trying not to stop. On my way off of the island Monday, though, I crossed it at speed limit while on the phone and admiring the scenery on both sides. What a moment that was!!! Ever since then, whenever I see a bridge, I have a need to cross it, maybe just to see if I’ll feel anxious, huh?

But back to the I-5. It was very windy when I stopped in Orland, CA for a weak-up break and started raining shortly after I got back on the road. By that time, there were mountain ranges on one side and rivers and valleys on the other. Then the fog descends, it’s so windy I can feel the car swaying, the road is wet, and there are transfer trucks everywhere. I’m feeling uneasy now but still moving but as soon as it started raining harder, I panicked and actually exited the freeway intending to wait it out. I’m about 25 miles from my hotel at this point and while sitting at the stop sign deciding what to do, it occurs to me that it might not stop and that it’ll be getting dark soon. So, I took a few breaths, said a prayer and got back on the road.

The speed limit down that winding freeway was 65 but I only drove 53. I’d planned to have a shot of that rum I’ve been carrying in my bag since that weekend on Jekyll last year but I left that bag in the car.

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