Thursday, July 7, 2011

Big Sur Funk
By Michael

Parked on a vista 800 feet above the ocean, Windy ducking behind the car to avoid the dust thrown
up by the medevac helicopter landing 50 feet away.

Our annual family camping pilgrimage to Big Sur was a highlight of my childhood. I’ve got a memory associated with almost every mile of the 6-hour drive from Southern California and almost every camping spot at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park—nearly all of them fond. So yesterday, I was eager to share those memories with my girls. And as we snaked down California’s Highway 1 from Monterey to Big Sur, I got more excited as eucalyptus, cyprus, and palm trees filled the windshield and the scent of sage filled the car.
Since she completed her 10-day wilderness first responder medical training, Windy has stumbled across more distress situations than most of us see in a lifetime.* Clearly there is a correlation between her getting trained and people deciding to need help when she’s around. I see a similar, inverse correlation between the eagerness I display in introducing something to the girls, and their interest in whatever that is.
For nearly 6000 thousand miles, the girls have been great. Between making paper dolls, drawing, playing car games, and listening to audio books, they have mostly kept occupied and content. But winding up and down Highway 1 in and around Big Sur (one of the most beautiful drives in the world) the girls were loud and squirrelly and fighting and oblivious to the vistas and 1000-foot cliffs.
Ages 5 and 7 are still a bit too young to appreciate the view
from our table at Nepenthe, let alone that Henry Miller once
hung out at this site (!). Instead, Frances spilled her
water all over the bench cushions and Eleanor
couldn’t settle down.
“Guys, look out there, you may see some sea otters in the kelp beds!”
“DAD! Eleanor poked me!”
“She wrote on my paper!”
To make matters worse, Windy felt like crap, and seemed to be getting worse. After lunch at Nepenthe, we decided I would take the girls on a hike along a river in the state park, back to a gorge I knew they would love, while Windy tried to sleep in the car. I walked that trail what seemed like hundreds of times growing up and could hardly wait to see it again with my girls. After getting changed into their bathing suits, we made it about 20 feet up the ½-mile trail.
“Dad, I accidentally swallowed a stick and it hurts to breathe.”
“Eleanor, why did you put a stick in your mouth? We’ve told you over and over…can you breathe okay?”
“Sort of.”
The girls (still in bathing suits and rash guards)
hanging in the foreground while a crew assists
the victim who was medivaced a short time later.
We cancelled the hike pending the threat of increasing difficulty breathing and the need to be in closer range of medical assistance. The $10 park entrance fee is non-refundable, even if you leave after a 45-minute stay during which time you see nothing but the camp store parking lot and the public restrooms where we changed.
No one's mood was improved.
Resigned to getting the heck out of Big Sur as soon as possible, we sped around a corner to find we were first on the scene of a car accident with injuries. Windy jumped into action trying to assess and help the injured and I managed traffic for about 45 minutes until more help arrived on the scene.
After this experience, the whole family felt better. We all had a lot to talk about after what we saw and did. The girls enjoyed the view all of the way down to San Simeon, asked good questions, and sang along to Tom Petty. Windy credits her resurgence to adrenaline. I was happy we were there to offer assistance.
* February 2011: Southwest Airlines flight from DC to Chicago, the guy in the seat next to her loses consciousness. April 2011: On Kennelworth Avenue just outside of D.C., she is first onsite after a pedestrian hits a bus and cracks his head open. July 2011: On Highway 1 in Big Sur, she is first onsite after a head-on collision between two cars.

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