The highway to get to the beach goes through the (Santa Cruz) mountains. It’s a constantly winding, curving road, the lanes are narrow, and there’s a lot of semi trucks with full loads on it usually. When you’re going downhill at 40 miles per hour on a curvy part of road and there’s a massive, long truck right next to you about 6 or 7 feet away it can be unnerving.
It was about a 40 minute drive on it to get to the beach. It was Highway 17 and starting when I was in 5th or 6th grade when my dad would drive us to the beach or my friends mom, and all through high school I was on that road a million times.
When my friend got his license at age 16 we were constantly going to the beach. When we first started going on it was different. Later as we got older they made it safer but when we were young and my friends first started driving it was a dangerous drive. There was no barriers between the oncoming traffic and the lanes going both ways. So you would be driving these huge curves in the mountains at 50+ mph and oncoming traffic would be whizzing by just a few yards away. There were a lot of car accidents on it and a lot of people actually got killed on it. So it was quite scary and hard to relax when you were driving it or a passenger. I didn’t drive it myself until I was out of high school and I got my first car but by that time they had put short safety walls to separate the oncoming opposite traffic.
The first time was quite scary though and nerve wracking but then after awhile I got used to it. I even made the drive on LSD, at night, a couple of times. I don’t know how I did that, it was interesting.
But then after I got sick I rarely drove there. I remember a few times in my twenties, but not a lot. The last time when I was in my thirties took all my nerve and concentration and I had to master my fear.
I’m 58 now but just about ten years ago I was thinking of driving to the beach but then I just lost my nerve and I thought I couldn’t do it. Just thinking of driving those curves made be too nervous and downright scared. I hated to admit it and it was a big blow to my ego that I was scared to drive it. But the thing is, that is the only road I’m afraid to drive on. I’ll drive two or three hours to Sacramento by myself through hills and long stretches’ of straight roads or I’ll drive the hills of San Francisco or I’ll drive the congested bumper to bumper traffic on Highway 101 anywhere but I won’t go to the beach anymore on 17.
But there was an incident just about 5 or 6 years ago when I was driving in my home town and I took the wrong exit to the freeway and I found myself on that Highway! The other feature I didn’t mention on that highway is that it goes long stretches with no exits. So when I found myself on it I knew I would have to go quite a ways on it before I could turn around and drive back, I had no choice. Did I mention it was night and it was a car I had just bought that I wasn’t used to driving?
As soon as I got on it I knew it was going to be bad. There was no time for fear or worry or any distraction. I mean it was no joke, I knew I could get in a bad accident and get hurt badly or possibly killed. I just forgot about everything but driving. I didn’t look at other cars, I didn’t play the radio, I didn’t look anywhere but at the road. It was just nerve wracking.
Well, the epilogue is that I had to drive about 7 miles before I could turn around. Obviously I’m still alive so I survived but I can’t believe I did it. I never had an experience like that as an adult. If I ever made that same mistake I really have doubts I could handle it. It was just a fluke mistake, a freak accident that I got on that freeway. It wasn’t fun or adventurous at the time, it was just bad. But it’s something to remember.