Sliding in to the Sea

16 thoughts on “Sliding in to the Sea”

  1. I’ve often wondered what folks in these remote locations do for a living. Or are most of them retired? Seems like in some respects a precarious way to live.

  2. Johnny,

    Another interesting piece.

    $5 for 75 gallons of water isn’t cheap. It’s about 6.7¢ a gallon – so I’m sure these people are careful in how they use it. And presumably that, plus the monthly fee, are realistic prices. The HOA is, after all, owned by its members – and people tend not to gouge themselves! No doubt this water district suffers from diseconomies of scale: it’s a small operation and the customers are widely dispersed. Even so, it’s an interesting insight into the real cost of piped water.

  3. Interesting take on PCH. Rugged individualism… brought to you by Caltrans. Back in my motorcycling days, I had the chance to ride scenic roads throughout the state, including PCH of course. And there are far more remote roads, twisting deep into lightly populated mountain ranges, all well maintained year round.

    In contrast, some of the most heavily trafficked highways are a potholed Third World experience. The 5 inside LA county comes to mind. Then, as soon as you enter Orange County, leaving poor neighborhoods like Downey behind, the freeway opens up and becomes smooth as glass. Hmm.. wonder how that happened? Clout much?

  4. Interesting – about the development – not the highway… We live in New South Wales, Australian on land zoned as ‘Rural Residential’ – minimum of 4000 m2, or 1 acre – up to several acres… Reticulated water and electricity, but sewage is on the block… Most houses tend to look very urban – brick veneer, 3 or 4 bedrooms, etc. We have 3 sheds (2 studios, 1 large general purpose garage storage etc… And all the roads off the highways are bitumen seal – gravel over tar emulsion… No practical limits on land use, animals, etc, but extra dwellings are limited. Neighbours are close enough, but far enough away.

    1. What part of NSW, Alan? I’ve driven the Newell Highway from Dubbo to the Warrumbungles, and have seen properties similar to what you describe. I’m just outside of Fredericksburg, VA, myself, in an area also zoned as ‘Rural Residential’; with 5.5 acres, I’m on my own well and septic. While our neighborhood streets are asphalt, the county economizes by paving them just once every 30+ years. Main connector roads are maintained based upon their traffic load, but we’re still falling behind budget-wise for reasons mentioned elsewhere in this blog.

      1. We are near Maclean, in the Clarence River valley, within 5 minutes of the Pacific Highway, and about 3 hours from Brisbane (2 hours from the Gold Coast. We are encouraged to conserve rain water, but planning regulations only allow rain water to be plumbed to the laundry and toilets. If the property is in a declared bushfire area, building regulations require removal of all trees within 40 metres, or installation of fire protection measures (metal flyscreens, sealing eaves, etc that increase building costs by $10,000 or more. We have a relatively low population base – few large centres – for a large council area, so the council is always cash strapped…

  5. I biked that section of the highway with my 10 year old daughter on a tandem a couple years ago. Actually from Astoria to San Francisco along the coast. The CA section is dramatically more remote and isolated than any part of the OR coast.

    As for running the highway further inland. The topography would not permit. It’s all mountain ranges. The alternative would be to run highways to the coast from inland along the few river valleys that cut through.

    Without the highway it would look a lot like much of the southern Chilean coast where no roads exist to connect the isolated fishing villages because Chile just doesn’t have the money to waste that CA does.

    1. I’ve explored the Chilean coast as well. Gorgeous. And the roads are in keeping with an economy that delivers a pretty good quality of life to most people without crazy over-the-top infrastructure.

      There are already roads that connect the coast with the inland valleys along the rivers in California. For example, the road between Jenner and Guerneville along the Russian River, or Albion to Ukiah/Cloverdale more or less along the Navarro River.

      1. The most problematic section of PCH is the Big Sur area, and I don’t think roads crossing the Big Sur mountains from the Central Valley would be any better. Maintaining PCH doesn’t bother me, because it’s one of those things that’s nice to know is there. We drove from Monterey to Santa Barbara on PCH once many years ago and enjoyed the views, although the driving is difficult enough we will probably never use it again.

    2. To someone who is used to the remoteness of the northern CA coast, it can be a little bit of a shock to see just how built up much of the OR coast is. Southern Chile is gorgeous. It’s also a South American country that actually seems to work.

  6. I’ve always wondered why Californians think so highly about PCH, as even where it’s easy to maintain it cuts people off from the beaches as a 6 lane highway. Why give away high quality land to give commuters a quick view of the ocean while speeding past it?

  7. Tourists love driving up and down the coast highway, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities for them to boost the economy by spending money.

  8. Interesting point about the highway. I wonder if there were other options when they considered building it, e.g. building slightly inland so it was more of a ‘normal’, straightish, flat road that would be much cheaper and easier to maintain?

    1. Many alternative highways exist in the flat landscapes of the interior that carry people and goods up and down the entire state. Highway 5, Highway 101, Highway 99…

      Sections of the PCH in buildable areas make perfect sense. But the majority of it is a complete boondoggle. Before the highway existed barges and small ships ferried timber, sandstone blocks, and agricultural goods out of these remote areas and brought manufactured goods in. That’s still the most economical transportation option for these spots. But the time and inconvenience involved would make most of the land along the coast nearly worthless without the highway.

      So long as tax revenue from big cities is available these roads will persist. But it’s hard to imagine the locals pulling together the required funds on their own if they ever had to.

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