Back when I was 20 or 21 and at school at UC Santa Cruz, a friend came up to visit me from Monterey and we decided to take a day trip up to San Francisco on Highway 1. If you’ve ever been on Highway 1 from SC to SF, you know that it’s a beautiful, slightly longer trip than taking the commuter roads. If you’ve never been on Highway 1 from SC to SF, it’s about a 60-70 mile one-lane (mostly) highway that curves along the ridge of California and the Pacific Ocean. On the west side – nothing but views of the ocean. On the east side – nothing but views of the various microclimated forests. It’s incredible. Driving along Highway 1 is mostly empty…I’ve made trips on Highway 1 where I could count, on one hand, how many other cars I’ve seen on the road. It’s a beautiful drive and there is rarely ever any traffic.
Anyway, on this particular day…I don’t really remember what we did on our way up to the city, nor what we did in the city, but I do remember our drive back. My friend had this old junky little pickup truck, probably something like a 1982 Datsun or something, that was fun to ride in but definitely had a few struggles going up some of the bigger hills.
Anyway, as we begin our journey down the coast, it’s already dark out as we make our way past most of the smaller towns just outside of SF (ie: Pacifica, Half moon Bay…). We’ve probably gone 10 miles without seeing another car. As we’re leisurely riding along into the great wide darkness, a station wagon pulls up behind us and passes us going at least 25 mph faster than us. No big deal. It’s an empty one lane road, what do we care. The station wagon drives ahead into the darkness and we really don’t give it another thought.
We get about halfway through the trip and begin our ascent up one of the larger hills on the journey…the pickup truck starts struggling as we get towards the peak and, as we turn a corner overlooking a cliff, we see, on the left side – a man in all black lying face down in the middle of the edge of the highway, and on the right side – the station wagon that passed us earlier hanging off the edge of the cliff with the front door open the front wheels spinning and the lights turned on.
My friend hits the brakes and pulls up to a stop as we’re sitting there dumbfounded as to what the hell could have possibly happened. We’re both looking at the scene in front of us trying to figure out what is going on. Not a single word passes between us for 30 seconds…which felt like an hour. As we’re sitting there, scared out of our minds, thinking we’re now a part of some strange murder mystery, something scares the living sh*t out of us. There’s a banging on the drivers side window and this grimy-looking long haired dude is standing there jittery as all hell. My friend rolls down his window and this guy starts blabbering on and on about how this guy in the black jumped out of the woods in front of his car and he him and almost went over the edge of the cliff and he didn’t know what to do and he was only going a few miles an hour over the speed limit and we had to help him and figure out what to do and blah blah blah…We were scared.
This was before cellphones were so abundant…and…even though I did have a cellphone, there was no cellphone reception out in the middle of wherever the hell we were at. I was pretty familiar with the route and knew that there a few call boxes along the route and…not really knowing what else to do…I said to the guy ‘hey man, we’re just going to just go on ahead to the next call box and call the cops.’ That seemed to calm the guy down a bit.
We pulled off, made our way about 2 miles down the road, called the cops and turned back to give our statements. By the time we made it back, the cops were already there and pretty much turned us around. We had no idea what happened and, now that we were no longer needed, we got the hell out of there as fast as possible. The rest of the ride home was eerie. I don’t remember seeing another car the whole ride down.
I haven’t talked to my friend in years, and he might remember different things about what happened…but every time I pass the cliff I’m reminded of that night.
(This isn’t the exact cliff or even area – this is further south – but this is what the road is like)