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Bixby Canyon Bridge in the Fog

Bixby Canyon Revisited

Anyone who has ever read Kerouac's Big Sur and done a
little research knows it is a true story of the time
Jack spent at Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin in the Big
Sur woods. Jack spent a lot of time sitting on the
rocks at the beach and this is where he wrote "Sea".

And one of the more memorable scenes in "Big Sur" is
when Neal and Carolyn Cassady drive their family down
to the cabin to meet up with Jack and the poet Michael
McClure. Jack describes how these "angels" came
blasting through the door of the cabin, Carolyn being
one, the two girls Cathy and Jami being two others,
but that the most brilliant angel of them all was
"Little Timmy" because he was the smallest and
youngest and also because he had this shining golden
head of hair.

"Little Timmy", of course, was John Cassady and he was
nine years old at the time that story took place back
in 1960. Last weekend, for the first time in 45
years, "Little Timmy" went back to Bixby Canyon.

See, the beach at Bixby Canyon is almost impossible to
get to. The bridge itself rises on these columns 240
feet from the beach that it spans. It's one of
the most glorious sights in all of California and The
Bridge at Bixby Canyon is actually featured in a
helicopter shot in the movie 'The Graduate' when
Dustin Hoffman drives his little red sports car up to
San Francisco.

Well, Steve Edington and I have been promising
ourselves for years we were going to make it to the
floor of Bixby Canyon and on to the beach and we
actually made an attempt about five years ago but
about half way down we realized we weren't prepared
for a climb like that and vowed to try it again when
we could come back with proper shoes and equipment.

So, on the drive down from the Bay Area for our gig at
the Henry Miller Library, Steve and John and I decided
this would be the weekend we do it. The next morning
we shared our plan with the proprietor of a local Big
Sur restaurant where we were having breakfast. "How
do you plan on getting down there?" he asked. "We're
going to climb down the side of the ravine," we told
him. We explained why it was important that we do
this given John was "Little Timmy" and he hadn't been
back on that beach since 1960. "You guys are going to
get stuck down there and we're going to have to call
the Coast Guard in to helicopter you out. It happens
every summer."

So we're sitting there mulling our next move as to how
we're going to accomplish the mission we've set for
ourselves when this grizzled old guy who we had seen
when we first walked in sits down at our table and
says, 'So, I understand you need to get to the beach
at Bixby Canyon.' We told him our story and why it
was important. He listened, stood to leave and simply
said, "Come find me when you finish your breakfast."

On the way out of the restaurant we saw the guy in a
beat up old pick up truck. "Follow me," he said. He
took off north and we made our way through old winding
dirt roads. After a while we came to a hidden gate
all grown over with foliage, the guy took out a key,
opened the gate and said, "Here's the way down to the
beach". "You're kidding!" we said. "You live down
here?" "Enjoy yourselves," he said. "I'll let you
out on the way out."

So we made our way down to the beach at Bixby Canyon
on the very same path that old Jack walked and Little
Timmy skipped on. It was like a spiritual moment for
all of us, the fact that Steve and I had been planning
it for years and that we happened to be with John when
it all came together. John was very much overcome
with memories and emotion as you might imagine.

At the bottom of the trail we met two young people,
Morgan and Cheralee, traveling California from
Wyoming. They'd climbed down from the top of the
bridge. They'd never heard of the Bixby Canyon Bridge
or Jack Kerouac or Neal Cassady or "On The Road" or
anything. But you couldn't tell it by looking at them
or the road trip they were on. They were living in
the spirit of the Beats. We were all living in the
spirit.

Click here to buy "Big Sur" which also includes "Sea"


Entering Bixby Canyon


Steve Leads us down the Canyon Path


John is Recording for Posterity


The Pathway to the Ocean


Walking Under the Bridge


John Remembered the Rusting Cars Under the Bridge


The Holy Shrine Under the Bridge


The Rocks Where Jack Sat when Writing 'Sea'


Bixby Beach


Steve Crossing the River


Triumphant!


Morgan Steps Out to Greet Steve


Pointing to Where Morgan & Cheralee Climbed Down the Ravine


A Toast to Success


A Day Well Spent

 

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