Travels with Susan Spano

People, Places, Stuff

Big Sur on the Fly

April 12, 2014

Tags: Big Sur, California, Garrapata State Park, Deetjen's

Smart travelers headed for Big Sur book their weekend getaways early, because
hotels are few and far between—especially in terms of price, ranging from $800
for a double at the ritzy Post Ranch Inn to $80 for a tent cabin at Fernwood. So I
count myself blessed to have snagged a room at the last minute (think Friday night
at 6 p.m.) at Glen Oaks for the in-between price of $275.
Up until a couple of years ago, Glen Oaks was an old motel on Highway 1 next to the one of the coast’s only gas stations. It’s still next door to the Big Sur Shell, but
a recent renovation transformed the place into a stylish midcentury modern, Asian-
redwood fusion hideaway. Most desirable are the cabins in the redwoods alongside
the Big Sur River, but I got number 16 just up from the road. Peace and quiet
descended once I entered through a big wooden door leading to my own private
walled patio. The room had a low platform king bed with a Pendleton throw kept
toasty-warm by a glowing gas fireplace. I also appreciated the mini-frig with a
pitcher of filtered water, yoga mats, heated stone floor in the bath and copy of Big
Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, by Henry Miller, thoughtfully provided
for insomniacs.
I had dinner at Deejen’s Big Sur Inn just down the road from Glen Oaks. It’s one of my favorite places on the California coast and this meal didn’t let me down: a nice glass of pinot noir with a crazy-good cabbage and peanut salad, followed by seared duck breast that made think of France ($65). I doubted I’d want much to eat the next morning, but at the stylish Glen Oaks restaurant—a.k.a. the Big Sur Roadhouse—I couldn’t resist the special house breakfast: an egg with grits on a bed of long-cooked greens, accompanied by two handmade sausage patties ($11). It’s a beautiful thing, the way grits soak up butter. Lunch followed, made up of leftovers from both meals—free and even tastier picnic-style on a Big Sur headland.
Actually, the whole reason why I went to Big Sur was to hike to Soberanes Point in
Garrapata State Park. I didn’t do the whole 7-mile loop that mounts 1,200 feet to a knock-out overlook in Santa Lucia Mountains and then returns to the coast by way of the Soberanes Canyon Trail. I just went straight up and back, rendering my legs wobbly and my inner self joyful.
I’m left contemplating several questions. Should you plan ahead to make sure you’ll have a roof over your head when you travel? Yes, by and large. But there are special existential benefits that come from winging it. I’d never have found Glen Oaks and grits at the Big Sur Roadhouse otherwise.
And why do I only have to say the words Big Sur to break out in poison oak?
From the first annual SPEAK UP! contest, June 23, 2018, Muhanga, Rwanda

Syracuse Archaeological Museum, Sicily

Proshyan School bathroom with water tank

Takar and Kataro are my favorite Armenia reds

School time in Armenia.

Garni Temple, Armenia

Big Sur from Soberanes Point


Artichoke Pickers by Henriette Shore

On the way to the beach

Jalama Beach, CA

Hello, little sea urchin!

Famous Jalama Beach Burger

Three by Peter Hessler

Spring time on the Big Sur Coast


Jalama Beach, CA

Motya Charioteer. Image from

Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA

Homesick for Rome

Therme Vals in Switzerland

At Vogelsgang

National Socialist Party poster from Vogelsgang

Palm Springs

Image courtesy of Tylas at English Wikipedia

Vintage Naples Historic District

From Palm Cottage

Borobudur frieze; Buddha's life

Borobudur at sunrise

Shikellamy State Park in Pennsylvania

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Image courtesy of Politics and Prose

Image courtesy of John Wehrheim.

Lotusland in Montecito, CA

Ganna Walska of Lotusland

Image courtesy of Flickr user ViaMoi.

Conques Church. Image courtesy of Flickr user Seligr.

Weiming Lake, Peking University. Image courtesy of Flickr user ImGump.

The Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel near Santa Barbara

Agrodome, Rotorua, New Zealand. Image courtesy of Flickr user _gem_.

Vandalized images at Painted Rock

Painted Rock, Carrizo Plain National Monument

Mesa Verde National Park. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons user BenFrantzDale.

A map of Chicago, Illinois, imprinted in 1913 from the United States Geographical Survey’s historical topographic map collection. Image courtesy of the USGS.

Image courtesy of Flickr user hattiesburgmemory.

Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of Flickr user alobos flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr user joiseyshowaa.

Click Edit on the top toolbar to begin blogging.


Selected Works

Nonfiction, Travel, Human Interest
A new collection of travel essays by Susan Spano
Tracking Colette in Paris and Burgundy
A draught sinks Lake Powell, revealing lost wonders of Glen Canyon
Rome's Most Roman Neighborhood
Studying Mandarin in Beijing
Around the world and back to New York
Nonfiction Book
Divorce. Why do we do it? And what does it do to us? fourteen prominent writers have pondered these questions and have set down heir thoughts and personal stories, in this gathering of sometimes irreverent and always intelligent essays. "A disarmingly candid, invaluable collection." --Publishers Weekly
"Anyone who doubts that men, too, suffer in divorce should be required to read this." --Glamour Magazine "A rare, unusually focused anthology of original essays that both entertains and instructs." --Publishers Weekly

Quick Links