It was finally time to make the infamous Highway 1 drive, up the coast from Morro Bay to Monterrey. But about 15 minutes into the scenic drive, we realized that towns were (happily) missing from the map, which meant that so were gas stations, so we turned around and went to fill up at the last station we passed.
Now let me paint you a little picture of gas prices at that time. In most of the country, prices had been hovering around $3.15, we had just seen them as low $2.99 in Arizona,and immediately upon crossing into California, they had jumped to around $3.99. A bit exorbitant, but hey, it’s California. They charge you to watch the sunset in California, so the fact that gas prices were almost a full dollar over the rest of the country didn’t surprise me much. What did surprise me was when we pulled up the this gas station, just before hitting the remote patch of coast south of Big Sur, and knowing this fully, they were charging $4.99. A gallon! For unleaded! That’s EXTORTION! Which is what I yelled out the window as we pulled back out and drove another 30 miles to save ourselves $1.30 per gallon. It was worth it, just to keep our money out of the grubby little paws of that greedy capitalistic opportunist. The nerve, honestly. But once we were on our way again, the episode was quickly forgotten. The stretch of coast really is, as many have put it, “The most beautiful meeting of mountains and sea”. We were simultaneously wincing while trying to maneuver the hairpin turns and letting out strings of delighted oohs and ahhs as the next bit came into view.
Now floating around in the back of our minds were the recommendations of not one, but two, fellow gypsies – keep an eye out for Jade Cove. They whispered that if you went there when the tide was right, you could find hunks of rough jade. James, the rock hounding hippie, even showed us a piece the size of a small trash can that he had wrapped up in the trunk of his van. “I made sure to carry that one all the way up myself,” he told us when describing the steep and treacherous hill that you had to scramble up once you had collected your jade souvenirs. “That way I wouldn’t have to share the profits with any of the others, ya know?” This coming from the man who had already taught us how to crack open white rocks to find Arkansas quartz and where the most strategic location was in a trainyard if you were planning to hop any of the outgoing trains. So we were practically taking notes every time this guy opened his mouth, and this was no different. But it had been months since we were in Arkansas, and then a locksmith at the Oxnard flea market had mentioned the same place , explaining that he and his wife had stumbled upon it when they were voluntarily homeless for a year. So while cruising up Highway 1 looking for a spot to stay for the night, we both gasped in surprise when we passed a sign that read “Jade Cove.” “Could that really be the same one they were talking about?” I said. While we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out for ourselves, dark was closing in and we still hadn’t found a campsite for the night. We decided to leave it for morning. We were up before dawn the next day, and by the time there was first light, we had found the cove, and were making our way down the precarious slope. Sure enough, covering the exposed rock bottom were pieces of what looked like the same green stone. Now honestly, James could have been showing us a giant green rock that was completely worthless, but even though he seemed a bit crazy, I doubted he would have taken the time and effort to haul that thing back up to the road if he wasn’t pretty damn sure it was jade. We also now have some pieces of a curious green material…but who knows?