My Car Quest

September 28, 2020

Fiction: The Road to Big Sur

by H. G. Wilder –

The sports car screeched around a turn sliding sideways just barely missing the edge of the cliff leading to the Pacific Ocean below.

“Faster!” said Billy.

“I am driving as fast as I can, if I go any faster, I’ll go over the cliff again,” said Van.

“Be careful while going faster, I don’t want either of us to die today,” said Billy. “It is a good day to drive fast but also a good day to live”.

“Yes, I know but we must get to Big Sur on time,” said Van.

“I wish I could drive; I would get us there on time. Look out!” A swerve to the left across the centerline to pass a slow driver who appeared to be oblivious to other traffic – like they had never seen the ocean before. And a swerve back after passing the tourist into the right lane to continue onwards just before a possible head on collision with a tour bus filled with more tourists.

“I wish you could drive too, maybe you would have better luck than I do but to drive you need hands. Cars were not made for paws.”

“Yeah, I know but I could still go faster than you and not get us killed.” Billy was nervous today and his anticipation anxiety was high and not because of Van’s driving.

Time slips by for most of us but for Van and Billy time slips backwards too.

“There is the Point Sur Lighthouse, we are not far now, but not much time left either,” said Billy.

Billy was getting fidgety, or nervous, however you want to describe a dog that likely needed to take a pee. But we had no time to stop – we were running late.

Trying to distract Billy, Van said, “remember that day we drove to Big Sur – the sun was bright, the ocean was beautiful, and the peaceful still air was wonderful in our lungs?”

“Yes, I remember many days like that, I always love the road to Big Sur”, said Billy.

“No, not just any day but that special day when we…”

“Oh, that day – yes I remember, we barely made it on time,” said Billy.

Van slammed on the brakes to make a tight turn and down shifted again.

“Why are you asking questions about the past?” said Billy.

“Oh, I don’t know, I guess I miss the past sometimes,” said Van.

“But the present and the future can be great too and there are fewer problems to worry about,” said Billy.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” said Van as he downshifted into second gear to climb the next hill on Highway 1, although he did not know what Billy meant by ‘fewer problems’. “Do you remember my favorite car?” asked Van.

“Of course, I remember your favorite car, the one you bought just last year, and are driving now – this lovely Iso Grifo. How could I forget your favorite of so many cars?” said Billy.

“Yes, it is, good memory.” Van has many fond memories of several cars over the years.

Billy yelled, “Can we stop over there, I need to pee!”

“OK, we can stop but just for a minute – so hurry! I’ll join you so when we get to Big Sur, I’ll be ready,” said Van.

Van was eager to get to Big Sur but not really eager to see everyone who may be there. A lizard scurried under a bush as he approached. Van envied that lizard.

“Slow down, this is a tricky curve with no end in sight to the water below!” said Billy.

“I know this curve well and have successfully navigated it many times, hold on,” replied Van, as the tires squealed under protest.

Up in the sky out over the Pacific Ocean a small plane was just finishing skywriting something which included the phrase ‘unstuck in time’ as part of an advertisement. Van wondered why the pilot would write that. It brought back unpleasant memories.

“Do you have any regrets?” asked Billy.

“Regrets about what?”


“I don’t think about it much but probably a few, how about you?” said Van.

“Oh, my regret list could fill a large book, but I asked you first,” said Billy.

“I regret spending so much time with you, hey, don’t look at me like that you know that was a joke!” said Van.

“Come on get serious you’re going to get married soon, it’s time to grow up,” said Billy.

“Racing against time, there is not much of it left, I need to concentrate” said Van as he thought about what had been and what was to come.

“Changing the subject will not make the question go away, so answer the question,” said Billy.

Out over the Pacific a storm was forming and heading their way. They could see lightening and hear thunder. The rain would start soon, and they were driving a convertible with the top down. The rain hit with the force of, well, hard rain and the lightning struck right in front of the car as the thunder crashed in their ears.

Van pulled over to the side of the road overlooking the ocean and came to a stop. “We need to put the top up, and this is a two-person job,” he said.

“Sorry, I can’t really do much”, replied Billy.

“I know, I’ll get it – even though it is a two-person job I have had to learn to do it myself,” said Van as he was hustling to get the top up on the Grifo while he was getting soaking wet.

Back on the road again Van gets back to Billy’s question. “Yes, I have a few regrets,” said Van. “But I really don’t want to discuss them now because they bring up too many memories that are better off left in the past”.

“Now is the best time to discuss regrets, so talk, it’s just the two of us – and nothing is really left in the past, is it?” asked Billy.

With some hesitation Van said, “My regrets are around things I did not do rather than the things I did do. You know the ‘road not taken’.”

“What did you not do, what ‘road was not taken’? Do you wish you would have spent more time in meetings at work?” said Billy.

“Remember that skywriting plane we passed a few minutes ago?” said Van.

“Yeah, you regret that plane?” chortled Billy.

“That plane is right behind us now and I mean right behind us – on our butt!” said Van. “I wondered why a skywriting plane would advertise off the coast of Big Sur where there are so few people.”

“He must be here to find you,” said Billy.

The plane circled overhead and returned aiming for the front of the Iso Grifo. Van made a sharp left turn toward the hillside before swerving back into the right-hand lane luckily without hitting anything.

“Do you know who this is?” asked Billy.

“Maybe, I don’t know, it could be a few different people, I’m not sure,” said Van. “It could be related to one of my few regrets, or not”.

“Oh, great, you get the benefit of a regret, or maybe more than one regret, and it gets me killed,” said Billy.

The plane made another pass and came awfully close to the mountainside. It circled out over the ocean and came back heading straight for the sports car. The rain caused visibility problems for Van and Billy and certainly for the pilot of the aggressive plane who swerved to the left and then the right seeming to not know exactly where his target was located. He made another close pass and then headed back out over the ocean.

“What do you suppose he wants?” asked Billy.

“He wants one of us dead, at least me dead for sure,” said Van.

The small plane made another close pass and turned sharply back out toward the west. A loud crack came from Billy’s side of the car and Van looked over to see Billy hanging out of the window pointing his rifle at the plane having just fired a shot. The plane continued on and the left wing clipped a large tree just before it flew out over the water.

“I think I got him.”

The plane careened out over the open ocean, with smoke following behind and it crashed into the water with a satisfying sound.

“Yep you hit him,” said Van. “Thank you, you saved my life. I wish I knew how you can use that rifle so well, but you don’t drive.”

“Forget it, it is the least I can do, and I saved my own life too. I have been anticipating this since, well, a long time now. Let’s get to your wedding, we don’t want to be late,” said Billy.

“Is someone trying to stop me from marrying Zoe?” asked Van.

“Maybe” said Billy.

“But who and why?” said Van.

“I have an idea” mumbled Billy.

A short distance further on the right side of the road in a turn out for sight-seeing a silver Ferrari was parked. As Van and Billy passed the Ferrari pulled out with spinning wheels and flying gravel chasing after the Grifo.

Billy saw the Ferrari and casually asked, “do you know anyone who drives a silver Ferrari?”

“No, not that I can remember. I see him now, is he after us?” said Van.

“I do believe he is – step on it!” yelled Billy.

Van tried to accelerate but with the winding road it was difficult to go any faster especially when they were climbing another hill. The Ferrari caught them and bumped into the rear of Van’s car. It was just a nudge but not a safe thing to do at this speed and on this road. This Ferrari driver clearly was not interested in safety.

The Ferrari out accelerated the Grifo and pulled alongside. The driver looked directly at Van and aimed his pistol at Van’s head. The bullet missed Van and went through both the driver and passenger windows just above Billy’s head. An oncoming truck forced the Ferrari to slam on the brakes and get back behind Van and Billy.

The Ferrari was right on the Grifo’s tail. Van made a maneuver sort of like a Rockford Turn but in reverse. Luckily there were no cars in the other lane. Caught off guard the Ferrari driver swerved to the right to miss crashing into the Grifo. The 500-foot cliff with the ocean below was also to the right and the Ferrari driver had a few seconds to think about his mistake before reaching the bottom.

The sound of the Ferrari crashing down the hillside into the ocean was painful and pleasing at the same time to Van and Billy, but they continued on as fast as Van could drive.

“I think I recognized the driver, just before he shot at me. There must be a connection between the driver and the pilot of the plane,” said Van.

“So it goes, that was a nice Ferrari, too bad. I did not get a good look, was that a 550 Maranello or a 575?” asked Billy. “The police will want to know.”

“A 550” replied Van, “the fog lights are in the grille on the 550”.

The storm clouds were re-forming out over the ocean and the onshore breeze continued. The rain and wind could start up again at any time. With the sweet aroma of the plants combined with the scent of the ocean breeze who can tell what is what and when is when on the road to Big Sur?

The rain finally stopped as Van and Billy pulled into the parking lot of the Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur and the Grifo skidded to a stop just in time. Van’s mother ran out frantically greeting them.

She said, “Van, you must hurry, get into your tux, everyone is waiting! Your wedding is ready to begin, and Zoe has been worried about you. Billy, I do wish you would try harder to keep Van on time.”

“Yes, mam, on time, I will try harder next time, I promise,” replied Billy.

∞ ∞ ∞

Big Sur

Fiction: The Road to Big Sur
Article Name
Fiction: The Road to Big Sur
While speeding in the Iso Grifo on the California coast road heading to Big Sur, Van and Billy meet some surprising resistance.


  1. Wayne Watkins says

    FACT . This has nothing to do with your story , but brings back vivid memories for me . On November 4th 1968 My Aussie mate and myself left Newport Beach Orange County in a 59 Dodge Pioneer that we had won playing pool . It was worth about $100 . Our passengers were two runaway school girls we had met . We had a few break downs and arrived at a small convenience store in Big Sur somewhere in the early hours of Tuesday November 5th and asked the store guy for a 6 pack of Coors . He told us that it was election day and it was forbidden to buy alcohol . My reply was that we are Australian and could not care less about elections , so he gave us a 6 pack under the counter . It was then we heard on his radio that Police were seeking two girls who they thought were travelling with two Aussies . We then told the girls that we had changed our mind about going to San Francisco and they would have to make their own way there . We drove off for a few miles and after drinking the beers tried to sleep before the big drive to SF . It was so cold that night in those mountains that we had to keep the motor running with the heater on . The following morning we had a beautiful drive through the mountains to Monterey and on to the hippy days in SF . We stayed with a contact girl on Parnassus in the Haight Ashbury district and the girl’s name I remember as Lorraine Coutin and upon waking up the next day discovered that all of our luggage , including clothes had been stolen . Thank you HG Wilder for fond memories of living in the West Coast in the wild 60’s .

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