PCH: Pacific Coast Hellway

A few weeks ago, I got a pretty exciting phone call. Porsche needed to get a Boxster Spyder from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and offered me the chance to drive it for them. Would I be interested?

Wow, that’s a tough decision… not! I took the day off from work, and decided that, after two and a half years of living on the left coast, I’d finally take the famed Highway One from my town to Tinseltown.

Boy, was that a mistake. What follows is a barely-filtered rant that I typed on my Blackberry while I was driving. While driving? Yep, if you could call it driving. Any time I was typing, I was in first gear, covering less than 10 miles per hour. As it turns out, I had a lot of time to type.


Sure, California Highway 1 is beautiful. Everyone tells you that. But no one seems to mention the possibility that it’ll be plugged up with zombies in RVs and rental cars driving 30 or 40 mph below the speed limit.

This is hell on earth. Especially considering I’m in Porsche’s newest, purest, mid-engine festival of speed.

In fact, I would like to apply for a refund (or at least a store credit) for the last two hours of my life, which I will most certainly never get back. Two hours in which I was stuck in a 15-car queue led by a Cruise America RV and a Chevy Celebrity, neither of whom could muster the courage to exceed 27 mph. Oh, and I’m not talking about corners here – I mean in the straights. Cornering speeds ranged from 10 mph down to a complete stop.

Why didn’t I pass them, you ask? Because whatever state engineer was charged with the task of identifying suitable sightlines for safe passing surely never imagined people would be traveling at walking speeds – and so there simply are no passing zones. In fact, a bike race just occurred on this very stretch of road last week, and I bet even a testicle-less Lance Armstrong had the balls to ride his bicycle faster through here.

Oh God, please tell me the sign that I just passed that said “Hills, curves, next 63 miles” was joking.


It wasn’t a joke. And it took me two full hours to get through 54 miles, after which I decided to start passing illegally. If I wind up flying off the cliff and into the Pacific Ocean, consider it self-euthanasia. Boxster-assisted suicide. Ha! Get it?

Not that crashing was likely; I literally didn’t have to exceed 30 mph (in a 55 zone) to fly around these people.

And what’s with all the Mustang Convertibles? I’d say that I saw hundreds of them, but my editors don’t like it when I exaggerate, even for comedy. So I’ll say I saw dozens of them. Like. Maybe 500 dozen. Yeah. That sounds about right.

Anyway, they’re only slightly better than the selfish, inconsiderate, and clearly unconscious bastards in the RVs. There was the asshat in the white Mustang with his mirrors so badly adjusted that I could see myself and not him. And that meant of course that he couldn’t see me fly up behind him with a closing speed of 35 mph. That’s right, I was going 35 mph *faster* than he was. And I wasn’t even speeding – this particular rental car champ was going 20. On a straight section of highway

I made it my strategy to catch up to people at a huge closing speed to scare them into pulling over into the turnouts, which occasionally actually worked. Mind you, I didn’t want to be that guy. I really, really didn’t. But with no passing zones for miles and miles on end, I had no other choice.

What’s a turnout, you ask? Good question. In the absence of passing zones, California uses turnouts, paved or dirt areas off the right shoulder into which you can pull to allow faster traffic to pass. And by “you”, I mean the 17-mph mental midget in the blue Camry with the little dog that was jumping from one side of the car to the other, barking through the open windows, alternatively at the ocean or the rock face. Shut the windows, drug the dog, and hit the damn gas pedal; this is the Pacific Coast Highway, not Pacific Coast Parking Lot.

I’m sorry, ASPCA members, drugging the dog isn’t actually necessary. But from my perspective, it would have been preferable to the driver downing the whole bottle of puppy tranquilizers. Which, given his rate of travel, he seems to have done.

Before I left, I promised myself that I would get no tickets. So I wasn’t planning on breaking any laws. And truth be told, even in a car as capable as this Boxster, 55 mph is more than enough to keep yourself entertained on these roads.

20 mph is not.

Especially when it means slowing down into the single digits for the slightest of bends. Yeah, guy in the white Corolla, I’m talking to you. If this Boxster could have made it through that five-degree kink at 165 mph, surely you could have managed to do it at 10 mph.

And by the way, red Elantra, I recommend you stop using cruise control. Picking a speed and sticking to it might be appropriate in the middle of the desert, but not here. 45 is a little slow when you’re in a 55-zone, but it’s a lot fast when you’re in a 25-mph construction zone with workers standing on both sides of the road, two feet from your fenders.

A Boxster Spyder is definitely not the right car to take down Highway 1 from San Francisco to LA. Not at this painful pace, anyway. You’d need a vehicle with far less capability to make this tolerable. How about a red Radio Flyer wagon propelled by a model rocket engine? Or, given this area’s penchant for convertible Mustang rental cars, how about an old Mustang II with that wheezing, anemic old 4-cylinder? With 3 of its plug wires yanked out and wrapped around your throat. And one of the brake circuits emptied of hydraulic fluid. And tie-rods replaced with breadsticks. And the chassis sawed in half.

Then, maybe then, 8 mph would seem like a reasonable pace.

Oh, did you want to know what the Boxster Spyder was like? My bad. Um, let’s see. Porsche did the impossible: it made the Boxster even uglier*, and it made it even more amazing to drive.

(* I own a Boxster, I’m allowed to say that.)

It’s effing brilliant. If you live somewhere where you never need a roof and you have a collection of other cars to park in the seedy part of town, buy one now. And do yourself a favor, order a set of machine guns to shoot out the tires of any “Cheapa Campa” rental RV that happens to get in your way.


DISCLAIMER: Former; Automobile Magazine associate editor and good friend Sam Smith did the exact same drive, in the opposite direction, a few days earlier. He said Highway One was glorious, gorgeous, and not littered with RVs. Obviously he has far better luck than I.

DISCLAIMER, PART DEUX: Don’t yell at me for being bitter and angry. I posted this rant for your enjoyment. If you didn’t enjoy it, let me know and I’ll write happy things about bunnyrabbits and rainbows and the fact that I spent 20 minutes on the side of the road with a CHP Sherriff the other day NOT getting a ticket. It’s all good. 🙂

PS: Make sure you check out the photos. My favorite? Passing the 45-mph Speed Limit sign with 8 whole mph on the speedometer. That’s a new personal record!

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Buying Guide
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2011 Porsche Boxster

2011 Porsche Boxster

MSRP $48,100 Base Convertible


19 City / 27 Hwy

Horse Power:

255 @ 6400


214 @ 4400