At the Big Sur River Inn, outdoor umbrellas and dining tables sit on the decks waiting for visitors. It’s spring break, a time of year when the restaurant would normally be busy and the rooms here booked. But both are virtually empty.
“A lot of people are under the impression that you can’t get to Big Sur period, and that’s simply not the case,” says Rick Aldinger, General Manager of the Big Sur River Inn.
The 26-mile stretch of Highway 1 between Carmel and Big Sur Village is open. So are all the businesses on the north side of the downed Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge with the exception of some state parks. But Aldinger say getting that word out, hasn’t been easy.
“The challenge for us is overcoming that firestorm of media attention to what has gone badly in Big Sur. What the problems are, what the challenges are and it’s a problem. That bridge going out is a big problem. It’s not just nationally, it’s worldwide news and everyone is seeing that,” says Aldinger.
Big Sur businesses rely heavily on Highway 1 to bring in tourists making the scenic drive along the coast.
Trying to let visitors know how they can still have an experience like that is something Alliah Sheta has been working on. She’s with the Monterey County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
They’re recommending tourists visit Big Sur before detouring back up through Monterey.
“We encourage everyone to keep their travel plans to maybe just spend a few extra minutes when you take that detour, but you are still going to have that great Big Sur moment that you’re looking for,” says Sheta.
At her office in Monterey leafs through a freshly printed visitor’s guide. It’s the most up to date traveler information for tourists who want to go to Big Sur. It lists open business, things to do and where to stay.
“So we have exploring the northern part of Big Sur from Monterey. And we talk about where visitors can camp in the northern section, what trails are open, like Garrapata,” says Sheta.
As businesses on the north side of the downed bridge work to get the word out, on the south side of the bridge they’re getting creative.
The Henry Miller Library is opening up a temporary location in Carmel at the Barnyard. Executive Director Magnus Toren expects to open that location in late May for musical performances, the Library’s annual film series and other events.
“It seemed like an obvious thing for us to basically bring part of Big Sur to the Peninsula for this duration, but I’m personally very excited about some exhibits that we haven’t really done at the little library in Big Sur because we don’t really have the wall space and facilities,” says Toren.
Meanwhile his neighbors at the Post Ranch Inn will start flying in guests. It’s offering packages that include a helicopter ride to south side of the bridge. Also re-opening for those visitors and locals are Nepenthe, the Phoenix Shop and Hawthorne Gallery.
Back on the north side of the bridge at Big Sur River Inn, Rick Aldinger sees one bright side to the winter storms. Everything is green and lush.
“It’s going to be an epic wildflower season too, and that’s happening right now. It’s gorgeous,” says Aldinger.
The new bridge that will reconnect the two halves of this community is expected to be complete in September.