An infusion of hostile drivers in Cayucos

July 16, 2023

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


I turned off the main drag onto possibly the widest side street in town on the way home in my 21-year-old jalopy, was prepared to turn left when I spotted Harland (Hazel) and her dog and a lady friend with a cane walking toward me, headed for the beach. Instead of turning left, I pulled up in the middle of the street as Harland waved me down like a vivacious high school girl.

She introduced me to her friend and we began catching up. Harland was playing in a band at Schooner’s Wharf on the coming Saturday. The subject became music. A small white car coming toward us hesitated, and passed on my side of the street when the driver realized there was plenty of passing room on both sides.

Another passed us from behind. Then a big black pickup halted a few yards before us and refused to budge. Harland and her friend stood closer to my car and waved the driver on, a man in ball cap. He refused to move. So the girls and dog walked around behind my car and the driver accelerated past us with a scowl.

We resumed our conversation. Two more cars hesitated, both passing on either side, the drivers nodding at us in a friendly manner, and then a sleek low-slung black car headed toward us and stopped. The girls waved the driver on. A man with a buzz cut. He wouldn’t budge. He appeared agitated. I stuck my left hand out the window and motioned for him to pass. He wouldn’t budge. We continued talking. Still, he wouldn’t budge and it was obvious now that he was going to force the girls to comply and insist on getting his way. Or maybe he wanted me to move. I wasn’t.

I urged the girls to stay put, but finally they moved to the back of the car and the driver zoomed past us, scowling, and Harland’s friend said, “That is an unhappy camper.”

Cayucos is and has always been a small beach town with a serene vibe and snail’s pace. When my mother was alive and visited, she described Cayucos as a “giant tranquilizer that instantly infuses you.” Right now it’s summer, so it’s busy, yes, but where does this hostility come from when locals wish to stop time and visit in the streets? Especially on an off-the-grid street?

Back in the early 1990s, when we had a hardware store where the giant antique emporium now sits, I recall big dusty pickup trucks halted on the main drag in opposite directions, drivers facing each other and visiting. People drove past them, usually waving or beeping. Sometimes somebody pulled over and joined them. We all did this. We all recognized each others’ cars, especially since in those days a lot of us drove dated dirty heaps, like the Pirate (stone mason Randy Crosier), who tossed biscuits at local dogs who went into gyrations upon hearing his groaning truck blocks away.

Of course, those were the days when most of the carpenters and house painters and plumbers and electricians and gardeners and general laborers could afford to live in town, and lollygagged on the streets and parking lots and drank in the tavern, which now sits empty.

Those who employed these people were seldom demanding or entitled or too wealthy or stressed by deadlines and jangled with impatience. Nobody was in a hurry.

You’re not supposed to be in a hurry in Cayucos. You’re supposed to be very, very, very patient and pleasant and considerate and understanding and not controlled by an obsession to control the environment and insist that those around you comply with your fucking demands!

Such people upset the standing attitude of small town tranquility that has existed for over a century and, personally, leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

When I mentioned this, Harland’s friend shook her head. “Don’t let those hostile people irritate you— the poor things are headed for unhappy lives.”

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If I lived in Cayucos I don’t think I’d complain about anything. Maybe it’s time to go live in Fresno or Bakersfield for a few months.

Everyone loves the driving laws they love but not the ones that inconvenience them. It’s the “I’m special” mentality — leases are for every dog but MY dog, smoking, making noise, littering, those are things that are for everyone else but not me. I would rather just pull over to the CORRECT side of the road to have my conversation, then I don’t have to worry about anyone climbing up my a**.

This pretty much describes the change in San Luis too. A lot of unhappy, impatient, entitled urbanites coming here and ruining the vibe. Now they seem also to be rich, which adds another layer of alienation from the place to their contempt for us.

It’s always been commonplace in Cayucos to pull to one side and let the conversation flow while the occasional car waits until it’s safe to pull around and keep going, or 2 vehicles pull up window to window until a car comes up behind before moving….. just small town stuff. Dell is right about the hostility in general though with regards to situations like this , parking, 10 person cocktail cruise golf carts, cross walk etiquette, etc.

In reality, its the nightly rentals which have completely ruined the small town community character going forward, along with the ability for the former number of families with young kids to live here. Property value is now based in part at least to the relation of the nightly or “30 day” CAP rate income potentially provided. It makes zero sense to throw R1 zoning out the window in favor of motel use complete with bed tax, but I know I’m in the minority with that opinion. If I fired up a taco stand in my driveway it’d be a matter of hours before it got shut down…….