Weed You Be My Valentine?

I’ve seen some strange things while driving Highway 1 along the Pacific coast of California. There was the time I saw an 18-wheeler trying to negotiate the curves of Big Sur, which was a definite WTF-were-you-thinking? surprise.

There’s this spot near Nepenthe where you can look back and see across a straight drop to the ocean to where you came around a really tight curve a few minutes ago. That was where we saw the huge moving van actually sort of moosh a sedan full of tourists against the cliff face (no one was injured). That was also startling, though not really much of a surprise (hello; huge moving van on a two lane cliff side highway). We knew the car was full of tourists because we had seen them at the side of the road just a little while before the curve, all standing in a row by the side of a glorious view as they took pictures of themselves. Not in front of the glorious view, or of the glorious view itself, but of themselves in front of the car. Which is another strange thing I’ve seen on Highway 1 — people who ignore the scenery to photograph themselves in front of road signs or their cars. I can imagine them at home, trotting out the vacation pictures: “Here we are in front of our rental car. Here we are in front of our hotel. Here we are in the breakfast buffet line. Great scenery in California.”

It’s hard for me to understand why you’d choose to line up against the doors of a bland white or silver sedan when there’s miles of ocean landscape in front of you or redwoods as tall as skyscrapers or herds of black angus under blue skies and cotton candy clouds or pelicans in V formations or parasailers halfway between the sky and the sea. But people surprise me all the time.

Like with this strange thing, discovered during Valentine’s Day weekend this year — romantic photos taken en masse in fields covered in wild mustard, an invasive plant species (weed) in California.

For every field covered in yellow (and there were many), there were also 10 or 15 cars by the side of the road and the same number of couples in the field, one with a camera or phone in hand and one brushing their windblown hair out of their eyes as they pretended to look off into the distance with soft-focus eyes. Each couple moved intently from mustard clump to mustard clump, looking for that perfect shot to commemorate The Best Valentine’s Day EVER without including either the photographer or the subject of someone else’s BVDE.

Wonder what the farmers thought:

“Hey — there’s a bunch of people in the field.”

“What are they doing; there’s no crops or animals.”

“Looks like they’re taking pictures of each other in the weeds.”

“- — -”

Or

“There’s people taking pictures of each other in the fields.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Because it’s Valentine’s Day?”

“- — -”

From inside the field, it was probably all intensity on capturing that perfect visual embodiment of LOVE. From the outside though, all I could see was a bunch of people circling around each other while probably getting dirt and leaves in their shoes. And as we passed field after field of this, I couldn’t help but wonder who started it. It was like someone had posted something on Instagram or Reddit and created a Valentine’s Day flashmob: “Stop on Highway 1 this year and get your romantic shot of your lover in fields of yellow flowers! Better than a food pic because — nature!”

Definitely this new passion for photographing your significant other in the company of ten other couples all pretending to be alone in nature is one of the more odd things I’ve witnessed while driving Highway 1. But people surprise me all the time.

I’ve never seen a selfie shot with a wild animal on Highway 1, thank goodness. But maybe the Black Angus should be worried.

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