First Stop: Point Mugu
It's time for the beach. Each year, at least once, I head north up the coast. Last year I foolishly went in June and was socked in with the marine layer for almost 10 days. This year I had none of the "May Gray" and it was sunny and warm and, well, damn near perfect.
The trip started out at good old Point Mugu and Thornhill Broome Beach which lies between Malibu and Oxnard. As a young man I lived in Ventura and attended UCSB but would work for my Dad in his typesetting shop in Los Alamitos on the weekends. I didn't enjoy taking the 101 to the 405 so I took the longer, more leisurely and exceptionally scenic route through to Malibu. That route went directly by Point Mugu. I'd look down at the people camping literally on the sand and think, "Man, that's the life - one day when I don't have to work 7 days a week I'm gonna camp there." I made good on that promise to myself. I counted and I may have missed a trip or two but I believe this was my tenth trip.
Even if you haven't been you to Point Mugu you've seen it. It's featured on about half the car commercials these days. I adore the area. On my first night my Brazilian musician and poet friend Mauro came to visit and we made a fire and and barbecued tri-tip. We chatted and listened to music well into the night...
The last photo is kind of random but across from my campsite was a padlock in the fence separating the highway from the campground. I was fascinated by it - how long had it been there? Why had someone locked it and left it? It's a dang oddity. Love those...
One of my photography influences is Dennis Stock. Back in the '60's he took what I consider to be the best shot perhaps ever made of the Southern California beach scene near San Diego. There are a few spots on PCH I consider quintessential California but, alas, they're changing as development and other changes impact the landscape and the road. Nevertheless, I did go looking for a few spots to make photos and was nearly hit by a small and swerving grocery truck. You have to sacrifice for art, right? I like these photos anyway.
The following photos are just up the road a bit from the campground and I've spent many an hour in that very spot. I always say, "It feels a million miles away from LA".
Second Stop: Gaviota State Beach
After 4 days at Point Mugu I drove North to my old standby Gaviota. While there I went looking for some railroad photos and visited the first place I ever taught - De Anza Junior High School in Ventura as a long term substitute in Autumn of 1981. I also went to visit an old house - the house we were living in when my wonderful son, Jordan was born in April 1983. I enjoyed it. I often wish I could transport myself back to that time - knowing what I know now - I'd do many things differently. Regrets? I have a few...
The hills around Gaviota were lush and covered in mustard.
The coast in Santa Barbara county is much different than the coast I grew up with in Southern California. Shale dominates here.
A train trestle runs across Gaviota and invites you to explore. So I followed the tracks north...
Here are some additional photos of my time at Gaviota. I'll be back in August. I can't seem to get enough of the place.
Final Stop: Morro Bay
I scheduled a Morro Bay State Park trip for last Fall but it was canceled by them after a freak storm brought down several trees in the campground. I love Morro Bay - have ever since I was about 12 and my grandmother brought me here to meet her old bachelor cousin who had lived here for 30 some odd years. He was a poor, salty old fisherman who lived in a small apartment about a block from the bay. I never forgot him. A bad ass, independent, crotchety, profane "pescadero viejo". My kind of guy.
Normally, when I've visited the last several years it has only been for a few days and I haven't really explored the nearby wetlands or Elfin Forest which are close to the south end of town, I made up for that omission on this trip.
I was, finally able to visit the Elfin Forest which is near Los Osos, CA and just across the National Morro Bay Estuary from the campground. I left for my hike about 2:00 in the afternoon and it was cloudy - by the time I hit the trail the sun had emerged and the light was not great for photography. Of course, that didn't stop me from taking photos and I decided, then and there, that I had to come back in the Fall since this was such an extraordinary place.
I hope, through these photos, you get some idea about how splendid Morro Bay is and that you will, if you find yourself on the California central coast (and you should find yourself there) , check it out. Wait until you see how you feel there.
I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. Next stop is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. See ya on the road...
The Los Angeles Dodgers interrupted my travel plans.
I had planned on heading east but my team decided to make a run at the World Championship.
I grew up just south of LA in a small suburb and in the 1960's few things occupied my thoughts and affection like my beloved Dodgers. I've been a Dodger fan literally since I can remember. I was born in 1957 and the Dodgers came west in 1958. I don't remember the Dodgers winning the Series in 1959 against the "Go Go Sox" in the Coliseum but I have vague memories of our glorious sweep of the Yankees in 1963 and I remember every out of the 1965 Series when the Dodgers beat the Twins. The first time the Dodgers broke my heart was 1966 and not simply because they were swept in the World Series by the Baltimore Orioles. Sandy Koufax retired at the end of that season.
My sports hero of the 1960's is still my hero at age 60. My words will fail, tremendously, at trying to describe my adoration, appreciation, and respect for the great Sandy Koufax. In my childhood, Sandy was the most dominant force in major league baseball. He was the classiest, most humble, courageous, kindest, smartest, player in the game. He remains simply coolest athlete in my lifetime. In fact, no one else comes close.
Sandy was forced to retire in 1966 due to an arthritic elbow. I still remember hearing the news on the radio and I was in a state of disbelief for a long time. I grieved his loss to the Dodgers and to the game...still do.
Anyway enough about baseball...perhaps I'll save my discussion of Jackie Robinson, Maury Wills, Lou Johnson, Claude Osteen, Don Drysdale, Ron Cey, John Roseboro, Davey Lopes, Orel Hershiser, Roy Campanella and Corey Seager for another post strictly devoted to my favorite sport in the coming months or so... Just know...I love the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers.
Suffice it to say, the Dodgers did make it to the Series this year and lost in the seventh game. I stayed home and watched and don't regret that decision. It was a marvelous post season (wait 'til next year!).
I was, however, itchy to get back on the road. I had reserved last May a few days at North Beach campground in Pismo Beach (planning months ahead is required these days). Although rather "urban" by my standards, it's still a long time favorite. I used to take my boys there when they were young and Lupe said she could join me thanks to the Veterans Day holiday. I arrived a day early to set up camp and realized that the Monarch Butterflies were just arriving for their yearly migration to Pismo. I spoke to a docent who shared that the numbers of butterflies has decreased dramatically in the last few years due to climate change.
Nevertheless, those butterflies are a sight to behold. If you get a chance...
The weather in Pismo was spectacular. I awoke the first morning to the sound of rain on the roof of the little trailer. I turned on the tiny furnace, warmed the trailer to about 70 degrees and made a pot of coffee. I spent the next few hours reading, drinking coffee and staring out the window at the steady rain. It was, in other words, a perfect morning. At about 11:00 AM the sun burst through the clouds and it became warm and clear and utterly delightful. Lupe arrived and I did make a few photos of the campground and nearby dunes. The sea water meanders through, behind, and around the dunes which are typically fairly crowded. I did manage to get few photos without people.
The central coast of California draws me back, again and again. Less crowded and commercialized than Southern California it captures some nostalgic, old California charm for me. In reviewing these pages you may find my deep affection for the place...in the meantime I'll keep returning. I've already scheduled a trip for the Rincon, Gaviota, Point Mugu and Morro Bay for the spring. Thanks for coming along...maybe we'll run into each other on some lonely dune near Cayucos one of these days...
Some of the best and worst things about a life of travel are the people you encounter. I've always been a bit of a misanthrope and love my time alone. Occasionally, however, I get interested in engaging with people I meet on the road since I spend so much time in solitary thought.
On my last trip to the hills above Big Sur in the Los Padres National Forest I was open to meeting with people. I'd been a couple days out and hadn't really spoken to anyone. I didn't believe I would meet anyone, of course, I was just open to it.
I found a gorgeous, and I believed, private spot that had a view of the sea, some shade from a large Madrone, lots of trails around, and I arranged my camping gear perfectly for a couple of nights sans humanity.
It was 10:30 AM and the weather was already hot despite my proximity to the ocean. I have a small battery operated fan that would cool me off a bit but it needed fresh batteries. I couldn't find a damn tiny screwdriver to fit the battery compartment screw and so I pulled out my trusty Swiss Army knife.
While attempting to open the compartment I heard a voice say, "Hello!". At that instant the knife slipped and dug a deep cut into the tip of my index finger which proceeded, like Dan Aykroyd playing Julia Child, to form a small geyser of blood. It freaked me out at first- "OH SHIT- where's the nearest hospital?". I grabbed a wad of tissues and wrapped it up and a fellow walked right through my campsite and appeared to be inspecting it. Now, ordinarily this would draw an objection from me - something like, "What the Hell are you doing"? I was, however, preoccupied with seeing if I could get my finger to stop bleeding and not worry about going to the Emergency Room at a hospital miles away.
"You going to have a fire?" the guy asked.
"Uh, no, that would be illegal and stupid. You'll have to excuse me for a minute- I've lacerated myself".
"That's OK- I'll wait. You sure you're not going to have a fire?"
I didn't answer. Instead I opted for getting gauze and adhesive tape and I wrapped my oozing finger like a tiny mummy.
The guy's dog now ran in front of me and jumped into MY truck sending my medical supplies flying. To my relief he did call his dog out of my vehicle. The dog ran off into the woods...
I figured that my Jerry-rigged bandage might work. I did have a bloody wad of tissue to deal with and the stranger saw it and said, "Whoa, that's nasty!"
"How can I help you?"
"I live up here and want to make sure you aren't going to start a fire".
That made sense. The brush in this area was bone dry and would be perfect kindling to start a forest fire. I had been to the Ranger Station and was told no fires and that I needed a fire permit to even use a stove in the mountains. I got the permit while reassuring the Ranger that I certainly wouldn't start a fire during the worst drought in California in 500 years.
So, having satisfied his desire that I had no fire or plans to have a fire I presumed he would move on. He was a friendly sort though!
He sat down and opened a beer. He offered me me one but I told him I hadn't had a drink in 14 years.
"FOURTEEN YEARS? FOURTEEN FUCKING YEARS? I should do that too, I guess but I love it too much. Guess you loved it too much too, eh? HAHAHA!"
I realized at that moment giving him any personal information would be an error. I stopped that immediately.
He was adamant that I'd found the best spot on the Central Coast to camp, "No question, I've lived up here for 35 years, grew up on the Hearst Ranch, and I've been everywhere on this coast- you found the best spot".
"I've seen Orcas out there at Tit Rock from this very spot."
"I'm sorry, did you say Kit Rock"?
"NO- T I T. Tit rock- doesn't it look like a big old titty sticking out of the water?"
"Hadn't actually viewed it from that perspective, I guess".
"I don't think that's the name on the mariners map though. Mariners maps! Haha! Yep, saw them Orcas grab a sea lion and tear it apart with those big old teeth and toss it back and forth just the way a cat will play with its' prey- my God, there was blood and guts all over the water".
The good news, at this point, was it appeared as if the cut on my finger was no longer bleeding and MY blood was congealing.
"Yep, blackmailers stayed right here about a month ago".
"I'm sorry. Blackmailers?"
"Oh yeah, tried to blackmail me and everyone else up here".
I wasn't sure how to respond.
"They asked me for a joint. I gave them a joint but they wanted to pay for it."
"In fact, they insisted on paying for it and I had to tell them, NO. Then a week later they tell me they're having me busted for solicitation. Said they knew my name and my past and that I'd tried to sell them pot - they were gonna bust me. Had a phony badge and all. I hated those bastards. Y'know if this was the 1850's they'd be dead right now."
I was really glad it was the 2000's for a number of reasons. While he was getting wound up about the blackmailers another car stopped at my "wilderness" campsite. A guy gets out- dressed exactly like the guy who was talking to me - jeans, t-shirt, work boots. He wanders over and says, "You're not gonna build a fire, are you?".
"Nope. Just got a stove over there and have a permit for that".
"A stove? Hell, you don't need a permit for that!" (you do- but whatever).
He says hello to visitor #1 and asks if he has any beer.
"Sure I got a case in the back of my truck! Wanna buy a 6 pack?".
They both go over to the car and I think they're leaving now that their fire concerns have been addressed. Nah- they wandered back with a joint the size of your thumb and fired it up.
# 2 says, "You want some?"
#1 says "Nah, he don't get high or drunk"
#2: "WHAT? Ok- more for us!"
#1: "I was just telling him about the blackmailers. They are almost as bad as Gary Whiting".
#2: "I thought you was gonna kill Gary the other day"
#1: "That man is the devil hisself! He swung on me and tried to drop a rock on my head the other day when I was running the back hoe and all because he still owes me $300!".
#2: "Yep thought you were gonna kill him".
#1: "All these years growing dope up here and I was fine until him and the blackmailers showed up".
Wait. What? What did he just say? I guess I shouldn't have been surprised and I have no judgement about people who grow weed but it seemed, as they say, like a little TMI.
They went on for another 20 minutes about Gary Whiting and I learned far more than I ever wanted to about the people who lived in these mountains ("You know there's only 25 of us and half of us don't even own cars! HAHAHA!").
I was now seriously getting fatigued.
"Gentlemen", I said, "I think I'm gonna take a little nap in the back of my truck. Haven't been sleeping well".
No sooner did I say that when #3 arrived with beer and a dog and looking for pot.
It's true that I haven't had a drink in 14 years and rarely engage in other mind-altering substances but I was just about ready to give it all up.
#3 only stayed for about 15 minutes as he had to dump his week old garbage in one of the dumpsters at Sand Dollar Beach. He said he barbecued chicken about a week ago and it was "getting ripe". He told us that the way to fool the folks when dumping trash illegally is to never put anything with your name in the trash and make sure you used a blue trash bag so it "mingled better" with the trash that was already there.
Did I object to his practice? Uh no, would you have?
#3 left and I repeated my nap story.
They went on for another 20 minutes. I kid you not.
"Well, that's fine if you gotta sleep", #1 said finally. "I'm glad you enjoyed our company and wish you'd be here longer. You're a good person I can tell. I spent two years in prison and no one ever bothered me because I could read them. In fact, they were scared of me- Blacks, Mexican Mafia, nope, never bothered me at all. I can read you too- you're a good guy".
No, I didn't mention the blackmailers or Gary Whiting which seemed at odds with what he'd just told me. It didn't seem smart.
"We may come back. You never know!".
They left. They were drunk and high as kites and roared off down the dirt road.
Perceptions are a funny thing. If you'd asked me if I thought I'd run into any people in a place this isolated place I'd have said no. If you asked me what kind of people might live in the hills above the Big Sur Coast I might have told you they were probably artists...poets and musicians...maybe painters, actors, writers and photographers.
I always think about what new places will look like before I get to them. I'm always surprised. Occasionally, I think about the people I might meet on the road. I'm always surprised.
My finger is still healing.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.