North to Malibu

In Travels With Myself on July 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Five wonderful days visiting with my daughter, Suzanne, and Jonny Rose in Irvine, CA.  But now I am back on the road again and headed up the Pacific Coast Highway.  Spending the night north of Malibu at the Point Mugu State Park.  The Santa Monica Mountains are to the east, the Pacific to the west, and little more than CA 1 between them.

I had supposed that I wouldn’t get much to see that I haven’t already seen until I’d gotten north of the great sprawling mega city that is Los Angeles and its suburbs and surrounding towns.  Technically, I won’t be away from all that until tomorrow when I finally get to Oxnard, but even passing L.A., Route 1 is an adventure.

Let me say, first, that Irvine is a beautiful place.  I have never seen such wonderful parks and clean, well-kept, tree lined (especially cypresses and palms), well manage streets.  Six to eight lane roads, with center dividers, allow traffic to spread out, which makes the number of cars manageable.  L.A. may be a great big freeway, but Irvine is a great big mall, with islands of residences that seem to merge with the malls as much as separate them.  Still, even the sameness of the sand-colored architecture can’t keep the city from being laid back and pretty.  The campus of the University of California at Irvine is an enormous park; and there are bicycle lanes everywhere, to further simplify the issues of traffic and commuting.

And the ready availability of the beaches at Laguna and Newport, just to name two, makes it an easy place to want to stay awhile.  I am, however a New Englander by nature and nurture, so I am not entirely unhappy to put southern California behind me.

The drive up the PCH through Los Angeles County starts along the beaches.  I made a stop at Huntington Beach, which is exactly what I pictured California beaches to be.  Laguna was a fairly narrow beach between the mountains and the sea, but Huntington is wide open.  I walked across a parking lot that already seemed to go on forever, then across a flat sandy stretch that was grossly under-utilized on a Sunday morning in July.  Even with the generous paved path for bicycles and roller-blades, the volleyball courts, and the grandstand for surfing competitions, there seemed more than enough room for easily hundreds of thousands of beachgoers.  The water came in over a shallow beach, making room for waders and swimmers and boogie boarders alike.  At the north end of the beach, just past the great pier, however, oil platforms stood prominently above the horizon.

There were those sorts of contrasts all along the way.  There were long sections with vast beaches to the left and vast cliffs at the road’s edge to the right.  There were stretches where the shopping centers and strip malls seemed to go on forever.  And there were stretches where the beaches on the left competed with industry on the right, including what looked like oil wells, with their ridiculous-looking, yellow, bobbing duck pumps rocking up and down. Traffic was smooth and easy nearly all the way to Santa Monica, then congested and slow, with cars lined up on both sides until well past Malibu.

As I start up the coast, I feel as though I am still moving away, but as the mid-point of my trip draws nearer (somewhere around San Francisco), I am already feeling some homesickness.  Perhaps, this will pass for a while as I explore the little towns along this incomparable coast, but I know now that there are many kinds of barriers.  When I got to the Pacific, I could go no further west, and so I turned north.  But I also found that I had other barriers, the ones that aren’t dependent on mountains or oceans, but dwell within us.  Now that I will be leaving the mountains behind me and following the edge of the ocean that has stopped me, it’s those other barriers I need to cross before I turn toward the east, and home.

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