(8 word Preface: Prepare for mass backtracking and past tense tone…) So my move became real. I landed a cross-country copilot, ahem, driver, and booked my platonic hero Steve’s flight from BWI to SAN for the following week. This spurred us to wave a 5-finger adios bright and early after the Ravens Chargers game (see previous post) on Monday, December 19th . Now that I had a California expiration date, I had to eat as much of California pie as possible.
Being he firm believer of the buddy system that I am, I heavily recruited one of my favorite friends and newly recent California residents to brace the beauty of the California coast with me. Katie’s contemplated, “Well, your exodus of California would be a legitimate reason to tackle this trip only after being here for 2 months.”
SOLD. Locked and loaded, I solidified a lifelong friend to be my California coast copilot, embarking on the most beautiful drive in the United States. I had one last free voucher from a wonderful mother and friend (Susan-love you!) who knew my story inside and out. I informed her I was going to use it to tie up loose ends with California by flying Katie down from SF to SD on a standby flight. Katie consulted her calendar against the Wide Open Spaces (cue Dixie Chicks) of unemployment serenity and we hashed out the days of our adventure up the coast, concluding with my nestling on Katie’s couch for 5 days after the voyage.
Afterall, if you break up with the state of California, it always takes awhile to work out one’s unfinished business because it is so big. In one email thread we have with our girlfriends, Kris or Al asked our game plan. “Yeah, so we think Katie is flying down on this day or the next day and then we will probably just figure out what we will do when we are together I am guessing. Our plan is to not have a plan.” And so it began the beauty of that ambiguity from San Diego to San Fran.
After mild shrieks from yours truly, scaring San Diegan airport bystanders, accompanied by a deep belly Katie cackled, my copilot mounted herself into Honda CRV, newly crowned the G rated title, my HONDA CRaVe. “Whelp, we’re really doing this. This is crazy last-minute and great. I wouldn’t expect anything less from us in all honesty.”
Within 5 seconds of Katie being in the car, laughter poured from our bellies like champagne on New Year’s 5 times before we even hit The 5 (California State highway). I confessed this was the most I’ve laughed all week, reassuring myself I had already made the right decision to move back east and to fly Katie down for my last hoorah with her. We kicked off this best friend road trip retreat from St. Diego to the City of Angels. Fittingly, we stay with my angelic girlfriend, Kral, who is sweeter than key lime pie, living in West Hollywood or WestHo. Before Katie and I killed the coast, of course we took it to the streets, collecting intel from trip veterans. Surprisingly, more people than not, were so jealous of our trip and had yet to do it- even Californian natives.
Kral had done this trip years ago, but helped mold the first part of our trip with offering great advice of what to see and do in Santa Monica, Venice, and Malibu. “Oh you can see Moonshadows, the restaurant that’s famous for contributing to Mel Gibson’s DWI.” Wrote that note. What a shame, but yes it was a landmark for us on the Pacific Coast Highway.
I didn’t realize this until this trip, but when I travel, I am obsessed with bridges, universities and golf courses. We penciled a part of what we wanted to see, and by we, I mean me. Off the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or Highway 101 or 1, I demanded to youth movement hunt at UCLA (next time I’ll see USC), to survey the Venice [Beach] Canals,
to snap shots of a scenic overlook at Pepperdine University,
to pop into Pebble Beach Golf Course and to applaud the surf at Half Moon Bay.
Katie was just happy to go along for the ride as she did not object to any of these meticulous, ever-demanding, time-consuming ideas of mine. This was the best kind of copilot I could have dreamed of. The other cities along Highway 1, we both agreed we wanted to stop and stroll around, specifically allowing enough time to make to Big Sur for sunset.
Why did I want to see the above? Welp, UCLA was close and it’s a great baseball school, plus Saved by the Bell: The College Years was fictionally set there. My friend Liz once threw up a status saying, “There are canals in this Venice, too,” accompanied by a Venice Beach canal image, inspiring this treasure trove to be revealed. Afterall, Venice was my favorite city in Italia and anything to make LA look quaint I would respect, so I had to uncover that Lala land hidden aqueduct gem.
I’ve been pressed over Pepperdine, crowned the prettiest school in the country, even before I scored a Pepperdine hoodie for 4 bucks from a Maryland Goodwill (the irony I score a cheap sweatshirt on the east for the most expensive west coast school is rich). Pebble Beach was a must see, but noble challenge because I knew it was a picturesque, high security golf course from years of watching the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Katie was down for any and all of it, the free spirit friend, helping me cross off my CA bucket list. After Kral contributed some more recommendations and we consulted Google Maps briefly, we made a plan of continuing to play it by ear. Tentatively, we’d plan on crashing in a Monterey hotel we will book on the road because we will have service (though not true because in remote California sections).
That night, we probably both slept maybe 3 or 4 hours combined because it was like Christmas morning starting this California coast chaos-we were so anxious. We hit UCLA first and brushed off that we are so glad we don’t have finals anymore. We parked it in Santa Monica to soak in the view of the coast and the carnival pier. To pay our respects to ever sinking Venice, Italy, which we both love from study abroad, we cruised along the canal with coffee on foot. From there, we bounced to the Venice Beach boardwalk and pier to see the freaks and physiques of LA’s population. By this point, it was 8 a.m. and we starting sleeking up the coast to Malibu. We scored a visitors pass at Pepperdine to snap some fast photos of a killer, high vaulted view of Malibu while google searching all the celebrities who live there in ‘Bu.
For the rest of the PCH, we were buzzing in and out of radio station reception. Katie didn’t pack her iPod (I don’t own one still), so we made our own music. We swamped more secrets, current life philosophies, Zeitgeist tidbits, and other generic bullshit stories that kept two best friends busy for a grand total of 900 miles without a drop of silence. Santa Barbara was stunning, colorful hybrid collection of Redondo Beach (LA area), New England, and Hawaii. It’s quiet by day, but boisterous by nightfall and known for a distant mecca of celebrities who want to avoid the LA limelight, like my obsession, Rob Lowe (this is a proud plug for you to read his audio book). Barbara was also built for tourists hosting a plethora of look-out spots, shops, and ships.
Eventually, Katie dusted off an old Taylor Swift CD that we jammed out to as I weaved in and out of California’s coastal curves. Sure the CD may have skipped a little, but spring break Acapulco prepared us for this moment of pelting the lyrics to every heartfelt lyric Tay sang about all the dudes who have screwed the girl over as the CRaVe’s CD player skipped.
We were tipped off to secure a highly recommended sunset hike at EPIC Big Sur. It was a bigger and better, visual game changer than I could have anticipated. Big Sur stood natural, tall, mountainous and never-ending in the best of ways. It was so picturesque, breathtaking, vast, colorful, and alluring. I honestly first heard about it years ago because I saw a photoshoot of Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold on Entourage) at a beach in Big Sur with gargantuan boulders, but had no idea of it’s magnitude til my California years and specifically this moment. Anyway, just when we thought it couldn’t get any prettier, we would come out of another bend and see the coastline again, revealing a whole new slew of rock formations and oceanic drop-offs that I cannot even do justice. Even the late Bob Ross could not paint this picture as well as God did for us that day. We laced up our “white Nikes” (Friday Night Lightsreference) thinking we had an intense hike ahead. (Please view this zany video of us driving into Big Sur California Coast Big Sur video)
We ooh’ed, aah’ed, coo’ed, and cried at the sight of the sun dipping down into the horizon with Mother Nature’s beauty backdrop of cliff and coast, waterfall and weeds. Eventually after a couple of hours, we continued to race the ever -setting sun and trugged on in the battle against the CRaVe’s gas light. We stopped off to calmly carouse the Thomas Kinkade’s inspired town (he lived 70 miles away) of Carmel-by-the Sea, California. Carmelis known for being a unique California beach town, producing Upton Sinclair and actors including Bette White.
It actually was one of America’s first artist colonies and gathered momentum after the 1906 earthquake had many of San Francisco’s artists fleeing to the beauty and inspiration of Carmel. Our friend’s mother texted us to eat at “Hog’s Breath Inn,” which is part of the charming shopping and restaurants there. We didn’t ask any questions and didn’t have internet, so we just went with it when we stumbled across it. Little did we know it was former Governor and current actor, Clint Eastwood’s restaurant (he sold it recently). Afterwards, we trolled the town who celebrated Christmas the way Jesus wants-festive and well lite, unlike San Diego who does not celebrate Christmas well enough to my expectations due to budget cuts, I swear.
Carmel is known to have the softest sand on the west coast, so we fell from a natural Vinyasa flow to a downward facing dog on moonlit beach before we spun off. Namaste.
That night, we successfully scored a killer one-day deal of 25 bones each at the delightful Monterey Surf Inn off Priceline. We slept like babies to rise and shine and hit the links early. Pebble Beach and the 17.5 mile road were calling our name like the 69 year-starter does in a shotgun start on 18.
The head Pro gave us his blessing to be chauffeured around in a golf cart with Juan, Pebble’s Landscape Director, since we couldn’t tee it up (no room for clubs with my beach cruiser and luggage you know and no funds since unemployed-$500/round). Juan rambled on about his favorite celebrities that frequent Pebble including Tom Brady, Romo, Giants coaches and players, Bill Murray, Tiger, Vijay, Belichick, George Lopez (member), etc. Cruising 18 was bliss as the Spanish Bay was blindingly blue and the greens were pristine green. Juan waved at the regulars calling them “cowboys” instead of man, dude, bro, etc. I was smitten with Nor.Cal at this moment. Fun fact-The most expensive house in the world sits on Pebble, cashing in at a net value of $65 million, owned by Will Smith, not the rapper. It is a green estate. Feel free to watch this ridiculous video of our golf cart ride with Juan-Pebble Beach golf cart ride, Pebble Beach golf play
After we teed off at Pebble, Kate and I rallied next unto Santa Cruz, basically a quiet, Mary Jane-loving, Jersey shore in aesthetics equivalent, little beach town. If you recall, Santa Cruz’s marina was the only part of California that suffered injury from the Japanese tsunami in 2011. We also ran with the horses at Half Moon Bay, a desolate beach town known for west coast good surf, though naked in non-pony life at noon.
Next, we slid past San Francisco on our way to Napa as I knew I would be in SF for the next 5 days touring and raging. Afterall, it was 5 o’clock somewhere (in Maryland actually), so we sprinted for a sunset happy hour.
Katie and I were just shooting the breeze with a wine connoisseur employee at Sequoia Grove, who was biting at all my jokes, God Bless his soul. Next thing we know, we are ushered to have an intimate barrel tasting. Katie looked like the Queen just asked her to give a personal toast at the Duchess’ wedding, while unbeknownst to me, this was a big deal. Putting the “ass” in class, I had no idea this was an honor as I usually hang out with $5 Andre over vino. Hilariously, Katie stealthy elbowed me to shape up and act flattered.
Continuing to chase the Napa Valley sun, we jetted across the street to Robert Mondavi, a famous vineyard that produces zillions bottles a year. Cliche, but creative, Mondavi once said, “Whatever you do, pour yourself into it,” a quote eternally embedded in my head to coax my high volume demeanor and self inflated ego. Katie insisted I see Roberto Mondavi because its reputation precedes itself. At the time, I literally had never heard of Robbie Mondavi, but when I came back to Maryland, the Rob Mondavi was everywhere. We sipped a little sip and I casually planked a little plank in Napa (see photo).
Delighted but exhausted, we giggled our way over the Golden Gate back to San Fran, specifically Marina, where Katie resides.
The next few days included the madness of SantaCon (thousands of Santas on the streets of SF). We, good Catholics attended the drinking event as Advents calendars to distinguish ourselves from the pack and also because our outfits costs us 10 bones at Goodwill (budget cuts in my unemployment life made me penny pitch on day drinking costumes). Every Catholic girl and guy loved our different, but recognizable Christmas costumes. Literally, Thank You, God.
Later, that week we heard a former
Alcatraz jailbird (29 years sentenced) speak at Alcatraz, we roamed the Redwood trees,
we toured around the city sights (AT&T Park, Ghirardelli Square, Mrs. Doubtfire’s house,
Full House house (The Pretty Ladies), Mrs. Doubtfire’s house, the curviest road in America, and I camouflaged myself as a Marina district local while Katie did her 9-5.
Thank God and Guetta (a DJ that brought Katie and I together), that week-long adventure was one for the books. I was blown out of the Pacific by the tens of islands California’s coast secretly hosts. Like all good things, our trip came to an end and I had to sell my remaining “assets,” and pack. But upon my return, I told everyone this: If my honeymoon with a dude goes half as well as the bliss I shared with Katie on our California coast, then will be one lucky girl.