Yesterday, we got in TJ’s truck with the only intention of driving down Highway 1, a scenic route along California’s coast. This was my idea of a good time: a loose plan, no destination in mind, and a whole day free of expectations. The weather was the warmest it’s been since I got here. By noon the marine layer still covered the sky, but we were sweating with the windows rolled all the way down. The first place we stopped wasn’t far into the trip, maybe 15 minutes in, but we saw the sign for a scenic view. Always stop at the scenic view. We pulled off, climbed down some crumbling concrete stairs until the stairs ended abruptly, and we had to climb down some rocks to the beach. It was stunning down there, made even more special by the effort to reach it. We climbed around and sat on some rocks watching the waves for about twenty minutes before heading back to the car. I don’t know how we missed them the first time, but on the way back we passed two dead seals, decaying on the beach.I saw the first one on my right, freaked out and tried to run on the uneven rocks, and almost ran into another one on the left. TJ calmly walked on, but I was so grossed out I started to climb the rocks to the stairs way before I needed to and had to turn around and go back. It was embarrassing.
From there we continued south through Santa Monica, Malibu, and Calabasas. We could see multimillion dollar houses up in the hills, and lining the waterfront. The public beaches were packed, the bright pinks and yellows of bathing suits visible even from the road. We wondered about finding a nude beach, Googled and found that nude beaches are illegal in California, which seemed like such a waste on a day as beautiful and warm as this one was. It was probably better that we didn’t find one. I’d taken my top off once at a beach in Miami, and it wasn’t as freeing as I thought it would be. We decided it would still be great to stop at a beach, but all we had with us: our bathing suits and two captain’s chairs. We needed an umbrella for TJ’s pale skin (& my peace of mind) and the other important accoutrements people like to take to the shore, like beer and snacks. TJ looked up a Target using his GPS and off we went, turning away from the ocean and driving into the Santa Monica Mountains. It was a breathtaking view and a serious climb, twisting and turning along the mostly one lane road.
Out of the mountains and arriving at our destination, we discovered that TJ had accidentally looked up a shooting range. It was hilarious. Not at all defeated, we stopped for beers (IPA and Pale Ale) at restaurant with a cool patio. We found a garden store, got a beach tent thingy and a cooler. Then we stopped at a liquor store and got beer and water and ice. Back through the mountains, back to the coast, we decided on El Matador State Beach, because the reviews mentioned caves and rocks formations. We parked on the street to avoid the $8 parking fee, walked along the 1, down a hill to the parking lot, down a treacherous dirt path, and down two flights of stairs to reach the beach. I couldn’t believe a place like this existed in real life, so casually picturesque, I’m sure my mouth was open. And it as packed. I barely made it down there, but there were families everywhere, kids and babies, elderly couples in shoes with Velcro. We walked from one end to the other, between giant rocks and boulders, the beach was tiny, and no more than two rows of people could lay out. We finally settled between two other couples, dug in with our captain’s chairs and relaxed. It was only once we were down there that we learned that alcohol wasn’t permitted, so we contented ourselves with drinking in the view.
One of my biggest regrets from my time in Arizona was how little we explored the state. I never got to Tuscon or Flagstaff, the hot springs or the Grand freaking Canyon. I promised myself that where ever I lived next I would make the effort to explore as much as possible. I feel very fortunate that TJ came to California and that we just happened to be in this particular location. The more I see of the United States, the more patriotic I become. We have a beautiful country and I am thankful for all that I’ve seen.