Tag Archives: outside

Childhood Dreams at Old Man’s Beach: San Onofre

I had a free morning so I drove to San Onofre State Beach. The internet told me they have beach camping there, the kind where you can pitch your tent right by the sand, but I couldn’t get anyone on the the phone to answer questions about availability, so I checked it out with my free day. I did not find what I was looking for. I found something different entirely.

When I was ten I did not know much, but I did know I wanted to surf. I had just discovered complex math and the associated reality that meant I would never be an astronaut. I had always known I would not play in the NFL, so the only dream I had left, at ten, was surfing.

I grew up inland, but on the side of the Mississippi that flowed toward LA, not New York, so cool was all T&C rather than CBGB. We knew we were posers with our long bangs and neon shorts, but I wanted to move past that. After years of begging, my parents let me go stay with my aunt in California the summer before 8th grade. It was a step closer to my dream and I was planning my path in my head. I figured I would have to start out with a boogie board, but if I got good enough I would advance to standing up. I would need a board. I was ready for the breeze and splash of salt water. What I got was dirt and cactus because Aunt Nancy lived in Palmdale. It was a lesson on the dangers of mobilizing in ignorance.My last hope was college, because I had been trained to know that I must go to college, but I didn’t know anyone who had ever been to school in California and everyone told me I could only afford in state. So I stayed home. Eventually jobs, kids, and adulthood squeezed everything childish, like the dream of surfing out of my head. I moved on. I grew up.

I gave little thought to my childhood self when I took a job an hour east of LA. I was just thinking I needed a job.

Then I made that drive to San Onofre.

There was no paved parking lot and no packs of families lugging coolers canopies and beach chairs. There was no pier and no one renting out tandem beach cruisers. There were only surfers.

“Great morning right?” a leathery grey haired man asked as I closed my car door. He was sitting on a log facing the water. Next to him sat another old man wiping down his glossy red board. “Uh… yes. Sure is.” I replied awkwardly. The two men both smiled and went back to chatting with each other. I looked out at the water and it was bustling with people bobbing up and down just past the breakers, some paddling up and over the waves, and then, out there and everywhere, people were surfing. They stood up on their boards and shuffled out to stand on the nose. They popped up, cut left, then right, then pumped the board to stay out ahead of the whitewater. I loved seeing it.

I looked around on the rocky sand wondering when Anthony Keidis and his band of hooligans were coming to tell me to go away. They weren’t there. In their place were happy people who looked me in the face and said hello. There were men and women, old and young, and they all looked happy. I knew they were surfers, and only surfers, not because they were blonde or said “stoked” but because they all had boards. I saw a wrinkled bald man covered in tattoos chatting with a woman who looked like my frumpy mother. I saw a white guy with dreadlocks playing paddle ball with a child while a boisterous group of ZZ Top beards came lugging giant boards out of the water. There was what looked like an Abercrombie model chatting with some little guy who was wearing what looked like a beret, and a striped shirt that matched his striped board. It was some sort of intergenerational utopia based on a shared vision of riding on waves standing up.​

 

​My childhood aspirations came flooding back and I did not like it. It made me loathe myself.

Here I was standing right in front of what I had always wanted and the thing I felt the strongest, was that I did not fit. It looked like everyone was welcome, this feeling wasn’t coming from them- it was coming from inside me. My mind defaulted to this excuse making checklist of practical reasons why I could not join in. Not just right then, but forever. I live more than an hour away, I do not own a board and do not have any extra money to invest in a hobby that I could reasonably only think to dabble in, and I am fat. I am a poser. I remembered that I always wanted this and I do not belong. The list came so quickly and so naturally that I disappointed myself.

I am grown and capable. I can find solutions. I can learn. I have lived a life standing just outside closed doors and have nearly a half century’s practice of picking locks, borrowing keys, or kicking the door down. If I really want this, I can have it. Knowing this made me tired. I felt lonely.

I could save up money and buy a board. I could set my pride or awkwardness aside and ask someone to teach me. I could make some arrangements and over a period of time, maybe years, I could carve out a schedule allowing me some beach time. If I want it I can do it.

So the question is always whether it is worth it. Do I want to be on that side of the door bad enough to do the work? What will it cost? What will I gain? When you pass through previously closed doors, you inevitably leave something back on the other side. Often you leave someone. What if I am not trying to leave anyone? What then?

Traffic made the trip home take 2 ½ hours. Sitting in my car in my long pants and wingtips, thinking all of the things I just typed out above, I came to the conclusion that I think too much.

I should knock it off and just surf.

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Nephew

6pm on a Saturday

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There are Other Fish in the Sea:or the lake

I have a confession. It is a hard thing to admit because though I have done nothing wrong, it still feels like a sin.

I don’t really like to fish.fishinggear

I get bored.

I think I have always known, yet it has taken me nearly my whole life to admit. I want to like fishing. Perhaps I keep giving it a chance in hopes that I have simply been doing it wrong this whole time. Maybe I have just never hooked the big one and if I do, I will be hooked too.boatlake

In the fictional story of my youth, the one I have always told myself, I loved going fishing with my Dad. We used to go semi-regularly and I always wanted to go. In retrospect, as I look close enough to sweep the fairy dust away, I realize I never really went fishing all those times.  I went exploring.elibored

Dad would fish in rivers and streams. I would cast my line a couple times, snag the spinner on a rock or branch, then look around and find the highest visible outcropping of rock and shout, “Hey Dad, can I go up there?” He would say yes and I would scramble off.

I have since realized that this is not fishing.perchsage

It took trying to teach my kids to fish to learn this lesson. When you are teaching someone else, you can’t scamper off. You are trapped. And then you just sit there staring at a bobber trying to guess if that was a wave or a bite and so you reel it in to find the fluorescent cheese is gone from your hook so you bait it again and cast out the line. Again. For hours.catchThis admission hurts my own feelings. I shouldn’t feel ashamed but I am. It feels like I have rejected my father and my youth and how I was raised. I would say it is almost a rejection of my religion, but we already have an actual religion so saying that would feel sacrilegious.

 

But then again… Mom never went fishing with us and Dad still likes her. She always stayed home and read books. I should probably get her a Kindle for Christmas.

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Death Valley: What’s Grandma Doing at the Dunes?

“Looks like there’s a lot you don’t know about her” is Uncle Rico’s reply to Napoleon Dynamite’s query upon finding out his grandmother had broken her coccyx whilst four-wheeling at the dunes. IMG_8969

For those of you whose only interaction with sand dunes is watching movies like Lawrence of Arabia I can now testify that what I always thought were actors trying to look heat exhausted and parched, isn’t acting at all. It is simply humans trying to walk up small mountains of sand that do everything in their power to imitate the experience of walking up the down escalator. What looks like heat exhaustion and thirst experienced by those lost for days in the Sahara is just as easily thigh burning frustration that ramps up to miserable in less than two minutes.IMG_8972

Miserable is too strong of a word, I was being dramatic. Really the dunes are beautiful (not being dramatic) and my biggest regrets are that 1. we shared the experience with hoards of other tourists, and 2. We didn’t bring a snowboard or some other device with which we could slide down the dunes, rewarding ourselves with fun for the effort it takes to scale a sand dune.IMG_9023

While crowds can be a nuisance when looking for desolation, they can also provide entertainment in the middle of what would otherwise be solitude (boredom). We saw numerous photo shoots in progress, mostly of girls in formal dresses and guys in tuxedos, and we saw this guy. This guy and his eagle were brought in as a prop for one of said formal gown wearing women photo sessions… because a sparkly dress in the middle of Death Valley really needs an eagle to make it interesting.IMG_8990 (5)

I do have to admit the eagle was pretty cool. Owning an eagle is akin to owning a tiger, just a little bit more American.IMG_9014 (7)

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Death Valley: you can get a sunburn from salt

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The crowds gather right at the side of the road where the sign is posted. People wait their turn to get a picture taken next to the elevation -200 feet sign and angle the camera just so to get a background devoid of tourists.

We drove an extra half mile down the road then hiked, rather strolled, a mile out onto the salt flats where there was no need of camera angling. There were no tourists.
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The map doesn’t say “salt flats” it says “badwater”and right underneath the thin layer of white crystal salt is slightly frozen mud. We know whats under the salt because Kaleo almost lost his shoe when his foot sunk through the salt leaving him with cold, muddy socks.

I found this hilarious.
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We went for this walk so I could add another drawing in my sketchbook. It has been to Zion’s, Grand Bahama, Time’s Square, the Golden Gate Bridge, Kansas City, Paris, Boston, Niagara Falls, Lyman WY, Waimea Bay, and now Death Valley. I had a seat and took some time to draw nothing.
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Tired of drawing nothing so I decided to draw something.

I don’t always make good decisions.
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It was just like that one scene in Titanic where Leo draws Kate. Exactly like that.
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Death Valley: there is a big difference between 30 and 16 degrees

My weather app told me to expect a low of 30 degrees at night in Death Valley. We figured we could handle that. Of course once we got there my app stopped working. No, that’s not true, I had no cell reception and consequentially I had an actual vacation with no app interruptions.IMG_9154

The national park had just reopened after severe flooding and the sign on the road up to our camp warned that the area was closed. I loved that sign and the fact that it dissuaded the crowds from taking that road. There are in fact crowds in Death Valley in December.IMG_9130

The crowds show up in December because 30 degrees is much easier to deal with than 130. The crowds are much easier to deal with when you ignore the closed sign and go down that road toward Scotty’s Castle. The Castle was closed but not the camp ground.IMG_9283

The first sign of trouble was that strange whine the aluminum table made when we  fired up the propane stove. We weren’t exactly sure what it was or why but thought it was perhaps just some sort of cold metal hot metal sort of resonance. Whatever… we had fresh carne asada to cook so we got to work. After about 15 minutes of the skillet sitting on an open flame it was still cold to the touch. Huh? I guess 30 degrees is a little colder than we thought. I attributed it to the wind chill.IMG_9045

Downing a whole tea pot full of anything right before bed is not the best idea but it was hot and I was cold. I am currently researching the effects of cold weather on the brain’s ability to process forward thinking. This is a direct follow up to the study I did that night of whether or not I really believe that mummy bags are intended for the sleeper to wear less clothes rather than more, in order to enjoy reflected body heat. I tested both theories that night along with an exercise in multiple midnight runs to the bushes.IMG_9304 (15)

Moral of the story is that I am not a genius and have been away from the camping world for far too long.

Also… upon our return we found that the expected 30 was overconfident. The thermometer registered 16.

Remind me next time to tell you about how the campers next to us weren’t cold at all since they were in a palatial motor home the size of a tour bus. But of course what else would you expect Stanley Tucci to camp in?

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