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Gary Horton: Touchpoints to renewal

Full Speed to Port

Posted: August 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: August 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.

One of the reasons I'm so old and wrinkly is that back in my teens my older sister Adria would routinely take me to Malibu for a Saturday or Sunday at the beach. We'd hang out in that small stretch of sand across from the Jack in the Box on Pacific Coast Highway.

Cars would line up on both sides of PCH for miles, and at the peak of the day, the beach was surely more bodies than sand. Most of those bodies were getting deep, dark tans, as were we. As was vogue at the time, we went all in - no SPF 30 for us, we were baby-oil tanners. (More correctly, burners.)

Sometimes my older sisters would come home from their beach trips and let me peel the sheets of sunburned skin off their backs like parchment. No one was talking about skin cancer back then. But you go with what you know, and we'd sizzle and blister in the sand and have the time of our teenaged lives.

Ah, Pacific Coast Highway. It's a touchpoint thing in my life. Likely also for many of you. In my later teens, I'd take dates to the beach and cook up Hibachi steak dinners while watching the sun go down - very suave and romantic. I proposed to my wife, Carrie, out on Malibu Beach while taking a long moonlit stroll along the water.

My buddies and I rode our motorcycles like crazed racers through the twisty, curvy canyons across from Highway 101 over to PCH - that, until my buddy flew off one of the sharper hairpin turns on his vintage 1956 BMW. He leaned the old bike so sharply his kickstand caught the asphalt and bike and boy flipped over the road edge to a certain death down a deep canyon. Certain, save that the same kickstand caught an abandoned safety cable a few feet down the slope. Bike and boy were miraculously snatched from their descent.

I learned then and there that God loves both the sinner and righteous, because my racer buddy was a devil in teen flesh.

Needless to say, after such a close shave and with salvation secured, we rode much more tepidly down the rest of the windy road.

Last weekend, we took our boat on the long trip from Channel Islands to Avalon. I'm an older boy now, face carved with those aforementioned wrinkles. But it seems I'm still hanging around the coast, still near the water, and usually there's a motorized something taking me there and back. Bikes, cars, boats - I've got me a big carbon footprint to feed my liberal guilt. Not happy about that part.

If you haven't been to Avalon recently (or ever), it's time to go. The town is dressed up to show. It's the closest thing to Lahaina this side of Maui, with shops, restaurants, boardwalks, beaches, cabanas and people. Lots and lots of people walking, talking, eating, drinking and meeting. Avalon is a party. A "staycation" an hour away via the shuttle boat. It's great for a day trip or short overnight. You need a reset? Hit the Avalon button.

The trip was fun and a necessary distraction after another week in construction recession purgatory. For those of us employed in businesses impacted by this recession, we're nearly four years in the grind. And while we're all doing our best, the grind does wear. So you've got to set your course for some relief and renewed views.

We chose Avalon and went by boat. You can too, by fast shuttles out of San Pedro and Long Beach.

Sunday, we made the long journey home. I cut close to the shore from Malibu northward. From our boat we could see the beaches where, as teens, we broiled alive. North of Malibu you get to the truly gorgeous stuff. There's a 10-mile stretch of PCH and beach that is far less traveled, far less visited and much more relaxing than busy Malibu. This part of PCH is the closest thing we've got to a drive along the Maui shore.

The scenery and wonder begins just south of Point Mugu outside Oxnard. Large rocks jut out of the waves and in the mornings, the sun shines through like some sort of Pacific Coast Stonehenge. There are two rural beach parks offering day stays and camping. Both are jaw-dropping arguments for why we'd better keep funding our California park system. Gorgeous.

Pacific Coast Highway winds south, alone and all by itself for seven or eight miles until you hit a snack trailer or two - fun places to stop for refreshment when visiting these more desolate beaches. If you need some time to clear your head or just want a beautiful drive, start out at Point Mugu from the 101, find PCH and start driving south. Go in the morning when the sun is glistening on the water. Take a blanket and a towel. Jump in and baptize yourself with a touchpoint from your youth.
It's cathartic and attitude-resetting.

Cruising offshore PCH brought so much back. I could see the faces, hear the sounds and feel those times from my formative teens. A lot still lives on inside me from that road and from those beaches.

There's a takeaway from our weekend getaway. In these challenging times, we can't let the day-to-day take our lives away. If it takes a reset, hit the reset button. If a soothing drive, turn the key and press the pedal. And if it's just a slow, quiet walk all by yourself, get walking.

A touchpoint to my core is visiting along the Pacific Coast Highway. We all have our own.

What takes you back to feeling whole again?

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Full Speed to Port!" appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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