It’s time to fly away.
I don’t know how things lined up so perfectly – Mr. Forte’s office retreat in Santa Barbara and Simone’s school Grandparents’ Day in San Francisco bookending a blank Monday and Tuesday that made it ridiculous to even think about driving back to San Diego in the middle – but I was skipping from bedroom to closet yesterday as I packed, singing la-la-la-life-rolls-on with Little Big Town. Boots for a maybe-rainy day, an insurance pair of jeans. I always say if there’s room in the suitcase, you didn’t pack enough jeans.
I’ve got a new car that gets 50 miles on a gallon of Diesel 2 and hotel rooms booked in Santa Barbara and Morro Bay. I snitched Mr. Forte’s Macbook and added it to my iPad and iPhone and bag o’ cables. I’m taking the slow roads for once and stopping to snap pics. Does this make me a travel blogger? Probably not, but it’s a label I’ll borrow if it means no errands to run or legal papers to type for ten (shhh, not so loud) whole solitary days.
Bottles and jars of juices and sauces went in the bathroom bag. Where Mr. Forte’s razor should have been, but I swear he said he had it. His clothes, my clothes, red licorice, car chargers for the talky-singy things. Lug it all to the hatchback and slam the door. Duh-done, down the driveway and up the street, taking the back way to the freeway and on the road. It was 11:30 AM, a perfect time to sneak north through LA with just an easy hour more to the white stucco and red-tile roofs of SB and the blue Pacific …
Five minutes later I was on Interstate 5. Three minutes after that there were stopped cars as far as I could see ahead of me and the nearest offramp a mile away. Oooof.
It was the Friday before spring break for most California schools. It was a California holiday in honor of César Chávez and all the courts and state offices were closed. The evening rush hour had started at noon. Add a couple freeway mysteries and my pal Naren (a native of Los Angeles) on the phone was saying, “Deep breaths. It’s just gonna be this way.” It was.
Did you know it’s faster in the right lanes of the freeway when the traffic is stop-and-go? True. Following the dicta of forty plus years as a road warrior got me as far as Santa Monica in two and a half hours, not great but not awful. A string of red diamonds on my iPad map of the 101 between Thousand Oaks and Camarillo said “Go west, girl.” I did, on Interstate 10 (which runs from the ocean at Santa Monica all the damn way to Jacksonville, Florida, through deserts and Texas and then joyfully within sight of the Gulf at Mobile, in case you wondered) until it slung me onto Pacific Coast Highway, known around here as Highway 1, and pointed me toward Malibu.
Lots of other people in cars were clogging things up through Pacific Palisades, but then it got better. I crossed my fingers that there wouldn’t be hundreds of cars joining me from the last few spots – Sunset Boulevard and the canyon roads at Temescal and Topanga. There were, but I caught green lights and outran the herd, passed the stars’ houses at the Malibu Colony, made it beyond Zuma Beach and then I was among the few diehards driving at the feet of the rocky hills that edge the ocean for 30 miles to Point Mugu and the strawberry fields of Oxnard. I actually like LA and had fun the couple times I lived there (one time was in an apartment two blocks from Nicole Simpson on the night O.J. murdered her, a Kevin Bacon moment), but unless I’m spending the night, I like it in my rear-view mirror.
Mr. Forte got off the train in Goleta last night, and I picked him up as if he were stepping off a commuter in the ‘burbs after a day in the big city. We schmoozed and saw friends and ate and tumbled into a big, tall bed – Mot might have liked a step – and I’m writing and taking pics of this cool place while he fakes his way through a conference until this afternoon.
The sun just burned through the morning haze, so I’m venturing out. Tomorrow Mr. Forte rides the rails back home in the afternoon to an empty house and the food I left him while I motor into the green hills of Santa Ynez and then swoop west to Morro Rock. The sea birds are calling.