California Dreamin’

Driving the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway between San Clemente and San Diego last week brought back a lot of memories. It was a warm, breezy day. People were out enjoying the beaches and parks connected by old towns, which—despite growth—have been able to retain their charm.

Snatches of Surfin’ Safari made famous by the The Beach Boys flitted through my head as I saw brightly colored surfboards stuck out the back seat of convertibles or carried by surfers clad in board shorts or bikinis. My eagle-eyed spouse actually spotted an old “woody.” He also ogled the girls heading for the beach. (He’s driving. He’s supposed to have his eyes on the road.)

As expected, traffic was bumper to bumper through the downtowns and if they were within a few blocks of the beach, not a parking place was to be found. Where PCH parallels the ocean through undeveloped areas, cars lined both sides of the highway. Families with picnic baskets and beach chairs waited to cross to get to the sand.

It’s been a few years since I walked barefoot through the hot sand, making a beeline for the water’s edge to cool my burning soles. Splashing in the waves and watching children just above the water line making sand castles is something I miss. While beaches are within an hour’s drive in Northern California where I live, the water is just too cold for swimming. Not so, in Southern California, where I grew up.

Back on the road we passed old landmarks I remembered from family trips to Del Mar. An enormous Victorian mansion in Carlsbad that once held a busy chicken dinner restaurant now seems to be the home of several businesses. At least it has survived. I looked for giant chickens on the corners of the lot, but didn’t see any. Did they once exist or was my mind playing tricks on me?

In another town, we passed an arch with a gold painted dome that was alongside the road. I never knew what it was for, but it still exists, as did the train depots, some of which are still used for ticketing.

As we passed through Camp Pendleton, once the vast Rancho Santa Margarita y Los Flores, we saw San Onofre, another surfing place mentioned in the Beach Boys’ song. My Dad lived there as a child when it had a cluster of houses, now gone. He said the house—his grandmother’s—was haunted. Maybe it was an old surfer “catching a wave.”

Most of my trips to San Diego have been by boat. Driving the old PCH was fun. But as we crawled through traffic back onto the crowded freeway that is sorely in need of more lanes I was also reminded why we chose not to live there anymore.

2 thoughts on “California Dreamin’”

  1. Pam, your journey brings back such memories! I loved my time living “behind the Orange curtain” as friend Michael used to say, and I also miss those toes-in-the-sand days in So Cal.

    The golden dome you mentioned is the entrance to one of the Self-Realization Fellowship locations founded by guru Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920.

    Some of the SRF tenents are: to advocate cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West through an exchange of their finest distinctive features, to overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, and ignorance by wisdom. They are nice people, and hold meditative retreats in several locations.

  2. I lived in San Juan Capistrano till about 1989, in a little development with a stream throughout and a lake called Village San Juan. It was right next to the freeway, and honestly, even back then it was stop and go traffic all weekend on the freeway. I wonder if opening up the highway/freeway to Laguna Beach cleared up any of it, or just ruined more of the lovely landscapes?

    By the time I left hubby #1 and headed for Seattle with the kidlet in tow, I was so sick of seeing hills scraped off and packed with more and more and more cookie-cutter houses…and all the while homes in Laguna Beach were sliding down the (previously scraped off) hills every time it rained.

    So I can well believe you hit beaucoup traffic! But I bet you had a fabulous time at the conference.


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