Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

“How many bikes?” asked the guy at Big Sur Adventures.

“Just one,” I said.

“You alone?”

“Yep.”

Jimmy had just left on a 3-day dudes only backpacking trip. I was ready for an adventure of my own. I’d heard about this pop-up electric bike rental biz that opened after last winter’s storms left a section of Highway 1 closed so I went down on a whim. “Good timing,” the guy said as I signed my forms. When the road reopens on October 14, he said, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will disappear faster than the mist in the Big Sur redwoods.

The Mercury News said biking through Big Sur with no traffic was like visiting the Louvre on a private tour. I was excited. It was an epic Indian summer day—80 degrees. I had to park in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, then hike in 30 minutes through the campgrounds and steepish trail to reach the pop up.

With beefy tires and an electric motor, my Rad Rover power bike was a cross between a mountain bike and a moped. (Love Rad’s slogan: The ebike that makes you feel like a kid again. So true!) The bike had an easy learning curve. I felt like much less of a dork than the time we rented Segways in Golden Gate Park and got flipped off by all the locals.

The suggested route was 18 miles round trip — out to Julia Pfeiffer State Park and back. Sounds like a trek but totally do-able because the e-bikes have pep.  And even with five levels of pedal assist, pedaling is involved so you get a decent workout.

I snaked around Highway 1’s curves with a bird’s eye of the blue green coves and thrashing waves. The redwood trees smelled fresh and clean. Having the whole highway to myself was amazing. I shared the road with maybe 20 cars during my ride. A smile was plastered to my face the entire afternoon.

In no time I had traveled nine miles to iconic Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where far below sat a stunning white sand beach. McWay Falls Waterfall poured into a cove with the prettiest aquamarine water I’ve ever seen.

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The guys at the shop said the beach was inaccessible, but anyone who knows me knows I can not be near a river, stream, lake or ocean without submerging. I looked all over for a way to get down that treacherous cliff, the one that said “STAY OFF! DANGER!” 

A wooden observation pathway curved teasingly along the cliff. As I walked it, I thought there has to be a way down. I found one way but the terrain looked sketchy plus I would have had to navigate a rocky outcropping at the bottom to get to the beach/waterfall. Every ounce of me wanted in that water. Then I saw the ILLEGAL sign and cooled my jets.

On the way out I chatted with two nice chicks in their 30s from San Francisco. We fangirled over how the pretty water was, etc. Then one asked, “Are you alone?”

“Yep.” 

Soon I started back, waving at other e-bikers as we passed. Being so isolated from the mass of humanity was heaven for a crowd-avoidant person like me. It was almost 5 pm but still warm and sunny. The guys at the shop told me to look out for a dirt pullout and green gate leading down to Partington Cove. “Can I go in the water there?” I’d asked.

No, they said, the cove was too rocky and dangerous.  Yada yada yada.  I locked my bike at the gate and hiked down the quick but steep trail, passing a few bikers walking up. At the bottom I found myself alone in a remote cove. The water was definitely not Julia Pfeiffer Caribbean blue –more like bong water brown, littered with big blobs of seaweed and lots of rocks.

But the only child/rule breaker in me said: You are going to get in that water even if it kills you

Then the words of the guys at the bike place echoed in my ears…it’s really rocky…We wouldn’t advise it….

I pictured myself eating it or getting trapped under a boulder. If anything happened it would be after dark when they noticed I hadn’t returned my bike, then they would have no way of seeing my bike from the road. I did not want to recreate my own version of “127 Hours”  with me in the James Franco role.

Hot, sweaty and defeated, I looked around. Nearby a pithy waterfall gurgled its way into the cove. I stripped down to my bikini, plopped into the 4 inches of water, awkwardly leaned back, and let the cool water tinkle over my head.

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While sun drying on a rock afterward, I  looked closely at the seaweed blobs. They looked just like… SEA OTTERS. Then I remembered after the bike guys told me I’d die if I went into the rocky cove, they said to look for sea otters. There must have been 50 baby sea otters bobbing in the waves. At least I think that’s what they were. Still not positive but bringing bino’s next time for sure. 

I had to return my bike by 7 p.m. so I hustled up the trail, hopped on my bike and rode to Nepenthe, the Big Sur institution perched 800 feet above the ocean. The last time I’d been there was with Mary Jubb, who passed away a few years ago. We were high school juniors road tripping down 1 to go check out UCSB. Mary ordered the roast chicken, I remembered, and we probably tried to order Barcardi cocktails and got shut down. I sat there with that glorious view, those sweet Mary memories and that killer glass of Chard, and soaked up the moment.

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On the dusky mile ride back I did not see another soul. Zooming those curves, damp hair drying in the warm evening, I felt like the last person on earth. A few bikes were left in the Nepenthe lot as I left, including the two women I’d seen back at Julia Pfeiffer. We talked again about the amazing day and they asked me to let the rental guys know they were running a few minutes late.

I returned my bike and began hiking back to my car. The sky soon darkened but I flicked on my trusty iPhone flashlight. The road threaded through campsites with tents and families sitting around fires. The smell of oak and eucalyptus drifted through the air. It was all good until suddenly I found myself walking down a dark deserted road with no idea where my car was. The trees rustled and everything was eerily quiet.

Just then two figures came walking toward me from the opposite direction. Silhouetted against the black forest I imagined two big hairy ax murders. They came closer, oh my god. Forget “127 Hours,” I was going to star in “Nightmare on State Park Street.”  I start to freak… soon we were face to face. Relief flooded me when I realized it was the SF women I’d chatted up throughout the day.

“Oh hey, you lost too?” they asked.

Map in hand we crunched through the trees together. They told me they recently completed grad school and this was their last blast before starting careers as mid wives.

Miraculously we stumbled our way through the forest, crossed a bridge and stumbled into deserted Lot 4 where our two cars waited.

“What’s your name?” asked Midwife 1.

“Kim.”

“Kim, it’s so cool you said ‘Peace Out’ to your husband and did this alone,” Midwife 2 said.

I laughed and told them I’d quite enjoyed my own company. 

We hugged it out and got in our cars.

Truthfully I was surrounded by a bunch of baby otters (I think?), a couple of midwives, Mary Jubb and best of all, the gorgeous Big Sur scenery.

I hadn’t been alone. Not at all.

How to do Oahu Like a Local

Whenever I arrive anywhere tropical, I’m always jonesing to jump in the ocean. That’s why, right after landing on Oahu earlier this summer, we hit Waikiki beach. After years of bribing and threatening, Jimmy and I are stoked Tanner & Saxon finally love to surf. (Although I do not love how they constantly tell me what a crappy paddler I am and how I need Jimmy to slingshot me into waves.)

We hooked up with legendary pro surfer Hans Hedemann. Hans is Oahu born, owns two surf schools (Waikiki and Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore), and is super down to earth. He took us to a mellow spot called “Sandbar” toward the Honolulu zoo end of Waikiki.

The water is so warm and aqua. And you can surf in a bikini! The view—Diamond Head, the highrises and iconic pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel was gorgeous—and gliding over that turquoise glass made me feel giddy.

I tried to get some scoop from Hans about his time on the world tour but he was tight lipped.

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Hans throwing out some Risky Business vibes in the ’80s.

He did tell me that he gave Cameron Diaz lessons twice a day for an entire month, and she got so good, by the end he was taking her out into juicy double overhead surf. He also told us about his son, Johann, a musician who attends the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  Jimmy, the bros and I caught a ton of “party waves.”  We even surfed alongside an outrigger canoe on a few waves. After a few hours, we got out of the water all salty and blissed out, and walked past Kuhio Beach Park where locals were hosting grad party BBQs. I asked Hans if I was ready for juicy surf like Cameron.

“Not yet,” he laughed.

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That’s Mr. Hedemann on the right.

With the smell of plumeria and teri chicken wafting through the air, we hopped in the car. As we drove off, Hans’ son, Johann (aka Johann Beach), played us out…Listen to Johann’s perfect post-surf sesh song, “Girl Crazy” here.

One of the best things about visiting Oahu was hanging with our good friend, Rich and his family. We’ve known Rich since junior high and his personality has definitely improved with age.

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Next, it was off to the windward side of Oahu to Kailua with Team Erickson.

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Kailua Beach is postcard pretty. I always feel like I could stay out in the water forever doing handstands and splashing around. The sand is soft and white, palm trees sway in the tradewinds, and the beach is dotted with an eclectic mix of people and dogs including Charlie, the amazing camouflaging Golden Doodle.

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After our beach day,  Jules took me around Kailua, and showed me all the hotspots.

Aloha Suprette was my fave.

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A superette is a New Zealand term for a small supermarket or convenience store. The gem of a boutique features unique wares by different artists. The jewelry draped over chunks of coral and cute neon-trimmed beach togs had me drooling.

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I was obsessed with this fuchsia surfboard by Travis Reynolds, a Santa Cruz surfer/artist/shaper. Alas, it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase…

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Luckily, this cool piece did.

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  Travis upcycled leftover surfboard fiberglass to make the “canvas,” even splattering it with neon resin. Reminds me of surfer spin art.

Another happening ‘hood is Monsarrat Avenue near the base of Diamond Head. There are Acai bowl places and juice joints, the order-at-the counter Diamond Head Market with freshly made scones, passion fruit cheesecake and pickled mango by the pint. By far our favorite spot was ARS Cafe. With vintage vinyl spinning on the record player and  industrial chic decor, this espresso/coffee/gelato/art gallery is a charming spot to chill.

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The avocado toast is a must. The soft bread is so flavorful and comes smothered with beets, arugula, avocado and a poached egg.

Later, it was time to venture into Waikiki. We arrived at House Without a Key at the Halekulani Hotel just in time for sunset. Under a pinky blue abalone shell sky, a trio of musicians played the ukulele and sang about a yellow ginger lei while a hula dancer swayed gracefully.

Could there be a more quintessential Hawaiian experience? Honestly, I think these are the tastiest Mai Tais on the planet. They have the perfect tart to sweet ratio and a little sugar cane swizzle stick you can chomp on. (Try the recipe here.)

I could have pounded 10 so it’s a good thing we had to dash—it was time for dinner.

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 Tiki torches licking the black sky, we took the beach route passing a dude with a metal detector sifting the now cool Waikiki sands for treasure—classic!—to a swell little boutique hotel in Waikiki called the Surf Jack and Swim Club.

It’s the coolest vintage-y hotel. Their motto is “Bringing soul back to Waikiki.” Walk into the covered lobby and the first thing you see is this swimming pool inscribed with “Wish You Were Here”…

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The center of the hotel is open air so you look up at a starry sky. On the platform bar area above the pool area are cute little cabanas where you can party semi-privately, and on the upper ten floors, 112 guest rooms which seem reasonably priced.

We ate at the hotel’s restaurant, Machina & Sons.

Great food even if the shaka wall paper nauseated poor Jules.
Great food, company and decor. Check out the Shaka wall paper!

Next, it was on to the North Shore. The North Shore is relaxed and lush. Locals have managed to keep it country. Hans has a surf school at Turtle Bay so once again, we hit the waves. Here, Jimmy gives Kelly Slater a run for his world title.

 We cruised into Haleiwa for sushi and window shopping. When we arrived at Matsumoto’s for shave ice, the line snaked out the door and deep into the courtyard. Jimmy wanted to bail. I thought there was no way this place could live up to its hype.

Guess what?

This shave ice is legit. Watching the women create perfect snowballs from an ice block, then drizzle it with tropical flavors—mango, papaya, lilikoi, yes please! and the piece de resistance a touch of sweet condensed milk—was mesmerizing. Plus the taste was nirvana.

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In the end, we didn’t want to leave. Oahu feels so much less touristy even though it’s supposedly the most touristy isle of all. There are fun new restaurants and hotels to explore, along with old school institutions.

After grabbing some tuberose leis from the airport stands, back we headed to the mainland.

Still thinking about all the fun we had and missing these cute little mango sellers.

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Muscle Beach!

Debbie Downer Does San Diego

Tanner and I were flying down south for a musical theater audition at SDSU. I saw the sojourn as the perfect mother-son bonding opportunity. After all, I had to milk every moment before he left for college.

“Don’t mess up, Kimmy,” Jimmy said before we left. “I need you on your A-game.”

We arrived to unseasonably warm mid-February weather. Everyone was in a glorious mood. Everyone except Tanner. Buds jammed in his ears, eyes glued to his phone, he totally ignored me.

On the morning of the BIG DAY, I ran through the La Jolla Cove where we celebrated our boy’s first birthday with a cookout and cupcakes 18 years ago.

We celebrated his very first birthday at the Cove so I tapped the same picnic table for good audition luck.

How quickly the years passed. Anticipating life without Tanner belting show tunes and dirtying every pan with his muscle man meals made me feel blue.

Tanner’s audition wasn’t until four so after my run I suggested lunch at Puesta taqueria in downtown La Jolla.

After we sat down, I pointed across the street. “There’s my favorite restaurant, Herringbone.”

“Hrrmmp,” he said. “More like Pricey-bone.”

“This menu sure looks good!” I said.

“Uh-oh,” Tanner said. “‘Not guaranteed to be cooked in a gluten free environment’—NOT good.’”

“If we alert the waitress, I’m sure she’ll be on it.”

“Achoooooo!” Tanner sneezed. “Oh no, I think I”m catching a cold!

Womp. Womp. Who was I dining with? Debbie Downer?
Womp. Womp. Who the heck was I dining with–Debbie Downer?

I chalked Tanner’s grumpy mood up to pre-audition nerves and tried to keep the mood sunny.

Speaking of sunny, Windansea Beach was a few blocks away. I proposed a quick post-lunch swim to help dry his stuffy nose.

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I bodysurfed in the warm water. Tanner sat on the beach checking his watch.

“We should go,” he yelled.

“Five more minutes!” I pleaded.

We returned to the hotel with plenty of time. Blissed out from the beach, I leisurely ironed his chino’s while he lingered in the shower. By the time we climbed in the car, it was 3:15. I felt a twinge of panic.

It’ll be tight but we’ll make it, I thought…until we pulled out of the hotel driveway. It took fifteen tortuous minutes just to crawl one mile onto the freeway ramp. SD traffic had become as brutal as LA’s.

Tanner was livid. Smoke was pouring from his ears.
Tanner was livid. Smoke was pouring from his ears.

And who could blame him?

How could I be so irresponsible? How could I misjudge rush hour traffic? Why couldn’t the beach have waited until after his audition? Jimmy’s pep talk echoed in my ears, Don’t mess up, A-game Kimmy.

As we merged onto the 52, I prayed for empty lanes only to find a river of red brake lights. It was now 3:40. And SDSU was still fifteen miles away.

“We’re NOT gonna make it,” Tanner said. “If I’m late, I WILL NOT go to my audition.”

Inside I was freaking out. Tanner’s slot was 4:00 to 4:10—exactly enough time to perform two monologues and 32 bars of “I Chose Right” from Baby. There were no other audition days. No other weekends. This was Tanner’s big chance.

Then an idea hit. “Pull up the audition email on your phone,” I said. “We can call the theatre department.”

“It’ll never work!” he said.

“We have to try!”

He dialed the number on speaker.

1st ring—we are so screwed.

2nd ring—NO way anyone is going to answer the Friday  before President’s Day weekend.

3rd ring—Tanner is never going to forgive me.

Fourth ring—Click. “Hello?”

Then some guy, no, some Saint named Peter answered. St. Peter told Tanner, “No problem, we’ll squeeze you in when you get here.”

We screeched in at 4:25 and Tanner bolted for the Don Powell Theater.

He found me after his audition, ecstatic. “They were scribbling notes during my song. I think they liked me.”

Relief washed over me like the aqua waves at Windansea.

In the car, we cranked Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True” and sang at the top of our lungs. We were BONDING. Finally!

The following morning, Valentine’s Day, I woke yet again to grumpy Tanner.

I brunched alone at Caroline’s Cafe; he stayed in bed checking his Twitter.

Sitting on the deck overlooking La Jolla Shores, I noticed a cute towhead nearby smothering his mother in syrupy pancake kisses. Melancholy crept back in. I envied her. Time with her adoring child stretched before her endlessly like the white sand below while mine was vanishing.

I was excited for Tanner to begin this new chapter, but part of me wished he could stay.

I returned to the hotel and we packed. Tanner surprised me when he suggested a quick boogie boarding session at the Shores.

We hustled to the beach and rode waves side by side, meeting in the swirl of white water. I looked over at Tanner, his lips curled into an excited O, audition behind him, not a care in the world. My heart swelled.

Twenty minutes later he called, “We better get going. We don’t want to miss our flight.”

I did not beg for one more wave.

Okay, maybe just one.

But as I glided across that last wave, a sheet of celadon glass, I thought maybe instead of regarding our time with our children as finite, we should think of those bonds as constantly shifting, yet always there. Like the sand and sea.

***

Last weekend we took Tanner to SD for good, of course narrowly avoiding missing our 8 a.m. flight.

“I’m going to miss you guys,” he said, “but I’m gonna love never being late for anything again.”

Gonna miss you too, Waz.
Gonna miss you too, Waz.

Bunny Cakes

Tanner’s girlfriend, Blaire, has to be the coolest chick ever. Prom was only six days away, and Tanner still hadn’t officially asked her. Blaire hadn’t uttered a peep but I was getting antsy.

I’ve been obsessed with Prom Asks (aka “Promposals”) since I wrote this for the LG Patch and discovered boys go all out when it comes to procuring a prom date these days. Scavenger hunts, mid-class serenades, Post-it covered cars. One kid at Tanner’s school even got help from Walter Freakin’ White (watch the youtube here). “Stefan’s proposal made all the major TV outlets for God’s sake!” I said. “We gotta get on this!”

Tanner couldn’t be bothered. He was busy pumping iron, playing X-Box and d*cking around as usual.

Lucky for him, we had an ace in the hole: Jimmy Ratcliff, master baker. A few years back Jimmy made Saxon the coolest SpongeBob Squarepants cake ever, so I threw down the gauntlet.

Let’s make Blaire a bunny cake!  She loves bunnies, especially her pet bunny, Marlowe.

Meet Marlowe, the world's most adorable bunny.
Meet Marlowe, world’s most adorable bunny.

So while Tanner was working hard at school d*cking around in APES class, Jimmy rushed home between patients to bake Blaire a cake.

Jimmy begins performing his bunnyectomy. haha! Get it? Foot doctor--Bunionectomy?
Jimmy gets busy performing his bunnyectomy. haha! Get it? Foot doctor–Bunionectomy?

As he performed surgery on the bunny’s ear which broke mid-transfer, I, his trusty assistant, asked why he liked making cakes.

“There’s something cathartic about it,” he said.

First, Jimmy iced the bunny a frothy, fluffy white.

Then he gave him Junior Mint peepers, and a pink Jelly Belly nose. After carefully cutting out a paper mold, Jimmy sprinkled the inner ears with pink glitter candy.

With surgeon-like precision, Jimmy uses forceps to finesse the black licorice whiskers.
With surgeon-like precision, Jimmy used forceps to finesse the bunny’s black licorice whiskers.

After school Tanner made a hot pink sign to go with the cake,”I NEED SOMEBUNNY TO GO TO PROM. YOU DOWN?”

Shakespeare got nothing on home boy.

It wasn’t Bryan Cranston and I doubt we made CNN’s ticker, but hey, low-key is how the Ratty Pack rolls.

Then we raced over to Blaire’s. Tanner put the bunny cake on her door step and hid in the bushes. He even let me stalk them from the neighbor’s yard.

Blaire loved her cake, and we, I mean, Tanner felt such a sense of accomplishment when she said yes.

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When we got home, we, I mean, Tanner was on a promposal high. “Gotta go work out at the gym, hashtag gains,” he said. “Later ‘nade.”

Luckily Saxon was chilling at his desk. “Listen. I have the BEST idea for your junior prom ask next year. What you’re gonna do is take your girl to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk on the Skyglider…”

“So far so good,” he said.

“Then on the car in front you can put a sign up that says ‘PROM?’ and when you get off, I’ll be waiting right at the bottom with a bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cid—”

“Wait—what?” he interrupted. “You’re gonna be there? I don’t think so.”

Maybe one proposal will have to last this Momzilla a lifetime.

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The Old Man & the Sea

If you know Jimmy, then you know tends to be a tad full of himself. He’s always posing shirtless for photos, and boasting about his latest triathlon P.R. (personal record).

“I bring it!” he’ll say. Or “Kim, you’re over your skis with me!” And of course, his trademark flex/brag combo, “Have you ever seen a 49-year-old this yoked?”

Recently something terrible happened. Jimmy turned 50. And like Ethan Hunt’s tape, his ego was dangerously close to self destructing.

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It was time for a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

Tanner & Saxon threw down the gauntlet… “Yo bro, you need to catch 50 waves for your 50th b-day.”

“Fiddy for fiddy?” he asked. “BRING IT!”

So, Jimbo hopped a plane with his over-her-skis wife (me!) and two teenage sons and headed to Cabo to try and reach his goal of catching 50 waves in 3 days.

Our hotel of choice, Cabo Surf, was located in front of a surf break called “Old Man’s”—how perfect is that?

As soon as we checked in, Jimmy was on it! He slipped into hibiscus print board shorts. No wetsuit necessary—not when the water was a balmy 73 degrees. Just a thin rash guard to prevent chaffing.

Cabo Surf is home to the Mike Doyle Surf School. Along with co-inventing the boogie board, Mike was a champion surfer and paddler in the ’60s. He hung in Malibu with the original Gidget gang. We kept our eyes peeled for him from the get go.

Mike Doyle, Hermosa Beach circa 1963,
“Tiki” Mike Doyle, Hermosa Beach circa 1963,

That first afternoon was windy with texture on the water. Jimmy easily caught 10 waves—1/5 of his quotient. “Not much competition,” he sniffed. “Frankly, I’m more ripped than all these young bucks a quarter my age.”

Located in the center of the resort overlooking the surf, it's the optimal spot to relax after a grueling sesh.
Located in the center of the hotel overlooking the surf, the jacuzzi is the optimal spot to relax after a sesh.

 

With only 36 nicely appointed rooms, the Cabo Surf has an intimate, laid-back feel. Boards are propped against banana trees and cocopalms, and from dawn until dusk there’s a constant trickle of guests, boards tucked under their arms, cruises across the grounds headed for the sea.

On our first day, I awoke at 8 to find Jimmy’s side of the bed empty. Seconds later he came into the room dripping saltwater, clad in his rasta board shorts which perfectly reflected his chill mood. He’d dawn patrolled it, notching another 5 waves in his surf wax case. He was up to 15, and feeling quite confident. “There was some ‘Ed’ wearing lame reef booties trying to snake me, but I shut him down,” Jimmy boasted over huevos rancheros and gluten free French toast at 7 Seas, the hotel’s open-air restaurant.

After breakfast we headed out for a family surf sesh. It was relatively uncrowed—there were beginners taking lessons, local chicks who ripped, and assorted groms. The vibe was mellow and the break has multiple take off points. Unlike other more punishing spots, Old Man’s has a steep wave, but wipe outs are soft and forgiving.  We caught tons of fun party waves.

After a few hours, we took a break. Twenty-three waves in, Jimmy gloated, “I could have caught way more, but I was in instructor mode with you guys.”  Thanks, dude.

We were kicking back on the beach reading our books when we noticed Jimmy’s ripped six-pack was looking more like a seven-pack.

“Dad! It looks like you have a tumor!” Saxon grimaced. Turns out all that board-on-bone contact caused Jimmy’s previously broken rib, an old surf injury, to become inflamed. We started calling him Frankenstein Rib, Frankenrib, then finally McRib for short.

 

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After reading a few chapters and tossing around the football, Jimmy announced he was heading back out for another sesh, his 3rd of the day.

“McRib, you better chill!” we warned.

But Jimmy ignored us. “Oh yeah, you only wish you could be this studly when you’re 50,” he said.

 

I was content to chill on the beach with a Modelo.
I was content to wriggle my toes in the  sand.

By the end of our second day we still hadn’t seen Mike Doyle. He splits his time between SoCal and Cabo, but the supposedly the legendary waterman was in town. I wondered if we’d ever see him in the flesh.

Speaking of flesh, Jimmy accidentally squirted a wedge of lime meant for his happy hour cerveza on his chafed inner thighs. Which didn’t make him so happy. “Sh*t!” he yelled. “That hurt!” Hmm, I wondered.  Was the old man starting to crack?

 The next day was picture perfect. The ocean fanned out before us like a peacock’s tail in stunning shades of cobalt, turquoise and aqua. We had a dream session riding the soft, fun waves. Counting his dawn patrol and our family sesh, Jimmy’s total wave count catapulted to 37!

He had 13 to go. We were leaving the next morning. Who knew what the surf would be like? It could be flat, it could be blown out. McRib could not risk defeat, so he three-peated yet again, dragging himself out for a sunset surf. By the end of the day Jimmy had reached 47.

He came in utterly exhausted, self-medicated with three Modelos and a bottle of cab, and passed out.

He only had three waves left but I wondered: Could he make his goal? Could he bring it?

On our  last morning,  Jimmy stepped gingerly into his Greg Knoll-style black-and-white-striped jailhouse board shorts, a fitting choice as he was in a prison of pain. He shuffled across the room, elbows and knees raw burger, deformed rib protrudint like an angry pink beet. Speckled with blood, his thighs looked as though they’d been sanded with extra coarse paper. He was shark bait.

The teens and I paddled out with him in solidarity. The swell had definitely died down. Jimmy scrapped for one wave. Then another. 49! “Dad! One more to go!” Tanner hooted. Thirty minutes passed. The clock was ticking. From out of nowhere a set came barreling in, and finally Jimmy scored his 50th wave.

As we paddled in, we passed a man with piercing blue eyes, broad muscular shoulders, his big hands cupping the water like oars. Mike Doyle.

From the jacuzzi we watched Mike catch the longest, most effortless wave of our trip. Glding gracefully across the bay, he cross stepped up and down his board from tip to tail, looking every bit surf royalty at 73 years old.

“Oh man! I’m gonna bring it like Mike when I’m 73,” Jimmy boasted.

Jimmy may have a broken rib but his ego will remain invincible until the end of time.

Go, 'Nade, go!
Go, Ed, go!

 

 

 

 

 

Bieberlocks and the Three Colleges

IMG_3897Once upon a time there was a high school junior named BieberlocksIt was time to start thinking about colleges, but Beiberlocks’ parents worried he didn’t have eye of the tiger. Everyone was stressing about SAT’s and GPA’s and AP’s—that was everyone except for Bieberlocks. He just sat around tossing his blonde mane, playing Grand Theft Auto, strumming Sweater Weather on his guitar. 

Then along came winter break. Mama and Papa arranged a little SoCal college tour in hopes of lighting a fire under Bieberlocks’ butt. 

First they visited Chapman University. Intimate and charming, located south of L.A. in the quaint town of Orange, Chapman boasts state-of-the-art Dodge College of Film & Media Arts. 

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There were grassy lawn as far as the eye could see, piazzas with gurgling fountains, even an artfully displayed chunk of the Berlin Wall.  Mama smelled the orange blossoms wafting through campus. “Oh, I like this school,” she exclaimed. “I really do.” But when the perky tour guide said Papa would have to pony up $50K a year, he growled, “TOO EXPENSIVE!” 

“Anyway, it’s TOO SMALL,” complained Beiberlocks when he heard the student population was only 5,000.  Mama was heartbroken. She envisioned Beiberlocks becoming a famous screenwriter and thanking her from the podium at the Oscars. But when she passed a bust of Ronald Reagan on the way out, a shiver ran down Mama’s spine, and she said under her breath, “TOO REPUBLICAN.” 

Next, the trio visited University of San Diego. Located on a hill with sweeping views of Mission Bay, the university features Spanish architecture, fabulous succulent arrangements, and a library study nook straight out of Hogwarts. There was even a five-star restaurant with valet parking for co-eds with really rich parents, which unfortunately was not the case with Bieberlocks.

Luckily, Bieberlocks did not dig USD. “TOO SLEEPY,” he said.

“TOO TRAFFIC-Y,” agreed Mama, noticing the shuttles and traffic coursing through the campus thoroughfare.

“TOO EXPENSIVE,” growled Papa.  

And so they headed up the 8, past Mission Valley and Hotel Circle to San Diego State. Mama worried that this school was too big for Bieberlocks. She hadn’t been back since the ’80s, and barely recognized her alma mater. “IT’S SO DIFFERENT!” she gasped. Instead of a Walkman, every student had a cell phone glued to his ear. The crunchy health food store she’d frequented in the Student Union had been replaced by a Starbucks 

Bieberlocks took one look at the hot co-eds soul cycling in the mack daddy fitness center with the 50-foot climbing wall, and the bronzed bros long boarding through campus, and he said, “JUST RIGHT!”

Mama looked at the tropical campus, lush with banana trees and birds of paradise. She thought about surfing in the warm La Jolla waters while visiting Bieberlocks. SDSU even offered a Film/Business major. Maybe she’d go to the Oscars after all. Mama smiled and said, “JUST RIGHT!”

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And when he heard the $20K price tag, Papa, too, said,  “JUST RIGHT!”  Then he told mama she better start job hunting STAT.

Bieberlocks was so ecstatic at the thought of attending such a fine institution he promised to NEVER play Grand Theft Auto again, and spend ALL his time studying for the SAT’s and making straight A’s.

Well, not really. That would truly be a fairytale.

Where will Bieberlocks wind up? Stay tuned. After all, there are more colleges to explore. Can’t you just hear it now…

Colorado State University? “TOO STONEY!”

UC Santa Cruz? “TOO SLUGGY!”

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UC Santa Barbara? “TOO MUCH TALENT!” 

The Dream Inn: Stoner’s Paradise

Post-holiday blahs got you down? A getaway to the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, might be just the “medicine” to lift your spirits!

Each room has an ocean view, a mini-bar stocked with Marini’s salt water taffy, and a photograph of the Ferris Wheel which you can ride right down the way at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Santa Cruz’s premier hotel is just a fun, beachy hang. It also happens to be the destination of choice for discriminating stoners everywhere. Let me explain…

When we visited over New Year’s, the first thing we did was crack open the sliding glass doors. Immediately the crashing waves and salty sea air filled our room delighting our senses….but wait. What was that other scent wafting in from the balcony?

Was it W-E-E-D?

Why, yes, it was. And we’re not talking a faint hint of ganja. We are talking full-on, back-of-Spicoli’s-van, mushroom cloud of Cannabis smoke.

Who was staying next door—

SnoopLion

Freakin’ Snoop Lion?

“This happens every single time we stay at the Dream Inn,” I remarked.

 “What do you expect?” said Saxon. “It’s Santa Cruz.” He had a point.

 That night we chilled in the room while Saxon commandeered the remote. He made us watch some super lame Lifetime movie called “The Other Woman.” It stared Winnie from the “The Wonder Years.” We had just settled into our double beds when suddenly there was that smell again.

Not sure if it was the contact high or Winnie’s crappy acting, but soon I was snoozing away. Suddenly a loud noise awoke me with a startle. “MOM!” Saxon yelled. “QUIT snoring! You sound like a leaf blower!”

“Sorry,” I said, readjusting my sleep mask and rolling over.

The next morning our neighbor decided to wake ‘n’ bake, and that sweet, earthy scent permeated our room yet again. No worries, mon. We were up and at ’em anyway. One of the best things about staying at the Dream Inn is walking along West Cliff Drive, checking out the surfers at Steamer Lane.

Somehow our friend, Dwain Christensen, makes the SC H20 look warm and inviting in his gorgeous photos. We're here to tell you that water is freakin' cold!
This is Andrew Christensen shredding. Somehow his dad, Dwain’s gorgeous photos make the SC H20 look balmy…We’re here to tell you that water is freezing!


We are beginners (well, except for Jimmy “Kelly Slater” Ratcliff) so we stick to the long, smooth Waikiki-style “party waves” at Cowell’s in front of the Dream Inn.

Before heading to the hotel’s restaurant for post-surf huevos rancheros, we dashed up to the room to change. “MOM, noooooo!” Tanner shielded his eyes from my bra-and-underwear-clad body as if avoiding a total eclipse of the sun.  “THANKS A LOT! Now I’m scarred for life.” We’ve always shared a room with the boys, but like a whiff of sour milk to the nairs, I realized this cozy arrangement had probably reached its expiration date.

We accompanied Tanner and his burned retina down to Aquarius, stopping to check out the new Jack O’Neill Lounge. Adjacent to the Dream Inn’s Aquarius restaurant (site of the first O’Neill surf shop), the cozy space features memorabilia and cool photos…

Jack became Santa Cruz royalty after inventing the wetsuit.
Jack became Santa Cruz royalty after inventing the wetsuit.

Our second night was a deja vu~the waves crashed, Saxon tortured us with more Lifetime schlock, I got yelled at again for snoring, and Snoop Lion sparked yet another spliff. Good times.

The best thing about the Dream Inn is how relaxed you feel when you get home. We chuckled while recounting our stoney stay to our surfer friend, Larry. Not surprisingly, Larry said the same thing happened to his family once. Only his wife called the front desk to complain, and got some money shaved off their bill. Truthfully the smell doesn’t bother us. It’s part of the charm, like the sandy lobby floor and wetsuits draped over the balconies. In fact, I can’t wait to visit again. But next time I’m gonna coin up for two rooms. That way I can snore and walk around in my skivvies to my heart’s content.

Hope your New Year is sweet!
Hanging in the Jack O’Neill Lounge.

Hope your new year is SWEET!

Love,

The Ratty Pack