Flight booked, no rental car, no real knowledge of where we were headed: Laura, Rodina, and I were going to fly to Santa Ana (John Wayne Airport) day after Christmas to retire briefly from the Colorado weather.
That (cold) night, Laura’s car, with a failing fuel pressure sensor (as it turned out), stopped on the way to Rodina’s house about three times, slowing down traffic a bit. By the time we picked up Rodina, we had not stalled for a mile (!) and thought the car roadworthy. About five minutes later, we stalled, and this time two cars full of friendly cannot-get-enough-of-this-cold-weather people stopped to push us off the road. These people, who were out driving around Federal and 92nd, were harbingers of the type we’d meet throughout our trip—kind, not monied, just happy to help. Once the car started, we went back for Rodina’s car.
(About 30 photos and more words follow.)
All this stopping and backtracking got us to the airport in just enough time to run to the gate, board, wait while the plane was delayed,
and finally fly in, with an approach from the ocean (to prevent the wind from flipping us over, I assume).
The first night’s let’s-get-oriented motel was nice, with a hot tub and pool we didn’t use. Well, we used the hot tub a bit. By mid-morning, Laura had lost her phone and, although she hadn’t gone into the hot tub, she found it sitting under water, fully submerged for the past hour—from the time she had gone out to feel the hot tub’s water temperature.
So her phone spent the rest of its vacation in a box of rice, with unsuccessful results.
Being There (Newport Transit Center)
We took a bus (57) to the Newport Transit Center, a juncture from which we could go up or down the coast, our friendly driver suggesting that for ragamuffins (he thought, but didn’t say), going north toward Sunset Beach might afford cheaper lodgings. He used the word, “funky.”
The transit center where he let us off is adjacent to a small park, and the city hall and library.
The park involved a sphere,
a thinking thing,
a foot bridge,
that overlooked some rabbits,
a bigger rabbit,
and a library that, being closed on Dec. 31st (as we noticed on our way back to the airport), enflamed Laura’s wrath. She could not accept the fact that city workers had the day off while we were loitering on their grounds.
Sunset Beach, the destination the first bus driver suggested, began to recede into an imaginary space. Rodina had located a motel for only $65 a night in Sunset Beach, a price that had surprised even the driver. My heart was set on it. But, while we were going north along the shore on Bus #1, Rodina discovered that her motel was in South Carolina. At the same time, a woman on the bus, now about 70 but the real Southern California Thing (former musician and surfer from the heyday of the area) told us Sunset Beach wasn’t any cheaper than Huntington Beach (with motels for $200-$300 a night), and that you had to shuffle your feet beneath the water on Sunset Beach lest you come down on a sting ray.
It was at that moment on the bus toward Sunset Beach that a very friendly fellow named Lenny or Leroy told us to get off in Newport Beach where a friend of his ran an inexpensive motel, the Knotty Pine or something. Obediently, we jumped off the next stop with Lenny, but the friend/manager was not in. Lenny, undaunted, got another guy to come out of his unit. (“He’ll set you up….”) One would think this was the manager, but when he met us, he acted like a disoriented tenant who did not understand Lenny’s enthusiasm. We were told to wait for Duane, the owner. The place looked cheap even by Rodina’s and my standards, and so we settled on the nearby Newport Channel Inn, which, like the Knotty Pine, was a block off the beach (the main thing) and, perhaps unlike the Pine, was clean (another main thing).
We actually did run into Duane, later, and looked at a room in case we might downgrade from our Newport Channel Inn. The room was under repair and had a twin bed (that would be my bed) that struggled to defy gravity (without any extra weight on it). We passed.
Being There (on the beach)
Convalescing from a recent brush with a death-like flu (“so this is why people get those shots…”), I hid out in the Inn.
Meanwhile, Laura and Rodina made many trips, not only down to the beach but into the water, some of the few who did not wear wet suits.
After a long session in the water, they would return to the motel to shower and then return to the beach for the sunset.
A true naturalist, I’d stay back in the room and focus on CSPAN, which has a nearly universal reputation for being exceedingly boring, but certainly not for its airing of the British Parliament. How could anyone tire of hearing the members debate, each one able to sum up a point in two or three sentences, unafraid to contradict the Prime Minster at any particular moment?
My enthusiasm for Westminster in Review did not strike Laura & Rodina as a challenge to the joy of being on the beach, upside down.
In the end, it was Laura in the water
under the providential eye of Rodina.
In spite of Rodina’s nurturing side, toward Laura
and this fuzzy thing,
I recall some competition, including Rodina’s prize-winning 50-yard dash or her ultimate take-down of Laura in the motel room.
But it was at poker that Laura showed her relentless desire to win. The brown paper was redeemable after the game as American currency, which she gathered without even a little remorse of conscience.
With that kind of capital, she could rent a wet suit. The owner of the rental shop next door to our Newport Channel Inn advertised $5 an hour, but when Laura wanted it from 4 PM to 5 PM, he said, “ten in the morning,” a way to make one little swimmer from Colorado happy and avoid a late night at the shop.
One day we saw Duane, again, walking down the street. He exchanged a smile, confirming to us that there was no bad blood between him and those who turned down the offer of his rooms. If there were bad blood, it occurred upon checking out of the Newport Channel Inn. The young man who had checked us in was apparently suffering from amnesia, in that he quoted an entirely different price than the one that lured us in. Only the emergence of the manager, a few years older than the clerk, resolved the impasse. In a flashy red Hawaiian shirt, he said, “Aloha!” and not missing a beat, conceded our point.
Sunset Beach (and beyond)
As we waited for the bus to take us to Sunset Beach (we owed it to the driver of bus 57), Laura saw the clerk from Newport Channel Inn ride a bike past us. She said that she and he made eye contact, and that it demonstrated there was no bad blood. So were were now mentally free to go.
We did make it to Sunshine Beach this last day and thought it a little “funky” in the best sense of the word, but also “funky” in the sense of what a multi-millionaire might enjoy if he or she had a yacht to harbor about a ¼ mile away from the beach in a townhouse with water access.
True to a southern California visit, we went into IN-N-OUT,
and out of IN-N-OUT,
having enjoyed our “veggie burgers,” which amount a hamburger minus the hamburger.
A short trip to the sting-ray beach,
and back onto the bus, where we saw the modern world:
The iPhones and the shoes all matched. I asked Rodina, “What kind of shoes?” She said, “I don’t know.” I said, “I think they are Vans.” She asked the girls, who said, “Vans.”
Not only was I on the top of my fashion game, but I fondly recalled my student Jay Leeuwenburg, a former CU Buff center, whose father was a VP at Vans. This many years later, I was still attuned….
Next to the girls sat a fellow who was selling these (having one sitting next to him on the bus):
An advanced foot scooter, quite compact and good for multiple terrain types, we were interested. But soon only I was interested, when the salesman (who is from Hungary), said to Laura and Rodina, “You can learn to ride it quickly. Even girls can learn within twenty minutes.” Well, all I can say is he’s lucky that Rodina didn’t take him down or that Laura didn’t pull out her poker cards and leave him homeless. Even girls get even.
It was after these events that we re-visited Rabbit Park, as I will always call it. This is where one goes when one finds the public library closed on New Year’s Eve:
Back to the airport for more poker, a slightly more lucrative event this time for me.
Soon, we were
- going through security (where TSA decided to pat down my pony tail),
- onto the plane whose bumpiness unnerved me in the wake of AirAsia Flight 8501,
- safely landed,
- leaving Rodina at her house,
- and in a car that required another nice, cold-weather family to stop for us & jump our battery near Federal Blvd., telling us they’d pray that Laura & I would make it home.