A road trip to remember...
It was 1997 and my roommate Mark and I went splits on a car...$150 each was what we each contributed. It was a white Ford Escort station wagon, with one purpose in mind, it needed to get us from Banff to California and back in a 3 week adventure. We were ski Pros at the time and our season ended May 19th at Sunshine Village in Banff Alberta. We lived and loved the Northern Rockies for its strikingly majestic and intimidating mountains, offering champagne powder throughout a winter and lots of fun backcountry skiing. Finding warmth and thawing our bodies out after a long winter season was the motivation behind our southern surf excursion.
One of the main destinations on our list was San Diego, we were meeting up with clients who we had taught and skied with and they invited us to stay with them at Mammoth mountain for some golf.
We decided to hit Blacks beach for a few days prior to going to Mammoth and set up "camp" in San Diego. By camp, I mean finding what we considered safe streets to park on and sleep in the wagon. The night time ritual was to unfold the map (yes a real map was used on this trip) and it would cover the inside part of our windshield to protect us from enquiring eyes/thieves. We'd roll down the windows and stick a piece of a tshirt or towel and roll them back up to shield the windows from street lights and invaders. Roll back our seats and sleep in the car seats. One night Mark who routinely slept with his feet on the dash of the passenger side, had a bad dream which led to a violent awakening hyper extending his legs kicking the windshield and spidering it in multiple directions. We had to drive the rest of the trip with this semi destroyed windshield that made the car look like a relic from the movie Mad Max. Not luxurious but got the job done for the budget we were rolling on!
The first day we went to Blacks beach was a typical day in SD, there was a little marine layer in the morning which burned off to become a perfect bluebird day, hot and sunny, just what we were looking for! We headed to the cliffs overlooking the beach which had a car park not far from Torrey Pines. We marvelled at the proximity of world class surf beside an amazing public golf course which held US Opens and was one of our favorites to watch on TV. We could only dream of working at a course that offered both surf and golf all in a matter of minutes in a sun destination.
The cars rear tailgate was rusted shut and only one of the rear doors opened so unpacking the car and heading to the beach each day was a bit of a challenge. Hauling the boards in and out without dinging them and packing our day sack of food and drinks became a daily ritual we had become pretty good at. We saw a path that lead straight off the cliff top with a sign that said something along the lines of "Do not enter" or "Enter and Die" something to that effect. Having read the sign we both proceeded without much thought and realised fairly quickly why this path had warning signs. It was a single track with not much room for error as one false step and a serious fall would ensue. The cliffs were made of a hardened sand based rock that was slippery and had signs of erosion everywhere. The upper and mid section of the trail had windy turns and cutbacks that had no railings or safety footings like stairs from what I can recall. If you've ever walked in a desert this was exactly the same type of firm semi slippery style trail.
Having survived the descent I dropped everything but my board and sprinted to the ocean which had a nice swell providing for some easy cruising waves. It was just as I had imagined, warm water, beautiful cliffs for a backdrop and hardly anyone else out. It was almost eerily quiet for SoCal surfing which is notorious for overcrowded heavily localised surf spots. It was like a dream until the first guy paddled out. I was minding my own business looking for waves when out of nowhere a longboarder pulled up beside me wearing nothing but his Birthday suit. It was a new experience for me, but not to this guy, as it turns out Mark and I landed in the nude beach section without knowing. It was a pretty comical trading waves with a "Longboarder hanging loose", no pun intended and eventually other surfers showed up and everyone had a great time. It made me wonder if this guy was on a work break and was blowing off some steam along with his clothes. Did his coworkers know he was a nude surfer or was it some kind of secret he kept and I knew something his friends didn't...I never bothered asking.
On our way out of Blacks beach we hiked up the same nasty trail we came down on, the wind had picked up and the paragliders were out in full force. It was cool to look back and catch a glimpse of what they see while cruising around the cliffs in front of Torrey Pines. When you are standing on the edge of those cliffs, you only hear the wind, ocean and birds flying by.
This might have been the highlight of the day. When we went to unlock the car neither of us could remember what we did with the one key the car came with, that's what you get for $300 afterall. We went through everything and searched high and low. It was one key on a tiny silver ring. In an act of desperation, we decided to double back on the trail and as I turned to start heading to the cliff I caught a shiny glimmer from the sandy parking lot. I knelt and swept away the sand from the shiny metal and out of nowhere, the key ring appeared with our key still attached! Needless to say we bought a monster key chain that night to ensure we never lost the key again.
If you are wondering whatever happened to our "Beater" car, it did make its way back to Banff in an amazing over performance in both endurance and reliability! However it was short lived as later that same Summer, it caught fire while getting a boost for a dead battery in the back of the cinema parking lot.
Definitely the best $150 I ever spent.