My Bucket List Journey Along the California Coast

July 18, 2011

I could just see it. Me in my Ford Mustang convertible cruising on a two-lane highway along the cliffs of the California coast. I’d be wearing the signature oversized glasses and neck scarf, and my feminist liberation playlist would serenade the surrounding rolling hills and cliffs on my bucket list journey along the Pacific Coast Highway. It would be perfect.

Well, at 1:00 AM Thursday night at the Avis rental counter, I didn’t have the energy to wail about the Mustangs being all rented out and how overselling their vehicles was ruining my life (I can be dramatic absolutely ridiculous at times). After trying to upsell me on a more expensive car that looked like Kitt from Knight Rider, the agent reluctantly walked me over to a little baby Mitsubishi convertible in burnt orange and I immediately fell in love. She was the just the right size for me and my beach bag, and though she was different from what I had imagined in my head she was now a part of the new reality of my adventure. She was perfect.

As always, when I set out on my journey I had no real plan. I had heard that Malibu was a nice town that was relatively close so I hopped into my baby convertible, put a random restaurant into my GPS and headed towards Malibu to begin my adventure. For the first 15 minutes of the trip however, I was thoroughly unimpressed. Highway 1 near LA is not scenic at all, and the random gas stations, strip malls and Mexican restaurants that lined the busy street had me wondering if I had taken a wrong turn.

So I kept driving, in search of my two-way highway on a cliff with the gleaming white seagulls soaring nearby in the morning sky. I soon reached the infamous Pacific Coast Highway, which was bustling with surfers and families heading out to enjoy a beautiful day on the shore. But it didn’t look like the pictures I had seen. The highway was actually 6 lanes, and there was so much traffic that I couldn’t get my speed up enough for my ‘fro to blow in the wind like I wanted.

Right before I spiraled into an irrational frenzy that would have lead me all the way to Northern California looking for this picture in my head, the phone rang. It was my two recently engaged friends who had moved to San Diego from Brooklyn, letting me know that they had reached Malibu and asking me where we should meet. I temporarily suspended my search asked them to meet me on the edge of a cliff by the water that I had passed on my way up the coast.

Before they arrived, I had a few minutes to just sit on the back of the car and reflect and as I looked out at the beautiful Pacific horizon, it hit me. This is my destination. The film that I had seen previews for and was all ready to experience was clearly not being released that day and when I finally stopped to watch the show that was right in front of me, it was perfect. The sky was a blue only seen in cartoons and from the cliff I could see both the white sand beach below as well as gorgeous mountains in the distance. Young couples entertained their wobbly new offspring at the ocean’s edge while those of us lining the cliff just observed in silent appreciation.

When my friends arrived, they came bearing hugs, chairs and my favorite beer, and we camped out on the cliff for hours. We reminisced about our years in “the dorm” back in Brooklyn (I met them along with about 8 other people in my apartment building and our lives paralleled the TV show “Friends.” They are the “Monica and Chandler” of our crew 🙂 and told me those simple, silly memories from back in Brooklyn mean the world to them now that they are so far away from us. We talked about their wedding. They encouraged my dreams. Their dog took a nap. It was perfect.

I never found my two-lane highway that day, never played my I Am Woman Hear Me Roar playlist, and the one time I tried to put that signature scarf around my neck I almost died from heat stroke. But as I sat facing the Pacific Ocean on a cliff with my family (because that is what long-term friendships become), I was reminded that life is a journey, not a destination and though the scene that unfolded before me was not what I had envisioned, it was the exact part of my journey that I was supposed to experience that day. It was perfect, and when I do complete my voyage down the Pacific Coast from a city much farther to the North, I’ll be sure to finish my trip with the newlyweds in San Diego so I can relive this moment all over again.

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  • Reply Anonymous July 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    The Pacific Coast Hwy drive is beautiful glad I got to exp. it a few yrs back

  • Reply Angie August 19, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    LOL..I loved this post, mainly because I was recently @ LAX looking for my Mustang Convertable, but unlike you – I let them "upgrade" me to an Infinity truck (don't ask).

    They did offer the Mitsubishi Eclipse, but I turned my nose up….next time, I'll know better!

  • Reply Tracey Coleman August 19, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Thanks Angie! Yes, I loved the Mitsubishi! Partially because as a New Yorker I rarely drive so the small car was very easy for me to handle. I loved it!

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