I was at the Starbucks off the 5 in Leucadia having just surfed Ponto with some ex-coworkers. I was sitting with my laptop wrestling with this restlessness that had overwhelmed me. It was June 11th and I had just quit my job, but I didn’t know quite what my next step was going to be.
Some background on my situation at the time. Yes, I was making a very generous salary for the last year. In fact, I’ve had some very good years. But behind the headline of my first post This Guy Turned 51, Quit His $250k Job, and Hit the Road in His 1977 VW Westfalia, there are some ugly truths.
I am an entrepreneur by nature. I started my first business, a pizza restaurant, when I was 16 years old. I dropped out of college to join another restaurant startup at 20, and started several other businesses after that. One business, I took public in the mid-90’s. One of my goals was to be a millionaire by the time I was 30. I made it two years late in 1996… Be careful what you wish for.
That company crashed in 1998, leaving me over a million dollars in debt. The IRS portion followed me until last year when I was able to finally pay it off. I had some other successes and failures in the ensuing decades, which left me sitting at Starbucks in June, with enough money to get by for a few months, and a small severance from the company I was leaving.
I was thinking about using my frequent flier miles to head to Ecuador for a few weeks to clear my head and surf. I opened my laptop and looked at flights. That was when the idea of a road trip popped into my head. I opened Google Maps and looked at the west coast. I had friends in SF, Portland, Washington and Vancouver, BC. How cool would it be to drive up PCH in my VW Bus? Just camping and surfing. I started plotting the route, thinking about how long it would take me to get from one spot to another. And that’s when I felt a palpable energy shift. I was being pulled towards this adventure.
I made a list of all the things I needed to fix on the bus. The list was long. Screw it. More excuses. I called a friend with a welding machine, and he agreed to help me patch the floorboards, which were about as perforated as Fred Flintstone’s car. I changed the oil and adjusted the valves. I scrapped the rest of the list. “BEGIN IT NOW” was the overwhelming voice in my head. The other voices were just my fear speaking to me.
Leaving home was bittersweet. But once I was on the road, and got on the highway, I started to feel it. I cranked up some Wolfmother on the stereo, and drove slow in the right lane. As I was hitting some traffic near LAX, it dawned on me that Wolfmother performed at the Deus Ex Machina Temple in Bali. And they have a shop in Venice. And traffic was shitty. So there was my first stop.
It was everything I dreamed it would be. Amazing custom bikes, great coffee, and a total hipster hangout. OK, maybe I don’t dream of hipsters. “I am hip but I’m not a hipster” – sung to the tune of All These Things That I’ve Done by The Killers. I picked up a hat and a T-Shirt and talked to them about a Joshua Paskowitz art show. I’ll follow up with their manager. That would be rad. I am definitely going to have to hit the Deus Temple in Bali someday.
This little detour actually changed my route. I was planning on taking the 101 all the way to Ventura to save some time, but my late departure and stop meant traffic had built. And I didn’t want to have the air-cooled bus sitting in traffic. So I decided to head to Santa Monica and take PCH through Malibu. So glad I did.
The drive was so much more pleasant. And cool. Some of the houses in Malibu are ridiculous. I think I saw Brad Pitt. Maybe not.
As I was heading out of Malibu I rounded a bend in the road and saw an amazing wave peeling down a cove. The ocean had been flat all the way so far. I pulled over and took a stroll into Leo Carillo State Park.
The wave breaks right over the rock, with the takeoff point coming perilously close to barnacle covered boulders. The bold are rewarded with a peeling right perfect for nose riding that dumps you off into a rocky bay. I cashed in my rewards twice as the sun began to set. Out in the lineup I chatted with Glen Jr, who told me his pops lives in Pismo Beach, and would be happy to let me crash at his place. But he rode one in before we could exchange info. That was the first act of generosity I would encounter, with so many more to come.
On the way north, I rounded a corner and was treated to this amazing sunset.
I pulled into Carpinteria State Beach hoping I could find a spot to camp. On the way in, I spied several good candidates for street camping: an auto repair shop, a school parking lot with several cars left overnight, and plenty of parking spots on the neighborhood streets. But this always comes with a risk of an abrupt tap on the window from a curious police officer, which can really ruin a good night’s sleep. I wasn’t ready for that yet.
The park ranger told me he had three spots open. I took one and thanked the universe for providing me a good spot on my first night. As I move further north, there will be plenty of options for free campsites. Tonight I paid the fee for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Get caught up on the story at Only The Road Knows.