They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I don't know who reads this stuff, probably nobody who doesn't know what is going on anyway, but it is not a generally good idea to announce in a publicly accessible place that you will be vacating your house for a week. So I didn't mention that we were going to the beach for a week. We rented a Chevy Trailblazer to carry all of our stuff, which included my bicycle, two boogie boards, sheets, pillows, towels, etc., and headed to Newport Beach on the morning of Saturday the 30th of June. This would be our 10th stay at the beach, starting in 1987 and going every two years, missing only 2005, when we had spent over a week in the Bay Area for John's graduation. This was the first time that Susan and I had gone by ourselves. We had taken both Mike and John with us the first 6 times, and John had come with us for the 99, 01 and 03 trips. The trip there had become pretty formulaic. Get up early, head west, stop for lunch at In-n-Out Burger at the Ramon Road exit off I-10 near Palm Springs, get gas after lunch, then get back on the road to CA-60 near Beaumont, then CA-91 south at Riverside to CA-55 which eventually stops being freeway and takes you up the Balboa peninsula to where we stay. This would be a little less pressure as the rental company would be open until 5. Most close much earlier and threaten to leave the key in a mailbox or something. The only things that were much different this time is that the area west of Phoenix is growing like crazy and much of what used to be desert is now full of tacky little houses, Wal-Mart superstores and suchwhat. I have no earthly idea why anyone would live there. The other weirdness was that there was construction on the interchange of the Moreno Valley and Riverside Freeways and we lost about 30-40 minutes fighting with exceptionally rude drivers, including the pilot of a Winnebago who suddenly decided that he would enter the space occupied by our vehicle and was very reluctant to back off once I called him on it, although he ultimately did. So we arrive at the beach, get the keys and go to the rental. The garage, sadly was about a foot wider than the SUV we had. I managed to shoehorn it in but ended up not using it much as I scraped the fenders on two different occasions getting in and out. Fortunately Avis did not notice. The place was wonderful. Huge private patio on the boardwalk with umbrella table and chairs, natural gas barbecue and some folding chairs. The house itself was rather small, two bedrooms and one bathroom, but a big living room and kitchen, nicely furnished and very clean. The first week of July is typically the first week of weekly rentals and that can sometimes be a good thing.

We were on the corner of 14th Street and Oceanfront. Across 14th Street is the elementary school, and facing it is a playground. This makes it a fairly busy area, but no obnoxiously so. A block west (conceptually north, towards LA) is 15th Street, where there is a public bath house, the Stuffed Surfer Cafe, the 15th Street Surf Shop and a small convenience store called Fry's Market. Another 6 blocks down, at the 21st St. alignment, is the Newport Pier. 5 of our previous 9 stays had been spent in the range of 28th Street to 35th Street. That area is much busier, but one advantage is easy access to what was formerly a Lucky Store, now an Albertson's, is about two blocks off the beach at 31st Street. Going east from our rental, about 16 blocks, is the Balboa Pier.

We were able to see all of the places in which we previously stayed, with one exception. 1614 W. Oceanfront, just up the street a couple of blocks, had been torn down, along with its neighbor to the east, and replaced by a glass and chrome monstrosity that looked like it might be the mothership for an alien invasion. The others, including the apartment from 1989, which was on the corner by the Surf Shop and the site of the Mark McGwire encounter, were intact, although the '89 apartment and the '87 Balboa shack were no both now longer term rentals and the 95-97 place at 3310 W. Oceanfront was no longer a rental at all.

Many things were the same, most of the businesses like Blackie's, Charlie's Chili, the donut shop, the seashell shop, etc. were still in place. The Burger King was now some off brand equivalent. Surfside Sports, where we used to pump our bicycle tires, had lost their lease (it now cost a dollar at on the other bike rentals).

This was the first time since the early apartments that we could cook and eat on the patio, which was very cool. I rode my bike a lot. The surf was disappointing, though. The area by our rental is prone to rip-tides, it turns out, and the only time I attempted boogie boarding (with John on Thursday) was interrupted by the lifeguard on a bullhorn telling us not to. The plan was to go up to the other side of the pier on Friday but I got a sunburn that more or less killed that idea.

John and Agnieszka came in around 11:30 on Wednesday and stayed the rest of the week. Pat and Suzanne came later in the day, as did Jeff. Wednesday was the 4th of July, which turns the boardwalk into a zoo, populated by drunken 20somethings on bicycles that they should not have been operating. Other than the company, this was my least favorite day at the beach.

It was a good stay, too short as usual, and the sunburn at the end was a bummer, but this was probably the nicest place we have rented (and a little cheaper than the last two). If I have it to do over again I will figure out how to take a smaller vehicle and do something about getting a bike, then just plan a couple of walks up the boardwalk for boogieboarding.

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