There’s home and then there’s away. No doubt home is sweet; it certainly is for Hannah and me living on a country road on the coast Maine. Okay, winter in Maine is real with cold and snowy written all over it. Our kids have said, What were you thinking when you moved from Arizona! We were thinking that a small town, less traffic and smog, and a sense of community might be just right for us. For thirty-one years after moving from the Valley of the Sun, we country mice have found a home in York, Maine.
But home includes routines, deadlines, and “to dos.” So we like to step away. This week California is our away of choice; from the commonplace to the uncommonplace. Far from home, there are few expectations, no predetermined rhythm to follow. For us, each day in a new place is a time to explore, get some exercise, and let carefree be the word of the day.
Away, Hannah and I think of a good day on vacation as one where we hike or bike for three to four hours, then chill. Away at a distant motel, we have a comfy king-size bed, usually a pool to sit by, an ample breakfast, and no responsibility if anything goes wrong. Our rental car has many fewer miles than our cars at home; they are well-serviced and ready to go. And what says away more than a beach!
Today we head north from Los Angeles for our vacation day in Carefree, California (nee Summerland) at Loon Point Beach. Hiking the Summerland beach makes the transition effortless from the snow and ice of our driveway to the sand and surf of the Pacific coast. This sandy away melts the freezer frost in our lives; our routines of home fade. It’s nice to step away from being responsible adults; going someplace where nobody knows our name.
As we walk on the beach we see a mother of school age children who finds a sunning spot nestled beneath the bluff. A coed runs barefoot preparing for Saturday’s 10K race. A shepherd/golden mix playfully leads her white-haired owners along the shore.
On this California weekday in mid-January, Hannah and I begin to take a nine day bite out of winter. Ninety days of winter become 81. We like that math.
It turns out this is more than a beach walk and our choice of hiking boots is fortunate. High tide forces us to climb the large boulder barricade which blocks access to the north end of the beach. It’s just the random challenge and experience that further distances us from grocery shopping, washing dishes, shoveling snow, and cutting hair. Scrambling over the boulders and grasping round stony edges, we are away in body and now mind.
After twenty minutes of beach hiking, we come to the high tide lapping against the sea wall. About facing it, we feel our transformation from home to away nearly done. Warm beaches in winter can do that. Today we have no responsibilities but to climb the barricade of stones once more, find our motel in Santa Barbara, and chill before our afternoon hike in the Santa Ynez Mountains ten miles away.
Doing my part to help Shaka Smart (basketball coach) and our son Will build the Virginia Commonwealth University brand across the country, I use my VCU tee-shirt to start up conversations with the locals, leaving Maine 3000 miles behind.
As we finish our 90 minutes on the Summerland beach, the transition to “away-from-home” is complete. In the parking lot, we find this license plate with a karmatic welcome to a carefree California state of mind.