Making a trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, South California makes for an interesting and exciting travel idea.
Be sure to fill your tank with enough gas to drive somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy miles. The stations in or near Oxnard close early some nights. Drive north, starting in Los Angeles and you’ll see Santa Monica, Pacific Pallisades, Malibu — millionaire’s homes and Pepperdine University. The lesser-known jewel of this adventure is an excursion I like to call midnight trips to Oxnard. This is the perfect adventurous little jaunt that can be finished in two hours or so.
At least once a week I head out by the water for a forty-mile drive to strawberry country. Once past the lights and other indications of civilization it’s simply windy roads and a cool moonlight ocean panorama perfect for romance in the truest sublime sense. What’s most wonderful about this trip is the cost — there isn’t anything to pay for aside from a few gallons of gasoline. If you stay in Los Angeles, it’s worth taking a couple hours one night.
Zuma Beach and Point Mugu are two beaches you’ll pass worth stopping at for a minute or more. Near the area, you’ll start to see fog, another spectacular aspect of the trip. The fog isn’t thick enough to cause the drive the be treacherous, just enough to remind you of the desolation on this particular stretch.
Watch for wild animals crossing the road while you drive. More than once, they’ve been scared onto the road and stunned by my headlights. If you’re lucky you’ll see a beachside coyote stalking by his lonesome.
On good nights, the moon will be out and shining over the Pacific. Moonlight reflected in the ocean is indescribably beautiful, especially in a quiet area such as this. With no traffic or city lights around, this view can be stared at in its most pristine form for hours. The moon lights up the road as much as needed for wonderful driving conditions. If you bring a companion, be sure to tell a ghost story.
Once in Oxnard, turn off on any street and open the windows to enjoy the smell of strawberry fields. Oxnard is farming land, where there is little activity after dark – again, perfect for driving.
If continuing north interests you, there is much more coastland to see. San Luis Obispo is just a ways up, all of Santa Barbara County is worth perusing. One caveat: do not venture into Big Sur at night. High up in the mountains, the roads turn dangerous quickly. The once charming fog becomes impenetrable, the turning of the roads become all the windier for sixty-some miles.
Driving back will be worth it as well. The same views you enjoyed on the trip there will be out the opposite window. Upon returning to L.A. you’ll feel energized no matter what hour it is.
Traveler: Mitch Miller