I’m thinking more about the fact that I’m doing something new today than I am about the chaparral-flocked hills and the coastal vistas as I ride down Pacific Coast Highway on the first “fall” day in Malibu. It’s already the middle of October so my backpack is stuffed with clothes for every sort of weather as I sit atop my Suzuki, stomach grumbling already. My hunger will have to wait for now, as a photographer with an appetite for adventure I’m compelled to stop every time I see something photographable.
My back is already tired and damp with perspiration as I park and walk down a street behind Main St. admiring the charming homes on the hills before circling back to the first eatery (also, conveniently, a wine shop) that caught my eye amongst a bounty of sidewalk cafes, despite recommendations from locals at Iron & Resin - an emporium of manly goods. I settle into a booth for one at Paradise Pantry and order up some Santa Barbara Pinot Noir with some spicy fish soup and their country paté, as indulgent as it was transcendent (of course, I was also really hungry). A few lunch meetings transpire around me, one of which erupts with obnoxious yet contagious laughter every few minutes. A fellow wine-with-lunch drinker next to me smiles as we fix our attention back on our plates.
On a mission to “follow my nose” all day and explore the town how towns are meant to be explored, I hop back onto the street, belly now full and head directly across the street to the Mission San Buenaventura. My mildly-religious spirit stimulated by the works of baskets coated with tar for carrying water, a working sundial, the light falling on the pews with cushions for the knees of the pious churchgoers. The sound of beautiful chants in latin echo off the walls and put me at peace as I stare at the candles burning near the altar, not knowing what exactly they’re for.
My peaceful and rejuvenating tour now over, I head back down the streets looking for the hints of light and life that make Ventura. I walk back toward City Hall, I’m not happy with the shots of it I got earlier, to find a path that goes behind city hall and up into the hills with signs that read “Botanical Gardens.” I expect The Huntington Library but find a hiking trail with a non-indigenous plant scattered every hundred yards or so, a curious arrangement. I ascend farther and I’m met with the most fantastic view of the city reaching down to the pier, surrounded by indigo ocean and house-speckled hills. I look out and admire the view thinking to myself that this was the first time I’d hiked in my “street clothes,” I should’ve changed into the Indiana Jones-inspired hiking getup I’d packed.
My back now tired again and my body, overheated, I head down to San Buenaventura State Beach. I arrive and step of the mounds of oyster shells around The Jolly Oyster shack and across the embarcadero over grassy dunes to a peaceful beach I have all to myself aside from the sea glass foragers, only specks in the distance. I hang up my shirt on the lifeguard tower and stare up at the clouds quickly passing over me until it becomes too cold to be shirtless. The fading sun becomes obscured by mist and cloud as the beach becomes busier with after-work joggers, and more sea-shell seekers. I’m hungry again.
The only thing I had seen online that I knew I must do before riding to Ventura was a Yelp listing about VenTiki Tiki Lounge. I have a place in my heart specifically reserved for tiki bars and I’m taking photos of the colorful lighting and my Mai Tai while waiting for my pork bun to arrive at my table. It doesn’t look like anything special but I take my first bite and I’m practically licking my fingers to have more. I nurse my drink and talk with a friend on the phone and mentally edit through the day’s photos while I let me buzz subside before getting on the highway back to LA. As I’m riding back I’m fantasizing about walking down the beach with my future family and hypothetically making this same commute by motorcycle back to LA for photo shoots. This may have been my first time in Ventura, but I hope it will become the first of many.