This post is a big one. This marks the first post on my new Squarespace-hosted blog. As most of you casual-bloggers probably know, it's hard to keep to a schedule of regular posting, especially when there's a plenty of other social media to continually update. Anyway, here goes:
I wanted to create this blog to be more of a travel blog than a photography blog. I want to talk more than just show you photos. It will be my way to get out my inner writer's pent-up longing to have some [not-so-]creative outlet.
Sometimes you visit a place and notice the scenery, sometimes you notice the weather, but sometimes you really just notice the vibe. That's what Catalina Island has. I have seen Catalina off in the distance ever since the first time I looked out across the pacific as a 9 year-old kid who moved to California from land-locked deserty Phoenix. I saw it every Sunday as I drove up PCH to the Peninsula in Newport Beach during college, but I'd never been.
Luckily for me, the Catalina Express was part of the 100 year celebration that many Catalina Island vendors and transportation companies got in on and were giving out free rides to the island on your birthday. As it happened, my birthday fell on a Saturday, creating the perfect conditions for a birthday adventure to the island.
The ride over was quick, only about an hour, which felt a whole lot longer to me having gone out for my girlfriend's birthday the night before and going a little heavy on the drinks. The on-board bartenders hooked me up with a nice Michelada which did the trick and got me feeling somewhat normal again. The drink was not too expensive, which I enjoyed and the staff told my girlfriend that they like to use the ferry for fishing between rides to and from the island, and that if they had the choice they'd just give everybody free alcohol all day (sounds like my kind of party).
Once on the island, the vibe is very much like any other sort of island. A slower pace, an air of relaxation, people moseying to and fro, until you hit the main street. Unless you're from New York City or some other island where people have places to be and things to do in a small area with few real cars and lots of pedestrians you are probably not familiar with the true meaning of "bustling." Within our first few minutes on the main strip near the harbor, we decided to turn up a street and see what it was like up one of the residential streets. This is where I found the topic of my post.
Everyone here needs a way to get around. Although there aren't streets that go from one point of the island to the other, there are small roads that take you from one point of avalon to the other, a span that takes only about half an hour or so to complete on foot, with stairs and hills involved. What vehicles do SoCal vacationers turn to when the distances between vacation home and bar are longer than a block? Golf carts of course.
There are golf carts to go with every personality. Some that look like Hummers, some vintage complete with cloth "doors" and windshields. The golf carts are the main mode of transportation on the island matched only by bicycles and sprinkled with occasional mini coopers and old models of Fiat 500s.
Going to Catalina was most like my experience with cruising on large ships, like Princess cruises or Celebrity take your pick. Being dropped off on an Island for a few hours before having to re-board the ship and be hauled off to another destination with a Bloody Mary in hand is an experience I have to say that I don't mind. That's the feeling Catalina gives you. It's like a mini, one-day cruise where the island people you encounter are surprisingly familiar ("Hey, those people were on the boat with me!") and you recognize their way of dress and demeanor from other SoCal beach towns, only today they're here with you on the island.
The walk - or drive if you're so lucky - up to the lookout point is strenuous but worth the climb. The fantastic postcard views you see on the Yelp reviews and your friends' Instagram feeds comes from up there. By taking the stairs near the far end of the "beach" you climb up through the hilltop homes up to a path that can scarcely be called a road, being just large enough in size for a downhill skateboarder to navigate his way down, or the line of golf carts that must stop when the golf cart in front of them is ready to stop to take a picture of the deer they've just now seen.
Overall I would have to say that our Avalon experience could have only been made better by getting more sleep the night before so my girlfriend and I would have had more energy, and also being able to spend more time on the island. I would recommend spending a full weekend on the island to experience the mini-golf, restaurants, bike rides, scenic drives and luxurious sun-bathing at the resort in the cove about half a mile down the coast from Avalon's port. Camping would be fun and I think we'll try that next time, or renting one of the cottages that line the main streets of the town (many of them come with a golf cart!). Also, I'd recommend going for your birthday! You have to go on your actual birthday, but you get free things and special treatment from nearly every vendor on the island (and strangers wish you Happy Birthday!). In all, it was a memorable trip that we enjoyed greatly. What are you waiting for? Make your summer plans there!