After leaving Kansas City a few of us went home and a few of us flew onward, into the golden west. We have a second conference this week in California, and rather than fly back to Tennessee and then fly out again we flew straight here, and are paying for our own hotel rooms for the couple of nights in between. It's like a little mini vacation, and boy, has it been vacation-ish so far. Even though I've woken up at 4 AM local time for the second day in a row I feel totally relaxed, and I'm impatiently waiting for the sun to come up so that I can go walk again. Yesterday I walked over 20,000 steps, a personal best for me. That's 10 miles of walking in one day, and rather than laying around and moaning in pain like I did in March when I walked a similar distance I'm watching the sky out of my hotel room window for the first sign that I can walk some more.
Because of the beach.
Oh, God, the beach.
I don't even really like beaches that much. You get sand in your shoes and there's glass and trash and dirty needles and sometimes feet washing up on them all the time and there's no way in hell I'm getting in that slimy salty shark-infested water, especially if it means I have to take my shirt off in public or zip into a form-fitting wetsuit. Nope. Not a fan of the beach.
Except that here, I suddenly like it.
I walked down to the beach on our first night here, just as the sun was setting.
Our hotel has a bridge that crosses the Pacific Coast Highway, and then there's a paved walking path all along the beach down to a pier:
The first night it all seemed nice, but I hadn't really formed any impressions beyond that. There are a lot of people, but they're mostly polite (no one bumped into me or picked my pocket; I guess my standards for "polite" are pretty low), and there's a constant breeze off of the water. I thought it was kind of hilarious that I was walking around in a t-shirt thinking about how great the weather here is while the locals were bundling up in jackets, hats, and gloves and the hotel was putting warmers out on the patio, but I guess it's relative to what you're used to.
Yesterday morning is when I started to really like it here. I woke up, got my walking clothes on, and waited for daylight. And waited. And waited some more.
Stupid time zones.
When it was finally light, I headed toward our bridge, where the hotel's "Beach Amenities" stand was setting up. It was closed the night before, but yesterday morning it was open to hand out towels, chairs, umbrellas, and whatever other amenities are behind the desk that I couldn't see. The kid working it looks straight out of "Orange County Central Casting": tall, tan, lanky, deep-voiced, with long, naturally-streaked blond hair. He looked exactly like the kind of person you'd expect to see working a beach stand, and I wondered if the hotel assigned him there on purpose, but didn't want to ask. Instead, I wanted to get to the beach.
People were walking, running, jogging, rollerblading, and biking all along the path and, in some cases, in the sand. I passed a sunrise prayer service and a morning yoga session, and down by the pier there was some kind of awful training session going on where people were sprinting up and down the steps while a trainer yelled at them to do it faster. It seemed kind of awful, so I hung out on the pier for a while to watch the surfers instead.
Huntington Beach is home to the Surfing Walk of Fame, a collection of sidewalk plaques in the general area of the statue of Duke Kahanamoku:
Olympic swimming gold medalist and, according to the plaque at the base of the statue, the father of modern surfing.
The surfers swim out from the shore:
and when they get a little ways from shore they wait:
for the ways to come in. When they do, the surfers surf:
When I got tired of watching them, I watched the pelicans, which are completely unafraid of people and walk up and down the pier while the people fishing throw them scraps of bait:
Beyond that, I did the kinds of things I always do when I have free time in a strange place. I walked around and looked at things:
had some food (in this case, oatmeal at the hotel):
and I went to a little tent market down by the pier. I bought one of the reusable tote bags in this photo, for taking to the Farmer's Market and carrying books to and from McKay's, and because I wanted a souvenir that wasn't from a souvenir store:
I watched some beach volleyball for a while:
or, more technically correct, I watched some guys play beach volleyball for a while, which was like watching "Top Gun" with all of the boring airplane parts cut out. Later, even though I was already at 7 miles for the day, I walked down to the pier again:
to watch the sunset on the beach:
and to think about how many steps I can get in before the conference starts.
I'm dressed and ready to go, and I'll be out there as soon as the sun comes up.