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9780871560841-usT.H. Watkins’ book On the Shore of the Sundown Sea, published by the Sierra Club, tells of the T.H.’s experience camping with his big family at Salt Creek, exploring the southern Orange County coastline during the post WWII years to the passage of Proposition 20 in 1972.

I was introduced to T.H. Watkins’ book by reading writing excerpts in Orange County. A Literary Field Guide.  This compendium of poems and samples, published by Heyday Books, was compiled by Lisa Alvarez and Andrew Tonkovich and a complete review is available at The Daily Pilot.

Writings are organized by Orange County regions:  Anaheim, Irvine, Santa Ana and Orange, Santa Ana Mountains and Canyons, and the Flatlands, and the Coast and Beach Towns.  T.H. Watkins’ prologue is one of about twenty chapters and verse in Orange County each describing sandy beaches, surfing, and driving the Coast Highway.OCOUcover_web800px-200x300.jpg

In a 1939 eight-passenger Buick, named the Yacht, the Watkins family loaded up “six kids, two parents, one dog, camping gear, clothing, and a three-week supply of food and drove the seventy miles between the little town of Colton and the coast.”  The drive on the two-lane highway was a southern California “not yet coalesced like some particularly virulent biological culture, and its air was not fouled by what Wallace Stegner called the “taint of technology”.  The family passed through orange groves, dairy pastures, vineyards, and alfalfa fields.  “Two miles dead west of the village of San Juan Capistrano, we would come to the Coast Highway and a decision:  should we drive five miles to the south for San Clemente State Park, simply cross the highway for Doheny Beach State Park, or turn north for Salt Creek Beach?  The last lacked amenities, but the campsites were on the beach, and anyone could choose their camp spot as there were no assigned sites.

From these camp trips a connection to California’s coast drew T.H. to every cove and stretch of the coast road.  He supported Proposition 20 and considered its commission, the create of the Coastal Commission, to be a “profound shift … from mindless worship of the growth ethic” to an ecological movement.  In T.H’s time he saw planners and developers “had put wealthy tacky-tacky on the bluffs of Salt Creek Beach, and laid a parking lot for boats in the cove below Dana Point, and the citizens of Big Sur forced Caltrans “from jamming a multilane freeway through the ancient mountains that meet the sea.”  He mentions San Mateo county coast residents fight against Caltrans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “decided that the area could support a population in excess of one hundred thousand people” … and laid plans to build a dam on Pescadero Creek with an expanded highway system to accommodate “these nonexistent thousands of people.”

On the Shore of the Sundown Sea ends with T.H. musing about freedom and illusion.  “Landwreckers” have been held back, but for how long is the question?

Earl Thollander, the artist who provided us the Back Roads books, drew the pictures for On the Shore of the Sundown Sea.FullSizeRender

How to buy:

Orange County. A Literary Field Guide site. or at Heyday.  or Amazon.

On the Shore of the Sundown Sea.  Amazon.  Abe Books.

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Doc Mishler and friends

Doc Mishler last rode the coast road fifteen years ago with the two horses pictured on the right: Chief Free Spirit and Keep The Faith. At that time, Doc trotted from Montana to Washington D.C., by way of California, after surviving a cancer diagnosis and its treatment and reading the book, How Then Shall We Live, a text that weighs the question, “How shall I live, knowing I will die?”

What was then a personal journey to celebrate life after beating a terminal diagnosis is now a ride to raise our awareness of hunger, in particular regard to starving children.  Doc says, “There are children in the world who are so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of food.”

This ride is Doc’s mission. For more information about his church community, please stop him on his way south along Highway 1.

Doc can use a place to board his horses each night, so stop to offer your place when you see him.  Today he’ll depart Pescadero to travel to Santa Cruz, then on to Monterey, and then El Sur Grande, a day’s ride southbound until San Diego, where he will then head east-northeast to D.C.

This post written by Anneliese Agren

1
A California song,
A prophecy and indirection, a thought impalpable to breathe as air,
A chorus of dryads, fading, departing, or hamadryads departing,
A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth and sky,
Voice of a mighty dying tree in the redwood forest dense.

Farewell my brethren,
Farewell O earth and sky, farewell ye neighboring waters,
My time has ended, my term has come.

Along the northern coast,
Just back from the rock-bound shore and the caves,
In the saline air from the sea in the Mendocino country,
With the surge for base and accompaniment low and hoarse,
With crackling blows of axes sounding musically driven by strong arms,
Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes, there in the redwood
forest dense,
I heard the might tree its death-chant chanting.

The choppers heard not, the camp shanties echoed not,
The quick-ear’d teamsters and chain and jack-screw men heard not,
As the wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand years to
join the refrain,
But in my soul I plainly heard.

Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,
Down from its lofty top rising two hundred feet high,
Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs, out of its foot-thick bark,
That chant of the seasons and time, chant not of the past only but
the future.

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This is the tale of two Fradkins:

1. Philip Fradkin 1974 and 2011
2. Philip Fradkin, father and Alex Fradkin, his son.

Philip and Alex have published The Left Coast – California On The Edge, written by Philip, with accompanying photos taken by Alex.  The two have spent the past five years writing about, and snapping images of, the choices that we’ve made the past one hundred years in utilizing our shoreline.

These choices entail lumber production, preservation of open space, farming communities suffering withdrawal from the reverberating booms of mass housing developments, exploited fisheries, beaches as recipients of sewage line detritus, a globally-influential harbor, and, armed Feds.

After reading the text and viewing the photos, one walks away with a throbbing question, How does such a mixed-use coast mediate conflicting interests?

The Left Coast is not the archetypal published fare of coffee table books waxing poetic on images of uninhabited coastline or long rural stretches of the coast road.  The Left Coast charges the reader to consider how our current imagery of California is no longer that of the plein air artists, who, at the turn of the nineteenth century, captured landscapes and coastscapes without power lines, asphalt, and buildings.

Two of my favorite photos taken by Alex are not typical “landscape-y” or “coastscape-y” photos.

In the chapter entitled, “The Military Coast,” a photo of a young servicewoman is dwarfed dockside before the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier, home-ported at NS North Island, San Diego.  Philip writes,”Beach replenishment – viewed as a God-given, or rather a navy-gifted, right in San Diego – is a bit of a misnomer.  To replenish is to make complete again.  The beaches had been historically narrow, the Silver Strand being a thin barrier spit when the Hotel Del was first built.  They bulked up only when wide beaches were seen as a profitable tourist attraction, chambers of commerce promoted their mythic existence, and the navy supplied the sand – a massive thirty-seven million cubic yards to the Silver Strand since 1940, making it the most modified beach in California.  There was a second purpose for the so-called replenishment.  The sand was meant not only to give pleasure but also to protect coastal developments, which in San Diego County had been “built too low, too close to the beach, or without sufficient setbacks from the cliff edges.””

“The navy began dredging, with the clean sand going to replenish the nine beaches stretching from Oceanside to Imperial Beach.  Problems developed.  An unexploded mortar shell was found on the Oceanside beach where some of the sand had been pumped ashore.”

My other favorite photo, found in the chapter, “The Recreational Coast,” is, “RVs camped on beach.  Oceano Dunes, 2007.”  Ocean Dunes SVRA is a hot land-use debate between those who believe beaches are for feet versus those recreationists who desire to drive motorized vehicles across the beach and along its sand dunes.

The Left Coast is not Philip’s first published effort.  In 1974, Philip published California, The Golden Coast, which included photographs by Dennis Stock to support Philip’s text.  Dennis’ photos evoke that blissful, dreamy California of which we vacation along the coast road to experience, the coast that enviros fight for; photos perfectly-suited for a glossy coffee-table book. California, The Golden Coast, makes a delightful companion piece to The Left Coast, that is, if you can find it.

Alex accompanied Philip on the field research trips for this book, thus these two books tie together: In 1974, father and son travel the coast, for father to write a book. Thirty years later, father and son embark upon a journey to produce a book together.

Purchase The Left Coast – California On The Edge.

Alex’s website.

Philip’s website.

I am not without hope of delighting to find the essential Coast Road novel.  Expectations defined in a previous post on two Coast Road-titled books ended with a request that, at the very least, when a book is titled, “The Coast Road,” then the reader better find plenty of setting along the Coast Road.

Elizabeth C. Ward’s 1983, Coast Highway 1, has it all:  A pissy, Stanford alum, University of Irvine comparative literature professor who translates nineteenth-century Spanish novelists, and intentionally grades his best student’s extraordinary paper a B+.  Jake Martin finds the extraordinary student lying dead one foggy morning, under the bougainvillea of his Spanish stucco courtyard.

“It was too late to go home, even for a change of clothes.  I bought a map of the coast highway and headed south.”   Jake Martin exits his next locations (Balboa Bay Club, San Juan Capistrano, Encinitas, even Ensenada), always in the nick-of-time.  Bullets prod his every departure.

A twist in the plot turns Jake northward, and soon he is north of Santa Monica, above Malibu, “Point Magu [sic].  One last strange rock, alone and seaward, like some forgotten giant or a period at the end of a sentence.  Beyond that are the flats of the Ventura Valley, the firing range, the naval base, the Pacific missile range, pale fields with only the tips of the summer crop greening the land.  Highway 1 hurries across it as though to get to the other side quickly, before the sea sweeps in again and wipes it clean.”

The reader finds plenty of setting along the Coast Road.  In Pismo Beach, Jake races through Oceano Dunes to evade a dune-buggying pursuer.  To reach some inland locales, such as Jake’s side-trip to Stanford campus, Elizabeth Ward writes, “I left the sea at Pescadero and turned inland through the artichokes and up into the redwood canyons that wind up to Skyline Drive.”  At Fort Point, Jake exchanges words under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge with the sergeant assigned to the case.

Penciled edits in the copy that I read, made me laugh out loud.  The first edit is found when Jake Martin carries his investigation to Pacific Heights in San Francisco.  Elizabeth C. Ward describes the streets of his location as, “…on California, between Jackson and Clay.”  A savvy reader before me penciled in three parallel lines next to this paragraph, and named each: California, Clay, Jackson.  To the right of the paragraph, this editor/reader wrote, “BETWEEN?” and then, for good measure on the page, a deeply-leaded “!”

Later, the same scribe slashed an “r” in “Monterrey,” with an admonishment, “One “ARE” in our Monterey!”

Elizabeth C. Ward includes the environmental movement and Robinson Jeffers in her Coast Highway 1.  In the victim’s photography book on estuaries of the California coast, “Jennifer had used Jeffer’s words as the only text in her book and the photographs were worthy of a poet.  The eye that had looked through the lens had lingered on the detail of wing and seed and ripple of water.  Had recorded the reflection of insect and reed and marsh grass.  It had gloried in the sweep of sky and the boundless still-spaces of the estuary.”

The gnarliest chase scene occurs, briefly, as a coast road run through the Big Sur coastscape.  “No backwoods roads lead to the safety of highway arteries further inland.  There is no escape except by foot into terrain where only the wildcat and the red-tailed hawk survive.  Once committed, there is no way out.  Set a roadblock, one at each end, and a man is trapped here forever.  Fugitive, he is defeated, finally, not by the men at either end, but by the mountains themselves and the sea swirling below.”

Elizabeth C. Ward’s Coast Highway 1, is fairly essential as a Coast Road Read.  It is certainly a bunch of fun to vicariously romp along its settings up and down the California coast.  Elizabeth wrote two other books, both published in the 1980s, A Nice Little Beach Town and The Lost Day.  Ms. Ward has lived in Newport Beach for most of her life.

Available Used.

A little article on Ms. Ward.

Who’s in with me on ponying up $5.3M for this sweet spot on North Highway 1?

Gladstone’s in Malibu benefits from a makeover in both style and menu offerings, so reports an article from the Los Angeles Times.  “The Pacific Coast Highway location is Southern California’s highest-grossing independent restaurant, with annual revenue topping $14 million, according to Restaurants & Institutions, an industry trade journal. But sales and profits have slid in recent years as the restaurant has fallen victim to the recession and changing consumer tastes, (Richard) Riordan said.”

$14 million dollars?  That’s a lot of dining!  Gladstone’s location, “Where Sunset Boulevard meets Pacific Coast Highway,” might be part of the reason for its success.  On weekends, the Pacific Coast Highway, (and here I refer to the Coast Road in its entirety as PCH and California SR 1), is a dining destination for weekend wanderers wanting a sight for sore eyes and pleasing food and drink.

That $14 million dollar quote got my attention and I reflected on all the fine dining opportunities that I’ve enjoyed during my lifetime on the California coast.  I also think about the many times I’ve been stopped by tourists who ask, “Where’s a good place to eat around here?”  Fine dining in this post is not to be defined as expensive, formal and dressy, instead, “fine dining” is used as the qualifier to describe simply a good place to eat.

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Everyone should watch Christopher Reynold’s video capture of his drive north on the California coast.

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Days until manuscript completion

Final DraftNovember 30th, 2013
Dot i's and cross t's.