What with the economy tanking, and gas prices shooting ever skyward, it seems everyone is looking for a quick, easy, and cheap getaway. Our friends, who are facing four years of college tuition, opted to rent a house on Catalina Island, and encouraged us to come visit for the day. A Catalina Island day trip sounded like a great idea.
There are a few different ways to get to Catalina by boat. (I can’t even think about flying there, but that’s possible also). Since I live near Santa Monica, the closest option is the Catalina Flyer out of Marina Del Rey. It takes a little longer than the boats from San Pedro or Long Beach, and is a little more expensive UNLESS you come across a coupon from Goldstar and can slash 50 percent off the ticket price. Catalina here we come.
We picked up our 12-year-old daughter’s BFF (12 year olds do better when paired with their own kind rather than with old people such as myself and my husband.) We headed down to the dock. Parking was easy, $11 all day. The boat was very comfortable and clean. Lots of bench seats on the upper deck, and a snack bar and bathrooms in the main cabin meant our two-hour ride would be sweet. At one point the captain pointed out a pod of dolphins frolicking portside. (Or was it sternside?) Since I saw them immediately, I didn’t have to figure that out. We even caught sight of a blue whale. Wow.
Our friend met us at the port in Avalon, which is very French Mediterranean, with the pleasure boats colorfully bobbing in the harbor. You walk a mere 100 feet and there is a public beach, boat rentals, electric car rentals (no Milly, we can’t get one and let you drive it), restaurants, bauble shops, candy stores and other such beach paradise icons. In the far distance (although easily a mere 10 minute walk) is the world famous Catalina Ballroom and Casino, where the film stars of yesteryear danced to the likes of Benny Goodman, and escaped the humdrum tedium of Hollywood. They say it’s haunted now. I didn’t want to find out.
One of my husbands’ favorite leisure activities is mini golf. And one of his favorite courses is on Catalina; eighteen holes of shady sporty fun. I was teamed with Milly and Emily, and while they tried to jump holes (by which I mean literally skip over), we made a lot better time once we stopped keeping score. Oddly enough, we each made a hole in one on eighteen.
We headed back to the harbor for a lunch on the patio of Armstrong’s Fish Market. Very reasonable prices, good filling meals and the best view in town. After lunch we had to work up just a little sweat so we could be ready for ice cream. Dan and his friend walked up the hill to the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel. It was the famous author’s home, but is now a hotel. The view is superb. Milly, Emily and I went to the arcade for a few rounds of bowling and skee ball, shopped in the harbor side stores, and got some fresh salt-water taffy at the candy store. We were going to hit the beach, but it was just a tad too chilly.
Besides, it was just about time for one last indulgence. Big Olaf’s is a local favorite, and I know why. The smell of their waffle cones beckoned. Why did I have to pick this week to be on Weight Watchers? But the silence was testament to the flavor factor. Luckily Milly’s eyes are bigger than her stomach. It’s a Mom’s job to make sure nothing goes to waste, isn’t it? Even if it goes to my waist.
We meandered slowly back to the Flyer dock in time to get the five o’clock back to Los Angeles. We made lists of things we could do next time: kayak, snorkel, zip line, bike ride, and search for bison. It’s always good to leave a little hungry for more. I don’t know why, but the journey back takes a little less time. The girls fell asleep, while Dan and I relaxed and talked about renting a house ourselves next time. Can’t wait.
Judy Silk, Huffington Post blogger, is a mother and freelance writer. A California native, she requires little water.