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December Santa Monica Mountain Drive - The Story!

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  • December Santa Monica Mountain Drive - The Story!

    At 3:30am, Sunday, December 28th, my clock radio awoke me with softly playing music. Ordinarily I'd be sleepy, grumpy, and wouldn't arise at this hour for even the chance to meet Santa Claus. But on this particular Sunday, there was an adventure afoot! My friend John Reikes, who's studying law at Loyola, had sent me an evite for a "Santa Monica Mountain Run - at Dawn." He offered us the chance to watch sunrise over the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Ocean, and then drive through fabled mountain canyons with friends and enthusiasts above the City of Angels. Maybe I'm nuts, I'll admit that much, but then maybe that's also why you're reading this!

    Before we go much further with this story, you need to understand how cold, dark, clear and beautiful it was that Sunday morning. With only streetlight illuminating our neighborhood, the house's roofs and everyone's lawn appeared snowy white from ol' Jack Frost. The stars above were pinpoints of light so sharp you could have counted the stars in the Milky Way. But I'll admit, this clear and cold eliminated any machismo driving me to venture to Santa Monica topless, so hooded (in the English sense) and double-fleece jacketed, I set out onto the 60 freeway to begin the adventure.

    There weren't many people driving about those wee Sunday morning hours, so my trip to Santa Monica went very quickly. Where just a few days earlier millions of people were stuck in a massive last minute Christmas shopping traffic jam, I cruised in at a steady 70-75, rarely seeing another set of headlights. Maybe I was meeting Santa Claus afterall; or maybe this was my gift?

    At John's apartment, he proposed a short walk to Starbuck's for an early morning eye-opener, and he'd buy! Sold. As we started across the street, SLOMOVE, a Birkin 7 pulled up to the curb with a very well insulated Gert Berkhardt at the wheel. His Seven was hooded but open on the sides with only wind-wings to deflect the frosty blast. His car looked dazzling in bright yellow and polished ali, and sounded terrific sporting a new polished stainless exhaust. Gert didn't need much convincing to join us for heartwarming fresh brewed coffee!

    At 6:30 sharp, we left John's apartment and headed for Pacific Coast Highway to begin our journey. Cars in our caravan included John's black Honda S-2000, a very masculine sounding Mustang Cobra, a pumped up Camaro convertible, Gert's Birkin, and my Caterham 7. While heading North on PCH, we saw the sky brighten until the sun finally appeared over the water with an explosion of diamonds! There wasn't a cloud in sight on this beautiful and chilly winter morning.

    From PCH we turned right onto Latigo Canyon Road. Yeow, my shoulders still burn from this workout! This wonderfully challenging 10 miles of climbing road is all second and third gear with undulations and switchbacks grabbing for attention. It climbs high above Malibu and brought us near the legendary Mulholland Highway. On Mulholland we stopped at a favorite biker hangout named the "Rock Store" for brrrrrreakfast. Man it was cold there, but inside was warm with good coffee and hearty food.

    Hunger pangs satisfied, we drove to a rendezvous spot at the Stunt Road lookout to meet with some local friends. While waiting and as the sun rose higher, the air warmed and it was time to go topless. We could hear my friends Michael and Ross driving up the hills with their Sevens, and greeted them when they arrived. Michael and Ross live in Malibu, and these canyons are their backyard playground. We chased Michael and his Cosworth powered Caterham up and down a couple of canyon roads, dancing over frost patches and pitching through the switchbacks. I can't get it out of my head, the smell of hard working machinery, the chill coastal air, and the sound from high reving motors bouncing through the canyons: pure sensory overload. This was the adventure I hoped for!

    As our day in the Santa Monica mountains came to an end and I was driving back to Riverside, I couldn't help reflecting on the drive. We had driven great roads and seen magnificent exquisite panoramic vistas. But I asked, "what's the point to the adventure?" It makes no practical sense, and indeed has a high danger component. My conclusion is that we do the things we love with passion - to be with our friends and reaffirm the relationships. Our vehicles are an extension of our souls and the drive gives us the excuse, no the context to relax, play and explore. It's in that exploration where we ultimately bare an honesty and vulnerability from within ourselves that draws us closer together,………and that's good. Peace, and Happy New Year!!