I turned back around, and headed back to the coast, this time just north of Malibu. There was a little beach break at the campground, with decent waves, and about 20 guys surfing. Every day. Huge crowd. I didn’t see any confrontations, but it reminded me of why I never really took up surfing. That, and an unreasonable fear of sharks. I didn’t see Jaws until I was an adult, but I saw the commercials as a kid, and I was convinced I was going to be eaten. While swimming. In our pool. Plus, I got to drive past my old stomping grounds in the Valley, where I was sure God was trying to kill me. I was there for a really big earthquake, and soon packed up and left for Colorado. Thanks God! So glad I left, especially the Encino area. Ick, it was as gross as I remember. Plus I met my future ex-wife there, so I have lots of baggage surrounding that place. We’re friendish now, but I’m still not a fan of that place.
It was hot and gross, and towing a trailer through the 405/101 interchange is basically a constant game of chicken, as you signal, merge, and cut off that lowered BMW. You can’t care, because in L.A. freeway driving, most people, especially the douchey kind that drives a lowered BMW, consider a turn signal as either a sign of weakness, or a challenge. Anybody who would use their blinker to change lanes is either a yokel, who is not to be treated with respect, or somebody who is daring you to thread the needle. As my friend Rob says, “it’s the eye of the needle, Gary, we must pass through it together.”
Jen was hiking out of the Lake, and towards that McDonalds. PCT Hikers act like they haven’t had real food in months, when in fact they’re constantly eating better than you and I. Worse, actually, but tastier. Burgers, pie, pizza, cookies, it all goes in the tank at an alarming rate. Jen had just got done eating a bunch of donuts, steak dinner, and then she’s looking all misty about McDonalds. She walked across some hot, dry hills, down to the freeway truck stop, got her McDonalds, and quickly realized why most athletes avoid the stuff. Not good for hiking up some big hills, which she had to do.
There is a famous BJJ guy, kind of a BJJ coach to the stars I guess, in Malibu. He charges $150 for a drop in, according to his website. Maybe he’s trying to discourage people from star chasing at this gym. Jen asked if I would pay $150 to train with anybody famous. Not even Anthony Bourdain, and he’s kind of a hero of mine. Former Chef, late years BJJ aficionado, curses like the drunker sailor he is. Married a woman who could kick his ass, and although it didn’t work out in the end, that’s Hespect worthy.
That left me with a drive over the Santa Monica Mountains, or down the coast to Santa Monica, or up to Oxnard. Since I’ll be heading north soon, I opted up and over. Plus, I got to drive the Big Girl over these tight curvy road, so sure, that sounds fun. I stopped in at Paragon in Agoura Hills. Totally unexpected treat.
Rodrigo Antunes, a black belt since 1999, runs the show there, and it was great. I was talking earlier about gyms and coaches who make you fell comfortable, and places that push you, and then there’s places like this, where you feel like family right away, and he treats his family right. Adding to the vibe was the fact that there were two other bald, stocky guys with grey in their beards, both of whom work in the kitchen world. I felt like I saw myself had I stayed in the business and found BJJ. It was fun, and we had some great rolls. Professor Rodrigo was showing a slick turtle attack, and really took the time to shake out the kinks and smooth out the technique. I love it when you learn something new, get a chance to work it, get the corrections you need, and feel like it’s going to be part of your game.
BJJ learning is often like trying to drink from a firehose or read a book as you drive past it at sixty miles per hour. Cool stuff goes flying out of my head at an alarming rate. I’m trying to write down the things I learn, and whom I learned it from, but there’s so much, and I’m not good at remembering things. I’ve always believed that my excellent problem solving skills are due to my extremely poor memory. I can’t remember anything, from grade school math, to your name (sorry, I already forgot it), to jiu jitsu techniques. Occasionally, something sticks, and it works, and then I try it out every chance I get. I think this turtle attack might be one.
Jen was hiking towards the Angeles Crest Highway zone, and feeling, aside from the donut and McDonalds poisoning, pretty solid. I was going to meet her in Acton, about 100 miles down the road. She hiked past a couple of ski “resorts”, including Wrightwood, and Mt. Baldy, all the way up to a spot where the trail is closed, this time for frogs. There’s a rare frog that lives in the area of Williamson Rock, and Jen asked me to come get here where they got kicked off the trail. I drove up there, and it looked familiar.
funny thing is, I had my first bachelor party here! My brothers, my friend Dan, and I all spent a long weekend at Williamson Rock, back when I was young, like 30. We did a bunch of rock climbing, and beer drinking, and manly stuff, before my afore mentioned ill-fated first go at being married. Much better memories here than in the Valley, for sure, like totally.
On the way in, I also notice a ski “resort” that was pretty vintage even before I was. This is one of the first places my Dad ever took us to see snow, and later on I skied it when I was in my twenties. It’s still there, still the same, although it looks like they put new covers on the chairs, which were wood slats if I remember correctly.
Good Old Mt. Waterman!
Note the incredible variety of runs! Nice and Easy to Advanced! I think it cost $25. Me and the boys took a few more shots and headed towards mile 386.
Oh, btw, while driving up here, I blew a tire. On the trailer. Changing a tire on a loaded trailer sucks. Just saying.
I picked Jen up at the frog detour, and headed down the hill to Acton, where the trailer had found itself. Acton is kind of a cute little town, touristy, with a lot of “movie ranches” available to film T.V. westerns and such. They also had a hairstylist available, and Jen decided to ditch the corn rows, and just cut the damn stuff off. Good choice. Her new hair is very cute, and much easier to manage.
Unfortunately, not all things are as easy to manage, and this time it was Jens’ knee. Neither of us thought much about it, but I dropped her off to continue on her hike, not expecting to see her for another 75 miles or so. I had already found a BJJ school in nearby-ish Palmdale, and had plans to go visit on a Friday.
This is one of those pleasant surprises that I discover. Jerry Montes is a brown belt, and runs the place with another Brown belt, a very tough guy I guessed was Russian, maybe Brazilian. Keep in mind neither of these guys could weigh over 160 lbs. When people talk about smaller guys crushing bigger guys using BJJ, this is what they’re talking about. I don’t know if they always run their classes this way, but we did some take down drilling, a little technique, and then it was Friday night round robin. Wow, talk about tired. Coach Montes sat out most of it, but his partner was right in there, and since he was killing everyone, he was doing 3 or 4 rounds to my 1. Started off by doing take down competition, along with two huge guys, one white, one blue. Get the takedown, stay in. Then to 1st points, which started on the feet, then on to first subs. For about 90 minutes.
Definitely got the work in. Ouch.
Jen came along and had a movie date in Palmdale while I rolled. Sadly, I had intended on seeing her later, but her knee did something weird, and I had to pick her up unexpectedly. We both thought it was probably fine, and she had hit a milestone, 400 miles, and figured that it was time to leapfrog up to Kennedy Meadows, the start of the Sierra. She had a class to attend, where she would learn by doing with Ned, a local snow travel expert.
We hung out a little, got her hair done, and headed to our next stop, up above Santa Barbara, to rest the knee, see her sister, and do some BJJ.
We stayed at this gorgeous setting at Rancho Oso, which had mountains, and a cool campsite, and almost no internet. We can only disconnect so much. We drove in to Santa Barbara, and Jen went to meet her sister, Fanny, who just so happens to be an almost masseuse. Or so I’m told. By Jen. We hung around town, and I hit open mat at Paragon BJJ. I was, frankly, a little scared.
Tons of high belt people hanging around, very muscular looking lower belts, and a reputation as a top competition school.
Look at these guys. If you’re not a little scared, you’re not thinking right.
No need, however. As I’ve discovered, there are bad people who do BJJ, but they are few and far between. Friendly, technical, nobody acting like every roll was for the belt, just welcoming, solid fun. I came back for a class the next day, and in spite of it being NoGi, I stuck around, and learned some things. Started off with a bunch of wrestling style take down work, which made me feel like a total white belt. This isn’t something I do regularly, but everybody was patient, and it started to feel like I might be able to take someone down some day.
http://Adam benShea was the coach, and while he looks terrifying, he was quite nice. He’s also got a PhD, so he’s doubly a professor. I hope those undergrads understand who they’re dealing with when they go in and complain about their grades.
Santa Barbara was fun, but it was time for us to head to the Sierra, and see if Jens’ knee would hold up and get her through the record setting snowpack. Spoiler alert, it wouldn’t.
She was all smiles to start, but it wouldn’t last. The knee was acting up within the first few miles, and we had a hard discussion. We ended up packing it in, and heading back to Reno to see the knee doctor. We don’t know when, if at all, we’ll be able to get back on the trail. We’re back home now, hoping for the best, and still planning on getting back to it.