Two Harbors And Not Avalon Wins My Affection
My first introduction to Catalina Island – “26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a’waitin’ for me” as a 50s song from a group called The Four Peeps says – was when my girlfriend at the time suggested we go to it.
Her father was the sheriff on Two Harbors and she wanted to show me the place where she was from, and I was quite anxious to see it. In my mistaken mind, we would be be partying at the fun bars in the little Mediterranean-style town of Avalon. I had heard about a tiki bar called Luau Larry’s where people get a drink called the Weeky Whacker and walk out wearing a straw had ideal for a Jimmy Buffett concert.
I could hardly wait!
But wait! We were not going anywhere Avalon, she informed me. (I did not understand this at the time but sure do now). We would be at Two Harbors. It had but one bar and attracted only those on a couple of dozen sailboats in the bay.
(But what about the other harbor, I thought to myself!? Maybe it has a lively bar she wanted to hide from me.)
Suddenly, I was a lot less excited about giving up a weekend in Manhattan Beach, CA, than when she first brought up the idea.
But, as has happened time and time again in my travels, I learned you have got to trust the locals.
I wound up loving Two Harbors.
For starters, that one bar is an outdoor deck. You dance and party under the stars. It’s called the Harbor Reef Restaurant and it’s awesome! I was also introduced to a local drink called the Buffalo Milk. I’m not sure what’s in it and did not care to know – still don’t! – but they were frothy and awesome.
Lynne, not being much of a partier, went in early at night but I always stayed until closing time. I was. naturally, careful to stay out of the watchful eyes of her father. He spent the night in his sheriff’s jacket leaned up against a wall at the far end of the bar.
At the end of the night, he invited me to escort him on his “rounds,” which consisted of walking onto the pier to make sure all the skippers got their dingys safely back to their boats. Lynne told me he did not want to arrest anyone because he had to do the paperwork in Avalon and that was a 30-minute boat ride at 2 in the morning. (By this time, I learned you can’t easily get from Two Harbors to Catalina tho now there’s a tourist boat that’s $15 each way).
Mostly, he just made sure everyone was safe. That’s what good officers do; they don’t harass people that don’t need harassing.
When Lynne told me they hold an annual pirates festival called Buccaneer Days, I was hooked on Two Harbors like a fish on a line and became a regular at that event when I met a friend with a sailboat.
When I was not drinking Buffalo Milks, Lynne showed me around the island. It’s a rugged place, a lot of dirt trails on a largely uninhabited, hilly landscape. All with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
At one point, Lynne’s mother suggested we go for lunch at the so-called Airport In The Sky for, as she put it “the best Buffalo Burgers on the island.”
What, I thought to myself? There’s an airport here? And it’s in the sky? What the heck is a Buffalo Burger??
The only way to get there was through the rugged interior on a single-lane dirt path, going up and down through hills and valleys. We would cross the paths of buffalos, which were brought to the island back in the 20s when chewing gum millionaire William Wrigley Jr., bought part of the island.
Before we departed, I insisted that Lynne’s mother take the doors off the Jeep. If we were going to have a Serengeti-type adventure, I sure wanted it to be in a Jeep with no doors!
And so we bounced up and over all over Catalina Island. Every now and then she would come up to a long metal pole; it was gate to keep in the buffalo. She would ease up to it and “pop” it with her bumper. The gate would then open and close behind us.
I can’t tell you how cool this was – I mean nobody could get this adventure and it was a whole new and exciting experience for me.
It took about an hour to reach the Airport In The Sky, which is a major destination for Southern California private pilots. The Buffalo Burger was awesome but what really stuck with me was the entire experience of, well, experiencing it.
If I have one regret, it’s that I never really – to my satisfaction anyway – thanked Lynne and her family for how how much I really enjoyed that trip. I said “thank you” a lot, but it was not until much later that I truly appreciated the whole experience. Heck, I was too busy living in the moment.
I do want them to know that whenever I went back with my sailboat buddy and to Buccaneer Days, I did pause for a quiet moment alone to think about them and that great weekend.
Twenty-six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me
Santa Catalina, the island of romance