THE KAERU KID: An island vacation for a song

One does not need to be okanemochi (a rich person) or have lots of vacation days to enjoy an exotic island vacation. Do you remember the song “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)”? The distance is actually shorter and the story behind the song is quite interesting (see: http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jul/15/entertainment/ca-socal15).

There are many ferry rides that take an hour or less, from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point, Calif., for around $70 round trip (www.catalinaexpress.com) and for those who want to avoid seasickness or are in a hurry, a 15-minute helicopter ride costs around $211 round trip (www.islandexpress.com/flights.php).
Even a day trip will make you feel as through you are thousands of miles away from the hectic Southern California lifestyle. Overnight stays provide even more opportunities for various activities and a chance to thoroughly shake off the cobwebs. Avalon has an abundance of restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels.

Sunbathing, fishing, boating, glass bottom boat viewing, and inland motor coach tours are among the activities available. The Avalon Harbor, however, is considered to be chronically polluted, so be warned. If swimming, scuba or snorkeling is high on your list, go to Two Harbors instead, where the waters are pristine. On an overnight stay, a night boat ride to see flying fish is always fun.

In the past, I’ve stayed at the historic Zane Grey Hotel, the former home of the famed writer. I also recommend the bed and breakfast The Inn on Mt. Ada, the former William Wrigley Jr. home. It was serendipity that I was the only guest the night I was there. The manager kindly offered me a free upgrade from their lowest priced unit to the top end, Wrigley’s own master bedroom. Free use of electric golf carts and the sumptuous breakfast were included in the fee.

On my recent trip, I was invited by a friend to visit Two Harbors and its USC Wrigley Marine Science Center. It is only open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, when open houses are held. If you are in the area during that time, a visit is well worthwhile. A hyperbaric chamber, research facilities, and upscale accommodations for invited guests, are located here. A generous donation includes a chance to stay here.

I was shown places that even some longtime island dwellers may have never visited. During my tour, I saw and was told that Two Harbors’ windward side has the most protected natural harbor between San Francisco and San Diego. Little Harbor on the same side has a cove called “Shark Fin,” because of a rock formation that looks like a shark fin whose top has been covered by guano for a striking feature. Great white sharks have been seen in Catalina waters. Across the cove are lobster traps and from the hill overlooking the traps there is evidence of where the original inhabitants caught shellfish and did their cooking for thousands of years.

REMNANTS OF THE WAR — A World War II artillery site is among the highlights for visitors to see on Catalina Island. photo by the Kaeru Kid

Nearby evidence of World War II artillery sites include the remains of foundations and underground bunkers. Island teenagers use these bunkers as their secret party location.

Two Harbors is a favorite destination for private boaters. During the summer it is a beehive of activity with music and an adult spring break feel. Come during the off-season and especially during the week and very likely you will have the town of Two Harbors to yourself. There is a restaurant and general store here.

Accommodations here include bungalows, guesthouses and the Banning Lodge Bed and Breakfast. There are also camping facilities here and at a more remote site. Many of these buildings have a significant history, including some being constructed for Union Soldiers during the Civil War. One of the buildings was built for Hollywood stars when they filmed movies here, and then later used for their vacations.

Nineteen bison were brought to the island for the movie “The Vanishing American” in 1924. They were turned loose after filming and multiplied to more than 600. They became an ecological problem and controlling their number now includes trapping the bison and donating them to various mainland Native American tribes, as well as inoculating the females with long-acting birth control medication. They hope to maintain the herd to around 150. The buffalo burgers served at the Airport in the Sky are obtained from a mainland commercial source. Another major ecological problem is non-native mule deer, but efforts to eliminate them are thwarted by groups opposing this action. Island foxes and bald eagles are other prominent wildlife here.

The island became a Spanish land grant and passed through many hands until the Phineas Banning family bought the island in 1891, but was forced to sell in 1919 after a disastrous fire in 1915. William Wrigley ended up owning the island, and in 1975, the Wrigley family donated their holdings to the Catalina Island Conservancy, but retained an 800-acre ranch. This is being converted into a vineyard to produce wines after Wrigley daughter Alison married Napa winery owner Geoff Rusack.

RICH ATMOSPHERE ­— The elite Isthmus Yacht Club. photo by the Kaeru Kid

A few yacht clubs have facilities on the island. One located in Two Harbors is called the Isthmus Yacht Club and is housed in a former Civil War barracks with 11 rooms. They limit membership to 11 married members. If they get divorced or their wife dies, they lose their membership. Membership is by invitation only and if you have to ask about how much dues are, you won’t be able to afford membership.

My recommendation is to rent a cabin for around $40 a night at Two Harbors midweek before Memorial Day: (www.visitcatalinaisland.com/twoHarbors/lodg_catalinaCabins.php) unless you are okanemochi, then stay at Banning House Lodge, which was the original Banning vacation home, or stay at the Mt. Ada Inn in Avalon where the lowest rates start at $345 a night during the off-season (rates have almost doubled since I first visited).

 

Las Vegas Tidbits

I recently saw Cathy Tanaka and Paul Ogata at Big Al’s Comedy Club at the Orleans Hotel & Casino. Cathy is too attractive to be a comedian (www.cathytanaka.com).

Paul (www.paulogata.com) is hilarious and can ad lib at the drop of a heckle.

He will be back in Vegas at the L.A. Comedy Club at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino (3667 South Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas; http://thelacomedyclub.com; (702) 275-3877) Thursday through Saturday, April 12 through 14 at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, April15 at 9 p.m.; and Monday, May 7 through Sunday, May13 at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino (3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas, Nev.; 866-740-7711.)  I highly recommend the shows.

 

The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at KaeruKid@yahoo.com. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Comments

  1. This is lovely picture of house. I want to know the location of it.

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