Spring Break on Santa Catalina Island

When I was a kid, one of these sailboats would've been ours, and we'd have sailed it all the way over from Mission Bay in San Diego here to the Avalon harbor. And we'd have lowered our rubber dinghy into the bay and rowed up to the beach still queasy from the trip, nosing around the souvenir shops all day and eating ice cream, then sleeping back out on the boat with Mom and Dave at night. This island is peppered with childhood memories and I see my thumbprint here and there all over it.

Franny's and my most recent recent trip, however, also felt new and different, staying in condos that hadn't even existed when I was a kid, and playing host to our favorite out-of-state vacation pals who've come to trust us to drag them all around California every spring break for the last three years: my girl Posy, her Fran, her dad Pop Pop and his lady Karen. This year, the six of us conquered Santa Catalina Island from our green, four-seater golf cart that may have gone half a mile an hour with the pedal floored underneath us, especially up the hills. Avalon, the island's only incorporated "city" (3,500 permanent residents; 605 students grades K - 12), has got to be the smallest, quirkiest, quaintest, most intriguing place out there, or at least in Los Angeles County. If you're asking me, anyway.

We ate in all the overpriced places in town, treated ourselves to a day at the Descanso Beach Club (where they delivered our margaritas and pina coladas to our towels sand-side) and took a five-hour private jeep tour through the back country, where we saw free-roaming bison, rehabilitating eagles, unending fields and hillsides of wildflowers, and next-to untouched beaches. They say three of anything is officially a “collection.” Guess that means we're now collecting spring breaks. First San Diego, then Santa Barbara, and now here. How will we ever top this next year?