Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 19, 2010


I had to go to Oxnard for a business meeting. It’s an hour and a half from a prior stop I had to make at the video editing facility in Santa Monica. There are two ways to go. The standard route is to get on the San Diego Freeway, Interstate 405, and then go west on the Ventura Freeway, U.S. 101. (Southern California freeways originally had only names: Harbor Freeway, Pasadena Freeway, etc. Then the Interstate Highway system introduced the less-imaginative but entirely Eisenhower Administration-friendly system of numbered routes. If you want to pass as a native in Los Angeles, learn their names, not their numbers.) Or, you can head west from Santa Monica, until Olympic hits the Pacific Coast Highway (California Route 1) and drive up along the coast.

Let’s see … do I save fifteen minutes of driving time to jumble¬†along amidst some of the most congested traffic in the western world, or drive along the Pacific Ocean, overlooking pristine beaches fronted by towering cliffs of sagebrush and chaparral? Tough choice. Tough, indeed.

There’s almost no traffic going OUT of L.A. out toward Malibu on a weekday. There are those mysterious individuals who are going to the beach. Maybe they’re all from Minnesota. Everyone else drove IN to L.A. earlier in the day, leaving this beautiful highway to me.

Malibu Pier Brad Nixon 3174 (640x429)

I had time to stop in Malibu to photograph the pier, which has been closed due to decades of decay for most of my years here. Now, it’s reopened.

Malibu Pier Brad Nixon 3165 (640x470)

Malibu Pier Brad Nixon 3171 (640x476)

From the pier, you can gaze southeast across the ocean and the distant coast of Los Angeles, or back east along the storied sands of Malibu.

Malibu beach Brad Nixon 3173 (640x397)

To the west, the fabled point break, one of the world meccas of surfing.

Malibu break Brad Nixon 3172 (640x396)

I wish I had more photos to show you of the fantastic drive out through Malibu, past those legendary beaches: Zuma, Leo Carrillo, Matador, but, after all, I did have an appointment to keep. Malibu itself is, for the driver, mostly a long, thin strip of development wedged between the ocean and the steep foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. The oceanfront is lined for miles with a solid wall of beach houses, which can still, in a few cases, consist of somewhat funky-looking bungalows, but which also include some awesomely impressive pads.

It’s a rule in California that the beach is public land, open to anyone. There are officially designated access paths down to the beach, but there’s a consistent drumbeat of effort by the owners of the houses to block said access and keep the public off their beach. As always, Lord, spare us from the ignorant, selfish, clueless rich.

In order to find the real Malibu, one has to stop and walk around, and, really, it’s all about the beaches. But, even on a day when there’s no time to stop, it’s at least a look at the paradisal southern California one has always heard about.

A Paradise of Wealth, as Well as Beauty: Beyond Rational Numbers

As you travel farther west beyond Malibu, toward Point Dume, the road stretches out for long, flat expanses. With the mountains on one side, the ocean on the other, and very little traffic (at least during the week) and not much development, it’s precisely the place where you know you’ll go when you get your Ferrari or Lamborghini and really let ‘er rip.

There’s a concept in mathematics called “rational numbers.” Basically, any integer is a rational number. Take 268. In math, that’s a rational number. However, if you said you were going to drive a car that fast on a public road, I would not consider that a rational number.

There is a production automobile, the Bugatti Veyron, that claims an average top speed of 268 mph. That’s obviously insane. One could only drive that fast on something like the Bonneville Salt Flats without some incredible skill and probably luck, too. Maybe you could drive 200 on that stretch of PCH, or maybe some dude would not believe that you were coming that fast and pull out in front of you, or maybe an insect would cross your path and send you flying, clipping off a few dozen telephone poles as you flew.

I had never seen one of those Bugattis ’til I made that Malibu drive. There it was, looking more like a space ship than an automobile, parked along the opposite side of the coast highway. Pretty darned spiffy. At $1.7 million or so, I guess. The best thing about that particular supercar? It was parked right in front of a California Highway Patrol cruiser. A discussion off some sort was in progress. No, I’m sorry to report, I did not pull over and photograph the event. I was too busy deriving a maximum amount of pleasure from driving 55 mph.

© Brad Nixon 2010, 2017


  1. yep, as soon as I win the big lottery I’ll buy a Bugatti-Ferrari-Lamborghini and visit the Salt Flats. The BBC Top Gear show took one of the Veyrons out on a race track and confirmed the ridiculous top speed.


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