GLAMPING IN MALIBU
Murray Shares His Airstream
My teenage girl and I were long overdue for a mom-daughter wander. She “requested” two simple things—a beach and no hostels. I insisted on two equally simple things—no airplanes and unique accommodations. With help from the internet, we narrowed it down to two destinations—Santa Barbara or Malibu. Toss a coin? Eeny meeny? Nope. The place with the coolest (mutually agreed upon) Airbnb space would win! I entered our dates and price range and we started going down the list—our search screeched to a halt when I came across the perfect opportunity to go glamping in Malibu!
Here is the listing we found:
Murray and his wife Kay share TWO restored strategically placed Airstreams on their 20 mountainous acres in the upscale community of Malibu. The mountains are the Santa Monica Mountains—the only east/west facing mountain range in North America.
Why do Murray and his wife share them? According to Murray, there’s nothing like a global recession to help us climb out of our financial boxes. Thanks to Airbnb, they have found a way for their gorgeous property to work FOR them, while allowing frugal wanderers like me to cover more ground. Everybody wins in a sharing economy.
Despite being warned that luxuries—like TVs, full-sized showers, and outlets for charging phone and computers—would be severely limited, my girl gave a thumbs up for a glamping adventure in one of Murray’s trailers. Since neither of us were particularly keen on snuggling together in a full-sized bed for three nights, I booked the Airstream Vintage Adventure—Pt. 2.
When you see the pics of Murray’s 1957 Airstream 22′ Flying Cloud, it’s clear why there wasn’t an available summer weekend in sight and we were looking at a midweek wander.
Being that my daughter is the second of my two offspring, I’m pretty savvy when it comes to teens. No one had to tell me that a rigid itinerary and a 15 year old go together like Mentos and Coke. Rather than be tormented by an awareness of all that I was missing while we lounged on beaches and trailer beds, I opted to remain blissfully ignorant of all things Malibu. We simply filled our overnight bags with all things beachy, packed a bunch of snacks and just-add-water meals, a bottle of wine (for me), and hit the road.
If you read my Travel Therapy posts , it’s pretty clear that wandering is a whole lot about hands on learning for me. It didn’t take long for the education to begin on this particular wander…
As I sipped on tea and soaked up the peaceful morning silence under the pepper tree outside out front door, the bellowing began:
“OH…MY…GOD. How am I gonna make my oatmeal??? THERE’S NO MICROWAVE!”
Sigh. I am seriously concerned about the ability of both of my children to survive Darwin’s Law once they launch themselves from the nest. I set my tea down, stood up, ready to teach.
LESSON #1: Yes, you CAN boil water without a microwave. In a pot…on the stove.
Soon after breakfast, we took Murray’s advice and set off for Paramount Ranch.
In 1927, Paramount Pictures bought 2,700 acres to use as a massive outdoor movie set. It’s pretty mind boggling to imagine all the feet who have touched the dirt here—Cecil B. Demille, Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, and so many more.
In 1953, the subsequent owner built a mini-town that was the backdrop for several old westerns, including The Cisco Kid and Gunsmoke.
After buying a portion of the original Paramount Ranch in 1980, the National Park Service breathed new life into the property and welcomed the public along with the cast and crew of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Unless you’re up for some hiking, mountain biking, or photography, it’s a pretty quick stop.
Not yet having found Malibu central since pulling off the freeway in Calabasas yesterday, and still refusing to enlighten myself much through research, I consulted with Murray about his favorite local eateries. He confirmed my observation that the locals take the whole haven thing quite seriously—there aren’t many. But, he did enthusiastically point us toward The Old Place in the tiny community of Cornell.
Named after Ezra Cornell, the founder of Cornell University, the community of Cornell was founded in the early 1900’s. The Old Place restaurant was originally Hank’s Country Store and Cornell’s official post office. (Be sure and check out the old postal sorting table in the private dining room known as the Mail Room.)
About 70 years ago, a guy named Tom turned the run down store into a quirky American-style restaurant. More like a Hollywood clubhouse populated by Steve McQueen, Jason Robards, Ali McGraw, and Bob Dylan, it’s motto—“No Frills and Limit Your Thrills”—was strictly enforced by Tom. Today Tom’s son, Morgan, runs this very well behaved establishment…from Thursday through Sunday.
LESSON #2: If you want to see the little spots, visit Malibu on a weekend when everything is open!
Thus begins a list entitled “Reasons to Return to Malibu With The Boyfriend.” The Old Place nabs the #1 spot and the Cornell Winery and Tasting Room next door was an obvious #2.
Across the street from The Old Place is an eerie spot. I won’t mince words here…Lake Enchant has a bizarre vibe. A little research shed some light on why.
This hidden enclave was once the weekend getaway of a wealthy Los Angeles automotive manufacturer. After losing his shirt and the property in the depression, it was converted into a charming “fairyland” for young and old alike. The main attractions were the enchanting canoe-filled Lake Enchanto, several amusement rides, a petting zoo, and the largest swimming pool in the nation.
Visitors stayed in cabanas along the banks of the lake, and cut rugs to Big Band music on the outdoor dance floor. At one point, there were plans to build a place to rival the big city amusement parks by adding replicas of the world’s wonders. Alas, the plans for Egypt’s Pyramids and Mt. Fuji were foiled when the owner married a teenager, landed himself in divorce court, and eventually jail for hiring a hit man to off his young wife’s lawyer.
Between 1960-ish and the mid-1970s, the property deteriorated, became home to “hippie” transients (some of whom were members of the Manson “family”), and the once enchanted lake filled up with abandoned cars. Thankfully, actor Peter Strauss (of Rich Man, Poor Man) rescued the property, restored it to its former splendor, and sold it into conservancy in the mid-1980s.
Today, it is part of the National Park system and home to uncrowded nature trails, picnic spots, and a venue for concerts, weddings and other special events. Rumor has it that the teenage-marrying convict buried some of his cash on the property due to a deep distrust of banks. It has yet to be found. A bizarre place, indeed. Click here to learn more.
Just up the road is another fascinating place with a quirky history—Malibu (or Malibou) Lake.
In 1922, George Wilson and Bertram Lackey purchased 350 acres, formed the Malibou Lake Club, and started construction on a dam with the vision of the largest social club in Southern California, centered on hunting and fishing and serving as a residential enclave out of the big city. People started snatching up “lakefront” lots for about $700, which was quite a wad in 1922.
A massive clubhouse, complete with 24 bedrooms for visiting members, a 55’x 75’ lounge, a 40’x 60’ dining room, a stage and locker rooms, was built in 1924. Unfortunately, four years after the dam was originally built, the lake still lacked that fundamental ingredient that makes for a good lake—water. Needless to say, there were some mighty disgruntled property owners living on Lakeside Drive.
Some credit a rain maker for bringing a spring storm in 1926 that somehow managed to fill the lake to the brim. Since then, it’s been the backdrop for more than 100 movies and is now a quaint and quiet community that’s home to about 250 residents.
The teenager was getting restless with all this bizarreness, so we went in search of one of the infamous Malibu beaches rumored to be home to “hot guys.”
Zuma Beach is often touted as the “best beach in LA County.” Being from San Diego, the land of equally “best” beaches, has clearly spoiled both of us. While Zuma didn’t disappoint, it didn’t rock our beach chairs either. Although there’s a big sand-side parking lot, Murray’s sage local advice to keep $8 in your wallet and park on the street for free was spot on. (In fact, you may not have a choice on a busy summer weekend.)
The beach itself is wide open with plenty of sand space, but seemed mostly populated by tourists. Much to my teenager’s dismay, the tame waves were a deterrent to hot Malibu surfers. They do, however, make for some ideal swimming. Other perks include an occasional lifeguard patrolling the beach, food stands, and decent bathrooms.
We still haven’t found Malibu central and have begun to question its existence.
By the time we got back to the trailer, it was time to recharge—me on my cozy Airstream bed and my girl in the car with her iPhone and a car charger. It was a blissful 45 unconscious minutes until…oh, SHIT! My eyes jolted open. I don’t hear the engine running. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing it running.
LESSON #3: Energy always has a source…if not an engine, then a BATTERY!
This day called for a full glass of wine before I gazed at stars with my slightly wiser teenager. As we hunted for constellations in the blackest of nights, a quieter freak out began…
“Mom, what the hell was THAT??? There’s SOMETHING out there!!!”
I listened. Hmmm, I believe I hear karma coming to give my teenager a legitimate “Oh, shit!” moment. There was most definitely an animal that seemed to be making its way toward us. Armed with a warning from Murray and my lit up iPhone, I marched to meet it head on much to my horrified girl’s amazement.
“Awwww, it’s Murray’s horses. Oh, I didn’t tell you about them? Oops.” (Well played, Mom.)
Awwww, my little girl is growing up! She actually hiked up the nearest mini-mountain without a single gripe. I’m pretty sure I even saw her soak up a view. Despite the fact that it’s evidence of my own aging, I thoroughly enjoyed the mature moment.
Murray to the rescue! Apparently, my teen isn’t the first one to drain a car battery juice to run a Smart Phone. His trusty handheld battery jumper brought my Mini coughing back to life. Before he left, Murray also gifted me with a secret. Let’s just say that one phone remained fully charged for the rest of the trip.
Before hitting the next beach, I insisted we stop off for some fresh seafood (for me)—and chicken strips (for her)—from a local spot.
Owned by commercial fishermen since 1972, Malibu Seafood serves up fried or grilled fish or shellfish—and, some tasty clam chowder—on the side of the main highway that overlooks the ocean. It’s Reason to Return #6 simply so I can eat in the presence of somebody who truly understands the bliss of biting into their grilled calamari steak sandwich.
Today we invaded a “secret” exclusive beach. Sandwiched in between multi-million dollar homes and big surfer-filled waves, the views were much more pleasant down this way. Unfortunately, the wind had us back on our home turf early with the consolation of a play date with Murray’s feisty goats.
The night ended with an equally feisty game of Scrabble that this Mom played extremely well.
So, apparently I do blissful ignorance very well. It wasn’t until we were taking the scenic route home down Highway 1 that we happened upon Malibu proper—waaaaayyyyy past Zuma Beach, Malibu Seafoods, and Pepperdine University. Go figure. I now faintly recalled reading that the city of Malibu stretched along nearly 30 miles of coastline.
Far from upper crust, the town is eclectic with parts of it bordering on downright funky.
This ends one glamping in Malibu trip…soon to begin another. Fast forward several months…
A Return Glamping in Malibu Trip with the Boyfriend
Work, schmerk. This is one of those times it just gets in the way. What was originally supposed to be a long weekend in Malibu with the boyfriend was cut short to one night and a single day—but, we still managed to check off a few of my Reasons to Return With the Boyfriend.
Breezing through an almost traffic-less Los Angeles on a Friday was both shocking and surreal. Remembering to veer off the freeway at Santa Monica to Highway 1 was a definite bonus—it is a far superior way to reach Malibu than the GPS-recommended route through Calabasas.
Recent rains had the Malibu Hills looking satiated. As I recalled the steep rut-filled dirt road that led to Murray’s trailers, I wondered if he would have to come to my rescue yet again. Much to the boyfriend’s satisfaction, his Prius delivered us right to the door of Murray’s hilltop Vintage Airstream Trailer with a Ritz Carlton view.
After a quick nap, we were off to Reasons to Return to Malibu With the Boyfriend #1 and #2.
A last minute phone call had us stepping back in time over the threshold of The Old Place. Murray was astounded we even got a 5 p.m. reservation on a Friday night and forewarned us that we may very well get the boot after 1-1/2 hours.
We sat down full of gratitude and obedience and salivating for some red meat. After quenching our thirst with some bacon ale, we sunk our forks in the chef’s exotic meat du jour. Cooked to a perfectly deep red medium rare, the elk chops had us salivating…and chewing…and chewing some more. In the end, the meat ended up being tougher than the service, but we were still happy with our gastronomic experience.
About 20 steps after existing The Old Place, we arrived at the Cornell Winery and Tasting Room ready for our $10 flights of local wines. The pleasant setting, friendly service, delicious conversation, and decent wines left us satisifed.
Despite the sweeping views from the hilltop trailer, I pined for the roomier Part 2 trailer with it’s wispy pepper trees and animal visitors.
I suggest booking your glamping in Malibu adventure well ahead of your date of departure as word has gotten out about Murray’s little slice of Paradise:
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