Lemonade, an Impala, and Paradise Found

I’m writing this, sitting in the front seat of a 2016 Chevy Impala.  My rental car.  This isn’t usually where I like to do most of my work.  However, the car is my office and my hangout for the day.  At least the waves crashing on the beach, the sound of seagulls, and the view of the Pacific make it more than palatable.  Besides, the alternative was a hotel lobby or airport terminal.  Life is about choices.

The nice folks at the airline delivered me, after much delay, on the first leg of my journey home (San Francisco to Detroit, via LAX), but cancelled my connecting flight.  And thus, I was left in the terminal at LAX with either a long line or an interminable wait on hold.  I stood in line until 1:30am and stayed on hold for more than two hours.  No help was forthcoming.  So, I booked a hotel room and set off to get some rest.  The next morning, I awoke and called the company travel office.  There were no flights until late evening, and that would only get me as far as Chicago.

So, I booked a rental car and took the hotel shuttle to the airport.  They delivered me to the rental car lot where I found the Impala.  I’ve always liked the look of this car, and having test-driven it’s smaller stable-mate, the ironically-named Malibu, I figured it would be good.  As I picked my way (badly) through the city to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), I considered its merits.  The car responded ably.  The seats were comfortable and easily adjusted, and the ride was compliant without wallowing too much when the road was uneven.  Smiling, I kept heading North and West, away from the concrete jungle.  Winding along the highway, past Pepperdine University and up through Malibu, I felt the aggravation of missing most of a weekend with my family, and stress of yesterday’s delays, melt away.  I was by far not the only person affected by the travel issues.  Why let it get me down?  It was a sunny day; I wasn’t hostage in an airport.

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2016 Chevrolet Impala – Photo by author, Decker Canyon Rd, Malibu, CA

After driving a bit, I came upon Deckard Canyon Rd.  Though I was pretty hungry by now, I wanted to drive just a bit more before I ate.  I’ve driven a couple of these canyon roads before, so I figured it would be fun to drive the twisties again, even in a big car.  I headed up the first winding hill with a sense of relish.  It went away quickly.  The throttle response, in normal driving, is more than acceptable.  There’s enough torque to make it feel like the car is rolling off the ball of your foot.  But not on a steep canyon road.  The engine response was mushy and labored, and the transmission shifted awkwardly.  The steering, which feels fine in everyday traffic is simply too slow for the switchbacks and the car’s long wheel base.  It wasn’t fun, especially when the road becomes very narrow and very crowded with maniacal cyclists and guys shooting videos of themselves skateboarding down the middle of the road.  My choice was redeemed, however, when I turned around and headed back to the PCH.  The view of the ocean through the canyon was rewarding.

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View of the Pacific from Deckard Canyon Rd — Photo by author

I headed back towards the city, trying to remember where I’d seen signs for restaurants.  The car show here is pleasantly distracting.  Exotics I made note of were a yellow Murcielago, a black Aventedor and his buddy in an equally black Maserati Quattroporte.  There were also endless 911s, a host of Cayennes and G-Wagons, and the first Levante I’ve seen outside of an auto show.

In my search for a pleasant place to eat, I was fortuitously stopped at a red light with a sign above it for the Paradise Cove Beach Club and Cafe.  I had no idea if it would be good, but I was hungry enough to give it a try.  Turning down the winding, narrow drive, I saw signs that repeatedly advised the parking fees for the club and the café.  I figured in this ZIP code eight bucks was a bargain and parked in a lot next to the café, by a pier.  My wait for a table was mercifully brief, given how busy the place looked.  The waiting area, and much of the dining room, is covered with black-and-white photos of celebrities who frequented Malibu when black-and-white pictures were common.  Most of these folks were in their prime when I was drawing pictures with crayons, but it still felt a touch nostalgic.  My mother always said I was an old soul.  A Rock-ola was spinning actual CDs instead of playing music off a hard drive or streaming from the Internet.  No vinyl though.

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Beach Cafe at Paradise Cove — Photo by author

My meal was a feast.  A loaf of sourdough bread half the size of my head (which is something I assure you), and cold draft beer.  That was followed (closely) by a generous filet of blackened swordfish and fries.  They would have gladly given me vegetables, but fries seemed about right for this day.  Everything was excellent, the service was great and the location was, of course, paradise.  If you find yourself wandering the PCH and are hungry (and fancy a walk on a pier), this might be your huckleberry.  The only downside was that the bill may make your eyes water as much as the food does your mouth.  Not the place to eat every weekend, but then again, I don’t live around here.

I’ll head back to the city shortly.  And I’ll try to savor each mile of the coast road on the way back.  It will be many hours before I’m home, but I’m looking forward to seeing my family and spending at least a bit of quiet time before I’m back on the road next week.  I love my job most days, and even when it tries to get me down, I do my best to make lemonade out of the lemons.

Boring Car Review Stuff

If you fancy a Chevrolet Impala, I would rate it rather a bargain for such a large, well-equipped car.  There are however two cautions to keep in mind.

First, this is a big front-wheel drive car, and that makes the handling dynamics something to get used to.  I went to pull away quickly from a stop and ended up lighting up the front tires in an awkward burn-out.  Why the traction control didn’t intervene, I’ll never know (I didn’t disable it).  But when you have a bunch of horsepower driving the front wheels, while the the CG is shifting aft, the results are less than stellar.

The rear visibility leaves a bit to be desired.  The slope from the roof to the trunk lid is shallow (looking a bit like a fastback) and that makes the rear window seem very small from the driver’s position.  The included back-up camera is a welcome help.

As nearly as I can tell the MSRP for a car outfitted like this one (leather seats and V6 engine) is about $34,000.

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