I recently wrote the copy and oversaw the artistic direction for a 32-page roadtrip pocketbook for our Heidi Klein California Collection brand partnership campaign. The pre-resort line is made of four collections: Santa Barbara, Huntington Beach, Greater Palm Springs and San Diego. I wanted to take the reader through a classic California roadtrip narrative to bring the collection to life. The pocketbook will be in-store and sent with each product dispatch for a whole year, launching Sept 2016.
It was wonderful having this creative output and the freedom to step away from ‘marketing speak.’ Let me take you on a journey…
I adjust the rear view mirror, wind the window down, the radio sings California dreaming and I click into D for drive. Like many before us, this little MG – our means of voyage – will become our travel companion on our classic California road trip. We leave LA behind for our first stop: Santa Barbara, ‘The American Riviera’, just two hours away.
As we coast north towards the city, the terracotta rooftops roll into a correlated form in front of us, like pieces of jigsaw finding their perfect place in the horizon. Traffic moves in slow motion, locals shuffle down State Street towards the local artisan craft fair and their flip flops rhymically flick the pavement. Fingers flutter through handmade beads and silver charms, glass vases and embroidered purses with rainbow threads.
Once checked in, we grab our towels and head towards the harbour. The boats gather, varying in shape and size with names like ‘Wind Dancer’ and ‘Whisper’. Out on the water with a hand saluting in front of our brows we can see the spouting signals of whales brimming the surface. Dozens of different species settle in these feeding grounds, from blue whales to humpbacks. Back at shore we make our way to the farmer’s market; stalls laid out before us offering a full palette of taste and kaleidoscope of colours. Rows of avocados are categorised by ripeness (“only in California” stallholders beam), we’re offered sips of fresh juice, spoons of chunky homemade houmous and the smell of this morning’s catch – oysters, lobster, squid – follows us as an omnipresent reminder of the nearby ocean.
Dusk arrives quickly, marking our last evening. Armed with our map, we search for liquid treasure among the twenty-nine wineries peppering the Funk Zone. Corks are popped, we listen to poetry over the counter: “rich oak” , “ earthy leather”, “harmonious aromas.” The red velvet slides down our throats, the tang of ice cold white fizzes on our tongues.
The next morning we leave for ‘Surf City USA’: Huntington Beach. The Pacific acts as our loyal compass to our right for our 130-mile drive down the coast.
We know we are getting closer as the number of wetsuited silhouettes multiply and emerge like creatures resurfacing from their nest. The waves build as the surfers twist, flip and turn, using the ocean’s power to drive them forward before each wave reaches the end of its journey as swash upon the sand.
The beach is beckoning and we can’t resist strolling through the sand at sunset, leaving footprints behind us as the horizon ahead transforms into crimson. Sea air and a long drive mean we fall into a deep slumber, waking the next morning to clear skies and clear heads. We hear there’s yoga on the beach today, so we begin in warrior poses facing the rising sun. Later, we squeeze into wetsuits that suck onto our skin; our armour for the day protecting us against Mother Nature’s force. Bobbing along in the water, our fingertips stroke the sea’s surface, making ripples in the deep blue. Waves upon waves roar behind us – above us – and we try our best to glide with the current. Muscles aching and eyes stinging, we drag our boards and tired bodies through the sinking sand and collapse in a heap; exhausted, satisfied, stomachs growling.
We’re served huge plates of fresh fish and fries to fill us up before we explore the long coast by bike. The pedals spin and our legs windmill, our hair turns wild and sticky from the salty wind. Making our way back we settle down with cocktails whilst gazing out across the pier’s twinkling lights and we spot sets of couples roasting marshmallows over fire-pits on the beach.
It’s time to head inland for a two hour drive to ‘California’s Oasis’ as we prepare to swap our surroundings from the tumultuous ocean to mysterious desert. The white highway stripes flicker past and the inches of air above the road squirm and squiggle under the heat.
We drive through the city of Palm Springs where locals wear their cars like accessories; doors slam, bursting shopping bags and heels appear. This is Hollywood’s Playground; we walk the pavements once graced by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley. The palm trees lean over our heads as if eavesdropping on hushed whispers around the pool and we ponder the secrets they hold from the 1920s celebrity elite. Glass panels, shiny steel and geometric lines form otherworldly architecture peppering the mountains as extraterrestrial shapes that starkly contrast the smooth valley curves.
Slow days are spent lured around mineral spas, quenching the thirst of our sizzling skin with quick gasping pool dips and mud baths, but we become restless. The Joshua Tree National Park is a scenic drive away and we leave early up through Yucca Valley, where thrift shops teem with vintage treasures and antique markets display twinkly trinkets. We’re greeted by rows of fuzzy Joshua Trees appearing to wave on arrival; their rough, imperfect forms cast shadows on the arid ground. Company is sparse and only a few fellow hikers pass us by – later we realise there will be no blinking screens here to wash out the stars’ illumination. We stick around to watch the Milky Way emerge, perching on our trusty MG bonnet, the universe a glittering dome above us.
We leave Greater Palm Springs refreshed, our skin glowing from its new darker hue. Ready for our final stop, two hours away the city of San Diego awaits us.
Engaged by the metropolitan buzz, the city’s sounds and smells seem to wake us up with a jolt from our desert daze. Every corner presents a new culture, reflected by the street names: ‘Naples Place’, ‘Camino de la Reina’, ‘Madison Avenue.’ A varied style we can’t pinpoint, outfits switch from each block with ripped jeans and bikinis to rainbow yoga two pieces or floor-length dresses. As if landing into Italy we drive past countless pizza shops, then deep into the heart of Mexico where taco stalls neighbour classic California brunch spots. The huge bowls overflowing with fresh guacamole are worth halting the car and we order crispy tacos, tortillas packed with refried beans dripping with sour cream. We order fluffy flights of craft beer, samples presented to us in calibrated colour schemes.
We check in and bounce straight back out of the hotel to follow the curves of La Jolla’s coastline by foot, stopping to watch seal pups bleat and retreat into their subaquatic world, inspiring us to get out there ourselves. Hopping into kayaks, we’re led by an instructor who guides us around the ocean; his familiar backyard. A quick change from flip-flops to heels and we join the clusters of nightowls piling out into the Gaslamp Quarter, drawn towards salsa beats pumping from inside the bars. Lights and music work in unison as the world speeds up – faster and louder – and we move with the current of the crowd up to a rooftop bar, welcomed by rushing vertigo and views of towering skyscrapers.
Our heads hit the pillows, ears and eyes vibrating from our final night California. We head to LAX in the morning – back to where we began our journey – radiating in our Golden State.