- Brendan McKay
Slow Rolling in the Canyons
Fall mornings in the southern California canyons are something special. Especially when the rest of LA County is experiencing the late Indian Summer we've had, with temps reaching back up into the 90's, those up in the hills of Malibu are permanently eschewing summer tees for longer sleeves. The brisk chill that cuts through the early morning air is nostalgic - for me, reminiscent of that singular autumn day back on the East Coast when the summer bedsheets were switched over to flannel and the gas fireplace started coming on with regularity.
The tucked-away roads up here are tailor-built for going quick - until this point, the PCH has merely served as the day's warm up lap. Cruising off the highway, there is an unspoken reminder passed from driver to automobile that she's going to be chewing up pavement in 2nd and 3rd gear for the next 30-45 minutes (as if she'd have a problem spending that much time above 4000 rpm...). That first turn is always tackled with a measure of bravado and reckless abandon, warm tires serving as a necessary countervailing measures. The upshot of moving this fast is that you honestly don't have much time to dwell on what lies beyond the blind edge of that cliff about 5 yards off to the right as you furiously try to keep up with the guy in front of you. Motoring home from my first run on Decker Canyon a few weeks back with a local Porsche group, I'd be lying if I said my first reaction wasn't "thank god that's over".
However, for as thrilling as these roads are at wide open, there is a certain special joy that happens while cruising along at the speed limit, especially when even the early risers are only just tucking in to that first cup of coffee. Granted, the sound of an aircooled flat six at this measured pace is more akin to a barnyard cat impatiently awaiting its breakfast vs. the unholy howl that normally rings from behind one's ears. But the slowness actually allows you to take notice of what you otherwise normally miss when making sure your brakes aren't going to lock up at an inopportune time - the distant hills blanketed in a dense coastal mist, the sound of birds angrily discussing which of them are entitled to that roadside tree branch, and mostly, the grand emptiness of space up in these mountains.
So while yes, that speed limit sign attached to the wooden post might be more of a strong recommendation than an absolute mandate in these canyons, it isn't necessarily unenjoyable to be humming along at that pace by yourself - just different. There's something special about life before 7AM in the hills of Malibu, and no matter how righteous it is to blast the twisties, they're worth exploring slowly every so often.