My Great Towns


Flagstaff, AZ

An ultimate home base for adventure. Went to college here, at NAU- home to the Lumberjacks! One of the coolest Western towns. Access to The Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Jerome and Prescott are cute. San Diego is just 7 hours, Durango is about 6 if you’re in the mood for a short “roadie”. Oh, you want a beach? OK Mr./Ms. Hard to Please: Let me elaborate: You can Ski Durango Mtn. Resort, bike and fish the Grand Canyon, or hit the beach in sunny S.D., all a day’s drive?  I am totally serious, Dear Traveler. Shhh! Do not tell anybody! Try Alpine Pizza downtown, great college hangout. Lots more to add here…Sunset Crater, Sedona, San Francisco Peaks, Christopher Creek…West Clear Creek…2 semi-secret fishing/packing spots. Stay tuned, sports fans!


Summit County, CO

Skiing up the ying-yang. A-Basin, Keystone, Copper Mtn. and Victorian-Cute-sy Breckenridge. Summer? Pack and fish The Gore Range. Head up to Vail, Beaver Creek, Steamboat! Summer lift-served mtn. biking is a fun day- please, a helmet is required and sensible, no? Yes. Stop by the Snake River Saloon by Keystone for some nightlife and a good meal. Tell them you know The Rocketman, if you see Jimmy, Carol or Randy. Yes that is my nickname there. Want some city? Denver is becoming hipper by the second- I’ve SEEN it happen and BLAM! It did. Boulder is a hybrid techno/sports/hippy wonderland down the pass and up the range. More to come.


Santa Barbara, CA

A couple of years here in the mid-80’s. Top-notch hyper-$pendy California coastal mecca. Excellent south-facing beaches, all with their own personality. Summer? Good concerts outside at The County Bowl…Sunday brunch at the Cold Spring Tavern up on San Marcos Pass, where the not-really-a-bikers on their Harleys will pose for you. With ‘doo-rags, leather chaps and mostly stock bikes, few of these self-described “rugged individualists” even change their own oil…hey, whaddya gonna do? It is easy to LA if you’re bored with SB’s more relaxed vibe, and you can stop in Ventura on your way. Heading North? SB is a great jumping off point to wineries, SLO, Morro Bay and heck, keep heading right up to sleepy Cambria and up thru Big Sur to Carmel/Monterey. Love California! Favorite SB beach?: Try Thousand Steps Beach on The Mesa, low-key and pretty. Bring baby oil to get the tar off your feet afterwards. You’re welcome.


Huntington Beach, CA

Surf City, baby. Never learned to surf, tho I have been pummeled as a “spongehead” on my boogie board, with just 6′ of wave. I lived here for 6 years, early/late 80’s. Bronze surfer statue, CHECK. HUGE beaches, CHECK. Good restaurants all over, and access to several close by classic beachy communities- Newport Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, Second St./Belmont Shores in Long Beach, the list goes on. Downtown Huntington is all sanitized and revitalized…but you can always go to Perq’s, HB’s original dive off PCH just up Main from the Pier. Dirty, dirty, no-good bar with snarky bartender babes. Do not mess with Them. Treat Perq’s like Mexico- order bottled beer only and just don’t touch anything, EEEWWW! Got time for a short roadie? Cruise down to San Diego. Another roadie? Desert, you say? Palm Springs and Joshua Tree for golf, mtn. biking, climbing, and creepy/beauty desert scenes. And the bike path from Newport Beach, up thru Huntington, and on to Sunset Beach is a nice 16 mile ride (approx. if memory serves…). Try Woody’s Diner in Sunset beach for a great huevos on the patio. Excellent food and service here, next to the always-crowded Harbor House Cafe. Oh- Try California Sushi Co. on Lido Isle in Trendy-Spendy Newport Beach, then walk over to the Spaghetti Factory for some “disco” fun. Indulge yourself- DO the White Man’s Overbite as you stutter-step with your hunny-punkin. Credit to Billy Crystal for the funniest (only?) funny dental reference.


Portland, OR

My sales career took off here, and I had my first two homes in this fun burg in 1990-1996. My favorite actual city. Nicest locals I have ever met, helped me to acclimatize quickly. I eventually WAS wearing Birkenstocks with socks! It takes a grip on you, Dear Reader. A wonderful town. Hippy-dippy/micro-brew/high-tech haven. Drink some micros and get a ‘tat! Heck, have ’em drive a spike thru your nose/cheek/tongue or other favorite self-mutilation tissue/cartilage, and you’ll have a souvenir for life! Nike is all over, and experience “The” Gorge 1 hour East for wind/kite surfing and hike/ I have been pertified and then rewarded with huge adrenalin for trying to advance my waterstart to a gybe…all the while floating toward Astoria. Nearly pooped my wetsuit on many hyper-breezy afternoons. Eek! Hood River is ripe with tasting rooms and unique restaurants. The winery down by the tracks, misplaced the name, sorry, has a marvelous Cherry Ort, the best “port” style beverage on this planet. Try the sleepier mode of Stevenson, WA on your way to Hood River. Stop at the Big River Grill and see if Uncle Stevie is still pouring. This old-ster can rock a carved gybe like nobody’s bid-ness, believe it. McMenamin’s Edgefield is a cool pub/theater/concert venue in Troutdale. All the Mc M’s locations are unique and fun. Lots more to report here, stay tuned. This town is still on fire for fun.


Evergreen, CO

My former home town, I had two homes here for 11 years late 90’s, early New Millenium. I love it here. The perfect place to nest just uphill from “The Void” of Denver at 7,500’ elevation and above. Miner’s shacks to mansions, beautiful rolling foothills to explore.  Still sleepy after all these years, surprised I am telling you about it. An interesting Evergreen Aspect: Poorly built rental shacks, then cruise up Bear Creek Canyon to see up driveways to stunningly beautiful estates and Family Compounds. To me, one of the most unusual and interesting places to live that I have seen or lived in Out West. It is Red Rocks-close, and EVG is a good  jump-off point to beat Denver traffic and the I-70 shuffle when you’re heading up to The Summit to schralp some pow-pow. My tip: Ski at Loveland and you bypass the tunnel/pass shuffle. There are some incredible runs and views, and Loveland will provide a great day of downhill thrills, Dear Board Enthusiast. Back to my beloved Evergreen: A few decent restaurants here and there. The Wildflower Cafe is a local’s fave for breakfast, on the boardwalk. Only seats about 20, so be prepared to wait. Walk around sweet Evergreen Lake after your coffee, an easy 1-mile warmer-upper for the day. Brook Forest Inn is a very cool old B&B, restaurant/bar. I used to live in Brook Forest, and anyone who lives in “Upper” Brook Forest IS a Rugged Individualist. Please kiss Karrie and homie-shoulder bump my old neighbor, Tom The fireman if you see them at the BFI’s patio, OK? On my birthday in 2003 we had a 84″ storm in 2.5 days, I am not making this up.


San Rafael, CA

I wanted to see what if felt like to blow $1,400 net/net on an apt. here, in super-expensive Marin County, CA. I drove through here in 1977 on my way to a pig farm in Ukiah with My Sweety, in a jacked-up pickem-up truck, and should have stayed. One of the first burgs north of the fabulous Golden Gate Bridge, SR is much lower-key than the citified hustle of SF. Marin is a great little burg to live in, or an escape. “West” Marin is beautiful, and the rugged NorCal Coast is an experience in itself. You can throw away as much as $1,500-$2,000 to rent a 1 BR apartment here, and fixer houses start at about $700k. So, bring your checkbook and start liquidating your 401k. Surrounding communities like Mill Valley Sausalito and Nicasio each have their own flavor…I like Nicasio. Jerry Garcia had a place here…The tavern there is a cool sunday brunch spot. If super-high, super-long bridges terrify you, try the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, and you may soil yourself. Locals with a pass pay $4/ride on this and the other Bay Bridges, tourismos pay $5. Like I said, $pendy. Try the breakfast buffet, after 8 AM, at Whole Foods/Novato. Load a plate and pay “by the pound”. No tipping for bad service, no waiting for the check, nice! Good for motorcycle tourers on the go. There I go, talking about MYSELF again, sorry.

© Jim Lavrakas photo

Homer, AK

I spent a summer, and about 6 mos. total here, in 1989. Bored with SoCal, I DROVE here, solo. It’s only about a 4,000 mile drive, no biggie. Go Volvo. On the “Alaskan Riviera”, the terrific TV series “Northern Exposure” was allegedly fashioned after this eclectic and rugged town, 3.5 hours S. of Anchorage. Homer is the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World, according to them. I have seen charter boats come in with over a ton of “‘butt”, so…Summers are great, winters are (I hear…) brutal. I squatted in a cabin on the end of “the spit” while I managed the Charthouse restaurant at Land’s End (“Wit’s End’) resort. Colorful locals here would be glad to kick your cheechacko butt , and then buy you a frosty malted beverage afterwards. Robert Service can tell you about the cheechacko, which I am. Have a couple of cold ones at the Salty Dog, enjoy the lumpy dirt floors, and watch your mouth…you may survive. I had never seen an iceberg until I rolled in from SoCal, eased into town past Anchor Point, and looked across Cook Inlet to spot some. A good place to see dormant volcanoes that rise directly out of the sea, as Mt. St. Augustine and others do. You’ll love this place. Go to the East End General Store for gas, and get a rack o’ribs from The Case for din-din. Say “Hi!” to Shawn the Prawn, my old guru.


2 thoughts on “My Great Towns

    • Chicago is rated by The Expert, me, as an “OK” town…and I have yet to create that category…I sure do like the combo beefs and chicago dogs…but not the toll roads, bleakness, taxes and crime…Bwaaah!

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