Sabah up the West Coast

1 person, 400 pairs of shoes, 2017 miles, 16 days

By Mickey A.

I’m a traveling shoe salesmen. I’m referred to as The Sabah Dealer.

From a base in New York City, my travels take me as far as Tokyo, as close as New Jersey and often to California. I typically fly in and I fly out.

This past May, I decided to do things differently. I would tour… Born a Texan and fond of road trips, I wanted to take a long drive: a mix of work & pleasure. I chose California Highway 1. I had driven it before, but quickly. This time I had 16 days, four mandatory business stops, no plan in between and I was solo.

Every good adventure begins with a plan and the right tools.

Luckily, it doesn’t take much to plan a trip up Highway 1. So I set my agenda around four events in four places: Los Angeles, Ojai, San Francisco, and Portland.

And the most important tools for this trip: a bathing suit, a pair of sunglasses, a good soundtrack, and the right vehicle.

My tour began in Los Angeles where I picked up a white, four-door Jeep. Certainly the right vehicle. I peeled back the canvas soft-top immediately and I did not replace it until the last day. Warm sun on my face was an important part of the plan.

I typically travel with a colleague; this trip was solo. Myself and four hundred pairs of Sabahs (the name of our shoes). The Jeep had plenty of space plus some for friends I’d meet along the way.

On my first night, I stayed at the Hotel Covell in Los Angeles. A newly opened five-bedroom boutique hotel in Silver Lake. Each room is thematic to a different decade. The rooftop of the Hotel Covell was also the stage for my first Sabah Trunk Show.

Saturday was a party. My friend, Ashley, from Pour This (a wine business) supplied rosé; a friend Jordan brought his collection of Vinyl and supplied the tunes. And we grooved. (And of couse, sold Sabahs). That night, with newly minted friends, we tore around Silver Lake (including burgers at Café Stella) ending up at a late night dance party in a small bungalow in Silver Lake.

Sabah sales side, as a regular visitor to Los Angeles, I’ve developed my go-tos: Alfred Coffee for caffeine (the owner is a buddy); morning hikes in Malibu; Gjusta in Venice for a late breakfast; lunch at SQIRL; and dinner at my favorite L&E Oyster Bar in Silver Lake.

After a long event, a glass of Chablis and a dozen oysters sure does the trick.

After three days in LA, my sunburn now turned into a nice tan, I headed to Ojai. Our next stop was the Ojai Rancho Inn — a small motor hotel turned LA getaway.

We hosted Sabah Sunday poolside with our friends from Block Shop Textiles. My tan deepened; my shoe stock lessened; it was a good day. They have a bar at the Ojai Rancho Inn called the Chief’s Peak run by the lovely Ariane. I can’t recommend more a visit to Ojai and specifically the Rancho.

From Ojai, I headed north for San Francisco. I had two days before my next showing and zero agenda. I was happy about that.

My first stop was in Santa Barbara. I jumped into the ocean. I took a nap in the back of the jeep. And had some of the best Fish Tacos in California at a little spot in the harbor called On The Alley.

From there, I drove up Highway 1… there’s something about driving up the California coast. The mind relaxes. You feel the vibe. It seems about as far away from NYC as one can be … I stopped in San Luis Obispo for a coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. I found this at Scout Coffee. It was terrific.

A couple hours later I was in Big Sur. I had a quick late lunch at Big Sur Bakery and finished my drive in Carmel. I hadn’t been to Carmel since I was a kid. Carmel Beach was the first beach I ever visited. I’ve always wanted to return.

I stumbled across a newly renovated hotel in town. The Hotel Carmel. It was fantastic. They had an old tape player and selection of tapes in the lobby. I hadn’t seen one of those… well maybe ever. Hipper than a record player?

That night’s dinner was at Affina. Handmade pasta. Fresh seafood. A great glass of local wine. It was a Monday night so Carmel was quiet. I used that as an excuse for an early turn-in.

The next day I went straight to the beach. It’s as beautiful as I remember. It’s almost too beautiful; a little too manicured, but still quite awe inspring.

The beach was too cold and foggy to make a swim appealing so I sat for a bit. And then it was time to hit the road.

Next Stop: San Francisco. I had a two-day event at the Heath Ceramic Building at my friend’s studio in the Mission District. His name is Matt Dick and he is one of the most well-respected designers in SF. We always have a good time.

On Day 1 of our event, the first visitor was one of my favorite SF customers, Heidi Swanson (seen below). She’s a well-known cookbook writer. One of the best parts of being a travel salesman is meeting so many customers and building relationships. Simply through shoes, I’ve met some wonderful people. Everyone has feet. And everyone likes comfortable shoes.

In San Francisco, I always stay at the same hotel. It’s called the Petit Auberge. It’s really not so cool. And that’s why I like it. No frills, but exceptional service; the funniest maid in town; a great location; and a good price. I haven’t found somewhere I would rather stay.

And every time I visit Matt at Small Trade Co; I go to Salumeria for lunch followed by a coffee from Sightglass. You cannot deny that San Francisco has great food. We had dinner at SPQR one night; the other night we cooked with our friends from Heath.

In San Francisco, I had heard of a new young designer — Evan Kinori.

After a day touring around Oakland, I paid a visit to his atelier in a warehouse area of San Francisco. I left with what has become my favorite pair of pants. Evan makes everything in the USA; exclusively with thread, buttons and cloth from America, Japan and Italy. He’s a disciple of the previously mentioned Matt Dick. I recommend tracking him down. He won’t be a secret for long.

Our two events in San Francisco were busy. I caught up with old customers; made new acquaintances and sold through a lot of our remaining stock.

Our final event was in Portland. I had one day to get there. I had mismanaged the schedule. Portland was a lot farther than I thought.

I hopped in my trusty jeep the next morning (EARLY) and hit the road. This was a serious haul. 10 hours later, many gas stations, and way too many coffees — I was in Portland. A bit jittery, but happy. It was my first time to visit.

I rented an Airstream for accommodation. When in Portland…

I pulled up to the address provided by my host. The Airstream was parked in his backyard. I waved hello to his family as I lugged my cases of shoes through the side gate to the backyard… it was a little comical. But ultimately a lot of fun.

After settling in, which doesn’t take long in an Airstream, I ventured solo into town for dinner and a drink. I went to Pok Pok — it’s famous. It’s a little touristy. Accordingly, the wait was 3 hours. I ordered wings and a noodle dish to go. I bought a six pack, found a bus stop bench and dinner was served. It was probably the best dinner of my trip. I usually shy away from places with 1000+ Yelp Reviews. But Pok Pok was truly delicious.

The next day was my final Sabah show. I setup shop at Beam & Anchor; a fantastic shop just off the beaten path in Portland. They have a well curated shop of accessories; furniture; textiles; leather goods… and for the weekend Sabahs. I sold the remaining stock; made a whole new set of friends; and went out for one last night on the town.

The next day I woke up in my airstream. Took a shower; the water spraying everywhere because I couldn’t get my curtain to stay closed. The novelty of the Airstream had worn off. I was out of there; booking it back south to Los Angeles. An overnight in southern Oregon; and a long day of driving and I was back in LA. I checked into the Oceana Beach Club in Santa Monica. My new favorite hotel in LA. It’s nice. It’s quiet. It’s well run. My journey was complete.

The next day I returned the Jeep to its owner. It was sad. It felt like the end of great dream. The Jeep had become part of that dream.

I’ll be renting it again. And until the next time, I’ll be dreaming of California — like we all do.

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