On a recent Sunday we went to Ventura. I'm not telling you this to make you feel bad but to inspire you in a gentle way. Ventura is the poor man's Santa Barbara. It has the scenery without the surcharge, the valet parking and the awe-inspiring real estate prices.

We left Bakersfield at 6:30 a.m. It was cold outside but you can't complain about the winter we're having in the valley, unless you like snow and perhaps, eventually, water.

Four of us wanted to launch our paddleboards from Solimar Reef -- a beach located between the fairgrounds in Ventura and Rincon. Bakersfield is good for many things, but unless the river is running -- that requires rain or the return of the great inland sea -- the ocean, waves and surfing may not count as one of its strengths.

We arrived before 9 a.m. and joined a line of cars parked next to the beach. We planted one foot on the rocks, gazed at the surf, compared the waves to the surf report, and acted as if we might climb in the truck and go elsewhere for pleasure or perhaps return home should the waves not suit our fancy.

We weren't going elsewhere. We were here and happy to be here and it wouldn't have mattered if the waves had been breaking backward.

Half an hour later, we had squeezed into wetsuits, pulled on booties, leashed our boards to our ankles and paddled out.

From the lineup, we looked back at the beach houses that we would never be able to afford and the green mountains behind them that we could, and then stared down through the clear water at the harmless leopard sharks (at least a surfer told me they were harmless) lying on the bottom of the reef.

For two hours we glided, paddled, fell, laughed and pretended as if we were professional surfers.

We could have been a thousand miles away but we weren't because Ventura is 115 miles from Bakersfield, two hours on I-5, 126 and the coastal access road.

Is there anything better than a one-day vacation? There is no luggage, no passport (though a passport has its charms) and no raiding of the savings account. It's a $20 bill, a cooler filled with tuna fish sandwiches and cold Coronas, and a grocery bag packed with Ruffles, salsa, Esther's homemade biscotti and Jan's fresh-baked date bars. The one-day vacation can be a hungry vacation.

After surfing, we ate lunch on the open tailgate. We clinked our bottles of beer and toasted life. It was just like a beer commercial but better, because we were in it.

By 2 p.m., after watching the tide recede and expose the rocks from the reef, we returned to our designated seats in the truck and were on our way home.

Had we not brought lunch, we could have stopped at In-N-Out in Ventura and ordered a cheeseburger, extra crispy fries and maybe even a chocolate strawberry milkshake to celebrate.

A one-day vacation has a soundtrack and ours was Jason Isbell's new album "Southeastern." He's great, and I suggest you buy this one and use it as your soundtrack on your next one-day vacation.

We rolled down the Grapevine by 3:30 p.m. and were home by 4.

The one-dayer. It's a dirty little secret that's not so dirty and not so secret. Ten hours that make weary fresh and fresh joyous.

These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at hbenham@bakersfield.com.