The Top Gun House in Oceanside

If, I am remembering the Top Gun scene correctly, Tom Cruise motorcycles his way up a steep hill and lands on a side street to the home of his love interest, played by Kelly McGinnis.

She supposedly lived in a cute little Victorian cottage dressed in blue and white, with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean from the patio.

He was already late and she was clearly waiting for him. Then what does he do?  He asks her if he can take a shower…really?   Seems rude to me, but oh well, it is Hollywood.  They soon settled on the porch and enjoyed a nice evening until it was time for him to scurry off, riding on the now famous motorcycle.

So, in 1986, Hollywood came to the quirky little town of Oceanside, some 30 miles north of San Diego. I say quirky, because it has been that way at times until lately where it has turned into a coastal gentrification.  Out with the old, in with the new.

The movie gave us a chance to gawk at the tiny home while watching the movie, with screams of, “Hey, I know that house, I know that street!”

It soon became the ‘Top Gun’ house to residents and visitors alike.

It sat by itself on a corner for many years, even after its claim to fame in that blockbuster movie.

Originally, it was the Graves house on North Pacific Street and it really did have those awesome coastline views.   It was built in 1887 and was Dr, Henry Graves vacation home. It was subsequently sold to others and in 1986 as mentioned; it was rented out to Paramount Pictures for two weeks to film.

With or without the movie notoriety, the home still has architectural value as one of few oceanfront Victorians in San Diego County.   Note the decorative wood work and gabled roof.

So what and where is it today?

The city moved it from that lonely corner, and it now sits a few blocks away to become part of the new ‘look’ of Oceanside.

Gone are the empty corners and bye-bye to the sleepy town feel.   Nowadays, it is all grown up and fancy. Just like the infamous and touristy Huntington Beach.

One of many seating areas along the new resort feel of Oceanside.

The Top Gun house is now a pie shop right smack in the middle of all of the action. On the weekends, lines are 30 deep to get inside.  The menu is sparse, but I hear the pies are actually good, but small.  I was happy to hear that they are made with strawberries from local fields and apples from nearby, Julian.

Inside the pie shop.

 Red brick and bright blue umbrellas welcome you to a seating area to enjoy the pies, views, or just to people watch.

Inside the Pie shop and keeping with the decor of the era.

A nice place to relax.

Up front, there is a replica of the motorcycle that Mr. Cruise rode and now serves as a fun photo opportunity for kids or adults.

At first, I thought that it didn’t fit the décor of the two new resorts with their modern or Cape Cod facades.  However, I am getting used to it and I actually think what they made it into is a good idea. It is better than falling prey to the local termites like it was when it was down the street.

One of two new resorts in Oceanside.
The Top Gun House nestles between these fancy resorts.

The Sea Bird Resort.

Now, it has a fresh new coat of paint and is all dressed up to meet the tourists.

It is funny how a few minutes in a movie made this such an iconic symbol for Oceanside. 

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGinnis walked around this cottage many years ago.

But for Oceanside, it is so much more, it is nostalgia.

In ending, I still can’t get over that infamous scene, and can’t imagine going to someone’s home for dinner, walking in late, then asking if I can take a shower.  I know, I know, I need to get over it.  It was only a movie.

Ignore me,… instead, come on down to Oceanside and head to the pier once there, look east and there it will be…The Top Gun House.

Stories and photos: Debbie Colwell


The Funicular at Strands Beach in Dana Point

A couple friends sent me a video of something that I didn’t know existed in Southern California.    An actual tram that transports you down a long steep slope and then ends at a ramp where you can continue the trek to the beach.

 I had to investigate this myself since I was given a general idea of where it was. As it turns out, I found it quite easily near Dana Point in Orange County.

We zeroed in on it at Strands Beach which is only a few miles north of Dana Point Harbor, however it was closed. It was only open until 5:00pm and from what I understand, as of right now, only the weekends.

The other option to get to the beach was to take the long stairway to the bottom.

Bring on the Stairs!!

Since the view from top was only of the ocean, our curiosity killed us on what the actual beach looked like.  So, like daring out-of -shape ninjas, we began our journey down the stairs…and there were a lot of them.   Finally arriving at the end of the stairs, there was still a paved trail to go before you actually touched the sand.  I had to stay up with the dog and couldn’t take pics but I’ll have to come back one day this summer to snap a few.   

One of us did make the trek and reported back that the beach was stunning. Even though it was high tide, there was still plenty of sand for chairs and family activities.

Except for the harbor and neighboring Doheny Beach, Dana Point is known for its location high above the coastline.  On this beach, the view was spectacular because of the towering cliffs that spanned as far you can see.

It was a cool day and the water was still chilly but even with that, it still looked inviting to take a swim. 

So now back to the stairs.

I am here to report that, walking the stairs up, isn’t really that much fun unless you are super fit and love getting your heart rate going.  It is pretty steep, but they managed to make it easier by breaking up the amount of stairs at given sections. Sometimes you will walk up eight stairs, then two, then, five, then a landing area.

The landing area is handy as you can stop and look at the view or fake like you are looking at it, while actually trying to catch your breath.  Whatever your reason, the setting is amazing.

So we made it up the stairs no worse for the wear but agreed that we still wanted to come back and check out this tram.

A few weeks later, we were up in the area and decided to go take a look again. This time, the tram was working!!

Bring on the Funicular!!

The Funicular is what they actually call  this tram and a new word that I learned for the day.

The definition of a Funicular is: “A  type of cable railway system that connects points along a railway track laid on a steep slope.”

That is exactly what it was and we were ready to try it, but first, a little bit about it.

The Funicular was built in 2007 and is open to the public during daylight hours. As of today it was only open on the weekends though.   It holds no more than 8 people and is about a two minute ride each way.

The California Coastal Commission built it with the intent to make it easier to access the ramp leading down to the beach.  Also, for families who had tons of chairs, beach equipment, toys, etc.

It operates on the weekends year-round during daylight hours and all week between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

When I rode it, there were only three others on the ride down and one on the way up. I am sure in summer it is packed.

During the ride you get a nice few of the ocean as you descend. It is a remarkable view made even better as the vehicle moves so slowly.

Leave it up to the affluent Dana Point to have in its city, what is basically an elevator to the beach.  I have seen steeper cliffs in Northern California where they make you hike your butt up and down if you want to get to the beach.

Not here, we have the wonderful Funicular.

I know it is better for my health to walk, but heck after a day at the beach with sun beating down on me, a nice cool ride up the hill sounds just about right.

Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell