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California Questionnaire: Kevin Costner

The Hollywood icon and road trip enthusiast shares some of his Golden State favorites

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Kevin Costner is one of the most recognizable people on the planet thanks to his starring role in films like Dances with Wolves, Bull Durham, JFK, and Silverado. Lately, however, he’s been working behind the scenes on a new project: He’s the co-founder of HearHere, a mobile app that enriches road trips with recorded snippets of history and storytelling, offering context for sights along the road. 

“I love stories,” Costner revealed on the California Now Podcast. “I’m the guy who stops at the historical markers along the highway, usually bringing moans from everyone in the car.” 

Costner grew up in Southern California and started taking road trips as a young boy. “Me and my brother in the back seat, my dad pushing the sleeping bags down into where your feet would normally go,” he recalls. The family traveled in a Buick with whitewall tires and no air conditioning. “That’s how we saw California, that’s how we saw the other side of the Sierra and the sequoias.” 

When Costner hit driving age, he quickly hit the open road. 

“The summer I graduated, I traveled to all four corners of the United States. But the first half of my trip, I couldn’t hardly get out of California. I wanted so desperately to see the rest of the country, but California just kept calling out to me.” 

We asked Costner to take the California Questionnaire—here’s what he had to say. 

Where do you live? 

On the Santa Barbara coast. 

Why there? 

I’ll tell you, I’ve gotten lucky in my life. This is a place that spoke out loud to me, to be on the water with my children and my wife. And so we moved here. 

Who or what is your greatest California love?
The High Sierra. It makes me think of my mother and father, makes me think of the adventures I had. I was going there in diapers and I learned to walk there, so there is something about the Sierra that will never leave me. 

What is the biggest misperception about Californians?
That Californians can’t drive in the rain. Of course we can. 

What is the stereotype that most holds true?
It’s expensive to live here. 

What is your favorite Golden State splurge?
I’m pretty thankful for In-N-Out. When I’ve been gone a long time, when I just have to get filled up, thank God it’s on the side of the road. I order my burgers animal-style

Time for a road trip. Where are you going?
I’ve never been able to get the Sierra out of my psyche. When I go there, I’m always refreshed. When I go to the sequoias, it’s the same. I’ve never been able to duplicate that particular smell that comes from the Sierra’s granite mountains. I imagine the reason it smells the way it does is because the pine needles fall, the sun hits them, and there’s all that sap. 

If you could decree a state culinary experience, what would it be?
I get a lot of satisfaction out of eating at the San Ysidro Ranch. It’s a boutique hotel with a great bar and a great restaurant. And the food ... I just love it. 

How do you define California style?
If you’ve got a convertible, you can throw anything in the back and you can go anywhere you want. 

What’s the best California song?
Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco.” It defined an era that I grew up in, during the Vietnam War. I would come through Santa Barbara during ‘67 and ‘68, and there were stoplights—the freeway didn’t go all the way through Santa Barbara. There would be no fewer than 40 or 50 kids at each light, all hitchhiking to San Francisco. My brother was in Vietnam at the time, and so that song was real, not some kind of fairytale. Kids were going to San Francisco and they had flowers in their hair. 

How would your California dream day unfold?
Well, I’m kind of living my dream. I never knew that I would have some of the things I have. I live on the ocean. I wake up to it. I like a really good waffle in the morning, and then I love seeing my kids head out on their surfboards right from our house. I think to myself, “I don’t know what I’ve done right in life, but I did this part right.” 

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