After Newport, it was nothing but coastline until we made it to California. The West Coast was a spectacular drive. The campsite prices, not as spectacular.
California is a place we had both been eagerly anticipating for quite some time. California is that place you see in all the movies growing up thinking, “man, wouldn’t it be nice to live there.” Malibu, Hollywood, L.A., Venice Beach. Then you get older and you hear about all these amazing national parks like Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia, and the Redwoods. That place sounded like a country of its own. California and Florida were the two states I’ve been looking forward to the most.
The first while was a lot of forests. I thought there was just a forest called The Redwoods, and there was, but there was also half a dozen other forests that also consisted of redwood trees. Before long, we were driving down roads called Avenue of the Giants and driving through trees with our minivan. These suckers were massssiiiivee!!!
As we drove through Sequoia National Park, we drove through an enchanting forest where the clouds began. As we descended down a mountain, passenger Jess said in the most calm voice, “I think I just saw a bear.” I was hesitant to stop, because she showed little excitement in her voice, so I thought maybe she just saw a rock or something.
I asked if she was serious, and she was so we turned around and found the spot she saw the big bear. We were lucky, there was more than just one big bear…
The little guy kept trying to climb that little tree, but the branches would keep snapping and he would tumble down onto the ground, then hop up on to the log and try again. His mannerisms reminded us of an actual human baby, just learning as he goes.
Between the forests, we found a spectacular secluded campground called Trimmer Creek Campground at Pine Lake. We showed up and had the lake to ourselves – it was magic. We got high, sun tanned, and after a bit I needed to cool off. I walked down to the jetty and there were eight turkey vultures drying out their wings, stopped me from getting to the water. I was trippin’! I got closer and they all flew away, then I hesitated many times, and jumped in water. In my stoned stuper, the cold water shocked my system, the sight of turkey vultures circling me made me think of horror movies, and I jumped out of the lake in less than a minute.
Shortly after that, multiple carloads of dudes arrived to play beer pong and play rap music, so the majesticness of the lake disappeared into the night. It just goes to show, you never know where you’re going to end up.
We were pretty stoked for San Francisco. After all,
“If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there”
We were really excited to see the Golden Gate bridge, walk down along the boardwalk, and see some quirky people. I was also stoked to see Eric from back home, who is becoming a doctor just outside of San Fran. He let us stay at his place for four days, took us to a baseball game, and gave us much needed chiropractic adjustments.
San Francisco was the first place of many in California, where we felt a bit unsafe. I suppose Portland was the first place we felt this way, but throughout California, mainly in the cities, it continued. The gap between rich and poor is extreme, and constantly in your face.
At one point, we walked through the high end shopping area of Union Square. Rich people would walk into Louis Vuitton by stepping over sleeping bags with passed out homeless people in them. Rich people waited in a lobby to go to a fancy restaurant up in a skyscraper, while an addict smacks himself in the head repeatedly just outside the front door. We found it unusual that there was such a contrast. In Calgary, almost all of the homeless people hang by the shelter, with a handful walking around the rest of downtown. In San Francisco, there are groups of homeless people throughout the city, even creating communities of tents under bridges. It was shocking to see, but it was even more shocking thinking that nothing was being done about it. Back home I try to give people in need my spare change or some food, but here, it seemed like there was no hope in trying to make a difference.
While we were in San Fran, we utilized the scooter system to get around, and we got pretty good at it.
Lots of our time in San Fran was spent hanging out at Eric’s house. We were feeling pretty uninspired for some reason. Jess and I have been learning we are not really into big cities. Once we get there, we don’t really know what to do. They all have malls, aquariums, restaurants, and tall buildings, so we don’t really know what separates one from the next.
After Eric’s, we wanted to stay in Yosemite. His roommates said that it’s nearly impossible to get a campsite because people pre-book them 5 months in advance. None of the guys that lived at Eric’s had ever been there because it was so difficult to get a spot. With a spot of luck, we called the park and they had one spot left for us. We spent two nights there, and it has been the highlight of our trip ever since, and probably will be all the way through.
Picture waterfalls, magnificent cliff faces, fallen boulders, lush forests, and beautiful valleys. It truly was a sight from another world. You don’t even need a campsite in the park, there are other campsites outside of the park, and you can even drive in for the day and just park your car and hike around. There is a free transfer system to get to the different points of interest so it’s super easy to navigate.
We headed down to Hollywood and Los Angeles, mainly to go to Universal Studios to visit Harry Potter World! We spent a couple nights in Hollywood just off the boulevard. Two nights was one too many.
Hollywood is super crowded, but the highlight would be getting free tickets to an episode of Family Feud with Steve Harvey. People on the boulevard give out free tickets to fill the seats so there’s an audience for the show, clapping and cheering in the background. I doubt we actually made it on camera. Maybe the back of ours heads did.
Steve Harvey cracked jokes during the commercial breaks, and at the end he gave us some insight into his experience in show business. He said that fame sucks because you can’t go out and go bowling, you have to own a bowling alley in your house. So when you see MTV Cribs and celebrities have a movie theatre in their home, it might be because they feel they cannot go into public and have a good time.
He got very religious, stating that the reason he made it big is because he asked god every single day to make it on tv – he also noted that he asked god for the wrong thing which he did receive, but didn’t expect it to be like this. His two pieces of advice for success were:
- Ask god for big things and,
- Create a vision board so you can visualize your goals.
He really seemed to materialize religion, by saying that you should not ask god for a new tv, you should ask him for a million dollars instead. Don’t ask to make your rent payment, ask to never have to pay rent again. Most of his advice linked to money and possessions, which was very odd.
The funniest part was when a contestant said she is Uber driver, and she told Steve she had a crazy store to share. On television, she said she had a customer who said he’d pay her $100 to show her titties. Steve Harvey stopped the show, and said, “why would you think it’s okay to talk about your titties on television?” He joked about her the rest of the show and fortunately, they do a ton of editing so that part won’t be witnessed by the world, thank goodness. Steve Harvey also talked about how Trump is an idiot but loves hearing what he says every day.
After Hollywood we got to stay at our friend Sanjita’s house. Her and her two roommies were super hospitable and it really made us feel like we had a home, just like at Eric’s.
Staying with friends really made traveling easier and more comfortable. Having down time is very needed for a long-haul trip like this one. Harry Potter World was next!
Hogsmead was spectacular! The town, Hogwarts, everything was created with immaculate detail. The rides were pretty decent too! We tried Butter Beer and watched people cast spells and shit. This was just a small portion of the Universal Studios park, but sooooo worth it.
I also got me some Duff Beer 🙂
From L.A., we headed for Death Valley before going into Nevada. Death Valley was way more brilliant than I could have imagined. We usually like mountains, lakes, and trees, but desert can be breathtaking as well…
Driving through Death Valley made me wonder if I could survive if I was stranded, anywhere. Maybe I should take first aid and some survival course or something…
After almost a month on the road, we realized we hadn’t spent too much money yet. Most of the reason would be because we stayed with friends, or at free campsites, or at trucks stops 10/27 days we were on the road. This definitely helps, and there are always free options around if you want to travel on the cheap.
To conclude California, Jess and I feel that media really glamorizes it. Not just in television and on the big screen, but even in Instagram. If you search #venicebeach, you see beautiful pictures of the boardwalk with tall palm trees and a nice sunset. In real life, it’s kind of a scary place. I suppose lots of it depends on how you grew up, and the types of places you used to.
What I’ve learned on this leg of the journey, is that you can’t see everything. We had Vegas booked for May 28th so we had to get there in time, and guesstimating your travel times isn’t always easy. Maybe you can see everything, with unlimited time and money, but it’s always nice knowing that if you come back to that destination, there’s still more to do and see. Most likely though, you’ll have to skip something, and that comes down to prioritizing. I also learned that Americans loooove beef jerky, and each gas station or supermarket has a massive section dedicated to this healthy treat.
And this is why we travel! Learn, realize, appreciate, develop yourself, find happiness, fall in love with the world.
Colin & Jess, out! 🙂