Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Great California Blog


Highway 1

My first stop in California was the musical road in Lancaster, a road that has grooves cut into it so that when you drive over it, the vibrations in your tires produce the William Tell Overture. It was not that exciting, and considering that it is eighty miles from anywhere, I’m not sure it was really worth the effort. But, like many things that I have done on this trip, I can now say that I’ve done it, whether or not I would do it again. It was not long after Lancaster that the 110 degree weather began to subside and the ocean fog began to roll in. I stopped for the night at Refugio Beach just outside of Santa Barbara and camped on the beach. Side note, the California state park system is very much a for profit industry. To car camp in California typically costs $35. To hike or bike into a campsite costs $5-10. Therefore, I have been and will continue to do what many others appear to be doing as well which is to park about a quarter mile away from a campsite and to “hike” into them. The interesting adventure of the night was that I saw a top secret satellite get shot into space from Vanderberg AFB (confirmed in the newspaper the next day). The next two days I spent on highway 1. It took me along rocky cliffs, an Elephant Seal beach, Clint Eastwood’s bar, William Randolph Hearst’s castle, Pebble Beach golf course, the lonely cypress, and four lighthouses. Then, I once again “hiked” into a campground in a redwood grove along the Big Sur river.

My reprieve from camping happened in Santa Cruz, where I stayed with my sister’s brother-in-law (and sister-in-law-in-law?) Scott and Mary. It was a nice break from the road to watch Modern Family, eat non-canned food, sleep not on the ground, and get Forest checked out. While an oil change still only costs $30 here in California, I could see the garage attendants salivating when I brought the ‘89 onto the lot. Apparently, it is standard operating procedure to run up a list of things that a garage can fix for you if you let them, and while the oil change only took fifteen minutes, typing up a list of parts to replace took about an hour. All told, if I want to make it back to Georgia, the Santa Cruz Firestone store believes that it will cost me $2500. Looks like I’ll be hitchhiking home from Iowa I guess.

From Santa Cruz, I headed to Yosemite. I would describe Yosemite Valley almost how I’ve heard the Grand Canyon described a lot--too big. It’s hard to put into perspective. Certainly the famous peaks (El Capitan and Half Dome) are impressive, the waterfalls are staggering, and the meadows are beautiful, but it’s hard to capture in words or photographs unless your Ansel Adams I guess. I camped out near El Cap, and the temperature fell to 40 degrees (not Celsius). I froze my butt off, something I didn’t realize would happen to me before I got to Wyoming. I suppose I should have brought that heavy coat that’s currently sitting on a hook in my closet at home.

After reacquainting myself with the sun and the car heater (which still works), I rolled out, once again bound for the Bay Area and my once upon a time dream school, Stanford. I hung out with Amanda, ran a 10K (still out of shape), did laundry (thank you Stanford and Amanda), watced Mike Bobo lose his job on national tv with Lucas, Amanda, and Jill, and picked up my friend Parag at SFO. We went back to his place in Berkeley, which is not nearly as posh as Amanda’s place at Stanford to say the least. After a couple of days relaxing in the comfort of the bay area, I will once again hit the road tomorrow morning, bound for the Redwoods of Northern California and Oregon.

A few notes on California:
1) The weather is fantastic
2) The prices are strange. It’s really hard to tell what items are going to be strangely jacked up in price. Gas can be 2.75 one place and two blocks up the street it will be 3.15. Market principles seem to have little or no effect in the State of California.
3) I think the people are just as nice and friendly as they are in the South. Everywhere I have gone, I have met really gregarious people from camping on the coast to Yosemite to San Francisco last night.
4) The wealth is in no way evenly spread out here. For instance, comparing Palo Alto and Berkeley is almost laughable--though Berkeley is way cooler I think, I’m a little worried my car might be getting broken into as I write due to the sheer number of homeless people that call Berkeley home.

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