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Californiacation

I’m in California. Again.

You can't tell, put this picture contains the head and backpack of the British boy I met at LAX and temporarily planned on marrying.

You can’t tell, but this picture contains the head and backpack of the British boy I met at LAX and temporarily planned on marrying.

I’ve been here for two days now, wandering around the scary-busy streets of Los Angeles and getting a sun burn. It’s been fun, though, if that previous sentence doesn’t prove it. I’m staying with a friend, and her friend (who’s from England), and her friend (who’s also from England). It’s turned into a USA vs. England competition, which so far has brought a lot of humor (not humour) to the dinner table, phone conversations, etc. Basically everything.

We’re staying in L.A. for four days at a hostel/hotel. Because it’s a hostel/hotel, there are tons of people here from elsewhere (read: not America) and the poolside hangouts we’ve been having quite frequently are even more entertaining because of it.

But, before all of that, there was the trip here. The four of us were set to meet up at LAX – which was fine, except for my flight landed at Long Beach air port. I left from Detroit, got another plane from Phoenix, and booked a shuttle bus from Long Beach to LAX. During my layover in Phoenix, I got bored, and typed the following useful information on my Ipod:

Things to do when you are bored in an airport:

Stare. At people. Out the window. At the T.V. on mute and is so far away you can’t see what it says anyway.

Play “Guess the Air Marshall”. Consider every man in a suit. The Asian girl. The man who ran up to the terminal late. The old guy reading a newspaper. The toddler?

Fiddle with every loose belonging you’ve shoved into the side flaps of your carry-on bag, Laptop bag, purse, etc. Fiddle for at least thirty minutes.

Closely examine everyone around you in a stealthy way, glancing away right before they catch you looking. This skill takes some time to develop, but that’s fine, because all you have is time.

Examine your surroundings. Take note of every electrical outlet – not because you need to charge your cell phone (although you might if you’ve been playing large amounts of Tetris) but because you’ve got nothing better to do.

Read. Wait, what? You didn’t bring a book? Don’t worry, crappy magazines are available for $8 in your nearest terminal convenience store. 

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Waking up in Vegas…

Did that Katy Perry song pop into your head just then? It was in mine at the time as I woke up, as they say, in Vegas.

Without the glitter.

Las Vegas is an interesting place. Or, more like, it’s an interesting strip of road. That’s most of it – a least, that’s where most people hang out. (Downtown Vegas is just as cool and interesting, in my opinion, but not as popular.)

So, let’s be honest – Vegas is a strip of road. With really fancy, expensive, glitzy hotels. And lots of people. All sorts.

“Vegas is the perfect location to host your mid-life crisis” – Me, via Twitter

Did I just quote myself? Anyway.

After the whole waking up in Vegas thing, I checked out of my hotel (the Tropicana!) and then stayed at my hotel.

Why? Why, you ask? Because outside of my hotel was 110 degrees (F) and Nicole and I were not about to set back into that at 11 in the morning. Some things you have to slowly ease in to.

Like a pool.

Like the hotel’s pool! Did you like that transition?

When in the middle of the desert, one searches for water. Luckily, the Tropicana has a rather large amount of water that they allow their guests to swim in.

Unfortunately for me, I had just become a non-guest of the hotel minutes before attempting to swim in their guest-only pool.

This caused a problem when I tried to get a couple of towels – from the people working in what can only be called the “towel tent”.

Me: Could I have two towels?

Girl: Sure. *hands me two towels*

Me: Thank you!

Girl: Sure. Do you happen to have your room key on you?

Me: Umm… no….

Girl: Could you go get it?

Me: Umm… I don’t have one…

Girl: Are you staying with someone who has one?

Me: Umm… no…

Girl: Are you staying at the hotel?

Me: Umm.. well, we stayed last night, and we wanted to check out the pool…

Girl: Oh, so you’re already checked out?

Me: *assuming police were going to jump out of the nearby bushes and arrest me* Mmhmm…

Girl: Oh, ok. That’s fine.

Me: ok. ….. bye.

Ok, maybe it’s hard to show the tenseness that was happening in that conversation. Awkward silences are hard to capture in text form. Just picture a situation you’ve been in where you got caught doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing and were confronted and you attempted to tell the truth without telling truth…. simple, really!

After swimming and using the towels (illegally), I lounged on a pool-side lounge chair and read some dirk gently’s holistic detective agency by my dear friend Douglas Adams. As good as that book is and was, I discovered that I am very bad at lounging.

I just wanted to do something! It was so frustrating just sitting there, because I knew that I had to sit there (because we had something like 5 hours until we could head to the airport), and because I wanted to go do something (even though it really was impossible to go do something else, because – uh, it was hot! – so walking around outside was a no-no. And what else is there to do in Vegas? Gamble?! Nah.)

I’m an explorer. I don’t sit! It was outrageous! But, I sat. And, I read. And, I kept checking the time.

Finally, finally, finally, enough time passed so that we could go do our next planned activity – froyo!

froooooyooooo.

I love me some frozen yogurt. I really do. And self-serve is where it’s at! None of that girl-behind-the-counter-makes-it-for-you crap!

Strawberries, kiwis, mochi, little bit of oreo crumbles, and some gummy bears on top! Mmmm…

Anyway, enough of that. (Even though after I had finished my cup I wanted more! It was good, ok? Don’t judge!)

We managed to spend about an hour nom-ing on our deserts… and then we still had hours and hours to wait.

(Note to self and others: late-night flights kind of suck! And if you’re in Las Vegas in July with nothing to do…  you may as well book another night at a cheap hotel and stay inside and watch TV in air-conditioned comfort until it’s time to go to the airport! Ah, the lessons you learn.)

So, I will ask the question once more: “What does one do with hours to go until their flight home?”

You, with a knowing look in your eye, “Go to the movies!”

Me: “That’s right!!”

Yes, I went to the movies. Again. For the second day in a row. Whatever.

We saw Brave, which was actually really good (I love her hair!), although I wrote a better ending to the movie in my head. Tell me if you think it’s better than the actual. (And if you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to skip to the next paragraph! I’ll meet back up with you there.) Ok – so, you know that giant bear that everyone and their father wanted to kill? Ok. And you know how the girl’s mother wanted her to get married to one of the sons from the different Kingdoms? Ok. And you know how that witchy lady said that that bear was actually a guy that had wanted to escape from his life or something? Ok. Umm, hello, Pixar! Do I need to spell it out for you? My ending wouldn’t even have violence! What kind of Pixar movie kills off someone/something?! Here’s how you do it properly: Have Brave (is that the girl’s name? I forget.) get the witchy lady to turn the biggo bear back into that super-attractive guy that we all know he must have been! And then: ta-da! Brave has got her a husband, and the bear is gone (with no squishing), and they all live happily ever after! You’re welcome, Pixar. Feel free to contact me for any plot assistance in the future. Love, Jenni.

After the movie ended, we once again found ourselves in the oven-like heat that was Las Vegas. No, not again! We then ran back to our hotel that wasn’t actually our hotel anymore. Home sweet home! Nicole tried her luck at a blackjack table, which was pretty cool to watch. We even had the dealer teach us how to play – because neither of us had any idea how to play blackjack. Then Nicole lost $5. Then we left our hotel (so long!) for the very, very last time.

It was time, finally, to go home.

Home.

Before that, we had to take back our car. (No, we did not put that scratch there! Thank you very much, mr. rental car guy!) I snapped a picture of our silver Ford Taurus baby as we walked away from it and towards the shuttle bus that would take us to the airport. Fun Fact: Our trip mileage counter read 1,500. 1,500 miles! In a week and one day. What a week it was.

At the airport, I almost got through security without them stopping/patting/arresting me. But when they called “Who’s bag is this?” while pointing to my little red luggage, I claimed it quickly and without surprise. Now what? Apparently their machine only took a picture of half of it, so they had to run the bag through again. Or something. I just nodded and clutched my shoes while many of the people who had been in line behind me streamed past. Then I grabbed my luggage and (trying to be very non-suspicious)  strolled along to my gate.

Home.

Before that, we had to fly to Phoenix. Again, the flight seemed to take only a few minutes. Well, apart from the very nice (talkative) lady who wanted to tell us all about her 7-month stay in Hawaii, and how she had already been on a plane for 5 hours that day, and how it was going to take her another 4 hours to get home, and how a gallon of milk costs way too much in Hawaii, and etc.

Here I’d like to mention how much I love flying. Every part of it. Even, and especially, the people.

Then, home. After an hour layover, we boarded our flight to Detroit, MI. Home. It was 11:15PM as we found our seats and settled in on the plane. It was 6:20AM as we got off the plane and found ourselves, finally, unfortunately, thankfully, wonderfully, terribly: home.

After one week and one day, we had returned. To the land of trees, it seemed to me. Trees and lots of green. Michigan. After a week and one day of exploration. After the first trip west.

Californiacation.

I don’t know how to sum up my trip; If I should, or if it’s even possible. When people ask me about it, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to explain.

I went. I saw.

You should too.

This is it. This is the day I leave California. Leave LA, leave this beautiful ocean-bordered state and go back into the scorching desert.

Also known as Las Vegas.

Yes, all this is in the write-up for today, but we didn’t head back to Vegas first thing in the morning. Why? Well, one look at the weather forecast for Vegas gave us pause; it was 108 degrees there – at 10 in the morning – and it was only expected to get hotter.

Sure, that’s a dry heat, but, still, we decided it would be best to stay in LA’s cooler weather for a bit longer.

That was totally ok with me, because I really didn’t want to go back to Vegas at all. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to California. Not yet.

So, what does one do in the middle of somewhere in LA with a few hours to kill?

Go to the movies!

Which is what we did – after breakfast, of course.

Breakfast. We were used to having breakfast at breakfast time at this point in our trip, so I whipped out my handy-dandy phone and used Urban Spoon to locate us some foodstuffs.

We ended up at this place called Dinah’s family restaurant, and my pancakes had strawberries on top of them and I had fresh-squeezed California orange juice and I was a very happy camper.

LA seems to be hectically busy at all times. Dinah’s was packed from the moment we got there until the moment with left, with the wait-staff eager for us to finish as soon as they set us down with fresh silverware. (I realized later that it was a Sunday morning… in LA… so, understandable.) Very busy.

I wonder if there are ever empty roads in LA, like there are at home in Michigan. At 3AM, is there still traffic on the 405?

Again, though, I will ask the question – What does one do when they’ve got a few hours to kill? (You, enthusiastically: “Go to the movies!!” Me: “That’s right!”)

We had to drive a whole 2 miles to the nearest movie theatre. Good grief, LA! We happened upon this cool little mall-sort-of-complex – with $2 parking! Hello! Will take!

Then, The Amazing Spiderman happened. During the movie, I found myself thinking: “Didn’t I see this movie already? Didn’t they just make this movie? Really, I’m supposed to believe that Emma Stone is 17 years old? Ooh, hello there, Andrew Garfield! Wait, he doesn’t shoot webs out of his hands?! WTF?” Etc.

It was a good flick, though.

Overall.

You know?

Yeah.

Ok – I’m just stalling! The next part of my journey is coming up and I don’t want to think about it let alone write it all out in excruciating detail!

Then we left California.

Nicole drove, so I got to sit in the passenger seat and stare glumly out the window as LA disappeared, and the entire state of Cali flew by. It was honestly kind of a beautiful life moment, though. While I was in California, I realized how much more there is in the world that a lot of people miss out on. I don’t know why they do. Voluntarily. I found myself thinking that, in a year, after I graduate from college, I could move out there – to California. Or, I could go anywhere. It was kind of a wonderful realization.

Yes, I had to leave behind California and all of the wonderful places I had been – but, I could come back. Or, I could keep going – to new places; see the world.

The world is as big as you let it be.

We drove East to Vegas, (while I booked a hotel on my, yes you guessed it, phone) and spent the night at the Tropicana hotel.

The end.

Wait, no. There’s more! A lot more. We were in Vegas, baby! And we weren’t ready to stop exploring just yet.

Nicole had never been to Vegas, though as this was my third time there, and I felt like a Vegas pro. So, we wandered out to walk the strip – and find dinner, of course! Who do you think we are?

Uh, Vegas is hot. Like, really hot. Yes, sure, it’s a dry heat – but that’s like saying the inside of your oven is a dry heat. That’s pretty much where I felt I was – inside of an oven – as we journeyed down the strip and snapped some photographs. After a half hour of baking, we decided to duck into Outback Steakhouse, and out of the heat.

I then proceeded to guzzle down three glasses of water.

Nicole got her steak, and I my burger and fries, and we sat there munching happily as the cute waiter guy came back every 5 minutes to refill our water glasses.

Oh – did I tell you the story about the waiter guy? No? Let me fill you in!

He was cute. And funny. And, it turned out, from Michigan! Just like we were! Was it a sign?! Also, he was pretty great at bringing us water. That’s how you know he’s a good catch.

Anyway, that happened, and we left Outback with very full stomachs – and my number on the receipt! Oh my god! That happened! Yes, it did!

It was kind of a big deal to me – I don’t give random guys my number! But, hey, I do now. Or, maybe I only do that in Vegas. (What happens there…)

He wouldn’t text me anyway, right? It was just a funny, exciting thing to do.

We pretty much ran out of that restaurant so we wouldn’t see him on the way out. So much for us being daring souls, right?

Then, back to the Tropicana. We were so tired! Stretched out on our (very comfortable) beds, we watched T.V. for a little while. It was getting late. Wait, no, it was late! It was midnight! When had that happened? Time for bed?

Then, I realized, we hadn’t had a drink yet.

When we first set off on this adventure, we talked about how one night we should go to a bar and have a drink. Newly 21, this sounded like an exciting idea to both of us. However, we found ourselves there, in Vegas, on the last night of our trip, with no drinks on our record. What? Unacceptable!

So, we went out. Again. Into the Las Vegas night.

And it was still fucking hot. 110 degrees at midnight? Really?

Nicole was on a mission to find an icy sort of fruity drink. What we ended up with was large cups of pink, icy, pretend-strawberry margaritas. Honestly, I have no idea what they were. We found an outside bar (with these cool fans that blew water on you!) that had some sort of pink business sloshing around inside a machine, and ordered two.

It was really, horribly strong. But I drank the whole thing. With lots of grimaces.

Then, we went back to the Tropicana and went to sleep.

Oh, wait! No we didn’t! I mean, yeah, that was the plan – but then waiter guy texted me!

I may have been a little too excited about the whole thing, but I’ll just blame that drink I had. Anyway, I then busted into the bathroom while my friend was in the shower and proceeded to cackle hysterically while attempting to explain that the waiter guy had just texted me.

It was a good night.

It was a good last day of our vacation.

And as I continued to cackle for the next hour or so, I realized that we still had almost an entire day left of our adventures before our plane ride home. The fun wasn’t over yet!

More free hotel waffles for breakfast in San Francsico!

Then, we were out of that town…

And on our way back to LA.

I was pretty excited about that fact – more LA!

I guess I’ve sort of fallen in love with that city. It just seems like something is always happening there.

So knowing that I was going to be able to spend another night there before I headed home, well, let’s just say the 6-hour drive back from San Fran to LA went a little bit faster.

It was a sad drive, though, going back.

Going back.

I don’t like going back! And going back to LA was exciting, but it also marked the first leg of our return journey home.

I wasn’t ready to leave! I didn’t want to go! Say it isn’t so!

Sometimes you have to pull yourself together a little bit, and make sure you’re focusing on the present. Which is what I did, and then I realized that I still had three whole days left of my adventures.

I’m going to skip telling you about the 6-hour drive, which was uneventful, but I do want to describe me attempting to drive up what must have been the steepest road in San Francisco, and possibly in all of California.

My car wouldn’t go! I had to floor the gas in order to get up that hill. And, to make the situation even better – there was a stop sign at the top! So, I had to stop my car once I got there, and then attempt to turn off of the road without rolling backwards and smashing into the car behind me.

Sure, I pulled it off smoothly (with minimum honking from the car behind me), but it was quite a stressful and interesting experience!

And then the whole 6-hour drive thing happened.

And then, we were partying at the Holiday Inn!

Not really. But the room was really nice! I love a good, cheap, quality hotel room! That will make or break your night as a traveler. (Wow, look at me pretending I’m a seasoned traveler now! After a week! Ha!)

Then, we were off! Guess where? To get food. Typical.

As everyone and their mother had told me about In N Out burger, that was our fancy restaurant of choice for our last night in LA.

When we pulled in to In N Out, there must have been 30 cars in the take out line, waiting to order – and that many people inside the building itself, both ordering and waiting for their food. So, I thought, this place must be good!

I ordered a number one – cheeseburger, fries, medium drink.

And, honestly, I didn’t get it.

I still don’t! Why is In N out so popular? Jack in the box is way better! Yet, there was not a mile-long line at Jack in the box. Am I missing something here? I really feel like I am! Sheesh, just when I thought I was beginning to understand LA.

I mean, In N out was good, but not great. It just tasted… well… like a hamburger! Ah! Help, somebody! I’m so confused!

Anyway, then we headed back to the Holiday Inn for the night. I really like saying “Holiday Inn” because it just reminds me of that one song. You know the one.

My entire day in San Francisco was kind of a hilarious disaster.

Nicole and I got up early in time to catch the free breakfast at our hotel. Carrying our bowls of cereal, cups of juice, and plates of waffles, we headed back to eat in our room since the “breakfast room” was full.

That was the plan anyway. Our hotel room door wouldn’t open. Somehow the lock mechanism had broken or gotten stuck in the door, and our door card couldn’t open the lock.

So, I set (carefully!) my waffles and juice onto the floor, told Nicole to guard them, and headed down (from the sixth floor) to the main lobby via the staircase (the creaky old elevator is an entire, even longer, story). I told the guy at the desk that my card wouldn’t open the door – so he gave me a new one – card, not a new door. Although, as it turned out, that’s what we needed… sort of…

Did the new card open the door? Nope! Although, we did try to make it work several more times. Then, Nicole took over (while I guarded the now-soggy cereal) and marched (again) down the stairs to the lobby.

After about 15 minutes (and one European couple’s strange looks at me as I stood looming over several plastic plates full of food in the corner of a hallway), Nicole returned – with the Manager! We were finally saved!

Yes, it was that dramatic.

Only – no, we weren’t. The manager had brought another key. And, when he tried to open the door himself – it didn’t work! Surprise! So, back down to the lobby he went. Finally, he returned with the (magic) master key (card), and got our door open in one swipe!

In we barged into our room, soggy cereal and waffles in hand. The manager said he would get us a new room, and then he left. Yes, we then ate our cold, soggy, breakfast. And it was good!

Later, after transferring all of our stuff into a new room (right across the hall from the “breakfast room”!), we were off to explore San Francisco. We even had a route mapped out. First, to the cable cars! Then, to Pier 39 to see the sea lions, then off to the Golden Gate Bridge, and, lastly, a stop at the Golden Gate Park.

However, disaster followed us throughout the day. I could write forever on all that happened to us, so I’ll just give you the summary.

Cable Cars? That went well enough. We found the ticket booth easily, stood in line for twenty minutes to get tickets, and then went to board a car. Only, there was an hour-long line to board. The walk to Pier 39 was only 45 minutes from where the cable cars were located – it would have taken us way longer to wait for the cable cars than it would to walk there! So, we decided to walk down a couple blocks and try to get on the car further down. However, that didn’t work out – turns out, most of the people who got on at the first stop wanted to get off at the last stop.

“Next car, guys!” – Cable car driver, as he drove past the group of people waiting under the bus stop sign.

So, we walked. Up, up, up the steep roads between us and the bay. Finally, we reached Pier 39.

There were no sea lions at Pier 39.

Turns out, we visited during their mating season – a time when they are far, far, away from San Francisco. There were only three sea lions to be seen. Two of them were snoozing on the “sea lion dock”, while one was attempting to snooze on the “boat dock”. We watched then as a dock worker, pushing a large garbage can in front of him, attempted to scare the sea lion off the dock and into the water. He managed to do so – but only after the sea lion ran towards the man, literally barking mad.

With nothing much else to see at the pier, we were off to the Golden Gate bridge. We hopped on a city bus – which promptly took us in the wrong direction. Yes, we took the wrong bus – all the way to its last stop. Then, we waited for the bus driver to take his break… and, finally, we hopped on the bus again, this time headed in the correct direction, and made our way to the bridge.

It is beautiful! Quite a sight. Once we had snapped enough photos of the bridge itself, we wandered around the area a bit and read up on some Golden Gate history.

It was about 6:00PM when we decided to head to our last stop – the golden gate park.

To get there, we had to take a bus, and then another bus – and then, one more. We were bus-riding professionals by the end of the day! Well, sort of…

We got off at the wrong stop – one stop too early. We were close to the park, though! And during our walk of several blocks to catch a bus towards our hotel, we managed to see some pretty spectacular sights. We saw some of the park, so we were happy.

Until we realized, about an hour later, that we were, in fact, horrible bus-riding professionals.

After a half-hour of walking to our next bus stop, we sat down at the bench and waited. I noticed a phone number that was available to call that would tell you the next time the bus was predicted to arrive at your particular stop – so, I called.

“There are no predicted times for your stop. Either the prediction equipment is damaged, or there are no scheduled stops for your location in the next 90 minutes.”

What? Oh, crap.

With the way our luck had been going so far that day, we decided that the latter was probably the actual reason there was no prediction. So, on we walked, toward the direction of our hotel – miles and miles across town.

Then, we spotted a bus on the route we had been wanting! It was going in the wrong direction – but we knew how to handle that: We would simply ride the bus all the way to its end, then ride it back again. We were desperate for a ride at that time (it was getting dark, and we were tired), so we hopped on the bus, and waited.

“Last stop!” – Driver

“Are you going ‘round again?” – Me

“No, this is the last stop. Busses don’t go in that direction anymore tonight.” – Driver

“…” – Me and Nicole

Yes, we had taken the bus in the entirely wrong direction, and now we found ourselves even farther from our hotel, with no bus to take us in the opposite direction.

We stood on the corner as our last hope drove away.

Yes, it was that dramatic.

Then, a woman walking nearby asked if we needed help. Yes! Yes, we did!

(I would like to interrupt myself to say thank you! Thank you, San Francisco, and your people, for being so kind to visitors in your city! We had several people offer to assist us over the course of the two days we were in your city, and whether we needed it or not, it was much appreciated. Thank you!)

Turns out, we were only a block away from where we needed to be: At the stop for the bus that would actually take us all the way back to downtown San Fran. And, as the cherry on top of that good news: the bus was going to stop right by our hotel! We were saved!

Yes, it was that dramatic.

Getting on that bus was the best moment of that day. We didn’t have to walk anymore! We were on our way home! To food! To our beds! To not being lost!

And, after arriving, finally, at our hotel, we marched right over to our trusty Jack in the Box and ordered dinner. (Well, we marched there while assisting a blind man across the street… but that’s an entire different, and longer, story.)

What a day. What a long, hilariously disaster-filled day. What a wonderful, San Francisco filled day. Good night!

I’ve fallen in love in California.

His name is … frozen yogurt.

Yes, it’s true, I’ve found a new love. It is either very good or very bad that there are no frozen yogurt shops where I live. Both, I guess.

Yesterday we drove from LA to San Francisco.

The end.

Really, the drive took 6 hours, and it took another hour to find our hotel. So by the time we got settled in, it was getting late, and cold, in our new town.

But since we were starving, as per usual, we went out in search of chow – and got our first pedestrian glimpse of San Fran.

The first thing I noticed were the buildings. They’re small, compared to the buildings of LA, and cramped closely together – packed in tight on the hilly roads that are found here. They are beautiful – they look old, at least by big-city standards. The hotel we’re staying in here in San Fran is one of these buildings, and I can tell from the way it’s built that it’s definitely not a modern building. I think these structures give San Francisco a certain charm – and because of them I fell in love with the city a little bit as soon as I stepped foot into it.

I noticed the people of San Fran next. There were a lot of them – locals and tourists. I can always spot a local, no matter what city I find myself in. They have a certain look about them. They dress like they know what they’re doing. They know where they’re going and they plan to get there. The tourists here are similar to those found in other parts of California that I’ve seen – although here they’ve brought out their sweaters and long pants. Oh, did I mention – it’s cold here!

I guess I forgot that during our 6-hour drive, we were headed north. Northern California is cold, you guys! I am so glad I packed one pair of jeans and one sweater! Without them, I don’t think I’d make it here…

But, more about the people.

For some reason, I couldn’t figure this crowd out right away. Like, in LA, I felt like I understood them, like I knew how to blend in and make my way around. But here, even if I hadn’t had a bright-red sunburnt face, I felt like an outsider.

Suddenly, I didn’t know how to function. Walking down the road, I wondered, “Do I make eye contact? Do I stare at the ground? Do I smile? What do I do?”

I guess the etiquette here just seems different than LA – and it probably is. While still a big city, San Francisco is very different than Los Angeles.

Hopefully I’ll pick it up tomorrow as we explore the town.

Oh, and I almost forgot the good part!

We had Pizza Hut for dinner.

It is amazing how wonderful it feels carrying food “home” after not eating all day, and knowing that soon you will have a full belly.

And that is a fact I’m sure all San Franciscans can agree with. Yeah? See, I’m beginning to understand you already!

What did you do for the fourth of July?

I spent mine watching fireworks at Venice Beach – on the pier, over the ocean, with several dolphins and three pelicans.

I can’t believe this place called “LA” is real. It’s so… strange.

First, there’s the ocean. It’s beautiful. There are huge beaches all along it, open to the public – they are beautiful. There are dolphins, seagulls, pelicans, all sorts of tropical vegetation (all beautiful).

Then, right next door, there is the city. It’s huge, and beautiful in an ugly way. That makes sense, right?

There are buildings and roads and cars everywhere. And I mean everywhere. And people – all sorts and shapes and colors of people.

Both of those things are wonderful to find in a city. It’s just a little overwhelming to have both, and so much of, in the same place.

It’s an interesting contrast, that’s for sure. And, so, as I approached my third day as an Official California Tourist, I wasn’t yet sure how I felt about LA.

We spent the morning… sleeping in.

Yes, we were tired out, ok? Lots of walking and sun will do that to a person.

Around noon we piled our starving selves into our car and headed towards Santa Monica Pier. I’m not kidding, that’s what I typed into my GPS – which is how we found ourselves driving up the road that the pier is on. It sort of just a-pier-ed in front of us. (Yes, I went there.)

Then, the walking began. And didn’t end until 11:30pm that night. Saying our feet were sore is putting it lightly.

What did we do for 10 hours on the beach? A lot of walking, a little shopping, a lot of sitting in the sand, a little napping in the sand, a lot of watching attractive surfer guys (and gals) do their thing. Surfing looks really fun. I’d like to try it sometime. Maybe next time I see you, California.

Then, more walking. Painful walking.

But I was ok with the extra-large blister on my heel – the walk was beautiful (how many times have I used that word? sheesh…), the people were interesting, and the fireworks were everywhere up and down the coast.

(Side note #1: A Canadian couple on their honeymoon asked me to take their picture on the beach and I did and it was super adorable! Side note #2: When I was “napping” on the beach I got hit by a stray frisbee – ow! [But, a good way to meet guys… yeah?])

On the four mile walk (!) back to our car, the boardwalk shops of Venice Beach were locked up tight for the night, and it was strange to see how quickly a bustling locale had changed into an apocalyptic boulevard.

Just across the walk, away from the successful shops and rich-people’s oceanfront homes, were the homeless.

I’ve been around homeless people before, but not like this. There were a lot of them, and they were all lying down, wrapped up in blankets and plastic, surrounded by shopping carts and overfull garbage bags.

It was sad, and quite a picture of the diversity of wealth in America – the richest, and the poorest, separated only by a ten-foot stretch of pavement.

I suppose this is another element that is commonly found in California. People of all sorts, like I said.

Should LA be an easy city to love? Should I know right away how I feel about it? Why is this city so puzzling to me?

Anyway, here’s something I heard a LA local say (while she was laying on the beach):

“Isn’t our life rough? This is why we can deal with the traffic and the pollution – we have this!”

Is that enough? Are the two sides of LA (nature vs. humanity) equally balanced? Will I ever figure this city out?

Um… time will tell?

Anyway, on to San Francisco!