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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!

Los Angeles is big.

Like, bigger than anything I could have imagined. I’ve really never been to a big city before, and, well, yes, it’s big.

Everything is called “LA”, but really there are these smaller breakdowns to it – like Hollywood, and Glendale, downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, Burbank, etc. My mind is just beginning to understand  it all.

Yesterday we took off early from our Huntington Beach motel and floored it all the way to LA.

Ok, not really. Turns out, there’s a lot of traffic here! So, we sort of half floored it and half break’d it all the way north. Nicole drove, so I had some opportunities to snap some photographs!

We headed over to Hollywood (all in a typical day) and located us a parking garage in which to abandon our car for a few hours. Luckily we happened upon the parking garage that is right smack dab in the middle of the walk of fame.

Then, basically, we walked about for three hours, up and down Hollywood Blvd.

Another thing I was surprised at – the Walk of Fame isn’t just some one-block stretch of stars. No, it goes on for like a mile and a half on both sides of the street. That is a lot of famous people!

And they just get walked on by millions of people each year. Yay!

I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the stars… really, I’m not that into celebrating celebrities. I found it most interesting to see which stars other people were looking at. Charlie Sheen was getting a lot of attention from youngsters, as well as big time bands like The Monkees. There were a lot of names I didn’t recognize, though – important people from the past that have faded from our current brainwaves. I did find me some Humphrey Bogart, though!

After walking the walk (haha), we headed into Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Yes, a tourist spot, but, it must be done!

I’ve never been to such a place before, and it was remarkable to see how well people can shape wax into looking like a real living person – scary, yet amazing all the same.

Afterwards, we headed back to our car and attempted to figure out how to give the machine our money and then get out of there! Let me just say, I dislike driving in parking garages, and that was a rather large parking garage. Fun.

Then I had a go at LA traffic. You would think: If I can drive in one place, surely driving somewhere else will be easy! That’s what I thought. And then I tried driving in LA.

Yes, there are a lot of people, a lot of cars, and a lot of traffic. But the speed limit is low, and the roads are fairly simple. What got me was the size of the roads themselves.

They are tiny! Way narrower than the roads back home in Michigan. And with our huge Ford Taurus,(I say this as a very-small-car driver), I felt like I was taking up the entire roadway!

After a long, stressful 10 minute drive, we arrived at our motel. What a nice place! It was one of the cheapest in the area (we are poor college students!), but still a good value for the room. We have a T.V. and a mini-fridge which is really more like a baby regular fridge. (We haven’t used it. But, it’s still nice to have one!)

The best thing about our hotel, is that there is a stripmall with restaurants and whatnot just down the street! Last night we tried the local Mexican restaurant for dinner. Delicious and spicy!

Then we got lost. Sort of. We wanted to walk off our dinner, so we wandered around the neighboring neighborhood (ha), and we thought we were lost, but really, I totally knew where we were the entire time.

It was a beautiful walk, anyway. We saw actual homes of actual people that live here, discovered the local vegetation is much different than home’s (the grass is solid. solid.), and got a good workout, too.

Then it was time for desert, obviously!

Mmm. Frozen yogurt. Another new experience! And a very delicious one.

And with that, another Californian day came to a close. Another good day in the books.

More tomorrow!

(Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!)

I slept in California last night! Right next to the Pacific ocean.

We’re in Huntington Beach, CA, at the moment – and it is wonderful here.

So, yesterday involved a lot of me driving in traffic for four hours on our long journey from Las Vegas to Anywhere-on-the-ocean, CA. That specific place ended up being Huntington Beach, CA, – after an hour of driving, lost, down the coast – and really, there could have been worse places to be lost, dazed, and confused. So we were in good shape.

While we were searching endlessly for a parking spot, I whipped out my phone and again used some magic technology to book us a motel in the city. Thank you, 3G! Now with a sure place to go, we whipped our rented Ford Taurus (Silver!) around and headed to the aptly named “Ocean View” Motel. (With in-room spas! Aka, showers.)

Yes, I slept next to the Pacific ocean last night. In California. Did I mention that yet?

After we parked the car and mangled the room key from the manager’s hand, we piled all of our belongings into our new for-the-night home. It wasn’t bad. There was even a mini-fridge! Now that’s high class living.

Then we were off again to find the (what had to have been) twenty-mile long beach that we had passed on our first run through Huntington Beach.

This is what we had come for! There were people, and dogs, and tents full of stuff to buy, and food, and more food, and oh – more food, and sandy beaches, and, of course, the ocean.

Nicole and I took carefully measured steps as we first approached the roaring waves of the Pacific. Then, once we were covered in smelly, salty ocean water up to our hips after the first wave hit us – well, we were hooked. Yes, we did run down the coastline. How did you know?

It was a really beautiful experience. As we walked toward some pier in the distance (which I’m sure has a name, but I didn’t see one), we stopped for a few minutes to watch the sun sink beneath the mountains. I watched the sunset. In California. Next to the Ocean. Oh, and then the dolphins started leaping out of the water.

Is this starting to sound like a movie or something? I couldn’t believe it.

Dolphins! Yes, I will freak out like a proper tourist from the Midwest and get excited over dolphins. Everyone else on the beach seemed to be properly freaking out, too, as there was quickly a herd of people surrounding the spot on the beach where the dolphins could be seen. Others were snapping photos, and I tried to get a couple, too, but some things simply cannot be captured by technology – sometimes you just have to watch, and remember, and that is the best way to live that moment.

At the pier (which must have been about a mile from the dolphin spot), we wandered down and took in the sights of what was then a dark Huntington Beach. The lights of the city from the pier were beautiful, and yes, I did take pictures of that moment.

It was really everything I expected from a pier over the ocean – lots of people, musicians playing on the benches with their hats out, more stuff to buy, a restaurant, and a pelican. He was sitting on this “fish sink” and having some (what must have been for him) delicious fishy-tasting water. Yum!

To end the night (after a 45 minute walk back to our car), we stopped at a nearby Jack in the box for dinner. Yes, we tried Western fast food. It was pretty good, too. At least to two girls who hadn’t eaten all day.

Ok, now we’re getting to my favorite part. (Not really, but really.) Back at “home”, we spread ourselves out on our beds with our fast food dinner, and watched some Cake Boss.

Now that is a good day.

Now, to L.A. and beyond!

(Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!)

I’m sitting in my Las Vegas hotel room on a really comfy chair. Seriously, it is so comfortable!

But enough about my current exciting life events – let’s talk about yesterday!

It was mostly an airport day – which is totally ok with me.

After stuffing full what I thought was a giant carry-on bag, I met up with my friend Nicole, who had an actual giant carry-on bag, and we were off to the airport. We got through security without a snag (yay!) , which was an exciting event for me because I’ve always had a snag while going through security. (Last time it was: “your shirt is too sparkly”. I kid you not.) And then, we waited. and waited. and waited. Yes, ok, in our excitement, we went a little overboard with the whole get-there-early thing. But it was nice to have some time to sit and think about the great journey that was about to happen for us. We snagged seats in front of a giant window overlooking the tarmac and watched the planes and the people. I saw all these big guys rushing around – driving weirdly shaped machines, and I wondered what it must be like to always be helping people go someplace else. Also, I wondered how cool it must be to help guide in all of those airplanes – or maybe it was only impressive the first time they did it.

So I sat there, and thought about airport workers, and snapped this great photo of my little pile of belongings:

After about two hours, we finally got on our plane and began our four hour ride to Phoenix. While Nicole was asleep almost instantly, and stayed that way, I spent most of the journey staring out of the window I was sitting next to, and occasionally staring (in a kind of hateful way) at the backs of the heads that were not staring out of their windows. What’s the point of taking a plane somewhere if you don’t look out the window? What do you think you’re traveling on, a bus? Seriously people, we are flying through the air – don’t you get that?

These are the things I think after every airplane ride I take. I’ve been on quite a few now, and after every one I feel just greatly impressed about the whole thing. And I mean the whole airplane-traveling experience: driving to the airport, going through security, people watching, waiting to board, finding your seats, jamming your luggage wherever it is meant to go, ignoring (or watching) the flight attendants as they go through their little spiel, taking off, flying, landing. That basically included the whole airplane-traveling experience, right? The airports themselves are fascinating to me: people of all sorts from all over jumbled together, all trying to get somewhere else. I love it. I could live in an airport. Oh – and also, pilots. I have a strange fascination with pilots. I could go on and on about them, so I’ll just leave it at: “They are the coolest human beings on this planet” and tell you about the rest of my journey that ended at this comfortable armchair!

Once we got to PHX, we had an hour layover there, which wasn’t so bad. Then we got on our last flight for the day – to Las Vegas! I think Vegas flights always contain the most interesting people…

What then occured was what must have been the shortest flight in human history.

“41 minutes from runway to runway.” – The Pilot

He claimed it was 41 minutes, but it felt like 15. And soon, we found ourselves in the heart of Las Vegas – confused about the time, a little sleepy, a lot excited, and hungry! I ordered pizza (on my phone – online! I think I had a senior moment: “Wait, I can order pizza – on this app – without talking to anyone?!”), and we wandered around a bit (read: across the street from our hotel, but it was a 6-lane street…) to find drinks.

I’d like to say our first day of adventuring went out with a bang – but really we just scarfed our food and then each fell into a deep, coma-like sleep.

And that brings us back to now, with me, in this chair (did I mention it was comfortable??), and this beautiful view:

 

So, now I’ve got to go wake up Nicole (why is she always sleeping in this story?!) and head on out – to California! See you there!

 

 

(Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!)

 

I’m going to California tomorrow.

Ok, ok – that’s not totally true. I’m going towards California tomorrow. I’ll be on my way to California tomorrow. It just sounds better the other way.

Me and my pal Nicole [N.] are off on a 8 day summer journey – from Detroit, Mi to Phoenix, from Phoenix to Las Vegas, and (finally!) on to California. We’ll be renting a tiny car to drive up and down and all over California and the west coast (also Vegas).

And it all starts tomorrow. My bags are (partially) packed! I’m ready! Let’s do this!

Since I’m pretty sure our packed-full days are going to fly by, I’ve decided to lug along my computer (through airport security! wish me luck!) and write a daily nightly post here on my beautiful site!

So, if you really want to, you can follow along with me as I discover California…

California is important to me in a big way. I’ve never been there (I don’t count a 30 minute drive-through on a family trip to Arizona), not really, but I’ve wanted to go there for a long time now. A lot of the people I really admire either lived or worked or visited there. (Also, I really like oceans…)

I just feel like there’s a force that’s pulling people towards certain places – like London, or New York, or… California. There are places people just want to go.

So, this isn’t just a fun summer vacation with friends – this trip holds a lot of meaning to me. Who knows, I may fall in love and move to CA after college – or maybe I’ll hate it there! (Yeah, right.)

We shall see… Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!