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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!

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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!

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 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!