Michael and Sarah's Great Cross-Country Adventure

This is a blog about our 6-week trip driving across the USA. We set off on March 18, 2008.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

California: the other blue state.

We started off from Massachusetts, drove through a sea of red states, and finally reached the blue "shores" of California. We stopped first in Joshua Tree National Park, camping overnight at a crowded but very nice no-hookup campsite. The Joshua tree looks rather like the famed Dr. Suess lorax, only in dull matte desert colors. Foolishly we only got one picture, and by far not the best. I was distracted climbing on all the rocks.

We drove the next morning to LA to stay with Sarah's brother Peter in Hollywood Hills. But before I put in my two cents on LA, a few little side-tracks. Everyone knows the smog is bad in LA; it collects there, trapped by the mountains, and the prevailing easterly winds. But driving over the mountains and seeing the change from crystal clear skies to the thickest haze I've ever seen in my life is just shocking (not even Cairo was as bad). No wonder California is motivated to be the environmental champions in the US - they've got some of the most beautiful nature and they can see the devastation humans are causing with their bare eyes.

Their first obvious attempt at being green were the use of windmills along I-10 just over the mountains outside of LA. Unlike Germany, however, who scatters a few, maybe ten, windmills over several square miles, California has crammed probably every single windmill in the entire state into this one valley. There must have been thousands of them. It's no wonder people protest wind farms in the states. What a way to destroy the beauty of the valley. And I wouldn't doubt that migrating bats do get killed in these windmills; they hardly have anywhere else to fly.

Anyway. LA is an environmental disaster, but I won't say more about that for the moment. Instead let me cover the obvious. We saw the Hollywood stars; there are tons of them. Everyone has a star, including Lassie, Godzilla, Kermit, etc. and actors, singers, and TV personalities that we'd never heard of, plus everyone truly famous. Mulholland Drive was nice, and Beverly Hills was nicer, but I much preferred Malibu Hills (or the hills over Malibu, whatever the name of the place), where houses were set in amongst enormous and frighteningly steep hills, but not packed in like sardines and guarded with 20-foot hedges.

It was great to see Peter, and of all the neighborhoods we visited, Hollywood Hills (where he lives) was definitely the coolest. The streets are very narrow and wind up the hills, lending the place and each house a lot of character and individuality. We also saw a lot of art in LA, and don't get me wrong, I love art, but great art can be anywhere, so why drive 3000 miles across the US to visit museums? I could go on and on comparing LA with NYC, but others have done that before, just watch Sex and the City. I'd rather have NYC any day, though I am jealous of the easy beach access.

My last rant on LA is the old wealth-over-poverty issue, and rather than rant, I will just say it makes me sick how large the gap is in the US. If it's that big in Germany - I don't believe it is - well, at least it isn't flaunted in the face of the poor who sleep on the streets and beg for food and money. (Yes I'm taking to you Mr. Getty.)

After LA we drove up the California coast to San Francisco, and can I just say, not fair. The east coast sucks in comparison. I ate one of the best steaks ever for dinner, before we stopped overnight to camp on a bluff overlooking these amazing rocky shores, thanks to a tip from our friends Sarah and Eric, who'd stayed there in the past. Who knew the central coast had such great beef? And they even prepared it as requested: rare. In those red states - I'm not naming any names - they seem to refuse to serve meat rare.

The next day, we watched elephant seals, sea lions, and harbor seals laze around the beach and docks, before heading into San Francisco, where we stayed with my second cousin and his wife. We spent the next day in San Francisco, and while I did like it a lot there, you can't compare it to NYC. Still, they had a semi-decent public transport, and the access to nature is far superior to NYC. We didn't really have time to get to know San Francisco the way I would have liked, and didn't get to do Napa or Sonoma, but I'd be happy to go back and spend a week or more there.

From there we drove further up the coast, into redwood territory, camping overnight amongst some of the smaller, but still huge trees. It's just amazing the amount of beautiful nature that California has, and more amazing still that they remain blue, which does wonders for the comfort level and food we experienced, even in small coastal towns. The whole state is definitely a place I could visit again and again.


Blogger InYourRearViewMirror said...

I really loved Joshua Tree. We took a billion pictures of piles of rocks - it was so irresistable. Bubble rocks and wierd trees. Odd place, but very cool. Did you get to tour the old farm there? Weird - like they moved out yesterday. I'm glad you guys got to see it.

April 21, 2008 7:59 PM  

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