Bring yourself up to speed! I had golfed through the Southwest and had just driven from Vegas to Oatman, AZ via the Hoover Dam, and I was finally getting to the destination, if there was one, for my trip: The Golden State. I had already played golf in 31 States and DC by this point, and 26 days had passed; my trip was more than half over by any definition. Nevertheless, I still felt as if I was “on the way up” the mountain, if that’s a metaphor you’re comfortable with; I had not yet reached the coast.
California has always held a special place in my mind and heart, as I suspect it has for many eastern kids. Much like New York on the East coast, California catches a lot of grief from a wide variety of people for a wide variety of reasons. Wide varieties of people with wide varieties of things to complain about have to have a flip side, right? Of course they do, and the obvious allure of California, beyond the childish dreams of an adulthood based more in imagination than reality, is the wild diversity of all things the Bear Republic has to offer. I trust I don’t have to spell out any specifics here (I will be, of course, writing about my 5 days in California over the next few days, and the specifics will be abundantly clear within the details).
As it were, however, while I could have stumbled across this more intellectual justification for my excitement if prodded as I was traveling west through the Mojave late at night, my excitement was of a decidedly visceral sort. San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. I was going to see all of these places. The Pacific Coast Highway awaited my tires. I had a friend to meet in San Diego, a friend to meet in Orange County, and a friend to meet up in Monterey. I had plenty of things to look forward to, and was simply jubilant at what surely awaited me.
Had this been it’s own independent vacation, I would have been nearly as excited. The fact that my stay in California served also as a respite from the exhausting golf/drive/write schedule I was adhering to was also powerfully alluring. Get into the state, take a rest… you know, play a round of golf, meet up with friends, and relax for five days. Brilliant planning, Alex. Absolutely brilliant.
As I crossed the border from Arizona to California, the sun had not yet set over the horizon, and while I was still hundreds of miles from the Ocean, the feeling of “having arrived” was overwhelming.
I have arrived! I posted my entry photo for each state at or shortly after the time I made my way into each new territory. None of these photos engenders in me a feeling or memory so pure as the one you see above. Remember, I had just come from the charming Oatman, Arizona, and was only days removed from my unexpectedly memorable adventure through the Land of Enchantment. Already feeling pretty good about what I had seen and done, I had the California of my dreams ahead of me. As I chased the sun to the west, I was as carefree as I ever have been or likely will be. It was a beautiful moment. While I certainly couldn’t help but believe I was actually in California (the evidence for this belief was, indeed, overwhelming), I came dangerously close to thinking to myself “I can’t believe I am here.” Numerous of my favorite musicians hailed from various corners of Cali, and the last thing I needed to do to squeeze out the last endorphin was to get the sound track right. I put Op Ivy on, and cruised on towards Barstow.
My friends in Oatman had recommended Barstow as a good stopping point for the night, should I run out of the energy necessary to get all the way down to San Diego, and a quick review of the map confirmed that Barstow was indeed the way to head. It lies at the western terminus of I-40, and on I-15. Were it still appreciably light out, I certainly would have done at least a little adventuring in the Mojave, but alas it was not, and the clock was ticking later as each second passed. The interstates were for me on this evening, and I quickly made my way to Barstow by around 9:30. My journey into California had begun…