Goodbye to the Golden State – California Recap
The angel of time continues to flit her fickle wings. California, has it really been four months since we crossed over the border from Oregon? Since the day before Thanksgiving, we’ve wandered pine-needled paths of the redwood forests and then puttered south from there along Highway 1, hugging the coastline all the way to San Diego.
Google Maps says it takes 18.5 hours to bomb straight through that 968 miles, and we did it in scarcely a third of a year for a smoking eight miles per day average! *Fist pump* Albeit with some meandering along the way, as we’ve put 3,500 miles on the van during that time, just ticking over the 10k mark on the odometer two miles before Arizona.
There was lots of inspiration in that 1,000 miles! You initially welcomed us in with your empty winter beaches and towering trees, then entertained with your bridges and food in the Bay Area. Served up perfect roads and trails for our feet and our bikes, both road and mountain. Got me thinking about my past and why I write. Dropped our jaws with condors and elephant seals. Blew us away with ocean views in Big Sur. Amazed us with the silence, and the fury of a desert storm, in Joshua Tree. Surprised us with Malibu Creek State Park, just a stone’s throw from Los Angeles, and with trails north of L.A. with a view of Hollywood. Plus gave us ample time to visit friends and spend quality days with family.
I mused at the start of this blog about how slow travel is different from our usual rocketship journeying with a day here, day there. To spend a week (or three) in one place has felt odd occasionally, an unsettled feeling like we’re sacrificing unseen fun. There are times when the pull to get in the van and cover tons of ground strikes – “we should drive around the country!” – before breathing deeply and remembering we don’t want to travel that way. We’ve done it many times, and this time we’re shaking things up and finding it far more fulfilling. A better, deeper connection with places and people and a relaxed pace that doesn’t burn us out is the result of slowing down. We can’t recommend it enough and are grateful to have the luxury to travel this way!
We haven’t felt so flexible since traveling the world almost ten years ago. Both of us miss our friends deeply, yet this opportunity to seek adventure and stretch our boundaries is proving to be a formative change in our lives. Portland is our geographical home, yet we’re discovering home is inside where our heart pumps in our chests and GPS coordinates don’t matter. We wouldn’t trade this current experience for a fixed location anywhere.
The generosity and cheer we encounter along the way sure helps. Yesterday, a woman from L.A. asked me, “have Californians been friendly?” and I was surprised that she felt they were not. Yes! There are kind, amazing people that made us feel loved in every single place we’ve visited in the Golden State. Thanks to you all!
At times, travel feels almost meditative. Walking on the beach next to crashing waves in the salty wind has cleansed our feet and cleared our minds time and again on this trip. The oceanic feeling that comes from experiencing anything as vast as the Pacific Ocean or soaring redwoods is hard to describe. Alone and small, yet part of something huge, it reminds of our interconnection and also individuality in the world. There is no place better than nature to decompress and be inspired to emerge reinvigorated. To be sure, the enormity of the sea and forest holds a special place for us and we will miss it and always feel the magnetic pull of the coast and redwoods.
What’s next? I’m writing this in the red-rock desert of Mojave National Preserve just southwest of Las Vegas. From here, we head into Northern Arizona for some backpacking in the Grand Canyon (happening as you read this post) and mountain biking in Sedona while hanging with Chelsea’s family. Then we take a break from the van (!) and fly to visit my bro and his new baby in Idaho followed by a trip to Portland to see our buddies.
A flight south will bring us back to our adventure mobile to continue on through the slot canyons and slickrock paradise of Utah. From there…who knows. We’re not entirely sure and are taking it one day at a time and hoping for the best. Too flexible to plan, you might say. Such openness creates both opportunity and fear of the unknown, and we’re learning to be ok with that.
For all of you following along, thanks for all your emails and comments of support. We love hearing from and meeting readers and dig your suggestions of places to visit and things to do. The internet and its power to connect us to people back home, those we’ve met along the way, plus new digital pen pals is awesome. I hope our stories and photos are proving to be fun, inspiring, or at least putting a pretty picture on your screen to bring a smile to your face. There are plenty more to come.
Au revoir to California and all our friends and family here. It has been fantastic. See you again soon.
Dakota and Chelsea