California, sunny California! The world’s eighth largest economy and the incubator of American culture was to be our home for a few days (we thought). In our world days were quickly becoming weeks! On December 24th we drove from just north of Searchlight Nevada towards Joshua Tree National Park. We left US 95 before I-40 in order to re-enact my no Interstate rule and rolled through ghost towns on a small road past Essex, CA. Gas prices in Amboy were $5.49/ gallon!! Yep we had arrived in California. Rolling further through the Mojave desert we reached 29 Palms where I filled the Roo tank at a more reasonable $3.45/gallon and then headed into the town of Joshua Tree. We had finally found warmth! It took a couple of weeks since I’d left Spokane but the sun was blinding and countless layers were no longer required. We stopped by my friend Ela’s new house that she was in the middle of renovating and preparing to rent out. After a short visit we headed into the park. I smiled as the entrance gate was not manned on the afternoon of Christmas eve. It would be the first Christmas eve or Christmas in my life that I wasn’t spending with family! It felt strange but I was happy to be nearing Mexico and getting into the meat of this trip.
In Joshua Tree National Park Lynne was happy to show me around a place I was visiting for the first time yet she had made many a trip to. In the late afternoon light we looked for camp spots at Hidden Valley but it was full so we were content to watch climbers for a bit. As the sun started to set we headed off towards Jumbo Rocks. Lynne’s many visits are still coupled with her sense of direction so once again I was navigator. “A mile or 2″ ended up being 10 miles. We watched a beautiful sunset on the way as I hopped out of the car a few times to snap some pics. The soft pinks and purples go well with the pastel hues of the desert! There were a lot of people in this campground also but we found a decent spot near the back. We ushered in Christmas 2012 at Jumbo Rocks campsite #71. The sun went down and the heat left. Tis the way of the desert! We ate sauerkraut and sausage fo dinner. It was chilly that night so I didn’t sleep a lot but I awoke early to see the sunrise. Just after first light high clouds came in and it remained chilly through the day! Those are the coldest sort of days when the heat escapes with a clear night but just after sunrise clouds block the day’s warmth. After a hike at Skull Rock to take some pics of rocks Charlie showed showed me photos of we made our way back to the Hidden vally area and set up shop at a picnic bench. We saw scores of families from India pass through. Most every tourist gawked at the Roo with its coat of red. Some took photos of one another in front of it! SOOB A ROO! (as the Mexicans say it). I spent Christmas morning catching up my journal as it had been neglected for the first 16 days of the trip! It was even more chilly with the wind so we packed up late in the morning and went to Barker Dam for another hike. Movement meant warmth!
For sunset we went out to Keys View Point. The light over Palm Springs and the Salton Sea warmed but I headed to the car for a bit to warm my body as the stiff breeze was chillleee! Sitting there I saw the sky start blowing up with red! I sprinted back to the overlook with my gear. Had I waited patiently in the cold my shots would have been better as I was setting up through the best light but it was beautiful to behold!! The deep red in the sky lasted a full hour! It was a breathtaking light show and a great Christmas gift! Through the dark we drove out of the park to Ela’s house. Heat felt sublime. I happily visited with Ela’s couchsurfing guests from Poland and Syria. It was interesting to talk of the situation in Syria with a Syrian. He opposed all violence at first but as time wore on it was evident Assad must go! and hopefully sooner than later. A concrete floor was a treat for us as the temps outside were irrelevant except for during my phone wanderings aroud the spacious yard. I gazed at the stars as I spoke to my grandma, dad and brother.
After a hot shower I packed the car and we headed out before 10:30. Light rain washed most of our red mud off the Subaru as we made our way towards LA. It had been a badge of honor and a good story so we were sad to see it go. Bye bye Utah mud! I was nervous driving into the heart of LA’s freeway system but it just took some adjustment time. I know how to drive aggressively even if the Roo isn’t able to respond quickly. By early afternoon we made it to Lynne’s college friend Cyndi’s place in Rodando Beach. At 9 months pregnant she had a lot of energy! Her 18 month old daughter is a cutie! We headed out just before 5pm and passed Santa Monica and made our way through the craziness of Malibu, north to Ventura and Oxnard. Lynne’s friend Kate from Whitworth also has 2 cute kids who are 3 and a half. We enjoyed a great dinner with them and spent another night in comfort as their kids offered “I love you”s a plenty. Kate and Greg Made waffles the next morning as we packed up and worked on logistics before heading to Santa Barbara. We had anticipated spending a couple days there before visiting some of my friends and family in the LA area, heading to see friends in San Diego and hopping into Mexico.
We arrived in Santa Barbara on December 27th 2012 and left on January 4th! We were as comfortable as cats on a lap! Lynne’s uncle Steve gave us a tour of the ranch near Santa Maria on Saturday and showed us around Santa Barbara after church on Sunday. The countryside and the town itself are quite beautiful! I can see why Ronald Reagan showed the Queen of England the courthouse in Santa Barbara on her visit to his ranch in the 80′s. It almost snowed a couple times and was cool a number of days during our stay. Lynne’s aunt returned from Seattle after a few days and we had many nice dinners and visits with them in the evenings as we did work during the day. Our list from October still had details left on it that took a lot of time not to mention a number of 14 hour days devoted to catching up the journal and going through pics from Alaska and Canada and writing blog entries! Keeping a blog and journal is a lot of work! In AK I estimated the blog to be about 30% of my time! I think it’s grown since then! We made walks to the beach and referred to our time there as the spa section of our trip! We skyped with Lynne’s family congregated in Seattle on new years eve and lit sparklers with Lynne’s aunt and uncle. It was hard to say goodbye as we thought this place would be the most like home for a long time but eventually we said our goodbyes and headed to Santa Monica on January 4th 2013. We had been in cali 10 days and it was my 26th day of the trip! we ran a bunch of errands in Oxnard on the way south and arrived at my friend Nick’s house at around 8:30pm.
We were all tired from a long day, Nick especially as he works 14 hour days on set. He’s been working with NCIS for a few years and worked on House before that. I was kind of embarrassed to say I’d never seen either of those TV shows but I’m sure he does great work as he’s been perfecting his craft since before we were roommates in Seattle 10 years ago! Word is NCIS is the #1 show in the US. We stayed up late until almost 1am chatting about a lot of interesting topics. Nick treated us to Sushi, only a short walk from his house on . We were 4 blocks from the beach but didn’t end up heading down as we had plenty to do! We spent another night with Nick and ran some errands that afternoon in Santa Monica making our last REI visit & finalizing our gear for the trip south.
He gave me some tips for shooting video and we chatted a lot about the crazy culture of SoCal & the influence of wealth. Always observing he has noticed the happiest person on set is usually the janitor, not the guy pulling in 50 million. We would soon see this in action as we dropped into Mexico. This is not to say poverty is an indicator of happiness, rather that money and happiness are far less correlated than many Americans live. Many of us may say we see the importance of other things in life rather than money but it seems many Americans live as if the 2 are directly correlated. I’ve seen Americans who have money yet value the things which are truly important and are happy. Likewise I’ve seen a lot of those in poverty both in the US and Mexico who have little and yet lead rich & full lives. We found it interesting that a bit of time in SoCal even rubbed off on me of all people! A person who’s generally been immune to caring what others think or following what others do the common thread we heard “start a business- buy your freedom.” has made some sense to me too. Affecting social change or conducting humanitarian work can be much easier with capital at hand rather than begging for scraps as many photographers or humanitarians seem to do.
We discussed the draw of the movie 180 degrees south- a movie about a guy who sets out to sail to South America and climb unclimbed peaks. When he gets to South America he realizes he knows little about this type of climbing much to the incredulity of Timmy Oneal. He spends much of his time hanging out with a girl on Easter Island. Why did so many people seem to like it when it wasn’t that great of a film? Would it have been as widely seen without the celebrity (and marketing) of Choinnard (and hence Patagonia) & Thompkins? Probably not but it was still the selling of a dream. Personally I enjoyed the historical footage of the 1968 trip Choinnard & Thompkins made through the Americas to Patagonia. Nick showed us some amazing videography shot by amateurs in the NW (enchantments) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sBnepbX1rY & Yosemtie http://vimeo.com/35396305 . He showed us the importance of natural sound in video as seen in this Ikea ad of home. http://vimeo.com/4625390 And seen here in one of my favorite videos- In South America! http://vimeo.com/53673455
Once again I wished we could stay longer but we were back on the road. I drove north to Van Nuys to buy a Deep cycle Battery for the Roo from Sam at U Save Auto. South through downtown LA on 101 I405 & I5 we went. We stopped by Oceanside Photo and telescope in Oceanside CA to meet Larry from Sandpoint who had been VERY helpful when I bought my Astro Tracker back in August! On we went to have dinner with my friends Quinn & Dewi from Pasco & Jakarta respectively who I introduced back when we were undergrads. It was great to see them again and their growing family! I learned more about Quinn’s PhD and parts of his current work on classified and non-classified projects. A number of years ago we were the 2 white kids in our department studying Electromagnetics. He’s still in the field and somehow I’ve diverged to be a part time auto mechanic, part time photographer and full time traveler. I still like to talk about math but the language is becoming harder to recall than obscure spanish words. Life is a winding path! Quinn and Dewi were gracious to host a number of packages I had ordered in St Geroge UT so we added these new additions to the car. It was great to see long time friends & I’ve missed Dewi’s wonderful Indonesian food!
We headed back north after visiting to my friend Jason’s house who I hadn’t seen in well over 10 years! We caught up in whispers that night before retiring. We thought we would be in Carlsbad / San Diego for a day but once again, haha. Day== week in our world. Through the course of the week Lynne’s cold matured and after fighting it for days my immune system caved and I got a cold too as Jason & Jess’ youngest daughter was also sick and Jess picked it up as well. Their 3 kids are a riot! Jason stays at home and Jess is a nurse/ administrator in the Navy. Those who have kids already know how much time is tied up in parenting- all one’s time! During the week we made many a trip to places like O Reillys for a battery isolator, Best Buy, Frys and other such shops for GPS, Mexican cell Phone- gps memory card (after we finally found what we were looking for on Craigslist). I shot our pics for international driver’s licenses and printed them at Cosco and headed to AAA to procure them along with Mexican Auto Insurance. Lynne researched our travel insurance and we pulled the trigger on that as well. We had what seemed to be a million little details to work out before heading south of the border.
It was much cooler than we pictured for San Diego, frosting a number of nights that week and remaining cool during the day! I thought we were in Southern California near the Mexico border- ie land of warmth! We met their neighbors and spent a lot of time playing catchup on the journal and the blog when not socializing. Jason fixed a lot of scrumptious meals and we had a really enjoyable time visiting with them through the week! Thanks! It was a wonderful sendoff from the US! After a premature start on Saturday we finally made our way out of town on Sunday January 13th 2013! We had only to stop at Ikea for a solar desk lamp and Frys before we made our way to the Mexican border! Over ready or not here we come Mexico!