Thursday, March 13, 2014

Moss Landing

My bed at the hostel was amazingly comfortable and I slept like an angel drifting on a cloud, the room was filled with other guys, not one bed empty, but no one snored or if they did I was undisturbed by it. I really hope I don’t snore loudly, I would hate to be the guy known for snoring in the hostel dorm, everyone dislikes that guy. I was in little hurry to get back to the aquarium, as I remembered the line that had formed before opening the prior day. I took my time making breakfast and getting ready before heading out. It was a beautiful day outside, sun shining, making it just hot enough that the cool ocean breeze felt delightful, nearly Caribbean, as I took the short walk to the aquarium. 
Clown Fish

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Big Fish

The others decided to venture out for the day, some off to new places, some just off to explore the beautiful city of Monterey. I decided to return to the aquarium, hoping the crowds had decreased by now. The morning had been somewhat chilly, forcing me to dawn a coat, but the sun had now warmed the landscape and its beating rays mixed with the cool ocean breeze created a perfect climate outside. 
We'll start with a baby sea turtle.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium was just a couple blocks down the street from my hostel. I decided to walk down and check out one of the world’s largest aquariums, a sprawling facility that sits along the shore on a site that used to be a sardine cannery, which lends its name to the shop lined street leading to the aquarium, Cannery Row. I walked to the aquarium along Cannery Row, the touristy shops just opening at this early hour. When I got to the aquarium there was already a line, stretching out the door and part way down the sidewalk. 

I was taken aback by the lines length, I figure at such an early hour, on a weekday, I would have been joined by few others. The line moved along briskly and soon I was inside the aquarium, feeling giddy at the prospect of seeing amazing sea creatures up close. Most of the crowd headed to the right, eager to get to the sea otter tank, so I headed to the left in an attempt to find some solitude in the meandering facility, the effort was futile, however, as I found myself surrounded by a herd of school students out on a field trip.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Where's Whale-do?

It had been the coldest night I had dealt with since the redwoods, but I managed to get a good nights rest in, it was daylight before I could no longer stand it. I walked over to the car, turning it on to allow the heat to get working. I packed up my tent and belongings as quickly as possible, trying desperately to get out of the cold and into the fractionally warmer vehicle. I had only one trail that the ranger had suggested to me left to explore. I drove to the trail head as the sun crept its way over the mountains, graciously filling the valley with its warm light. 
Me taking pictures of myself!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Yosemite Valley

Periodically throughout the night the thunder from the storm woke me, the rain seemed to be unrelenting, the steep granite cliff behind the campsite protected the area from wind so the ten had little work to do in keeping back the onslaught of precipitation. By the time I awoke for the day the rain had slowed to a drizzle, and as I ate breakfast completely ceased. 

I had decided to forego any climbing hikes for the day, instead stringing together three easy hikes into what would be a 14 mile hike. While the hike would be long the flatness would make up for it, the previous days hike had been a staggering 9.2 miles, half of that up steep hills. I hit the trail eager to put some miles behind me.
Fog lifting off the granite cliffs. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Into the Valley

There come days in every trip where one just need to relax, and relax is what I did the next day. I could try and write a couple paragraphs about how I sat around watching television and stuffing my face with Rora’s cooking, she had been gracious enough to not only house me but also serve me a cornucopia of baked goods and an amazing pasta dinner, I can’t thank her enough, but I’ve decided instead to leave the days summary here in this first paragraph.
Swinging inch worm.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mariposa Grove

I awoke to the sound of birds chattering in the trees above my camp. I attempted to go back to sleep but the insistent chirping was not going to allow that to happen. As I wiggled out of my sleeping bag my body was introduced to the cold air, outside the tent the ground was covered in frost. I grabbed some food and headed to my car, turning it on to allow the frost to melt. I had decided that I wanted to spend the day at the Maripose Groves, a section of the park that housed specimens of the worlds largest tree, the Sequoia Redwood. The sequoia is more massive than the Coastal Redwood, but not as tall. 
Deer in a frosty meadow. 
The sun was just cresting over the mountains as I drove through the valley, a family of deer grazed on the frosted grass, taking no interest in me as I pulled over to capture a photograph. The Mariposa Grove is about an hour drive to the south from the valley. The drive offered amazing views of the mountain range as I climbed up the side. After driving through a long tunnel I was greater with a tremendous view stretching out below me. A cloud of fog was still settled in a valley, blanketed the earth as it crept down the mountain sides, a lake of grey water evaporating in the sunlight. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Golden Gate Park

I returned to the hostel and made dinner, it was still just me and the two ladies, the building was silent other than the crackling of the fire in the living room. I cooked and had dinner alone watching the waves crash against the bluffs out the dinning room window. A haze hovered low in the sky adding a misty glaze to the peaceful panorama. After dinner I headed out to have a look at the lighthouse, it’s blinking beacon illuminating the dark evening. I walked down out to the edge of the bluffs, the splash from the waves nearly reaching the top. Away from shore the ocean seemed calm, a rolling plain of blue stretching into the darkness. I sat on the bluff for awhile, a group of kids searched a cove below, trying to find some life in the rocky shelter. 
View from my dorm window.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tidal Pools of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

I awoke to the bright sun sneaking in through the cracks in the drapes, I had slept far longer then I had been as of late, the lack of noisy roommates letting me slumber undisturbed. The sky was blue and clear, a hopeful sign that my outing to the tide pool wouldn’t be a repeat of the prior day. The hostel had a strange policy where you had to leave while they cleaned, although I had little intention of spending the beautiful day cooped up indoors. 

Low tide wasn’t till 3:06, so I drove off in search of something to do, pulling off to go explore Milagra Ridge County Park. I choose this place simply because I saw the sign for it. The park didn’t even have a parking lot, so I pulled over to the side of the road and headed up the trailhead. A cold wind was blowing in from the sea, a boil of hawks drifting in the updrafts. I ambled about the park, admiring the wildflowers and plethora of avian species. At the Milagra summit the wind whipped violently, forcing me to descend rather quickly as the cold air nipped at my exposed flesh. Lower on the ridge were old military bunkers tucked into the side of the hill, abandoned they were, a seeming trend in the area, coated in graffiti. The wind erased all the sound from the air, creating a haunting silence as I sauntered about killing time. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rainy Day

I awoke to the sound of rain playing music on the stone driveway outside my window. The ambient dripping a soothing alarm clock. The others in the room were still sleeping so I headed out into the living room, making my self a cup of tea and returning to the indent in the couch I had started working on the evening before. I had planned on camping out once again, but the weather called for persistent and heavy rain for the rest of the day, so I abandoned that idea and looked around for another hostel. 

While driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, I saw two hostels that were lighthouses, I knew at least one of these options was not terribly far away, and staying in a lighthouse overlooking the ocean on a stormy night seemed like a perfect way to spend the evening. I took my time getting ready in the morning, not terribly eager to venture out into the wet weather. When I finally got my stuff packed and headed out, I found my car surrounded by a gang of turkeys, who seemed rather upset by my unexpected appearance. The turkeys scattered as I packed up my car and started the engine, running frantically, erratically in all directions, a mass chaos of gobbling. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Marin Headlands Day Two

The fog horns from the lighthouses had lulled me to sleep. I listened to their unceasing serenade trying to pinpoint the unique blasts of each one, the chorus of bellowing horns was surprisingly calming as I drifted off to dreamland. 

Having gone to bed so early I arose at an ungodly hour, but decided to take advantage of the fog less sky and the morning lighting to try and get a photograph of the sun rising over San Francisco. It was still dark down at the campsite as I negotiated my way up to my car. I stopped short when I heard growling coming from the bushes. I pulled out my flashlight, it’s weak beam unable to penetrate the thick shrubbery. The campground was covered with flyers warning of mountain lions up at my camp in Mt. Tam, which was just a 20 mile drive away, and my mind started fearing for the worst. I scrapped my feet on the ground and waved my flashlight around, hoping this would disorient the unseen predator. Soon the growls were followed by the alarming sound of a bird, panicking as it struggled in the brush, apparently the creature had found it’s prey and it wasn’t me. The brush quoted back down and I continued you up the path, periodically looking around me to make sure I wasn’t being stalked. 

I grabbed my camera from the car and set up along the bridge capturing the sunrise as it crest over the cityscape and ascended the tall tower of the bridge. The sky glowed a magnificent orange, attempting to match it’s hue to the that of the famous bridge. After a moment of glory the show was over, and the day began, a clear blue sky overhead and the distant skyline of san francisco diluted by the bright rays of the low lying sun. I had a quick breakfast and decided I should take advantage of my early rise and go for a hike while the park was still empty. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Travel Logged

I’ve never been able to sit still. Even when forced, my mind would wander in search of something new. I always knew I wanted to travel, even when my greatest expeditions were simple adventures through the woods behind a friend’s house. I didn’t get my first taste of real travel till I was in college, up until then, I had never even left the timezone I was born into, but it didn’t matter:  I knew I wanted it. When I finally got to travel, studying abroad in Rome, it confirmed my lust for the road.

In the eight years since, I have been on three expeditions, one throughout Europe and two around North America. I feel ashamed to admit that I have only traveled to seven countries and 38 contiguous states. When I was 20, I wrote that by 30 I would set foot on each continent, but that goal seems unlikely to be achieved in the allotted time frame. I have slept everywhere from hostels to park benches, tents to train stations, and cars to under a bush.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Headlands Day One

The drive from Mt. Tam, as it affectionately called by the locals, to Marin Headlands was quick and uneventful. The most noteworthy moment was when I stopped at the grocery store to procure some foodstuffs for dinner and was forced to lie to a little girl, telling her I would by some girl scout cookies on my way out of the store. Luckily, the girls were busy with other customers when I was leaving and I was able to slink back to my car unnoticed. 

It was another clear day in the bay area, and once again I was greater with a fog less view of the Golden Gate and the communities around the San Francisco Bay. It was still early in the day when I got to the visitor center. I had reserved a campsite for the night a couple days prior, making this the first day I had made sleeping arrangements before the day of. It was a nice relief to know I wouldn’t be scurrying for a place to sleep at night. 

I drove up to the campsite and was amazed by the view. The campsite sat at the bottom of a steep hill, a picnic grove sat at the top, along with the parking lot. The view form the picnic area was stunning, a marvelous panorama showing off the Golden Gate and the San Franciscan Skyline beyond. I walked my tent and sleeping bags down the hill and set up for the evening. It was still early but I wanted to do some exploring and had little intention of having to fight with building my camp in the dark. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mount Tamalpais

I’m not sure why I didn't continue exploring Petaluma after I got my tire situation worked out, maybe I was afraid I would spoil it if I looked too deep, maybe I was just addicted to the road, either way I headed off with no particular itinerary. I decided to head to Marin Headlands, although I knew it being a Saturday my chances of obtaining a permit were low. Petaluma is only about 40 minutes drive from Marin Headlands, but I had spent much of the morning waiting for my tire to be fixed and didn’t get to the visitor center until mid afternoon. The ranger informed me of what I had feared, all the campsites were occupied, I would have to find somewhere else to sleep. I booked a site for the following night, unwilling to give up a free nights stay in the beautiful park, and headed into the town of Sausalito. 

I had driven through Sausalito back when i was exploring the bay area and had made a point to return if I had the chance. I drove into town and parked, the streets were packed with pedestrians and bikers, non of whom seemed to be speaking english. It felt like I was in a European city. Bikes out numbered cars and restaurant seating spilled out into the sidewalks. A small path led along the shore, the bay filled with sail boats on the calm water. Houses stacked upon each other to get a view of the water and the San Francisco skyline in the distance. 

Why Hostelling?

I have been asked a lot lately “what exactly is a hostel?” along with a slew of add on questions like, “isn’t is weird sharing a room with strangers?” “aren’t you afraid someone will steal your stuff?” and the most common, albeit not a question, “I don’t think I could stay at a hostel!” So I decided to give you all a little run down on what exactly a hostel is, how is works and explain why I prefer hosteling to other forms of accommodations. So I will return to my old format of writing you out a list of Five reasons I prefer hostels…

Monday, February 24, 2014

Wonderful Petaluma

Sacramento must be surrounded by farmland, because within minutes I found myself once again surrounded by a featureless landscape. I was headed back to Golden Gate Recreation Area to take advantage of a free camp site. The drive unentertaining as I made the 90 minute drive. Then I heard, “thwap, thwap, thwap, thwap,” and my dashboard lit up in excitement, apparently I had a flat tire. I urged the car on, trying to make the next exit, the world around me still sparsely populated farmland. 

“Thwap, thwap, thwap, thwap,” the tire continued, but it didn’t feel completely flat and I needed to get off the highway. I turned at the next exit hoping desperately that I would be met with a gas station. Luckily I plaza sat at the side of the road I pulled over, my tire was low but not flat, luckily I was in civilization. When the tire was removed it was revealed that a piece of metal was lodged in the tire. A six inch long half inch wide piece of metal that had pierced through the sidewall and back out the treaded portion of the tire. It was evident I was going to need a new tire, the man at the tire shop told me he could have the tire to me by tomorrow. 

I couldn’t drive into Marin Headlands on a donut, and it didn’t matter the ordeal have set me significantly behind schedule, I would be too late to get a permit. I scoured the map for an alternative. A small state park existed just a few miles outside the city I was in, I decided to head there and camp for the night. The drive through the rolling pastures was beautiful, cows and horses grazing peaceful along the gentle green slopes. The sun was low in the sky casting long shadows across the hills. The road was winding, putting the donut to the test, my nerves on edge as now I had no spare tire and was once again without cell phone reception, the sun was setting and if anything were to go wrong I would be stranded. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sacramento and The Haunted Mansion

It was dark as I pulled up to the hostel, a gold rush mansion built in 1885, the building itself needed no assistance in looking haunted, but the darkness and eerie quite of the city streets did just that. I parked along the street and headed inside, a iron fence bordered the permitter of the property, inside the gates was a fantastically maintained garden. The old stairs creaked as I walked up to the front door, a heavy wooden door, I opened in and was met with stunning classic beauty. The door frames adorned with magnificent wood work, bronze chandeliers hung from a painted ceiling. 
The Mansion, cleary not taken at night, maybe you should follow my instagram if you want that picture @St3Inmetz
A man came was painting in the back and came out to greet me. His hands still caked in acrylic as he filled out my paperwork. I took my stuff upstairs and decided to explore the old mansion. It had two beautiful parlor each adorned with an array of antiques to complete the ambiance. Street like seeped in through the massive windows, draped in decorated white curtains. Each parlor had it’s own fireplace, embellished with beautiful tile work and expert wood work. A piano sat unused along a wall in the rear parlor, I took a seat against the back wall and sat to read. According to the literature, the mansion is known as the Llewellyn Williams Mansion and is one of the last gold rush mansions in Sacramento. 
The ceiling in the rear parlor.
If the idea of staying in a hundred and thirty year old stick-style mansion wasn’t creepy enough, further research revealed that in 1907 the house was converted to a funeral home. The mansion is now used as a hostel, explaining my presences in it’s eerie confines. I spent the evening splitting time between sitting on the porch listening to an irritating mocking bird imitate a car alarm and the rear parlor thumbing through the books on the coffee table. As the night drifted on I decided to venture out for food, finding a quaint Vietnamese restaurant just a few blocks away, where I indulge in what may have been the largest bowl of pho I have ever encountered. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Out of the Woods

I had slept through the night without even noticing the cold outside, my tent and sleeping bag doing a marvelous job of allowing me to get a full nights rest. When I exited my tent I noticed something covering the top. “Ice!” I said out loud, the pack of five male elks the only ones around to hear me. My tent was covered in ice, as was my car, the picnic table and most of the ground. It had evidently gotten much colder outside then I had anticipated. I was thankful I had slept through the chilly night undisturbed. 

The Elk spent the morning mulling about as I sat and made breakfast at the picnic table. The ice had melted almost instantly once the sun had made it’s way above the tree line, it’s warm rays basking the prairie is a soft morning glow. There was no fog on this morning, which came as somewhat of a surprise given how persistent the fog seemed to be along the coast. 

As I sat enjoy my breakfast two of the elk began to lock antlers and battle, it wasn’t an epic mating battle, like one sees in a nature documentary, but more like a feud between friends fighting over who got to graze on some particularly inviting clump of grass. As I sat the group made their way over towards me, eventually the closest being maybe five yards away from me. A park ranger who had just pulled in to check up on the campsite pulled over and told me I shouldn't get so close, as if I had intentionally moved them towards myself. He was only trying to keep me from being charged at, but i still took issue with the comment, maybe all this time away from people was turning me into a crazy hermit who screams profanities in the woods at quarter to five in the morning. “probably not,” I thought to myself as I packed up my stuff. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Redwood Coast

I awoke to the sound of elk calls, at least I think that’s what they were, I guess they could have just as easily been the noises made by forest demons, but I wouldn’t want to believe that given my state of vulnerability. I hadn’t planned to spend much time in Humboldt Redwoods, but I had woke before I had plan so I decided to take a quick stroll through the woods. Soon I found myself once again surrounded by giants. I walked lazily through the forest, in no hurry and with no particular place to go, just an early morning walk through the woods. 

The trail I was on connected the campsite and visitor center to the town of Weott, and soon the trees opened up into a playground at small school. It was still too early for anyone to be around. I decided to head back to the car and finish up my drive, the short winter days meant I spent a good portion of my waken hours in darkness, which meant hiking was limited, so I wanted to get to Redwoods National Park to get at least one hike in before I had to settle in for the night. 

Leaving the campsite I decided to continue the drive along The Avenue of The Giants, the road North of the campsite less notable then that which had brought me in. The groves of tall trees were more sporadic and soon they ended all together. As I drove through a small town on the edge of the park three men were butchering a cow caurcus on the side of the road. A giant slab of meat just hanging from a pole as the men expertly wielded their knives, taking chunks off the lifeless skeleton. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Howland Stone

Something was stirring about outside my camp. “A bear, I hope it’s not a bear,” I though to myself. “It doesn’t sound like a bear,” I told myself reassuringly, although I can’t say what exactly a bear sounds like. I peaked out of the tent, three forest elders looked at me, there wise eyes looking into mine, they were right, I had better get a move on. I had a long journey through the forest today, and not a moment to spare. 
Forest Elders outside my camp.
I packed up and headed for the wood line, the elders stayed with me, their silent wisdom guiding me to a hidden trail at the forests edge. I dawned the green cloak my mother had given me three days prior.

“This will help you hide in the Red Wood,” She said, a noticeable concern on her face. 

“How is a green cloak going to help me blend in a Red Forest,” I asked naively. 

Without looking up from the table she said, “The Red Wood is not named for the color of it’s foliage, but for the blood that has been shed on those mountains,” the fear in her eyes betrayed her stoic stance. 

I entered the forest, the trees still dripping from the prior nights heavy rainfall. This was not a place for mankind, it was a forest of giants and of magic, neither of which mixed well with humans. The trees towered high overhead, darkening the forest floor. I stayed to one side of the trail blending in with the ferns that themselves dwarfed me. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The End.....of the PCH!

The fog was missing! I hurried down to a vista to confirm it, the Golden Gate Bridge was in full view, a striking contrast to the day before. I had only seen it in pictures, although I had driven over it a couple times, but every time it was shrouded in fog, this time though it was undiluted, in full effect. I jumped in my car to cruise across the bridge and back. The towers rose up, for the first time I was able to see their apexes, reaching high into the sky, holding up the enormous steal ropes that suspended the highway above the water below. 

I returned happy, I had crossed a fog free Golden Gate Bridge, a feat I’m sure some San Franciscans have yet to achieve. I packed my stuff and hit the road, I had a long day of driving ahead of me, as I intended to put the last miles of the Pacific Coast Highway behind me, although this leg of Route 1 was referred to as The Shoreline Highway, running north along the coast up to Leggett, California, where it would meet up with The Redwood Highway, or Route 101. 

The road was slow, packed with people out to enjoy the beautiful day. I decided to check out the seaside towns that hugged the Bays northern shores, creeping along from one town to another. Each town had the same mix of old time charm and new money ritzyness. Each house had a commanding view of the bay, as the road climb higher and higher into the hills. If you are looking for where the 1% live, I found a small community, each boisterous house trying to out do the one before, each jockeying for a better view of the bay. I climbed higher and higher, the road so steep I start to wonder how it was built, or if anyone had ever dared to try and walk up it, it’s steep flanks not unworthy of a mention by those who had dared to summit them. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

San Fran Part 2

My roommates were still sleeping when I awoke, so I quietly made my way out of the room to breakfast. The hostel offered a free breakfast, in the cafe which overlooked the bay. The cafe was nearly empty, a group of Austrian girls the only other patrons. I sat looking out the window, watching as the bay steadily picked up activity. After breakfast and what can only be described as an excessive amount of time staring out the window, I decided to head back out for a walk. I took the same route as the night before, but this time it was mostly filled with men working to get the shops and restaurants stocked for the day. Delivery trunks jostled for position along the narrow boardwalk street, while a series of men ran in and out of closed shops with the days shipment. 

A small exhibit of old ships caught my eye and I decided to walk down the pier they were moored to and have a look. A few of the ships I was allowed to go on and look around. I had the ships to myself, walking through their historic quarters. The Eureka use to be a ferry that ran across the bay, before the bridges took over her duties. In fact, the Eureka use to be part of Route 101, it’s place taken by The Golden Gate Bridge. Her cargo hold was filled with classic cars, representing cars that would have been ferried across in her heyday. 

The second ship was a large merchant ship, in the style most associate with pirate ships. The San Francisco bay use to be much more abustle with activity, which of course begs the question how they didn’t all manage to collide in the fog. The ships tall masts climbed into the clouds, behind her outstretched the city of San Francisco, glowing softly in the cloud defused sunlight.

Monday, February 17, 2014

San Francisco Part 1

I decided to forego doing anything around the Monterey Peninsula, instead hitting the road after a quick shower and raiding the motels pathetic breakfast selection. The weather was beautiful the sun shinning down on the landscape, the temperature perfect for driving with the windows down. The most talked about stretch of the PCH is the stretch from San Simon, just South of Big Sur, to San Francisco. Admittedly most of the southern portion of the highway was inland, with a far higher percentage of monotonous rolling hill landscape than the jaw dropping beauty of the ocean vistas along the cliffside routes through Big Sur. Above the Monterey Peninsula the rout began to flatten out, cutting between rocky beaches and hilly farmland, waves crashing violently onto the shore as cattle grazed peacefully in the fields. 

The beaches were empty as the water was cold and the air not much more pleasant with the brisk wind coming in off the open sea. I decided to pull over at a cove, and went down to explore some tidal pools. The tidal pools were a buzz with life, but it was mainly just crabs, snails and clusters of mussels. I meandered around the beach for awhile watching the waves smash against the rocky outcrops sending sea spray into the air. Birds searched the title pools for a quick meal, flying away as the waves crashed. The only sound in the air was that of the crushing surf, the only smell that of the sea. I stood alone in the cove enjoying the solitude, the peaceful serenity of this unfiltered corner of the Earth.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Big Sur

I awoke in the morning refreshed, having slept all but undisturbed through the night. The morning breeze coming in from the ocean was brisk and invigorating. It felt good to have slept so well in such a beautiful place. I packed up my stuff and went for a slow drive along the park’s coastal road. The blue waves smashed against the hardened rock sending spears of white into the air. I reached the southern end of the road where a group of hikers was getting packed up to hit the trails. I too would be hiking again today, but first I had to reach my trailhead, about two hours drive up the coast. 

As I headed north the vegetation around me changed. The rolling hills of short shrubbery was replaced by the ancient trees from the night before, visible in the fog-less morning air. I had reached what seemed to be the biological divide between SoCal and NorCal, where the desert rides right up the the forest. The road led me out of the park and into the a series of small towns before spitting me back out along the coast towards Big Sur. Big Sur is a roughly 90 mile stretch of coastline, where mountain rise directly out of the ocean, offering amazing views that draw tourists from around the world. It is well known as one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pismo Beach, PCH2

I awoke to a beautiful ocean sky resting peacefully atop a calm ocean, the world still for a moment. I stepped out of my car to stretch and take in the beauty. The waves gent ally crashed into the rocks below, seagulls sat perched on the concrete barrier, awaiting the tide to recede so they could dig up their next meal. I sat on the hood of my car and let the cold ocean breeze waft over my body as the sun slowly moved along it’s daily trek. 
The view from where I slept. 
It was still early when I hit the road, but traffic was already slugging along as I reached the outskirts of Santa Barbara. The town was still yawning as I drove thru downtown, shopkeepers were casually opening up for the day, as bikers sped along to work. I nestled into a cafe and had breakfast, watching as the empty diner filled up with morning patrons and then emptied again. I had planned on spending the day in Santa Barbara, but the city, which I had been to multiple times before, seemed dull so I headed up the coast, back along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Los Angeles and the start of the PCH

I was excited to get back on the road after the hiatus of Las Vegas and San Diego, but the knowledge that I might not see a bed again for a couple days kept me from getting up terribly early. It wasn’t of much importance anyways, I had only a few hours to drive each day, needing to only cover less than 700 miles in the next four days. When I did awake I lazily got things together. I finally headed out onto the road just before lunch, but forwent eating anything as I had come down with a stomach bug the evening before. 

I was headed onto the Pacific Coast Highway, a drive I have covered a good portion of on past travels, which I planned to follow from it’s beginning in Dana Point, California till it’s terminus in Leggett, California. The trip would be split in half, with a weekend spent in San Francisco Bay Area.

I jumped onto the highway and whizzed through San Diego, passing places I had been over the past couple days and paces that I had yet to explore, allowing me to take notes for any future visits. The highway out of San Diego is quite barren, not unlike the thousands of miles of road I covered in New Mexico and Arizona, and like those places it was also flanked with military facilities. However, it was sunday, which must be a down day for the bases as I saw no activity to arouse me from the boredom of  monotonous landscape. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

San Diego Parte Dos

He was standing above me staring at me, apparently I had slept too long at least for his liking. He noticed my eyes opened and jumped on the bed excitedly, there was no going back to sleep. It was nearly noon when I rolled out of bed, the sun careening in through the windows, illuminating the empty house. I walked over to the back door and let him out, then headed to the fridge, which was inconveniently empty. Rocky, the dog of the people who I was staying with, came back inside and demanded my attention. After weeks of loneliness it was nice to have a friend, even if he didn’t speak and his idea of a good time was chewing his was through a variety of stuffed toys. 

The afternoon was in full swing by the time I joined the outside world. Even with traffic I made it to Pacific Beach quickly, where I decided to talk a walk on the boardwalk. Pacific Beach, or PB as the locals call it, which constantly made me thin of peanut butter, is a younger beach community, known for it’s laid back youthful attitude. The boardwalk was full of colorful characters, a wonderful place to people watch. Dreadlocked kids sat on the walls smoking weed, one even had a sign that brazenly stated, “cops stole my weed, donations for replacement.” I laughed and sauntered along out on to the pier. A group of people were quietly fishing, enjoying the warm sun and the refreshing ocean breeze. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

San Diego Parte Uno

It was midday by the time I hit the road, within moments the skyline of Las Vegas disappeared in my mirrors and I was once again surrounded by nothingness. I was headed to San Diego, a relative short drive of only about four hours and before I knew it I had left the desert behind and was joining the aggressive traffic of the population centers of Southern California. This added stimuli made the back half of the drive quick and easy and before I knew it I was in the sprawl of San Diego. I was staying with my friend Takishia, who was gracefully allowing me to stay at her place. I met up with her for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant just a few blocks away form her residence. 

I was in the the community of Mira Mesa, with census data that I looked up tell’s me is made up of about 40% people of Asian descent, which accounts for the wide array of Asian dining options. I ordered some phở, a noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine like rice noodles, herbs and meat. The bowl arrived at my table in no time and I dove in enjoying its simple flavors, I have been a fan of phở since my first introduction to it, and left feeling full and at ease. Takishia and I headed over to her place where we spent the night catching up and relaxing, a nice change of pace from the constant go-go-go of life on the road. 

Takishia had to work, as most people do, so I spent the next day exploring San Diego by driving around and taking in the sights. I decided to pull over at Torrey Pines State Reserve which hugs the coastline north of San Diego and go for a hike. It’s almost as if hiking had become an addiction, but sitting in the car fighting with traffic was growing old and a stroll along the ocean bluffs seemed like a nice way to spend my day. 

I parked in the first parking lot, which in hindsight was a mistake, as I spent the next twenty minutes climbing from the beach to the top of the bluffs. The hike was in no way difficult, not compared to my prior excursions, but what I assumed would be a leisurely stroll quickly turned into a midday work out. The sun was shining down bright, but the cool air blowing in from the ocean kept the heat at bay, creating a perfect hiking climate. 

I reached the trailhead at the top of the bluffs and the path evened out. The short brush allowed me to see the ocean, it’s majestic blue standing out against a foreground of dull greens and browns. Two hawks flew overhead, gliding in the updrafts and looking for their next meal. Small wildflowers bloomed along the edges of the trail creating a nice distraction from the omnipresent blandness of the undernourished vegetation. The trail was well traveled and from time to time I had to step aside to let a jogger by, but other than those rare occasions I was left to myself once again in the wilderness. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Las Vegas Part II

For the first time I had left the East Coast I slept in and when I finally set foot outside the city was in full swing. Traffic slugged along as people on the sidewalk weaved impatiently past others who had stopped to take in the sights. I decided today I would head to the Southern portion of the strip, having conquered most of the northern half the prior day. The air was crisp, but the lack of dust blowing into my eyes made up for it. I hadn’t expected it to be so chilly in Las Vegas and had not dressed accordingly. Luckily the soother portion of the strip is navigated mostly in doors, and other than my short walk over to the strip, I was more than comfortable. 

The Eiffel tower soared up from the sidewalk, drawing my attention to the restaurant perched high above me. I have never been to paris, so I can say little as to the quality of the replica. Street performers entertained a crowd with dancing and singing before eventual making their plea for donations. People will go to Vegas and pay hundreds of dollars to be entertained in fancy auditoriums but are incredibly reluctant to throw a couple dollars into a street performers pail. I guess that’s real a summarization of Vegas, people spend extra money to get hotels close to fancier hotels so they can spend hours sitting at a slot machine that is no different than one you could find at a run down hotel and casino a couple miles off the strip.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Las Vegas

What a change of scenery, after nearly a week of virtual solitude, her I found myself surrounded by people. The shimmering buildings skyrocketing towards the heaven had replaced the stone monuments. Thousands of people scurried about the sidewalk, forcing their way past slower walkers, half looking up in wonderment, half looking down in despair.

Las Vegas is a dichotomous city, poverty and excesses stand hand to hand in jaw dropping juxtaposition. Down trodden homeless men and women sit on the sides of bridges, asking for spare handouts. Few people give them any, instead deciding to free themselves of the burden of cash by gambling it away inside the opulent casinos that give life to this desert oasis. The grandeur of it all seems ostentatious as first appearance, then it seduces you, drawing you in with it’s ornate appeal. There is no place in the world like Vegas, it stands alone as a city built on temptation and built to satiate our every desire. 

Some people find it all tacky and vulgar, the fake facades of the elaborate buildings symbolic of the cities showy exterior hiding it’s  seedy ways. Solicitors on the street had out cards with topless women on them to pedestrians, trying to draw up clients for the array of strip clubs. Drunk patrons harass the homeless men, throwing insults at them in a drunken stupor that only highlights the absurdity of it all. But for all Sin City seems to do wrong, it does one thing very well, entertain.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Zion National Park

I knew it would be a cold night, sleeping in the car, so I bundled up and before I knew it, it was morning. Apparently all the sleeping in my car, coupled with my sheer exhaustion from days upon days of hiking, had allowed me to sleep undisturbed for an entire night. Having no real reason to stay I hit the road, once again alone. The sun rose in my mirrors, a familiar sight after over a week of driving west. The red and white rock moutons around me glimmered in the early light of day. 

I crossed into Utah and as I headed through it’s southern reaches a sign read, “89N closed 8:30am-11:30am.” I looked at my clock, I was about 50 miles away and had about an hour before the road closed. If I didn’t make it I would be spending the morning wandering around some small desolate town instead of enjoying the grandeur of Zion National Park. I sped up, unwilling to succumb to that somber fate. Luckily no one else was on the road at this hour and I buzzed through the desert. I reached 89N at 8:25, I was in the last group of cars allowed to pass for the morning, I smiled at this fate. I had not known about the road closure until I hit the road that morning, had I simply stopped for breakfast or awoken just a tad later I would not have made it. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Grand Canyon

I woke up to the dog in the room behind mine barking, relentlessly, the owner seemed to be absent, which seemed unlikely given the ungodly hour. It was 5am and with a solid nights sleep behind me my body refuse to return to sleep so I began my day. It was just before eight when I hit the road, and quickly I realized my ill timing. Phoenix morning rush hour traffic crept along, costing me a good half an hour. After days of virtually empty roads I was unprepared for the demands of city traffic and was soon jostled from my calm state in to a full frenzy, trying desperately to avoid the insanity that was unfolding around me. Eventually the traffic thinned as the city quickly disappeared in my mirrors, once again I was out in the desert, empty desolation surrounding me. 

Soon the road climbed upward and within a couple minutes I was cursing along 6000ft able sea level, the desert plants replaced by evergreen forest stretching out across the rolling landscape. Snow covered the forest floor, the dark green of the trees contrasting with the pure white snow. It was a relatively short drive, and with the changes in landscape the drive went by quickly. Soon I was pulling through the plethora of tourist shops and restaurants that exist just outside the park. I pulled into the park and followed my usual routine, go to visitor center, get map, plan hikes, drive to hike. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The sound of voices stirred me from my sleep, I tried to look out the window but it was all fogged up. The air in the car was cool, my toes had slipped out from underneath my sleeping bag and were cold, I slipped them back under and fell back asleep. 

The sunrise woke me, as expected at just after six in the morning. My night sleep had been more like a series of short naps. Yawning, I rearranged the car, and after waiting patiently for the windows to defog, drove off. I had spent yet another evening sleeping in a Walmart parking lot, this time in Tucson, Arizona. I had seen none of the city save for three young girls, the eldest barely 12, the middle nearing eight and the youngest, who was being pulled in a shopping cart by the eldest, probably 5, walking across a parking lot, alone, at night, wearing an extravagant amount of make up. I shook my head as I finished pumping my gas and set off for Walmart. 

I would see no more of the city today as I skirted around the suburbs and back onto the empty highway heading west. As soon as I reached the city limits the desert was noticeably more lively than the previous days. Giant cacti rose up out of the dry dirt, towering over the shrubs that proliferated on the desert floor. Mountains rose up on the horizon in every direction. As the sun summited a peak behind me the day began. It was still quite chilly, but I had a lot of driving to do, ample time for the sun to warm the land. The further south I drove the more dense the brush became around me, at points small trees hung over the highway and the endless desert views I had become accustomed to, were obscured. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chiricahua National Monument

When I am eager to do something I am restless, like a kid on Christmas Eve. In this spirit, I found myself wide awake staring at the hotel ceiling at 5:30am. I attempted to go back to sleep, but my mind wasn’t having it, so I decided to get an early start for the day. I had intended to leave the hotel around ten, but having woke so prematurely I was out the door before eight. A hefty drive lay ahead of me but it was broken up by a stop to Chiricahua National Monument, a park I knew nothing about, other than it was on my way and I was desperate for a hike. 

I packed up my things and hit the road, I headed west, as that is where they keep Arizona in relation to Texas, through the city of El Paso. The city was bustling as usual and the traffic was combative. I get a sick joy out of driving in aggressive dense traffic, and energized by the thought of getting out of the car and hiking I weaved in and out of traffic to the consternation of anyone driving slower than me, which happened to be all but a few people. It wasn’t long before I put the city behind me and broke free into the desolate backcountry once more. However, here in Southern New Mexico, the ambling plains concluded in a faint outline of mountains. The early morning sun painted the landscape in golden hues making the farmland come alive. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

El Paso

I have never really given much thought to El Paso, Texas, it was always just some random town down south that I would probably never visit. Yet here I was pulling in through the suburbs into a sprawling metropolis. Apparently El Paso, along with it’s Mexican counterpart Ciudad Juárez is the world’s largest international metroplex, an interesting fact, considering I had always thought of El Paso as a mildly populous city, stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Alas El Paso is quite large, and I found myself quickly engulfed in urbanity as I raced on towards an unknown destination. 

Once I was well within the city limits I found a hotel and choose to stay two nights. It had been a long trip till this point and a day of rest and not driving seemed like a great idea. So I unloaded the contents of my car and instantly dispersed them throughout the square footage of my hotel room. Something about being cramped up in a car for days makes you relish in the concept of open space, and within moments my hotel room was littered with my belongings. I grabbed a quick nap, my legs were tired from the hike in Carlsbad Caverns, before heading off to find some food. My hotel was in the outskirts, and I knew the options for good local food were limit there so I headed towards downtown. I found a small dive bar across the street from a cemetery and tucked myself away at the bar. I ordered a plate of tacos and dazed off. The bar was filled with lively people all mingling and having a good time. It was clear most of these people knew each other, and more than once I noticed a group glancing my way. In my dazed state I hadn’t really noticed that I was the lone gringo in the place, which only boded well for how good my tacos, which were just arriving, would be. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

I can sleep through nearly anything, and nearly anywhere. I have been known to nap in busy train terminals, and have developed the ability to sleep in nearly any contortionist form I can wedge my body into. This trait has served me well over the years, allowing me to travel cheap and has probably saved my life on a few occasions, but that’s a story for another time. However, my nearly infallible sleeping abilities have one nemesis…cold! I can not sleep if I am cold, and 23 degrees is cold, and not coincidently what the interior temperature of the car was during the night. Luckily I had planned for this and donned a hoody and an extra pair of socks before tucking my sleeping bag inside an additional sleeping bag I had. I tossed and turned throughout the night, and thought I had slept quite poorly when I realized the sun was coming up over the horizon. Apparently I had slept pretty decently as I had first shut my eyes nearly 10 hours prior. The clock read quarter past six and I decided it was time to get a start on the day. Carlsbad Caverns opened at 8 and I wanted to be there early to beat the crowds. 

I rearranged the contents of the car and headed off in search of a diner. The only place that seemed open, except for McDonalds, of course, was a small cafe tucked away along the main road. I pulled over, parking my small red coup among the throngs of dusty pick up trucks. I walked in the door and was met with a room full of cowboy hat wearing men, their faces tough and weathered, years in the desert heat working on the farms outside of town had etched their lives work into their skin. I sat at a small table in the corner of the restaurant, the waitress ran over to me and poured me a cup of coffee, evidently my appearance screamed for a need of caffeine. The cafe was bustling, surprisingly considering it was barely six thirty in the morning. I ordered an omelette, which came with toast and has browns. All my food tasted as it should, but took surprisingly long to come out considering they had five cooks working the grills. The waitress never let my coffee cup get below half empty, and never ceased to call me either honey or sweetie. After what had to have been five cups of coffee I paid and headed out, the air still had a nip to it, but the sun was shinning bright, having taken it’s post in the sky. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Western Texas

I stayed in my room until check out time, knowingly putting off getting back in the car for what would be hours of driving. I had already driven through much of the sprawl the night before so within minutes of hitting the road I was in the barren backlands of western Texas, my GPS instructing me to “turn left in 426 miles.” As I crossed the wide open state the landscape went from pastural to desert. I love the desert, something about the rugged landscape just speaks to me, maybe its the foreignness of it all. It’s so far removed from the seaside life I grew up in on the shores of Lake Erie. I love cactuses, but I blame that on my mom who always seemed to have cactuses in our house, I love lizards and snakes and even tumbleweeds. 

A little after midday I stopped and made lunch at a picnic area. I pulled out my map in search of something to do in western Texas and noticed a green patch up on just over the border in New Mexico. “Carlsbad Cavern National Park,” I read in my head. I had heard of this place before, but had somehow forgotten it’s existence. Not only was it closer than El Paso, it was virtually on the way, just a different route but equal miles. With that I changed course and headed to Carlsbad New Mexico. The park would be closed by the time I got there, so I decided I would stay the night in Carlsbad, wake up early and go to the caverns and then head on towards El Paso in the afternoon. Finally after days of driving I had something to actually look forward to, something more than just miles of unceasing pavement. 
Windmills add a nice break from the desolation. 

732 Miles

I had planned on hanging out in Nashville for the day and then heading on to Oklahoma City, but the weather had altered my plans sending me barreling towards Dallas in an attempt to outpace the polar vortex, seriously that’s what it’s called, that was making it’s way across the country. My first stop would be Little Rock Arkansas, but first I would have to deal with the weather that was starting to stir up just outside of Nashville. The snow swirled in the air as the temperature rapidly decreased, however the roads stayed dry and snow free and as I pulled into Little Rock the sun broke through the clouds and shinned on the city. 
I pulled off randomly in a part of town called River Market District and searched for a place to park, the street was clogged with parked car, every spot was taken, yet no one was to be found walking anywhere. I found a parking space and upon exiting my car, instantly realized why no one was around. The temperature read 32 degrees, but the wind blowing down the street felt arctic in nature, piercing through clothing and straight into the bone. I was too hungry to let the cold deter me, so I ventured out to find food. The River Market District was very nice, in that it was very new and very uppity. All the shops rang of the faux culture you get when stores cater to people with too much disposable who think owning things somehow makes them worldly. 
It might not look cold, but I suffered for this photograph!
The pretentious facade was even complimented by a trolly that ran on tracks, which seemed to be driven by a crazy lady whose greatest desire was to take down any person or vehicle who ventured within her domain. I dodged the trolley expertly, using it’s distinct weakness of being on tracks to my advantage, and ducked into a local eatery. 
It may be a crappy picture but it's a picture of a trolley which is relevant to the story.
The place was nearly empty save a few people working on laptops, I took a seat at the bar, which had the benefit of having a television to stare at, and ordered chicken fingers, which seemed to be the only thing on the menu. Granted they had umpteen different breadings and dozens of dipping sauces, but the idea of a restaurant serving almost exclusively chicken fingers seemed rather strange. When the fingers came, however, my mind was instantly changed, these were not your standard pub chicken fingers, these were expertly breaded works of food with sauces that could just as easily be eaten alone. In fact, in hindsight, this was basically just a variation on chicken wings, which we all know are well within there rights to be an exclusive culinary offering of any establishment. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


The ground was still covered in a dusting of snow, the air cold and crisp, as I ventured out to the car. The contents of my life were packed inside, the only possessions I had deemed worthy enough to accompany me into my future. My mind raced with excitement as I took one last breath of the chilly morning air. The next few days would be just me, my honorary possessions and my car. The open road would be where I would be spending my days. Few things in the world excite the mind like the idea of traveling. Nearly anyone you ask has “traveling more” as a goal for their future. Something about the unfamiliar, the foreign, entices us, calls to us. Maybe it is an evolutionary byproduct of the successful prehuman explores, whose ventures into unknown lands allowed humanity to prosper, or maybe it’s just a reaction to the monotony of modern life. The constant repetitions, the endless sameness that occupies our lives. Either way the result is the same, people love to travel, and I am no exception. My love for travel extends back to my youth, inexplicably. 

My family never really traveled, save for a few summer vacations to the standards East coast hot spots. Yet from a young age I always knew I wanted to explore the world. Immediately, upon the acquisition of my independence that comes with being 18 and being sent off to college, I started, venturing off to the old stand-by, Europe. Instantly I was in love, not only with Europe, but with the entire experience of traveling. Meeting new people, seeing new worlds, new lives. Everyday spent traveling garners some memorable experience.

After two years of stagnation it was time to hit the road again. On my previous adventures I had been joined by my friend Shaun Jewell. We spent one summer exploring Europe and another driving through 28 States and 1 Canadian Province. However, on this journey I would be alone, an idea that hadn’t real hit home as I pulled down the drive and off to Nashville, Tennesse.