Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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. 

Luckily the drive is quick before you meet up with the PCH, the acronym used to refer to the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as California State Route 1. The PCH meanders for 655 miles, through small coastal towns, long beautiful ocean vistas and at sporadic times even joins up with Interstate 101, which is a modern day highway, so the monotony is kept to a minimum as you stroll up the California Coast. 
A group of motorcyclist I followed for what seemed like hours.

At Dana Point, California the PCH begins, creeping along through the beach communities for miles on end. As I reached Laguna Beach the speciality shops catered to the persons who had driven their Maseratis and Bentleys into town. Maybachs and Porsche became common fair as the route continued on through the Community of Laguna Beach. If you were wondering where all the money is, I can give you a few hints. A man at the Ferrari dealership must have just bought a new car, which costs the price of a nice house most places, as he was standing with the beautiful red beasts having his photograph taken and smiley like a teenage boy seeing his first set of breasts. 

One luxurious community after the next hugged the shores, houses built on top of each other each stretching for that perfect ocean view. Half the houses on the hills I had difficulty fathoming how they drove home, opting to believe they just had miniature helicopters of elevators built into the rock instead. 

Soon the route turned sightly inland and instantly the mood changed, the story book houses were replaced by weathered apartment complexes, the Ferrari Dealerships replaced with used car lots. The people walking on the sidewalks were no longer clad in fashionable dresses and designer handbags, instead they wore cloths that signified they were either coming or going to work. The air even changed, the fresh ocean breeze replaced with a stagnant air drenched in a pungent smell permeating from the factories nearby. 

I passed the factories and the towns became more touristy, I was getting closer to Los Angeles and Route 1 was once again near the ocean, although unlike earlier, it was no longer visible, obscured by a few blocks of commercial build up. After awhile everything became a blur, as one town blended into the next and eventually blended into Los Angeles itself, the road spitting me out onto the shore again by Santa Monica Pier. 

I had been driving for a couple hours and decided to go for a walk on the pier. It being a weekend, I was forced to park a couple blocks away, although I didn’t mind as I had more than enough time, and a desire to get out and stretch my legs. I strolled along the boardwalk, to one side of my the beach went on for miles, easily a hundred yards of sand separated me from the water, to my other side beach houses lined the boardwalk, each with a unique architecture and painted with a striking palate. A performance was going on in tents set up near the pier and the unseen audience periodically erupted in applause, the only noise that could be heard over the ambient sounds of the cars whizzing along the highway and the waves crashing on shore. 

The pier was crowded with people as one should expect, street performers did their routines and asked for money, kids screamed as the roller coaster spun them around and teenagers snapped pictures of themselves with the city skyline as the backdrop. I proceeded to the end of the pier, where things were calmer. Couples held each other and watched the ocean shimmer in the midday sun. Fisherman waited patiently for their lines to wiggle as seagulls attempted to steal their bait. The skyline rose up behind the beach, like so many of the natural monuments I had seen on the trip, from this distance the traffic seemed to be moving steadily like a flowing river, as if maybe man just copied nature. 

A girl came up to me and asked me to take her picture, an act I have always found strange but which seems to be rather common. I snapped away her emerald green eyes distracting me from focusing on anything else. Either I took a decent picture, or it was so bad she didn’t think I deserved another chance, because she smiled said “thank you” and disappeared back into the crowd. I wonder if she will think of me when she sees that picture, hmm, maybe, if so she can always give me a call. 

I walked back down the pier, watching as small children weaved in and out of peoples legs, chasing sea gulls and just generally have fun. When I got back to my car I felt like I hadn’t given the pier much time, but I had a stop to make and I wanted ample time to explore. 
The Getty Center, at least one of the buildings anyways.
The Getty Center is a world renowned institution, but I had no idea exactly what it is they did. I knew however that I wanted to find out, so I headed over there, just a short drive away from Santa Monica Pier, perched marvelously in the hills separating Los Angles from the San Fernando Valley, or as it’s most commonly referred to, simply, The Valley. To get to the museum you must first park and then ride a tram to the actual facility. This ride is gorgeous, giving panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles and all it’s glorious sprawl. Beautiful houses sit perched on the adjacent hillside, what splendid views they must have of the nearly omnipresent smog cloud that hovers over the area. 
View from the tram.
I stepped off the tram into a different world, each building was dressed in white, the architecture perfectly matching the surrounding landscape. Every view was stunning, as the perfectly orchestrated buildings fought with the scenery for attention. Inside the buildings every wall was covered in priceless works of art. If you remember my visit to El Paso’s Museum of Art you remember I have little reverence for Art Museums, finding them somehow both captivating and devoid of life. I found a room full of impressionists paintings, the center piece was by Van Gogh, but it was a Monet tucked off on a side wall the interested me. There was no glass to separate me from the painting, I was nose to nose with the thick brush strokes of an artistic genius, and it took all of my will power not to touch the amazingly textured piece. 
The textured strokes of a Monet painting.
After I made my way through the majority of the buildings I took a stroll through the Getty Garden, a brilliantly landscaped courtyard that overlooked the city of Los Angeles and the ocean beyond. The sun was setting, this time casting a pink hue across the city. I ended up having to be told the museum was closed before I left. I had seen everything but somehow I felt like I needed more time, that by the way is how you know The Getty Center is an amazing place to visit. 

I headed off back to the PCH, it was getting dark as I pressed on towards Malibu. As darkness took over, one side of me was flanked in a watery void while the other side of the route glistened with the lights of homes situated on the hills. The houses that had been built to take in a gorgeous sight, had become one themselves. 
Two men looking at from the Getty over Los Angeles and the ocean. They will never know this picture was taken. 
After Malibu the PCH headed inland, and the darkness obscured the view. I decided to pull over in Oxnard, and sleep in my car. I found a Walmart parking lot and made my bed. about half an hour had passed and I heard a knock on my window, it was security,

“Hey, I’m sorry man but you can’t sleep here.”
“Okay, that’s fine,” I said, perturbed but grateful for his pleasant demeanor. 
“Yeah, it’s actually against the law to sleep in your car here, if you get caught in my parking lot we would both get in a lot of trouble,” he explained unsolicited, clearly having gone over this before. 

I woke back up and headed back on the road, obviously I wouldn’t be sleeping in Oxnard so I needed to find some place. As I continued up the PCH towards Santa Barbara I noticed a group of RVs parked along the road, and remembered that certain state beaches allow overnight parking along the side of Route 1. But I decided to push my luck and see if I could find anywhere in Santa Barbara. 

I lopped around the city looking for some place to pull over and sleep away a couple of hours, but I found nothing. I inadvertently ended up on backroad, and from the amount of tree debris in the road it was clear a storm had hit recently, I swerved to avoid giant palm frowns that had fallen onto the road. As I drove through an area called “Hope Ranch” A giant white bird appeared above the road, a massive owl, whose wingspan must have been as wide as my car, glided like a specter above me before disappearing back into the forrest.

After nearly an hour driving aimlessly I decided to head back to where I had spotted the RVS. It was only a couple minutes outside town. I pulled up and found a spot, taking little time to restated myself before I was off to sleep.
Another Getty Picture because I had very few pictures for you this time. Too much driving, I promise to do better.

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