Anywho. Back to the story.
We leave San Francisco and head south down HWY 1 along the coast, as per the rest of our glorious journey down the
I don't know if I've mentioned enough that I have always dreamed of the West Coast, but it was specifically California I've been dreaming of. Washington and Oregon were incredible pluses. Needless to say the entire West Coast was more than we anticipated.
The waves and the rocks along the shore were unreal. We stopped as often as we could between SF and Big Sur just to take it all in. The first night we stopped in Santa Cruz because we left late and didn't want to drive too far at night. The sights were too good to be only seen at night. While in Santa Cruz, we went to a great little dog park, which was empty so Eleanor got to get down and hang out too! There we met a fellow van dweller named Katie and her dog, Dalia, he was great with respecting Elle-Belle. Then we decided to head to the Boardwalk to play! It had an arcade and cute little shops all along the beach. Unfortunately, we were there on a weekday morning so most of the shops were closed so we just played in the arcade like big kids for a while. :) We also saw our first boomerang practice and that thing was rad! Just another thing to add to our bucket lists. Haha. Just before Big Sur we decided to stop and camp out for the night on a pull-off along the HWY. We fell asleep and woke up to the sound of waves crashing, and the best part is that Aurora, our new van, has automatic sliding doors so we could just push a button and drown in the view. It was perfect. We made breakfast and hiked up the cliff side to take some good family pictures. (soon to come, y'all, give me a break! ;))
We continued down the coast and stumbled upon Pffeifer Beach, just south of Big Sur. Y'all. The beach has purple sand. Honestly, coolest beach I've ever been to. Who knew PURPLE sand was even a thing!?! Why isn't that something you're taught in school? Hey, kids, by the way the coolest thing you'll ever see is just right over there on the West Coast; go out and get it!
I may have walked to California if I knew it was a thing. Real talk. Anyway. We spent a lot of that day there because it was so pretty. The dogs could run free and that was a giant plus too. I don't know if you guys know that Copper's two most favorite things in this world are birds and also water. Guess who had the most fun chasing seagulls on the purple beach? That's right, Copper did! Of course, after he stopped being scared of the crashing waves. My poor, sheltered baby. He is so scared of things sometimes. Luckily his need to catch the birds was stronger than his fear of waves crashing. Yay for primal instincts!
That evening on our drive south we stopped in some little city near Santa Barbara to pick up a twin sized mattress for the van that we found on Craigslist. See what we learned in those first days sleeping in Aurora instead of Teddy is that pallets are not nearly as comfortable as you remember from childhood. Turns out a couple of blankets 2 and 4 times folded aren't enough cushion to sleep on for 2 humans, 2 dogs, and sometimes even Eleanor when she wasn't in the front seat. Which all means we slept great the rest of the trip! Now that's what you call glamping! ;)
Once we finally got down to Santa Monica, we ate dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and watched the bright light show that the ferris wheel put on. It was a beautiful welcome into the metropolis that is LA.
The next day, getting further into Los Angeles, we venture out to all sorts of sights. We saw the Hollywood stars, rode the subway, went to a wonderful crystal store, saw Wicked the musical, and went to the old zoo in Griffith Park that has been covered in graffiti and open to the public. That was a sight! We got to actually go into old enclosures and see where the animals had lived. (the zoo was closed because they opened a newer, bigger one down the road. *no animals were harmed in the closing/graffiti of this zoo*) LA in all was a good time. Just another big city really. After SF they kind of all look the same. Travelers problems. C'est la vie!
On our last day in the area we spent the morning at a park in San Pedro cleaning out the van and preparing for the road again. We must have gotten there early because I don't remember there being a lot of people there at first. We wanted to make breakfast and organize, which is what we usually do when we're getting ready to hit the road again. So we hooked Copper to a lead, told Brayzli to stay close, and let Eleanor sunbathe on the front dash. We're a sight in it of ourselves, for sure. While Brittany prepared breakfast I found myself elbow deep in a marvelous conversation with an older woman originally from Croatia, Gordana. She and I must have talked for an hour about politics and morals, things you don't normally discuss with a stranger, but this woman spoke to my soul. From the get go she talked of strength and belief. When she heard our story she gave me a few good books to look up and told us to never stop talking, always spread truth, and stand up for what you believe in! I'll never forget how empowered I felt after our talk. Thank you so much for reminding me that our journey is a beautiful one.
It's funny how on the road any time we felt lost or needed assurance for whatever reason it came to us. In SF with Dan Neel, this time with Gordana, all along the way it seems that the universe has been supportive of our intentions. What you put out into it, you will receive from it.
After my talk with Gordana and getting the van ready we went on a little adventure to a sunken city. This is an area on the coast that used to be part of the city, but in the early 1900s a landslide put part of the neighborhood out to sea. Now it's blocked off from the public (but not really because we weren't the only ones there for the view) and covered in graffiti. If you just shimmy under the fence you get a really incredible look out into the Pacific. The slabs of these forgotten homes are really all that's left. It's pretty obvious when you're here that it's totally a local hang out. We wandered all the way down the cliff to check out the tiniest army of hermit crabs all along the shore. It was really neat to see.
After LA we headed through a Ghost Town and a Superbowl Sunday car show outside of Barstow, then into Nevada heading to Vegas. The Mojave Desert was so beautiful! Obviously desert sunsets are breathtaking. Somehow the colors in those days of traveling were just so vivid and stellar, hopefully the pictures can give you some idea.
We spent just under 3 full days in Vegas, which by the way is just the perfect amount of time to be in Vegas. Before we got there I did some research and came up with a pretty substantial list of things to do in Vegas for under $20 and by the time we arrived we had decided to do all of them. It was a whirlwind of a stop. we had it planned down to the minute where we'd be and for how long. We did a lot of walking, as usual, and avoided getting married for the second time on this trip. Some of the sights we saw there was the Eiffel Tower where we watched the fountain show at the Bellagio, the big cats and dolphins at the Sigmund and Freud sanctuary, a sting ray exhibit, the flamingos and other birds at the Flamingo Casino, and had my very first shrimp cocktail. Our favorite sight we saw there was a backstage tour of Jubilee, the longest running showgirls show in Vegas. It was kind of like the movie Showgirls except without the crazy story line and less cameras. It was really cool to learn about all the work that goes into putting on a performance like that. The costumes can sometimes weigh 50+ pounds! Holy cow. On our last night there we stayed the Golden Gate Casino, which is the oldest casino in Vegas and was the start of the original strip down Fremont Street there. That was a great night! The casino was a lot smaller than the ones on the strip, but what it lacked in size it made up for in character. The ceilings were low, but they had ladies dancing and loud music playing like it was something more than a Monday night. Vegas really is the city that never sleeps. (Unless your hotel room has black out curtains and a comfy bed - when that's the case you sleep like a baby!) Oh! And we saw a cupcake ATM!!! Wow!! It was just as you'd imagine a cupcake ATM - baby pink with a touch screen! You could choose your cupcake and then a little window would open and out pops a beautiful Cupcakery cupcake. Dreams really do come true! :)
After we left Vegas we went in the direction of the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. We stopped at the dam to take necessary pictures and do our tourist thing. You see, this part of our journey was really just touring. We took our time and saw the sights, we relaxed and we ate good food. All the things that I think make up retirement. (Aha, we've come full circle! Okay, not yet - we're not even to the Grand Canyon yet.) We stopped the night before the canyon to sleep in a hotel parking lot. This was genius for a couple of reasons. Reason 1, relatively safe spot to sleep in your car. Reason 2, the next morning when you wake up to find the back door open and you're now free to indulge in their restroom facilities and a complimentary continental breakfast. Ballin! What a score that one was before our big day ahead of us.
When we finished breakfast we made our way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. There we took our time taking in the scenery. We took time to make some black bean burgers and let the dogs roam long enough for Eleanor and Brayzli to attract unwanted attention from ravens. That's actually the second time we have been attacked (mostly just stalked and taunted) by ravens on our trip. The first time was at Ocean Beach in SF when Eleanor and I got literally chased off of the beach because one circled us and then went to get his 2 friends. That was probably the funniest thing to see happen. They actually chased us. Crazy birds. Lol.
Back to our journey across.
We made our way down to Phoenix to visit one of Brittany's friends, Alyssa, who is in school for massage and body work. She was such a doll! We ate pizza and she practiced her massage learning on us. It was a really great visit. Thanks to Alyssa and her family for sharing your home with us. We owe you a great visit whenever we land!
That actually goes out to all the people who have opened their homes and their hearts to us. You're in our hearts forever and we can't wait until we have somewhere for YOU to visit so that we can repay your generosity. We appreciate you all.
By the time we left Phoenix we were just ready to get to our destination, which was if you haven't guessed already, Louisiana. So we got pumped up for the long haul with coffee and a good Pandora station. We ended up driving through the night after we passed through Border Patrol in El Paso. **Note to all travelers, I-10 is terribly long and boring. Choose another route. Actually, try to avoid Texas all together. It's our least favorite state.** The most concerning thing about that southwestern side of Texas (or all of it) is the oil drilling and crazy amount of open seemingly unused space. When we drove at dawn, we were on a small detour because I missed an exit, and we could actually see chemicals in the horizon. I'm not a scientist, but I know that the sky shouldn't have looked that way. Despite all that, we eventually made it to Austin to see our beautiful friend Samantha! There we hung out and had a dog party. We made cookies and ate dinner. It was great to see Sam after so long. She's such a great person and I feel lucky to have her in my life. Thanks, Sam, for being you because you're badass. :)
Our final stop before Louisiana was Houston to see my lifelong best friend, Emily. Y'all. She's been on my Top 5 Favorite Humans list for so long. That's something I don't think will ever change. I think we only stayed one night with her, but it was a great visit. We got to catch up and eat food, which are our favorite things to do when we're together besides our nails. Hahaha, kind of not kidding. Thanks for putting up with me, Em, and always supporting me even when I'm wrong. You're the yin to my yang and my sister from another mister. Who knew two 7 year olds could start a forever friendship?! Here's to almost 2 decades! (HOLY COW WE MAY BE OLD!)
Okay, boys and girls, that sums up our beautiful journey down the coast and over to Louisiana. I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as we did. Thank you for reading this very long post. I'm glad I finally sat down and worte it all. Sorry it took so long, but at least we made it.
Love to you all!
Have a marvelous night!