Disclaimer from 2018
This text is ancient history. It was written during my solo trip to the USA in 2012. I had just won a massive deal for the company I worked for but suddenly felt the weight of straining three years past on me. I ran too far, too fast. The trip was in part to find closure, distraction, energy, happiness and connect with the olden dream of living and working in America. Years have past. What remains of this trip are great memories, friends and the certainty to have at least tried something when I thought all energy was spent.
I went through this text and made some edits, added a comment or changed a picture. Otherwise it's reserved from a time, when Notebooks were still heavy
The one thing that you HAVE to do in the US is drive a car.
If you are in California, you drive it up the Highway No 1. You just have to. And weeeee, so we did.
Embarking at around 8 a.m. in L.A., Kelly and I drove off northwards. It was planned to take off around 5:20 AM, so we can see the sunrise, but
- We all got to bed to late the night before, because we saw an amazing live concert at a nice back ally pub
- It was overcast anyhow (which we only found out after getting up too late)
Up a mountain road
After we took up off and dodged a bullet or two of L.A. traffic, we got out of the city. The freeway gradually turned from eight to six to four lanes. Then the freeway became Highway No. 1. Highway No. 1, baby. The road of dreams and passion.
We casually cruised Highway No.1 - so casually that we missed our exit for Solvang.
Instead we took the next exit which, by accident, turned out to be the most exiting and thrilling road I've witnessed on this continent so far. Not only the landscape was stunning, but also the climate.
The coast of California is very interesting when it comes to weather. It's cooler than you'd expect, especially in June. Clouds and fog can come in so low and thick, that you'd rather get off the road and just wait, hoping for the best. While we drove up this ever winding mountain road, clouds so thick that even headlights didn't pierce through their vapor surrounded us. Quite a lot of 5mph turns gave the idea that the fog occluded some fear inducing sights.
When Americans put up signs warning of 15° descend or slow 5mph turns, take them serious.
The roads bend and turn in a way that German road officials (I mean the engineers who plan and build our Autobahn) would wince and rather level the hillside than allowing the construction of such a road. The way the asphalt curves feels, at times, like a super speedway from NASCAR - a super slow super speedway. Then there are potholes. Many of them. Most importantly, it was a steep road.
I rented a Corolla, a car for those who don't seek acceleration, fun, responsiveness or agility. I feared it would die on the way up, or roll backwards. With its automatic transmission I couldn't use stick-shift wisdom of gear down and control the RPM manly manually.
But we got up that hill, through fog and turns. As soon as we summited the descend commenced. And suddenly, like they'd never have existed there, all the clouds were gone. The view opened up to a breathtaking valley. Just the most beautiful sight. I had the glimpse of an idea of how it must have felt for the settlers: After marching and rolling through the dust bowl, losing children, half starving and other niceties of playing Oregon trail, to arrive in an Californian coastal valley like this. It truly is paradise. Naturally we stopped at the first best "Vista Point" and took pictures.
I make this short: Skip Solvang
After our little detour, which was totally worth it, we continued on to Solvang. I was told it was a truly Danish town at the central coast of California. Alas, it wasn't. It was a little wine tasting city with faux Scandinavian house fronts and gift shops of marvelous stock.
A view of the "Danish" town of Solvang. Complete with the complimentary Asian tourist "Songs that keep America strong" and a tractor. Wow. I think I need to puke. Only in America. This town is as Danish as Bavaria is German - not at all.
After getting a "Danish" (oh, the irony), we quickly made our way back to the car and took off towards the main goal of the trip, San Luis Obispo, or SLO for them lazy Americans. We arrived in SLO and set up camp at Kelly's friends house.
I needed to see a doctor for some stitches to be removed, for as little as $160 this was done and we headed to Heart castle.
The road from SLO to Hearst castle was, again, breath taking, even though not mountainous. I did not need to do all the driving, so I could play with my camera. On the road you pass by Morro Bay, which I need to return to. We didn't stop there, but if you have time, do it! There's a rock just off the coast which gives this place a very unique look.
Not seen in the picture above is the three stack power plant...
When you want to go to Hearst castle, arrive early, or the good tours sell out - or you can aim for a seasonal offered night tour, where volunteers re-enact the golden days of this small ranch. I don't want to go into detail about Hearst castle, you can read all about it on wikipedia. It's worth a visit if you haven't seen the real deal with European castles or in general, old European architecture and cultural heritage. I was not so impressed with the assortment of purchased cultural fragments, especially as they were displayed out of context or, even worse, set into another, unintended context. Roman sarcophagi were placed outside like bathtubs, not kept in a tomb or choir stalls but also placed in dining halls. What it did emit was the aura of created, artificial cultural heritage and history, a created perpetuity. The artificial heritage of one man who fulfilled his dream and must have had a remarkable small penis. Therefore very American.
Squirrels are fuckers
After getting on a bus down to ride down the hill (because you cannot drive up there with your own car), past the living remains of Mr. Hearst's private zoo, we returned to SLO for a dinner at the Firestone grill. Eat there, if you ever find yourself in SLO.
One more thing, surprisingly we stopped at a Vista Point on our way back. If you do that, be careful. There are squirrels all along the coast, and they don't fuck around. They are vicious little beasts that don't care about you being much bigger and actually quite a predator. They also don't have rabies, they are just awful animals. We left our doors open when I hopped out, camera crazy, to capture the crashing waves and ocean mist of the Pacific. When we turned around, they were trying to climb into the car, going for my almonds. We shooed them away, but they kept coming back, even crawling up legs and just not really running away. Crazy little beasts.
You might look cute, but you are an awful nuisance. Next time I'll feed you Alka-Seltzer, your little pisser, so you explode right there.
Back to Firestone
Back to the main topic: Food at the Firestone grill. They offer a sandwich that is so remarkable fatty and tasty, that you both die and smile at the same time. Even when the stomach screams for mercy, you press the rest of that meat bomb into your mouth, grinning and knowing that you'll soon reach the size of the average customer if you continue to eat that stuff. In food coma, we wobbled back to the house, relaxed, took off for some local beer and live music in a local bar. There I got a glimpse of NorthCal hippie life: Rhythmic movement of hips and lesbians lingering on sofas. Something this relaxed I haven't seen in L.A. and never in Munich. (By the way, I can't go back there after this trip so far).
A preliminary long time exposure of the house we stayed in. I will create a Photoshop stitch once I am back in ze Deutschland That was the first day of the trip, the next trip brought us, now risen in our number to three, up the coast on No. 1 to Santa Cruz and later San Francisco into a hotel in the Tenderloin.