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 and 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
What happened so far: With a rented vehicle that has an engine hidden somewhere, maybe in the glove compartment. My friend Kelly and I drove up the coast to San Luis Bebispo with the goal of reaching San Francisco the next day. At the end of part 1, we were in a food coma in SLO.
Welcome to part deux
Our second part of the road trip on Highway No. 1 starts fairly early at 8:30 on the 16th of June 2012. For breakfast we had breakfast-burritos, ordered ahead and picked up while driving (take note, this is how you food) These were, as all food so far, amazing and filling. Can't even describe their filling, but I think it was cheese, avocado1 and meat. While munching, our drive took us towards a small town to fill 'er up, which, by now, also costs minimum 4 dollars per gallon in California. No more V8 enjoyment for everyone.
That thing right there pushed me into a comfortable food coma the night before
The road then lead us up the [Big Sur](). If you go to California and don't drive around this aread, then you have just voided you're right to live.
Bis Sur is coastal region (at least what we saw), where you hardly find an AM radio station, safe FM. At least that was the case in 2012. Crazy beautiful landscapes, mountain ranges, blue ocean water, sea crusts and rocks await just outside your rolled down window. The happiest cows on earth, which feed on coastal grassland roam in this luxurious landscape.
At this point, a word about cows.
While we saw happy cows, there are also cows standing in their own crap, just off Interstate 5, which is not far away from this scenic overload. I've been told it's an awful sight and most likely these cows end up in your burger. They are corn feed animals, with digestive systems not made for corn. They poop and fart all day long, killing the atmosphere while being miserable. I also heard looking at them is a good path for turning vegan.
But back to the pleasant Big Sur.
Along the road many places invite for a quick stop. Some of stop are not that quite inviting if you are northbound, they are quite risky to pull over to. We saw one rescue mission, where someone seemed to have gone a step too close to an unsecured lookout point over the coastal riffs. If you rent an RV and it's the first time driving such a ship, maybe it's better to tell yourself 'Nah, I won't make it'.
No matter where you stop, someone is surfing near deadly rocks, cliffs and plowing through riptides which regularly kill people.
17 mile drive - more like '0 mile drive', amirite?!
We also took a detour on the Monterey peninsula, because you can ride a 10 dollar 17-mile drive there. I can't recommend it. Yes, it's kinda scenic and yes, beautiful coastline, but for the most part you pass rich peoples houses, a golf course and spent your time behind extremely slow drivers. I'd call it the 17-mile-envy-drive. If you just came up the Big Sur, you're all set, I'd say. If you are southbound - tell yourself better sights await.
There is this one lonely tree some say is a must see, but naaah, thank you.
This is one of the main sights. I call it Birdshit rock. Seals, bird shit and birds producing bird shit. What else can one ask for? Maybe a road without passing expensive gated communities and golf courses?
This 17-mile drive ate up more time we planned, so I had to punch it for the rest of the haul, because we had a booked tour at the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz.
Mystery spot - more like 'hey, don't flirt with her'-spot #buddhism
We got the spot with a name promising mystery and adventure with literally one minute to spare, something I'm kinda proud of. I don't want to spoil the mystery spot for you, a tour is only $5 and fun, especially when they pimpled tour guide has a crush on your companions.
Be sure to pick up the free bumper sticker, it's kinda a thing to have on your car around here. I think it explains the beautiful quirkiness of the people I met. The average German tourist might have asked scientific questions, called it a fraud and denied the sticker, whereas the Californian has a laugh, enjoys the tour, claps when asked to and just leaves with a smile - being just as smart as the German.
add me on the mystery house
How did I do this? A mystery! Did I fall down? No! Where we big tourists? Yes!
add mister with crush
The Mr. on the right had kinda a crush on my companions - and a magic level to fool us all. FRAUD! (2018 edit: Fake news!)
Enter San Francisco
We drove on to San Francisco Airport to fix some things with the rental, so that Kelly could drop it off in L.A. We avoided some stupidity by NOT driving into the drop-off parking lot (reversing here would have perforated the wheels) and the chat with the Hertz guy turned into an exchange of stories about celebrities, car rental experience and chitchat.
This is something you just have to get used to and eventually enjoy when traveling as a German: Be friendly, chatty and have your stories at the ready. People are more open, more chatty and just more interested than what I see in Germany. Like when I fuelled up my rental in Coronado and the payment turned into a discussion about Scientology, Mormons and Obama. If you want to stick to yourself and be efficient and process oriented, don't come here.
Like I said, we were big time tourists. Not a hipster! This is my postcard picture for you. Use it as you please. This is some lighthouse between Santa Cruz and SF.
No, really, enter San Francisco
After the rental thingy was fixed, Kelly drove us into her past hometown of San Francisco, right into the Tenderloin where we had to park the car via Valet parking. Tenderloin is downtown.
It's a common thing to give a total stranger the keys to your car and let him keep car and keys until you return. Weird.
Anyhow, we parked and they went into the hotel, called me in later, as they only booked for two people. We shared one room, all three of us, but to avoid any confusion, only one took the bed. For some reason it was decided that this person should be me. Thank you very much, ladies.
Something about San Francisco, but much more in the next post: It is way safer than L.A., but there are dark alleys and areas you want to stay out off after dark. The Tenderloin is such an area.
Be aware where you are and where you go
For anyone who hasn't been to the US or Canada it might be strange, but the quality of life changes by the block.
Blocks are the building blocks (pun totally intended) of North American cities. The grid layout and streets make navigation very easy, but they also result in borders between areas. You might walk down one block and suddenly be surrounded by homeless people hauling their entire life's possessions around in shopping carts. But just around the next corner, suited-up business clerks bump grumpily into you. Some of these cuts are deliberate. Freeways were built to break apart black communities when they started thriving. Freeway separate gated communities from the poor rest. (Update 2018: The same strategy was applied in South Africa, even more drastic in paving entire quarters)
You get used to these sudden changes in patrons and atmosphere of the streets, and smarten up quickly - sometimes you just feel the urge for calling a cab. Whenever you come to the States or Canada, don't worry, your street smarts will be with you. I you have lived for a long time in a boringly safe place like Munich, though, you might be too unprepared with your functional attire and practical backpack for the crazies and homeless change-inquirers. I've heard stories. Also, if you are immersed in your smartphone, your antennas might not pick up the subtleties of a foreign environment. People do get shot, frequently, and in the borderlands like San Diego children get abducted for ransom money and become dismembered soon after.
DSC01610.jpg Leave car, keys and money take mint.
Yes, imagine dismemberment for a second. It really happens.
First impressions of a city before the #techbag invasion
As it was already getting dark, we went for some insanely great food (I just stop mentioning food and let us all assume that every single meal here is awesome, which so far it was). We ended the day at a dive bar in the Castro, where one girl of our group was hit on by two guys in a record time. No time to waste in a city that is overdue for a deadly earthquake, it seems.
DSC01609.jpg Nous somme arrivés.
Thank you Californians for being you
The next day it brought a time for goodbyes and farewells to my two companions, but not before having breakfast in an amazing place with amazing...I mentioned food again. Ok, so let's just say we had breakfast. After that, we dropped of my luggage at some guys place. I want to take the time here to thank the people who made SoCal an amazing experience, in less than a week (in no particular order): Kelly, John, John, Shawn, Emiliy, Kristina, Alyssa, Tina, that guy on the plane, all friends of Kelly & John, John Sr. and all the other funny Californians who are not only hedonists, but damn hard working hedonists. Without Kelly no Rrroadtrip and no great SoCal experience! Thank you for ever!
add me and kelly
Don't mistake Californian avocados or ginger with their German counterparts, its like Bud light and Augustiner ↩