(September 2009)
It had been so hot in Los Angeles that a brief trip up the coast to San Francisco for a couple of days seemed in order. It’s hot here all the time in LA, people here are different, they’re used to it. I was living here for a month and a half I guess? I like it here, I’m getting used to it, but it’s tight and stuffy here. People are tight and stuffy, the roads are real wide but somehow stuffy, people crowd them and breathe down your neck for you to get out of their way. Coming from Boston where it’s pretty much the exact same vibe aside from people having bad accents (like me apparently!) and shittier roads. I grew tired of New England road trips. My whole life from when I started driving at 17 to maybe a year before I left was spent on gorgeous orange and sun soaked golden tree lined roads in the fall to bright green summer jaunts up to Southern Maine/New Hampshire or upstate New York. After doing these hundreds of times where I could practically drive these roads with a blindfold on I grew tired of them, but more importantly grew tired of my life back there. I lost any spark for anything whether it was going to shows, playing music or just plain going out. The last few months spent there I spent some quality time with good friends going to shows and being out and about in social settings. I obviously miss this aspect of living in New England and family and friends, everything else though, not-so-much.

G and I had just started dating, but knew each other for quite some time. She lived in San Francisco and I lived in Los Angeles and came down for the week. I had some plans for the us to see some outdoor places with my visiting friends from New England. We didn’t do all of that on the day we hung out but did have a great day outdoors and indoors with them and they all got along which was nice as I had wanted her to meet some of my friends from back home. This was also one of those instances where you want to show off your new girlfriend and hope your friends like  her. They all got along great and we had a nice couple of days with them exploring Los Angeles from the coast to atop hills overlooking the orange specs below.

We checked out of the hotel in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning to drive my car back to my house. G was going to follow me there and then I would get in her car for the drive up to San Francisco. I get in my car and it won’t start. When I moved out here I had the same problem. My starter and alternator were dead and I paid $650 to have them fixed. We waited in the bright hot sun for the tow truck driver to arrive.  Sun tired and slightly burned from the previous day the last thing I wanted to do was sit in the sun aggravated by more car issues. The night before swerving around like her twelve thousand mile long smile through canyons high above Los Angeles my brakes were continuing their squeak that had started a few days prior. Turns out my battery was dead, like forever dead. Ugh. Brakes, rotors, battery and labor here I am $855 poorer. Great. I avoided thinking about this for the majority of the trip as it would have made things shittier than they needed to be.

We started on Highway 101 which brushes against the ocean and snakes back inland here and there. Our first stop was a non-event in Santa Barbara, a quick lunch and we were back on our way. A nice little area I had sped through before, and for the most part sped through this time as we weren’t sight seeing. I did see a Mission that I plan on going back to some time soon to take pictures of. A bit south of San Luis Obispo (near Pismo Beach) we stopped at a pier G had been to before and took some pictures of sea lions and pelicans. The area was drenched in fog and was noticeably colder than any place I had been since I moved out to California. The pier and fishing boats made me feel like I was in New England again. The air here was particularly heavy on me. The fog at dusk , the chill in the air and that always welcome sound of an ocean sounding like an ocean is like no other sensation. We walked on the damp pier for a while. This was the first week we were spending a good amount of time together so only fond memories were being created. Any other emotion I could have felt would have been false; this was nothing but romantic in every way possible. I got some good footage of the sea lions on video, and then things “got racist” so we stopped. Long story.

With no place booked for Wednesday, just on Thursday and Friday in SF I successfully booked us a place in San Luis Obispo up the road a brief fifteen miles or so via the iPhone. The fact that you can do this kind of thing on a little hand held device and check it out and make sure it’s clean/safe, etc. is great, but there was always something about gambling with your evening by stopping at some random motel and paying for a chance. No such luck this time though. We make our way to the room and notice the bathroom sink is covered in ants. Ouch. I go down and talk to the manager and we are upgraded to a suite at no extra cost which is basically just a wider room with a stove, a couple of comfortable chairs, a working remote control (unlike the room in LA) and a bathroom that is two rooms. Nothing great really, but a step up from a bathroom full of ants.

San Luis Obispo, or SLO had failed us briefly and then redeemed itself but after that the thumbs would continue to keep pointing further down. A trip to the Madonna Inn to eat dinner at a restaurant that closes at 10:00 PM according to their website proved to be a waste of time. They are doing major construction in the area, with exits leading you to nowhere and not telling you where detours lead you…a mess for the most part. To top it off we get there a little after 9:00 to be told that they now close at 9:00 even though the doors are open and lights are all on. The gum chewing woman at the counter is not really interested in us and is doing math out loud while we stand there. The inside of the restaurant is all types of gaudy, like an Italian grandmother from the 70’s exploded all over the inside of a diner at Liberace’s birthday party type gaudy. But awesome. I made my way down to the ladies room and had G take my picture inside and then went into the men’s room and took a shit in the urinal just to show them how I felt about their letting me down. Not really, but I would have and will if it happens next time!

Close by was a diner that was all lit up, even the sign that reads “OPEN” was on in the window! We parked and walked up to an empty diner, a woman counting money at the cash register and a locked door. Eh. A trip downtown proved to be even less successful. Fucking downtown. A college. Only places open were loud bars and shittier restaurants. Well, bar/restaurants. We ended up at a shitty 24 hour breakfast chain (although after the preferable one was closed as well!). Horrible food choices were made by both of us and that’s about the extent of it.

We had another errand to run before ending the night, finding some medicine for her. After a creepy drive down a road curiously called “Tank Farm” we found an all night market helmed by this D & D reject named Neil (Limelight by Rush was playing on radio).  He worked the register and had creepy eyes that he couldn’t stop moving. Just one of those talkative people who are nice enough but also sporting a depressing existence so it’s hard to pay them much mind.

We decided to take the rest of the trip on Rt 1 which is quite literally on the coast. The same drive I did a couple of years previous when her and I hung out the first time. It was nice being able to look out the windows and take it all in even if it was foggy for a good chunk of it. We did a few stops along the way to take in some of the breath taking views that are so high up, the wind made you a little nervous you may blow right off the particular cliff you’re standing at. I think I ended up taking three pictures for couples who asked for a scenic picture with them in the foreground. The ocean though…on a clear day it goes on for miles. it looks calm and inviting unlike the jagged gray crazy ocean of say, Northern Maine. I’d like to say I like the Pacific Ocean better than the Atlantic but really, there is no better or worse.

A room screw up in San Francisco resulted in an upgrade to a suite yet again. Perhaps I will start complaining every time I travel so I can upgrade my rooms. It’s usually not much more than an extra room with another TV or just a bigger area. It’s not like suites in real expensive places. I had a great time the day and a half or so I was in the city. The first night though, we hit this delicious ass hamburger joint in The Castro. I didn’t have cash on me when the food was rung up. I walked over to get cash to give the woman, meanwhile G paid part of it and was chatting with the woman. Afterward she told me the woman said “Does he always do this, make you pay for meals like this? I hate when men pull that shit” or something like that. Whoa! Hey lady how about a large order of mind-your-own-business with that good ass cheeseburger? The cheeseburger though, I would have married it.

We took some amazing drives through some beautiful areas I had never seen, off the beaten path areas outside of the city. The fog proved to be a little bit of a hinderance, but to me at the same time added a character and mood to the sky that I hadn’t seen since moving out to this side of the country which has been a barrage of sunlight. We walked around the city last night North Beach, Chinatown mostly, watched a bug scurry around different areas of a counter in this Italian bakery. We were hoping to see a customer discover it. We had really shitty service at an Italian restaurant. We tipped really low at G’s insistence. The food was the one redeeming quality of that. Running out and disappearing into the crowded streets was slightly exhilarating, not like the time I walked out without paying at IHOP a few weeks before leaving Massachusetts, but still fun nonetheless.

Leaving this morning was odd. For a moment I thought I was flying back “home” to Boston, but no this is home now. This area of the country, and of course the area north of me is one of my favorite places to explore and I highly recommend taking the Pacific Coast Highway at least once in your lifetime. By yourself, or with someone it’s a beautiful drive. With the right soundtrack and the right weather it’s even better.                    .

(All pics were taken on this trip)