Rewarded by the Western Sun: San Diego and Ensenada

It’s finally been getting warmer around New York, and residents are rejoicing. Putting up with scarves and shivers for months on end, we certainly feel like we deserve this rewarding climactic break.

I cheated on this, however, by flying to San Diego, California, at the end of March.

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Perhaps that shared sentimental brightness that results from the first warm days is not a phenomenon for people who live in a warm place and do not have to endure the everlasting challenge of coldness; but for those of us that do, we can finally enjoy the feeling of wearing a T-shirt outdoors (and even encountering the subject of your T-shirt right on the sidewalk).

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Some of the other local animals are not quite as fluffy.

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After debating whether this Ocean Beach landmark was the largest pier or second largest pier in California or the country or coast or some other record, I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it sure made for a lovely oceanic shot.

Another novelty of the Western United States is the scenic sunsets over this very body of water. When the sun finally descends beneath the aquatic horizon, the temperature goes down as well, and one can take refuge within the comfort of establishments.

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One such establishment, a karaoke hall, posts bodily etiquette rules above its plastic trash can (in two major world languages).

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At 7-11, rather, a sign is posted to punish those who have already committed unacceptable behavior against its rules (as well as to deter future immoral acts against innocent burritos).

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Down in Ensenada, Mexico, sunny skies also dominate the landscape in the laid-back daytime atmosphere…

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…for us humans…IMG_0531[1]

…and for inanimate versions of extinct (or possibly imaginary) creatures.

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Such a setting is also adequate for ranches…

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…not to mention little ¬†villages along rock beaches.

Humboldt County

Finally arrived, after our epic journey in the Honda Accord, to a place that was new to me but that I’ve heard of and visualized so many times: Arcata, Humboldt County, California.

First drove through, saw the many one-story and some two-story houses, and plants by the sidewalks blowing around and branches whipping against the oncoming ocean breeze. The center of the town was a main square surrounded on each side with little boutiques, cafes and bars. I heard this description in the past and now it came to life in front of my deranged eyes.

Our friend took us down to the beach, which had the wonderful Pacific rock formations that we had to climb down to really appreciate this ocean view.

We enjoyed sitting on the driftwood and being able to enjoy the not-too-hot weather after hours and hours of sitting in the car. We hiked up through the jagged rock edges and of course our shoes got filled with sand, all the while enjoying the interesting scenery of woods and rocks and shore.

We hiked through the uphill forest and saw dense vegetation complemented by thick slugs wrapped around shrubs. Walked through more diverse geological formations and more carved-out, shady forest trails to get to a very windy area in order to watch the extreme winds crash strong waves against the upstanding sea rocks.

Our second day there was all about the plants, indoors and outdoors. We hiked through the local Redwood park, which was a strange contradiction of old and new. There were insanely wide Redwood trunks that had obviously been logged, and then relatively new Redwoods growing strong all around them, tall but not as thick nor as mighty as their reduced ancestors.

The hike ended up leading us to Humboldt State University, where we explored the campus’ science facilities. This college apparently has a very advanced science program, since there is a huge greenhouse themed after the flora of different climates, whether jungle or desert or temperate.

This self-contained and pre-planned ecosystem was an interesting island within the midst of many different natural areas that surround in its few-mile radius. Different smells and textures from locations around the globe were brought together in this department’s laboratory. It was a pleasant surprise to me to bump into a mini flower conservatory in the middle of such a place.

Driving to Cali

For this year’s birthday, I took a trip down to Northern California, amongst new frontiers. I’ve seen the entrance into this part of the country driving south via I-5, through excessively trashy Redding, California, to extremely impressive Mount Shasta. This time, we took a new route that will always stand out to me.

My friend in Humboldt told my boyfriend and I of a girl who was driving down from Portland to Arcata, California. We found out that she bought a car, and was driving her old Rodeo truck and her new 1983 Honda Accord southward and westward, to where we wanted to be. We at first went along the familiar way down the greenery and mountainous territory of Oregon, from the clustered traffic jams on suspended freeway ramps, to get out of Portland during rush hour, through boring Salem and then through youthful Eugene. We stopped in Eugene, and then got back on the road and enjoyed the steep inclines and declines that this sprawl-less little city exhibits when it goes straight from the compact college town to lush rural and forested areas.

Strange rest areas came about southward, with little pregnant, mewing cats and passing-through people going to relieve themselves or stretch, checking you out to guess your story while you observe them to think of why they are in such a strange place on this freeway in the middle of nowhere. Driving down through exits I hardly recognized and hill formations I vaguely knew that I became impressed by in the past; it was so interesting to travel by car again. Trapped in the city I usually am, bound by my bicycle and Trimet transit services, put off by flat tires or expired transfers. My boyfriend and I switched off driving sessions, accelerating and decelerating, hitting the brakes and the gas, and changing CDs.

Pass on through California through new territory, and get that friendly inter-state inspection of police officers asking if you have any fruits, vegetables or produce in your vehicle.

Magically, once you cross the Oregon-California border, all of the clouds go away and the sun starts shining!

Through new mountains, new pine trees and new rock formations that resemble Oregon but are highlighted differently by the obvious sunshine. Trying to decide if this territory actually looks different from back home or if my perspective has become tainted by the drab, constant overcast. Forward through the Redwood Forests, not sure if I’ve ever seen a Redwood in the past, but now sure that I do see them passing by on the left and right of my vision out of the simple white station wagon.

Down to the coast, through Crescent City, meet the 101 Pacific Highway and continue on. See the sunny and sandy and windy ocean beaches full of humans and leashless dogs that no one really tells you about, or what a foreigner would initially think of California to be like. Keep the window cracked a little, keep the CD selection diverse, follow the girl in the Rodeo truck in front of us to finish our temporary western odyssey.