Manifest Destiny

This blog entry about the events of Saturday, July 02, 2011 was originally posted on July 18, 2011.

PART 15 (DAY 17):  “It’s the Pacific.  We made it,” I declared that morning, as the sun rose in the east to reveal the ocean before me in the west.  “It’s Manifest Destiny.”

With that said, I put my feet in the water to bring closure in going “from sea to shining sea,” ever since I set foot in the Atlantic over two weeks prior.  (It was cold.)

HERMOSA BEACH WAS ALIVE WITH ACTIVITY at 9 a.m. with people biking and walking to the beach, to surf, volley, jog, or simply take a dip in the water.  We eventually joined the masses after vegging in for a bit to watch Wimbeldon, to go to Martha’s, which was apparently the only open brunch place in the area at the time — “apparent” because there was already a tremendous line before ten o’clock.  “And I thought getting here by ten was on the early side,” I said.  Eventually Cheryl, Noelle, and I were sat to enjoy (yet) another plate of eggs and some last conversations before parting ways. 

“So the question is, do you hate each other yet?” Noelle asked us; she remembered that it was the question that started the whole trip off from fourteen entries ago

“Nooooooo,” Cheryl answered with an elongated “O” sound, as if it was obvious that we were on good terms.

“No,” I replied.  “Well, maybe when playing Scrabble.  But no, we’re okay,” I said, smirking.  Two weeks had been a long time to spend with someone in a car, tent, and occasional hotel room — 24/7 — but Cheryl and I had stood the test of time, at least for two weeks.  But our time together would extend beyond that two-week span, for we weren’t quite home just yet.  For the homestretch, we packed our bags, bid Noelle farewell, and head back on the road towards the California bay area for the final leg of our journey.

“GUESS IT’S NOT L.A. TRAFFIC unless it’s six lanes of traffic,” Cheryl said, driving the first shift as we maneuvered northbound up the 405 to get to the 101 and then the 1 (the classic Pacific Coast Highway, or “PCH”) as humanly suggested by Noelle — and not the GPS voice with her British instructions to “take slip roads.”  L.A.‘s traffic is legendary and although we tried to avoid it, congestion was inevitable.  The turnoff to the 101 was a virtual parking lot, and we used our road atlas to figure a new plan of attack: take the 405 to the 5 to about the halfway point, and then take state highway 46 W to connect to the PCH since the most scenic part of it was the later half anyway.  I took a nap as Cheryl sped up the interstate for the first part that early afternoon — but I woke up just in time for the red lights that pulled her over. 

“Do you know how fast you were going?” asked Officer A. Garcia, who didn’t look at all like actor Andy Garcia.

“Um, yeah, I’m sorry.  I was going pretty fast,” Cheryl admitted.

“Good, I was looking for honesty,” he said.  He took her license and registration, and went back to process the fine.  I reached for my camera, just as I did when I had gotten pulled over in Utah. 

“Will you stop taking pictures?!” Cheryl scolded me, feeling anxious about the fine.

“Okay.”  I put it away.  The officer came back with the ticket — with a lesser violation “because you were being honest,” he said.

I don’t know if it was the ticket, or the attempted photo, or the fact that the drive was longer than anticpated, but whatever it was put a damper on our spirits as we continued on — even with beautiful rolling hills of green and amber waves of grain.  Ultimately it wasn’t anything that a bag of Cheetos couldn’t fix; they seemed to have lightened the mood (instead of Doritos as before, although we had a whole batch of the spicy Tapatio ones to bring to Andy.) 

It didn’t help our pseudo-planned out route that I was trying to use atlas directions instead of the GPS and ended up getting a little lost in a central area of California where there are NO roadsigns, not even one to tell you what road you’re actually on.  I missed a turn off somewhere and ended up on the one-lane G-18 county road that thankfully was still in the general direction of where we wanted to go.  In fact, it led me through the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation, which I remembered from the last time I tried to drive the PCH from L.A. to San Francisco; I had been rerouted from the PCH through the military grounds because of wildfires.  I recognized the scorched grass and the military tanks as we drove through.  I also saw a big antlered buck near the side of the road — a better view than any we’d seen in Yellowstone.  This way led me to this treacherous winding mountain road up and down Los Padres National Forest, which eventually led me to the PCH and the coast — coincidentally at the same place I left off the last time I drove the PCH.

Cheryl had slept for most of this leg of the drive.  She perked up when I started driving the winding asphalt path of the PCH.  “Are you okay driving?” she asked me. 

“I’m okay,” I answered.  I may have gotten the hang of driving manual on this road trip after all — although admittedly I stalled the car about once a day on average since leaving New Jersey.  “This is fun.”

“For you it is.”

Perhaps it was fitting that I was driving the PCH on the last leg of the trip; in a way it was sort of the ultimate driving test to see if I had mastered stick shift — something I really wanted to come away with at the end.  Driving up the coast was like being in a car commercial, where it’s beautifully scenic but a little challenging; in the tighest spots, you’re always upshifting, downshifting, coasting, accelerating, going left and then right and then left — every ten seconds or so.  I remembered that this stretch of road was actually recreated in an old video game I used to play in the 80s, Test Drive II: The Duel, and I was driving to win — but for real.

Beyond the anticlimatic Big Sur State Park entrance was the general region known as “Big Sur,” arguably the most dramatic of the PCH scenery with its crashing waves, beaches, and big boulders around every curve of the road.  We switched shifts so that Cheryl would drive some of it — only for her to end up in a traffic pile up on the Bixby Bridge, which is normally one of the scenic highlights of the Big Sur drive.

“This is bullshit.”

But we didn’t let Californian traffic dampen our spirits; we just pressed on, determined to just come to our catharsis at the end.  Beyond the traffic of Monterrey and San Jose, we drove passed the fields of Steinbeck’s Grapes Of Wrath, up the east side of the bay to get not to the final destination of San Francisco, but to the bay area suburb of Dublin, CA, where Cheryl would call home with her boyfriend Andy.

“I live here,” Cheryl announced, processing the information, before we had even seen the inside of their corporate housing apartment. 

“Wow, you’re like a California Girl now,” I said.

Andy was there to greet us, but our initial hugs, kisses and handshakes were short-lived because we were hungry and needed to eat fast — but then it was revealed/confirmed that most restaurants in the area don’t stay open passed nine o’clock.  (It was around 9:30.)  Fortunately, with the help of Sam (Antarctica, Moscow, Vancouver Games), who had lived in Dublin for years, knew of a place that actually had the rarity of an open kitchen.  (Closing at nine o’clock is absurd by New York City standards; sometimes you don’t even get a reservation until after that.)

Dining on Mexican food at El Balazo was fine — it was really our only option — and it was there that Cheryl and Andy were reunited for some post-road trip analysis. 

“I learned that I hate camping,” Cheryl admitted.  “Well, it’s not bad.  Just when it’s cold.  We had snow in our camp!”

“We learned that there is a lot of Christian radio out there,” I added.  I also learned that when I experiment and don’t shave for over two weeks, it’s revealed that I have pretty pathetic facial hair follicles for a guy.  I can’t really grow a full beard, plus I have these blotchy areas of my cheeks that grow unevenly — Cheryl called it “dimple hair.”

“Does the couch fold out [to a bed]?” I asked Andy.

“No.  You can pitch the tent in the living room,” he joked.

For Cheryl, she had made it home — a new home — but for me I was still an unshaven, homeless-looking guy, especially when I used a shopping cart to get my things into the apartment.  “You look so homeless,” Cheryl informed me.

“You just need a clear bag of aluminum cans,” Andy said. 

Alas, I was not homeless — at least while I was a guest of theirs.  After a whole whirlwind tour of America for over two weeks, we settled in that night with cold beers while watching Luke and Darth Vader confront their destinies on TV in Return Of The Jedi — which was not a bad way to end things.  However, this was only the end of the road trip, but not the end of our journey, for we would take the train into San Francisco the next day — on the birthday of America no less — to completely fulfill our Manifest Destiny with an old friend.

Next entry: Observing America

Previous entry: Old Faces, New Places, Old Places, New Faces

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Comments for “Manifest Destiny”

  • One more to go!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/18  at  08:19 PM

  • curve of the road pic is money…

    and yes, people, Erik still has not shaved…just a bit trimmed when I saw him, yes at the bar yesterday…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  02:01 AM

  • OH NOOOOOOO!!! You got pulled over! eeks.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  10:23 PM

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This blog post is one of sixteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea," which chronicled a two-and-a-half-week road trip across the U.S.A., from New York to San Francisco, visiting several American national parks and monuments along the way.

Next entry:
Observing America

Previous entry:
Old Faces, New Places, Old Places, New Faces


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