For years I thought about how there’s so much more than the Midwest. So much to see, so many adventures. I thought about it, researched it, and yet there was a part of me that doubted I would ever see outside the cornfields and cheeseheads.
Little did I know, an exploration was nearing. It didn’t last as long as I would have hoped, nor did it end as I would have liked, but I did it. From Wisconsin to San Diego and up the coast, my car (and my wallet) took me as far as it could go. And until my car passed out of exhaustion, I trekked from city to city, in love.
33 hours Dad and I drove. Through Chicago traffic, alongside the flat lands of Kansas, into the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Utah until we made our way to the Pacific Ocean. The beautiful, dreamy San Diego, filled with surfer crossing signs and no-cloud-73-degree weather met us lovingly.
As I wrote to my heart’s content, searched for jobs and basked in sunshine, I breathed in all California had to offer. I was met with high taxes and bro tanks too often to count, but overall, it was a dream. After graduating college, I knew I needed something new, something different, and this journey surely crossed out the quota. What I didn’t even know was a possibility became a reality.
I began my first barista job (read here for full story). I hiked. I swam. I drove some more. And although I came to the realization that Southern California may be slightly out of my price range, it was an experience to remember. With a higher paying job and an apartment, It wouldn’t surprise me if I went back to that sunny place one day.
Leaving San Diego, my travels didn’t end. Up the West Coast I went – to Santa Monica and beyond. I walked the Santa Monica Pier, watched street performers nearby, and stopped at Muscle Beach (where yes, I passed buff gentlemen actually working out on the beach). I ate delicious organic, vegan food in Venice with my wonderfully welcoming, and extra-fashionable cousin.
I got stuck in traffic in L.A. My car overheating during the every-hour-L.A.-rush-hour. I saw Reese Witherspoon driving through Beverly Hills. I bought a flannel and some holey, high waisted cutoffs at L.A.’s best “thrift shop,” Buffalo Exchange (which I still partly imagined to be Kim Kardashian’s leftovers).
And before I left, I made sure to hike up to the Hollywood Sign. Obviously, I sported the beloved Milwaukee Brewers hat in the 90 degree heat while the resident stranger I met along the way kindly showed me the way. Near the top, I received a fist bump with a “Go Brew Crew,” that made me feel at home.
Highway 1 was my companion through Malibu and Santa Barbara and into another section of California. All around me looked vastly different I wondered if I had missed a state line. I spent the next few days, and what would turn out to be the last leg of my trip outside of Sacramento. Still sunny but a little cooler, northern California is just as beautiful. Another cousin welcomed me with warmth feelings of home. We rode cable cars in San Francisco and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. And I realized just how much I had missed green grass in San Diego, or just grass in general.
We entered wine country with only the best intentions (drink wine) and ended up loving it. Vineyard to vineyard, I tasted the freshest wine of my life. Purely delicious wine that made me believe I could someday become a wine-sniffer, swirler and slurper. All this to say: it was great.
Not long after these wine-drinking, cable car-riding, seafood-eating days, my poor car was laid to rest. It seems my car had dreams of its own that didn’t include another 30 hour drive cross country. So I said goodbye to Ronnie, my cherished and well-worn Volkswagen and hopped on a plane.
For what it’s worth, It’s probably for the best that I didn’t see Portland yet, or I may have fallen in love and never returned. I’ll save that for another day (written with a sly smirk, secretly planning already).
Back to the Midwest I came. It seemed like those 8 weeks flew by quicker than I realized. I also know that in those 8 weeks I did more, dreamed more, and grew up more than I can thoroughly explain all at once. I believe I left part of myself in California that one day I hope to return to, whether on vacation or longer.
A thank you goes out to those who hosted and helped and became vital pieces in my life and adventures. And the sun sets with me dreaming again of palm trees and beaches.