This was my first true solo adventure, one that I had been putting off for a very long time. You can thank fear for that. Fear. Equal parts friend and foe. This was the trip I had planned to keep pretty much unplanned. I wanted to get lost. I wanted to get scared. I wanted problems to solve. After careful consideration, I felt California would give me that feeling without putting me into a frenzy if I had just landed somewhere in say.. Asia. California provided me a balance. Busy cities but still being able to speak English and find my way. Long driving days but having GPS and good roads. Expensive but not absurd. Nature but also city life. Crowded places along with solo time. It allowed me to get my feet wet without drowning. To give me that taste that everyone talks about. As it turns out and almost expected, this will be remembered as one of the best things I ever did in my entire life.
I told people that I was going to do it, I told myself I was going to do it. I kept that on repeat so that it became a daily reminder to myself not to get scared…but excited. I knew it wasn’t going to be about what I saw or where I visited, but what I learned and the people I would meet. It didn’t disappoint. This was a trip where I fell in love, over and over again. Let me clarify before you get the wrong idea. What I mean is.. I fell in love with nature. I fell in love with the lifestyle. I fell in love with road trips and being spontaneous. I fell in love with the women there. But most importantly, I fell in love with who I became.
My plane ticket was booked only a few weeks in advance. Typical Ravi, waiting until the last minute and paying more, but also trying to delay the inevitable as much as I could. For me, the process was daunting. So getting it started with just the ticket was the hardest part. I know to many this sounds ridiculous. The chance to travel brings a real joy to most, even if alone. I’ve always been blown away by people who can just get up and go somewhere. Backpack places and hostel it up. But to me, this was something out of my comfort zone. Rental car was booked the day before. I prepaid this rental car. Fast forward getting off the plane in L.A., and where the learning begins.
I figure out where the shuttle to rental car companies are, and I arrive at Thrifty. Wide eyed and bushy tailed. I hand my credit card over to cover incidentals and so forth. Remember, I had already paid for the car, this was just so they could put a hold on a certain amount. Credit was fine, my limit had tons of room. It didn’t swipe correctly. My card couldn’t read. I take a look at the magnetic stripe and I can see it’s cracking. OK, first lesson, if you’re planning to travel, make sure your credit card is in mint shape. So I ask them to use a chip instead. They don’t have a chip reader. What are we in the dark ages? OK manually type the numbers in. No sir we can’t do that. So…what are you saying? We can’t rent you a vehicle unless you have another credit card. I don’t have another credit card. I got cash and debit and one credit card. I already paid for the car!! Not reserved, not hold, I paid for the car! Fine, give me my refund and I will find another place. We can’t give you a refund? This is where I thought my hearing was going bad and I begin to heat up. Excuse me?! You can’t give me a car, and you can’t give me my money back? What is this the twilight zone? It reminded me of that Tom Hanks movie where he’s stuck in the airport because his country is overthrown during the flight and doesn’t have a citizenship. I was in no man’s land with these people. They said call customer service. I call customer service. They tell me, when you book online and prepaid, it is a third party company. Oh wow. OK, now I have to call them. I call them, sir we have to log a ticket and it’s going to take up to 30 days to resolve. Wow! I don’t have time for this shit right now. I cab to another car rental place. And guess what, my card swipes fine. WTF. Seamless, I’m on the road. OK Ravi, you asked for obstacles and hurdles, you knew you were going to get them. Maybe not right off the hop but that’s OK. Beach time.
I met someone in Iceland last year who said anytime I visit L.A. I could stay with them. So for the first 5 days, I stayed in a small shack on Hermosa Beach. Awesome. So chill. From there I toured around L.A. I visited Santa Monica, Venice Beach, downtown L.A., and Universal Studios. I would avoid downtown L.A. There’s just not enough to justify going down there. While Universal Studios is commercialized, if you haven’t done a big theme park like this, I would recommend it. My boy Dustin who was filling up the brochures and sweeping up the food area told me all the places to check out in there. The Harry Potter stuff, the cool rides, etc. But I ended up seeing this Dustin guy just as I was leaving, and he asked about what I did. Turns out, I had missed the most important and best aspect of Universal. The Studio tour! So I turned around and went on the hour tour. Totally worth it, especially as a movie buff. Awesome! I can’t believe I was about to walk out of this park and not have done the most important thing. Goes to show you that asking people and talking really helps.
Next, I took a road trip down to San Diego for the day. My Bumble and Tinder were going off but not like crazy. I just wanted to keep options open to locals who would chat and meet up and even direct me on the cool places to visit. So one from San Diego messages me to do a hike at the Torrey Pines National Reserve. Something I wouldn’t have even figured out because I was winging this whole trip. Boom, I do it. It was epic. Thank you random person who I’ll never meet but was kind enough to give me tips!
Back to L.A. for another day before the road trip truly started. I haven’t booked any places to stay for the remainder of the trip. I had that luxury to start my trip, set up home base, at a free place on Hermosa Beach. But now I needed to start looking at places to crash. This is perfect. I wanted to feel that nervousness. The notion that I may need to sleep in my car if I have to. Turns out Walmart allows for sleeping in your car overnight in some of their locations. I didn’t know that at the time.
I don’t want the bulk of this blog to go on about all the things I saw. The road trip itself was my favorite part of the trip. Hearst Castle, Big Sur coastal drive, and of course Yosemite. The Big Sur drive is just incredible. I stopped every few minutes for photos, as you’ll see down below. Yosemite was the most breathtaking thing I’ve ever seen. Iceland was amazing, but you really just drive around on a ring road around the country and sight see. Yosemite, you need to put in work. Just remember, it still takes an hour from the gate to actually get into the park. Parking is insanity, it took me an hour to find parking. Hiking up 10km and down again in scorching heat, sometimes rugged terrain was probably the most grueling thing I’ve ever done. My legs were jello, but the pay off was worth it. Again, you’ll see below. All I had in the day was a few protein bars and water. My fingers were tingling hiking down the trails I was dehydrated and possibly felt a little heatstroke. 2L water is not enough for the day. I recommend 4L. It’s also another hour drive to get up the mountain to Glacier point to see the Half Dome. Not to mention it took me 2 hours to drive to the gate from the previous city I was staying early morning. It’s OK, I had Kendrick Lemar, Milky Chance, and Goldroom on repeat. Spotify was the best $10 a month I ever spent. So, I’m exhausted, tired, legs jello, heatstroke possibly, dehydrated a bit, and starving. Totally worth it. But my hands are 10 and 2 the whole way down this crazy bendy curvy road at night. Don’t text Ravi, and keep your eyes open. Driving down a mountain at night is pretty terrifying. I almost hit two deer. It was 10pm by the time I actually got out of the park. I find a dive Mexican restaurant. I’ve never seen myself eat so fast and messy. And I remember…Oh shit, I don’t have a place to stay tonight. I jump onto this restaurant’s office WiFi that they let me use. Anywhere in the park vicinity is an arm and a leg. Like $220 USD. No thanks. I jump onto a website and book some $80 motel an hour away. It happens to be on the way to San Francisco which is my next and final stop. I finally make it to this shit place. Wow. It looks like Bate’s Motel. No lie. The attendant doesn’t even let me into the foyer, I deal with them through a glass window. Is this place safe I ask. Her answer was “Well….” Umm ok. No problem. I pretty much wanted to face some adversity on this trip, to get scared, so this is what I get. Get into the room, there are stains on the carpet, it’s likely blood but I’m not sure. I lock the door. The lock looks as if it has been busted up before. Great! I lean a chair against the door knob for added protection. The A/C was turned off so it was a sauna for a bout 2 hours until it cooled it down. By then it’s 2am. Safe to say I didn’t sleep well, but that’s OK! Because my car is still there in the morning! Although, missing a hubcap. I hope to god they don’t notice that when I return the car. Side story, always do a full point check of a rental car. Take pics. What’s funny is, no one came out with me when I rented the car. They just said go pick one from the lot and have a great day. Anyway, no charges for the hubcap. Thank god. I’m on my way to San Francisco, get lost a couple times. I used a GPS I purchased from a store a head of time. Never pay for the GPS at a rental company, it’s like $15 a day! If I had taken that I would have spent over $150 on a GPS rental. It’s cheaper to buy one and use your own! What I found was GPS sucks and Google Maps is amazing. I spent a lot of time bouncing between both in order to save data charges. I burned through my data pretty quick, and I have 10gb!
I book an AirBnb that morning at some Starbucks Wifi I siphoned from their parking lot. I did this on the fly, and would be staying there 3 nights just outside San Francisco. Wonderful family. All into the eco-friendly-organic-eating lifestyle. That’s my jam. I’m still so tired and it’s about 4pm, but I plow through. We have to go see the Golden Gate because it’s going to be cloudy all weekend. I make it for the sunset. As I’m driving to dinner somewhere, my car completely dies driving down a hill downtown San Francisco. Like engine off, warning lights light up like a Christmas Tree. Holy fuck. I pull the steering wheel to veer off to the side. Luckily the engine starts but I’m not driving this anymore! If it happens on the highway, I’m toast! Exchange cars at SFO Airport and just head back to the Airbnb for the evening. Adversity.
San Francisco is my kind of place. I loved the beaches in L.A., but for living, wow, such a cool vibe. Interesting, the nightlife scene in San Francisco is based on the “dive restaurant/bar”.
What I learned is that I don’t have to be afraid of traveling alone or checking out a new city anymore. I don’t have to feel overwhelmed with planning or organizing because I don’t really have to. While it would be beneficial in some ways, it’s equally fun winging it. I had thirst for traveling. And now that I took a sip and it was delicious, I’m ready for more. More adventures in general, in all aspects of my life. Being able to do this means more than just being able to book another trip. It means I know I can overcome other challenges, and follow through.
I’ve always been a man with words. I could talk the talk. Now, I can walk the walk. I’ve always been a dreamer. And now, whenever I’m California Dreaming, I can say I was there.