25+ adventures in California
Chapter 1: LA
We take pictures and post them like crazy, we walk down the streets and see American flags everywhere, we tell all the Uber drivers, salesmen and everyone we meet the same “we’re turning 25 and making a road trip around California” story, but it’s still kinda hard to realize that we are actually here and this all is happening.
LA in one day plan went well: dreamy Santa Monica, Venice Beach freak show, Hollywood and Latin Music Awards (almost saw Pitbull tho), Griffith Observatory and magnificent LA night view that we just couldn’t leave for 3 hours. The Perch rooftop bar in Downtown with live music and casual-fancy vibe.
While Lana del Rey is singing “I’ve been out on that open road”, we’re on the bus to San Diego watching the beauty of Californian nature from the window and seriously freezing under that AC. Couldn’t care less about my 25th birthday tomorrow as I’ve already gotten the best present possible.
Chapter 2: San Diego
San Diego was above any expectations. The city is so different: urbanistic downtown with skyscrapers, busy harbor, Ocean Beach sunsets, OCEAN BEACH SUNSETS, sweaty hiking in Torrey Pines for the best views (Yosemite is waiting tho), huge Zoo with pandas, koalas and other buddies. Fancy Coronado area with perfect houses, funky Gaslamp quarter and local craft beer. Hard to imagine that this all fuses in a single city, however, there’s one thing all over the place: an ultimate chill vibe. Even one of the worst hangovers in my life couldn’t change the way I felt about San Diego — it is the California I’ve always imagined.
We met Paolo and David, local guys who represent their city perfectly — cool, chilled, easy-going and perfect to spend time with.
I’m sure I’ll be back one day.
Chapter 3: The road
The drive from San Diego to Las Vegas took pretty much the whole day. Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National preserve: driving through these places I found it hard to believe that one state can be so diverse and beautiful. And then there was Vegas. An odd, glowing, loud, wicked and addictive place in a middle of a desert, on the border of Nevada state. We could see the bright lights of Las Vegas from miles away, so weirdly tempting yet frightening after hundreds of miles of deserted land.
Chapter 4: Quick detour to Nevada
Vegas, oh Vegas. I understand and do not understand why visitors (from Europe and Asia too) come back here year after year, why gamblers come here and stay for months. Vegas smells like fun, money, alcohol and delusive happiness. The parties are the craziest, glory is the sweetest, dresses are the nicest and drinks are the strongest. “Anything helps: water, leftovers, money” — some gamblers actually loose it up to sitting on the streets begging for help. Everything is a show, every inch surprises with a ridiculous amount of money spent on: The Eiffel tower, Fountain show, Caesar’s Palace (did Caesar live there?). The casinos in Vegas earn $3000 per minute though.
Morning by the pool with a refreshing mojito in my hand and “California gurls” playing loud. A night in one of the biggest and fanciest clubs I’ve ever been to. Someone’s wins, someone’s losses. Vegas, oh Vegas.
Chapter 5: Nature
Californian nature is so grand, so rich, so diverse and striking, that I found it hard to believe my eyes. You see this beauty, but refuse to realize that it’s happening right in front of you: stretched deserts and dunes of the Death Valley are changed by yellow fields and grasslands, then mountains and cliffs, pines and sequoias, eucalyptuses, lakes, the ocean. And then there is Yosemite. My mind still cannot process the Yosemite part, was it for real? Do these MacBook wallpapers actually exist? Too good to be for real.
California 1 route that goes by the ocean through the whole Golden State is something I’ll see in my dreams from now on.
Eagles, seals, deer, coyotes, squirrels in the wild. Koalas, pandas, flamingos and other cool guys in the Zoo. Not a single bear though.
Chapter 6: Palo Alto and SF
City by the Bay was always somehow one of the most important destinations for me. It’s one of the California symbols, yet how different it is from most of the Golden State. Gloomy, foggy, funky. The next second, it’s sunny, fresh and empowering. Hipsters, fashionistas, artists, bums — the city totally gave me the St. Petersburg vibe.
Just one night out in Palo Alto and I’ve met several people working for Tesla and Apple. And got to see the inside of the Stanford fraternity house, bucket list stuff huh? I have to say that Stanford education shows, we really enjoyed company of 20-something guys we’d accidentally met: intelligent, sharp, preppy yet cool.
Chapter 7: People
There’s one thing about Californians (and maybe Americans in general) –no matter whether it’s a bum from Venice beach, an Uber driver, server at the diner, tattoo artist (shoutout to Jake) or gold mine owner (shoutout to Steven) – everyone is so open, friendly and easy going, that you constantly want to meet people, to talk, to listen. There’s nothing weird about expressing an opinion out loud, giving compliments to a stranger and starting a conversation while in a Walgreens line. When in the US you immediately become this kind of person yourself: smiling to strangers, engaging in conversations and forgetting how introverted you are normally.
There’s preconception among Russians (which I’ve never shared) that Americans are not the smartest people. Well, surprise, there are smart and less smart people to be found in every country. The people we’ve met were incredibly interesting and versatile, sharp-witted and educated. Open-minded travelers, musicians (shoutout to Paolo and David), professional poker players who know how to have fun (Phillip and Pedro hi), Justin, who just got out of jail, and that one Lyft driver girl who was so overly excited about us going to Yosemite and San Francisco. The dancers I’ve been battling on dance-floors around California. The guy from a local TV channel in Mammoth Lakes who was so excited to meet travelers from out of town while watching a hockey game in a bar with his friends. We’ve met dozens of people and every one of them is an essential part of our adventure now. Because you get to know the country through its people.
We’ve spent 2 weeks in California, we turned 25 there, 2000 miles were driven in our rented Chevy babe, we walked 152 kilometers across the cities of the Golden State (and the Strip), we’ve stopped in 9 cities, hiked in 5 national parks, seen 2 states, 3 weddings and even won $20 in Vegas.
This trip for me was the most expected of all and it turned out to be my greatest adventure so far that couldn’t have gone any better. Every second, every emotion and every experience will be much remembered.