America – California


“It’s [Los Angeles] mostly full of nonsense and delusion and egomania. They think they’ll be young and beautiful forever, even though most of them aren’t even young and beautiful now.”
― Christopher Hitchens

Californians oh California. When family or friends from California would come up to Washington for a visit my dad would say, “Hey, how’s the land of the fruits and nuts going?” It seemed to be a common sentiment.  To  some, California and it’s people can seem eccentric and  bizarre in comparison to the rest of the states.  The common misconception that surrounds California is: everyone has plastic surgery, fake tans and everyone is fake and a bit loony.  I would have to disagree.  I think Northerners were just jealous of Californians for years of good weather, open minded attitudes and having the ability to retire up North.

In the words of others:

“In Los Angeles, all the loose objects in the country were collected as if America had been tilted and everything that wasn’t tightly screwed down had slid into Southern California.” – Saul Bellow

“Everything is just better in California – the wine, the food, fruits and vegetables, the comforts of living. Even the instrumentalists are generous and curious. Everything is wonderful.” – Beth Anderson

“Growing up in northern California has had a big influence on my love and respect for the outdoors. When I lived in Oakland, we would think nothing of driving to Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz one day and then driving to the foothills of the Sierras the next day.” – Tom Hanks

From its majestic mountain and ocean vistas and amazing beaches to it’s constant striving to be just a little more than any other place in the world, California is the most eclectic state in the United States  and for this I love it because it makes it one of the most unique states to visit.

“Best way to live in California is to be from somewheres else.”
― Cormac McCarthyNo Country for Old Men

I had the great opportunity of teaching 1st and 2nd grade in an elementary school in San Bernardino back in 2003-2005.  My two years of living there taught me how much more it can be if given the chance.  I was able to really explore Southern Cal. I made a multitude of friends and had some really great times from Los Angeles to San Diego to San Francisco.  So here began the final stages of my cross country travels.  (June 4-15)

“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road

I started in San Francisco.  I had been to San Francisco previously but only for very short trips and I felt that I had not had the chance to really explore this amazing city.   San Francisco is huge and there is just a ton to do and so I decided to spend a few days there just walking around with my friend from high school and a day with a well-researched private tour company called “Carried Away”.  These ladies were amazing and we were able to put together a special wine and dine tour which brought us to nearly all corners of the city in a private vehicle which allowed us to stop, go or change our plans as we saw fit.  They were fantastic.

I was able to explore alone and with a friend, by foot and tour company the Castro District, Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Towers, Haight-Ashbury, Sausalito, China Town, Mission District and Union Square just to name a few areas. (Links to all the areas I visited and more)

I spent the last couple days in Los Angeles hanging out with friends in Pasadena and North Hollywood.  Both very cool districts with tons of history as well as being up and coming areas.  Which is an excellent way to explain California as a whole.

Californians oh California.  From naked runners and bikers, street performers and graffiti to reunions with friends and dental appointments.   All in all it was a great way to end my travels and yes I did leave my heart in San Francisco as well as all of the other cities I visited on this month long trip.  Enjoy.

“It was a splendid population – for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home – you never find that sort of people among pioneers – you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day – and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, “Well, that is California all over.”
― Mark TwainRoughing It

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Ameerrrriicca.. Ameeerrrriiicccaa.. God shed his grace on thee


Love your country.  Your country is the land where your parents sleep, where is spoken that language in which the chosen of your heart, blushing, whispered the first word of love; it is the home that God has given you that by striving to perfect yourselves therein you may prepare to ascend to him.  ~Giuseppe Mazzini

When I taught English at Hanyang University in Korea one of my favorite assignments was focused on home and country.  I would start the class by asking, “How would you feel if you were told you would not ever be able to come back to your country, to the land of your birth?” I was always a little surprised at the student’s reactions.  Several even indicated that it would not bother them at all.  Those sentiments surprised me a little. I love my international travel for sure and I have chosen jobs that require me to work mostly overseas, but my home and my heart will always be in the United States.

When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea.  He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.  ~Adlai Stevenson

No matter how far and wide I travel, my base, my essential roots will always be in the good ‘ol U.S. of A.  I know the United States has its faults and we as a people have our disagreements but this land is the land that I love.  We have freedoms and responsibilities that do not exist in other parts of the world.  We have the potential to do just about anything we want.  Other’s strive to go to the U.S. simply to start a new life and our country was built on the people from every part of the world who succeeded.

I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.  ~Abraham Lincoln

My personal philosophy is that one should know as much as possible about their own country either before or after they start touring the world.  I’ve taken that to heart and through chance and circumstance I have been fortunate enough to have been able to travel to or at least through approximately 42 of our beautiful states and 3 of the 5 U.S. territories.  I have lived in Washington State, Washington D.C. Virginia, Indiana and California over the years and loved each state in very different ways.

I have driven around the United States completely one time (from California to Washington to New York to Florida and back to California, it took me 3 weeks and I had my own children and a neighbor’s child with me) and I have made 2 other trips nearly around the U.S.  I have driven from Washington State to New York and back approximately 5 times in my life; from Virginia to Washington and back about 3 times.  I have travelled Route 66 and through the Black Hills in the Dakotas, the Redwood Forest, the Pacific Coast Highway and Glacier National Park. I have travelled across country several times over the past 20 years on Amtrak’s California Zephyr, The Capital Corridor and The Empire Builder.

My favorite thing about the United States?  Lots of Americans, one America.  ~Val Saintsbury

All I am saying is that from these national trips I have grown to love and understand the U.S. and it’s people on a much deeper level.  I have learned acceptance of others ideas and ways of living and a humbleness that comes from being presented with such a grand vista of people and their places each so different from the other.  America the Beautiful – from the mountains to the prairies, from shore to shining shore, this land is my land this land is your land indeed.

My next several blogs will be focused on a photo journal of my most recent coast to coast trip.  I hope you enjoy.