Matthew Gates http://notetoservices.com 15m 3,752
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The California Journey Begins
I was born and raised in New Jersey and occasionally left the state for a trip to Virginia or North Carolina every summer, where my Dad grew up as a child. During my childhood, computers were just starting to enter the home, and with that, the birth of the Internet. With the Internet came the ability to “meet” new people. By meet, I mean, talk to on the Internet. A great majority of them came from California.
It sparked a huge interest in making a trip to California, but I never actually got there as a child, or a teenager, or even in my entrance into adulthood, nor throughout my 20s. I had began visiting many other places, including living in Chicago and Israel for a while. Still, my dream to visit California never died. It only grew stronger. There was something about the appeal of California which made me feel as if I needed to visit. California was in plenty of movies, commercials, and many of my gamer and online friends lived in California.
After a bunch of life happenings – college, jobs, and moves – one job had moved me out to the western United States, which gave me access to the entire west. I had traveled up and down the eastern coast, toured parts of the mid-west, but the west remained largely a mystery for me, and only what a map of the United States or movies could show me. When the day for moving finally came, I hopped into my car, after packing my life into the backseat and the trunk, and I took off, driving cross-country.
For many, this is a major event, and it certainly was for me. For others, specifically truckers, it is their job, and they do it everyday, gone for weeks at a time, before seeing family. I have since grown accustomed to truckers on the road, and while I have never met any of them personally, they are a comfort on the road. Trucks from hundreds of different companies delivering goods all throughout the United States.
It is still far cheaper to pay a man to drive across the United States to make a delivery than it is to put everything on a plane and fly it off. Truckers are common on nearly every major highway in the United States and are under-appreciated workers who keep the world going around without a second thought from the general public. When driving, especially long distances, it becomes comforting to see truckers, who are usually generous on the road, keeping to the right. Along the way, depending on how far you drive, you can see hundreds of trucks pulled to the side of the road, with the occupant taking a nap or sleeping, as they could not continue on. Better to be safe and sleep than to drive drowsy.
As I had grown accustomed to the west, I would travel farther and farther distances, making my way further west, in separate trips through New Mexico, to Colorado, around the border of Utah, into Arizona, and Nevada, and Texas, and finally, my beloved long-awaited state of California. As I drove this time, Led Zeppelin’s words ached in my heart. What awaited in California, I really had no idea.
I am not your average traveler. I don’t stay at hotels or motels. I don’t stop and eat at any restaurants. I don’t visit places to go shopping. Instead, I sleep in my car and I travel with peanut butter and water, only stopping for bathroom and gas. As far as after I have reached my destination, aside from knowing what I want to see, if there are specific things to see or do, I only make plans to the extent of getting to my destination. I usually just get up and go. What awaits me is and what I do when I get there is a part of the journey.
Driving to California
Other than my credit card being denied while filling up at a gas station, and my forgetting to call the credit card company to let them know I was taking a week-long trip across the western United States. I don’t have too much to tell on the drive there, other than the fact that when I travel, I do it at night. Since I am an insomniac, I normally leave for my destination around midnight. This has several benefits including: avoiding traffic, avoiding any cop cars that might be out (not that I break the law), and having the peace and quiet of the road. The sun also tends to make me more tired so I am able to stay awake better while driving at night than during the day, so most of my trips begin at night. This leaves nothing to the imagination: driving on I-40 or I-25, you experience nothing but truckers and complete darkness on either side. I can usually drive until I do end up exhausted, usually between 5 and 7 AM, and by that time, I need to pull over to take a quick nap.
As I arrived in California, around 10 AM, to even get into the state and to see the first signs of town life, you must drive for at least a hundred miles through desert. On television, you get to see the city life and the coastal life, but no one ever prepares you for the seemingly endless road of desert. My first encounter with a human in California was when I stopped at a rest area, about 20 miles from a place called Barstow.
Although I had to pee, a man approached me and asked me if I had a few minutes. I was preparing for his lecture on telling me that I needed Jesus in my life, or get me into his car and somehow murder me, but neither were a realistic situation. I informed him that I was in no rush and was on a journey without a destination. After I went pee, he told me that he had been stranded at the rest area for the night until now, which was noon. No one who stopped at the rest area offered to help him nor had the time to help him. I asked him what he needed: the battery power from my car to jumpstart his car.
For me, I had time to spare and even offered to drive him the 20 miles into town if his car did not work. I gave him the jumpstart and he got his car running long enough to get into town. He offered to buy me lunch if I followed his car into Barstow. I did and we had lunch at Denny’s. During this time, we talked about our lives, and what we did for work. He was actually an electrical mechanic.
Perfect! My driver-side window had been broken for months and would not roll down! I had to keep the passenger window open for fresh air! After letting him know it was an electrical issue, and at least two hours of labor, he was able to cut out the wires, replace them with new ones, and he fixed my car! Originally, I had been given a quote of at least $80 just to look at the problem. He had done it for free.
To him, it was a big deal because I spent 10 minutes to give him a jumpstart so he could get to town, which wasn’t a big deal to me. To me, it was a big deal because my window had been broken for months, and while I could have easily taken it to a shop to get fixed, I just did not want to spend $200 or $300 trying to fix a window, which wasn’t a big deal to him. We exchanged numbers and he said if I ever needed a mechanic to give him a call and ask for any advice I needed. Just as he feels in debt to me, I feel just the same, and offered any advice about anything, except of course, automobiles.
My Arrival in Los Angeles
Unfortunately, I did not have a welcome party, a greeting, and I was hit with a ton of traffic immediately. For those that live in Los Angeles or even in California, you already know how insane the traffic is. It’s a part of life to you. If you live outside California, nothing can even compare to that type of traffic, except for parts of Chicago and New York, and occasionally the parkway in New Jersey. I have driven across the United States, through rush hour, construction, and traffic accidents, but there is only mystery to California traffic. It happens for no apparent reason, and everyone just deals with it. Luckily, through most of my time in California, my handy dandy GPS with detour button managed to get me out of traffic many times.
Driving around Los Angeles, I was already exhausted and just looking for a place to park and sleep for the night. I ended up in downtown LA and really felt it was best I did not stay within the city. Any parking spots were paid parking, so I decided to leave and go to Hollywood, Sunset Blvd., and Bel Air. While driving around Sunset Boulevard, I did find several parking spots around the silent mansions. This place was magical, and never a place I could ever afford, but I knew who lived in these places: Directors, Actors, Lawyers, etc., or the families of celebrities. I spent at least two hours driving around, mesmerized by the the mansions I saw. This area, it seemed, was the safest place anyone could be, and yet I did not feel safe. Average guy in a rich neighborhood? I knew that a cop could easily discover me in my car, so I decided to leave the area.
I went back to Hollywood, and drove around for at least a half hour, finally finding a free place to settle down in a suburban neighborhood. I slept there until morning. Once morning arrived, I headed to Santa Monica, found meter parking, and spent at least 2 hours walking around and exploring the beach and the boardwalk. This would be the first time in my life that I got to put my feet into the Pacific Ocean. Afterwards, I drove up to Malibu, driving around, stumbling into the central area of Malibu, with Starbucks, and plenty of other stores.
I stopped in Starbucks to charge my laptop and get a drink. A homeless kid sitting in there asked if I could buy him a drink, and so I did. We got to talking and I found out that he was living out of his car, by choice, taking jobs here and there, as a freelancer for graphic design and marketing. It was nice to make a connection and possibly someone I could rely on for future freelance work.
After Malibu, I got to watch the gorgeous sunset set over the Pacific Ocean. I grew up on the East Coast, so I was used to seeing the sun rise over a body of ocean, but I never got to see it set over an ocean. This was really amazing to me, it was setting in the West over a body of ocean!
I headed down to San Diego, stopping in Carlsbad and Oceanside, where a childhood friend of mine, who I had lost touch with lived. Although we had made plans in advance to meet up, it did not happen, and I moved on, sleeping at San Diego zoo for the night. Once morning came, I got on line to get into the San Diego zoo, when a woman approached me, “You no pay here.” I said, “What?” She repeated, “No pay, I have extra ticket.” And she handed me a ticket so I avoided paying the $50 to get into the zoo. I did have to pay for my tour ticket around the zoo, but it was well worth the $13.50. I love zoos and I managed to see just about everything at the San Diego zoo, spending about 4 hours there.
I rushed off to visit my dad’s navy ship, the USS Midway, when he served on it from 1965 – 1966. It was turned into a museum, and attracts thousands of people a day. It is a gorgeous ship, a ship with a rich history, being both a destroyer and a savior of many human lives. You can continue to look up the USS Midway, as I do not want to get my facts wrong. I was just happy to see all the planes, the functionality, and the ship itself.
Afterwards, I headed back to Los Angeles to meet several cousins, whom I had never met or even known about until I was older. I was in California, so why not meet family? Once we met up, I found out they were certainly an amazing group, after having walked around for about an hour, and having coffee at Starbucks. I cannot wait to see them again, and now have a reason to visit California once again!
Once I was done meeting with them, I headed to my next destination: Santa Barbara. The drive took longer than I expected, but I managed to make it. The long strip was beautiful and the town itself was amazing. It went for miles and miles, before I turned around and stopped for Fish & Chips, and then I took a nap in my car, which was free, but had a 2-hour limit. Once I was done, I headed to the beach, and walked around for a while. I started to take a picture of a homeless man’s creation: a mermaid. He told me that if I wanted to take pictures, I’d have to pay him. I agreed and ran to my car, where a cop was just pulling up to write me a ticket because I had not realized I was illegally parked.
Luckily for me, I hopped in my car and drove away, and the cop did not follow. I went back to the homeless man and gave him all the change I had, and told him the story, thanking him. I definitely would not have had a great experience had I gotten a ticket. That cop car was my queue to leave Santa Barbara.
Next, I headed to Monterey, which is just 2 hours shy of San Francisco. I arrived on time, exhausted, and managed to find free parking by the beach side, where I slept for the night. Monterey was certainly colder than anything further south. I had planned to go to the Aquarium, but found the beachfront more enticing. The Aquarium was filled with classes of elementary students that day, and I just did not want to deal with all of that noise. The beachfront was so enticing that I walked for about 3 to 5 miles and back. I had friends up near Freemont, so once I got back to my car, I headed to see them, stopping at a pizza place to visit a gamer friend I had never met. It was interesting to meet her and finally put a name to the face, as she was gorgeous. I continued on to Freemont, where I had dinner with more friends I had never met before.
After we had spent dinner and some time talking, I decided to drive to San Francisco at night, wanting to avoid day traffic. After what seemed like forever, I arrived at the San Francisco bridge, finding parking at the visitor center and sleeping the night. The next morning, I walked the entire bridge and back, taking many photos along the way. This bridge was beautiful, but it was slightly depressing to see help lines and knowing that many people lost their lives jumping from vulnerable parts of the bridge.
Once I got back, I decided to head to the Meir Woods, but unfortunately, it was a 3 mile walk because so many people were visiting that day, and I was just too exhausted to hike 3 miles to take a hike. I decided to stay in my car and continue driving, when I arrived at Meir beach, which was probably the farthest point of the West Coast to the Pacific. After Meir Woods, I headed to Lake Tahoe in Nevada to visit another friend of mine.
The drive took about 3 or 4 hours and I arrived to see a gorgeous huge lake. I stopped at an area, took panoramas and digital photos with my iPhone. I was in Lake Tahoe, California. I continued driving, crossing the California-Nevada border, and arrived to see my friend, Max, who I had not seen in years! It was awesome to see him and we spent the night talking about old times, my siblings, school, and the like. He showed me around town, we ate buffalo wings, and by the time we got back to his place, I was exhausted and passed out. The next day, I would be going home.
Although I had made plans to have breakfast with Max, I was on a schedule, and leaving later would result in my arriving too late or early the next morning, as my drive would take about 16 hours, and I wanted to start as soon as possible. I knocked on his door, but Max slept in, and I had to go! I later called Max and thanked him for his hospitality.
My Drive Home
I had a 16 hour drive ahead of me and began early, leaving around 8:30 AM. While I had been off to a good start, I had pulled over to the side of the road to get a look at the view, going down the Lake Tahoe mountainous area. Before I took off again, I took a drink of water, and a cop had pulled up, asking me if everything was okay. My heart stopped a few beats, and I apologized to him for parking on the shoulder of the road, but that I was just stopped to enjoy the scenery and get a drink of water. He said that there was no issue and he was just routinely checking on the roads to make sure they were okay, and that I could stay there all day if I wanted to. Of course, I couldn’t do that, I was only an hour into my trip!
I headed off again and then it began to downpour, for what would follow me throughout my entire trip down Eastern California, through Nevada, and into Arizona and New Mexico. I made several stops, hoping to get closer to home, as gas prices were high. The highest I had seen it was around $5.00 a gallon, which normal prices at the time where I lived were about $2.30. I wish I could say that the drive was filled with amazing fun-filled events, but the driving is usually just long and boring. The sights are amazing, but mostly, you think about who you can call to kill some of your time. I called my mother, my father, my Uncle, my brother, my sister, my fiancee. After all was said and done, I think I had only managed to drive an hour and a half.
I rarely ran into traffic, but there were some towns that were 25 mph for miles, so getting through those towns, with lights, definitely took some time. A few pit stops and trying to find the cheapest gas areas also took time to find. I was able to make it to Las Vegas while the sun was setting, and while the thought to stop was in my mind, I kept driving on through the state. My GPS was already estimating that I would arrive at 3 AM in the morning, though I was able to beat this time and arrive around 2 AM in the morning. The speed limit throughout the west is 75 mph, but most people drive 80 mph, which is what I was going the entire time. As I said in the beginning of my trip, I set on cruise control and let the car keep the speed for me.
Finally, around midnight, I made it back to my home state, with about 2 hours to go, and I was finally happy to see cheap gas again. Unfortunately, as the time went by, so did my energy. I was exhausted, having driven for about 15 hours, I was hallucinating, talking to people that weren’t there, and seeing things that didn’t exist. I had to keep stopping, getting out of the car into the cold, and peeing on the side of the road to wake myself up. I managed to do this for at least 20 miles, before I couldn’t do it anymore. I succumbed to my exhaustion, and I passed out for about a half hour.
I was still on time, not that I had any set schedule or rush, but I had just wanted to get home and make it into bed to lie next to my fiancee, who I had not seen in a week. I eventually and finally made it home an hour later, gave my kisses, and passed out, though the next day I had to go back to work.
I had accomplished my childhood dream of seeing, visiting, and traveling through California. I had accomplished my drive across the United States from coast to coast, leaving from the Jersey shore, and driving to the pacific coast of Santa Monica pier. Although there were probably some places that I did not get to see and should have visited, I had a wonderful time in California, had some close calls that could have turned out worse than they were, but overall, I loved California. I could have done without the traffic and anxiety that came with it, but I enjoyed waking up each day in a new place and a new sunrise to show me the gorgeous scenery of California.
The drive-through experience was probably a one-time deal, but I have since flown to several other places in California, and plan to continue visiting new places. There is a solace in driving alone, experiencing the road, feeling like it is where you belong, going from place to place, but it is quite hard to imagine what it would be like to do for a living, which millions of truck drivers do every year. This has been my experience with my adventure in California, and I hope it has been an inspiration for you to follow your dreams of traveling!