Gilligan and his companions were only supposed to have departed on a three-hour tour. Remember the chorus to the theme song? “A three hour tour, a three hour tour…” Those words have been stuck in my head since arriving in Los Angeles. I’ll tell you why.
I’ve given myself five weeks to visit friends in D.C., stay nine days with friends in southern Virginia, and then train to Flagstaff and visit the Grand Canyon, train to Los Angeles and drive to Berkeley and then Leggett to see the Redwoods, train back to Colorado Springs to rest at the foot of the Rockies, train back to Chicago to visit art galleries and baseball parks and such, and then train home to the Boston area. If you do the math you’ll find that, on average, I haven’t given myself much time to do anything. For me that’s a good thing because I often try to do everything, but now I’ve had to consolidate and actually enjoy and experience what little I’ve wanted to do. Part of what that means, though, is that my visits to L.A. and the San Francisco region were squeezed down into a couple of drive-bys. So I turned a five hour drive from L.A. Union Station to Berkeley into a seven hour drive.
A seven hour drive is not a whole lot to me, at least relative to the eight-plus hour drives I had gotten used to between D.C. and my home. But it was a lot after being rudely reminded that spring break had begun. My train to L.A. was jam-packed with college students from NAU. As I sat in the waiting room at the Flagstaff train station I noticed that I would be traveling with college students, because the room was full. When the train arrived, I walked outside and discovered that the ENTIRE platform was already populated by hundreds of students. Unbelievable. So I didn’t sleep well. And then I took as many detours as possible through the city so that I could check out the Avenue of the Stars, Hollywood Hill, and Beverly Hills, and what seemed like the entirety of West Hollywood. I also wanted to make sure that I traveled along Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, for as long as possible. All that took me an hour and a half. The seven hour drive then turned into an eight hour drive.
The extra time was worth it. Though I kept jokingly singing the Gilligan’s Island theme song to myself, the additional hours were pleasant rather than disastrously isolating, like with Gilligan. I saw the best parts of L.A., some really awesome coastline, Malibu, a crap ton of vineyards and other beautiful scenery, and about twenty different groups of cyclists (all composed of ten or more. There were lots of couples and individuals cycling as well, but I was more interested in the big groups). All in all, the thought, “This place rocks!” could have been the soundtrack to my drive rather than the Gilligan-inspired music.
After the long drive I then stayed in a luxurious Doubletree room with a Golden Gate-view in Berkeley, and then drove another three hours to Leggett, California. At the Doubletree I officially dipped my feet in my third ocean, and my path to Leggett was full of anticipation for the giant trees I was about to kneel down in front of (I would, in fact, kneel down in front of some). That drive also included a lot of super-cool scenery.
As a writer/artist I feel slightly guilty for not staying in Los Angeles for a bit. I thought of that possibility but clearly chose not to. Sorry, Hank Moody, Jonathan Quick and the Kings. But as a writer/artist in the making, I can’t help but rejoice in the knowledge that I have now literally experienced this great country from coast to coast. If experience is the warehouse of imagination and creativity, which it is, at least in part, then I have expanded my horizons sea to shining sea. Not to mention, of course, that I now am well aware of how lazy Californian drivers are. Ridiculous.
Life in Northern California reminds me a lot of Western Massachusetts and the small villages of New Hampshire and New Mexico and Texas and such, except that Northern California tries to imitate the wealth of its tourists. It’s rather spectacular. Highly recommend a visit. And though my mode of travel has been a little strange, I think I have been better off than those who fly in and then don’t really see much of anything. At the very least I have now seen a new lifestyle and character, and set of concerns and such, that should no doubt help me in making my writing more universally relatable.