I left Tustin Sunday morning and listened to Lacuna Coil on my way to Beverly Hills, where I was going to visit Ivy (ivyisgilgamesh) and her new baby! She was breastfeeding when I arrived, so Nick let me in. Their new apartment was pretty sweet. I was surprised to see that Nick had Kabuki: Circle of Blood! It was a rather beat-up copy, though. And he had a Powers trade signed by Oeming. And Bruce Wayne: Murderer? Ivy said that any cool comics were Nick's.
I was kind of zonked from staying up late three nights in a row, but Ivy entertained me by talking about how horrible Twilight was. Then we discussed potential places to move. Ivy thought Salt Lake City was beautiful, but Mormons were scary.
Dahlia arrived around 11ish. She had trouble finding the apartment, so I went out and waved her down. Ivy liked Dahlia, as people tend to.
Nick was very cliché and said that the baby had completely changed his life and he couldn't remember what life was like before. It's a cliché because it's true!
I needed to grab a fairly quick lunch in the area. Factor's Famous Deli was suggested. Hey, it was famous! It was pretty easy to get to. I just went up West Pico and there it was on the left. I parked on Elm, where many other cars were parked.
Dahlia had beat me there, though, and Factor's was really busy, so we went to Nagila instead. There, I ordered a falafel, and I was handed a small traffic cone for my table. My receipt told me to have a Nagila day. My notes say "Dahlia!" which means that it was just nice to spend time with Dahlia. She gave me directions to my next rendezvous from her iPhone.
When I returned to my car, there was something on the windshield. It was a motherfucking parking ticket. How? What? How? THREE EXCELLENT QUESTIONS.
I looked at the nearest sign. Mon-Sat, 9-6, yeah, that's what I expected, but it was Sunday. Then there was a phrase I'd never seen before: "No parking any other time." Wait, what? How does that make any sense? There were lots of other cars parked. Only some of them had tickets. What the fuck! Was there some sort of permit? GODDAMMIT. MY LAST HOUR IN LOS ANGELES AND I GET A FUCKING TICKET. I was only parked for maybe forty-five minutes, and the ticket was issued at most ten minutes before I reached my car. Bye bye, $55.
So when I reached the Beverly Hills shopping area and saw that the parking garage offered two hours of free parking, I was skeptical, but there appeared to be no catch at all! I didn't even need to get validation. It was just...free. How sweet. Could I exchange one hour of free parking to get rid of my ticket? I wasn't going to use it all.
So it's like this. My current potential future wife was the daughter of a childhood friend of my mom's. We had e-mailed a bit in December, and I was not that excited. She was rather enthusiastic, and I am boring. She lived in L.A., so it made sense to try to see her while I was down there, but she was out of town that week. While I was in Tucson, though, she texted me and let me know she was back. I called her on my way to Tustin to set up a face-to-face meeting.
I met her in Coupa Cafe. She said I looked just like my mom, which was not the best way to get in my good graces. She gave me a hug because even though we didn't know each other, our moms were friends. And apparently we had already met twice before. She had been introduced to me at a couple weddings, and I had looked like I did not want to be there, which sounded about right. I had no memory of meeting her, though.
"Do you love irony?" she said, commenting on my Glarkware shirt.
"I heart it!"
I was still pretty zonked, so I was not going to be the best company, and it may have colored my impression of her. We talked about my road trip, and she suggested—nay, demanded—that I go on a European backpacking adventure. She gave me some tips on how to do such a thing.
"What's your favorite cartoon?" she said.
I am bad with favorites. "...Avatar: The Last Airbender?"
She gave me kind of a blank stare. Something about the stare felt judge-y, I don't know. "I was going to say Rugrats." Well, I did like Rugrats too, and we agreed that Rugrats: All Growed Up should not have existed. She also watched Dragonball Z, but I guess I had misread before because she didn't read the manga or any sort of comics. Ah well, that would have been cool.
My mom called twice in a row during our conversation. I did not pick up and say, "Look, I don't think you are ever going to find me a girl I like, so you might as well quit now." This was at least the first girl who might like me for whatever reason.
She had to go take her brother out for his birthday, so we parted ways. I was still not terribly excited, but maybe I should just lower my standards.
Now it was really time to get the hell out of here. If the city would let me. I hit heavy traffic on 101, and I told the GPS to avoid it. It took me off the highway for a bit and down Ventura, and when I got back on 101, the traffic was moving! Brilliant!
Soon, though, I exited for gas and had to pay $3.08 instead of the $2.99 I could have paid if I'd filled up in Beverly Hills. I bought a Coke at the gas station.
"I need to get that shirt," said the attendant. "I like irony too."
I had brought chips to snack on for the trip but had not made use of them, so I munched on chips and drank Coke to keep myself awake. At least the drive was very pretty.
Once I began driving along the coast, it was beautiful. On my left, the ocean. On my right, mountains. It was like the mountains were protecting the coastal towns. How sweet of them.
I passed a cop with a radar gun and just knew that I was going to get a speeding ticket. I had passed so many cops over the last two weeks, and I had avoided a speeding ticket. Today had to be the day. It wasn't.
I exited into Santa Barbara and made my way to modlin's house. I knocked on the door. modlin opened it. I think she looked almost exactly how I pictured her. In her house were also her guy, D, and her two cats. I got my stuff and put it in the guest room, which was also a storage room.
modlin's two cats were of opposite temperaments. Pagan growled at me and tried to bite. But he was not really violent; he pawed at me rather than clawing. Luna was much more mellow.
What was there to see in Santa Barbara? Well, we could go down to Shoreline Park. There we could see the ocean and Channel Island, where there were dinosaurs. Maybe. Also, pirate ships!
Okay, they were really oil rigs, but shh. Pirate ships.
There was also a hazy shape far away in the water that looked like it was a submarine. Or Nessie! But we thought it was really a jet ski, which was less fun. There were no whales, either! Sometimes there were. There was a sunset, though.
I felt self-conscious taking pictures around modlin, who took such beautiful pictures. I didn't think mine could compare.
We walked along the park. There were many little kids and dogs. Some of the kids were on kickboards and bikes, and we tried to avoid running into them. Or the other way around. As we talked, it got dark, and the pirate ships turned their lights on. It was like they were having a party!
We returned to the Prius and noticed the lights were on, as if joining the pirate ship party. D claimed the Prius turned the lights on when you approached it because it was just that welcoming, and he tried to demonstrate this feature but failed, as the fob only activated the lights when he was really close. So we had probably just left the lights on. Oops.
Next we headed into downtown Santa Barbara, which was...interesting. It was on State St., which reminded me of Ann Arbor, and it was essentially an upscale outdoor mall. Where a city ordinance decreed that all buildings had to be in pueblo style. Even McDonald's.
We walked down State St., and my hosts told me stories. Also, modlin argued that drawing pretty pictures in the foam added to the quality of coffee, whereas D believed it was not a contributory factor. People really like their coffee.
We passed a store that was either on the ins or the outs, modlin couldn't tell. It was called Crazy Shirts, so I had to go in and ask the girl, "What's so crazy about the shirts?" Well, they used dyes made from materials like money or coffee. Crazy!
We also passed someone with a lot of snakes. From the snake shelter or something. I declined the offer to hold one.
Our dinner destination was Carlitos, which had a man playing the pan-flute outside, so we sat outside. By the heat lamp, though. The menu had December Specials. I wondered if they were still valid. Chips and salsa were interesting here: the chips were in all different colors, and they provided both regular salsa and black bean-and-corn salsa.
modlin had discovered this place when she had had a craving for huevos rancheros and no other place had had it. Now that I thought about it, I guessed I didn't normally see it on Mexican restaurant menus. There were a few tempting choices, but on this nothing-under-$10 menu, huevos rancheros was one of the cheapest options at $11.50, so I ordered that in honor of Logan Echolls.
Aw, it came with a random strawberry. And a crapload of cilantro. You can see that I spent five minutes picking it all off. Otherwise, my meal was very tasty.
modlin and D were both astronomers! She studied galaxies and he studied neutron stars. They traveled a lot to different observatories to get good looks at the sky. They were already planning their next trip. modlin was so cool she had been selected to be on an NSF grant committee.
I paid for modlin as per protocol, and we walked back down State St. toward Metro, a comic book store I'd seen on the way. But they had just closed! Alas. It had been neat visiting comic book stores in different cities.
I. Just. The word I was looking for was incongruous.
Well, now I had seen all of Santa Barbara! So we went back home. They believed that I was okay to park on the street, but I could park in the driveway if I wanted to be safe. Yeeeeah, after the parking ticket, I wasn't going to take any chances.
The bathroom was interesting. The toilet was too big for the door, so they had cut a hole in the door that allowed it to open. It was really amusing. I should have taken a picture.
modlin and D got on their laptops, so I suggested we put on her mix, All Around the World, which was my most clever playlist, as it simulated a westerly circumnavigation. Here, I'm so proud of it I'll just post it:
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Around the World
Hey Ocean! - A Song About California
Dirt Poor Robins - The Hollywood Song
The Bird and the Bee - Love Letter to Japan
Gimble - Way to Mandalay
They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Bond - Hungarian
Obi Best - Swedish Boy
E.S. Posthumus - Pompeii
Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945
Guster - Amsterdam
The Decemberists - The Kingdom of Spain
Rice Philharmonics - Africa
The Cranberries - New New York
The Anniversary - The D in Detroit
Sufjan Stevens - Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Step Mother!
Kill Hannah - Welcome to Chicago, Motherfucker
Dar Williams - Iowa (Traveling III)
Eddie from Ohio - Minnesota 1945
Incubus - Mexico
Of Montreal - Honeymoon in San Francisco
While we listened, I took notes. I needed a surface to write on, and Luna was happy to provide me with one.
I think this is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.
Since there did not seem to be any other activities on the docket, I read The Zombie Survival Guide. But then I wanted to play with the cats.
There was a little wire toy that Pagan really liked. Cats are endlessly entertaining, as they'll just jump for shit! Pagan kept jumping for the toy.
Something modlin had never seen, however, was Luna's behavior: she was fascinated by the shadow. She kept trying to grab the shadow of the toy; it was goddamn hilarious. I would move it back and forth behind her, and she would follow the shadow back and forth on the wall.
And then the best part was that at one point, I got both cats to jump in parallel, Pagan going for the toy and Luna going for the shadow. It was epic.
After making Luna choose a laser pointer, I decided to turn in early so I could wake up and leave early. D had suggested I stop by Solvang, a little Danish town, on the way since I had been entertained by the incongruity of the downtown architecture. He also told me to check out Piedras Blancas just north of Hearst Castle to see the elephant seals. I needed a headstart with these welcome additions to my itinerary!
The cats clawed at the door in the morning. They wanted to get in, but I wouldn't let them. Last night Luna had hidden herself in the closet so well that it took modlin a minute to even spot her. I brushed and showered and gave modlin a guava and was on my way home!
I was choosing to go home the long way, taking the scenic route. Literally. Unlike my way down, my way up featured Vista Points.
Solvang was a little hamlet nestled in the mountains. When I first entered, it looked like a normal town, but then I hit the touristy section all done up in Danish architecture.
Of course there was a windmill. Of course.
Inside was a gift shop.
I stopped in a pastry shop to sniff their wares. They did, indeed, sell Danishes! Hee. I did not take a picture because the woman was looking at me funny already. I did not buy a Danish because that was not the object of my quest in this town.
I had to try these famed Aebleskiver! But first, I had to use the restroom. Luckily, they had one and let me use it. A pretty girl with a lip piercing who did not look Danish asked me if I wanted them in a box or to eat while walking. Ooh! That was a fun option. Let's do that one. I tossed my change in what I assumed was a tip jar because life is short and she was hot.
I received three little Aebleskiver, which were nothing like Danishes, as modlin and D had said. Every culture has a fried dough, and this was the Danish version, it appeared. They were little fried dough balls full of apple—not that you could taste the apple—covered in powdered sugar and raspberry jam. They were yummy. Good times, breakfast!
I ate while walking, and I ran into Hans Christian Andersen.
What was he looking at so quizzically? Or was it disdainfully?
...Probably a mixture of both.
As I walked back, I passed an establishment with a funny sign.
I would have come in! But they weren't even open! It was just past nine, I think. The chocolate shoppe was open, however, so I grabbed some Danish chocolates for my co-workers.
As I left Solvang, I passed an honest-to-God ostrich farm! They praised the benefits of emu oil. I saw the crazy birds on my left.
My next stop was the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.
My boss had recommended I check it out.
Yes, that is a pink lamppost.
And a pink bike rack.
And pink Santa.
And pink carpet.
And pink booths.
It was the most garishly decorated place I'd never seen. They did not know the meaning of the word excess. FUCK THE GREEKS was their motto.
I believe these are the people we can blame for this monstrosity. This hilarious monstrosity.
The real attraction is down in the bathroom, however.
That is the urinal, my friends. That is the WATERFALL URINAL. But it gets better. Because when you step up to pee...
IT BECOMES A REAL WATERFALL. IT WAS AMAZING.
Who the fuck designed this sink? WHO THE FUCK DESIGNED THIS SINK.
I texted my boss, who was at work, to let her know I was enjoying her recommendation. Oh, but I wasn't even done yet.
I went up to the ladies' boutique, where I found a rack of postcards describing all the rooms. See, the Madonna Inn has over a hundred rooms, and each one is different. They all have different themes. There was a red room, a green room, a blue room, a pink room (naturally), and...a caveman room. I desperately wanted to stay in the caveman room. Because WTF.
The men's gift shop had lots of expensive jackets.
After I had my kitschy fun, it was time to keep driving. San Luis Obispo was a coastal town like Santa Barbara, and they looked practically identical with the ocean on the left and the mountains on the right.
This drive was much prettier than the drive down had been.
I stopped at another Vista Point to admire the beauty of the coast.
And the ocean.
It's hard to tell, but I am wearing my Hey Ocean! shirt at the ocean!
As I drove, I considered lunch options. Then I saw a sign that said that Linn's was serving comfort in Cambria. That was just what I needed! So I took the exit to Cambria. Except I had to drive a mile once I exited, and then it was five more miles to Linn's, and fuck that! I just wanted to get off and eat somewhere! So I tried to get back to the highway. I passed through Cambria proper, which had various restaurants that looked promising, but I wasn't really hungry enough anyway, so I figured I'd find a place to eat in San Simeon.
Except San Simeon was nothing but hotels. Oops.
I reached Hearst Castle after noon. The next available tour was at...2:20?? What the shit?! It was a Monday! How could it possibly be sold out? They had dozens of tickets available on the website. But I didn't know what time I would arrive. Apparently if I had bought a ticket and not made it in time, they would have fit me into a later time for free, but I didn't know that! Grr.
When I bought my ticket, the woman commented that I had a very common name. Yes, yes, there are a lot of Patels. She said the owners of some the hotels in San Simeon were Patels. I was not surprised.
The good thing was that the Experience tour came with a free movie that I could watch before the tour to be efficient. The next showing was at 12:45. The movie was on a giant screen, and I learned all about Hearst and Hearst Castle. Phoebe Hearst, Hearst's mom, seemed like an interesting person; the movie painted her as having a very direct influence on Hearst and his desire to build his extravagant mansion. And then there was Julia Morgan, the woman who designed the whole thing. She even fit in a private zoo. What the hell, Hearst. Obviously, the movie painted him in a very positive light, a very gracious host who wanted to get to know his guests. He invited all the Hollywood elite to his pad and let them party all they wanted, but he wanted to have dinner with them so they could talk. Amusingly, seating was assigned, and you moved farther and farther away from Hearst with each day of your stay. His invitations were open-ended, and it was up to you to realize when you should probably return home. But until then, man, fun times!
I had to get lunch from the stupid little cafe there since there wasn't time to drive back to Cambria. I got an Ahi tuna sandwich that was messy and not that great.
I went to the restroom to wash my hands. A guy walked in and started checking the stalls. Checking each one to see if anyone was in them. To make sure there was no one else in the restroom. Oh shit, he was about to pull out a gun and mu—
Oh, he was just the cleaning guy.
While I waited for the tour, I called my mom and read ZSG. I took a picture of Hearst Castle from my current vantage point.
At 2:20, I boarded the bus. It was five miles up to the mansion, and there was an audio tour along the way.
Behold, the entrance to the famous Hearst Castle! Click on that picture and view the rest of the gallery since I took a shitload of pictures and won't post all of them.
There were two couples from Germany. I hadn't even heard of this place until last month, but it was clearly a popular tourist destination.
Hearst Castle was like a fucking museum. He had flown in art from all over the world, all different styles concentrated in one spot in California.
This was Hearst's favorite spot in the world. He had huge mansions and estates in other places, but this is where he wanted to live.
It was like a villa!
The famous Neptune Pool, where stars got wet.
This was like the third iteration of the pool, since Hearst kept making it larger and larger.
This shot was on the cover of Time or something.
This dude's just chillin'. Naked.
We have one of these in our house!
WHY IS THE CEILIING MADE OF GOLD. WHY. PEOPLE ARE STARVING IN OTHER COUNTRIES.
I wanted to know what was in this mysterious chest.
The architecture was exquisite.
This fountain was the oldest thing on the property: those Egyptian statues are 3,500 years old. After King Tut was unearthed, Hearst jumped on the Egypt craze along with everyone else.
This is the cocktail room. Those are the original fucking tapestries. There were copies in the Louvre.
Also in this room was a French mantelpiece. Hearst told Julia Morgan, "I have found the greatest mantelpiece in all the land. I trust you will make room for it." Haaaa ha ha ha.
I thought this was Destiny's book, but no. It's a giant book of chants for Spanish monks to stand in front of and chant during cocktail hour. The pages were lined with gold, of course.
The flithy rich want ketchup and mustard just like the rest of us.
Dude had his own private movie theatre, and he would sometimes get prints of movies that hadn't come out yet. And sometimes he would stop the movie if he didn't like it and put on something else. Oh, to be William Randolph Hearst.
A fabulous indoor pool!
With an elaborate diving platform.
The tiles were 22-karat gold. WHY. WHY. YOU HAD TOO MUCH MONEY SIR. TOO MUCH MONEY.
Still. That was a sweet pad.
Soon after I left Hearst Castle, I saw the sign for the elephant seals. The sun was getting ready to set, and it was doing the thing where it danced across the ocean.
So, elephant seals. Turns out the motherfuckers are HUGE.
OMG CUTE BABY SEAL.
OMG UGLY PROBOSCIS.
Fuckers were loud.
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME, BEE-YATCH!
There were a lot of them.
As I left, a couple women were reading the signs and noticing that it was birthing season. I confirmed that it was birthing season. "There are tons of babies, and some of them are nursing."
"Thanks!" they said, excited. Who doesn't love
All right, that was it. Home stretch.
BRING IT, MOUNTAIN.
Okay, I shouldn't have taunted it because driving through this mountain was hard and scary. The road was very twisty, and I was the only person on the road for a while. Which I was glad about it since it meant I could go really slow and no one would mind. But then I actually caught up to a car full of girls that I couldn't pass. Thankfully, they sensed my impatience and took a turn-off to let me by. And I was alone once again, so no one would mind if I slowed down to admire the sunset.
The sun was going down, down, down.
I continued on my way up the mountain and along the coastline. I was driving along the coastline. On the edge of California, the edge of the United States, the edge of the continent. There was something really cool about that.
It got dark, and the road was lit by nothing but my headlights. I caught up to another car that I couldn't pass, and now I welcome him. I was no longer alone. He was my buddy, and we would get through this together. He had his brights on, so I tailed him as he showed the way. Sometimes he drove too fast and I had to use my own brights. At one point, there was a one-lane area. I had no idea how it worked, but there was a stoplight so that traffic was only going one way down the one lane at any given time.
We passed some "towns" that had gas/food/lodging, but I couldn't imagine why you would live up there. There were no movie theatres! You would have to drive that stupid mountain road any time you wanted to go anywhere!
This was the worst, most harrowing, and most tiring drive of my entire trip. It took two hours to drive close to 70 miles. I was so happy to see civilization, especially because I was hungry.
All right, feed me, Monterey. I took the first exit that promised food, but I didn't see anything, so I turned right...and then I ended up on a dark mountain road AGAIN. Christ. Fuck you, Monterey.
I asked the GPS to find me the closest food, and it found the Bayonet Bar and Grill in Seaside. That wasn't really the sort of food I was looking for, but it would do. I was determined not to let my last road trip meal be fast food. I had not had any fast food the whole trip. I followed the directions into Seaside. It told me to turn right onto something that didn't really look like a road. It was sketchy, but I followed it into the dark.
I had reached my destination, but where the fuck was it? What the hell was—
Oh, motherfucking bullshit. I was at a golf course. That had a restaurant. That was closed, of course. GODDAMMIT.
Fine, for God's sake, find me the nearest Chinese restaurant, I kind of wanted Chinese food. Ho-Wah in Marina. All right, in honor of toastandtea, I would go there. It was right where the GPS said it would be, but I was a little concerned that no one was seated at 7ish. And the bathroom was kind of dirty. But whatever, I was hungry and they had food. The General Tso's chicken was kind of meh, but it did the job.
After dinner, I sped home, cops with radar guns be damned. I muted the goddamn GPS once I was in familiar territory, but I turned it on as I approached my apartment just so I could hear Magiben say the words I'd been waiting to hear all day:
"You have arrived."
I had driven 2,257 miles and spent $1001.43, but I was home. It had been one Kerouactacular road trip.