Updated: Jan 13
Hope you have all been having a splendid summer! The season might just have to be my personal favorite. I know it can be hot, but there's always so much to do. It was the few months I would always look forward to as a kid. I didn't have to do any school, could hang out with friends all day, that anthem pool park would open up… It was great. Though if you're dreading it this year, no worries. It should be cooling off in another month or so!
As the official season comes to an end (mid-next month), it is a great time to get out and end-use some of the remaining time to go on a nice old-fashioned camping trip! Or new fashion, whichever it is you fancy.
Last week, some good friends from college flew in from Germany and New Zealand. Debating on what to do in the days leading up, we decided to head over to California! Spending the first couple days camping, and the rest based at my parents' place in Tustin. I did what I could to convince them to come to AZ, but they insisted on California. Unsure why, but it seems almost everyone that hasn't been to California, thinks the LA area is just the coolest place ever. It's baffling. Nah, I'm kidding, I use to like it too and still do. At least some of the areas.
I don't know if you have ever been to LAX, but (in nice terms) it is quite the airport. I try to stay positive and patient, by oh my. Trips to that airport release my inner derby driver. I lived in Orange County for some time, occasionally experiencing the LA traffic, and it is certainly not something I miss. I'm talking non-stop stop and go. Usually, I can zig-zag through alright, but oof… that day was rough. I also drive a manual, so it was constant first, neutral, and repeat. Occasional featuring a 2nd and third. But hey, we made it! It May have been 23 hours 12 minutes and 45 seconds later, but who's counting? Certainly not me.
I got out of LAX with a minimal amount of road rage, and we got brekky at one of my favorite spots, The Cliff. It's located in Laguna Beach and sits right up on a cliff featuring a gorgeous oceanfront view. I got the routine coffee w/ huevos rancheros, cause, I mean, Huevos Rancheros… obviously. After enjoying every bite, we headed over to our campsite in San Mateo, just next to San Clemente. Speaking of, there is an unreal number of "Sans" in California. San Juan, San Diego, San Antonio, San Francisco, San Fernando…. I'm honestly surprised they didn't make a Downtown San Angeles. Or a San County in replace of orange county. Anyways, once we got to our first campsite, it wasn't what was expected. We thought we had a beach site but were a solid 3-5 miles from. Let alone, surrounded by a bunch of RVs! So, we ended up just leaving in search of some comfort food due to our poor planning. Well, I say "our", but it was just Sam (me "mate" from New Zealand). But I won't point any fingers. As we were in line at In and Out (Gods proof of the divine), Julia (some random German girl) made the comment, (reader discretion advised)
"So is In and Out just like McDonald's, but for Cali?"
I didn't even know how to respond
So basically, I just got her and Uber back to the airport leaving just Sam and me. Nothing could have prepared me for such a disrespectful, insulting, preposterous, nonsensical, cynical comment.
Later on, while Sam and I were appreciating In and Out (Julia is also a herbivore) we plotted a plan to get a new campsite. The same park system Sam, I mean "we", booked through for the previous campground, also had another location on the actual beach (in San Onofre). After charm talking to a couple of park employees, we were able to get our reservation swapped out for an amazing new spot! It was atop a large bluff overlooking the ocean. And nobody else around! How much better could it be!? We spent the rest of the day visiting the nearby beach (there was a trail that went down to it), setting up camp, and failing to light a fire. This proved surprising, given Sam is typically very good at starting fires. Though his specialty tends to be restricted to apartment buildings [Sorry, I won't let you live that down]. We all had a really good time chatting and catching up though.
After a peaceful night of camping, we drove into San Clemente to grab some breakfast over a pow-wow regarding our worldwide current events (which is quite a unique and diverse convo, as we come from 3 different countries). The restaurant we went to was named La Galette, located adjacent to the pier. Known for their crepes which Julia may attest to, my peculiar self got an omelet. It was surprisingly good! I'm not even saying that passively, I was legitimately impressed. After finishing, walked down the pier and had a cup of coffee (tea in my case) at the neighborhood Starbucks.
The rest of the day we kept it pretty relax and chill. Julia went for a swim along the beach and Sam and I visited the legendary Panda Express. Sort of tradition for us. That was about it before getting an early night at the campsite. With the waves being relatively large, it was quite amusing to watch the surfers that came out. There was one guy out there with a hover surfboard. I couldn't imagine how nice that must be. I remember using an air chair while boating in Kansas last summer, and it was such a blast.
On Wednesday, we slept in and didn't get out until 9 or so for a late breakfast. I took the gluten-free individuals (Sam and Julia) to a healthy nearby café, while I went elsewhere to get myself one of the most delicious bagels in existence. As I was vegan for a year, I feel like I did my time for the animals. I've had to of saved at least 20. Many more baby chickens. So these days, I just eat everything. That said. I enjoyed my greasy bacon, cheddar, 2 egg jalapeño bagel. Afterward, we proceeded to harass my father a little bit at his work before playing golf.
Having had many controversial conversations on the trip (we come from differing views), we all agreed it would be witty to go to the Trump National Golf Club of Los Angeles. Located in Long Beach, it made for a little bit of a drive, but worth it nonetheless. They had a nice park, trail down to the ocean, luxurious restaurant, and an award-winning golf course! From how it appeared, they made little sacrifice in terms of budget. You were greeted by a beautiful gate, extravagant fountain, and a nice parking lot. I know you might be wondering how a parking lot can be nice, but it was! As far as the golf, the fairways and greens were in superb shape, and not once did we run into any other groups until the 17th. We were playing quite quickly too. You could see the ocean on almost every hole, and some of the views were particularly extraordinary. My play was a bit sub-par, however. Though in actual golf terms, translates to significantly over par. I got a dozen extra balls beforehand and lost about each one. I even got the bright yellow ones, hoping they would be easier to find in the brush. In my defense, it has been almost a solid half a year since I had held a golf club though. I've maybe gone to the driving range once or twice. I didn't have as hard a time Sam did though. It was his legitimate first time playing golf. The course is not easy either. It was populated with tight un-forgiving fairways and a plethora of sand traps. That's basically where Sam established residence by the time we finished. Thankfully, the traps consisted of good sand though. Not just the rock-hard pits that most courses have.
Eventually, after 4 and a half hours of play, we had made it through the course without taking the lives of anyone in the 1-mile radius. Surprising, given that each hit pretty much impersonated a rogue nuclear missile. At one point I got a video of Sam almost taking the life of a poor rabbit after teeing off. The ball was within inches of it.
On the way home, we made it our mission to find a good Sushi restaurant to have dinner at back in Tustin. We had been craving a good roll for the past couple of days. We ended up going to a place called Oki Doki on Newport Ave. and E. Maine St.. The environment was pretty lively for a sushi bar which was a little less traditional, but enjoyable nonetheless. The music choice was prime and the design of the interior was pretty authentic. Reminded me a lot of the sushi bars in Tokyo. Surely a place I would go again.
What a day.
It began watching a new action-drama out on Netflix called The Ice Road. Directed and written by Jonathan Hensleigh, it includes stars Liam Neeson, Marcus Thomas, and Laurence Fishburn. While the film was based in Northern Canada, it's about a dangerous time-sensitive rescue mission for some trapped miners. Don't want to spoil too much, as it is a good movie and
I recommend you give it a watch!
After the movie, we went on a little tour around LA. Visiting the Hollywood sign, Hollywood walk of fame, and Beverley Hill's Rodeo Drive. Starting with the American landmark on Mount Lee, we found a solid parking spot, not far from the trailhead! I don't know if you have ever been there, but most of the streets have strict permit-only street parking, so you have to drive around a maze until you can find a place to park. We then walked to one of the lookout points and I let Sam and Julia have their moment of looking at the oversized letters that hang over Hollywood. I can't be enthusiastic enough about what an amazing sight it is to see! I completely recommend wasting (I mean taking) 3 hours of your life to get as close as you can to them! Then just as you thought it couldn't get better, we went down to Hollywood Blvd. to look at the metal stars with names engraved on the sidewalk! Sure, it might be one of the grossest, cringy streets you will visit, but there are gold stars! Can you believe that!? With names of your favorite entertainers! But nah, all jokes aside, both the sign and walk are very iconic and allegedly pretty neat to see them for the first time.
That said, I've always enjoyed Beverley Hills! If I had a billion dollars and different values, I'd certainly consider living there. Everything is super clean, shopping is quite luxe, food is savoring, and everything is so pleasant. The people, cars, art, buildings. It is a neat place to hang out every so often. I wouldn't say it's perfect, as some of the people and places can be a little stand-offish, maybe fake, but if you can filter that out, enjoying everything else can be delightful. Some of the people are nice, and the stores are just so cool. My favorite is Galerie Michael. The employees are welcoming and very knowledgeable, while the art is exceptional. They have works from so many great artists including the likes of Dali, Matisse, Warhol, Picasso, Manet, and many more. If you ever find yourself around there, it is a must-see for sure. Another place we went to was Nahid la Patisserie. It was my first time there, but I was very impressed. For starters, the coffee was spectacular, but the pastries were their signature. They specialize in custom-decorated cakes.
Once we realized how late it was getting, we walked back to the car and were about to back out when somebody ran over and let us know one of the tires was flat! Never had changed a wheel before, Sam and I teamed up and got it done relatively fast. It was surprising how easy it was. Having got it fixed, we had a pleasant drive back to Tustin through the Los Angeles traffic.
Once back, we made a delicious salmon dinner with my father. But when I said "we" made it, what I really mean was, my father did all the "making". As expected, it was incredibly good.
On the fifth and final day, we hung out near the house. In the early afternoon, I was to drop them off at a hotel near LAX and make the journey back to AZ. We got some brunch at the nearby marketplace, followed by some tea/coffee at the one-of-a-kind neighborhood (you guessed it) Starbucks! We had a nice chat about the plans for the next couple of months.
We had a wonderful time. As I hadn't seen them for a year and a half (essentially since the beginning of covid), I'm hopeful that it won't be that long before the next time. I'm certain it won't. And the next time they come out west, it will likely be Arizona! As I said, I kept trying to tell them it is so much better than Cali, but they insisted on checking out iconic Californ-I-A.