For years I’ve been saying, ‘Oh yeah, California. Feh! Yes, I grew up there, but never fit in. No, I wouldn’t ever want to live there again. Yes, one day I’ll visit and I’ll show Steve around, since he’s shown me Newcastle-under-Lyme.’ To be honest, it was towards the bottom of my list of places to go.
Well, I woke up in tears about five months ago. I was inconsolable and once Steve got to the bottom of what was wrong, it was that I wanted so badly to fill up my Radio Flyer with empty pop bottles and get my best friend Kim and walk up to Haa’s Liquor Store and swap them for candy. Steve said, ‘Well I guess we have to go to California this year.’ And so we are.
But it’s more than homesickness. Yes, this is a memory from my childhood, which is rooted in a place where I am no longer. I know that the place and zeitgeist of my 1960’s & ’70’s childhood have changed and that I won’t find the feeling of taking pop bottles to the liquor store. I suppose what I felt is nostalgia, a sentimental or wistful yearning for experiences in a former place, time, or situation.
Once we booked our flight, we found ourselves with the huge task of planning where to go and who and what to see. Three weeks seems like a very long time, but California is a very big place and I have 35 years worth of history there to explore, as well as all that Steve and I will be discovering together!
I got all of my old maps out, charted a course on Google maps and bought a California guidebook.
And then I did what I always do to make sense out of things. Got my art supplies out and set my easel up.
Once I began to fill in the blank squares, it all fell into place.
First, six days in the Southland visiting many of the places, hangouts, schools, libraries, fast food joints and cinemas that I frequented during my formative years and young adulthood there.
The second week we will travel up Highway One to San Francisco. This is where the camping part of our trip will begin. We’ll stop off at Santa Barbara, the wine country around Los Olivos, SLO, Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey and Santa Cruz, then have three days in San Francisco, my favorite city ever. Seriously, I fell in love with it when I was nine. I’m sure it’s changed quite a bit since being gentrified by the techhies of Silicon Valley, but this will be one of the trip’s highlights.
After ricocheting out to Point Reyes, we’ll drive through the Sierra Nevada foothills to Yosemite, over the Tioga Pass to the Mono Basin and then make our way down to Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert.
I am also planning to meet up with a few friends from my childhood all the way up through my early 30’s. As well, being in so many of the places along the coast and in the desert will be like spending time with dear friends. I am so lucky that I travelled around and camped so much when I was living in California. The wild parts of my self that I encountered in the wild, natural areas of California have shaped me who I am today.
We still have a few people to make plans to meet up with, but for the most part, our trip to California is sketched out.