Healing Highways & Byways: Highlights of My California Coast Road Trip
I recently returned from an epic road trip where I traveled from Bellingham, WA to San Diego, CA. I went with my ex-spouse who is still family to me and a good friend. To save time, we chose to travel down I-5 until entering California and then used HWY 101 and PCH 1 the rest of my journey.
I was blessed to take in many breathtaking views, absorb some of the culture of the areas we visited, and get plenty of vitamin D from the sunny weather we experienced. It was a great journey full of ups and downs; the camping and being cramped up in a car for many days lead to a few heated arguments where we were both tired and I ended up with some significant back pain towards the tail end of our trip. All in all, however, it was an amazing trip that provided the much needed break from the slump I was in before leaving.
Traveling is truly therapeutic for me because I am pulled out of my regular routine and environment and thrust into a reality that is foreign to me. I learn a lot about myself and life in general during these experiences. I wanted to capture some of these memories, in writing, before they faded from me. Below are some of the highlights of the trip.
- Feeling small among the giant Redwoods. We camped at the Del Norte Coast State Park in the Mill Creek Campground. We were able to walk among the giants and marvel at their greatness. It was surreal. We joked how they must be fake and planted there to attract tourist. I remember walking among the giants, my feet shuffling along the forest floor, and having to bend back, straining to take in their colossal circumference and their dizzying heights. I felt protected in this forest, as if my cares were insignificant and could become absorbed by them. I left my daily preoccupations behind and became mesmerized by their vastness, gaining confidence and certainty that things could change. Sitting among the giants stirred a sense of stability and fortitude. I left the forest, looking up at their largeness and feeling full.
- Feeling alive at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. I have always longed to learn how to surf. I grew up around water and was on the swim team and my parents had a boat growing up. We would visit Myrtle Beach and I would spend hours “riding the waves” with a body board. I felt “at one” with the ocean so it’s no wonder Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz captivated me. I spent more than an hour watching the surfers catch the waves, my eyes glued to the ocean, making my own assessments at the incoming waves of whether or not they were worth catching. I even become excited writing this now, as there is something so overwhelmingly amazing about being submerged in the ocean, becoming part of the powerful force of nature. It’s scary and exciting at the same time, and for some reason it completely resonates with me. Watching the surfers reminded me of the person I have partially lost due to my illness. Due to anxiety and depression, I haven’t been active in sports for a long time now. I have let myself get out of shape and fearful. I was inspired by the surfing and am hopeful to one day go back and give it a try. It is something to work towards!
- Feeling overwhelmed and anxious in Los Angelos: The energy of Los Angelos and the surrounding area was palpable. It seemed to hum and hiss, as people honked impatiently at the tourists as they fought the daily traffic. I immediately acknowledged I couldn’t live in a place where I would have to sit in traffic daily, it is not for me. We went to Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Blvd. and Venice Beach. I was overwhelmed by the diversity and disparity. I appreciated disappearing for awhile and becoming anonymous in a culture of such diversity. I marveled at humanity and our various faces, colors, heights, accents, and languages. This was RICH! It made me feel full, stimulated, and connected. My spirits were somewhat dampened, however, by the prevalent poverty in certain area on the streets. We went to take a picture of the Beverly Hills Hotel and right in front of the hotel on the sidewalk I caught glimpse of a homeless person lying at a bus stop where there was shelter. I’m not sure there will ever be a clearer picture of economic disparity as what I witnessed there. My friend and I joked about seeing Ellen or Oprah on the street and when I watched the shows at night in our hotel at Redondo Beach, I wondered how close I was to where they were being filmed. It was a neat experience overall, but I really don’t ever want to drive through LA again, LOL.
- Feeling enraptured by the coastal views and sunny weather. It was on these stretches of the coast, the Big Sur area and Laguna & Jamala Beach, where I let go and relaxed in the natural beauty surrounding me. The weather was warm and sunny and the nights were magical. The palm trees would cut through the orange and yellow sunsets while the stars filled the skies. We were camping some of the time, and I recall leaning back in the chair I brought for camping, gazing at the dark, night sky full of mystery and lure. I remember wanting to connect even further to the vastness of the sky, marveling at a space so foreign to me, feeling somewhat guilty for not spending more time here. It was both beautiful and humbling, where I felt small and insignificant and in awe of a reality I couldn’t entirely get my head wrapped around. You could hear the waves ripping in the distance and crashing as they rushed to shore, which could almost be mistaken as thunder clapping in the distance. In the daylight, the blue-green waves of the coast came racing in dressing the white sand in foam, before pulling away once more leaving the touched shore wet and silver. My thoughts rested on this ancient ocean and all the life within it that has been busy all along, rich with its own life and stories. There were times I laid my head back, listening to the rhythm of the waves, feeling the warmth of the ocean truly feeling full and relaxed. “Oh, I needed this!” I remarked to myself. I had forgotten that this place existed and it was truly good and pure. Hopefully, I won’t wait too long next time until I visit you again.
- Feeling sad at the US/Mexico Border. We travelled all the way down the coast to the very edge of the country and visited Border Field State Park. I saw the “wall” or fence that separated the two countries. I went through “Friendship Circle”, a space for people to visit their loved ones, and I firmly planting my two feet on Mexican territory for a few moments. The area was patrolled by a border agent. I lingered there, feeling a bit uncomfortable for being monitored and went back through the gate. I noticed the border “wall” extended all the way into the water. You could see families on the other side in Mexico playing on the nearby beach. It felt heavy to me, given the recent issues surrounding immigrants. I also felt it was odd that the Canadian border nearby where I live in Bellingham, WA, did not have a fence, nor the same level of security. I may be a bit of an idealist, but this left me caught up in thought, lamenting to my friends about the presence of borders and how they are man made. Men have the ability to foster peaceful relationships with one another by learning from each other and working together, and yet, walls discourage this type of growth. I left the park feeling a bit somber.
Every time I travel, I feel it opens my mind, challenging and exposing me to novel ideas. This trip was definitely no exception. It was a long road trip that was both difficult and beautiful. I hope I can see the California sun again one day soon. Road trips are therapeutic and fun and are part of my toolbox for coping and healing. Hope you find yourself on one soon!