Saturday, October 03, 2009

Roadtrip: LA to SF

Road and San Andreas
the open road: after taking this roadtrip, i really understand why California is known as the Golden State. i used to think the name had more to do with the Gold Rush of 1849 than the scenery, but the central valley proved me wrong. these golden rolling hills in the Carrizo Plain seemed to go on for hundreds of miles, which Mo and i spent hours driving through, a time when we rarely saw other cars, people or animals. it was a wasteland of a desert, very Mad Max, 115 degrees with no trees or shade in sight, but it contained the first destination of our 3,150-mile roadtrip up the west coast: the San Andreas fault.

Me and Sandy
is that all there is? as we drove to the fault, Mo and i discussed what we thought we would find there, based on all the mythology we grew up with as native Californians. we settled on the fault looking like the place where the world would end. we figured it would swallow us immediately upon arrival and take us to the earth’s molten core, where the devil surely lives and presides over hell. imagine our surprise when we saw that it was full of tumbleweeds.

Me and the San Andreas
me and Sandy: i always thought of the San Andreas as being something LA-based, something out in the deserted desert, and was surprised to learn that the faultline is really 800 miles long, stretching the length of California and ending near San Francisco. parts of the fault are plainly visible, almost flat, while others are underwater. from the “flat” part above, we walked a little farther and found a gorge where we stood for a long while, awestruck. it looked incredible, beautiful even like every other product of nature. i thought back to the ’94 Northridge quake, which wrecked my childhood home and gave me nightmares, and here i was, standing in the presence of the mighty San Andreas, cause of so much anguish for so many Californians, and all i wanted to do was hug it. finally, closure had come. i had met my attacker and forgiven her. i named her Sandy.

A Day in the Life in Santa Cruz
go west: after saying goodbye to Sandy, we headed west toward Santa Cruz, where we spent the night. this was my first visit to Santa Cruz, which reminded me of every other coastal college town i’ve visited in California — full of surfers, stoners, students and beach bums living the good life.

At the Beach
the good life: when we left LA the day before, wildfires were burning and making the air quality horrendous, so the first thing we did in Santa Cruz was head to the beach to suck in the fresh ocean air and become hypnotized by the tide. that was the moment it hit me: i’m on vacation for two weeks. fuck yeah.

Mo @ Arboretum Sign
from faults to flowers: then came a trip to the arboretum on the UC Santa Cruz campus. as Mo and i are still (forever?) in the planning stages of the perfect garden that we will one day plant at home, the arboretum exposed us to all sorts of purty flowers and trees we can’t afford to import from South Africa.

Garden Gnome
the garden gnome: i became enamored with this gnome, only because i don’t recall ever seeing another gnome like it. is it a chicken or some other bird? i still can’t figure it out. i named it Cruzy.

dig my camera: allow me to plug my camera for a moment, the amazing Canon PowerShot G10, which enabled me to explore macrophotography for the first time in my camera-owning life. i spent the whole roadtrip with the camera hanging off my neck, fondling it at every opportunity. this thing cannot take a bad photo.

Gecko Giving the Evil Eye
lizzy: i didn’t name this guy, though judging by the stink eye he’s giving off, he probably gave me a not-so-pleasant name. i was tempted to step on his tail to see if it would detach itself like they say, only to grow back later, but Mo wouldn’t let me.

Greenhouse @ the Arboretum
why is the sky blue? seriously, that is the bluest sky i’ve ever seen. along with the gnome mystery, the arboretum had successfully stumped me and rendered me so hopelessly relaxed that i considered moving into the gift shop to live, as i couldn’t imagine rejoining society when there were so many flowers to look at. but Mo pulled me away with the promise of more gardens, so we bid farewell to Santa Cruz and headed north toward Saratoga.

Gorgeous Garden Wide
serenity now: we ended up at Hakone Gardens, which was the Japanese hotness. i’m going to make a sweeping generalization here, so consider yourselves warned, but everything creative i’ve ever seen come out of Japan has an elegance to it that is nothing short of perfect. this includes sushi, but excludes that harajuku fashion craze that was big a few years back, which looks very salvation army to me.

Garden Waterfall
i’ll take one on layaway: my mythical garden will definitely have a waterfall as well as several money trees. it will also have a few cabana boys with soccer thighs ready to peel me grapes at a moment’s notice.

Garden Buddha
now this is a garden gnome: add this to my layaway list, too — a buddha holding a samurai sword is what i want protecting my mythical garden. i named him Harakiri.

Leaning Bamboo
the bamboo garden: so this is where the flooring in my house came from. what a treat to see it in its natural form, minus dog scratches. i would plant some bamboo in my mythical garden if it wasn’t so weedlike in its unruliness.

Always a Bridesmaid
always a bridesmaid: we stumbled upon a wedding shoot in the bamboo garden so i started shooting away with the other photographers, emboldened by my magical G10. i don’t think the other photogs noticed me, nor did the bridesmaid, who seemed to be having a sad moment. thinking they might serve sushi, i told Mo we should crash the wedding, but he had one more garden on the day’s agenda so off we went to Stanford University.

Stanford Garden
go Trojans! after much walking around the campus, lost, we found the Kingscote Garden tucked into a corner of the university. it was a multitiered masterpiece, by far the smallest garden we visited that day, but that made it the most stunning. one look and i was transported to my happy place. admittedly, i had spent most of the day in a happy place but this took me straight to nirvana.

Moment of Zen
nap time: the garden seemed to have its own eco-system, with its tall trees producing a wonderful breeze i don’t remember feeling elsewhere on campus. it provided the perfect backdrop for a quick nap and protracted moment of zen before Mo and i hit the road again and headed north toward San Francisco.

Next installment — SF to Oregon border — to be posted soon. Slideshow of the full set of LA to SF photos below:

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