Cali Roadtrip Part II: LA to San Francisco

We hit the highway like a bat out of hell, refreshed by our early morning hike and soak at Deep Creek Hot springs in Apple Valley California: Destination Las Angeles. We called Scott’s cousin and let him know we would be at LACMA (LA county museum of art) in a few hours.

*Scott’s cousin

Scott’s cousin is actually named Scottie too, and we had just found out about him a few months ago. Scott’s aunt had given her son up for adoption when she was young, 15 years before Scott was born. Recently, with the help of his adoption agency he decided to reach out to his birth family and found out that his birth mother passed away ten years ago, but her sister and her family lived in Durango, CO (that’s us!).

It was clear sailing into the city and we made quick time to the museum. Meeting Scottie and his girlfriend was a great experience, we walked to a farmers market and they gave us lots of advice on what to do and where to go in LA, along with fantastic stories about living the rock-n-roll lifestyle. Scottie is an amazing drummer and signed his first big contract with his band Greta when he was a teenager- so those stories were plentiful and highly entertaining. He took us to El Compadre, a Mexican restaurant that resembled a bordello: red lanterns barely illuminating the chips and salsa on the table of our large plush booth. He said this was where rock stars come after/during long drug filled nights of partying.

We parted ways for the day and Scott and I headed straight to Venice beach, a nostalgic place for us. We had visited Venice on our first roadtrip together. It was only a month into our relationship when I first asked Scott to drive to the coast with me. He was busy with his band during that time so I went with my dog, my parents gave me gas money after they found out that I was planning on hitch hiking. A few months after my return I told Scott road tripping with me was a make it or break it deal: I needed to know that he was a good travel partner before we took this relationship any further- and he proved that he was. That West coast adventure set the tone for the upcoming years of trains, planes, taxis, foreign food and exhilarating escapades.

Venice beach always reminds me of Baz Luhrmann’s  Romeo and Juliet: a little run down, shady characters, a sense of tragic romance. We walked along the beach, a chill in the air, small pieces of garbage and broken shells like confetti on the sand. Too cold to swim, we headed past the punks at the skate park and oiled up body builders at muscle beach to the boardwalk. We walked by the tattoo shop where we had Calvin and Hobbes tattooed on our feet 6 years before. That was Scott’s first tattoo… we hadn’t even been together for a year, but we enthusiastically drank margaritas from a “Simply Lime” jug and laughed pretending the needles didn’t feel like blazing irons on our feet, sure we would never regret getting best friends tattooed on each other.  On that trip I not only convinced Scott to get his first tattoo, but gamble for the first time and go to his first strip club (and his second strip club…).

The tattoo shop was exactly the same, the same guy roller skating around with an electric guitar and a turban out front, serenading the crowds with metal licks that suggest he could have been making millions on stage but instead chose to follow his heart and live life to the beat of his own drum kit. As night fell and unsavory characters began to emerge from the shadows, we hopped back in the car and headed to check into our Airbnb loft in West Hollywood.

Our Airbnb host’s name was Angel, he was a model and actor in Hollywood. He greeted us at his loft (he called it “Angel’s Landing)  which was exactly how you would expect a young male models upscale loft to look: artistically decorated with local art and photographs of female models signed especially for him. It had an amazing view. We put on our best rock star attire and called our first Uber taxi. It was only 6 bucks to get to Sushi Stop – the restaurant Angel suggested we try. We were reminded of how fresh and CHEAP seafood is near the coast. Everything on the menu was around three bucks and fantastic. If you are in Hollywood looking for sushi you gotta go there. We stuffed our faces and decided to walk to Hollywood boulevard. We walked by the filming of some movie with elaborate costumes, singing and dancing on the steps of the enormous Church of Scientology. Stars glittered on the sidewalk of the boulevard but the skies above us were dark; bright city lights over powering the suns of distant galaxies. We strolled along reading the names of beloved Hollywood actors, watching the antics of the homeless and groups of hard looking youth on the street. That part of town seemed nice, but there was still a sense of danger in the air, reminiscent of  more portentous times.

The next day we met up with Scottie again and took a tour of Warner Brother’s studios. Scottie’s girlfriend grew up on the lot- her dad was a CFO of Warner Brother’s- and she was able to get us all a free tour. It was cool to check out the places where some of my favorite films- Bonnie and Clyde, Rebel Without a Cause, Cool Hand Luke- were filmed. Afterwards we drove North to Simi Valley to visit my cousins. Where Scott’s cousin is 15 years older than him, my cousins are 20 years younger than me. It was so special to get to spend time with our family and observe how strong family ties can be, regardless of age or how often you see them. My aunt recommended some nearby beaches and in the morning we continued our journey North, destination Big Sur.

We stopped in a super touristy town called Solvang. Full of windmills, bakeries and Christmas stores this place was a little too touristy for us. We like touristy things…but this one was pretty bad. We almost paid 2.50 for a bottle of water before we hightailed out of there.

The drive up the PCH was everything we dreamed of. We rolled down the top of the convertible and drove in smiling silence. Our casual pace had sunset upon us well before we got to Big Sur, so we stopped at a beach called Morro Strand where there was camping and firewood. Huge smoke stacks lined the horizon to the south adding an eerie element to the natural splendor of the area. We played music on the beach until dark, and then moved our conversation to a firepit where we persuaded some painfully damp wood to ignite into a feeble but cheery fire.

We got an early start the next day and made many stops on the way to Santa Cruz: we watched giant sea lions play fighting on Seal Beach, took photos at the classically beautiful waterfall in Big Sur, and visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Once again night crept up on us before we were ready, and we sped down the highway to spend an evening with our old friend Boots in Santa Cruz. Scott and I spent that night riding roller coasters on the boardwalk with Boots and his fabulous girlfriend Flora- a photographer for Rolling Stone from Argentina- and camped in our tent in their front yard.

Boots was the original drummer in Scott’s band- Oatie Paste. Some of my first memories of hanging out with Scott involve a very unsafe van named Cecil and a battle of the bands judged by Michael Graves from the Misfits. That show ended in a tie between Oatie Paste and my ex boyfriends band The Shoes. Youth, drama, rocknroll… yes- my late teens were something out of a movie…or a book as I would soon find out. So this ex-boyfriend- Casey- he lives in Santa Cruz too, and before I left for my trip he told me he would be in my hometown in late August and wanted to see me. This was ironic because I was planning to be in Santa Cruz where he lives at that time. So we made plans to meet up.

Scott hung out with Flora while I spent the next morning downtown with Casey. I hadn’t seen him in over eight years, but we had come to Santa Cruz on a roadtrip when we were together. We revisited places we had walked together before…we had both grown up, but in most ways it seemed like we hadn’t changed at all. He told me he is publishing a novel about his youth, which largely retold details of our lives and relationship, and gave me a copy. It is so special to have the details of my youth put on paper…and it encouraged me to write more and record the amazing adventures in my life. The little details are so easily forgotten, but books and blogs will always be a place I can return to and relive my joys and sorrows in delicious detail. We parted ways and I met up with Scott, Boots, and Flora; we headed to a rope swing in the woods outside of Santa Cruz. We had a blast jumping off ropes and rocks into cool, clear water and headed home to grill some of the most amazing burgers I’ve ever had.

The next morning I made pancakes, and Flora took us to a beach ukulele jam. There were around 100 people there all playing songs together- it was a really unique and fun experience. Flora took photos and sold handmade ukulele cases she brought back from Argentina. Afterwards we had to get back on the road, we drove to San Francisco and stopped at pier 39 before staying the night at our friend Parker’s house in Berkely. We had high hopes for Pier 39, we had spent a little time there on our last roadtrip…but we were severely let down, too many tourists flocked around overcrowded and overpriced restaurants. We tried a bread bowl of chowder from one of the street stalls only to get cold sketchy soup. There are no public bathrooms ANYWHERE due to homelessness, and my slightly too long pants were like a wick for the garbage/seafood water that covered the sidewalks. We ate some pizza and got the f*** out of there. I had a pretty embarrassing panic attack trying to drive over the Bay bridge (it’s so big!), but we eventually landed safely at Parker’s house in Berkley for an evening of excellent conversation.

The next day was devoted to punk shows. We took the BART (Bay area rapid transit) to San Francisco -which was an experience. Made it safely to San Fran and Uber’d to the Fat Wrecked tour. This show celebrated 25 years of our favorite band being their own label and signing equally cool bands who deserve a leg up. Yes. We saw NOFX (They were the first show we ever went to together) along with many of our old favorite and new favorite bands. It was a good day, and it was our first all day music festival that we had been to sober. I got a piggy back through the mosh pit by a burly guy dressed as a cop. We were front and center almost the whole time and it was AMAZING. We left the show starving and walked around the BART station until we found a place with a line out the door. It was a taqueria call Los Coyotes and it was probably the best mexican food we have had in the US. Relatively cheap (Scott splurged and got the shrimp platter for $13) but the portions were huge! Scott’s dish had enough shrimp on it to make seven fat tacos. We were in post-punk-show-heaven. A perfect end to our California adventures. The next day we would see what adventures Oregon had in store for us and visit Scott’s best friend Grayson in Eugene, Oregon.

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