- We wanted to see a foreign country.
- We wanted to visit our family.
- We wanted to see a different way of life.
- We wanted to have fun with friends.
- We needed vacation.
Our trip to california
Hi my name is Vincent, husband to a beautiful wife, father to a beautiful daughter and friend to a beautiful couple. That basically describes our group with which we travelled along the west coast of america. Although at that time my daughter was still cozy in her mother’s womb.
And yet she even arrived earlier to America than I did.
Back then my wife Lora and I weren’t engaged yet and planned to visit her family in California. Her family is scattered across California, concentrated around Los Angeles.
We started planning the trip with our dear friends Eva and Matti in the beginning of 2017. That gave us good opportunities to get together and have fun imaginations about what we would like to do in the states.
We came up with the plan that my wife would travel 3 weeks ahead of Matti, Eva and me. She would visit her family and prepare her uncles for our arrival.
That way she had a bit time with her family there and they could catch up without us interfering.
Because Matti and Eva live in a different city of germany than Lora and I do, they took a different flight than me. They started from Frankfurt via Amsterdam while I was taking my flight from Düsseldorf via London.
I was very surprised by how comfortable and smoothly the whole journey was.
Although my height of 1,90m is a bit troublesome in those plane seats I still had a lot of fun conversations with the couple next to me. The board movie database provided plenty of movies I had not seen yet to keep me occupied.
But the best thing about the flight to america happened in line to the service desk at the airport. I met a friendly guy in the line. Let’s call him Ahmed as I do not exactly remember his name. We talked a bit about our destinations. He started complaining about the prices. It had cost him more than 1000€ to go to Kanada and back. Not including any insurances. I was a bit confused by that and told him that my journey to America and back costed me about 350€ including insurance.
Instantly everybody turned their head towards me in disbelief, wanting to see if I was joking.
I was not. My wife tracked flight prices over a year and shot an obviously good opportunity.
Matti and Eva arrived a bit earlier than I did which made a very pleasent welcoming comitee for me.
In the time Lora was already in Los Angeles she had the opportunity to pick up our rental car.
Having just arrived we were all tired out, yet the excitement to see a new country, a new continent kept us awake.
Even though we could barely see anything at night.
First Location – Uncles – Palm Springs
The first night we stayed at Lora’s uncles. They have a nice house in a gated community. All clean and quiet.
I can definitly recommend to regulate your sleep with a bit of alcohol.
A beer will do just fine.
I simply had to stay awake long enough to get a good amount of rest the first night.
But I guess having arrived in the evening and going to bed tired felt natural.
The result was I had little to no jet lag.
Palm Springs is a nice and very hot city.
I heard it’s one of the highest average age city in America and one of the gayest.
Whether that’s true I don’t care, look it up. But I can tell you the people are nice, polite and very welcoming.
When we went to see an american shopping mall I was very confused by how friendly the staff was all the time.
I guess they get told to greet every customer as if they were friends. Awkward at first, nice at least, but definitly unnecessary.
Besides chilling at the uncle’s pool, slurping cocktails, we went out to hike on a near mountain.
You can get up on the mountain range by a gondola.
The area was awkwardly quiet and we rarely have seen any birds or other animals.
But the air was very dry and pleasently cool. Best condition to go hiking I’d say.
The view down into the valley is not spectacular but to get an impression of the area and the realization that you are actually in the middle of a desert it is definitly worth it.
Second Location – AirBnB – Las Vegas
Having said goodbye and properly thanking them for letting us stay with them we left Lora’s uncles to move to Las Vegas.
And I had big plans for that location.
Not only were we angling to get rich at the casinos I was also planning to propose to my girlfriend. Back then we were not married yet.
But first things first. We stayed at an AirBnB Appartment a bit outside of Las Vegas. A city part that looked a lot as if the Casino Staff would live there. The appartment was nothing special. Except that we all had to sleep in one small room together – excuse me for snoring. And the weird overuse of Febreeze Air Freshener in pretty much every electrical socket in every room.
The intensity of that smell was expectably irritating by so much you couldn’t get used to it.
Whatever the owner did in the ‘non public’ rooms, at least nobody would smell it.
Now to the proposal: I got the ring in the beginning of 2017 and was looking for a good occasion to propose.
America seemed very fitting as it would give the occasion to tell to the american part of the family in person. Assuming she would say yes.
After watching dozens of proposal videos on youtube I was at the impression I had to bring at least a camera crew if not an armada of video drones.
My best man got me back on the ground before the flight to america.
So I crunched my plans down to the idea to get to the Grand Canyon and having prepared a smooth conversation opener I would go into a full blown proposal speech.
I did not want to propose in front of hundreds of tourists but somewhere quiet.
So I was OK with the idea that we would drive out to a part that’s not one of the main tourist spots.
We managed to get somewhere but probably at least an hour away from the canyon.
Yet the landscape was exactly what I needed to start my cheesy conversation about our future as a couple.
Matti and Eva sat a good distance across the hillside away from us and when Lora said ‘yes’ I yelled over to them “She said yes!” and the response was a joyfull yell back.
We celebrated a bit later in a very stylish bar nearby. The bar looked just as you would expect it from a bar in a desert.
Back in the appartment Eva wanted to toast with my wife on the engagement and at that moment we had to tell them.
Lora was pregnant in the 10th week. No beer for her. Lot’s of new developments already.
For me going out to the canyon but taking a detour then was a very exciting experience.
To see how people live out there remembered me of the description of the world in the Dark Tower by Stephen King. Definitly houses but so shambly and battered that you cannot be quiet sure if people still live there or have left aeons ago. We met some folk in a Cafe/Bar. And here again the picture that is told to you by american movies about hinterland people matched to a point I was doubting it was real.
Obviously we also went into a casino. To our surprise everybody won. Well except me, I gave my left
over money to my fiancee and she won. We only played at the slot machines and enjoyed the extremly cheap drinks.
There we attracted the attention of an old lady with our winning streak. Eva’s machine wouldn’t even stop to spill out wins.
When we left for other machines and came back later luck wouldn’t have it with her sadly.
Third Location – Appartment – Mammoth Lake
Still in Las Vegas we checked for appartments around the Yosemite National Park, our next destination.
We found a very good looking appartment for a very fair price.
The only hook was, it was not exactly near the Yosemite National Park.
Which we found out when we drove there.
Nonetheless the apparment was simply great.
And the landscape is gorgeous. For me it’s the perfect dream of a landscape actually.
The wheather was cool and sunny. Perfect sweater wheather. We went a lot of hiking.
Mammoth lake is actually snowy 3 out of 4 quarters a year and we managed to go there in the only time without snow.
Best day was when we couples split up. Lora and I wanted to see the city/village and Matti and Eva took the car to go hiking a bit more outside.
While we had nice conversations with a bus driver who pretty much drove us wherever we wanted because of the lack of other tourists Matti and Eva had a very different experience.
Hiking through the forest they discovered a couple, both barebreasted and probably halucinating, but definitly stoned.
Not talking much with them, Matti and Eva went the trail up the hill further.
At some point the trail ended and they were forced to follow the trail back again.
They also came across the stoned couple again.
When they were a good minute past them down the hill they heard screaming from behind.
The barebreasted woman ran down past them screaming something incomprehensible while the also barebreasted man chased after her.
At some point both stumbled and rolled through the thicket taking a lot of bruises.
Matti and Eva completly confused went home by car.
Calming down from the adrenaline rich psycho chase party in the forest a big brown bear greeted them in front of the house.
The bear got distracted by some waste cans so they could come inside the house.
I will never forget their confused faces and how hard I laughed at how different our day was.
Fourth Location – Shitty Hotel – San Francisco
After Mammoth Lake we went to San Francisco.
On the way there we took a detour to finally see the Yosemite National Park.
A sight to see. But nothing that I could describe better than anyone else.
On our way to San Francisco we heard of large forest fires around the north of San Francisco. We even saw a bunch of smaller fires.
But as locals told us a usual sight to see around that time of the year.
Our hotel in San Francisco was cheap but very dirty and shabby. Lora was disturbed by the patches of mold in every corner of the room.
We asked for another room and got one to the street. Probably a considerable upgrade for no extra costs.
As it was pretty warm in the room and we had no cooling system we had to keep the windows open and could listen to the people down on the street. Very confusing.
The hotel is in Tenderloin. A city part I cannot recommend and it pretty much ruined the city for me.
Locals told us that psychiatric institutes closed all around california without an alternative for the patients to go to.
That means that those patients unable to make a living of their own had to live on the street now.
Plenty of those poor patients found their way to Tenderloin where they were now tolerated to live on the street.
This immense constrast between the riches und wealth we’ve seen so far to the way those people on the street had to live troubled me a lot.
Even more troubled me that violent crime was pretty common in Tenderloin.
We only heard that from locals and to be fair being on my way to fatherhood awakend a very different awareness of danger in me.
The gated open space parking lot refused to let our car stay over night because it would have been broken for sure.
UNIQUE EXPERIENCES IN California
To sum Tenderloin up: I think it’s a shithole and needs a lot of attention by the city.
But San Francisco was not all Tenderloin. We wandered around a lot. We’ve seen the golden gate park. A beautifal place where they have the SFMYC Boathouse, a club for model sail boats and a lake where you can put them in the water.
The beaches are nice. The restaurants are nice. China Town is unexpectedly boring.
Best thing is the Musee Mechanique, a place where you can play all the classic Arcade Games like Skee Ball.
Matti and I spent an afternoon watching football which is very enjoyable not to do in the middle of the night like in Germany. I would have liked to see the USS Hornet. A museum on an air craft carrier, but it was closed due to the unhealthy smoke coming from the fires in the north.
Fifth Location – Cousin – San Luis Obispo
On the way south we would have liked to take the route along the coast. Said to be beautiful, but sadly closed due to road damage at that time. We only had a few kilometers there but we had fun anyway.
We arrived at Lora’s cousin in a nice picture book neighborhood. We had an interesting time staying there.
Her cousin has 4 children of his own, a niece that occasionally stays with them and at that time a south korean exchange student of age 12 lived with them. And furthermore Lora’s brother stayed there while working in the states as an architect.
So the house was already full of people without us 4 extras.
When the family was out for work and school we spent the time visiting the nearby town.
A very cozy place. We had fun shopping there and visited the beach. The region is famous for wine or at least for people drinking wine. I found the wine to be quiet expensive at that time.
Most notably we visited several places where we tried burgers.
The famous In and Out burgers are not bad, but we got the best at a small restaurant at the side of the road.
Sadly my wisdom tooth decided to make trouble at that time. So I was constantly taking anti pain and inflamation drugs.
Luckily those are incredibly easy to come by in the states.
So I was presenting myself to my soon to be wife’s family with a thick swollen cheek.
Still all the people we’ve met were always kind, welcoming and helpful.
Sixth Location – Other cousin – Los Angeles / Altadena
Altadena is a good distance outside of the center of Los Angeles. There we visited Lora’s other cousin and stayed with her family for two nights. The first day her husband managed to get us tickets to the Universal Studios there. A really fun park. Most attractions are combined with videos and animated environments.
The second day we went to horse racing. It was really strange to go with the complete family to a gambling game. But there were plenty of attactions built up for the kids. Betting on horses is also a lot of fun.
You can get a tiny book describing lot’s of details about the horses which let’s you plan your bets.
It was a surprisingly social event.
Seventh Location – Fancy Hotel – Los Angelos
After the experience in San Fracisco I did not want to spare a single cent to get my pregnant fiancee a comfortable night for a change. And also myself. So we got ourselves a nice hotel near the airport with a pool and all the stuff. Matti and Eva got themselves beds in a hostel.
I was told that there is not much to be seen in Los Angeles and so I stayed in the hotel relaxing at the pool.
This was our last stop and Lora and I flew back from there to Germany via London. Matti and Eva went further south to Mexiko.
They probably can tell exciting stories of Mexico but those are not mine to tell.
California is a beautiful state. We had lot’s of fun there. To come with two couples was a good idea.
The landscape in computer games and movies often is a little bit off for someone from germany.
Just the tiny difference in the color of leaves and shape of tree crowns to what I am used from germany makes these often a bit more unreal for me.
I could never tell that before. I didn’t even know that I had the impression. But when I saw the landscapes in eastern California it all made sense to me.
The landscape felt foreign but weirdly familiar. Definitly worth to check out such places for that feeling.