Across The Country In Two Weeks

by joesloanie

So first off, I apologize for not writing a single blog post from Chicago to Los Angeles. I am not one to fall short of goals I set for myself.

However, I made an executive decision shortly after leaving Chicago. I decided that ensuring I have an amazing experience during my journey far surpassed my need to keep a daily blog about it. This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing and I wasn’t about to allow myself to be tied to technology the entire time.

So here I am in California, Made It! I’m currently sitting outside Café Mimosa across from a very talented, uniquely interesting, and strikingly beautiful young woman named Misty Lawrence. She was one of the first people I met upon arriving in Topanga, and has so far proven to be one of the coolest characters in the canyon. I am very appreciative to have her as a friend.

The Trip:

Awesome. Exciting. Breathtaking. I could write 10,000 words about it purely off the top of my head, but that might be a bit much. Instead, I will break the trip down and explain some of the highlights. Hope you enjoy!

Chicago to Omaha.

Drove and drove and drove. Got to Omaha, Nebraska. While definitely beautiful in its own right, but not necessarily my cup of tea.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park.

After parking to stretch my legs in Omaha I hopped online and found myself a place to stay, a cozy little campsite for 20 bucks at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. This gorgeous wooded spot was just around the corner from a small, picturesque pond and was flanked on both sides by neighbors.

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About 50 yards to my left, a polite older couple staying in what looked to be a well-appointed RV. About 100 yards to my right, four grey haired women staying in a chrome trailer being pulled by a large SUV were drinking cocktails and telling what surely were phenomenal stories. I made camp, had a beer, cooked dinner, and went to sleep. Woke up the next morning, packed up and headed to Colorado.

Denver, Colorado Is Freaking Awesome.

Yea, Denver is freaking awesome. I arrived in the early evening and arranged to meet with an old friend of mine from Ann Arbor, Elin Neat. We had a drink at a friendly neighborhood bar, caught up for a bit and then parted ways. I think the bartender had a crush on me.

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I then met up with another Ann Arbor pal, Evan Feezel, at his place of business. We had a few drinks and laughs and then crashed at his place for the night. I woke up the next morning and accompanied Evan and a few of his friends to a secret outdoor basketball court on the roof of a parking structure located smack-dab in the middle of downtown Denver. It was so cool to watch an outdoor basketball game surrounded by skyscrapers in a city I’ve never been.

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After the BBall I went and met up with ANOTHER friend from high school, Jason Gouin. He’s got a great pad in a wonderful chunk of the city where he has a good career and is doing a wonderful job raising his awesome son.

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Jason showed me some really cool parts of Denver including the REI store, several interesting neighborhoods, a bunch of radical nature, and a legal pot store (had to do it!).

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This is how cool Denver is: I planned out my trip to include two days in Colorado, spent four days exploring Denver alone, and would have stayed longer if California wasn’t calling my name. I left Denver and headed west.

Over the Rockies!

I had my phone hooked up to record video through my front windshield and within a half-hour I’d exhausted my phone’s entire internal memory. I had to pull over and delete a bunch of awesome stuff to make room for more awesome-er stuff. Don’t worry, I drove safely through the Rockies and stopped for the night in Grand Junction. Everyone should drive through the Rocky Mountains at least once in their life, it is an experience I will never forget. I can’t figure out how to get video on the blog yet, but as soon as I do there’s a whole blog post waiting to be written about the Rockies.

Grand Junction…

Is boring.

Utah is secretly beautiful.

I never knew it, but Utah is amazing! After descending out of the Rockies I drove towards Zion National Park and when I got close I went inside a random grocery store and searched out the tannest employee there. It was getting dark outside so I asked him where I should go to camp where I would wake up to beautiful scenery. He pointed me in the direction of a dirt road and said “Go that way about two miles and turn off onto a side road and you’ll find a spot.” Off I went. I drove in the dark till I was in the middle of nowhere, parked, and hiked about a ¼ mile. I set up my tent in the dark, cooked dinner on a portable stove and went to bed. This is what I woke up to:

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I did the same thing the next afternoon after driving about 40 miles north to escape the heat. I found a road winding up into the mountains and took it for about twenty minutes. Pulling off the road I discovered an amazing place with one of the most glorious views I’ve ever seen. I went to bed that night listening to coyotes barking and what sounded like a decently large stream which was gushing and bubbling just out of view about 500 yards below me. The next morning I woke up to this:

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I decided to spend the morning hiking down to the creek I’d heard the night before. It was wonderful.

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I finished my hike and left early that afternoon for Las Vegas.

Vegas with Silas and Mahalia.

Got to Las Vegas and called my cousin Silas. He was out to eat and told me to drive around for an hour. I drove through the Vegas Strip and saw all the fancy stuff, then decided to cruise around the city for a while.

I made the mistake (or was it?) of driving into North Las Vegas. Seriously, it looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. People lying on public sidewalks and leaning hopelessly on chain-link fences, the looks on their unwashed faces so full of sorrow and helplessness. All the yards were brown and unkempt and covered in junk, more windows boarded up than not. It wasn’t even scary or intimidating or anything like that, just really, really sad. Seeing these people with absolutely NOTHING who, every day, are forced to view the billions of dollars of excess, extravagance, and indulgence that is downtown Las Vegas. Seriously, you can look south and see all the shiny hotels from this place, one of the most visibly impoverished areas I have ever seen. And I’ve explored a fair amount of Detroit so that’s saying a lot. As sad as it was, I am glad I saw North Las Vegas.

I met up with Silas and his girlfriend Mahalia. They showed me a nice time that evening, going down to Fremont Street for a drink and the sights.

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Spent the night at their place. The next day Silas and I went disc golfing, had a beer, met a few fellow frolfers and had an all-around good time. Mahalia and my cousin were wonderfully gracious hosts. They gave me my own bedroom and the use of their shower which was a nice change from the tent and outdoor bathtubs (lakes and streams) I’d been making good use of. I slept well and left for Los Angeles the next day.

Best First Day In Los Angeles Story EVER.

Ok, I made it from Michigan to California and my car performed perfectly the whole way. At about 11 o’clock at night, 30 miles from my final destination, my car died on the highway. The power totally shut off and I was forced to pull off to the side of the 101 freeway with no idea where exactly I was. I sat there for a half-hour intensely pondering this new situation. I took this photograph of downtown Los Angeles from the side of the highway:

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An LAPD police cruiser saw me and pulled in behind my car. After determining I was not a gang member or other despicable individual, they put their front bumper against mine and slowly pushed my car off the highway into a spot on a surface street. “Don’t get out of your car and call AAA right now.” Was the police officer’s advice. I heeded it.

An hour later the friendliest tow-truck driver ever, Shawn from Inner-City Towing, pulled up with a flatbed. After explaining my situation to him he mentioned that at least it didn’t happen in Nebraska or Utah or something. I felt much better after thinking about that for a moment. Shawn towed my car to a gas station parking lot in South Central Los Angeles that his company patrols. He parked the car for me and told me to call someone for a ride and that the car would be safe till tomorrow. It was past midnight by that time so I decided to just sleep there.

I put my camping blankets up in my windows forming a nice curtain which prevented anyone from seeing in and dozed off. At about 3:30 that morning I was jolted awake by a “POP, POP POP POP!” Gunshots going off literally not more than a few hundred feet down the street. I did not look out the window. Somehow I got back to sleep and woke up around 8am to the sound of LA rush hour. I got the car towed to a mechanic close by, and they had it fixed by that afternoon. Stupid crankshaft sensor. At least it was fairly inexpensive. I thanked the mechanic profusely then hopped in my car and took off, determined to get to the coast.

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When I made it to the coastline I stopped for a few minutes, the smile on my face growing wider by the moment. After taking it all in for a while I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway towards Malibu and made the familiar right turn into Topanga Canyon. Arriving at my new summer home I got out and immediately laid on the front porch while looking up at the majestic stand of old-growth California Live Oaks that inhabit this magical piece of land. “This is worth a week behind a gas station in South Central,” I thought to myself.

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So now I’m here. A lot has happened since then, but I’ll save it for the next post. Life is beautiful.

 

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