A looooong, grey & caffeine fuelled drive south lead us to the hills of Santa Barbara. The clouds began to break & subside on our way down. We drove from red wood forests, down through desert like landscapes full of oil pumps till we reached the scorched rolling hills of SoCal.
There had been a 4 year drought in California up until the day I landed…this sucked but on witnessing the devastation a wave of relief came over me. Entire ranges of hills were scorched black. We climbed through the winding hills, sticking to the sides of the burnt land until we rolled through a tunnel & out to the view of our first SoCal coast.
The ocean was sparkling as though it was welcoming us back, palm tree silhouettes covered the roads. We hunted around again for surf but soon the intense rain caught up with us again. So we set up camp again. Time to take action we decided to postpone our hunt for waves & instead headed for the hills. We set out on a hike into nature & in true Gone For Milk curiosity we quickly found our selves covered in mud, way off the path hopping over river rocks & climbing steep sections. Just to reach that little further from following others. It was so refreshing to not worry about where & when for a moment.
I forget the name of the park we visited but we went to see the Seven Falls, we just took it way further. Until the rumble of thunder returned, we hurried back to get caught in 15 minutes of the heaviest storm, I swear a bolt of pink lightening bolted through me. Tired of weather but tired we finally were, days of sitting in the car made us hungry for adventure.
We slept in the only campsite available for a couple of nights, due to the fires a lot were closed. But this meant we got to sleep right at the beach, waking up with a breath of salty air is something I long for daily. We continued south to Oxnard for a short stay in an AirBnB to reset ourselves. This is when we had a major wake up call. A subject I will talk more about in another blog, but AirBnB is way cheaper than camping in California.
Past Oxnard & diving deeper into SoCal we made it round the coast too Malibu. Everything I had expected seemed to be here, expensive shops, cars, enormous villas. Money bags aside its a real chilled area, with long board breaks by the pier & tasty breakfast spots along the highway. From the pier in Malibu you can see around the coast to Santa Monica & Venice. Los Angeles presence was clear, a little more style made us seem our usual scruffy selves, whilst traffic quickly became annoying & attitudes were far more rushed.
After spending a couple of days surfing a little right by the pier & skating in carparks we decided it was time to confront L.A.
Santa Monica & Venice.
In the past, what seems like a lifetime ago, I was obsessed with bodybuilding & powerlifting, anything fitness related I had attempted. This meant the Santa Monica & Venice area were a place I’d seen & heard a lot of. I had always wanted to skate along the boardwalk there, so we did. We strolled along from the pier, played on the fitness bars, watched insane acro-yoga & street performers & made our way to muscle beach. Its pretty touristy area but has its own charm, suddenly our scruffy attire fit right in. I’m glad we visited this spot, I was able to change my previous opinions of the place, somehow amongst the madness of the crowds it still holds good energy. The whole time we were there the sun was shining a deep orange. As it dropped below the horizon the romantic lights of the pier began to share their light.
Passing the rush of L.A. we found our selves heading for the ‘whales vagina’ (anchorman reference). Another small American town to explore. We drove straight to La Jolla Shores Beach Park after the hassle of the traffic we needed some sun & some space to spread out little. It’s a pretty area so we spent all day relaxing by the coast until I finally decided to wriggle into my wetsuit to surf at sunset.
I returned to the beach that evening just at last light, another deep sunset for the background to a real fun surf. I’d been craving this feeling for a while. The still twilight of SoCal, salt water dripping from my hair & most importantly a person to share the moment with, I was humbled by my surroundings. Thank you La Jolla.
We decided to crash out in AirBnB’s for a while, they seemed pretty cheap in some parts. A few places seemed a little rougher than others but never dangerous.
Friends I had met in Hawaii before lived in there & we were lucky enough to catch up with them over a surf & she food one day. This is a personal love of mine when you’re able to catch up with friends 9,000km away from ‘home’. Such beautiful people to share a day with, to catch up & reminisce over farm stories at Mohala. After food at an awesome coop market we parted ways. Those guys have such positive energy & will always have space in my life.
I like San Diego, Pacific Beach area & especially Encinitas. Such a mellow vibe in these spots. Encinitas in a small town based on one street lined with seafood, taco shops, bars & surf stores. Also the coast is lined with surf spots like Swami’s, Moonlight & Beacons. Whilst we visited the waves were almost flat, so we took our chance to soak in the atmosphere. We hung out for an evening in Swami’s car lot. Surrounded by others who had congregated to enjoy a moment, the strum of a guitar covered the noise of worries whilst we sat gasping at the beauty of the day leaving.
From Encinitas to Del Mar to La Jolla is a must visit for surfers & people looking for stress free times. We took some days of course to surf but also deciding our next plan, meanwhile trying to figure out the options of selling Willie.
I was stoked to be moving along again, for myself the islands were calling again. Maybe it was the fact I had met the others from Hawaii, or maybe I knew it all along. My quickly thought out idea was to sell the car & fly over to Honolulu. Id thought about returning ever since leaving.
So we posted the car online & asked dealers around town until one stressful morning we were waiting for someone to come check the car out in a 7/11. Juan told us that he couldn’t buy the car because he wouldn’t be able to without converted plates. This was a huge blow to our plans & a sudden strain on our journey ahead. We would have to wait 6-8 weeks to have new plates. I love California but this was too long & another great example of how complicated we’ve made our lives.
Anyhow a short afternoon filled with thinking of another plan ended with us heading north. Fast. Vancouver Island was 23 hours away, was it possible to get there without a break? We were about to figure that out. The warmest clothes I had was my wetsuit, fingers crossed Vancouver Island was at least mild.
Hindsight is 20/20.
SoCal lived up to every expectation I had. Long sandy beaches, incredible Mexican food (especially seafood taco’s), endless surf breaks & undeniably some of the best sunsets I have ever seen. A lot of the beaches we visited were mostly ‘clean’ from large debris & ocean waste although we still found ourselves filling the occasional bottle with micro plastics.
I have to bring up the annoyance of camping prices in the whole of California State. Having been an advocate for outdoor adventures & always being a place for explorers & adventurers with parks such as Yosemite, I was frustrated by a lot of the prices to camp. A regular camping space in a state park is around $45 per night for one car. This includes nothing, you provide shelter, food & cooking equipment & to top this off showers cost more. It honestly disturbing to realise that AirBnB is much cheaper, shouldn’t we be promoting outdoor lifestyles? In-fact California does but at this cost as a traveller wanting to explore the world this makes the state a tough one to spend time in.
In other more northern states along the coast, such as Oregon, free camping is accepted. As a local told us as soon as you enter California you’ll feel like a criminal for free camping. This is true. Although if camping is your thing like us the California State has sites to view available camp sited across the entire state
But to end on a positive as always, our trip was mostly stress free, a road trip of incredible discovery along a beautiful coastline filled with stunning surf breaks, tasty burritos, unforgettable personalities & lots of accessible nature.
California take it easy, I doubt this will be our last meeting.
To read more on the California road trip check out:
California Part 1 –
California Part 2 –