Growing up in Texas, I never thought much about California. I knew it had heat and deserts, oceans and hippies, traffic and urban sprawl, and I had all of those things already, while the things we didn’t have, like mountains and movie stars and earthquakes, didn’t interest me much. The east coast was what gripped my childhood imagination. I longed for dense cities, noise, snow, apple cider, seasons, and sweaters, and for the last seven years they’ve been mine all mine.
And yet, 18-months ago, we got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in California, and being the people we are, leapt at the chance to explore a new place in depth. We visited deserts and mountains, oceans and orange groves, vineyards and ancient forests. We biked across the foggy coast, visited old missions, kayaked with sea lions, ate ridiculous amounts of fish tacos and roasted artichokes, and listened to the waves crash against the coast again and again. I’m not sure when California crept into my heart, but slowly I fell for her, hard and unexpectedly.
Now our travels there have finally come to an end, and I’m sad and mournful for California in a way I’ve never been for a place. I miss the slower speed of life, the dry heat of the desert, and the cool damp of the coast. I long to drive through eucalyptus groves with the windows down and to smell the strawberries in the air as we pass through the Salinas Valley. I want to buy giant bags of oranges at roadside stands and I want half the radio stations to be in Spanish. I miss the mountains and the colors and the Pacific ocean and the palm trees. Mostly I just want to go back, not for short vacations, but for long stretches of time, maybe forever, and I can’t figure out how to do it. Someday, maybe I will, but for now, here’s a travelogue of our time on the west coast, my love letter to you, California.