STATE 20: CALIFORNIA, PART I
[PLEASE BE PATIENT AS BEAUTIFUL IMAGES LOAD]
After experiencing much of what STATE 19: AZ had to offer from the Grand Canyon National Park in the north all the way down to Saguaro National Park in Tucson in the south, we were primed and ready for California.
Our first stop was a three-hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. We entered from the southeast entrance and had to drive all the way through the part to make it to our campsite just on the other side of western edge.
Since it was the weekday, the park wasn’t busy making it pretty easy to find parking spots along the roadside to pull-off for some quick pit stops. As much as we wanted to climb around nature’s jungle gym of rocks, we also wanted to make it to the campsite early enough to set-up and get settled.
What makes Joshua Tree so unique is that it’s where two deserts meet — because if one desert isn’t enough, two is even better: the Colorado and Mojave deserts. Not to mention, the Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) themselves.
But first, the rock formations were a giant adult playground, and we had a ball.
We had time for one more hike before the day ended, so we continued deeper into the park to the Cottonwood Spring trail where we came across an abandoned mine, a Buddha rock, and two rocks that looked like animals doing it. See for yourself.
After a full day of hiking, we woke up a bit sore, but nonetheless, with blue skies surrounded by Joshua trees. We loaded up Noal and the hammock and were inching our way westward towards southern Cal.
But we didn’t make it far.
A mere 45 minutes away is Palm Springs, the land of perfectly-manicured mid-century modern homes.
Being no strangers or too proud to driving around neighborhoods, we soaked up the details and views on what basically became an unofficial self-guided tour thanks to websites like this, this, and this.
If you have a little extra spending money, we’ve heard there are some incredibly-informative architecture tours, but just driving around with a few highlighted addresses will do you well.
Our first of three projects in Cali was in San Diego, which we were happy to find a cliffside office for an afternoon with the sounds of crashing waves below and soaring pelicans at eye-level.
When Kendra looked up “Things to Do in San Diego,” a visit to the University of California San Diego made it pretty high on our list. I didn’t quite know why other than that she said the architecture would be worth it. And it was.
This Brutalist beast of a beautiful building was named after and dedicated to Dr. Seuss. Why? Because Audrey Geisel donated $2.3 million dollars worth of original works of art of her late husband, Theodor Seuss Geisel. Years later, she’d contribute $20 million to the Library, which was renamed as the Geisel Library. Its architect was William Pereira and it was originally constructed by 1970 with renovations in 1993. It was a marvel that looked like a docked spaceship.
If you look closely in the distance in some of the photos below, you’ll see a little blue cottage that appears to be dangling from the corner edge of a seven-story building. That’s “Fallen Star,” an art installation by Do Ho Suh. Even though it’s not related to the Library, there’s a certain Dr. Seuss like twist that is fitting.
After a fairly short stint in San Diego, we headed north to Los Angeles to get ready for our second state project. Our first stop was to Hyperslow, an urban oasis comprised of a peaceful yoga studio, natural light filled café, and a mindful coworking environment where all vibes are welcome.
My cousin Emily and her fiance Asher opened the studio/cafe a few years ago, and this was our first opportunity to see and experience it in person. In addition to everything amazing she does, she also makes a killer latte. Thanks, Em!
They also recommended a nearby gas station that carves off the best al pastor street tacos. So good.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is one of my favorite streets to browse, shop, and eat. It can be pretty damn hipster-y, but there are some great gems up and down the street. I used to travel here for trend and market research when I was a shoe designer, but it’s even more fun with you get to experience for yourself, on behalf of [HAS HEART], and with Kendra.
Obviously LA is the center of so much, especially fashion. An added benefit of this tour has been being able to catch-up with old friends, friends of friends and former co-workers while also making so many new connections. Being able to visit different headquarters, offices, and event spaces has become an incredible learning experience.
Being able to get personal tours from friends and new connections has been a front row seat. One of my favorites was in Ventura, CA - about an hour north of LA, where Patagonia was started out of an old tin shed. Now, the company employees over 1,000 people housed in multiple buildings behind its original garage stall, but its ethos and social responsibility is stronger than ever, making it become known as The Activist Company, as I’m sure you’ve heard about ever Black Friday.
Their brand and company are amazing. Being able to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the creative offices from my friend Nick was priceless, and I even got to get a glimpse of Yvon himself.
Another company and brand I have always admired is of no surprise: Nike. It has a multi-layered special place in my heart, which I could share another day. But this time around, we were in LA during Air Max Day which has become an international “holiday” of most sneakerheads to celebrate the infamous “air bag” that made its visible debut in the Air Max 90 designed by Tinker Hatfield.
Although Nike’s headquarters are in Beaverton, which we would work at for our STATE 22: Oregon project, they have an LA office and host some of the best events in the country. Thanks to my best friend Joe, whose wife Tatiana previously worked for Nike LA before moving to different positions within the company, I got to know their good friend Tiana many years ago at Joe and Tot’s wedding. Tiana got our names on the list and into the coveted Air Max Day event, where we enjoyed ourselves surrounded by sneakers and LA culture.
Believe it or not, but this was the first time Kendra has been to California. At least that she can remember. She was actually born here. Literally, this was the house that newborn baby Kendra came to the day after she was born until she was three years old and they moved to Michigan.
I think she was really hoping to “feel” something when she saw the house, but apparently memories don’t exactly work like that. Nonetheless, she was able to send pictures back to her parents and show them the brick light post and walkway were still in good shape that her dad made around thirty years ago.
The first several days we stayed in San Dimas, about 30 miles east of LA, and then a night an hour north at Agua Dulce Winery (via Harvest Host) until we were able to settle into the RV park of our dreams.
Somehow, Kendra got lucky and found an open site at the Malibu Beach RV Park, which is where Ken and Barbie would have stayed in they were RVers. It’s situated on the cliffs on Malibu just off the Pacific Coast Highway 1, which could be a memorable vacation on its own.
The weather was beautiful and you could even hear the crashing waves below when things were quiet enough at night. We loved it. Noel, on the other hand, had the scare of her little cat life. The rear window of our Airstream was backed right against the retaining wall cliff with bushes and plants inches away from the window. When afternoon we walked in the trailer and noticed her on the bed shivering, shaky, and jumpy. We investigated further and was we got closer to the rear window we caught a glimpse of a large snake slithering through the bushes just a few feet away from us with nothing but a screen in between. Then, we saw its rattle. It was a BIG rattlesnake.
For days, Noel was not herself. It was as if she had seen a ghost and remained spoked. It was heartbreaking but also sort of funny at the same time. We’re just thankful it didn’t get in the trailer because there’s been a couple times when the screen pops open.
The beach and ocean was just across Highway 1, which meant we were one level of Frogger away from enjoying the Malibu beachfront. We really couldn’t swim, let alone surf, but it was still amazing to be able to walk the beaches and get my feet wet for the first time on the tour since STATE 01: Vermont.
Kendra’s mom sent us the gift of new hiking shoes. We knew we’d be needing something for the upcoming National Parks, but it wasn’t an easy online buying decision. We’re not hardcore hikers, more like fair-weather hikers, but we still needed good support, protection, and versatility. One difficulty for us in shopping online is where to ship them to? It worked out nicely that we could ship them to my cousin Emily’s house in LA, so they were already there waiting for us.
I wanted a sneaker-like boot, and the best I could find at the time were a pair of Under Armour Speedfit boots while Kendra wanted a bit more support and opted for the more rugged Altra Lone Peak Mids.
Our first test drive was nearby Solstice Canyon one hazy-sunny weekday afternoon. Beyond the beautiful shrub-filled hills of the Santa Monica Mountains, this hike was interesting because once you reach the waterfall, you also reach the remains of what was once the Roberts Ranch House. Built in 1952 and designed by architect Paul Revere Williams, the first black member of the American Institute of Architects, all that is left is a life-size blueprint of the home, anchored by the brick fireplaces and concrete floors. Aware that the area was prone to wildfires, they set out to build it with fire resistant materials and an elaborate fire protection system, but that was still no match for Mother Nature in a 1982 wildfire.
Ironically (and unfortunately), a few months after we were here, the Woolsey Fire swept through much of the area and charred these hills, destroyed countless homes, and even burnt down Hollywide filming sites, including the Paramount Ranch set from the HBO show Westworld.
If you want an architectural taste of ancient Greece and Rome, then visit The Getty Villa. It is essentially a recreation of an ancient Roman country house embedded with 7,000 years of art and antiquities with more marble and mosaic details to marvel at all day long.
In case you’d prefer the Malibu beaches instead, there seemed to be plenty of options if you’re willing to drive up and down Highway-1 until you find a beach that suits you. That’s exactly what we did one evening to catch the sunset on our last day in Malibu and Los Angeles.
After finishing our second of three California state projects for [HAS HEART], we worked continued north along Highway 1, at least as far as we could. Due to large mudslides, much of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed south of Big Sur, causing us to have to drive around, over, and down to get to our campsite.
There’s not much more to be said about Big Sur, other than it repeatedly gets mentioned as one of our favorite stops in all the country. And probably always will be.
We heard and saw a lot of suggestions to visit the Big Sur Bakery, which didn’t take much convincing for us to try iced coffee and their fresh baked goods. Well worth it and a place that must be a local favorite and one that people come back to each time they visit Big Sur.
We thought we should visit Monterey, but to be honest, we spent most of the time beached at the beach. We didn’t make it to the aquarium, to Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pebble Beach, or even the official Big Little Lies tour — which is yes, a thing. Instead, Kendra wanted to collect pink-tinted rocks wrapped in a fleece sleeping bag-like blanket. To each their own!
We don’t have anything against Monterey, but we came to see Big Sur. So we did, more and more and more. As much as we could.
…And this is why. It’s like a different country.
But like all good things, they do have to come to an end. If only we had a “Pause” button on this tour. But thankfully, the sadness we feel when we leave a place quickly dissipates as the excitement builds for our next adventure.
We weren’t even done with California, yet. This is only Part I — we couldn’t fit everything in just one post. You’ve gotta keep going and click on to see what comes next in STATE 20: California, Part II.