When Michele and I were teenagers, we would crank up Led Zeppelin’s Going to California* and daydream of going there ourselves. It was one of those dreams where it seemed like it would be amazing to do, but also somehow out of reach. From Massachusetts, California is…far. It was nice to think about, but we really didn’t know if it would ever happen.
Fast forward to 2015, when I was planning on taking the first step in the United States Medical Licensing Exam (aptly named Step 1). We decided that we all needed a family vacation after my months of hardcore studying. Pretty much right out of the vacation-planning-gates, we looked at each other and said “how about California?”. It’s so expensive though, how are we gonna swing that? “We’ll make it work”. That’s our unofficial motto at this point – we’ll make it work. We always do…so we did.
We boarded the plane and arrived in SoCal roughly 6 hours later. We didn’t have too much planned ahead of time. We would be staying in Oceanside – a small town on the water about 45 minutes from San Diego in one direction, and about an hour from LA in the other. The town’s claim to fame is that it has the longest wooden pier in the state. Or along the coast. Maybe in the country? Something like that. It was a nice place to stay with a GREAT burrito place called The Original Johnny Mañana’s Restaurant, which we hit up pretty much every day. It’s always hard for us vegans when we’re traveling, but this place hit our Mexican-lovin’ spot.
We spent a day at the San Diego Zoo and in Balboa Park. We checked out the San Diego Zoo’s Safari park, which was amazing. We spent a day in La Jolla, where the seals and sea lions are littered all over the beach. They count care less about the people all around them. If you listen to This American Life, you may remember a story they did on these seals and the locals that fight to protect/share the beach with them. We didn’t know the story at all when we visited, so we thought that the people screaming to “stay away from the seals” were officials, not local yahoos.
Another day was spent hanging around the town. We rented a surfboard and took turns trying it out. If you’ve ever tried surfing, you probably already know that it is MUCH harder than it looks. Right around this time we were looking for something else to do in the area. We knew that Lego Land was in the area, which looked decent. Disneyland was also not too far away, but c’mon, Disneyland? Isn’t that…expensive?? Well, you know what? We’re in Southern California, which may be a once-in-a-lifetime deal for us, so guess what? We’ll make it work. And we did. We surprised the kids one morning by telling them that we were driving up to Anaheim to go to the park. We only spent a single day there, but it was so worth it. And besides, it didn’t really cost that much more than Lego Land. Really.
We also drove up the famed Pacific Coast Highway and spent some time in LA. We saw the Hollywood sign and stopped at the TCL Chinese Theater so Michele could put her hands in Marilyn Monroe’s hand prints. We hiked up through Runyon Canyon Park and drove through Beverly Hills. We ate at Urth Cafe because that’s where they eat in Entourage, Michele and my all-time favorite show. We’re tourists, so we did, you know, touristy things. We saw the hotel from Pretty Woman. Michele liked that.
It was an amazing week and we couldn’t be happier that we did it. I think Michele and I have come to realize more and more that we would rather spend what money we have on traveling more than owning stuff. One more pin placed on our map of the world, and a childhood dream of ours come true. What’s better, but we got to share it with the kids.
*Oh, just for clarification, our teenage years were spent together in the early 2000s, not the 70s. We were just really into Led Zeppelin.