I finished my first year of graduate school at 2AM in a Las Vegas hotel room.
But I’m getting ahead of myself there.
For about two years now, some of my friends and I have been talking and planning on a cross country road trip. It finally happened and it was surreal and awesome and wow.
To begin, my friend Sean lives in Virginia, and he drove his ol’ reliable VW Rabbit to Chicago to pick me up. The next leg for him (and the start of the journey for me,) was to voyage across dubious Iowa and the way-too-large-and-empty state of Nebraska, to Denver, Colorado.
Seriously, Nebraska was awful. I’m sorry if you live there. The only redeeming thing about Nebraska was the plethora of bABY COWS. They were the cutest little things with their little legs. Good job, Nebraska, on the cute cows.
The next leg was Denver to Vegas. The mountains in Colorado were gorgeous and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’ve been to the Rockies before, but those were in July. There was still snow on these mountains. It felt like a dream.
It was so dreamy I fell asleep. But not after Sean and I delivered an excellent rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High”.
I woke up when we were out of the mountains and I did what any reasonable person would do at 9AM: find the nearest Starbucks. I’m glad we found one, because we then got into Utah and I thought we were gonna die. It was some The Hills Have Eyes vibes, man. No gas stations, no food, no people. The day before I had thought Nebraska was the worst. But I was wrong.
Until about halfway through Utah, when we started seeing canyons and such. Then it wasn’t so bad. Good on you, Utah. You’re a useless state until you get to the middle/western side. Then you’re alright, I guess.
I also almost got in a stranger’s vehicle. My bad. #swag
If you’re ever traveling through Utah, fill up your gas tank or you might end up on the side of the road. And, if Utah is a horror movie, you know how badly that might end up.
We eventually got to Vegas, where we checked into our super classy hotel, Circus Circus. I’m telling you, that is one swanky place. But Sean and I walked down the strip and endured the usual Vegas debauchery, were dog tired, and went back to the hotel around midnight. And that is when I finished my graduate school research paper… At two am, in one of the biggest party cities in the world. If that’s not a good way to end your first year of graduate school, I don’t know what is.
We got up in the morning and went to a tacky gift shop, then promptly left for Los Angeles, where we were meeting our friend, Dana. We spent a few days in LA, which were incredible. We went to Mt. Hollywood and checked out the observatory, which I HIGHLY recommend if you’re into space and such. My fellow nerds and I love space, so we spent some time there playing with the telescopes and reading about radio waves and all that jazz.
We also visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was pretty neat and touristy, which is what I like. I am not ashamed to admit how kitschy I am. I embrace it. Which is probably why I enjoyed our other destination, Santa Monica Pier. I LOVED IT. It was everything tacky and more.
On our last day in the LA area, we went to Laguna Beach. Now, I’m from the Midwest, where 70 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t beach weather. It’s just chilly enough to hate yourself. However, in SoCal, it’s fine. I went into the Pacific Ocean, expecting to die of hypothermia, but in two minutes I got used to the water and was having a blast getting slammed by big ocean waves. It was great. Bless you, California.
We went adventuring on the rocks and I got to see tide pools– which made my life. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a child, so seeing tide pools for the first time made me giddy like a child. I thankfully had my waterproof camera with me, so I snapped some photos of the tide pools. The little hermit crabs were AWESOME and I even saw an anemone. It was my favorite part of the trip so far, climbing on rocks with my best friend and experiencing a piece of nature I had only ever read about.
I did have some issues. The camera was a cheap point-and-shoot in a waterproof housing, so the focus was all off. And, for some reason, the film was discolored. I was a little bummed at first, but I think I like the out-of-focus dreamy look some of these have.
Little did I know that my journey was going to continue to impress me, as we drove up the Pacific Coastal Highway, through San Francisco, and onward to Yosemite. I’ll tell you lovely readers all about that part of my adventure in my next blog post!
Until then, safe travels and happy shooting!