We left Mojave feeling much more rested and continued our trip west - we’re hoping to try and get into California today, if at all possible. Our itinerary is at its loosest for the next few days, as there are several things we’d like to see - we’re both keen to see the western coastline of California and Yosemite National Park, which are kind of awkwardly placed and require a zig-zag up towards San Francisco. This has meant that we’ll most likely have to ditch Los Angeles as a destination for this trip - I’ve been (briefly) but Nick wanted to see it, but maybe that’s something for another time.
As we drive out through more parchment coloured hills, we can see what the receptionist at the hotel meant when she said that there were ‘too many’ wind turbines. They are everywhere. Almost every field, every hilltop, is covered with them, in a range of sizes that vary from the seemingly domestic to the heavily industrial - it makes me wonder where the hell all the energy is going as there seems to be so little life around here. There are a lot of factories and bits of infrastructure dotted on the skyline however, so perhaps that’s what all of this is supporting.
We also seem to be descending - a lot. I hadn’t realised just how high all of our previous destinations had been, but we seem to be constantly heading down for about an hour or two. The landscape is also definitely getting greener as we head towards the coast, with what seems to be actual grass growing on the rolling slopes of the hills around us. I appreciate the appearance of grass doesn’t seem all that noteworthy, but I honestly can’t remember the last time we saw long stretches of flat greenery. Our journey thus far has been much more towards the reds, yellows and oranges of the midwest - tinged with the white and deep greens of the mountains, admittedly - so seeing emerald green flowing away from us on all sides is definitely a different experience.
With very little ceremony, suddenly we’re amongst the fields and vineyards of California’s wine-growing area. Tight rows of obsessively organised vines line both sides of the roads, mostly bare-branched as we must’ve just missed the harvest. It’s hard to communicate just how massive these plantations are - they stretch way off into the distance and we see people pruning, clipping, replanting the rows as we pass. We spared a moment’s thought for the three poor guys that must be planting a fallow field - their job is to put seeds in each furrow and the field must be at least 10 acres, I can’t believe there isn't a more efficient way to do it but I suppose there isn’t a cheaper way.
We also pass rows of orange trees, that are fully laden with ripe fruit. Nick’s influences must have rubbed off on me over the past few weeks as I am strangely unresistant when he suggest I leap out of the car on an empty road and grab a couple of oranges. His role is ‘getaway driver’ apparently, so after a frantic dash when the road’s quiet, and having nabbed a couple of large fruits, I’m a little disappointed when it takes us about 45 seconds to drive away. Starsky and Hutch we ain’t.
After driving on through the seemingly unending plantations, we finally arrive at our first view of the western coastline that it’s taken 4,500 miles and three weeks to reach. It’s a hazy day, but the sun is warm and we walk along a surprisingly busy beach, eat our ill-gotten gains (I mean the oranges, rather than that being some sort of euphemism), and reflect on what we have achieved. It feels like this is one of the watershed moments of the trip - we’ve gone coast-to-coast and everything that follows this will be sort of a bonus. Not a very eloquent way of describing how I felt, but economic at least.
We drive up the coast, which is really, really, beautiful by the way, and try to figure out what to do. We end up in a really pretty little coastal town called Avila Beach and decide to have lunch whilst we figure out where to head tonight. Avila is kind of what I think all the English seaside towns are trying to aspire to, but never quote reach. It feels lived in, but is also neat and focussed. A few restaurants and bars line the sea front, which leads onto a small, if attractive, stretch of beach, and something must have swung us because we decide to stay for the night. After checking into the room of a lovely family run hotel, with a truly staggering view of the ocean, we try to find some entertainment at the one bar in Avila. Unfortunately the off season puts paid to that idea when the bar calls last orders at 8.30PM (!!), emptying the place of both us and the other three people in there - we decide to head back and watch a movie instead.
It’s been a really beautiful day and I’m glad we stayed in Avila, despite the lack of nightlife. As I lie on my sofa (Nick’s earned the bed, for sure), listening to the waves crash on the pier outside, I think back on the past few weeks and wonder what the last days have in store for us. California looks like it will be fun.