One Year, pt. 2

Now two days have passed since I left southeast Michigan for Los Angeles.   Of course, I figured that I’d resume my storytelling about my latest year in Los Angeles and not just continue on about my cat…  …but he did cause me lots of trouble.

So, we (said partner and I) were off on our adventure.  The drive itself was rather boring – intentionally.  Given the load of the U-Haul and the 4 cylinders I was towing it with, woefully near the maximum limit, I figured that it’d be best to take it easy.  I think the fastest I ever drove was 65 mph, and that was going downhill somewhere in the mountains in Arizona. The route we took:

Detroit to Los Angeles
Detroit to Los Angeles

Of course, I did know what the end result would be exciting and new (palm trees, sunshine, gainful employment), so the boredom wasn’t the worst part.  In fact, when I had flown over before to interview for the gig, I captured some great sights that fueled my desire to experience things that were different from southeast and mid-Michigan:

Flying Over
Flying Over
Canyons!  Mountains!
Canyons! Mountains!

At some point, I knew that I’d have to brave some of the inclines and declines of elevation changes in New Mexico and Arizona (per this picture), and those were some of the best parts of the trip.  It’s not that the Great Plains are boring, it’s that they are very repetitive and cows, sheep, and Flying J gas stations lack a certain notoriety for me to care about every single one.

That said, the last sight I captured in Hamtramck (where our flat was) was one of the most interesting farms I’ve ever seen:

Urban Farm in Hamtramck
Urban Farm in Hamtramck

Only a few weeks prior, I was volunteering at this old plot of land, digging borders for planters, carrying concrete and steel bars for fence supports, and helping them seed and water their first beds.  I found it to be a great experience, uniquely “Rust Belt” in America, and full of diverse individuals who were attempting to make their community better, no matter what adversity they were up against.  This particular plot was a city owned housing lot that Hamtramck couldn’t sell due to judgment against the municipality years ago as a product of housing discrimination.  Until the city is able to build and provide housing for those that they discriminated against, the city is unable to sell plots like these – so the only use for them is to let the public take care of them.  Fortunately, the public does and this is just one example.

Now, the farms don’t really end in America.  California is one of the biggest agriculture states (the Central Valley is arguably some of the most fertile soil in the world), and everywhere in between the lands are endless fields of… grain.  And if you’ll scroll back up briefly to notice the route that we were taking, at some point, we started to parallel U.S. Route 66:

Route 66 in Baxter Springs, KS
Route 66 in Baxter Springs, KS

Although I bet that many Americans (myself included) and others have a yearning to see the “Great American Highway,” most of it seems rather nondescript (note the McDonald’s sign).  We quickly got back on the interstate and cruised to Oklahoma.

At some point it was bound to get hot, hot, hot.  In no small surprise to me, we left OKC for Albuquerque on the hottest day of the year in 2012 at a balmy 106*F.  When you’re towing nearly a thousand pounds… a fear of overheating either the engine or transmission can make one uneasy.  It looked like this in New Mexico (or maybe Arizona, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter):

Desert
New Mexico Desert

Fortunately, after such a stressor, Albuquerque to Flagstaff (AZ) was a short drive.  Flagstaff had waiting for us some great beer, great food, and cold weather.  A 60 *F night is quite unexpected after being 50* warmer the same day.  After staying the night, the last leg of the drive began.  We passed Kingman, AZ and Needles, CA, crossing over the mighty Colorado as we descended from elevation into the Mojave Desert.  Traffic was light, and we made it into Los Angeles after rush hour – pulling into Westwood just after 8:30 p.m. PST.

I started work at UCLA the following Monday – leaving the road behind.  I’ve only had the joy of going on a few small trips since arriving here (Monterey, CA, Las Vegas, NV, and San Diego, CA stand to mind), but as boring as it can be, the road grants a sense of freedom that helps in transition.  America, and all of her repetitive cattle, sheep, and truck stops, never let us down as we took a big leap into what seemed to be a chasm between Detroit and Los Angeles.  Not a literal chasm, obviously, but more of a oh-God-this-is-actually-happening reality slap chasm.  If you will.

Now, I am a fan of California.  I don’t think there are many that aren’t.  But given the appropriateness of moving to a city like LA as a twenty-something (it’s not that cliché), it’s treated me well so far:

Royce Hall, UCLA
Royce Hall, UCLA
Sunset near Mt. Waterman, Angeles National Forest
Sunset near Mt. Waterman, Angeles National Forest
Off of the PCH (US 1) near Big Sur/Monterey
Off of the PCH (US 1) near Big Sur/Monterey

My plan is for this reflection to continue (at my leisure), and to get to some of my student affairs musings, personal growth observations, and the like.  But these pictures are just as interesting – and the trip is a good foundation for what’s occurred so far.  Stay tuned.

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