Cross Country

Well the leaves are starting to change, the temperature is starting to drop (it may still be 79 degrees but that’s a drop) and that can only mean that Summer is coming to an end. Although the change in LA isn’t near as dramatic as Fall back home in Iowa, it still brings a new energy that I find inspiring and fuels me to start something new. In preparation for that change, I have one final chapter to my Summer Scroll Through and the granddaddy story of them all Emory and I’s big cross country adventure. 

When it comes to traveling, I must admit I’m one who prefers to jump on a plane and be at my destination in a fraction of the time.  However, a cross country road trip adventure has always just sounded so romantic and exciting. Emory is not stranger from driving from Iowa to LA usually making the trip all on his own.  I knew I couldn’t make him drive back again by himself. Plus, I had never really seen much of what’s between California and Iowa. Both of these factors inspired me to tag along for the ride, but I had a few ground rules of course! 

  1. I wasn’t willing to sleep in the car (Air BnB please!)
  2. I didn’t want to drive straight there. 

So, we decided to make a vacation out of it—five and a half days’ worth of driving and exploring from Los Angeles to Iowa. Knowing we would be traveling in the middle of August (the hottest month) we decided to forego Emory’s typical route through all the National Parks and head North then cut over.

Half Day: 

We left after work and headed up the coast towards the Bay Area. We decided to take the scenic route (about 7 hours) and drive up the coast and the PCH and recreate our earlier Summer adventure. The drive was beautiful as always and traffic could have been a lot worse. Taking this route did add and additional 1-2 hours than the inland trip would have but we would argue it was worth it. If you find yourself making the drive DON’T stop for gas in Santa Barbra (take our word for it) and DO stop for food in San Luis Obispo (we stopped at Mo’s Barbecue this time.) We finally got to San Francisco late and completely exhausted. We stayed in a boutique hotel we rented via Air BNB called The Bartlett. It was super cute and trendy, however not the cleanest nor friendliest staff. All things considered though when you take into account, we were staying in one of the most expensive cities, we weren’t complaining. 

Day One: 

We headed out about 9:00 am the next morning on a journey to squeeze as much of San Francisco in in a day as we could. Emory had already been, but it was my first time. We headed down to Fisherman’s Warf and grabbed beignets and cappuccinos for breakfast at Frankie’s at Pier 43. Oh my goodness though, people were eating fish and chips that early in the morning, but it actually looked and smelled incredible. So much in fact we went back to Frankie’s for lunch! Not only was it affordable but they claim to have the best fish and they’re right. I have a feeling this place will be a staple anytime I find myself in SF! 

After breakfast we caught a street performer act and walked through the Musse Mecanique, the antique penny arcade. Grandma predicted my fortune, we walked down Pier 39, got a great view of Alcatraz (which I didn’t realize was so close by the way) as well as a great view looking back at the city. After watching the seals, we decided it was time to go find the main attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge, at Crissy Field. 

Immediately as we got close to the bridge the most perfect sunny day transitioned to foggy, misty, and overcast like magic! We pulled over, snapped a few pictures and continued on our way.  Before leaving the bay area, we checked out Muir Woods, which was even foggier and cloudier! After a close run in with poison oak we decided we didn’t have time for a hike and instead just enjoyed the view. Look what we found?! Another Hawkeye fan with a Subaru… What are the chances?!

Back in the car for the next leg of the journey! We left around 3:30 in the afternoon driving from Muir Woods to Lake Tahoe.  Four hours’ drive through winding mountains, an incredibly bad traffic jam at the worst placed stoplight, and a pit stop at the Eldorado National Forest later and we arrived at our second destination, Lake Tahoe.  

Day 2:

Finally, a day with no driving and a chance to relax. Funny and sad how excited I was to just enjoy a day with no driving considering all the driving we had done thus far hadn’t gotten us any closer to our final destination. We were also excited because neither of us had been to Lake Tahoe. We started our day where any adventure tends to begin, Starbucks. I must admit though, it was more out of necessity for wifi access than anything! Next we started driving around the lake and made our way to the Eagle Falls trailhead. FYI there’s a Lower Falls (that is right off the road and no hike required) and the upper falls. It’s a very mellow and short hike to the upper falls but then the keeps going for a great look out of Emerald Bay and eventually opens to a beautiful lake view. 

After the hike we had a picnic lunch at the Camp Richardson General Store and a scoop of sorbet at the Ice Cream shop! I felt like we had traveled back in time to summer camp in Parent Trap or Wet Hot American Summer

After freshening up we had plans for a sunset boat cruise tour of Emerald Bay complete with wine tasting and a charcuterie board! We had an amazing time being out on a boat, watching the sun go down, and meeting another incredible young couple that were visiting from the Bay Area. After attempting to find real food on a Sunday night, we headed back to the apartment and rested up for a big day of driving. 

Day 3:

Back on the road and ready to make our way through the desert. Leaving Tahoe, we quickly drove through Reno, Nevada and then cut across the state to Utah (another 7-8-hour drive.) We took a much-needed detour and stopped at the Bonville Salt Flats. After a few attempts at some doughnuts in the Subaru, watching a U-Haul haul down the speedway, and tasting the salt it was back on the road again. Along the way I of course made us stop at the first Jimmy Johns I could find for lunch and before long we made it all the way to Salt Lake City.

Once we got to the cutest Air BnB I’ve ever seen we headed to downtown Salt Lake which was beautiful and incredibly charming. We walked around Temple Square and then scootered to The Green Pig Pub for dinner with a view of the of the city-county building. 

Day 4:

Although this would be the second longest day of driving on the whole trip—it was worth it to see some familiar faces. We started with breakfast at Earnie’s Sports Deli in Orem with a college friend before another 8-hour drive. We made a few stops off the side of the road like the site of an old mine explosion, to see the Colorado River at the No Name exit, and the Colorado Sign just to name a few! 

Being ahead of schedule we did decide to stop in Grand Junction, Colorado for lunch at Rockslide Brewery and to check out a few antique shops while we walked off our beer. Before long we made it to Denver! Finally! This leg of the road we were fortunate to get to stay with friends. The same friends I stayed with in July mentioned in my Destination Denver post. Now after two years of not seeing each other we were fortunate to see each other twice in less than two months! We went out for dinner at Blue Moon Brewery at which we ran into another friend unexpectedly AND had the most amazing beer flights and pickle burgers. Now, I’m not much of a beer person but with beer flavors like Mexican hot chocolate, cold brew coffee, and a mango wheat (which you can buy at stores and I highly recommend) how could you not enjoy them! 

Day 5: 

Sadly, it was time to leave and time to get home. Day five’s motto was all drive and no play because a ten-hour drive through mostly Nebraska is not something to get excited about. However, with home being the final destination it was enough to keep us moving forward. Emory was a champ at this point, doing most of the driving and soon enough we were back in our great state of Iowa. 

To wrap up one of the most amazing trips and 37 hours of being in a car, I had a weekend at home with my friends, family and love ones. As well as a chance to relax, golf, drive through Ledges State Park, and eat at Jimmy B’s of course (my favorite barbecue place EVER in Boone, Iowa.) 

The trip flew by and dragged on all at the same time but overall, I couldn’t be happier with the experience. It gave Emory and I a much-needed adventure before going back to long distance. It was filled with many firsts in cities that will always hold special memories. Most of all though, the trip couldn’t have happened without its primary sponsor, Dramamine. (Ok it wasn’t really sponsored by Dramamine, but it should have been because it’s seriously the only thing that kept me alive!!!) 

Now Summer is officially over and we’re headed into my favorite time of the year. This Fall I still have a few more goals to accomplish before a New Year’s deadline! I’ll also be very busy with some exciting projects at work and I’m looking forward to a girls’ get away trip, a visit from my parents, and ALL things Halloween. 

Stay Tuned! What are you most looking forward to this Fall? 

Taking on Traffic

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(While this picture wasn’t taken in LA and it isn’t me driving…. It is still my car and I took it!)

Well… I’m not an Iowa any morethat’s for sure. When you come to visit or move to LA if the palm trees and sunshine aren’t enough to immediately tell you you’re in a new place then it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself stuck in traffic on the 101 freeway and the message reads loud and clear.  Traffic here really does suck.

There are a lot of rumors that surround Los Angeles and transportation (but there are a lot of truths about them too).  In just a short time of living in LA spread out over a few years, I’ve experienced it all from using public transportation, trying out all the rideshare services, and even driving!

Everyone says that the public transportation systems suck in LA and well if you’re someone whose use to living in New York or Chicago then you’d agree. Los Angeles is a different kind of city because it’s so spread out compared to cities that have skyscrapers and believe in building up into the sky.  When I first lived in Los Angeles for a summer internship, I was testing it all out.  I lucked out rented an apartment that happened to be less than a block away from a metro stop. For me to get from my apartment in North Hollywood/Studio City all the way to Universal City for work, I walked one block, got on a metro bus for one stop, transferred to a metro subway for one stop then got off and walked across the street to work. Easy Peasy! All this took about 45 mins each way and cost about $5 round trip.  Sounds great, right? Well since moving back it’s my understanding that that was a pretty rare and unique experience that I’ll probably never find again.

Unless you find yourself in a similar situation where you live in close proximity to a stop, it can be very challenging.  There’s not very much parking at the metro stops and stations so you have to walk or Uber to catch a metro ride. The metro lines aren’t as well connected as in other cities either. You could find yourself in a situation where you have to go all the way downtown to make your connection train and then back track on a different line to get to the neighborhood you work in! But none the less public transportation does exist if you’re willing to make it work.  I also think that most of us are too stuck in our ways and tailored to this idea that “we have to drive” to even find a route or see if there’s a public transportation option available to us. Not as many people are willing to trade in their road rage for sitting next to strangers, but if you’re the kind of person that can actually get your morning started by either answering emails, reading a book, or even taking a little snooze in public—then it could definitely be worth checking out! Yes, it might take you a little longer, but you have more of an opportunity to make that time worth it and be productive.

One morning during my internship, I woke up a little later than usual and knew I wasn’t going to make it on time if I took the subway.  I decided to Uber instead and actually learned that going to work in the mornings was cheaper and quicker by Ubering rather than public transportation. The Uber ride would take 15 minutes and cost about $1.75… purely amazing and life changing (I now had an extra 15 minutes to get ready every morning or get to work even that much earlier which for me is a big deal!)

 

When I lived in LA the first time Uber and Lyft were still pretty new concepts to me, but before long they became my life line.  When my mom and I arrived at LAX we had plans to immediately rent a car for the weekend, but that idea quickly turned into a nightmare. Long story short, I’m just going to let you know that I will never try renting a car from a rental place close to LAX ever again.  If you’re here for a short period of time, trust me it’s not worth the stress, waiting, and money!  Just download a rideshare app instead- I swear! I convinced my mom right then and there we were going to just Uber all weekend and 12 minutes later our driver was coming to pick us up and saved us from all the struggles.

Uber has been a life saver in many different moments. It made getting around in Los Angeles easy, “quicker,” and was pretty affordable considering the alternatives. My mom and I both loved getting to meet different drivers and hearing their advice and life stories while we also got to sit back, relax, and not worry about directions, parking, or which exit to take. People often get in the discussion of whether Uber or Lyft is better, and everyone has a different response. Some drivers drive for both services and will tell you different things. For me, they’re both about equal. I’ve had great luck with both and some frustrating moments with both. Most importantly I’ve always felt safe on both and when there were times I ran into issues both customer services responded quickly and were very helpful! If I have time and am not in a hurry I usually check the rate with both and then pick which ever one will be cheaper. Usually though, they’re pretty close so I pick whichever one can have a driver there the quickest.

My favorite thing to do in LA (in terms of traveling and traffic that is) is to take Uber pool. Uber pools or Lyft Lines are ride options offered in the app (they’re usually only offered in your major metropolitan areas though). They allow parties of 1-2 riders to share their ride with another rider usually for ½ the price of the original ride. Generally speaking it only adds an additional 15-30 mins onto your trip.  I’ve seen some of the neatest areas and neighborhoods and met some amazing people all because of Uber pool. For example, one Saturday I was going to Manhattan Beach and we stopped and picked up another girl in her mid-twenties who was also headed to that beach. Neither of us were meeting anyone until later that afternoon so we decided we’d just go to the beach together and hangout. We spent the entire afternoon discussing our lives back and forth with a complete stranger and then at the end of the day we both went our separate ways- but it was a really great time.

While that was an amazing experience, you do have to be careful and smart about it. Although I haven’t had any bad experiences, I do choose not to pool later in the evening or when I’m closer to certain areas of town. Also, as often as you meet some neat people you’ll also get passengers who do not want talk or even look at you (we all have those days). If you’re in a hurry and crunched for time, don’t rely on pool just because it’s cheaper.  It’s not always a guarantee that they’ll get you there on time especially with traffic. Do everyone a favor and pay the few dollars more just to take your own ride in those situations.

When I moved back to LA a month ago I had decided not to bring my car and planned on ridesharing everywhere. I wanted to get reacquainted with the area once again and I wanted to see if I really needed truly needed a car… Almost immediately I regretted that decision. Uber prices had definitely gone up and I was living in a less central area compared to North Hollywood (now I’m in the San Fernando Valley). My expenses were rapidly adding up and it took too much time to plan ahead to rideshare.  So, I needed my car but now that I had a new job and I couldn’t go back to Iowa to get it. I had looked into shipping it and that was going to cost about $2,000 which did not seem worth it.  On to plan b… My boyfriend, being as great as he is, agreed to drive it out to me. I’ve had a car now for two weeks, which I know doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s made all the difference. I was beyond nervous to drive at first… I had no idea of how to really get anywhere and I had never drove in traffic like this before. But now, I’m thinking to myself, what was I so nervous for. Right now, I live and work in the valley which is no different than driving in town in places like Iowa City or Ankeny, Iowa. Yes, the freeways are a little different though especially during rush-hour. I’ll tell you what though, I’d rather drive in LA than Chicago because at least people here are lucky to be moving 10 miles an hour where in Chicago everyone’s flying down the interstate at 85 miles per hour. The biggest thing you have to pay attention for is people cutting you off and swerving in and out of lanes usually without using turn signals. Motorcycles are also terrifying because they can weave in and out of traffic going 60 miles an hour even if you’re stopped. If you stay alert and pay attention though, you’ll be fine! Just stay focused on your lane and the lanes next to you, be greedy when you need to be, don’t be a jerk, and take turns when you can!

 

There’s another key difference when driving in LA (typically the guys you’re with will notice it first). If you’re anything like my boyfriend, Dad, or Uncle the first thing you realize is that you’re always surrounded by fancy cars. The people here drive a lot of different cars than you might be used to. My dream Mercedes G-Wagons are everywhere, and Tesla’s might as well be the new Prius in LA County (even cars like a Rolls-Royce aren’t that uncommon). Make sure to keep your eyes on the road though so that you don’t accidently fender-bender a Lamborghini.

(And then there’s cars in Cali like these…good thing though, people would see me coming from a mile away.)

 

If you’ve ever lived in Iowa City, you know parking there sucks so naturally I was worried what it’d be like in LA but honestly, it’s not that bad in most neighborhoods. There’s a lot more street parking then you’d think (but you better be ready to parallel park), parking garages are actually pretty cheap especially with store validation, and you can valet at almost every restaurant for like $8-10 plus tip if you’re really in a hurry to meet someone.

Overall the rumors are pretty accurate. While living in LA without a car isn’t impossible, it certainly makes life more difficult if you’re living here long term or commuting to work every day. I’ll leave you with a few more tips to take into consideration if you’re planning to visit or make a move. Don’t pay attention to how many miles something is away. That number means nothing here and will actually make you more frustrated. When plugging an address or location into Google Maps just look at the time of how long it’s going to take you to get there. Next tip is to then plan accordingly. Always give yourself at least 15-30 minutes more than it says you need to get there whether you’re driving or ridesharing. Accidents do happen frequently which is usually why the freeways can get backed up at any time of the day. Most importantly just keep an open mind. Expect traffic so then when you hit a rare patch of no traffic it’ll feel like a winning situation. Last but not least, if you do find yourself getting behind the wheel use your GPS, stay focused, keep a spare phone charger in your car, and just go for it. If I can find my way around and maneuver the traffic being the most defensive Midwest driver there is, you’ll be fine!