Driving to California has been a dream of mine since the tween years. After graduation my friends and I would load ourselves into a dirty van and just go. We’d sleep under the stars, eat greasy cheeseburgers, and wash our hair in rest stop sinks. It was a dream which wasn’t unique to me, but was shared among fellow female classmates. Apparently every 16 year old girl has visions of crossing into Cali, and usually all of these dreams involve a van, a surfboard, and a Roxy swimsuit that’ll just slay all the boys on the beach. (What do teenage California girls dream of? Do girls in Sacramento dream of L.A.? Do girls in L.A. dream of N.Y.C.?) I was pumping myself full of Kerouac at the time, and each beatnik page I read was causing my eyes to grow wider and wider…and then, like most coming of age fantasies, I didn’t just go.
But 16 year old Gracie’s heart beat on. So at the quarter life mark, my boyfriend and I packed up his Toyota hatchback with our Philadelphia suitcases, and decided to go west to Seattle. Because when you’re young you should spend your time being young, and moving to a city I’d never been to seemed oh-so-young. We allotted ourselves two-weeks for the drive, which would land us at our destination two days before I’d start my new job. Plenty of time to get to my long dreamt of state.
Coming in from a night in Las Vegas after one week on the road, and with The O.C. soundtrack blaring, we crossed the Nevada/California border. I’ve had several anticlimactic, “Is this really what I’ve been waiting for?” moments in life, and I’m so happy to say this wasn’t one of them. California has blue highway drives that go for hours without cell reception or gas stations, dusty hills that flow into one another, and oil drills seemingly everywhere (we saw them in some pristine orange groves and, I shit-you-not, a public school’s playground). Big Sur will break your heart then immediately mend it, it’s just that beautiful. Vineyards outside of San Francisco produce row after row of seemingly never-ending grapes, while Redwood forests in the North are so colossal the ancient trees catch fog in their tops like spiderwebs. And due to California’s size, I’ve only seen a fraction of it.
These pictures were taken by the roadside or from the car, where I really did get to roll the window down and have my hair blow in the salty Cali breeze. Teenage me is satisfied, but I still want more. I’ll be back I’m sure, so in the words of Phantom Planet from The O.C. intro, “California, California, here we cooooooommmmmmeeeee” (I’ll always love you Seth Cohen).