Residential California: Off the Beaten Path - My Family Travels

I’ve discovered that clouds are, by far, some of the most interesting things to photograph. When you’re in an airplane, above most of the pollution and a lot of the atmosphere, the contrast between the blue of the sky and the white of the clouds is inspirational. I was on an airplane with my aunt and two cousins when I came to that realization, traveling with Southwestern Airlines from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Los Angeles, California.

The first thing that struck me was how cool it was in California. I had just come from 100°+ heat back in Oklahoma, and as I stepped off the plane, it was somewhere in the mid seventies. It was always somewhere in the mid seventies, I quickly discovered.

The second thing I noticed was how packed everything was. It wasn’t entirely efficient, but every inch of available space was used. My aunt owned a house in Manhattan Beach, and it was in walking distance of pretty much everything.

During the week and a half I stayed there, I got more of the residential look at California instead of the tourist approach. While there was no Disney Land, I went wakeboarding, had an epee lesson with my older cousin at the Beverly Hills Fencing Club, visited the Manhattan Beach library, and had my first voice lesson with my younger cousin’s voice teacher, Michelle Joy Collins. I visited the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, located on the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier, and which was completely free to get in. We went on an overnight sailing trip to Catalina Island, where we passed through a pod of more than a couple hundred dolphins and started an epic shadow puppet competition on the cliff face with some of the other boats. The day before I left I took a surfing lesson with Learn to Surf, where two dolphins passed within a few feet of me and I wound up with a bloody nose. (The nose happened first…) Two of the best restaurants I visited were Wahoo’s, a seafood/Mexican cross, and Uncle Bills Pancake House, a breakfast diner that makes amazing omelets. I went to both more than once.

The trip wasn’t entirely low key the whole way through, though. We did go into Hollywood one night. We started at the multilevel Hollywood & Highland Center, which not only had the largest Hot Topic I have ever been in, but also a gorgeous open courtyard with a colorful fountain, and a hall with the name of the Academy Award Best Picture winners mounted by year. We then meandered along the Walk of Fame, played with the huge touch screens in the Hard Rock Cafe, and watched security guards in black suits and sunglasses stand outside the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre while something was being filmed inside.

The whole experience was so different from anything I had ever done before. Typical family vacations had always been either skiing in Colorado or hiking in Washington. My parents were never ones for traveling to crowded spaces, even the ski resorts they chose were ones that hadn’t been completely commercialized. And we typically rented a house a ways out from everything. On top of that, there was the simple fact that it was the first vacation I had taken without my parents and brothers. But at the same time, it was probably the most fun vacation I have ever had. From the lights of Hollywood to the sunsets on the beach, California calls for my return.

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