West coast road trip day 5: Los Angeles

Finally made it to Los Angeles!

green and red cactus, succulents, and various desert plants
desert plants

The climate and environment changed slowly but steadily for the entire drive down the coast. You can see the dramatic differences more easily when comparing pictures from when we left to when we arrived. The Pacific Northwest is – as you’d expect – much more green, wet, and cloudy. Southern California is – also as you’d expect – dry, dusty, sunny, and hot. We haven’t seen any evidence that it actually rains here so far, although theoretically it must rain at some point. Right?

mexican food restaurant and painted mural on building with city street in foreground
tacos everywhere

It’s true that tacos are on every corner in LA. So is interesting artwork.

front yard of house with desert plants and dry dirt
local plants

Cactus and succulents are also on every corner, and literally line the streets. The landscaping varies from one house to another, but this type of yard is not unusual at all here.

I’m posting these pictures late, but we made the 1,100+ mile trip down highway 101 in about five days. It was incredibly scenic, and we barely scratched the surface – we could have easily extended the trip to 10 or 15 days and done it at a much slower pace, and we still wouldn’t have seen everything. It’s hard to top driving along a scenic coastline next to the Pacific Ocean, from beach towns to dense forests of ancient redwoods.

Going from Seattle to Los Angeles is a bit of a culture shock, separate and apart from the major change in climate. The city is a lot bigger and seems more chaotic (although to be fair, we just arrived, so everything is unfamiliar). And to take an example at random – drivers here are much more aggressive. Whereas in Seattle they are safe and courteous almost to a fault, in LA they will speed, tailgate, and frequently blow through red lights. Of course, we’re originally from Chicago, so these things are not quite as big a culture shock as they otherwise might be.

We’re only in LA for 12 months, and we plan to make the most of it. Expect more posts and pictures as we explore the city and surrounding area in southern California!

West coast road trip day 1: Oregon zoo

As mentioned in my last post about general updates and major life events, we just moved from Seattle to Los Angeles about two weeks ago. While movers loaded and hauled away most of our stuff, we also needed to transport a car, and we figured it would be a good opportunity for a once in a lifetime scenic drive down the entire west coast, starting from near the Canadian border and ending quite a bit further south. We crammed everything we could into the car (including a 5 month old baby) and headed out from Seattle after a long and chaotic moving day.

The drive was just as scenic as expected, and more. We took highway 101 (aka the Pacific Coast Highway) pretty much the entire way down, which often follows the coast and is right on the Pacific Ocean (although some parts are further inland). If you google something like west coast and route 101, the first results that pop up are “The Classic Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip,” with “classic” being swapped out for other adjectives like “ultimate” or “epic,” depending on the particular article and the level of enthusiasm of its author.

hand drawn map of highway 101 along west coast
the route we took from seattle to los angeles (on the left, along the coast). image credit: fodor’s.

Regardless, it was an amazing drive. We went through incredibly scenic areas, from dense forests to rocky cliffs along the coast, and also visited several large cities after Seattle, including Portland and San Francisco.

We started the trip at a more leisurely pace on the first day by just driving from Seattle to Portland, and we spent some time sightseeing a bit before moving on. In particular, we visited the Oregon Zoo in Portland, which has won awards (many of them, in fact). It was impressive!

boardwalk into a green forested area
entrance to the oregon zoo in portland
three sea otters
sea otters
two giraffes standing under trees
how’s the weather up there?

We saw bears, bald eagles, sea otters, seals, giraffes, bats, monkeys and apes (including chimpanzees) and much more. It was also our daughter’s first trip to any zoo. Overall, it was a great start to a long and epic trip!

Status update!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog – and if you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you are – then you may be asking yourself where in god’s name I’ve been for the past few months. What can I possibly have been doing that would justify this extended hiatus? Who do I think I am?!

I don’t have a single great explanation. I have several of them.

Back in February, I mentioned that my wife and I had our first baby, Ava. This alone was a life-altering event that has occupied most of my time ever since. The whole experience has been amazing, and we are really lucky to have had a healthy baby. Perhaps too healthy – she is better described by words like robust and zesty. A real zest for life. No idea who she gets that from.

baby on play mat looking curiously at camera
ava, 5 months old

Somehow, in addition to working full time and caring for a newborn, I also took a few classes at a local community college in Seattle. I had previously talked about taking a computer programming course last fall, and a chemistry prep class as well as a geology class dedicated to dinosaurs, both in winter quarter, from January through March of this year. I wrote a few brief posts related to topics from that class, such as asking which dinosaur had the longest neck, but overall that one was just for fun. My primary motivation for taking classes, though, has been to get some additional math and science courses under my belt, since I feel like I never really got the formal education in those areas that I should have, years ago in college. After finishing the chemistry prep course, the next logical one to take was general chemistry – so I took that in spring quarter, April through June. While this one was also pretty difficult, I’m proud to say I got an A in each class.

And then, a week after the chemistry class ended and with a 5 month old baby in tow, we moved across the country, driving about 1,200 miles from Seattle to Los Angeles.

We are only in LA for 12 months for my wife’s job – getting additional training – but as you can imagine, this move involved an extraordinary amount of planning and execution to pull off successfully. We had to find a new place to live in LA (without being able to fly and visit in person, due to the pandemic and the baby); find and secure child care in LA (again, from across the country); figure out what to do with our house in Seattle; hire movers; plan out a week-long drive down the west coast; and then actually pack up the entire house and move.

By now, you can probably see why I haven’t had a chance to continue updating the blog over the past few months.

That being said, all of that planning and execution related to the move is behind us, and we’re mostly unpacked and settled into our place in LA, ready to explore and enjoy the city. We only have a year, so we want to make the most of it. I am taking summer quarter off (in an academic sense, at least) so I can focus more on everything else mentioned above and start some other projects.

What this means for you is I’ll be cranking out additional blog posts on a regular basis. You can thank me later!