I grew up in Anaheim, California, just about one mile from Disneyland. Summer nights, we'd go out and stand at the end of the driveway and watch the fireworks. Back then, they went off at 9 pm. Nowadays, I'm closer to five miles from Disneyland, and I can hear the fireworks... 9:30 pm, almost every night.
I'm glad I live in California, but I'm a bit surprised that I do.
Somewhere in my mid-teens I concluded that all the world wasn't like Orange County. Disneyland is called "The happiest place on earth." The track of homes I grew up in each had a tile on the front porch that said, "Enchanted Homes." Somehow, it didn't seem quite real -- not quite true. I was all about truth... so I decided to do some traveling when the chance came.
My first big trip (not counting childhood trips to Iowa, Arizona and Washington) was a month long road trip up the West coast. I was in my first or second year of college. It was summer and a guy I kind of knew from high school was looking for someone to join him on a road trip. He had the car. We bought a large, four man tent, and started up the coast. We worked the state parks all the way up into British Columbia, Canada.
We met lots of interesting people, saw some beautiful places, and spent two days in Legget, California waiting for a new radiator. Good times. I also remembering driving back into the LA area during a smoggy rush hour. And you know what? We were glad to be "home."
My next road trip was a year or two later. I took a year off of college. My friend Craig and I drove my Fiat as far as Council Bluff, Iowa. That's where the engine died. We had hiked the Grand Canyon, camped in the Rockies, and sang at the top of our lungs to Chuck Berry on the open road.
I had enough money to fix the car and head home, or... sell the car and hitch-hike the rest of the way. I opted for "sell the car." We wish we'd done it sooner. Our first 8 or 9 rides were like a traveling party. Not only did people give us rides, they took us into their homes. (Yes, we did spend one night under some bushes along the river, but... hey.) In Pennsylvania, the people who had picked us up, lent us their tent and they slept in their van because it was raining. I still remember seeing several deer standing on a slope leading to a fog covered river the next morning. Good times.
Our trip ended in Long Island where Craig had lived until he was ten. Later, we hitched down to Cape Cod (Chatham) where we spent a couple of weeks with some high school buddies. Our only "appointment" on the trip was a Halloween party in Norwood, Mass. In Norwood, we almost rented a house with some girls I knew from California. I had worked at 31 Flavors with one of them. At the last minute, our plans fell through. I decided to take the bus home (a three day, mind-numbing trip) while Craig traveled to Vermont where he nearly starved due to a lack of jobs. (No snow.)
Once I got home, in late November, I remember putting on a light jacket, my flip-flops, and taking a walk in the park. Ahhh... California.
The last big road trip of my youth was a month long trek from Anaheim to Orlando to Nova Scotia to Spokane (and the World's Fair.) The trip went full circle back to Anaheim. That too was a trip to remember. Many places, many people, many states.
After all this exploration, one would think I might have ended up somewhere else. I really thought I would, and I did, sort of. I moved five miles north to Fullerton.
What happened? After all my wanderings I got reacquainted with God. One day I prayed, "O Lord, I'll live anywhere you want me to live." Within six months I found a new home... five miles north. I've been here ever since.
For years I simply thought God had a good sense of humor. Now, I think He just had good sense.
Over the last decade, my wife and I have traveled in many of the US states as well. We did a month long road trip from Fullerton to Mason City, Iowa. We took the southern route on the way there, and the northern route on the way back. We saw the sights of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, (Nebraska), and Iowa. We followed the Lewis and Clark trail west after visiting Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, eventually hitting the Pacific Coast at the Columbia River. Then we took Highway One south, all the way to San Francisco visiting the Oregon Coast, the coastal Redwoods, and Mendicino. We traveled the 101 from San Francisco to Los Angeles, then 30 miles south to Fullerton.
Each place had its own charms, but our own home and locale seems to have a magic which captures us more and more each time we return.
I think Joni Mitchell, a Canadian, captured some of the magic in her song: California. (Enjoy!)