Saturday, November 7, 2009

California: Home Sweet Home

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!)


  1. You bring those areas to life so well with your words, humor and memories. Love the pictures. God probably enjoyed watching you travel about and growing with each new adventure. I agree that I think He has a great sense of humor. God is all about positivity and He wants us to truly enjoy all the beauty of His world and His people.

  2. I remember when I was going to seminary in Dubuque, feeling as if there was a rubberband stretched with one end inside me and the other in California. For me, now, I guess I have two homes, Live Oak and Washtucna.

  3. Had to come back to listen to Joni again!


  4. @September: As I was sitting in my house's back room tonight, enjoying some TV with the wife... I thought about how good it is... to be content with the "garden" of influence and stewardship that is my life. "There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God." It's a beautiful life! (Or is that a movie?)

    @Dennis: California does seem to have mass: it creates a certain gravity, a pull, a draw. Even if you don't live here, it's a nice place to visit. (And that includes Live Oak!)

  5. I love hearing your road trip stories, Don.
    I'm sure you could fill a book. I'll settle for a few more blog posts, and maybe a coffee shop conversation.

    How great it is to see how the Lord brought you around the country and settled you right back at home. It is good to know we are where God wants us, yes?

    Yes :)

    BTW, enjoyed the song, too. Hadn't heard that one before..

  6. @Chase: Okay Chase. After 220 some posts... I'll comply by reminiscing a bit on road trips past: people, places, and such. It may be somewhat historical fiction, but I'll give it a go. Remember: You asked for it!

    Backt Sighn, who God used to found many churches in India, was fond of saying, "I have no greater joy than to know the will of God and to do it."

    Living where God wants you to is one of those joys.

    Glad you liked the song, and I thought of calling you while vacationing in Capistrano Beach. Coffee we will do!

  7. Don, I enjoyed reading this so much! To have been so free must have been exhilerating.

    The longest road trip I ever took was down to Birmingham. 8 beautiful hours. I wish I could be free to go further. I've always dreamed of driving far enough west to experience the Buttes.

    Have you ever read the book "Blue Highways" by William Least-Heat Moon? He hit just about every state, if not every state, and the book is overloaded with anecdotes. I haven't read the whole thing (lots of pages, little print) but you may enjoy it, since you've done it!

    Question: how much would it cost to do a cross-country road trip nowadays, do you think? (No hitch-hiking factored in, please)

  8. @Saphron: I'm glad you enjoyed this. Travel is exhilarating. It seems to heighten awareness and as a result experiences and memories seem sharpened. Others have recommended "Blue Highway" to me, but I haven't checked it out, yet.

    Nowadays, the cost of a cross-country could be figured by cost of gas, wear and tear on the car (this is the part usually ignored), food, and lodging. Gas cost is pretty easy to figure based on the highway mileage of your car. Food and lodging would vary from $75 on up. It all depends on your level of must-have comforts. (It also depends on how far and how long you want to go.) Your road trip to the Smokies should give you a good cost basis.