Los Angeles Part I: The Highlights

I have been wanting to see the city of Los Angeles for most of my life. I was actually born there, in the Northridge Valley, in 1993. My parents and continued living in Northridge and were present during the bad earthquake of 1994, where I reportedly slept through the entire thing. However, my parents began to miss their parents (my grandparents) back in New Jersey after I was born, so we moved back to NJ when I was thirteen months old. Needless to say, I do not remember my time spent living in California, but I do remember spending most of my life longing for the day I could venture there and see the places around where I was born and where I lived in my earliest year on earth. In early March, we had the opportunity to make that happen.

Technically, our March trip to LA was not our first trip there. In December, we visited my uncle, aunt, grandpa, and cousins there, but they live in Corona, which is more of a suburb of LA (read about this here). While here, we did not have the opportunity to explore the city’s most famous sights and beaches, so we were determined to not miss anything on this second trip.

The biggest issue with planning a trip to LA (that was longer than a day trip) was finding a place to stay. It’s often difficult to find RV parks and campgrounds within cities, and for some reason, there seemed to be a shortage of any within 30-45 minutes outside the city, as well. Around the same time, we realized that we had many RV repairs that we had been waiting to take care of, and then it dawned on me: Why not book an RV repair shop in LA (or at least close to it), where we can stay, while exploring the city? We had heard from fellow RVing friends that many RV repair shops will allow full-time travelers to stay in their RV’s while they are being fixed, so long as we stay out of their way when they are working on repairs. We made some calls to local LA shops, and we soon decided on a little, family-owned place.

While having our RV repaired and visiting the city of Los Angeles, we experienced many trying situations, ranging from bad to worse. However, this blog post is going to focus on the highlights of our trip to LA, as there were many positive and beautiful experiences during our 19 days spent in the City of Angels (you can read more about all the negative experiences here).

On our second day in Los Angeles, we made an evening trip to the Santa Monica Pier. While growing up, I heard many stories and tales of this pier from my parents, who had visited it frequently while they lived in LA. I was eager to see it for myself. Bren and I found it fascinating and very carnival-like. It reminded us of our favorite boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, where we have visited together many, many times.

 
We walked to the end of the little pier and sat, watching the Ferris Wheel spin for a little while, before stopping to share a delicious peanut butter waffle cone. We then found out from a little sign on the boardwalk that the Santa Monica pier marks the official end of Route 66, which was interesting to see. Before heading back to the RV shop, we spent some time walking on the beach and watching the waves. I wondered more than once if I was walking any of the places I had previously been over 22 years ago.

Our next trip was the following day, where we were officially the biggest tourists ever. We spent the day roaming Hollywood, seeing all the most famous sights of LA while there. First, we hiked to the Hollywood sign, which was steeper and more difficult than we initially expected.


Next, we went into the heart of Hollywood and walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Sunset Boulevard. We stopped for some delicious coffees at “The Coffee Bean,” a Southern California coffee shop chain which is comparable to a much better version of Starbucks. After coffee, we headed a few blocks away to “Thai Town” at the suggestion of my mom.

 
“Thai Town” is similar to the popular “China Towns” that you can find in most American cities, except it focuses on specific foods, shops, and cultural items from Thailand, obviously. The Thai Town in Los Angeles is the only specifically Thai Town in the US, so, upon hearing this, we knew we needed to check it out. We quickly found a restaurant with no wait and ordered entrees at my mom’s suggestion: green curry for me, and a spicy chicken and fish dish for Brendan. We also tried Thai iced tea for the first time, which is one of the most delicious drinks I have ever had. It’s like creamy iced coffee, except using tea instead of coffee. It’s one of those foods that is difficult to describe and that you really just have to try for yourself. (Yes, I am suggesting that you try Thai iced tea, should you be presented with the opportunity. You will not be disappointed)

 
After dinner, we explored Thai Town a bit more, before hopping back in our car to drive the entirety of Sunset Blvd. We drove past all the biggest shops and famous sights, continuing on to Rodeo Drive to conclude the evening. It was quite a long day, and, after driving an hour to get back to our home on wheels, we were happy to relax with our pups for the remainder of the evening.

The following day was one of our favorite days in Los Angeles. We worked in the morning and took the afternoon off to venture to Manhattan Beach, which was another of my mom’s suggestions. It turned out to only be about ten minutes from the RV repair shop, so we were excited to be able to visit the beach so close by. (We are huge beach bums). It was a bit crowded for a weekday afternoon, so we had to park a few blocks away, but the walk to the beach was beautiful and scenic. About two blocks from the beach access, the roads begin to descend steeply towards the beach, which creates a very nice view of the ocean. We passed many beautiful homes with gorgeous cactus and succulent gardens before finally arriving on the beautiful West Coast beach.

We spent a few hours reading our books, as I began Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and Brendan continued The Thank-You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. We are both avid readers and, and there is nothing quite like reading on a sunny, breezy beach. Before heading back to the RV, we took advantage of the vacant swing-set located directly on the beach, enjoying gorgeous ocean views while enjoying an activity we had not done in years. It was one of the most relaxing days of the trip thus far.

A day spent relaxing by the ocean with a good book is a day well spent. Hope everyone has a great Saturday! ❤️🌊 ~S

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The following day, we drove and hour-and-a-half to the city of Corona, where my uncle/aunt, grandpa, and cousins live. They don’t have any pets, but my little cousins love our dogs, so we brought Archie with us for the day. We played soccer and hung out with the kids all day, and Archie got so much attention. It was great to see my grandpa and spend some time with him again.

My aunt and uncle made us the most delicious Korean barbecue meal for dinner, which consisted of lo mein, stir fry, and barbecued beef, pork, and chicken. We watched movies after dinner and stayed late into the night before heading back to the RV.

The following day, we headed to Laguna Beach at the suggestion of my mom (once again). It was a foggy, damp kind of day, so we decided to check out Crystal Cove State Park, instead of just the regular beach. We had heard that there were many neat tidepools, something that is fairly lacking in New Jersey. Crystal Cove was about an hour-and-a-half away, and we got there around 2 pm, with about three hours of daylight left to explore. The walk to the beach was about a half-mile and was rather scenic, filled with all sorts of blooming wildflowers and cacti.

We headed down to the beach, each of us donning our very attractive, not-nerdy-at-all water shoes, which are perfect for tide pooling. We spent hours climbing around the slippery rocks, searching for little tidepool creatures. We started at an area of the park called “Pelican Point” and ended up walking all the way up to the northernmost end of the park, to a beautiful little area called “Treasure Cove.” There we found a small beach cave and a long row of large ocean rocks, perfect for scrambling and exploring. On this end of the park, there was wildlife galore, whereas we had only seen the occasional mollusk at Pelican Point, where we started. At Treasure Cove, we saw thousands of tiny hermit crabs, blue crabs, fish, oysters, snails, and more mollusks. It was magical.

We left the park and got back to our car just before dark. Driving home was fun, as one of the axle U-joints in our Jeep started to go bad. (a common issue in older Cherokees) We stopped at an AutoZone, and Bren attempted to change it so we could drive back with the car in full working order. However, we realized the fix was very involved and would take many hours, so we drove home very slowly and carefully, to ensure we made it back safely. (Read more about our U-joint fixes here.)

We spent the next couple of days in the RV, working on our businesses and taking care of Cherokee repairs. We had now been in LA for over a week, and we had seen a majority of the sights we had hoped to see and began itching to get out of the city and back into “the wild.” Because, while we do love an occasional city trip, we are really more of the middle-of-nowhere type and much prefer boondocking over staying in a city. However, while there was no changing the fact that the RV repairs were taking forever and we were still stuck in LA, we figured we would keep planning day trips in order to make the most of our time in the city.

We made it to Manhattan Beach for an afternoon that following week, which was as beautiful and refreshing as our first trip there. With beautiful mountains in the distance and gorgeous beachfront properties, Manhattan Beach may possibly be one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited. Also, since we were visiting in the off-season, it was very empty, even though I have heard reports of how busy it is in the middle of summer. However, since California never gets very cold, we enjoyed mid-70s weather at the beach during winter, which is basically as good as it gets. And although the water was cold, Brendan still surfed a bit, in his wetsuit of course.

 
Another positive note from being stuck in LA for longer than we had anticipated was that we had the opportunity to meet up with some fellow, young RVers in Redlands, CA. Niccole from “All Things Refresh” invited us to Redlands City Market Night, a weekly market located near the mountain town in which she and her husband Brandon reside in their remodeled RV. Mandy and Kevin from “188sqft,” who we had already met, were planning to attend, as well as Kermit and Trinity, another RVing couple who we had been following on Instagram but had not yet met in-person. We saw that Redlands was an hour away from the RV repair shop and decided to leave about two hours before we planned to meet up, to account for LA traffic. It turns out that LA traffic is way gnarlier than NJ traffic, and one additional hour of travel time was not nearly enough. We ended up meeting an hour-and-a-half late, but our friends were accommodating and patiently waited for us.

We spent the next couple of hours exploring the Redlands market and found, among many things, a succulent/cactus vendor, street tacos, delicious fresh produce, beautiful wildflower bouquets, and amazing, authentic tamales. After a thorough exploration of the market, we wandered the streets of Redlands, where Niccole and Brandon gave us a tour of their favorite spots in the town, which included a nitrogen ice cream shop, an in-progress grilled-cheese shop in a beautifully-remodeled alley, and several unique bars. We then went for a few drinks before finally calling it a night. Luckily, it only took one hour to get back to our RV, as opposed to the nearly four hours it took us to get to Redlands. Brendan and I both remarked on how fun and young the overall culture and food scene is in Redlands, and we hope to make it back there one day to fully explore the entire city.

The following day, March 17th, was my mom’s birthday. We face timed for awhile, and I was sad that I could not be with her for the day but thankful for the gift of modern technology, where we can see our loved ones who are far away, instead of just talking to them. After talking to my mom and completing a day’s work, we went to the beautiful “Arclight Cinema” in Redondo Beach to see the new, live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” which I had been anxiously awaiting for many months. It was even better than I had imagined it would be, and afterward, we tried “El Pollo Loco” for the first time. Then, we headed to “The Coffee Bean,” where we spent a few hours planning our next destinations throughout the spring and summer.

 
The following day, we traveled about thirty minutes away to Marina del Rey mid-afternoon. This was another of the places we would not have even thought to try if my mom had not suggested it (thanks, Mom!). Marina del Rey is a huge port town and is the largest man-made harbor in the US. There were many piers lined with beautiful boats, ships, and yachts, some unmanned and bobbing in place while others came and went from the harbor. It was truly a sight to behold.

  
We brought Max with us for the evening, and the three of us walked to the end of the farthest pier, where we watched the boats, the waves, and the beautiful West Coast sunset, which is always somehow better than the last. We find ourselves appreciating every gorgeous California sunset, and I feel this is something that will truly never grow old for us. Brendan and Max enjoyed some longboarding through the harbor together, and it was a great night overall.

 

The following day, we took a drive up the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (the California Highway 1), where we traveled through the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains and stopped to explore Leo Carillo State Beach in Malibu, at the suggestion of my dad. We were slightly disappointed that the weather was cloudy and moody, since the lack of sun made for darker waters, as opposed to the clear blue Malibu waters we usually see in photos. Nevertheless, it was an incredible day, and the sun did eventually choose to shine. We walked the whole length the beach, carefully scrambling through the wet, rocky shore, past wildflower-covered cliffs that rose high above us. The water was cold, but not too cold, and I waded in just a bit.

After our lovely walk, we sat on the beach and read for hours. While relaxing on the beach, we saw a whale fairly close to shore. It spouted water and leapt into the air multiple times, which was breathtaking and truly magnificent. It was my first time seeing a whale, but I certainly hope it will not be my last.

We concluded our Malibu day, driving the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), but south this time. We drove through sweeping coastlines and dramatic views of the Santa Monica Mountains on our way home, but unlike our drive north that morning, the sun was out, and we could see further ahead. We passed a succulent nursery and decided to check it out, being the crazy plant people that we are. Rows of colorful succulents grew as far as the eye could see, and it was well-worth the brief stop. Next year, we plan to drive the PCH in its entirety, and a longer stop in Malibu will certainly be in order.

The following day, we drove to Corona once again to visit my family. We knew we would be leaving the area very shortly since the RV repairmen had finally given us a completion date. At my uncle’s house, we played soccer and watched movies with my cousins. We brought all three of our dogs this time, which thrilled the kids. Brandon (my ten-year-old cousin) played ball with Max for hours, and the girls, Yasmin and Evelyn, fawned over Archie and Luna. My aunt and uncle made us the most delicious fajitas for dinner, and I spent a lot of time with my grandpa, which is always nice. It was another late night, and we arrived back at the RV after midnight.

The following day was our last full day in Los Angeles. There were a few items left on our “Los Angeles To Do List,” and we knew we would not have time for all of them. (Yes, we made a “to-do” list because we are nerds and make lists for everything, haha.) On our list were three final trips: a visit to the little fishing village of San Pedro, a quick stop in Venice Beach (during the day), and a visit to the city of Northridge to see the hospital where I was born. We knew we didn’t have time for all three trips, so we settled on the Northridge trip since we felt it was the most important during our trip to LA.

Northridge was about an hour away, and we took a few photos outside the hospital where I was born. We saw a beautiful plant nursery was located nearby, and we decided to stop there before heading back to the RV repair shop. It was truly the best plant nursery I have ever visited. There were many rooms full of gorgeous, healthy plants and a full greenhouse full of beautiful, tropical houseplants. We bought several large air plants with plans of mounting them to the wall in the RV. There was a fair amount of traffic on the way back, but when we returned to the repair shop, we packed everything up in preparation to depart next morning.

On our very last day in LA, we made a long list of all the things we needed before heading back out into the middle of nowhere. Our final repair was finished midday, and we rushed out of the RV repair shop quickly, very excited to be heading out into “the wilderness.” We stopped and loaded up on groceries and household necessities before heading to the Flying J Travel Plaza in Barstow, CA for the night. Here, we were able to dump our gray tank, fill fresh water, and fill gasoline and propane all in one location! Flying J’s are RVers’ (and boondockers, especially) best friends!

The next day, we ate breakfast at Denny’s, which is something we used to do semi-often in NJ but had not yet done since beginning our travels. We made one more quick pit-stop at Home Depot before making the one-hour drive to Mojave National Preserve, where we stayed for eight wonderful days.