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NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP: See As Much As Possible and Ignore the Trolls

california road trip plan

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP:         See As Much As Possible and Ignore the Trolls

 

I’m not the type of person who wastes time during vacations.  If I’m visiting a new place I try to see everything I can in the small amount of time I have.  Only once I feel like I’ve seen everything, then I can relax.  It’s just how I’m wired.

Most people hate going on vacation with me, especially if I’m filming.  These are the types of things I say:

“THERE ARE TWO HOURS OF SUNLIGHT LEFT.  WE CAN GET TO THE NEXT 18 PLACES IF WE HURRY!”

“WHY WOULD YOU TAKE A NAP RIGHT NOW?!”

“I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WORRY ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS.  WE HAVE TO GET THIS SHOT.”

Believe it or not, I managed to convince two friends to come on a week-long road trip with me through Northern California.  I probably won them over when I pitched the beautiful bluffs of the Pacific Coast Highway, the scenic drive up to Glacier Point in Yosemite, and the peaceful Emerald Bay of Lake Tahoe.  But I knew it wouldn’t be all pretty landscapes.

Meet Charles and Jinelle.  Actually just Jinelle.  You already met Charles in my Salton Sea video.  I’m just going to assume all my readers have my videos memorized and know exactly who I’m talking about.   Jinelle is our friend from Michigan who actually flew out just for the trip! I must have really pitched road trip idea well!  We go way back to the middle school years.  And we met Charles in college. The three of us get along great, especially when they do what I want them to do.

Anyway, we had one week to make this trip happen.  I told them where we’d be going: Yosemite, Tahoe, Shasta, Avenue of the Giants, San Francisco, and Big Sur.  It was an ambitious plan to see so many world-renowned places in seven days.  And each place would probably be better explored in seven days on their own.  But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from having an awesome adventure.  I was going to see as much of NorCal as I could.

Jinelle flew into LAX at 10:30PM and we began our adventure at 3:50AM. Actually, that’s the perfect lead in to this video.  You’ll see why:

I promise it’s somewhat entertaining. And it’s short.

I posted this video to Reddit and other social media sites.  These were some of the responses I got:

“You go to see beautiful sites in nature and then B**@#($& about not finding a hotel? Try camping. LOSER!”

“I hate when people travel just to check things off their bucket list instead of actually spending time to enjoy a place.”

Personally, I think a more constructive criticism would have been about Charles’ wardrobe choices:

charles wardrobe

charles wardrobe 4
Look at that sock game!

As the video showed, the trip was fast, fun, and full of some amazing scenery.  This is the type of trip I like to take and I hope I can do more in the future.  Unfortunately this thing called real life gets in the way right now.  If you’d like to sponsor me, I’d be willing to take monthly payments so I can buy a tent, take longer, more meaningful trips, and silence my critics.  I’m very sensitive to their opinions.

Don’t wait for the perfect moment, situation, or right way to travel.  As always, go trip yourself!

-Randy

Yosemite tunnel view
Tahoe emerald bayShasta lake damRedwoods avenue of the giantsSan Francisco painted ladiesBig Sur coast

 

Vasquez Rocks and Charlie Brown Farms – Day Trip Near Los Angeles

Vasquez Rocks and Charlie Brown Farms –  Day Trip Near Los Angeles

 

Hey.

I wanted to write a quick post and share two new videos.  A few weeks ago, my friend Charles and I took a day trip to Vasquez Rocks.  I’m sure you’ve seen Vasquez Rocks, even if you don’t recognize the name, because it is in about 29384720639680 films and TV shows.  Most notably: Star Trek, Power Rangers, The Flintstones, Austin Powers, and Planet of the Apes.  It’s very easy to get to and right outside LA.

movie list star trektv shows films here

On our way back, we stopped at Charlie Brown Farms.  I didn’t really do much research before we went, so I was very confused when I arrived and there was no farm.  Basically it’s a shop that sells nostalgic candy, Texas BBQ, deliciously-unhealthy desserts, toys, gifts, and strange, life-size statues.  Outside you’ll find Santa, locked in a fence with a Pterodactyl, lion, horses, and the Eiffel Tower.  Why they are locked up, I have no idea.  Why they are even there, I have no idea.  I’m pretty sure you can buy some of them, though.  I guess putting dinosaurs outside your home would be kind of awesome.

“Which house does Randy live in?”

“Oh you can’t miss it.  It’s the one with the triceratops in the front yard!”

Anyway, if you’re planning a road trip near LA, make a pit stop at Charlie Brown Farms.

strange attractions california road trips

Salton Sea Road Trip: 4 Things you Absolutely, Undoubtedly, No-Question-About-It, Must See at Salton Sea Before You DIE

Salton Sea Road Trip: 4 Things you Absolutely, Undoubtedly, No-Question-About-It, Must See at Salton Sea Before You DIE!!

Wasn’t that such a Buzzfeed-esque/clickbait title? I feel like I could have perhaps pushed it a little further by adding “OMG!” or “…You won’t believe #4!”

Anyway, if you don’t want to read about my Salton Sea road trip, just watch my video of it here.  It’s short, upbeat, and gives you the gist of things:

That’s all.  Thanks for reading.

Just kidding.  I guess since you’re still reading you want to know the four things you absolutely, undoubtedly, no-question-about-it, must see at Salton Sea before you die.

Salton Sea is about three hours southeast of Los Angeles and used to be a top vacation destination for Californians.  Over time, the sea has slowly shrunk, and died, turning the once pristine beach community into a smelly ghost town.

1.  The Big, Smelly, Great Sea

The shrinking sea that smells like rotten eggs is definitely a must.  Different locations have different amenities.  If you go to the Salton Sea Recreation Area ($5) you’ll see a nice-looking beach*, with beautiful picnic tables and a visitor center.  You’ll also see piles of dead fish.  Or a fish on a stick!

*only from afar

Salton Sea Recreation Area

Salton sea palm trees

Salton Sea dead fish

If you go to Bombay Beach (free), however, you’ll first enter a town where you’re unsure if there’s anyone left living there (there are).  It’s tiny, but fascinating.  A few houses and trailers are in okay condition, while others are completely abandoned and falling apart.  The beach itself follows the latter. Rusted machinery, a pier, and random furniture litter the shoreline in each direction.

Salton Sea Bombay Beach

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 1

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 4

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 3

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 5

salton sea history

2.  Niland

If you follow the coast of the sea down to the southern tip, you’ll find the city of Niland.  Niland is a town that also looks like it is abandoned, yet isn’t.  It takes about 30 seconds to pass through, and there’s a gas station, a motel, a restaurant, and a broken pay phone.  We tried to stay at the motel, but there was no answer when we arrived.  Luckily, the restaurant we tried for lunch not only answered, but they were serving lunch until 2pm, and provided edible food.

Salton Sea niland cafe

Salton Sea niland pay phone

3.  Slab City/East Jesus

If you love hippies in the desert making art out of junk, you’ll love this place! The hippies also provide free tours in East Jesus.  Definitely go there.  The art is literally made out of junk.  I wasn’t being rude.  The rest of Slab City is unique too, as I was never quite sure what I was looking at.  Again, you’ll find trailers, “homes,”  art installations, and communal gathering areas for those individuals who enjoy living off the grid.

Salton Sea East Jesus 6

Salton Sea East Jesus 5

Salton Sea East Jesus 4

Salton Sea East Jesus 3

Salton Sea East Jesus 2

Salton Sea East Jesus 1

4.  Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain is probably the most popular stop for people visiting Salton Sea.  It’s, in my opinion, the most impressive piece of work in this area as it was created by one man, Leonard Knight.  Salvation Mountain is a hill that’s been painted in colorful Bible verses and Christian sayings.  There are rooms, passageways, stairs, and painted cars and trucks to explore.  Knight died a few years ago, but many people volunteer to keep the site from turning into the rest of the area.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Although my Salton Sea road trip was an enjoyable one and I find the abandoned/post-apocalyptic theme of the area fascinating, it was also kind of depressing to see.  Everything is dead or dying, and you’re essentially driving through a barren wasteland.  The remains of what used to be an exuberant and thriving community are found everywhere.  You can find homes that still have food in the pantry as though, one day, everyone rushed out and left for good.

empty road

To end on a less depressing note, I might be getting a new camera lens soon.  And last night, I ate six slices of pizza.

Go trip yourself!

Day Trip to Point Dume, Malibu / Iron Man’s Home

Point Dume – One of Malibu’s Top Scenic Spots

Remember that scene in Iron Man 3 where Tony Stark’s home gets blown up!?  Where his mansion goes crumbling into the Pacific?? (That wasn’t a spoiler, by the way.  That scene is in the trailer.) Anyway, not too long ago I went to Malibu, specifically to where that tragedy took place.  Point Dume. Anyone can go visit the exact location.  It’s a very beautiful area.  It doesn’t surprise me at all that Tony chose it for his home.

point dume malibu california

tony stark home
This is Malibu in the middle of winter!  But let’s be honest.  It looks the same in the summer.
iron man
Romantic spray paint prom invite.

I took a day trip to Point Dume with my friend Charles.  Malibu has plenty of great places to visit, but what makes Point Dume special is that it encompasses everything you imagine Malibu to be, in one place.  It has an incredible view of the ocean from a bluff, access to Zuma Beach on the right, a rocky coastline on the left, all backdropped by huge homes (which managed to escape the attack on Tony’s undamaged, from what I could tell) and the Santa Monica mountain range.   If you’re short on time, but want to see Malibu, I highly recommend Point Dume.  You can even drive through the mountains to get there, which is an experience in itself.  The only bad thing is that this “state beach” only has eight, maybe 12, parking spots.  No joke. What kind of state park only has a few spots?! Welcome to California, Randy.

zuma beach point dume
Zuuuuuuuuma!
point dume 2
This dude was probably looking for some Iron Man swag in the water.

Visiting Malibu and Point Dume was definitely a fun day trip.  I’d love to eventually go to all of the big SoCal beaches and see which obnoxiously wealthy beach community I like best.

point dume

malibu

You may have noticed I add a video in most of my posts.  Since I work in television, I’ve decided I want to start being a little more active in my craft during my free time.  I’m hoping to improve my skills beyond “excellent lunch ordering” and “great binder organization.”  So I’ve been bringing my camera along on my road trips to practice filming and editing more.  Here’s my latest from Point Dume:

Have you been to Malibu? What are your favorite spots?

GoPro Hero 4 Black: Making Average People Look Cool

Snowboarding with the GoPro Hero 4 Black – Review and Experience

I’m certainly no snowboarding prodigy.  I can’t do any cool tricks, jump on any sweet rails, or land any big air jumps.  The coolest thing I’ve probably ever done on a snowboard is accidentally doing a flip over my friend on the mogul hill and nearly taking off his head.  Don’t ask me why we were in the mogul area.  It’s clearly not built for snowboarders.  Regardless of my lack of extreme skill, I love snowboarding.  I pretty much only go straight down the hill or weave in and out of annoying skiers, but I love it.

When you watch cool snowboarding videos on YouTube, you usually see snowboarders doing really amazing things.  For example, you’ll likely see guys doing triple backflips, holding their GoPro in one hand and eating a corn dog in another.  That’s not me. Like I said, I usually just stick to barreling down the hill.  So when I brought my GoPro to a recent snowboarding trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Was there going to be anything remotely interesting in the the pictures I take?   Could I still make a cool video even though I can’t do an intentional backflip?  Yes.

What I especially like about the GoPro is how well you can make yourself look like a badass.

GoPro Hero 4 black snowboarding
Doesn’t it look like I’m capable of doing a triple backflip while eating a corn dog?
Look at me with my cool friends.
Look at me with my cool friends.
Here, look at me again.
Here, look at me again.

I’ve also noticed how narcissistic I’ve become since getting the GoPro.  I’ve taken more selfies since buying the GoPro Hero 4 Black than in my entire life.  Oh well, all great things have their flaws (I’m referring to the GoPro, not me, of course).

This is my first GoPro.  I bought the high-end model with a few accessories.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been testing out the GoPro’s capabilities.  I took it to Griffith Observatory and Malibu.  I tested it in my car as a dash cam.  I even set it up to take a nighttime time-lapse of the sky and stars.  I had yet to test out its video capabilities until I came home to Michigan for the Christmas holiday.  I made the snowboarding video below.

Here’s what I love about the GoPro Hero 4 Black

-Excellent photo and video quality.  And the color is so vivd straight out of the camera.
-Even when pointed into the sun, the camera can produce great images.
-Easy to use and carry.  All the accessories are quick to mount with this camera.
-4k and 2.7k capabilities.  I shot in 1080p for a variety of reasons, but those higher options are there for you, if you need them.

-Shots are surprisingly stable for being on a snowboard.

 And here’s that video I made.  No corn dogs or badass tricks for you to see, but I hope you still like it.

Note: Michigan isn’t known for its mountains.  Don’t judge us by the hills we snowboard on!

If you can do sweet tricks, or you enjoy capturing every moment from the bathroom to the outdoors, or you just want a solid camera to take on a fun road trip, the GoPro Hero 4 Black is the way to go.  Personally, I can’t wait to take this on my next road trip because it’s so versatile and can get the shots I can’t get with my DSLR.

It may sound like I’m reviewing this product in exchange for money.  I wish that were the case!!!  But, no, I’m reviewing it because I’m just that excited about how awesome it is…and because I wanted a reason to show you how badass I look in those pictures.

—–

In other news, I’m back in California.  I picked up a Post PA gig for six months and hopefully this one will help me on my quest to become an editor.  In the meantime, I’m itching to go snowboarding on a real mountain and take another weekend road trip somewhere in SoCal.  Any suggestions?

Palm Springs Road Trip Preview

I went to Palm Springs this weekend.  September is the wrong month to go (unless you enjoy 115 degree temperatures and closed mountains).  More on that in a later post.  Here’s a 7-second time lapse I made of Palm Springs at night with Mt. San Jacinto in the background.

HD. Full Screen. HD. Full Screen.

EDIT: I just realized you can’t see any of the stars in the video 😦 I’m going back to YouTube.

Big Bear, California – Cabins, Lakes, and Free Parking

road trip randy

Everyone I know speaks highly of Big Bear.  If you live in LA, it’s where you go to get away.  Church goers attend retreats there.  Big time television producers have their second and third homes there.  Some athletes even rent cabins and go there to train.  Me? I just wanted to stop choking on polluted air in Los Angeles and get away for a weekend.

You know that saying that goes something like, Los Angeles is the only place where you can go snowboarding and surfing in the same day?  It’s a lie.  First, you can’t go snowboarding in LA.  The nearest “real” mountain is two hours away.  Second, what about the rest of California?  Surely there are other beautiful places with mountains and the Pacific in close proximity of each other.  Typical Los Angeles arrogance, thinking they’re so unique.  Anyway, that’s how I learned about Big Bear- as one of the few snowboarding mountains only two hours away.  Then I learned it’s a great place to visit in the summer too.

big bear drive

The drive there is actually really enjoyable.  Once you get about an hour out into the San Bernardino area, the scenery really changes.  The road starts to wind and get really steep as you drive into the mountains. Palm trees turn into pine trees, and you only see a house or building every mile or so.  The higher you go, the better the view becomes.  You hug some of these turns and realize that feet away from you are giant cliffs that lead into valley down below, or giant cliffs that could lead to your death with one wrong move.  Either one.

road trip randy

Once you get into Big Bear, you don’t really feel like you’re high up in the mountains, but you definitely feel like you’re away from the city- less annoying people and more space.  For me, it reminded me so much of northern Michigan.  The air is clean, the giant lake sparkles, and nature greets you everywhere you look.

What I especially liked about Big Bear was how diverse the different areas of the lake were.  On one side you have the city, with the touristy village.  Then on another side you have your public beaches.  Then on the other side is the residential road with houses and cabins that takes you right next to the calm water.  It’s a nice drive around the lake.  I would know.  I got lost looking for a hiking trail and had to drive around it three times.

THE VILLAGE

It probably wins awards for village you’d most likely see in a snow globe.  Or in a propaganda video.  It’s beautiful.  Meticulously taken care of, clean, and it has lots of parking.  If you’re going to Big Bear, you have to check out the village. The main area is a small street that’s ideal for spending a few hours in.  There’s basically only one building for everything you need – ice cream, post office, theater, souvenirs, etc.  However, there are a handful of restaurants in the front.  Grab an ice cream cone and take a walk down its perfect sidewalk.

road trip randy

THE HIKING

I went hiking on the Castle Rock trail.  It’s tough to find, but well worth it if you do.  Big trees, giant boulders, and one hell of a view at the top!  Once you get close to the top, the trail stops being a trail and turns into a boulder climb. It gets kind of dangerous if you don’t have good balance.  There was a family in front of me that wasn’t too athletic (think multiple Augustus Gloops from Willy Wonka), but they were leaping from rock to rock and climbing over one another as though they wouldn’t die if they missed a step.  Crazy.

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

THE FOOD AND DRINKS

I’m a big fan of dive bars.  If I’m in a fancy bar or restaurant I usually don’t know what to do with myself and end up punching someone. The great thing about small towns, like Big Bear, is they usually have plenty of dive bars.  It’s fun to see who are the locals are and who are the tourists.  I went to a small one not too far away from the village.  It was the perfect dive bar.  Dollar bills on the wall, license plates on the ceiling, and business cards in the bathroom with the faces of the people currently sitting at the bar.  It couldn’t have been better!

THE BEACH

I can’t be certain because it was my first time at Big Bear, but it looked like there were only a few big public beaches around the lake and then a lot of smaller “private” ones.  The public ones were nice- people were paddle boarding, swimming, and kayaking.  But what I really liked was that you could stop off on the side of the road, almost anywhere, and make your own private beach.  No one was around.  Just you and your thoughts… and a random pirate ship passing by.

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

I didn’t spend a lot of time at Big Bear, but I definitely see why people love it.  Angelinos go crazy if they see real, green grass and a tree that isn’t a palm tree.  I think that’s the appeal of Big Bear for them.  It’s real life. No billboards, no glamorous parties, no chronic traffic problems (you can park for free on the side of the road at Big Bear!!!), no rat race.   For a few days everyone is just living.  And relaxing.  And enjoying.  And appreciating the good things in real life.  And then not too long after, they drive back to LA… and turn back into their miserable, narcissistic-selves.

Big Bear, you were great!

road trip randy

I made this short video when I was there.  If you like it, please consider subscribing to my channel.  I just created a YouTube account and would love your support!