Hey reader, friend, dear family scattered across this beautiful world. An excellent start to spring for all of you. We hope you are well, be healthy, and don’t panic.
Again, 1 1/2 months have passed since our last post. A lot has happened in that time. We were able to welcome new friends in our lives, investigated into US visas, enjoyed the warmth, the sea, and the desert, and, as always, we are busy making plans.
At the end of the post, some worth about #covid19. But first, here some worth for everyone who is in self-quarantine.
A long day
For this, I take you away from warm Southern California with its endless sandy beaches about 1 1/2 months back to a cold, rainy, and utterly unfriendly place – the border between the USA and Canada, only about 30 minutes south of Vancouver.
The lunchtime is long over, we are hungry, suffer terribly from coffee deprivation, and in front of me is a CBP Officer who obviously decided this morning to make it as difficult as possible for two world travelers. And he was good at his job. Actually very good.
“No wifi,” he said to me repeatedly, looking at the next person in line, waving his hand as if to scare away a mosquito, and called without looking up. “NEXT!”.
I went back to Nina. “He only lets us enter if we can prove that we have enough money in our account to be able to look after ourselves for six months,” I summarized the “conversation” with the CBP Officer.
To do that, we needed the internet to open our “Banking App”. The border has no WiFi, and we had no working mobile internet with us. Even if we went back, we would have “refused entry” in our file, and that would be anything but good for the future.
The solution to our problem was in the form of three young Asian women a few meters away from us. After I introduced myself and explained the situation, they agreed to create a hotspot for us – unity makes us strong. We realized we weren’t the only ones having a bad day at the border.
It took about 20 minutes and six hands decorated with 5cm/2inches long fingernails to create a hotspot. We stood in front of the CBP Office half an hour later. On the one hand, the Asian phone in the second ours and showed him our account balance. Many questions followed, then he took our car key and disappeared for an hour to rummage through our car. When he came back and leafed through our passport for five minutes, then he had found something to make our day more difficult. He announced that we were now OK to enter and would have to leave in April – so no six months.
“Excuse me?” Asked Nina in an impatient voice. He smiled internally (he kept his poker face on the outside) and explained that we had entered the US in November, therefore, we have to leave after the six months. He talked of our stopover in Seattle when we flew from Frankfurt to Victoria.
Nina explained the situation, and when he made her understand that he was not very interested in all of this, she asked for his superior. Despite all the rules of conduct and horror stories at the US borders, the maneuver worked, and we got the new 6 months. Entering the United States was never easy, but five hours was new for us too. We left the border area relieved with increased cortisol values and were on the way to the next problem that needs a solution.
Our American / Canadian RV
We were three hours late when we arrived at John, our importer, just 30 minutes’ drive from the border. 30 days had passed since our RV was imported, and the legal lockout period was in John’s parking lot.
Now we were a little nervous. According to our latest research, which we did in Vancouver, there was no way to register our motorhomes in the state of Washington or Oregon. Internet forums of travelers and travel guides were very unclear here and, like most, full of half-truths. We struggled through many queues at the DMV and finally received an explicit rejection. NO. To register a vehicle, we would need an address and driving license of the State of Washington.
From Vancouver, we described the situation to John, and he made a few phone calls. He called back and said that everything should work out. A friend of his had found a way around. And now we were on the way to this friend. An hour later, we happily held our number plates in our hands and were heading for the campsite. Our “Goldi” was now officially American. How proud we are of him.
It took us late into the night to make our home comfortable. First of all, I had to clear the traces of the customs officials, then we cleaned the water tanks (there were still the anti-freeze in the pipes), stowed clothes and kitchen utensils, and carried out a few small repairs. There was a problem with the electrical system, the water heater, and the refrigerator. At some point, late at night, we fell exhausted into our beloved bed. The first night in our home. I looked happily at Nina. We were here again. “Tomorrow we are going south,” were her last words. Then we fell asleep.
California – In the Gold Country
After two days of driving, we reached California’s former gold rush area. Our Friends’ property was 1 1/2 hours from Lake Tahoe and about 2 hours from the Bay Area with San Francisco – in the middle of the gold country. We met Jeff and Melissa at a campground in Salt Lake City about two years ago. A friendship quickly developed. We were very happy to see them again after more than a year.
We spent the next two weeks on the massive property. In the middle was a huge, beautiful barn. We went for walks and cooked together. “Isn’t it fantastic to be able to take long walks on my own property,” I said enthusiastically to Nina one evening. She only nodded as we came back from our lap along the pond. We enjoyed the sun, which shone every day as it should be for California and brought warmth and bright colors with it.
We also got to know the whole family at a celebration day. The two daughters with husbands and all five grandchildren. The vast interior of the barn served as a gigantic playground – a child’s dream come true. Speed through the barn with the bikes, a puppet theater, fishing in the pond, horseshoe games, a real American BBQ with lots of delicious things (of course, everything organic), a little splashing around in the whirlpool and a photographer (= me) who took all day long pictures from everybody. It was a lovely day that we will remember for a long time.
In the evening, I wrote in my travel diary, “What a glorious day. Full of laughter, good food, and exciting conversations with so many charming people. And now, finally, I am looking at a beautiful starry sky that I have not seen since New Zealand.
The Bay Area
From the barn, we visited the Bay Area – San Francisco and the surrounding area – for a few days. We love the life and sights of San Francisco. Above all, the Golden Gate Bridge followed by the often underestimated Bay Bridge, the quirky Chinatown, the Palace of Fine Art, Ghiradelli Square, and of course, a sunrise on Slacker Hill with a view of the city with the Golden Gate in between.
We also visited some places in the valley like Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Carlos, we visited friends and ate in one of the best burger places on the west coast.
This time we were also here for business reasons. The Bay Area was the first stop for a location for our eventual future business.
An unexpected meeting with friends
What a coincidence, two good Canadian friends were at the same time in San Francisco than we – Jeanne and Gordon. They attended the wedding of Jeanne’s son, who got married unplanned before they move to Luxembourg. It was a lovely meeting in my favorite cafe in Larkspur – the Rustic Bakery. If you want an almost perfect croissant outside of Paris, you’ve come to the right place.
We hadn’t seen each other in two years and therefore had a lot to tell. Gordon and Jeanne traveled around the world for several months each year. Mostly in Europe. This time a few months in Southeast Asia and after this short interruption in San Francisco, they would travel to Portugal. At that time, none of us knew how dramatic the situation in Europe would develop in the next few weeks.
On the way to our next stop, Santa Barbara, we stopped in Pismo Beach for a few nights. We were just in time to watch the annual spectacle of the butterflies. Thousands of butterflies had chosen a tiny area here in Pismo Beach to larvae. A unique spectacle. A ranger told us that there were millions of butterflies twenty years ago. The air filled with butterflies reminded me of Mexico when we got caught in a “butterfly storm” 1 1/2 years ago. The sky was almost black in the setting sun, filled with thousands of butterflies. We drove these few hundred meters with our mouths open through the swarm (in a closed car). An experience that I will never forget.
Our next stop: Santa Barbara. The second possible location for our future business. For us, Santa Barbara is undoubtedly one of the most attractive cities in California, even the United States. The “Pearl of the California Riviera” is a magnet for tourists, Hollywood stars, and an extraordinary number of VIPs, which attracts a pleasant climate, the beautiful landscape, and the charming town.
The unique thing about Santa Barbara is its cityscape, which we have rarely found in the USA. An earthquake in 1925 shook Santa Barbara and paved the way for new construction in pseudo-Spanish style. So today, we walk between white walls covered with deep red and yellow flowers, past houses with warm ocher colors with red-tiled roofs, balconies, and wooden shutters. Quiet arcades are home to family-run restaurants, charming shops, and boutiques. Nowhere does a high-rise disturb you and neo-baroque churches, squares, cafes, pubs, fountains, and alleys exude an American-Mediterranean atmosphere. Unique.
We stayed at the Cachuma Lake Campground as usual. A local recreation area located just 30 minutes from Santa Barbara in the breathtaking Santa Ynes Mountains. The light here was exceptional, and the campsite was right next to a vast water reservoir. We love it here.
In the next few days, we met with numerous real estate brokers, looked at many rental properties, and drove through the city on our own to look for “for rent” signs. In between, there was still plenty of time to enjoy the beach and the cozy cafe scene. As our internet research had already shown, Santa Barbara was an expensive place to stay in terms of rents. The prices sometimes seemed to be unpredictable, and we didn’t find anything below $ 4000 a month.
Our next destination for rental properties was Orange County. The smallest county of California is welded to Los Angeles so seamlessly that many still counted it to LA, and yet it is very different. While Los Angeles is all about stars, Orange County is about surfing. The most famous sight is Disneyland. Much of OC’s life takes place on the coast – from Seal Beach to Huntington, via Newport Beach, to Laguna Beach. One surfing dream after another. We liked Orange County exceptionally well, and the rents are also a little cheaper than in Santa Barbara. So probably a match.
Los Angeles. When we were here for the first time in 2008, we didn’t particularly like it. I have to admit that. It was only because I didn’t understand it. But I wasn’t the only one who had belittled Los Angeles, many had something to complain about LA or looked down from above. But now that the world has caught up with the California organic wave, green smoothies, and fitness-loving residents, LA is suddenly at the center. LA is full of art galleries and museums, and every day a different architectural or artistic masterpiece opens.
The most fascinating thing for us is that Los Angeles consists of several sites. The most famous among them are probably Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica. Each of you has its own personality. From the upscale bars and restaurants on Rodeo Drive to the Venice and Santa Monica beach scene. Navigating in the LA metropolitan area is super easy, even if you should avoid the infamous “rush hour” traffic. Which we didn’t always succeed. We once went from the Griffith Observatory to our campground in OC. 3 1/2 hours needed. It only helps to have enough water and food in the car and to enjoy the ride.
We also visited our favorite places. The Venice canals, which are not known at some locals, Santa Monica and, of course, the Griffith Observatory. Oh yes, the Hollywood Sign at night is an absolute must! Don’t forget your picnic. Sit behind the sign and look at the sea of lights of the infinite city. Every now and then, a helicopter rushes over us, to bring a star to some event or home.
And then we went into the desert. The Rat Pack is back, baby! Or at least their meeting point. In the 1950s and 1960s, Palm Springs, about 100 miles east of LA, was the swinging haven of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and other Hollywood stars.
We love the retro-chic atmosphere of Palm Springs and the elegant modern structures. Built by famous architects such as Lloyd Wright, Albert Frey, or John Porter Clark. In Palm Springs, retirees and snowbirds (= mostly Canadians who escape the icy winter for a few months) mix comfortably with hipsters, travelers, and a large LGBTQI + community.
We ended up in a 55+ community that exceptionally lets younger people into their park. We were greeted so warmly by our neighbors and the whole street that we decided to stay longer than a few days. On the second day, there was a street party – “Mardi Gras”. Instead of in New Orleans this time in Palm Springs. Here we met many lovely people.
Among them, Peter and Gabi – two retired bodybuilders. They grew up in Chemnitz before the fall of the Berlin Wall A German television broadcaster had described them as the “Schwarzenegger of Chemnitz.” And now, in their early 70s, they still regularly visit the fitness studio and walk several miles every day. Impressive. After the reunification, they operated a fitness studio in Chemnitz, and 12 years ago, they fulfilled there dream – America. They bought a motorhome and traveled to this great country. They spend six months here every year. The change is difficult for them every time they return to Germany. We understand.
With a few exceptions here, most 70+ people are so fit (physically and mentally) that I have to estimate them by European standards at least ten years younger. No joke. We met Otto, who bought a Porsche at 85 and makes road trips from Canada’s north to California – every year. Robert and Chantal, who walked the Jakobsweg at the age of 70, went by bike (no e-bike) from southern Germany to Amsterdam, and this year they plan to bike from Croatia to Vienna (well, probably not this year, but that’s another story). The joke, charm, and action are unbroken among these lovely people.
We enjoyed the atmosphere here. The weather also played along. Sunshine and the thermometer was a pleasant 25-30 Celsius. In the evening, we sat in the hot mineral springs and marveled at the impressive starry sky. The day before we left, we held a “strudel” festival with all the people we met during our stay. We baked four apple strudel and four “curd cheese” strudel. Of course, the dough was so thin that you could read this post behind it. It tasted!
The unique Joshua Tree National Park is just 1 1/2 hours from Palm Springs. The Joshua trees got their name from Mormon settlers. To us, it seems a bizarre mix of cactus and fir. ?
Nestled between the Mojave and the Colorado Desert, the famous park in California has been an attraction for visitors for years. March is high season, and the campsites are fully booked all month. Joshua Tree National Park offers many geological features and unique flora and fauna amid a fascinating desert landscape.
Climbers know “JT” as the best place to climb in California. Hikers look for hidden, shady oases with desert fan palms fed by natural springs and small streams, and mountain bikers are hypnotized by the desert views.
In spring, the Joshua trees send out a giant, cream-colored flower. The mystical quality of this landscape littered with boulders has inspired many artists, especially the band U2, which titled their album “The Joshua Tree” in 1987.
The best thing for us at the JTNP is the starry sky or rather the Milky Way. When was the last time you saw the Milky Way with your eyes? No problem at Joshua Tree. When camping in Joshua Tree National Park, you can enjoy an unobstructed, overwhelming view of the starry sky, which you will not soon forget.
We leave the desert and drive to the coast. Just a two-hour drive. The peaceful Encinitas welcomes us with a decidedly down-to-earth surf atmosphere and a free beach. Almost all southern California coastal cities can be classified as “surfy”, but Encinitas seems to embody this spirit better than most. Here you can enjoy surfing all year round.
Everyone raves about the climate in Southern California – for a good reason. They know that a place is perfect when 15 degrees at dawn, occasional rain, or a few weeks of cloudy sky in June are cause for complaint from the locals. There are also plenty of great bars, restaurants, and eateries.
For the time being, Encinitas is our last stop in our research to start a business. The Better Buzz Cafe has been our work cafe from day one – with good coffee and comfortable seating, electricity, and wifi. As the campsite, we chose San Elijo, State Park. A campsite right on the cliffs. So we experience an incredible sunset every day.
#covid19 had also reached us a few days ago. Grocery stores are cleared, bars, cafes, and restaurants are closed. Today the campsite closes, and we have to find a new place. People have quarantined themselves. So we, too, every now and then to the supermarket to see if there was anything to eat. We stay in our RV. The sea in front of the door is fantastic and invites us to take endless walks.
See you soon and stay healthy.
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