On California

“The sun in California is like white wine and pine sap. It may be a temperate sun, but it has an ardent nature. If lifted my heart with a heady buoyancy and spiced the air with a resinous tan. It shone down on me loyally up the coast road from Los Angeles, beating at me from the concrete freeways, beckoning me from Pacific breakers, winking from wind stirred leaves and grasses. It followed me through San Francisco, bouncing off windowpanes and shining on long golden hair. It warmed the terracotta ironwork of the Golden Gate Bridge, flashed off the teeth of a toll collector, hurried me over he rain grooves and up the highway until, one hundred miles farther on, it came into its own among the forests and hills of Northern California. Where the hot cement gave way to cooler asphalt and the highway began to rise and fall and curve against the hillsides, the bike transformed itself from a running animal into a bird and leaned over to swoop and curl with the contours. Somewhere there, where the highway meets the river, I wound off to the right and flew in among the mountains, looping high up towards the sun and down again into a bowl of fertile land and golden sunshine.”

Ted Simon, Jupiters Travels (1979)


I will never forget my first time in California. It was June 21st, summer solstice, and I had left  Oregon at 0530h, heading south on the I-5. And the I-5 was glorious that morning, with the soft green mountains bound in fog and haze and smoke, and, bombing down the I-5 that morning became ethereal, timeless. I watched the landscape change, the way landscapes will change when one covers vast distances at fast speeds.  How many landscapes can one cover in a day? The answer seemed infinite, endless. And it was here that I first stopped for gas, and it was here that the sun really came-to. Everything was shimmery, that morning, and I was in bliss, pure bliss, knowing that I was on my way to someone I loved, still one-whole-state-of-California-away, but one-whole-state-of-California-away did not seem so far away, anymore. And everything did remain shimmery that day, and it began to get hot, and the pines were waving hello, and it reminded me of the interior of home, and Mount Shasta waved hello, and I was in California. 

Tucked into the tent in Hopland that night, on the summer solstice of my 21st year, I fell asleep in a new land, one of which I never thought I could love. But in that moment, I did.