They say that life is about the journey, not the destination. I don’t think there is a truer statement that describes the drive from Austin, TX to Santa Monica, CA. I was actually dreading the two back-to-back travel days, but I was so wrong!
We hit the road around 6:30am to start the drive from Austin, TX to Tucson, AZ. This was going to be a 13.5 hour drive before any pit stops. I took the first leg of the journey and found an incredible calm driving that morning. I watched the sunrise as the city turned into vast, desert country. We drove past large cattle ranches and huge estate vineyards. Eventually, we came across west Texas oil rigs as we passed deeper into the desert and then found ourselves driving through a dust tornado (ok, I don’t actually recommend that part, it was quite scary!). Arizona offered a different type of desert and I must say I just love those desert mountains! After a stop over in Tucson, we found ourselves back on the desert highways. There was actual tumbleweed rolling across the road. Along the way to the California coast, we experienced sand dunes and wind farms…and then gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean! Oh, and the rumors you hear about California traffic are no joke! Here’s some more about our time in Arizona and California…
Frank lived in Tucson for a year before we met. We had visited back in 2016 and I was in awe of the desert views and the saguaro cacti. I was excited when we could make Tucson the stop over on this trip so that we could re-visit Saguaro National Park. Check out our Insta highlights to see a video from that morning. The sky was bright blue and it was so quiet. We spent a short time walking through the fields of cacti, snapping photos and taking in the sights. And possibly my favorite thing about that morning was getting to FaceTime with my 3 year old nephew to show him the saguaro and how much taller they are than Uncle Frank. It was so sweet getting to see it all through his little eyes.
Santa Monica / Los Angeles, CA
I have not spent much time in California other than a short trip to San Francisco and Yosemite many years ago. Over the last two years of social distancing and watching all that Hollywood had to offer on Netfix and beyond… I had a desire to see some of that LA magic up close! We stayed in Santa Monica in this cute little VRBO rental just a block up from the beach with views of the Santa Monica pier. We arrived later than we had expected on our first night (read: traffic) so we didn’t get to explore much until the next day when we took an all day bus tour to see the sights. On the adventure list was – Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, the Farmer’s Market, the Griffith Observatory and the infamous Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was so cool to see all the places you’ve seen in movies up close and to experience the gorgeous Pacific Ocean views. I almost jumped off the bus when our tour guide told us we were driving through Gerard Butler’s neighborhood! We ended a perfect day with dinner and great conversation with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in 6 years! Her and her husband drove up to Santa Monica to spend the evening with us and my heart was so happy to get to share that time together.
The next day we had planned to hike to the Hollywood sign. This had been something I was so excited about and really couldn’t tell you why. I asked Frank to figure out how to hike to the sign. I had wanted to try to get above it and then get the view from below where you can actually see the sign up close. So Frank got on it, figured out our hiking path and so we began our trek. We parked in a random neighborhood and walked uphill for what seemed like forever until we came to a trailhead. From there it was rock scramble after rock scramble to get up to the top of the Hollywood hills and to a place called Wisdom Tree. The views were beautiful and legend has it that this tree has the power to grant wishes. Wishes were made and then we continued the hike along the ridge since the sign was still quite a distance away. After more rock scrambles and a winding path along the ridge….we finally got a glimpse of the “H” and “O”! We walked a slight way downhill and in front of us was a paved path where people were leisurely walking up to the sign. I looked at Frank and he just smiled! He knew about the easier path but wanted us to have the adventure! We enjoyed all of our views of the Hollywood sign, hiked the paved path downhill and SIX MILES LATER arrived back at our car. In spite of Frank’s trickery, or maybe because of it, this day was simply amazing. I don’t know if it was the adventurous hike or the proximity to a Hollywood icon or maybe just the shared experience….but it was a day I’ll hold dear to my heart. We picked up some Little West juices, had an amazing brunch (no seriously, make a point to eat there if you visit and get a side of pancakes) and then spent a leisurely afternoon walking around the Santa Monica Pier. Then we ended our time in California with a beautiful West Coast sunset off the pier. Perfection!
If you are still reading, thank you! Please leave me a comment so that I know you are here. And I invite you to come back next week for the final part of our journey – Colorado.