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I don’t really like to shop. It feels like a pretty big waste of time, not to mention a waste of money. But I know that a lot of people are the exact opposite.

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After leaving the Grand Canyon, we began the final day of the road trip to L.A. All of my previous trips to the Grand Canyon had stopped there so I was curious about the topography of southeast CA. You leave the Canyon behind pretty quickly to be replaced by just a lot of desert, and then there was the inspection station, as a sort of “welcome to California.”

That was when I noticed that the interstate was suddenly being taken over by boats and jet skis. Truck after truck pulling devices for the water crowded the road. (Boats were far and few between through AZ.) I-40 goes along the edge of the Mojave Desert. It seemed quite strange.

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I expect that a variety of things will strike me as odd about CA and particularly L.A. in the first few months of living here. I wrote a long post about a few of these seeming oddities, but rather than waiting to give you one novel-sized post, I’m going to do a series of much shorter posts. This is the first in that series.

Two months ago on a quick trip to check out the city of L.A., I couldn’t understand why there were so many cops on the streets. They were everywhere!  I saw a police vehicle every few minutes while driving around. Perhaps I was in a high enforcement area at the time, although I doubt it. Dallas uses a lot of red light cameras for enforcement. Actually, it’s a full fledged program. That means the city can use their officers in other ways. There’s a big debate about the implications of traffic light cameras. This is a good summary and assessment of the situation. In Dallas (which is clearly a car culture), police are very rare on interstates or major roads. Clearly, enforcement is dealt with differently in L.A.

So I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised that upon reaching the CA border there was an inspection station. (Honestly, I thought it might be a sort of immigration station, especially since it was on the border with AZ.)

The following transpired: An agent glanced in the car and, upon seeing the cooler in the backseat, riffled through it to pull out the remaining apples I bought at the grocery store 2 days earlier. She “confiscated” them and handed us a notice that the car had been “inspected” for the safety of CA agriculture.

Now I am fully aware of what invasive species can do to landscapes. (I did a stint on the Utah Conservation Corps several summers ago where we battled a few of them.) But the process just reminded me of when I returned from a semester abroad (during the Mad Cow scare of 2001) and the customs agent took my orange (that I had picked up in Schiphol airport but not eaten on the plane). Or the more recent example is the entire 3-1-1 liquids inspection to fly, which we all know is meaningless. My guess is that those apples will be burnt in some huge incinerator, just like the mounds of oranges burnt in The Grapes of Wrath (we are in CA after all).

It was a pretty great road trip, and most days we got out and did some hiking. I have to tell you about my favorite place along the way to LA. I don’t want to write another post about something you already know about (hello Grand Canyon). I want to tell you about this little known place. I actually had quite a bit of trouble finding it on google maps. So I came prepared with step-by-step written directions, but the signage to get there from the interstate was spot on.

If you’re ever near Santa Fe or Albuquerque (that’s I-25 or I-40 respectively for those of you travel buffs), I highly recommend visiting Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

The website doesn’t do this site justice, nor does the cheap $5 entrance fee (which is covered by the National Park Pass if you have one).

If you remember my ravings about the Cappadocia region of Turkey, this landscape will look familiar. In some ways, it’s much better than Turkey because it is easily accessible, has clearly marked trails, and includes beautiful slot canyons, too. Of course, it isn’t as large as the region in Turkey, but then again, we can’t all fly to central Turkey easily.

My only wish was that the afternoon clouds that were forming didn’t make us hurry so much. It really is beautiful terrain.

And just in case you’re wondering, my second favorite place was the Santa Fe National Forest. I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed being there. Probably half of my enthusiasm was just for being on my own two feet and in the trees after so much driving through the plains. I didn’t want to leave after roasting marshmallows by the fire and camping in the clear mountain air, but we were less than halfway to LA…

The past couple of weeks have been a dizzying array of logistics from sending notarized documents, researching pods and movers, moving vehicles, booking transport for household stuff, getting boxes, and packing. Most of it has been rather labor-intensive. I am constantly fighting my inner voice. Remember when I talked about planning trips? I’m a maximizer in making all of these silly decisions. [I came to terms with this a few years ago, when I read The Paradox of Choice (here’s good video summary of some of the points of the book), and I have some some strategies to minimize the effect, but that isn’t what this post is about.]

Through the process, there has been one logistic that I thoroughly enjoy taking care of – actually planning the cross-country trip that we will be taking from Texas to California.

I took 2 road trips “out West” about 10 years ago; both were out to the Grand Canyon with other stops along the way and back to AR. But, this is the first trip that I am planning myself. I’m excited to revisit places like the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and Window Rock. And I’m really looking forward to checking out some new places like Santa Fe National Forest and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.

I’m also excited about packing up the car, putting ice in the cooler, and doing a traditional road trip. It’s possible that it has been 10 years since I’ve done this. I’ll have podcasts, audio books, and music to help make it through the first 2 legs of the trip (to Amarillo and then to Santa Fe). 

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And for those of you wondering, the apartment confirmation finally came through!

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