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I pulled into a gas station and was baffled that every pump was full. I pulled up behind one car and waited for the driver to return after paying. A few minutes later, I was still waiting.

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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).

Finally, I can see the end to this awful heat. It isn’t because Dallas has cooled down at all. (No, it was 97 degrees at 9:30pm last night so we went for a swim!)

I can finally announce that M and I will be moving California – Los Angeles, or rather Hollywood, to be specific. The interviews are over, the visa is transferred, and we’re in the midst of a frantic dash to take care of a lot of moving details.

By far, the most difficult aspect has been finding a place to live. Partially, the challenge has been because it is very expensive if you want a short commute, but the most difficult requirement was finding a place with less than a year lease. In and around DC, this is pretty easy to find if you rent from landlords, rather than an apartment complex. Based on my search, I’d say 98% of LA residents renting out an apartment, guest house, or duplex require a year lease. (Perhaps if we were willing to battle an awful commute each work day we could have found a more flexible lease arrangement in the burbs; I don’t know.)

Once I finally found a potential apartment, the paperwork required to secure it was actually more than was required to buy a condo and get a mortgage in Northern Virginia. (Apparently, after reconciling yourself to the terrible traffic of L.A., you must next completely re-calibrate your expectations for getting things done in CA, which is “a litigious state” I’ve been told). Sadly, I’m still sitting in limbo, waiting to find out whether the application will be approved. One of the required application items was proof of rental history for the previous 2 years. That’s when I realized that I don’t have a scrap of paper (or contact to refer to) to prove that I was residing in Afghanistan for 10 months, and even if I did, I’m not sure it would really help my application.

In the meantime, I’m trying to assume that it will all work out ok, and seeing this video, which is pretty great, reminds me how lucky I am to have my kind of problems.

It’s great seeing real ingenuity being used  to substantially improve people’s lives.

I thought we were just taking a long drive in the morning. I was saying things like “I’ll just throw my big coat in the trunk in case the temperature drops” and “Should I fill up a couple water bottles to put in the car?”

That’s when M had to tell me that we would only be driving to the airport… The Airport! Yes, I should pack for the airport. It took me a while to believe he wasn’t joking.

The next morning, just before we boarded, I finally learned that we were going to CA for the weekend.

Seriously, isn’t this the kind of thing you see in movies??

He put together frequent flier miles and some other rewards to plan an unforgettable weekend. I finally got to see Highway 1, which was so stunning with blooming flowers and wildlife. We saw sea lions along Hwy 1 and again in San Francisco at Fisherman’s Wharf Pier 39. We hiked in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. And my favorite part was horseback riding through Redwoods.

My birthday fun just kept going…that is until the actual day of my birthday when I came down with a cold! While this cold was another “surprise,” in some strange way, I didn’t mind. It’s the first illness I’ve had in over 3 months, and that shows that I’ve come along way from Afghanistan.

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