Overland Expo to TBEX: Going West Coast

In true Val style, I’m taking the glacial approach to sharing the epic Overland Expo to TBEX adventure with you. Did you expect anything else really?

Exit Stage Left…

So as you know, I had a very groovy time at Overland Expo in Arizona and hanging out with the colorful characters of the ATQA crew. Sadly, the event only lasts a weekend and it was time to move on to Santa Monica where I’d be picking up Fred and George fresh off their adventure at Maker Faire in San Francisco. I had a few days before I had to meet them so I took the opportunity to slow down just a little from the mad dash that started this expedition.

My lovely Santa Monica tour guide, Marilyn.

One of the things that had been nagging at me while I was at OX was wanting to get to the other side of Mormon Lake where the event was held. I knew the view had to be fabulous and my cameras were taunting me, begging to be put to good use. My late-afternoon exit time was fairly horrendous from a photography perspective so I mainly stuck to using my converted infrared camera. The wind was so intense there was no avoiding camera shake even on the tripod but I persisted with a few shots so I could at least share the scenery with you.

Having gotten a that out of my system, I mozied my way westward still, enjoying the backroads of Arizona as much as possible. I managed a few geocaches here and there which isn’t too hard on Route 66. Embracing seat-of-my-pants travel (my favorite kind!), I turned Blubaru towards Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge for a whimsical detour. My intent was to grab a geocache or two and just take a quick look but, as surprise discoveries go, Catfish Paradise proved to be extremely cool and I ended up spending quite a bit of time shooting it’s gnarly drowned trees.

Now I should point out that in the back of my mind since leaving OX, the practical me was declaring that I should get to my hotel for the evening and get some work done. As you can imagine, that didn’t happen. The explorer me won that internal argument quite handily.

The other side of Mormon Lake… in IR.

In a strange land…

After my quick overnight in Kingman, AZ, I pushed west yet again to Santa Monica. I hadn’t set foot in California since I was a young lass of only 16 so this was truly uncharted territory for me. For a Georgia girl, you can imagine the culture shock. Not in a bad way mind you, but it is a very different vibe from the deep south.

Heading into Santa Monica I had no plans other than catching up with long-time friends I hadn’t seen in many, many years. I figured I’d just let them lead the way and go with the flow, which is how I found myself at the Santa Monica library where my friend Marilyn works.

A library is a rather unorthodox travel stop even for me but it was eye-opening nonetheless. Quite a bit different than our Georgia offerings!

The iconic Santa Monica Pier

Welcome to California…

No sooner had I walked through the doors and given her a hug, than I had my first “Welcome to California” moment. Keep in mind I’d just finished a long drive, navigated the labyrinth of the Los Angeles megapolis to find this library, and just moments earlier hugged the woman I grew up next to for the first time in at least twenty years.

Our joyous reunion was shattered by an unpleasant man in a wheelchair who, not so much as requested but demanded, my assistance getting into the elevator. A less-weary Val might have set him straight but I did help him to the elevator. Make no mistake though when he started making noises like he was going to persist with help requests that I gave him the look of a person who was not going to play along anymore. Game over buddy. Welcome to California Val!

After having a good laugh at my introduction to California, Marilyn gave me the tour of the coast. We stopped along one of the beach access points so I could dip my toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. As we scrambled down the rocks though and headed out to the beach, what do we find but a huge dead, bloated seal waiting for us. Welcome to California Val!

So I will admit that I got myself more than a little soaked on the beach in spite of the “natural” scenery. Never turn your back on Pacific Coast waves! Just a public service announcement from yours truly.

After my beach frolic we headed off to dinner with Marilyn’s son, Brendan, who also happens to be my childhood friend who I’ve not seen in even more years than his mom. With dinner behind us, they humored me with a walk along the Santa Monica Pier and laughed at my attempts to play tourist and trying to do handheld night shots of the lights. Hey, I had to try!

My heart was light having reconnected with Marilyn and Brendan but I left wishing I had more time to catch up. But alas, I was heading to catch up with another long-time friend.

Just a short stroll out Olga’s door and you can hike to your heart’s content in Topanga State Park. That’s some granola happy right there.


The next stop was into the world of Topanga Canyon where I was treated to the epic hospitality of my friend Olga. But before we headed up, we opted for a yoga class at her studio in Santa Monica. I will say that it was my first studio class (I’m at at-home yoga girl), and I will also say it kicked my butt which very much needed it after over 2,000 miles in the car.

After my butt-kicking though, I got a couple of days to experience life in Topanga. Shuttling her kids to school and the library (Yes I went another library!), visiting the local shops and restaurants, dealing with a coyote invasion, etc. In the midst of normal life dealings I can say I was seriously spoiled being there. The friendly people, great restaurants, and spectacular views were straight out of a tourism ad campaign.

For some outdoor fun, Olga treated me to a hike in the state park that’s just a hop-skip from her front door. Major granola points right there! The cool evening breezes while sitting on the patio, wine in hand, watching the sun set weren’t too shabby either. I got big dose of the southern California lifestyle and even got so relaxed that I slipped out of blogger mode, forgetting to take pictures and just chilling out and catching up with Olga instead. And so I eased through my time in Topanga until Fred and George arrived, knowing the pace would have to pick up a bit for the next leg of the journey.

Fred and George getting some dog time in the absence of their Disapproving Beagle.
Tween hangout time in Topanga.

And now for your moment of green…

The surprise beauty of Catfish Paradise was well worth the detour.