The Most Interesting People in San Diego

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

I spent six weeks in San Diego in late 2016. As I mentioned in a previous post, I met few new people and most of my social interactions were with people I already knew. One was an old friend of a friend. Another was a guy I only knew from the internet before. Turns out, him and his wife are the most interesting people in San Diego. It’s kind of funny. I only really met about 10 people around San Diego. And most of them are really interesting. Yeah, It’s absurd to declare I know the most interesting people in San Diego when I only know 10 of them. But hey, some “how to blog” thing I read said to make compelling titles. And I may still be right anyways. I’ll tell you about a good deal of those 10 people here.

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

Craig – the Video Guy

Craig is an old friend of some of my other close friends. We never lived in the same city but we saw each other once or twice a year for many years. He’s a videographer and has had a number of interesting jobs in the field. He also made this short film called A Server Life a few years ago which you particularly enjoy if you’ve worked in the service industry. Or if you prefer the more real/natural world, here’s this video he recorded of when a huge whale carcass washed up on the coast near where he lives.

His current day job is recording what I understand to be court depositions. He gets to listen in on witness accounts of what happened in a variety of cases. A pervious job was a private eye. Yeah, a private detective. Like the guys who tail somebody recording their whereabouts and filming them. He had some really funny stories from that. One was about a mentally unstable and violent guy he was supposed to follow. He asked the company he got worked for some questions to get a better idea what he was getting into  (like, “hey, is this guy going to try to kill me if he notices me?”) and if I can remember right, they just said “ahhh, I don’t know..  just go ahead and do it, you’ll probably be fine”

Because of the subject’s mental instability, he was already super paranoid about being followed and monitored (even before Craig started monitoring him). He’d do crazy stuff like leave his house at 5am to go to a 10am doctor’s appointment that’s only a 15 minute drive away. So of course, since he was so paranoid about it, the guy eventually noticed Craig monitoring him. Craig survived though.

When I got to town, Craig said “Let’s meet and [have a drink], I want to talk business”. That “business” was making a video about me living in the van. So we spent a few days working on that, shooting various clips of driving the van, doing stuff inside it, and some interview parts with me talking. I felt like I was being way too boring, so I hope he’ll be able to make me and the video look cool with editing magic.

San Diego
We shot a bit of video here

Funny moments with Craig – free stuff just appearing!

On our first day out shooting, we went to a little area of dirt overlooking a beach and sort of a swamp.  While Craig was setting up his camera and the shots, I walked around to move trash that was probably in the shots. One of those trash Items happened to be a 6 pack of tall beer cans, with four unopened cans remaining.  The cans were undamaged so I took the 6-pack over to Craig to see if he wanted it. He did, and said that it’s a fancy beer. $15 for a 6 pack.

The third location we went to was near a Library. We found a parking spot in the Library and started walking over. As we walked past the front entrance, there was a rack of books and magazines with a “free” sign on it. One book stood out to me right away. It was about serial killers. We had just been discussing them last night because Craig’s girlfriend has a sort of fascination with them. So I grabbed that book to give to her. We took another book, and about 10 magazines that my Craig likes. Score!

The Most Interesting People in San Diego
One of the Encinitas beaches. We shot a some video here

Funny Moments with Craig – Trash Endemic of the Rich

Ok, this one’s not exactly funny. One evening we did some shooting near the beach pictures above. While driving back towards my Craig’s house, we went down a road with beachfront houses. Craig noticed some trash cans out on the street and said “oh yeah, this street is a dumpster diving goldmine”. He listed a number of nice things he’s found here left out for trash by their owners. Furniture, electronics, etc. After passing 10 or so houses, a trend was apparent. These people throw a lot away. Every house had multiple cans out. Some had SIX or SEVEN! I thought maybe this trash pickup is infrequent.  Surely, with this much trash, it must only be collected once a month. Or every other week? I asked Craig. He said it’s picked up twice per week. TWICE PER WEEK!

By my quick calculations, these households are throwing away somewhere between one and four THOUSAND pounds per month.

Craig’s cousin – Angela – The Hiker

Craig’s cousin is cool. He made about her hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro. We went on a couple hikes with her.

We went on a short hike to “Mushroom Caves” one day:

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

We snaked through some really narrow paths. Extra narrow, at one point, because we took a wrong turn. The picture below is shot from inside the “Mushroom Cave”. I don’t know whether the entire cave was carved out, or if some/most of it was natural. Now there’s all kinds of stuff people have carved into it. The carvings are pretty ugly, but someone did at least carve out some nice seats in there.

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

 

Jared – The Podcast Guy

I was out with Craig one night. We met some of his friends at a bar to hang out and watch UFC fights. While there, Craig told a guy  (Jared) about me being retired, living in the van, and traveling. Earlier, I’d overheard Jared telling another guy about a project he was working on. Some stuff about how people don’t go after their dreams because they let their fear of failure get in the way. Jared talked to me a bit and asked me if I’d be on his podcast. Sure, what the hell. I’m keeping this brief because I’ll likely make a full blog post about it. Hint: there’s already a link the podcast near the bottom of my front page. 

 

Rich and Amanda – The Most Interesting People in San Diego

I knew Rich from a forum on the Internet. This was the first time we met in person. Rich and his Wife Amanda met me for tea/coffee in Balboa Park – in the same area pictured below. They brought a thermos with hot water, cups, etc. We had some great discussion. I showed them the van. Rich showed me the building they manage, which has a secret lair. Seriously.

The Most Interesting People in San Diego
(I started building this website while in San Diego)

Rich and his wife have designed an interesting life. Starting 20 or so years ago, they saved up some money, quit their jobs and went on a HUGE adventure. Then they came back to San Diego, got new jobs, and saved up again. Then, another HUGE adventure. And again. They take partial retirements every few years. And they’re also building up for a full retirement later.

Their travels and adventures are extensive. Their first trip, essentially their honeymoon, was taking a VW Bus (a camper), south into Mexico. And further south through Central America. And all the way to the southern tip of South America. Then back up through Brazil. Then they shipped the Bus over to Africa or Europe and continued! They wrote a book about this big first trip. If you like this kind of travel, or big adventures shared by daring, optimistic, and funny people, read it. I promise you’ll like it.

That was just their first trip. They also went bicycle touring through Southeast Asia, rode a motorcycle through India, went to Mt. Everest, and more! Their lives are so  inspiring that an insurance company made a commercial about them:

(After their commercial, another commercial with a different guy starts at1:50. I was confused by that the first time I watched it)

It felt like a privilege talking to a guy who has spent much of his life doing awesome things and learning about life and people instead of learning about TPS reports. He has friends who are super rich, and friends from Tijuana who are probably quite poor.  He is really really good at identifying interesting people, and at getting them (and normal people) to tell him their interesting stories. He asks them another question as soon as they finish answering the last, and doesn’t leave pauses where the conversation can lull or stop. And is very interested in the person / their story. 

Amanda grew up in Mexico. She came across the border every day to go to College in San Diego. Crossing the boarder into the U.S. is crazy. There’s a ton of traffic and it can take hours to get through. She waited in that line every day to go to school. You have to really want something to be willing to do that.

Their book tells about a discussion they had one evening. (forgive my poor telling of this from memory, It’s told much better in the book).  They were both having a “there’s got to be more to life than this” realization. They sort of decided to do something adventurous but didn’t have any clear decisions made. The next day Amanda came home from work with a stack of papers. She started rattling off things. Ok, we’re gonna need [this] and we’re gonna need [that], and it will probably take about [this many] weeks to get [such and such]. Rich was like “huh? whoah. what? What’s all this?”. And she says. “Mexico. We need to go to Mexico! On an adventure. I started planning today.”

Pretty soon they’d saved up money, quit their jobs, outfitted a Volkswagen with clothes food, and a bunch of random spare parts. They crossed the border to kick off a honeymoon that lasted years.

Activities

I went along with Rich to a swap meet. I bought three pairs of really nice wool socks for $2.00,  and some hiking pants for a few dollars. Rich bought about 16 things. One of his hobbies is buying outdoor gear cheaply at places like this (places where the goods are just one short step away from a landfill) and selling them to people who will make good use of them. The flow of goods is interesting:

  • People donate to Goodwill, and companies offload excess products.
  • Goodwill takes excess stuff to sell in lots in Mexico
  • Those Mexicans come back across the border to sell that stuff at the swap meets
  • Rich buys the good outdoor gear from them
  • He knows many of them. They set aside stuff for him because he pays a little extra
  • Rich re-sells the stuff, mostly on Ebay, to people who are likely to make good use of it.

(There are other material sources than Goodwill. Like garage sales where at the end the seller just wants everything gone. And companies that get rid of excess inventory (new/unused items))

We went for three bike rides together. The first one, we rode to and took the ferry to Coronado Island. Coronado is a small island just barely off the coast. About half the island is used by the military. The other half is nice houses and fancy places. We worked out at a park that had the appropriate structures. The second bike ride we went on was in Balboa park on some mountain bike single track. It’s good riding in there. I crashed! And got a flat. And another flat later. oh, man! Our third ride was over to Mission Bay Park. There was a steep, long hill on the way back. Rich lead up the hill and went fast. I could just barely keep up. At a couple points, I didn’t think I’d be able to hang on with him. But I did, and as we got to the crest of the hill, I rode up alongside him and said “That’s a nice hill. Good warm up. Can we go back down and come up again, and go fast this time?” 😀

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

 

San Diego: Notes on the City

San Diego

I was in and near San Diego from November 5th to December 21st. Here are some observations and thoughts on the city. 

Overall – About the city 

San Diego is a cool city. It’s nice because it’s not so big and spread out. The farthest I’d drive at once was about ten miles. The weather there is amazing. Balboa park is wonderful; it’s a big park in the middle of the city with nice plants, trails, old buildings, museums, and a cool ‘town square’ area in the middle.  The Libraries I went to in S.D. sucked. They were small and had too many smelly people.

I spent a lot of time in Encinitas because my friend lives there. Encinitas is also wonderful. It’s small, so you don’t have to drive much. Parking is easy. The Encinitas library is awesome. It’s probably the nicest Library I’ve ever been to.

The People

I think I had strange timing because I was there right after the election. Dating went really poorly.  Most of the time I spent interacting with other people was with those I already knew before getting here.

Beaches

San Diego

Coronado: Nice beaches. Not many people when I was there. Reminded me of the Baywatch beach (which is very foggy in my memory, so I’m not sure the comparison is accurate). Fun fact I learned from a Coronado beach insider: one time a lifeguard, while driving one of those Lifeguard trucks on the beach, put the truck in reverse to back up and ran over someone. After that, reverse was not allowed.

Ocean Beach – This area is nice. It’s also strange.  In the residential parts, the people seem really cool. There are many around my age. And younger people. They seem to have their shit together. And they’re out and about – walking around a lot.  In the commercial area (the streets near the beach with restaurants and stores) there was sort of a douchebag, almost white trash vibe on the weekend. On the beach there were a lot of surfers, as usual. And families, and groups of friends, as usual. But the defining Ocean Beach folks were sort of crusty looking vagrants/vagabonds/runaways. The kind of of folks who also live in vans, but there are 6 people in one van. One of them reads a book while the rest seem to just sit around and do nothing all day. A friend explained to me that Interstate 8 ends in Ocean Beach, so hitchhikers (and also ‘runaways’) who were traveling along I-10 and I-8 just end up there because it’s literally the end of the road.

San Diego

I spent thanksgiving parked in this nice little lot right by the beach.

San Diego

Ocean Beach has a really long pier.  People surf right by the pier so you can walk out on it to watch and take pictures.

San Diego

San Diego

Blacks beach  It’s a ‘Clothing optional’ beach. There were 80% old leathery guys with dark orange tanned dicks, and 20% students from the nearby University of California San Diego (most of them were clothed)

San Diego

Getting down to Black’s Beach is a bit of a hike. I like that. Only people who really want to are going down there.

Encinitas Beaches These were nice too. The thing is, tons of the beaches around here are nice. I hung out here a few days:

San Diego

San Diego Neighborhoods

Balboa Park: It’s a big park in the middle of the city. Seems old. Has cool buildings and plants and trails. Lots of museums but they are not free. Good single track biking/running trails.

Hillcrest: It’s the “gay neighborhood”. Someone told me that it is a bit less gay than before. His reasoning was that maybe since gay marriage became nationally legal, gay folks feel more accepted by society and less of a reason to live together in a specific ‘gay’ community. Anyways, while I was walking around one day, I saw a building under construction.

San Diego

 

Ok. Nothing special. As they often do, the company making the building had a sign on it advertising themselves. Well, this company has a pretty interesting sign:

San Diego

You know what else is special about Hillcreast? The Goodwill store! It’s a small store. It’s a Boutique Goodwill. Seriously.  It’s an absolute goldmine for small swimsuits. I had been looking for a small swimsuit like this for years:

1950s-mens-swim-shorts-ad

(but not specifically for a reversable one.. just one that fits that way)

Granted, I wasn’t looking very hard. A couple times when I was traveling for work and had an afternoon to kill, I went to try to buy swimsuit. But all I could find are big ones. I started seeing some guys this summer in small ones. I’d usually go ask them where they got it. The answer was usually some fancy boutique store that has mostly gay customers. And the little swimsuit cost $70. Well, I didn’t want one that bad.

I was walking to the Grocery store in Hillcrest and saw a Goodwill. I went in thinking I might find a T shirt or two. But I found a entire rack full of little gay type swimsuits. New ones with tags. For $7 a piece. I found a good one. YEEEEAH BUDDY!

San Diego

Other Neighborhoods: A lot of the other neighborhoods I spent time in were pretty similar. I mean ons north of Balboa Park. North Park. Northern Heights. University Heights. Nice places, all with a strip of businesses on sort of a “main street”.  One thing I noticed is that there seemed to be fewer parks than in other cities. Maybe that’s because of the vicinity to Balboa Park?

I could see myself spending a month at a time in San Diego. Or more. It’s not a ideal as Santa Barbara. But the people in San Diego are ‘better’. In the next post, I need to talk about some of them – because I met the most interesting people in San Diego.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

On my way south, before getting to Santa Barbara, I stopped in San Luis Obispo for a few days. The big news here was that the plants in people’s yards started looking wonderful. And they smelled good! Really fragrant! Wow! Just walking around a block I’d walk by 4 or 5 different wonderful scents from these plants. This was the first city on my way down the coast that smelled this good. Maybe it just seems this way because I’ve spent little time here and haven’t seen these kind of plants, but the plants people have in their yards here seem so much more beautiful and varied that what I’m used to from the midwest. 

After that I went down to Santa Barbara. There are some national forests around there, so I went into the forest to camp for a while. I went to the Santa Barbara district which is – big surprise – right by Santa Barbara. Turns out they are worried about fires right now and don’t allow you to do much of anything. You want to camp? Ok sure, yeah, you have to go into one of the 2-3 campgrounds right next to each other (basically a parking lot). Oh and you have to pay $20 per night. No fires anywhere in the Santa Barbara ranger district. No No No. NO! 

So I went down into Santa Barbara. I’d spend the next 15 days there. Santa Barbara is really freakin’ nice.

Santa Barbara

(Shopping area, just off State Street)

Santa Barbara in a few paragraphs

First thing’s first: the best beach there is Hendry’s. It’s way better than the others. The second best beach is over by the 4 seasons resort, which has free wifi. Santa Barbara was the first place on my journey down the California coast where the water was warm enough to swim in relative comfort. It’s still pretty cold, but you can go in it without wanting to get right out. And it’s not cold enough to painful. The weather was absolutely perfect while I was there. The highs ranged from 70-85 and the lows were around 50-60. I spent 6 days at the beaches – at least a few hours each time laying on the beach, reading, and going in the ocean. 

The main road in downtown is State Street. It’s really nice. They’re doing shopping right. No mall. Lots of stores along a downtown street. There are pianos sitting on most corners along State Street. Each time I walked the length of the street (about a mile), I’d pass 4 or 5 people playing a piano very well. I never knew that so many people who are just walking around in public can sit down at a random (and I’d guess, pretty crappy) piano and play wonderful music. I bet there are very few cities where you could get music of this quality by placing communal pianos downtown and letting whoever wants play them. Maybe something to do with how much money people spend? (including piano lessons for kids)

 This is a great city for road cycling, as long as you like going up hills. The city is on a pretty narrow stretch of flat land between the coast and hills/mountains. There are a number of different paved roads going up those hills. I rode up San Marcos St. 4 or 5 times. The views from that road are wonderful. Others (Gibraltar) are probably as good or better.

House prices in Santa Barbara are insane. I checked Zillow and put an upper limit of $500,000. No results. NO RESULTS. There are some small and crappy houses here but there’s not one for sale for less than half a million. People here seem to spend a LOT of money.

The age demographics here are odd. There are a ton of old people. There are a lot of college kids. There’s not many people in between. Except for in the Mexican parts of town. They have all the normal age ranges. 

How about a History Lesson?

There is some interesting history here. I know very little of it, and It’s now been a few weeks since I read about this so I forget the names and the details are cloudy, but I’ll share it anyways

There was a guy – an American – a decorated guy who had some fame for bravery, exploration, and other successes. He was in charge of the American military in the area at the moment when the U.S. decided California was too awesome to let Mexico keep having it. This awesome guy lead the U.S. Army (or whatever) over the nearby mountains to storm into Santa Barbara for a battle.

Backing up a little – the Spanish had set up a fort in Santa Barbara. It was a few acres in size. It was some buildings and hallways that made an outer square, with most of the middle open (although there were also houses and other buildings added to the middle at some point). 200 people lived in there, and 50 or so were soldiers. Now, I guess, this fort and the land were a part of Mexico.

So the brave Americans come running down the hill over the mountains. It was snowing and cold and everything up there. Windy as hell. Slippery. Treacherous! A bunch of their horses and mules died. But no soldiers. They came charging down the hill towards Santa Barbara, foaming at the mouth, ready to crush these little Spaniards/Mexicans into oblivion. 

The Mexicans in the fort saw them coming and were appropriately worried. A nice old lady in the fort convinced the leadership that it wasn’t worth fighting. When as the Americans charged in, the Mexicans said “nah, we don’t want to fight”. So they didn’t fight. I don’t know exactly what happened next. But pretty soon all of California belonged to the United States.

Vandwelling in Santa Barbara

It’s easy.

Parking is generally easy. In the suburbs to the west, there are plenty of neighborhoods with room to park. In Santa Barbara itself, it’s more congested, but still pretty easy to find spots. The tricky part is the street cleaning schedule. They have a very specific rotation and each street has a 2 hour “No Parking” window every week when the street sweeper comes through. The schedule is all spread out, so one street may be closed 8-10am Monday, and the next 1-3pm Tuesday, and so on, with the cleaners appearing to work full days all weekdays. Well, one time I parked and forgot to check the sign, and I happened to pick the wrong street at the wrong time and caused a little bit of the street to not be cleaned and got a ticket for $50.

I found some good areas to park east of State Street, over where a lot of Mexicans live. It’s also very easy to park in the western suburbs.

At the beach – the one by the four seasons

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

 

When I was taking the pictures above, a guy walked by and talked a bit. Then I saw him a little ways down the beach and we spoke more – for about an hour. He’s probably in his 50’s. When I told him about my van and traveling, he told me a bunch of stories of his own – how he’s had two different Volkswagen vans that he either lived or traveled in. How he went to Yosemite a TON of times and would camp there against the rules, hidden in plain site in his van (and would just not respond to the knocks of rangers, which would quickly move on) or hidden out in the park, at times in a sleeping bag on a tarp, out in the open with no tent, just nestled in some prairie. He said there are groups of climbers and other sorts of people who know a bunch of tricks for free camping in Yosemite. 

 Santa Barbara

 

On the way down to San Diego:

Santa Barbara

What’s next? I’ll be in and around San Diego for the next month or more. (I drove through the entire Los Angeles area quickly. I wasn’t in the mood for LA. I did have an In N Out Cheeseburger. mmmmmmmm, yeah buddy!)

Cambria, CA

Cambria

If you ever go through Cambria, there is a nice park along the coast. It’s called Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. The preserve occupies about 1 square mile. It’s mostly just grass and hills next to the coastline. Along the coast there is a walking trail and a bench every now and then. There are also trails going all over the park. Ok trails for walking. Wonderful trails for bicycling (on a cross or mountain bike). I wanted to record video on my Go-Pro, bug I never remembered to move the videos from the memory card in theGo Pro to my computer. I only thought about it while riding.

Cambria

Cambria

Cambria

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

I only spent a couple days in the San Francisco area. Instead, I got on moving from San Francisco to Big Sur. I’d been driving a lot, and I spent most of the last two months in cities. I wasn’t excited about hanging around another big city. Especially one as dense as San Francisco. I drove across the Golden Gate bridge in the evening on a Saturday. The city was PACKED. There was a ton of traffic. Cars everywhere. Almost nowhere to park on the street. So I drove through the city and 5-10 miles into the suburbs. It was easier to park, but the streets were still packed full down there. I was in no mood to search and fight for parking spots.

San Francisco to Big Sur

Music Festival. Hipsters everywhere

The next day, a girl told me about a huge free music festival going on: in Golden Gate Park: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. What? A bluegrass music festival?!  Sweet. Well, I happened to drive right by where it was happening and that explained part of why it was so busy. So on Sunday I drove back up there and went to the festival. It was cool. I think they should change the title from “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” to “Barely any Bluegrass” though.

It was great people watching. I haven’t seen this many hipsters since leaving St Louis. I saw more cans of PBR and PBR shirts than I ever have in one place before. People had their most stylish and weird hippie/hipster/festival outfits on. The park rules about bringing in alcohol, and especially selling it, are quite strict and tough sounding, so I was a tiny bit worried about the flask I was bringing it (wondering if they might have an entrance where they search people – although frisking would still be unlikely). But upon arriving it was obviously more of an anything-goes event. Some of the more enterprising hipsters were walking around with coolers or cases of beer and selling them for $5 and up per can.

One of the funniest things I remember from that day was seeing a woman and child talking as I was walking by. The child was obviously not hers, it seemed like they didn’t really know each-other. There was one of those big fat bees on the woman’s hand, and they were both looking at it. As I pass by, I hear the boy ask, entirely seriously: “Is that your pet?” I loved that kind of imaginative open-mindedness. Another thing I saw was a very bohemian looking guy walking with a basket. In the basket was a fluffy rabbit. One woman, quite polished and preppy looking, saw the rabbit and just reached out to pet it. The guy pulled in the basket to his chest and turned away a bit to reject her attempt. This was probably a woman not used to being physically rejected so immediately, but she seemed to take it ok. A couple seconds and about 10 feet of walking later, another woman, more hippie-ish, saw the rabbit and asked to pet it. The guy was happy to let her.

So, take note, if you want to meet girls at a festival, the rabbit strategy is extremely effective. Anyways, the music was good. I left a couple hours before the end and got the hell out of San Francisco.

Cowell Ranch Beach

One of the fancy little towns just a bit south of San Francisco is Half-Moon Bay. A bit south of HMB is Cowell Ranch Beach. This is a REALLY nice beach! The area is basically just the beach and a parking lot 1/2 mile from the beach. The parking lot is small – room for about ten cars. I pulled in around noon on a weekday. In the parking lot, there were 3 black Lincoln Navigators and 3 black Mercedes, and most of them had a guy in a suit sitting in the driver’s seat.

Ok, looks like some spendy people hired fancy cars to take them to this beach. I figured it was either a wedding, or some silicon valley company outing. When I went down to the beach, I saw a family – just 4-5 people. They had a nice setup on the beach. Canopy things. Tables and chairs. At the back of the beach were boxes /containers of stuff, and a guy sitting or standing there. The family Patriarch waved at the guy and he jumped up, grabbed a camera that was sitting on one of the boxes, and ran over towards the family – ok, this was their personal photographer. There were no other people around. The beach has ends that would not be hard to walk past. There was a trail that left from the top, where these pictures were also taken from, but that trail is only open on weekends and it was gated closed. So I was wondering why there were 5-6 cars for this small amount of people.

When I started heading back for lunch, it looked like the family was done back there and would come back soon. They did, and then all the cars, bit by bit, left. (I couldn’t see where they got in the cars, it was sort of around a corner from me). Anyways, I hung out there the rest of the afternoon and took these pictures at sunset

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

I stopped for a few days in Santa Cruz and that seems like a nice enough place. I also stopped a bit in Monterey.

Carmel-By-The-Sea

Carmel is a really fancy little town. I spent 5 or so days here.  Parking in Carmel could seem tricky because in all the residential areas, there are signs saying you can’t park overnight unless you have some permit. But in the downtown area, there are no permits required, it’s just 2 hour parking from 8am to 6pm. You can park at the beach all day long, and you just can’t park there from midnight to 6am. So my daily routine was like this:

  • Wake up, drive van from where it’s parked downtown to the beach. It’s about a 1/4 mile away and there’s a parking lot right at the beach.
  • Have breakfast. Do whatever – read, computer stuff, etc.
  • Walk around on the beach
  • Work out (bodyweight strength training)
  • Maybe take a nap
  • Take some pictures if there are clouds when the sun is setting.
  • After it’s dark, drive van and find a spot on a quiet street downtown

San Francisco to Big Sur

The 5th or so night, I was a bit more daring that I should be and I parked on the main street downtown. The cops came and knocked on the van at 11pm to tell me that there is no camping allowed in the city. He suggested I go park in a shopping center that’s on the edge of town (there’s a Safeway, Starbucks, gas station, etc.). He said that I’ll probably see some other vans/campers parked, and that the cops won’t bother me there.

 San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

There were only clouds and a sunset one night. A different evening I felt like shooting, so I walked along the beach looking for subjects.

San Francisco to Big Sur

The beach here in the town is really long, and there were many people out. There was no one in the water except for these two kids: the only people with the kind of excitement about life that it takes to brave the cold Pacific. And they were in the water a long time.

San Francisco to Big Sur

They were about knee deep in the water, but they were small enough and the waves big enough that they were knocked over by some. They always stayed near eachother. When they saw a big wave approaching they’d hold hands so they could feel the wave crashing into them but not fall down with it.

A Ferrari is not out of place in Carmel. The Ferrari probably cost more then $150,000. I’d guess it’s used 5 hours per month. The van cost $15,000 (to purchase and build out). I use it about 500 hours per month. To each his own.

San Francisco to Big Sur

Point Lobos State Nature Reserve

This area is just a few miles south of Carmel. It has a bunch of walking trails and many nice views. There is also a TON of poison oak here. I got some on my arms and legs. It’s annoying, but not nearly as itchy as poison ivy.

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

I can’t recall what town these were from

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

San Francisco to Big Sur

Portland

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

I spent a month in and around Portland. I have some old friends that live in a suburb. I spent most of the time with them, barring three or so stints in the city during the week while my friends were busy working.

I haven’t spent this much time with these friends for ten years. It was great. We did a lot together – day trips, going out in the city, bike rides, hikes, a trip to the coast, to a hot spring, to a casino, home/van projects, Monopoly games, etc.

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

Thoughts on Portland

On my first night inside the city, I met a girl to go on a bike ride together. We were meeting at an intersection, and one of the streets had a significant bike lane in it. This was a Monday, around 5-6pm, so it was rush hour. There were SO MANY people riding by on bikes. There were about 50 people riding by per minute. I’ve never seen so much bike traffic on a normal day, in any city I’ve been in. I did learn that this bike lane functions as sort of a bike freeway, so a lot of bike traffic is funneled through there. But still, it’s a lot. I saw a lot people riding in other parts of the city too.

There are also a lot of people out and about, walking around. Most of them are young. I would’ve guessed there are a lot more people ages 20-40 in Portland than in other major cities. I did a quick check and it looks like that age range is about 40% of Portland, and 30% of the U.S., so there’s a difference, but not huge. I guess the young people in Portland are out and about more than other places. Probably part of this phenomenon is that the city is very walkable. There are not big wide streets. There are not strip malls. There are sections of streets that have a lot of businesses along them. There are a lot of these little business areas spaced out around the city. People who live near these walk there a lot.

I like Portland. I was more surprised by how much I like Seattle. I connected with people quicker and deeper in Seattle than Portland. That could just come down to chance, but I have a feeling it’s not.

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

So many Vandwellers

Portland and Seattle have a LOT of people living in vans. Thousands, I believe. They’re all over the place. At each sizable park, there will be 5-10 on the street around the outside. At one intersection in a normal residential area, I looked around and saw 4 vans that look like people may live in them. Parking is super easy in these cities, especially in Portland. If you’re in the city (as long as you’re not in the areas you have to pay, or in certain specific congested areas) it seems you can park however and for however long you want. The direction your vehicle points doesn’t matter. How long you stay parked there doesn’t seem to matter either. Many of the van dwellers appeared to be doing so partly or entirely out of necessity rather than choice.

Built some shelves in the van

There is a vertical wall that makes up the back side of my bike box. The top half of this wall (the outside of the bike box) has been empty so far. I’ve been thinking about adding some more storage either here, or along the top sides of the walls. My buddy helped me a lot. Here’s how it turned out: 

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

We basically built wooden crates that are attached to the wall. I made them as wide as I could without them getting in the way of putting up the curtains (on the left side) or me moving around in the van (on the right sides).

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

The top 2 are the same depth, and the bottom one is deeper. There is less of a vertical gap between the bottom and middle shelves, so it being wider also helps with reaching in there.

Here you can see the widths:

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

They hold most of my clothes

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

This freed up other storage space in the plastic shelves. So far, I’ve just thrown my boots and sandals into the drawer that emptied out. One of my rubbermaid containers that’s under the bed is only about 1/3 full right now, so I have some spare room for whatever else I decide to acquire.

More Pictures

I added wax to my cotton jacket to make it a lot more water resistant. I think it worked well.

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

My friends are in a bowling league.

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

We went to 3 or 4 different McMenamins. We were all McMenaminsed out.

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

A short hike on some island

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

There were a TON of berries where we walked around. At one point, when a couple of our group were trailing behind, Craig found some berries that were pretty red, and decided to get their juice all over his hand, and as the two that were tailing caught up, tell them he had cut himself bad. (Earlier in the hike, we’d used my knife to help cut off some berries that were hard to reach, so he said he was using it and cut himself). ha!

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

Portland the land of young people, hipsters, and social justice progress

Photography

Oh, also I bought a used Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens. Got it for $300. I’ve been using it almost exclusively and for most landscape pictures, it’s better than the fisheye. I was thinking I would sell the fisheye and 24mm, but I’m not so sure now. There are specific pictures I want to take every now and then that can only be done with the fisheye (or that would take something like a 5mm lens). [note: a month or two later I sold the Tokina and the fisheye because I got a full frame camera. I bought a Rokinon 14mm, and now the majority of my pictures are with the Rokinon or my Nikkor 24mm.]

I’ve started trying to improve my landscape photography skills. I’ve been reading online and listening to podcasts, and I’ve started reading some books and looking for good Lightroom/Photoshop videos. I figure that since mobility and freedom of time give me incredibly good opportunities for landscape photography, and I enjoy it, so I might as well get better at it right now.

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I took very few pictures in the city. Portland has some awesome bridges. Maybe next time I’m there I’ll take some good cityscape pictures including the bridges.