Josh’s California Family

From Las Vegas, we headed to Bakersfield, California to visit Josh’s dad, step-mom, three sisters, two brothers-in-law, two nieces, and one nephew. It is 286 miles (460 km) to Bakersfield, which should have taken about 4.5 hours to drive. Never for us. Never in California. Despite the horrendous weekend traffic from Vegas, we did eventually make it. We got to spend a whole week at the house and had an amazing time! We had a great time reconnecting with everybody, playing games and eating delicious food while enjoying the beautiful weather.

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Of course, we had to schedule family time around everyone’s various work schedules, which gave the two of us plenty of time to keep busy on our own projects. Josh was working on finishing his first round of novel edits while I was practicing my photography. Carrie gave me one of her unused cameras and I am determined to learn to use it. I got an app that challenges me to try different techniques each day. I hope it helps.

At the end of the week, we all took a mini-vacay to San Louis Obispo, where Josh’s sister Jodi lives. We made several stops along the way to try some excellent beers and wine, and drove past the site of James Dean’s fatal car accident. Our first night in SLO, all the siblings and spouses went out on the town for some drinks and dancing. The next day started with delicious seafood and a trip to the beach, where a family friend was kind enough to take some photos for us. The next day saw us returning to Bakersfield and saying goodbye. We had an amazing week with the family and were sad to see it end, but it was time for us to hop back in the van and move on to our next big adventure.

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#Vanlife – Los Angeles to Port Angeles

The next leg of our trip takes us from sunny southern California to the gloomy rain forests of coastal Washington. We’ve driven much of this stretch of highway before, but only in little bits at a time, never in one straight shot. Our route from Los Angeles to Port Angeles doesn’t run quite the entire length of the coast, but at 1,370 miles (2,204km), it’s pretty darn close. Along the way, we got to experience the beauty of nature, drink some tasty beers, and spend ten days with our amazing besties!

Map of the Western USA highlighting our route from Glendora California to Port Angles Washington. Stops along the way include San Francisco, Burlington, and Eugene. The Places We. Live #Vanlife Part 2

San Francisco, California

Jen at the Consolato Italiano San Francisco - The Places We LiveAfter a quick overnight with Josh’s dad in Bakersfield, we were on our way to our first major stop of our Los Angeles to Port Angeles adventure, San Francisco. We were in a bit of a hurry, so we took the freeway to get there. The total drive was 415 miles (667 km), with very little scenery to speak of. We arrived in the city a little before sunset and checked in to our private room at the Green Tortoise Hostel. The place was awesome with several free meals, friendly staff, and clean rooms.

The next morning, we were up and dressed early for the walk to the Italian Consulate for my Italian dual citizenship interview. I have been working on this process since 2011, so it was a very special day for me. The consulate was a mile walk from our hostel, up and down the iconic hills of San Francisco. Josh dropped me off with a kiss and a wish for luck, and then it was time for my long awaited appointment. The interview went really well and I was told that my acceptance would be emailed to me within a few months! We went out for pasta in Little Italy to celebrate before jumping right back on the road.

San Francisco to Manchester

We had driven the majority of Historic Highway 101 on previous trips, but not the portion through northern California. With the interview over, we had plenty of time, so we opted to take the scenic route on our way to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. All of my fellow travel bloggers promised that the drive would be long and slow due to the twists and turns of the highway, the ocean views would blow us away. They were right about it being long and slow.

California Coast Fog - Los Angeles to Port Angeles - The Places We Live

The wind was blowing, it was cold, and the view was shrouded in fog for most of the day. On top of that, HWY 101 is famous for its snakelike twists and turns. Although Josh enjoyed the physical driving part, I was challenged to keep my lunch down. After a long day, we opted to spend Night 4 of our Los Angeles to Port Angeles adventure in Manchester, California. It was no surprise to either of us that we fell immediately asleep upon arriving at the Manchester Beach KOA.

Manchester to Burlington

Four tasters sitting on top of a North Coast Brewery Co (Independent since 1988) menu

We woke up to a beautiful warm and clear day and hoped for the best. Our first stop was Fort Bragg, where we visited Glass Beach and North Coast Brewing Company. I wish I had planned a little better and had us spend a couple of days there. It was a really lovely town with quite a bit to do.

Glass Beach California - Los Angeles to Port Angeles - The Places We Live

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to visit Yosemite National Park along the way from Los Angeles to Port Angeles, but we were able to spend the night at the beautiful and wondrous, Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I have visited the Redwoods before and it blew my mind. Somehow, only a couple of years later, it did it again. These trees are some of the tallest in the world. Hiking among them truly makes me feel the power of nature.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park - Los Angeles to Port Angeles - The Places We Live

Eugene, Oregon

Much of our adult life was spent living in Eugene, Oregon and I hated it the whole time. It was too laid back, too wet, and too alternative. The moment I moved out, I missed it. It is so relaxed, so green, and so creative. Damn it, Eugene! I missed you! But even more, I missed all of my friends, especially my besties!

The Places We Live

We spent the week crashing at their home just outside of downtown Eugene. It felt so good to go back to our old routines together. Evenings were spent playing games, eating food, and going out. As they both went to work during the day, we camped out in the dining room and got our own work done. My favorite part of our quiet afternoons was the daily walks with our pug-phews. Parker and LP are so cute!!

Not only was this the perfect friend visit we were dying for, it was productive. Our buddy, Travis, is a digital artist. We got the chance to work with him on Josh’s upcoming book cover. So far it looks amazing! It has been really special to be able work with friends on a project that is so close to our hearts.


Port Angeles, Washington

It was a real challenge to leave my friends (again) and move on to Washington for the final leg of the Los Angeles to Port Angeles adventure. I don’t cry very often, but I have to admit I bawled my face off for a little while. One of the few downsides of traveling full-time is the loneliness. I’m so thankful to be traveling with my best friend and true love, but I miss my friends and family. I’ve taken too many nights of Catan and mixed opinions on music for granted.

But we are on to Washington for our next house sit. This one will be a little less than a week, but offers us the opportunity to explore the Puget Sound and Olympic National Park. We’ve spent a decent amount of time in Washington, but house sitting in Port Angeles will be a new and exciting adventure for us.



Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles

We’re at it again with another of Jen’s Nearly Famous Walking Tours! This free walking tour of Los Angeles is a 2.6 mile self-guided walk focused on the fun and funky. It includes an art gallery, a quirky book store, some hipster snacks, and a high-tech circus. Get ready to get weird, ya’ll!

Jen’s Funky and Free Walking Tour: Los Angeles

  1. Walt Disney Concert Hall
  2. The Broad
  3. Angels Flight Railway
  4. Grand Central Market
  5. The Last Bookstore
  6. Little Tokyo Galleria Market
  7. Angel City Brewery
  8. The Pie Hole
  9. Two Bit Circus


First stop of our Free Los Angeles Walking Tour is the Walt Disney Concert Hall- The Places We Live

Getting Started

This Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles came about because we were warned by nearly everyone not to drive downtown. Josh is an excellent city driver, but there was no reason to deal with the frustration of it all with the number of public transit options available. Also, Los Angeles parking fees are off the charts! However, if you are going to drive in, my travel blogging buddies all suggest parking at The Music Center Parking Lot. It is secure, accepts credit cards, and the advertised daily maximum is $20.

We started off by taking the metro downtown from our house sit in Glendora. It cost $2 each for a TAP Card, then another $1.75 each for a one-way ticket. Our metro experience wasn’t particularly exciting, but the trains were clean and comfortable. The trip from Glendora to the Civic Center / Grand Park Station took about an hour and cost $3.75 each. We returned home using the Little Tokyo / Arts District Station.


Art installation found at The Broad in Los Angeles.

The Broad

*cue the opening theme music* Our first stop for Jen’s Nearly Famous Los Angeles Walking Tour is The Broad, a contemporary art museum that offers free general admission! Although it is possible to reserve a free ticket online, we opted to simply wait in line. After about fifteen minutes, we were in and had access to the entire third floor gallery. We spent over an hour walking around and enjoying all the eclectic art on display. Even the architecture of the building itself was enjoyable, adding to the overall experience. And did I mention it’s FREE?!

For anyone wanting to pump it up a notch, there is a free audio tour available for download. It is also possible to get “on the list” for the Infinity Mirror Room, which seems to be littering my Instagram feed lately.



Bullet Whiskey neon sign found at the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. Funky & Free Walking Tour Los Angeles

Grand Central Market

From The Broad, we walked over to the Angels Flight Railway and paid the $1 ticket price ($0.50 when we showed them our TAP card) to ride this cute, 117-year-old funicular train. It was a short ride down the hill and was the perfect mini-adventure, dropping us off right across from the Grand Central Market.

I wanted to eat EVERYTHING at the Grand Central Market. There was a great selection of foods from all over the world, most of them at decent prices. We ended up snacking on some Japanese food along with a pint of beer from Gold Road Brewery.


Jen framed in books at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

The Last Bookstore

When The Last Bookstore opened in 2005, Amazon was busy crushing nationwide bookstore chains, and it looked like small bookstores would be subsumed by the internet giant, as well. Fourteen years on, the ironically named store is thriving, having become a cultural icon and Instagram hotspot. There are two floors of books and book-related goodies. In addition to the usual stacks of new releases and bestsellers, the first floor hosts an excellent collection of graphic novels, an Arts and Rare Books Annex, and a book vault. Josh could have easily spent most of the day just on this floor, but thankfully I knew better and stole him away to go upstairs.

The second floor consists of a large mezzanine that overlooks the first floor, hosting numerous pieces of art for sale, art galleries, and a book labyrinth. You heard me right; a book labyrinth. Shelves and shelves, stack after stack of books to get lost in. The picture opportunities are endless. As an avid reader I was in heaven, making this the perfect free and funky stop for my Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles.



Angel City Brewery flight with five beers and tasting card in Los Angeles

Angel City Brewery

After trying several LA brews, we were most impressed by Angel City Brewery’s beers. Once we actually arrived at the brewery, we were blown away. The brewery is located inside of a renovated steel cable factory. If I were to open a brewery, the historic John A. Roebling Building is exactly the kind of place I would choose to host it. The place is huge, with two levels, multiple bars, and a loading dock for food trucks.

As if the venue wasn’t amazing enough, the beer was top notch. We ordered a taster flight with the Sunbather Citra, Angel City Pilsner, Saazberry, Angel City IPA, and Double IPA. I loved them all, rating most at a 4 out of 5 or higher (which is well above my average) on UnTappd. Angel City Brewery is doing it right. We’ve been to a ton of breweries around the world now, but this place really stuck out, and I can’t wait to go back!


Mac n' Cheese Pot Pie cut in half with a side salad at The Pie Hole in Los Angeles

The Pie Hole

I usually get hungry after some beers, so it seemed only right to make this quirky cafe the next stop on our Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles. The Pie Hole has 11 locations (mostly in the LA metro area) providing locally sourced and handmade pies to compliment their organic coffees. Although the menu changes seasonally, they always have a selection of both sweet and savory pies. Although I coveted the Salted Honey Custard Pie, we ended up with their famous Mac ‘n Cheese Pot Pie. It was amazing and inspired us to try making our own at home (which still needs some work, tbh).



Jen inside an art installation at the Two Bit Circus in Los Angeles

Two Bit Circus

WTF is this place?! As we were walking over, I warned Josh that this stop would likely be a bust. It looked really interesting online, but the promise of an adult themed, Silicon Valley-inspired arcade was probably too good to be true. Luckily for us, I was totally wrong, and we had an amazing time.

 

YOU WERE BORN KNOWING HOW TO HAVE FUN. YOU GOT BUSY AND MIGHT HAVE FORGOTTEN. WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU REMEMBER.

IT’S HARD TO TOP THE SIMPLE JOY OF THROWING A DART AT A BALLOON. BUT THAT WON’T STOP US FROM EQUIPPING THE DART WITH SENSORS, SPLASHING THE BALLOON WITH PIXELS, AND ADDING PEW-PEW-PEW SOUND EFFECTS.

WHEN IN DOUBT – STEP RIGHT UP.

– Two Bit Circus Manifesto

So we get inside and the Two Bit Circus is everything they promised and more. There are story rooms, escape rooms, and VR games. My first thought at seeing it all was “sh*t this place is going to be way too expensive for our budget”. Thankfully, I was pleasantly mistaken once again. In addition to the big stuff, there were free interactive art installations and inexpensive re-imagined carnival games, tricked out arcade games, and a futuristic bar with a robot bartender. The Two Bit Circus is truly nerd paradise!


So ends our Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles. We saw stuff, we ate stuff, and we played with stuff. It was a freaking blast! I love my “nearly famous walking tours”, but I think this one really takes the cake. I don’t think I could have planned a more fun afternoon for us. It was the perfect way to see the city while still being our quirky, nerdy, and playful selves.


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Fun & Funky Los Angeles Walking Tour - The Places We Live


The Places We Live – Glendora, California

There are few places in the USA with worse traffic or better weather than southern California. We’re spending the next 14 days just outside of Los Angeles, in the beautiful city of Glendora. Visiting this area isn’t cheap. Thankfully, we have booked a house sit at my aunt and uncle’s house while they visit the East Coast. They have two big and lovable dogs, a stunning garden, and a magazine feature-worthy home. Time to add another home to the list of places we live in Glendora, California!


Glendora, California

Everywhere we go in the world, people know California. Not only is it the most populous State in the US, but they also have the largest sub-national economy in the world. It is home to more famous cities than I care to list, the largest tree on earth, the highest AND lowest points in the USA, and is both the Avocado and Raisin Capital of the World. Way to be, California!

Los Angeles, California - The Places We Live.jpg

Glendora is located in Los Angeles County, about 23 miles (37 km) outside of downtown LA. Set in the foothills, there are lots of trails for hiking and other outdoor activities nearby. Glendora is connected to the Los Angeles metro through the Gold Line at APU/Citrus College. Far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the city proper, Glendora is a quiet community, perfect for retirees or those looking for a slower pace of life.

Our Home

Our Glendora home is a 2,000 square foot, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom house built in 1956. It has a large kitchen, living room, sitting room, and laundry room. My favorite part of the home is the green and well-kept backyard, complete with a heated pool. There are several different citrus trees and a small vegetable garden, so fresh produce is never far away. The location is also a plus, in a quiet neighborhood with home prices averaging around $900k.

Glendora Back Yard - The Places We Live

We were provided with a comfortable room, free use of the house, a car, tv and internet, and plenty of food. The perks of staying with family over strangers was not overlooked by us at all. We felt immediately at home and could have easily spent the rest of our lives here.

Our Family

This was a very special house sit as we got to spend some time with family that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Long-time Californians, my aunt is a retired nurse and my uncle is a retired radio personality and local celebrity. They are some of my favorite people to chat with as they have the best stories. Before they left, we spent hours just sitting at the table, talking about the books we were reading and weird medical stuff. It was a real treat. While they are away on a much deserved vacation, Josh and I will be watching their two dogs, JJ and Bella, along with their cat, Skinny Kitty.

House Sitting with Bella and JJ - The Places We Live

Both JJ and Bella have the run of the house with their big personalities and even bigger hearts. Bella is the younger and smaller of the two. She loves sitting in her dad’s chair, playing ball, and patrolling for squirrels outside. JJ is large and in charge. He enjoys swimming in the pool, belly rubs, and playtime on the couch. Skinny Kitty was a bit stand-offish, but we shared a few nice moments together. He enjoys food, naps, and being alone. We loved molding into the routines of these pets and immediately fell in love.

JJ in the Pool - The Places We Live

Our Life

So far, this has been a very productive sit. We have gotten a lot of work done, explored quite a bit (check out our Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles), and have set good routines. We wake up each morning and set to work, a mixture of writing and social media. Then it is time to play ball with the dogs. JJ has some trouble with his hips, so we play some games that don’t require much running, like hide and seek with the ball or fetch in the pool. After lunch, we enjoy a walk in the sunshine or an adventure around town. For dinner, we are still focusing on building our cooking skills and even tried making a new dish inspired by a restaurant we visited in LA (more on this coming up in the next post), Mac and Cheese Pie inspired by The Pie Hole.

We’ve had some great work time as well. Josh published a collection of horror stories that really challenged his writing style. More importantly, perhaps, he wrapped up the final draft of his newest publication, Finding My Voice, a flash fiction collection. He will be working with some of our friends for the cover art and chapter art. It has been a really fun project and we can’t wait to share it with you all!