California or bust. (Spoiler alert: it was kind of a bust)

I had big plans to split up and blog our trip to southern California into segments based on all the places we visited.

Then the fires happened. It has been so sad here in California. And the thick smoke in the air is a constant reminder. That said, it was very interesting to be here while it was starting. I was fascinated – as a new Californian – to hear the new-to-me terminology and reporting. I learned so much that first day.

But as a result, we couldn’t get as close to the spots I had mapped out to visit. Hollywood, downtown LA, Calabasas, Santa Monica, etc. Instead, we went into the outskirts of Los Angeles and then took a different highway home. (Our original plan was to take Highway 101 on our way back north.)

So here’s a compilation of our few stops. Scott and I stayed in Ontario, California for a week – about an hour outside of LA – while he took classes for work. It happened during the daylight savings time change so our evenings were practically non-existent to be able to go sightseeing. So we planned on sight-seeing on our way home on Saturday and after class ended for the week at noon on Friday. The fires, however, raged on Thursday. So we quickly and deeply edited our list…

On Friday, Scott and I got in the car, checked the traffic to see which way to drive. Scott used to live in the Santa Ana mountains so he headed us further south toward Orange County. (You betcha I watched for Vicki, Shannon and Tamra at every intersection!!)

We took Highway 74 over the Santa Ana mountains which was absolutely fascinating for me – but I wasn’t driving on a two-way, winding road on the edge of the mountains. Scott did this even though heights are NOT his favorite thing!

(A very healthy grip -ha!)

I continue to be amazed at the difference in the mountains here as opposed to the Rocky Mountains – which I am more used to. But c’mon…where I’m from – the Midwest doesn’t have either so I have been loving all this new landscape to take in.

There’s been something about the mountains that I couldn’t quite pinpoint until this trip. I told Scott they look biblical! I can imagine the disciples walking through these valleys or Bin Laden hiding in a hole somewhere. I may be (…probably…) way off base but this is how I imagine the mountains of the Bible to look.

We stopped at the San Juan Capistrano Mission to look around. The swallows of Capistrano? This is the place. Swallows migrate 6,000 miles each year from Goya, Argentina to San Juan Capistrano in large groups.

But guess what I was more impressed with?! (just sort of joking) These cacti were huuuuuge! (Scott is 6’3″ tall for reference)

I mean! Again, I’m a Missouri gal. We don’t do succulents and cactus except in little pots on our windowsills. INSIDE! Is this even real?!

I really loved this cross and beads. It was large and heavy and….well, expensive. So I’ll settle for a picture of it.

We left the mission and drove to Dana Point Harbor at Doheny Beach. We walked out on the rock pier and I was NOT dressed for the occasion. But it was just a quick look at the Pacific Ocean for the first time since moving to California.

I promise to stop talking about them but this succulent was bigger than my head!

The picture below made me giggle a little bit. It made me think of all the filters you can buy on photo apps…

We ended up eating outside at a sweet restaurant. Salmon and delicious veggies at the perfect time as the sun set behind us. The cool breeze. The sloshing water on the boats. It was truly ideallyic.

…which ended with ice cream, of course. For the special cherry on top of a perfect evening.

These seals barking at the fishermen…… I die.

This was the view right outside our hotel. Three things to note: 1) Mt. Baldy loomed large everywhere we drove. 2) In-N-Out deliciousness and 3) All of this on G Street (big, stupid grin)

And then we drove home….

You see the mountains at the base of the picture. And the sad, red cloud of smoke hovering over it all.

The below picture is a little difficult to make out but you can see the Los Angeles city outline with the horrible cloud of smoke surrounding everything.

This was our view for quite a while as we headed back north – driving through the Sierra Nevada mountains.

By the time we got home around 9pm that night, our city of Fair Oaks, CA was thick with smoke and a very weird smell. It’s not a pleasant smell like burning wood or even a campfire. There is a chemical smell to it. Almost like a huge burning school nurse’s office. Our whole house had the smell – especially our garage. We tucked into bed, grateful to have a home to come back to. But also so very prayerful and saddened by those who were losing everything.

We had a wonderful trip together. We stopped at gorgeous fruit and nut farms and bought delicious fruits that we snacked on all the way to and from LA. We had delicious dinners together every night and saw amazingly beautiful country that was so very different than where we were raised. A lot of laughing and talking and being together in this new California Adventure. We were sorry we couldn’t see all the tourist sites but know that we’ll have other opportunities.

We are headed toward our mid-fifties and are determined to still experience and see new and exciting things. What a huge blessing. I am grateful, grateful, grateful.

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