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California, to me, has always been a tall, crooked shape on the map with two states balanced on its head, several more states poking into its ribs, and the Pacific Ocean on its back.

THEN we drove through it.

We stumbled off the plane in Las Vegas at 2am, a bit bleary, got our car and drove to a new gas station south of town. This new gas station has, I am not lying, 96 gas pumps. Here we took a nap.

“Times a-wasting!” I hissed at Marnell a few hours later. We took off, grabbed breakfast, and drove into California.

Oh, oh, oh!  Forgive me as I rave.

What is California? 

California is desert hills strewn with sage brush and entire trains lying across the worn sand of vast valleys. (We don’t see a whole train at once where I live. We watch them go past car by car.)

California is snow-topped mountains and acres and acres and acres of sand-colored houses packed on the north side of Los Angeles, some reddish, some grayish, some tan, but all the color of the desert.

California is deep gorges, cute tunnels, impossibly high bluffs, and a baseball diamond on the cliff above the Pacific Ocean.

California is white-capped waves destroying themselves on jagged rocks below our restaurant window and a sweet tattooed waitress telling us that it’s shark water right now because of the extra rain. 

California is indescribable acres and acres of vineyards spread over the hills like pieces of checkered tablecloth. California is endless rows of strawberries, enough for everyone in the nation (it seems to me) to have a piece of pie. 

California is hillside after hillside that look like the folds of a shower curtain, or the ribs of a giant mammal.

California is neon green hills speckled with black cattle.

California is cattle on steep slopes, not falling off.

California is a house built on the very top of a hill overlooking the ocean.

California is barren hills, some with lonely scraggly trees, some covered with wart-like bushes. 

California is miles and miles and miles of fruit trees blossoming in the central valley, and boxes and boxes of bee hives to pollinate them. 

California is rain and rainbows. We’ve seen four rainbows in two days! 

I felt as if my heart received an overload of beauty and I was going into a kind of congestive heart failure of the soul… and that was before the sun really came out.

“Maybe,” I said to Marnell, “the Midwest is just the most boring topography in the entire world, and so we just aren’t used to having nice scenery?”

He said something about flat land being practical, but he loves the scenery too.

And then the sun came out!

Oh, isn’t this photo below splendid, even if it’s from a moving vehicle? I declare that little black calf on the left is looking right at me.

(The photo I refer to is a brilliant yellow-green field scattered with beef calves under a blue sky with white clouds. Behind the fence, a small black beef calf appears to possibly be looking up at the camera.)

Anyway, now it’s business at the writers conference, and little time for updates. Yesterday’s class was excellent.

Thank you so much for your helpful emails describing what you look for in my blogs. I haven’t had time to reply to them yet, since we’ve been traveling and I had a full day at the conference AND since we don’t have a decent photo to send you for the exclusive shot from the West Coast!

I just addressed 20 post cards, to the first 20 responders with feedback. Since I don’t have permission to post your names, I’ll just say this. If you DON’T live in Pennsylvania (Port Royal, York, Manheim, Shippensburg, Mifflintown); Indiana (Odon, Goshen, Bremen, Argos); Virginia (Aroda, Dayton); Hubbard, OR; Brooksville, MS; Conrath, WI; Monterey, TN; Chester, MA; Congress, AZ; Traverse City, MI; Mt. Perry, OH; or Wyandotte, OK, you didn’t make the 20 postcard people. But as soon as we get a good shot, I will pass it along.

Also, if you meant to email and didn’t, you can still shoot me an email at, and I’ll add you to the email photo list. Just tell me why you read this blog.

Have a great day!

16 Responses to California

  1. Angie February 15, 2019 at 8:16 am #

    California is now high on my list of places I want to see. Thank you for feeding my travel fever… no thanks. 🙂

    • Katrina February 15, 2019 at 8:26 am #

      😀 It’s worth it!

  2. Treva February 15, 2019 at 9:21 am #

    All the news right now is about the rains in San Francisco…are you experiencing this too? I’ve been thinking of you!

    • Katrina February 15, 2019 at 9:26 am #

      Yes it’s pretty wet!

  3. Grace Reiff February 15, 2019 at 9:23 am #

    I love your descriptive words !

    • Katrina February 15, 2019 at 9:26 am #

      Thank you. 😊

  4. Anonymous February 15, 2019 at 11:05 am #

    Katrina. We (my wife and I) love reading your blogs. I (Leroy) have known Marnell and his family since he was a little squire (ha, ha, ha). He also has been very helpful to me with some computer issues several years ago. Thanks again to him. Your pictures and descriptions or beautiful. I am also a nurse and can relate to those items your write. Leroy Cross

    • Katrina February 15, 2019 at 11:08 am #

      Thanks for sharing, Leroy. I will try to remember to pass your words on to Marnell!

  5. Linda February 15, 2019 at 11:50 am #

    But, but, but!! You didn’t even mentions the crazy traffic, especially around Vegas, but maybe you didn’t experience MUCH of that depending what time you arrived. We were starving by the time we completed our trip (EST to WPT) and were very thankful to find an IHOP where we ordered our first substantial meal of the day. After all, it was dinnertime where we were from!! : )
    Do NOT miss the San Fran Sourdough bread!!
    Oh, and don’t leave your cookies beside the road! The roads along the coast wind and weave & dip and soar!! Our son actually got carsick (unusual for him) on our trip to CA several years ago. It at least earned him a front seat in our rental car! My husband provided a constant monologue of “Oh, look at the beautiful rocks!” which we couldn’t see from the backseat! It has become our “one liner” regarding our CA trip!

    • Katrina February 15, 2019 at 12:16 pm #

      Thanks Linda, I have the sourdough on my radar! I get carsick on a normal day so thanks for the warning!

  6. Jean February 15, 2019 at 2:11 pm #

    Beautiful descriptions. Gorgeous pictures. I wanna GO!

    • Katrina February 15, 2019 at 2:12 pm #

      If you get a chance, take it!

  7. Emma February 15, 2019 at 2:31 pm #

    I remember California! My family went there in 1989 to visit family. Away from the cities, there are a lot of similarities to New Zealand, where we now live. I like your comment about the Midwest. Maybe that’s why I’m always so glad to get back here after a visit there.

    • Katrina February 15, 2019 at 7:30 pm #

      Hmmm, that’s great to know. I’ve seen the beautiful photos from New Zealand and they are similar to what we’ve seen. What a beautiful setting!

  8. Mary H February 16, 2019 at 9:57 am #

    It is good to hear a fresh description of the west. I sometimes tend to focus on the bad drivers and forget to notice all the beauty. One of my favorite parts of the west is the “whole trains” and definitely the “whole” sky! I look forward to coming home to the open spaces after traveling back east where the trees and hills hide things. I’m glad you’re enjoying your trip!

    • Katrina February 16, 2019 at 10:28 am #

      Yes, we talked about that too… how Pennsylvania has hills, but there are so many trees too. And we have encountered bad traffic as well. Last night we did a two hour circle of San Francisco!