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Op-Ed: California Road Trips

by Eden Marcus

Photography by Eden Marcus and Jessica Alberto

I spent my summer in a new city, very far away from home, exploring the truth behind the somewhat catchy phrase: “West Coast, best coast.” What I discovered after three months in San Francisco was how absolutely true that short but sweet sentence is. The best part about the entire experience was being able to explore and discover a whole new state and side of the country. In three months, I road tripped to Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, Yosemite, Sacramento and Napa.

West coasters have such a positive and welcoming attitude which was infectious. There seemed to be a certain kind of camaraderie among everyone, which I found exciting. The word “hella” sometimes found its way into my vocabulary while I was there (even though I have yet to pick up “wicked” or “mad” here in Boston). I got my dose of rivalry over there, too. The fun Boston vs. New York dynamic is similar to San Francisco vs. Los Angeles, which was comforting. I also learned that unlike on the East Coast, planning a road trip involves setting aside more than just an hour or so, as California makes up much of the west coast

On our way to Calistoga, we drove through all the Napa wineries which were absolutely breathtaking. Vibrant colors whizzing past us with the windows rolled down gave us the perfect taste of summer. We were in our own little world. Calistoga is a spa town, so we were surrounded by resorts, mud baths and massages. Everything felt very much like California—palm trees lined the roads and highways—and I definitely felt like I was far from home.

My summer of road trips also allowed me to visit two new states: Oregon and Washington. On this specific road trip, I, as the native East Coaster that I truly am, stood out for my unique pronunciation of West Coast states. It still hasn’t been settled if the first “a” in Nevada is a soft or hard vowel (to me, it’s pronounced with a hard “a,” but I was refuted during this whole road trip, so who really knows).

The road trip to Portland and Seattle was a long 13 hours from San Francisco, but was worth it. For me, Portland was a little too sleepy. We arrived on a Friday evening, bunked through Airbnb with an adorable couple, but nobody was out and about on the streets—something I crave in a city. Portland wasn’t the main attraction for this road trip because we soon continued driving up to Seattle, which I completely fell in love with. It gave me similar vibes of a big city like San Francisco and Boston. The Pike Place Market in Seattle was just as monumental as I imagined it to be—endless fresh produce, fruit and handmade crafts made for the perfect farmers market Sunday. We made it to the original Starbucks, too, which disappointingly looks like every other Starbucks. We traveled to the top of the Space Needle, which offered a panoramic view of the entire city. Seattle even has a gum wall, which is exactly what it sounds like, and is pretty gross, but super colorful.

My summer of road trips offered the most economical and fun way for me to make the most of three short months in a new and large state.. Often times, we would stop on the side when we drove through somewhere new and loved a particular view or tourist spot—something that flying doesn’t allow. I highly recommend that college students should go on some sort of road trip, not just because we’re young and available, but because this is prime time for us to still be able to sit in cramped cars for long periods of time.

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