After a whirlwind weekend in LA (where I left my laptop charger and thus, no blog posts) I was ready for some downtime in the lovely town of Bakersfield, CA. Yes THE Bakersfield of obscure Rolling Stones reference lore. You never heard of Bakersfield!?
I found good ol’ Bakersfield while trying to figure out how I was going to get to the Sequoias. My travel plans have basically played out like this: find a point of interest (Sequoias), find a nearby town with Amtrak/Greyhound (Bakersfield!), find a couchsurfing host (Julie).
I rolled into town Monday afternoon and for the next 40 hours or so I was a full-fledged member of the family. The funny part about Julie’s family is the striking resemblance it has to my own. Literary mother, conservative father, I even got to resume my role as big sister for a few days.
While Bakersfield is considered a sizable town, it looks like a Long Island suburb and, strange as it may sound, that’s just about what I needed for a few days. The first stop on my tour was the Old Corral Café, which is located in ‘merica if you couldn’t tell.
HOLD UP. This is California? Where are the granola munchers? Where are the solar powered smart cars? Where are the god-less liberals? Not here my friend, not here. In fact the further you get from the coast, the more California resembles Arkansas, Oklahoma, or any number of good, patriotic locales. They’ve even got a ‘Nazi Indian,’ Julie came up with that one.
So we got some grub in the Old Corral, lovingly referred to as “Ethel’s” by the locals. The country music was flowin’, and the creepy old men were abounding, and I felt like I was sitting right up at the Saint James Tavern only the bartender was talking about how she injured herself over the weekend while riding her horse to the Bull Shed (another bar). Her horse. The Bull Shed. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
After Ethel’s we hit up Barnes and Noble. YES! It’s like I never left the old homestead. Back at Julie’s house the dinner conversation featured some tense moments between Emma and her dad whenever politics or social justice came up—as if I didn’t already feel at home! I knew I liked this Emma kid, and we spent the evening making fun of a certain reality TV show that I dare not actually admit to here.
The next day we set out for the Sequoias, along with Julie’s incredibly sweet son Samuel. She packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for us. (I did not want to leave that place…) Julie had a whole day trip planned out which included a river beach (where we awkwardly caught her friend making out with someone who was not his wife), and a double dead-baby cemetery marker from the 19th century. This is my idea of a good time, folks.
After a few hours of the scenic route we arrived at the Sequoias. I’ve been waiting to see these trees for years and I was totally overwhelmed. There’s no point in trying to write about the experience, I can’t communicate anything useful. They’re gorgeous and they’re old and they’re better than any picture you’ve seen. Their roots don’t go too deep into the soil, and so they have to live near one another otherwise they won’t survive; a web of nutrients and water get exchanged amongst them. I crouched down on the ground and put my camera in the dirt to get a shot of the full tree, then I realized that I see tourists do this every day outside the Empire State Building, and I ridicule them to no end in my head.
I know that exploring this forest wouldn’t have been the same on my own. Without the presence of an eleven-year-old boy I might have felt silly running in and out of the tree trunks. Julie took long pauses during our walk, leading me to do the same; slow down, close your eyes, breathe in the air. And Emma graciously slipped into some mud, a sacrifice to the gods of klutz so that I may go unscathed for once.
The Sequoias are incredible, but once again I’m blown away by Couchsurfing. My travels would be way less rich without the kindness of perfect strangers. Couchsurfing actually has a lot in common with the Sequoias. The friendships that are created through surfing are not often deep ones, I might never see any of those people again. No, the bonds tend to be shallow but they’re mutually supportive and without these types of encounters, how could humans survive? Sequoias are also full of sap, just like this last paragraph. Zing.