Sometimes it can take a while to think about a trip and fully understand your thoughts about it. What you returned home liking could be very different from what you expected to like, and this was the case with my recent trip to Southern California.

To start with, this was my first trip to California, which most people find shocking. The truth is that I never really cared to go. Well, of course I want to visit EVERYWHERE, but it was never at the top of my list.  Places like The Badlands of South Dakota, Bar Harbor, Maine and St. Joseph, Missouri top my list, so it’s clear that Los Angeles would be the outlier if included.

The entire trip was beyond my comfort zone. We were attending Coachella (the huge music festival) in the desert, with lots of people. Heat, sun and crowds are normally my kriptonite, but I knew I would appreciate the experience, especially since we would hopefully get to see wind farms and some neat 50’s architecture in Palm Springs.

There are so many things to post about this trip, so I’ll touch on a few of the high points for me – the unexpected things that made the trip memorable.

#1. Los Angeles.  Really I didn’t get to experience LA, so these are a few brief and superficial thoughts until I get to visit again.  Los Angeles really is very smoggy. Yes, I’ve heard this before, and expected it, but seeing it was another thing all together.   The  iconic Theme Building at LAX has been on my architecture bucket list for a while, so thankfully I was able to get some glimpses of it.  Overall, LAX chaos made me appreciate Atlanta’s Hartsfield orderly chaos a bit more.

#2. Chino Hills.  While we didn’t get to stop and spend any time here, I made note of how pretty the hills were in this area.  In the same way that marshy coastal Georgia fascinates me as the murky transition from ocean to land, this area seemed to reflect the transition from the greener coast to the east and the desert in the west. Literally one hill would be green and the next desert.  I would imagine there are some good hiking spots around there.

#3. Palm Springs.  My expectation for Palm Springs was completely off. I expected a late 50’s version of lifestyles of the rich and famous, but found some beautiful houses and “normal” people. Most of the people we met seemed to be from somewhere else and had moved there to pursue happiness. At the grocery store I came across a guy wearing a West Virginia tee-shirt! I excitedly asked him if he was from West Virginia (who else would be wearing a WV shirt?) and he excitedly asked “Is this West Virginia?!?” as he pointed to his shirt.  I quickly retreated from the situation as Vacation Day 1 was too early to give someone the stink eye.  Our rental in Palm Springs was one of the most beautiful homes I’ve stayed in.  It’s recent renovation that calls on the areas mid-century designs. Small, but open and well designed. We stayed in the casita by the pool, which was a welcome change from the craziness at Coachella.  Staying at this house and lounging by the pool warrants its own vacation.

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#4. Wind Farms. I love wind farms. Seriously, I love wind farms. The design most turbines is sculptural and beautiful. Green energy is wonderful. The uniform movement does something for me that I find hard to explain. Obsessed? Maybe. Then when you put them in formation with others it’s an even greater experience. The play on size and space and perspective as they stretch across the valley reminds me alot of the art of Christo and Jean-Claude (another obsession).  Did I mention that I love wind farms?

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#4. Coachella. Wow.  Just wow. Basically Coachella is about cramming as much art and music as possible into two weekends, and then braving the heat, sun and partying to see your favorite acts.  If you knew me better, you would be surprised to see me going to this event. It’s the opposite of everything I usually like, but it was awesome!  I’ll even go so far as to say that its one of the best times I’ve had in years. I loved it, and am so glad that I didn’t try to wiggle my way out of the trip, which did cross my mind.  Yes, I was exhausted, tired, and a good bit older than the others attending, but it seemed well-organized and the people were friendly. Everyone was mellow and were just happy to be there.

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In hindsight, this trip was about comfort zones and trying new things, but also open-mindedness and being able to admit being wrong and then embracing it. I could have  (and in the past have) made an excuse not to go, or could have (and in the past have) been too stubborn to enjoy myself since I didn’t expect to. But I didn’t do those things, and had a wonderful time.

Lesson learned.

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