Every month, our Associate Editor sends a narrative out to our newsletter followers, with the aim of telling a California tale and promoting content on the site we think you should be reading. For a glimpse into this world, read our June Editor's Letter below. Fancy a taste for more? Subscribe to our newsletter and get in on the action.
Excuse me for saying so, but in my opinion summer is about little else than loading the car up and getting yourself lost. Out of dodge. Off the grid. Go 1999 on this scene and log out. Just you and a vehicle—doesn’t even have to be a nice vehicle. It is through this act of summer pioneering that the best bits of life are coaxed out like lightning bugs on a sticky, humid night. The kind of living that seems to defy time altogether, put it back in the bottle so you come out younger; all the bad bits so watered down you can’t even taste them anymore.
Wandering this state, I bump into myself all over the place. Endless iterations of me, churning up old tales of sweet June’s, July’s and August’s and substantiating a burgeoning hope that these summers—the most magical of seasons—really do only get better. I had this very thought this weekend as I hopped on I-5 and drove that sucker all the way down south. At a rest stop I realized something. The bathroom mirror at Harris Ranch has seen me at every age. Running in on stops during road trips. First as a kid, then a grumbling teenager, a college student alone on my way home for winter break driving through sleet at 6am. The tanned hide and cow skin sofas, along with the deeply western wall art nailed to every possible surface have served as the refueling station, the charging dock, of so many adventures—both the coming and the becoming. The doing and undoing.
I love that the road trips, the long drives, are somehow colorful in even the most banal of ways. I find the uninteresting things phenomenally important when careening across state highways and byways. Temperatures got so hot on one trip that my AUX cord physically melted itself into my truck. That left me to fiddle the radio dial and jump judgelessly from classical music to gangster rap, whirl up through early 2000s R&B, followed by Seattle grunge, then deep into rock n’ roll. It was perfect. Blared loud enough to scare bats from hell, the soundtrack to rejuvenation made possible by open road.
In short, if the best way to know a place is to drive it, then it seems California and I are grossly acquainted. Deeply knowledgeable of each other’s uglier bits. On these drives, California has seen me passed out in the backseat of station wagons, sunburned, salt-caked, and sand-ridden. In the meantime, its scenery has revived me endlessly, bougainvillea laughing out from front porches while jacaranda trees line winding streets and drop purple afterthoughts like birthday confetti. I’ve also seen California barren and forsaken after mudslides, fires, and floods—the long strips of forgotten scenery that cause the driver to wonder whether they’ve not only been thrown from the state’s good graces, but all of the earth’s as well.
It is far easier to love someone or someplace when you see it from a distance. Let me love you like this, you stay where you are like that. The act of bravery comes when you stare it square in the imperfect face and love it still—love it more for its imperfections, even. This rule applies to friendships, companions, ourselves. And funny enough, I learned it on these road trips. Each day of life here in this state is some type of love letter, a shout into the golden void as I walk stunned in wonder at an existence filled with such goodness, such beauty, such magical people and places it is like coming home again and again, and finding something new to win me over each time. Of all the loves of my life, this state has always been the most abiding.
In the kindest way possible, I suggest that you get lost this summer. And we’ll be here to tell you where, in our opinion, those lost moments just may lead to an arrival at that beautiful word: found.
// Feature photo by Connor McSheffrey.
Isabella Welch is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in history. Her writing has been featured in history journals, travel blogs, arts & culture magazines, and more. Director of Editorial & Creative Development at Bob Cut Mag, lover of stories and tinto de verano, she’s usually found wandering the Headlands.