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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : United States (Part 3: The West Coast)

From the south to the north of the west coast of the United States, there is a lot of sunsets but before that the moon come take his placem I had the time to watch and analyse the reasons why the west coast is so different from what I have seen of the United States so far.

The west coast, it is a lot of California, a worldwide known State for several reasons, more or less good, sometimes strange, sometimes genial, sometimes not, but which are catching your attention all the time.

I traveled for this last month in a blue zone... not because it was close to the ocean but because California, Oregon and Washington are three States which are voting democrats. Those States are more open-minded and seems to be more free than their neighbours of the more central country.

Many movement which have known a worldwide expansion started on the “West Coast”. Here has been created the hippie generation, also we can say that the fight for the gay rights has started in the San Francisco Bay area.

Here, this is also a place to welcome the smartest brains... who are leaving their countries, motivated by more interesting economic aspects in this part of the world.

The west coast can make you dreaming, by “broadcasting” our dreams through mediatics means very powerful: indeed here is Hollywood.

But what is the other side of this dream? Is it only a machine to make them or is it really existing? What are the other interests of the west coast? What are its assets, its problems?

Let's dive inside the country of the surfers, and be careful to the wave!



 

The west coast, 3 States: California, Oregon and Washington

Geographically, the west coast, this is 3 States. Let's have a look on the map of the way I have been covering.


To give you an idea of the size of the country, the distance between the city of San Diego (situated in the south of California close to the border with Mexico) to the city of Seattle (localised in the North of Washington next to the canadian border) is around 2000 kilometers, and almost 1300 are in California.

 

 

 

Hitch-Hiking on the west coast

Coming from the center of the country, I think that I have done the most difficult as I felt easy to hitch-hike along the west coast. No more endless waiting on the road, two hours have been the longest and one little hour in average. Of course, after Mexico, that wasn't the top, but after Texas, that was paradise!

In California, that was probably the most difficult of the three States, especially close to Los Angeles. I would say that Oregon was the State where hitch-hiking was the easiest and in the State of Washington, the biggest difficulty was to go through the law which was fordidding me this activity...Basically, the aim was to find a vehicle before the police find me... That was a pleasant little game and fortunalety, this signal has just remained a warning.

In the State of Washington, hitch-hiking is forbidden in the Interstates entrances


Indeed, hitch-hiking in this area is working if you keep in mind that you should look normal. I was in fact in competition in my thumb activity by some homeless, who were challenging me strongly by their smell and their level of alcohol, which was not helping them to stop vehicles...

To be honest, to look clean and smily improved a lot my chances to stop a car. To have an indication of the place where we wish to go has surely helped me to get a lift... maybe also because my sign was indicating “World Tour”.


Some astonishing differences

I was talking above about the homeless people. Those one are quite a few on the west coast. Indeed, the beautiful climate the whole year and the tolerance of the authorities are an invitation for the homelesses to elect this place as theirs along those nice sandy beaches.

I was also surprised by the number of request from beggers that I have been receiving.

Constantly, I had to answer to this question: “Do you have some change?”

Others found some original ways to collect some green bills... or more often silver coins.


The paradox is that this begging can happen in the middle of mansions estimated at several millions of dollars like in the districts of Beverly Hills or Bel Air in Los Angeles.

The cult of the capitalism and the individualism practiced massively in this area of south california led to this huge difference between the broken bump and the multi-billion guy sipping a cocktail on top of his hill.

Here I am with my friend Oliver...almost on the top... of the bottom of the hill


 

You see me? Have you seen me?

The cult of individualism or the art to be visually noticed. And very often, we are hopelessly close to the ridiculous. Again, souther on the west coast we are, more important it is to catch the attention...

In Venice Beach, a curious man was spending his time to show his big muscles to a crowd which was seeming to enjoy to take pictures of him!


Also, in Santa Barbara, the fact to get married on the beach doesn't seem to be a custom to respect. This saturday, it was four weddings side by side which were competiting “in catching the attention” because those ones were happening... in front of the public promenade, so a huge crowd of people wandering there and there.


But why all those people think it is so important to be noticed? What is their motivation? What is their goal? Maybe because we are in the World Capital of Cinema. Without doubt because one of the most important goal is to get your star on the sidewalk and to have your face sticked on every wall of the city, so of California, of the United States and of the World! We are in Hollywood, this is so good to be seen and recognized here and many people are working hard to get this final result.

Better than the star, the prints on Hollywood Boulevard. I let you figure out who it is.


We are in the world capital of the entertainment. To help you to understand a little bit better, I didn't feel in an unknown place here even if it was the first time that I was stepping the ground of Los Angeles. Thanks to the power of the medias centralized here, I could recognized a life of everyday which wasn't mine.

I recognized this lifeguard car and this observation sport, straight coming from the sitcom “Baywatch”


Also, it was impossible for me to miss this very famous sign on the hill, you have probably seen it somewhere once at least


Entertaining yes, but for a short period of time only. I was feeling the same kind of thing that I felt in Las Vegas, there were the limits are very shallows. I decided to go up this coast towards the North and eventualy, to learn a little bit more about the life of the “normal” people in California, Oregon and Washington.

A very enjoyable nature

As I left the nine lines highways of this city of 300 miles called Los Angeles, I was hoping to see less buldings and more rocks, forest, lakes... well we call that nature!

While leaving the nine lines highways of Los Angeles (ok, there are only five here, but still!)


Let me say that I wasn't disapointed. By having followed the little coastal road, I could admire a huge number of incredible landscapes. The big time was probably when I went through an area called the “Big Sur”, a place quite similar to the area of Cape Town in South Africa.


The californian beaches are famous, as much for the clones of Pamela Anderson as by the surfers. The Mecca of the surf my friends! Welcome in California, where you will be able to ride the waves twelve months a year, and believe me, they know how to appreciate it here!

The Mecqua of the surf riders: Calirfonia


The californian beaches are also enjoyed by the sea elephants. I had indeed the chance to be able to observe those animals which are quite impressives and huge by their size. I could see them close tto he former capital of California: Monterey.

A little bit northern, I was able to find a forest of giant Seq uoias. Thisis so astonishing to find yourself in the middle of so big trees. Those one can be extremly old and reach an age of 1300 years old!


And one day, I arrived in San Francisco. The change is at least important with the other major city of California. San Francisco is situated in a bay, so rounded by water. The views can be stunning, even from the inside of the city.

Have a look on this panorama of Ocean Beach, along the west side of San Francisco

 

From San Francisco to Seattle

San Francisco is without doubt one of the most pleasant city that I have been able to visit so far. Situated in an amazing natural landscape, that was again making me thinking of the city of Cape Town in South Africa... the way leading to it was indeed not only a pre-starter.

San Francisco and Seattle are like the “idea's boxes” of the west coast. Many ambitious projects have been created there and have been exported wordwidly afterwhile.

Musicaly and spiritualy, the grunge movement has been developed in Seattle with Nirvana and Alice in Chains. Also, the Hippie generation was in a big part born in San Francisco.

By the way, along the coast situated in the north of San Francisco, and especially in Oregon, I have met an important number of hippies, who are still here today.

Many different alternative movements seem to find open door in Oregon, which must be one of the most fee State that I have been able to cross so far in the USA.

A little message on the wall in Portland in Oregon, demonstrating this idea


Politicaly, this is in San Francisco that started the movement militating for the gay's rights. The Castro district is known to host an important gay-activist's population. We can find many rainbow flags, symbol of the homosexual's cause, a little bit everywhere.

A mural rainbow paint in San Francisco


Technologicaly, the Silicon Valley is localised in the south of San Francisco with Google or Craiglist, while in Seattle, you will find the Bill Gates'creation with Microsoft.

San Francisco, this is the streets which could be a challenge fo Lance Armstrong, this is the cable-cars, this is also Alcatraz, its huge Chinatown or even the Golden Gate.

The Golden Gate in San Francisco

 

A little bit of culture and some differences

This is a little bit difficult to talk about cultural differences in the United States because their way of life is quite similar to what we can see in France. Indeed, we are both living in the western country's style, the differences are not that big.

Nevertheless, I could notice some details, of course not something as different as I found in Africa, but at least that was 100% local and this is what we are interested in.

When I was wandering in the residencial areas, I have seen a system of mailbox which was quite interesting:

- If you don't have anything for the postman, the flag is down.

-Othewise, if you have something, hop! The flag is up! You won't have to go to the post office!


Let's talk sport now. You know that in the United States, sport has an important place in the daily life. Several sports has been created in this country and the people in United States are fond of practicing...or watching. I want to talk about american Football, Baseball, Lacrosse, Ice Hockey or even Basket-Ball.

Recently, passing by the Baseball Stadium of Seattle, I had the chance to see myself invited to watch a game for free.

My first match of BaseBall, Go Seattle Go!


I would talk about some culinary culture but in picture, that doesn't look that right. Come on, for a little introduction to a future article about the american cuisine, here are the chicken wings barbecue sauce!

Chicken wings and legs sauce barbecue, HMMM!!!



Here I am ending with my first part of my journey in the United States. I will enter very soon in a new country: Canada. I won't stay a very long time in first because my aim is to reach Alaska before winter... hoping to not stay stucked there for the next six months!

The west coast of the United States was quite interesting and very different from one place to another. From the ultra-individualist side of Los Abgeles to the very alternative movement in Oregon, variety and a kind of freedom of expression will be what I will remember in this journey from California to Washington.

It seems to me that our eyes will have to look closely to this part of the United States when we will need to bring some solutions to the current and future problem of the world, especially about the environmental ones.

I could realize once again that United States are a country with a lot of variety. The west coast is like another country compared to the States of the center and Texas. The mentalities are different, the climate is changing and the landscapes evolving.

Behind my back is rising an urban landscape of the last city I have visited in my first stage in the United States: Seattle.


I will let you there with another challenge in front of me: to reach Anchorage in Alaska, situated at more than 2000 miles from here, and I have to make it in less than 3 weeks.

 

See you very soon in the “Great Cold” I hope!

Jérémy

 



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