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The morning after a California wildfire starts, you can expect some pretty intense colors in the sunrise.

For the past five years, I’ve lived the Golden Dream. Every day, I’ve taken in the mountains, the ocean, and — most days anyway, save this ususually foggy summer — have soaked up the rays of sunshine that bathe California’s coast for most of the year. Although I’ve enjoyed nearly every minute of it, something called me, at the age of 31, to do something grown up. Sure, I’ll always be more keen to go surfing or hiking than I will be to do anything that resembles work, but I’ve decided to leave my idyllic dreamland (temporarily) to receive a dose of East Coast reality via Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.

I swore off the East Coast years ago — during my childhood, actually — when I decided that it is, in fact, possible to live in a place that has nice weather and laid back people who don’t seem always bent on telling you how life is supposed to be lived. Enter Santa Barbara, California, my home for the past five years. It’s been a blur of pleasantness, and the place gave me a big, fat, wet kiss goodbye in the form of a pretty raging going away party. While leaving such a beautiful place and so many amazing people has been a bit of a drag, the native East Coaster in me feels that it’s time for that open-handed face slap that East Coast (especially New York City) culture invariably delivers. I suppose that’s what I love most about being a Californian who grew up back East; I can appreciate laid back, but can also remember the harshness of reality.

Firedancer? Check. It's a Santa Barbara backyard fiesta.

At any rate, I’ve left Santa Barbara after a week of beaches, mountains, revelry, and sad goodbyes, and am currently in the purgatory of Southern California, ready to make a reverse Dante Alighieri journey into the vast deserts that will no doubt mimick the Renaissance writer’s Inferno in many ways. Drifting from friend’s house to friend’s house around Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego reminds me of my first trips out here, and why I fell in love with this sunny paradise in the first place. A sunny summer day spent playing on Newport Beach does much to salve the soul.

As I face the long drive east, I am reminded that now, in the midst of summer, it is very hot in the areas I will be driving through. I’ve elected to take the southern route, so that I might see first hand some of the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The editor at Miller-McCune Magazine sounded interested in getting a few photos from out that way, and judging by the amount of attention the subject is still receiving, it’s probably not a bad idea to poke around a bit before heading to the Mecca of news media.

But right now, my mind is elsewhere. I’m in San Diego getting ready to go to the beach when I should be fixing a few last things on my 1986 Subaru station wagon, the trusty beast that shall bear me across the sweltering plains of the Southern United States over the next week (mine’s not nearly as nice as the one pictured in the link). I will leave at night, following in the footsteps of TE Lawrence as he prepared to cross the great Nefud Desert in 1917 in order to attack the Turks defending the port City of Aqaba. Perhaps this is my sneak attack on the port city of New Orleans. It won’t know what to expect…bwahaha!

More to come as I embark on what looks like an incredibly long and hot trans-continental drive. For now, I’m going to stick some parts onto my Subaru with JB Weld and old beer cans so that I can go to the beach and grab a few waves!

My cross-continent conveyance -- a 1986 Subaru GL