Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#PiconesGoWest: Our 4,596 Mile Cross-Country Drive to California

This September, I left my home of five years, New York, to move out west to California. It was an abrupt decision made by me and my husband, propelled by our ending lease, rising rent in Brooklyn and the option of being closer to my family in Hawaii. Deniably, I was also becoming jaded by my life in New York--living a "sitcom" life where I was married with roommates, shot-gunned beers on Sunday and chronically complained about the L train. What I've learned from sitcoms like Friends and Gossip Girl is the story starts going downhill after five seasons--and so, I ended it. I left my dear friends and work family in New York for the promise of a new adventure.

Picones Go (East Then) West
The destination was Mountain View, California (where I now work). We could have flown direct to Mountain View in 5 hours or drove 2,944 miles over 5 days, but instead, we decided to take the super scenic car route, which would take us 13 days to cover 4,596 miles. The 12 overnight stops of our cross-country road trip were:
  1. Boston, MA
  2. South Hadley, MA 
  3. Plainville, CT 
  4. Harrisonburg, VA
  5. Charlotte, NC
  6. Mobile, AL
  7. New Orleans, LA
  8. Austin, TX
  9. Marfa, TX
  10. Albuquerque, NM
  11. Las Vegas, NV 
  12. Bakersfield, CA 
The route was not entirely random, as our strategy was to see as many friends and family along the way. The rest were chosen because we wanted to explore the South and eat really, really good Southern food. We documented our journey using the hashtag #piconesgowest and started a tumblr piconesgowest.tumblr.com for our families who weren't on Instagram.

Moving West, the New Aspiration
Over the years, a handful of my NYC friends moved to the west coast, where the standard of living is higher and cost of living is "supposedly" lower. Moby also wrote an article about why creative types should leave NY for LA. So, with a growing curiosity of what the west would really be like, I was convinced that moving to California might not be a bad idea; however, I knew the change would not be easy.

Adjusting from the hipster capital of the world, Williamsburg, to the full-blown suburbs of Santa Clara has been an interesting experience (which I'll save for a later post). What saved me from PNYS (post-New York shock) was driving across the country and experiencing a gradual change in geography, climate and time zones--this allowed me to slowly adapt and accept a new, sunnier life on the west side.

We crossed 17 or so state lines, and here are some of my favorite moments:
  1. Seeing a Christmas Tree farm for the first time in West Virginia
  2. Eating a silly amount of raw oysters, baked crab claws and shrimp and grits in Mobile, Alabama
  3. Drinking my first frozen Cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans and loving it
  4. Driving through the Louisiana/Texas border surrounded by refineries thinking it was a scene from Dark Angel
  5. Listening to live country music at Continental Club in Austin while drinking a Lone Star, "The National Beer of Texas"
  6. Watching thousands of tiny bats fly out of the South Congress Bridge at dusk in Austin
  7. Discovering a cute German town named Fredericksburg in Hill Country Texas that sold awesome mid-century furniture
  8. Staying overnight in a minimalist 1970s trailer in Marfa, Texas
  9. Being in awe of New Mexico's White Sands National Park and the Valley of Fire
  10. Eating fresh tortillas and green chile stew for $5 at Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque
Some photos from our journey:

America the Beautiful
This sounds super cheesy, but it wasn't until this road trip that I truly understood and appreciated the lyrics of "America the Beautiful":

O beautiful for spacious skies, 
For amber waves of grain, 
For purple mountain majesties 
Above the fruited plain!

There were so many moments I would look out on the road and it felt like I was looking at the world through a fish-eye lens. For hundreds of miles, I saw flat-top mountains, blue sky and desert plants. It was overwhelming and beautiful to experience a landscape so pure and undisrupted.

I'll always be grateful for New York City's electric energy that sparked a passion inside of me to pursue my love for brands and advertising, but for now, I'm enjoying the slow burn of a calmer pace of life. Hello, California!

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