Destination: California, USA
Book: Kiss the Sunset Pig (2006) by Laurie Gough
A GUEST POST by Claire Algarme
It is a smooth ride along California Interstate-5 while I gaze out at the beautiful landscape before me. I am on a thruway bus going to Bakersfield where I will ride the Amtrak. My friends think I am out of my mind by taking the train to San Francisco — all by myself — when it was only my first time in California, let alone in the United States.
I wanted to see the American countryside and explore the state beyond the big cities, like L.A. and San Francisco. Which leads me to the book Kiss the Sunset Pig, wherein the author, Laurie Gough, drove all the way from Canada across the US towards the Golden State, her dream hometown.
The words Kiss the Sunset Pig were part of the lyrics of the song California by Joni Mitchell that had caught the attention of our author.
I got hooked by Gough’s stories of surviving the American roads with her car Marcia as her constant companion and heading to that peaceful place inside the cave along a Californian beach where she retreated and found herself. Along the way, she sidetracked on her travels around the world to places like Greece, Indonesia, Korea, and Thailand.
Her first chapter was dated June 20, 1998, the day she left Guelph, Ontario, Canada for California. It was my birthday. I, on the other hand, had left the Philippines and headed to California on June 20, 2009, eleven years after.
But I wanted the parallelism not just to end there. Something within me yearned to imitate the adventures of Gough, but with my limited time, area, and resources, I was content to have my own American road experience within the boundaries of California.
What piqued my interest was when she wrote at the beginning of her book, “Most of the California coast is rugged and undeveloped. People don’t realize that. They associate California with L.A. But so much of the state is wilderness. It’s full of scenic beauty.”
And when she finally arrived at her destination, Gough’s words were,
Just the name California inspires amazement around the world. The name sizzles, holds magic, makes people think this is where my life should be taking place. I want to see all of this thousand-mile empire’s wildly disparate sites: the mountains, the desert, the small coastal and valley towns, the sea pounding the ocher sandstone cliffs, the fog floating through redwood rifts, the lonely twisting Joshua trees, the artichoke farmers in their fields, the Chamber of Horror rides at beach amusement parks, the movie stars wandering aisles of gourmet food stores, the crazy people, the creative people, the extraterrestrial and regular people – the many worlds within California. California, where the intensity of the environment matches that of the people.
From the picturesque scene outside the window, I focused myself on the ladies seated across from my train seat. They chatted animatedly, including me in their conversation. We were all strangers that happened to share a train table. They were Californians and their enthusiasm affected me. I understood why Gough was attracted to California, the place and the people.
Claire Algarme keeps a blog First-time Travels which features her first-time visits and travel experiences in various places, including destinations around her own country, the Philippines. If she’s not working or traveling, she spends her time reading books and magazines.
Thank you Claire for telling us about Kiss the Sunset Pig. You let us see the excitement of the first time in a new place!