This book is travelogue. It’s about a California trip I took a couple years ago. Maybe it would be better if it were more current, but, the land’s been the same for a long time. So, it’s all good.

And, yes, my title is a bit of a spoof on John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley.

Now, I’m not spoofing Steinbeck. Travels with Charley was entertaining. It was an interesting slice of Americana from the year of our Lord 1960. Steinbeck set out to find out what Americans are really like as he drove across the country, and realized he can’t define Americans at all. The book is, basically, a series of anecdotes involving people and places from Maine to California. There’s wit. There’s humor. There are interesting observations. Steinbeck was a literary titan. Overall, however, I’d say Travels with Charley is mediocre.

Of course, I have no doubt some would say that my writing is mediocre. I have no doubt some would say far worse things, especially with the title I’ve chosen. And you know what? I don’t care. You gotta’ have fun when you can. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

The fact is that the Golden State of California is turning into a communist hellhole. It already is in many places, and it’s going to get worse. There’s a reason why so many people are leaving the state, and this phenomenon is called “The Great California Exodus.” As one article I found so perfectly states, “what caused and continues to cause the exodus out of California is not tax burden, or regulation, or cost of living, or housing prices. Rather, it is the burden, and regulation, and cost of living, and housing prices, and more.”

That “more” certainly refers to insane traffic, horrendous commutes, unprecedented homelessness, feces and needles in streets and, undoubtedly, Marxist liberals controlling the state. Liberals as a whole think think their despotism is enlightenment, but the villains who control California take it to a whole new level.

Thus, “Commifornia.” It’s the land of a million rules. It’s the land of a million petty tyrants. It’s the new Sodom and Gomorrah, and, again, things there will only get better after they get far worse.

Perhaps some would say I should explain myself further for choosing such a vitriolic title, but, again, no. Americans not trapped in the liberal mentality know exactly where I’m coming from, and therefore no further explanations are necessary. Those trapped in liberalism, sorry. I don’t care if you’re offended. I owe no further explanations for my “vitriol” which, I say, is quite warranted. Thus, “Commifornia”.

Now, dear reader, or listener, as you may already discern, though most travelogues avoid controversial subjects to maximize readership, I don’t want to. Avoiding politics and religion is not my strong suit, and I don’t think avoiding them is strength in the first place. Both subjects are always pertinent; they undergird our reality; they deeply convict my soul; and leaving out such commentary, I fear, would only make this book castrated slop. Let soy boys write a neutered narrative of traveling California in this 21st century.

At the same time, I don’t dwell on politics and religion in this book. I don’t mention them that much at all really because there is more to life. There are good, beautiful and amazing things to see under the sun, and many of them are in the State of California.

The fact is still do love that land. God help me I do. There’s no place on earth I’ve been that continuously fires my imagination more. There’s always some new, romanticized vision that fosters desire to travel back there.

The black silhouettes of rocky, palm-topped coastlines at a blood-orange sunset make me understand why people pay millions to live in Malibu. Add the salty smell of air cooled by Alaskan waters, and, well, I think I would have headed straight to the Santa Monica mountains in 1890 to homestead.

There’s also where I was born: San Francisco. My first continuous memory in life was with my father under the Golden Gate Bridge on cold, brilliant day. This memory always fostered a longing to return to the Bay Area. Palo Alto and Sausalito – at least when I first saw them – were, wow. You can’t swim there like you can at Malibu, but that water north of Big Sur cools the air to make the ocean feel omnipresent and even nurturing. Maybe I would have headed up there in 1890 instead.

Of course, it’s hard to unsee sprawling cities. It’s hard to unfeel decaying civilization. That’s part of the resentment that impels me to liberally say “Commifornia.” Yet, through the grime and haze and crap, a halcyon aura can still glow above the land, and the fact that almost forty-million people still live there testifies to this. If Commifornia were only a public toilet, The Great Exodus would be greater.

However, on this little, six-day trip I took in June, 2019, I’d not pass through Los Angeles and San Francisco. I’d only pass through Bakersfield and Fresno – and not by choice – on the way to the Crown Jewel of California. Of course, I’m referring to the Yosemite country on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

John Muir called the Sierras “The Range of Light.” John Muir was of course the founder of the Sierra Club who purposed to protect the Sierras – especially the sequoia trees which only grow on the Sierras’ western slopes – from the ravages of unrestricted free enterprise. Whereas now I regard the Sierra Club as governed by evil for its exaltation of nature above mankind, Muir had purer intentions. Frankly, I’m grateful there were California tree-huggers in the 19th and 20th centuries who knew people in the 21st century would appreciate still being able to see giant sequoias and coastal redwoods – like me.

I had never been to Yosemite before. To say my imagination heaped unrealistic happiness on the expected experience of seeing mighty waterfalls is probably an understatement. However, that’s part of what makes traveling so much fun. To a certain degree, it doesn’t matter that the experience doesn’t live up to the hype. It doesn’t matter that there always comes a point, in a new and beautiful land, where you’re ready to go back to the hotel, or just go home period. The anticipation felt while traveling can be as joyous as the destination itself.

My mode of travel is by car. To fly to a land feels incomplete. You’re not getting the full perspective of a destination without comparing it to its surroundings. You don’t see the uniqueness of beautiful land without seeing whatever ugliness exists between where you are and where you’re going, and there are certainly more desirable places in America than along Interstate 40 in Eastern California, which I had to pass through on the way from Arizona.

But whatever. Yes, the Mojave Desert ain’t the prettiest part of the Golden State. Its heat can be miserable. Its desolation can be depressing. However, it is one heckuva’ massive landscape that motivates your eyes to glance constantly over the far, far horizons, and this observable vastness in itself is interesting, to me, considering my love of maps and geography.

And here’s another area where I’m going to differ from Steinbeck and other travelogues, in addition to broaching politics whenever I wish. In Travels with Charley, Steinbeck doesn’t teach physical geography. He sure as heck doesn’t teach terms like “endoheric basin” or “orographic lift” or “rain shadow.” On the same stretch of highway I took between Bakersfield and Flagstaff, Steinbeck wrote two pages. He came up with some long-winded words about the struggle for life in the Mojave, which was ok to read. However, he wasn’t looking at the land like a cartographer.

Fine. I recognize Travels with Charley will be more remembered than this book. I’m just saying that most travelogues don’t evince a passion for “physiography” because they never talk about in the first place. Physiography is an abridgment of the term “physical geography.” It’s a sub-field of geography that explains the interplay of land, sky and ocean to produce weather, flora, fauna and more. It endeavors to explain why landscapes are as they are.

For example, physiography asks why the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas is desolate desert called the Mojave, while the western side produces the most agriculturally productive land on Earth. Why’s the east brown and the west green? That’s a good question. I love answering it. Another question is why do the biggest, tallest and oldest trees in the world all live in California? I have no answer for that. However, it’s fun to imagine that maybe you’ll come across something that will lead to such an answer.

Regardless, the fact is that there’s a lot of communication between the ocean, land and sky out California way to create some really cool natural phenomena. If these dynamics were explained clearly at an elementary level, most Americans would think they’re neat. You’d think they’re neat. That’s why I talk about them, in addition to other things obviously.

However, if you think politics, history, geography and whichever other subjects are boring, well, why do you? Boring people are bored with the world. Interesting people find it interesting. The world is a fascinating place if you open your eyes enough to see it. In this book I’m just sharing what excites me, hoping it will excite you.

And Western landscapes are exciting to see. That excitement – that fascination with them – ultimately, led me to a place called Sedona where tour guiding across Northern Arizona proved to be, for a time, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

The Colorado Plateau of Arizona and Utah – that red-rock wonderland of the American West – motivated me to study its history and physiography and whatever else to make my tours of Sedona, Grand Canyon and other places the best I could. Guiding allowed me to be a teacher again. That’s why I loved it.

Thus, this travelogue is akin to what I as a teacher-guide would ideally say on a trip up and down the Sierra Nevadas of Commifornia. I say “ideally” because, obviously, as a guide you can’t be completely unfiltered in front of random Americans. You have to respect the politics and religion rule.

But I want to be unfiltered. I want to have fun, dangit!

And that’s why I wrote this book: to have fun. Yes, having fun involves saying things that tick people off. At the same time, there’s so much super cool stuff out in those California mountains. There’s stunning, ethereal beauty there like nowhere else, and I want to share this most. That’s the real basis of this book.

So hop in. Just put that McDonald’s wrapper on the floor. And, the air conditioning doesn’t work too well, so, deal with it.