My trip to Mars

LOG ENTRY: SOL 1

 Outside the original Berrics location.

Outside the original Berrics location.

How did I get here?

I'm standing outside the site of my favorite website/skatepark, The Berrics. I've dreamt about visiting this place for nearly a decade, so finally standing here feels like I'm on another planet.

Let's see... where do I begin?

Back in May, I stumbled across a flight from New York to Los Angeles for $200. Okay, actually the flight was from Newark, N.J. to Santa Ana, Calif. for $200. So, without thinking, I booked the flight. (I can thank Cathleen Richards, a friend and tour guide/travel agent, specializing in discount travel)

Skip to Sept. 18, 2015.

I get out of work and drive five hours to my cousin Alicia's house in Elizabeth, N.J. My car could break down at any time, but fortunately it does not. Alicia and her sister Kristine are prepping for Alicia's engagement party the next day. I usually see my Brazilian cousins at most once a year, so I'm already in an unfamilar environment. Preparing to launch.

After only two hours of restless sleep, Alicia's fiancee Tony wakes me. "It's time to go."

We drive to the Newark airport and I shuffle through security. I get comfortable and look out at the tarmac from my window seat. In 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Liftoff.

After catching a connecting flight in Texas, I landed in Santa Ana, Calif. The brown grass and palm trees seem like alien life to me.

I caught a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles, unaware that I still needed to travel another 15 miles to North Hollywood.

From the bus, I caught my first glimpse of Los Angeles proper. "Small," I thought. I knew that LA was a collection of sprawling communities, but coming from New York, I was underwhelmed by the size and height of downtown. Another thing that surprised me was the amount of spanish spoken and plastered in advertising. I don't know why that surprised me, as Los Angeles itself is a spanish name, but it did.

As the Greyhound pulled into the station, I saw the original Berrics location. I was not expecting to be so close, but I hope off the bus and took a photo from outside. Skateboarding bucket list item: check.

Now what?

I talked to some locals (which, aparently most people avoid) and figured out how to take the public trains (which, also, aparently most poeple avoid) from LA to North Hollywood.

I met up with my college friend Kyle and we returned to his roommate Ryan at their apartment, the North Hollywood Apartment Base, or NHAB. Little did I know, this would be my home for the next 10 SOLS.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 2

No really, I didn't know that's where I would be staying. I didn't have a place to stay when I got to LA. I was kind of wingin' it and hoping that one of my friends would be kind enough to play host throughout my stay. Kyle and Ryan fit the bill.

 Me and Kyle in the Fiat, my MAV.

Me and Kyle in the Fiat, my MAV.

Kyle informed me that he would be leaving the country for work on Sept. 21, and as long as Ryan didn't mind, his car and the NHAB were mine to use. Crisis averted.

RyKy and I visited Santa Monica and I dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Then, we did laundry.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 3

It was around this time that Kyle gave The Martian. He was gifted the book by Ryan, who was gifted the book by his boss, Comedian Christopher Titus.

Keeping up with the mis-adventures and tribulations of Mark Watney helped me get into the rythym of my visit: Wake up, read The Martian, get ready, meet friends and explore LA, return to NHAB, read The Martian, go to bed. Repeat.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 4

Today was my first solo day. Kyle left for Europe. I drove to Hollywood, visited the walk of fame, saw the Chinese Theatre and checked off a couple more of my skateboard bucket list items. I also visited Pink's at the recommedation of my N.J. cousins.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 5

I checked off a couple more of my skateboard bucket list items and visited The Grove, a shopping center and farmers market for the elite. Like all of my travels, there are no holds barred when it comes to local drinks and cuisine. I'll take a fancy meal over a souvenier every time.

I visited the Frank Gehry visit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art of LACMA, before returning home to NHAB.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 6

Alex Nye drove in from Santa Barbara and we spent a little time exploring North Hollywood and Burbank. He dropped me off at Warner Brothers Studios so I could see a taping of Conan. Tim Allen was the guest that evening. It was cool, but I'm no stranger to being on the set of a late night television show.

 Nye doing what he does best.

Nye doing what he does best.

Nye and I later explored LA, visiting The Perch, a rooftop bar that overlooks LA proper and hit up The Berrics Westchester, an outdoor skatepark near LAX.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 7

Nye went back to Santa Barbara and I went to SONY picutures in Culver City to see a taping of Wheel of Fortune. I was on my own again, so I returned to Santa Monica and walked down the Venice Beach boardwalk. Talk about culture. It was tough to tell whether Venice beach was within the first ripple of American art and entertainment, or directly in the epicenter. Once again, I felt like I was walking amongst Martians.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 8

I drove out to Santa Barbara. Nye and I met at his apartment and we talked more about his business taking commercial photographs and shooting video (you can see more of his stuff at alexnyeart.com). We planned out a quick short film to shoot, grabbed our surfboards and walked down to the beach.

We shot the end of our video, then hit the ocean and I tried my hand at surfing. The waves weren't very big, so I did about as well as I'd imagine. I'm a big dude, and it was my first time, on a little surfboard, riding little waves.

 Sunset surf. Photo by  Alex Nye .

Sunset surf. Photo by Alex Nye.

A couple points of note were the clumps of tar all over the beach, our feet, hands and boards. A big oil rigger stood just off the shore. Also, the sunset was absolutely breathtaking. Bobbing in the surf, watching every color of the rainbow bounce of the pacific ocean alongside my childhood friend is a surreal moment I won't soon forget.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 9

Ouch. We went out to the bar the night before in Santa Barbara, and I was waking up early to meet another college friend James. James flew from his home in Denver, Colorado, to Anaheim to visit Disney Land with some friends.

It's a story for another time, but just about everything hurt during that long three hour drive to Anaheim that morning. I spent the drive thinking about my life, my friends, my experience in LA and my future. That big, broad, beautiful sunset was the end of a spectacular period of my life, and that long morning drive the begninning of another.

I met James in Anaheim and we headed back to Santa Monica. It was great catching up with him in a place so unfamiliar to both of us.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 10

I met up with Felicia one more time. Her candid honesty is both refreshing and hilarious. We'd never had much one on one time, and I greatly enjoy my visit with her.

I filled Kyle's gastank and gave the MAV (his Fiat) a quick wash. I also finished my book that night.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 11

I said my farewell to NHAB and Ryan and thanked him for his hospitality. It was time to head home.

I caught the reverse route on the train back to the Greyhound station. I bought a bus ticket, but there weren't many outgoing bus trips to Santa Ana so my bus arrived just 20 minutes before my flight home. I hailed a cab and we sped to the airport. My flight had been delayed.

The rest of my trip home was a blur of transfers and mile posts. I crashed on Alicia's couch one more time before hopping in my car and driving home early on SOL 12.

I'm bound to return, but it sure felt good to be back on Earth.