• Kara Cushway

California: Flash Vacation

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

We were so lucky to have had a GREAT year for travel in 2018. First, our good friends Nick and Jessica invited us to their beautiful vineyard wedding in California, and then we were invited to Ireland for another wedding! (More about the Ireland wedding in this post.)

This was Kyle’s and my first time doing any real leisure travel together. We’d definitely traveled together before (thanks, U.S. Army) but we didn’t do too much flying until these two trips in 2018. Fun fact about both these weddings: both of the couples were already married. Coincidentally, they both chose to hold the “real” weddings with family, friends, and white dresses in June, barely two weeks apart from each other.

A little background if you’re not familiar with relationships involving the military: quite often, couples will have a small courthouse marriage first and will hold a bigger family affair later on, if they choose to host one at all. Such was the case for Jessica and Nick with their California wedding, and for Tom and Lorraine with their Ireland wedding. This is the most convenient way to get married in the military because, as is evidenced by my own efforts to plan our wedding, plans sometimes get interrupted by trainings or, in our case, deployments.

From left to right: Cris, Alex, Nick, and Kyle.

Here’s some more relevant background: Nick, Kyle, Alex, and Cris are four guys who know each other from their time in the Army, where they met and became friends. Kyle, Alex, and Cris stood as Nick’s groomsmen for the wedding, with Cris also officiating. These four guys had to go their separate ways after they got out of the Army (all except Kyle so far); but they keep in touch regularly and so far, all of them have been together again for both Kyle’s and my wedding, and Nick and Jessica’s wedding. Background info fill-in complete.

This post isn’t especially long, because we were only in California for a whopping 3 days, with 2 of them being travel days as well. Technically, if you broke it down into hours, we were in the state of California for 52 hours. Yes, I did the math. But I wanted to share it because it was a beautiful wedding and my first time in California; moreover, I wanted to remember our time there! So let’s go!

Arriving in California

We had the rather unfortunate experience of having our first views of California be smoggy, desert-y, almost third-world-looking highways, and the dusty brown palms in need of a trim that grew alongside them. Coming from the uber-green early-summer Tennessee, this was a shock. Apparently L.A. isn’t quite as colorful and pristine as it looks on TV, at least not the outskirts of the city from where Kyle’s friend Alex (whom everyone calls Jolly) picked us up to drive with us to Arroyo Grande. And I mean, buckle up, because shattered illusions of what California “should be like” seems to be a theme in this post.

On our way up to Nick and Jessica’s house, we stopped at an In-N-Out, apparently a Californian institution. “Apparently” because I had never heard of it before Jolly suggested stopping. Upon getting out of the car, I was surprised to find that the desert-like aridness of L.A. had dissipated and had been replaced by a clammy, clinging fog. We were quite close to the Pacific Ocean. Coming from the U.P., I knew that the closer you got to any of the Great Lakes, the more the temperatures dropped. Sometimes the weather changed and grew foggy, but more often than not, the temperature was the only thing affected, which was why I was a bit surprised about the fog on the Pacific coast. This is shattered illusion #2, if you’re counting.

The Wedding

We loved hanging out in the sun at the outdoor rehearsal dinner, where the Lynches had a huge Tex-Mex spread for all the guests. The rehearsal dinner was held on the Lynches’ property, a lovely plot of land with plenty of scrub trees, palms, and west coast garden foliage (like birds of paradise!), but the wedding itself took place at a vineyard further north.

As you can see, the view was amazing from their wedding venue and only got better as the sun went down. Then, the strings of outdoor lights blinked on, the music started up inside, and the dancing began!

As for food, I didn’t take any photos of the trestle table groaning with the weight of finger foods and small plates, but I wish I had. At the time I had no idea I’d be using my photos for something like a blog. I remember there was bacon mac & cheese and grapes (it was at a vineyard, but the grapes were not from the vineyard, as it was far too early in the season and wine grapes probably aren’t as appetizing to eat plain as table grapes are), but I want to impress upon you that there wasn’t ONLY mac & cheese and grapes; that would’ve been lame. I just can’t remember all the other dishes because there were a ton!

We were, as I’ve mentioned, at a vineyard, but (and I’m still confused by how I managed this) I never had a drop of wine. The bar that had been set up for the reception served the usual alcoholic beverages, in addition to two special mixed drinks chosen by Jessica, the bride, and I thoroughly enjoyed my basil blackberry gin & tonic instead of wine. Looking back on it now, though, this was a mistake. Next time I’m at a vineyard in California… I’m gettin’ the wine.

As far west as we could get, and we're looking east. smh.

Pismo Beach

Though this is separate from the wedding, we actually went on the night of the rehearsal dinner. Pismo Beach is located near where Nick and Jessica live, about 15 minutes away by car.

Our visit to this beach was one of the parts of this trip that felt quintessentially Californian, with its sandy sidewalks, surf and souvenir shops, and setting sun (alliterations not intended, but I’ll keep them). The water was freezing! This seems silly to say, coming from someone from the U.P. of Michigan, where any water you can see is guaranteed to be freezing, but I had been expecting balmy breezes and surfable waves from this side of the country; nobody ever tells you the water on the coast of California is cold! I actually ended up buying a Pismo Beach hoodie one morning at one of the sidewalk shops, since I hadn’t packed warm clothes, having expected, well, warmth, from California. And we got warmth! Just not at the beach. (Ahem. Shattered Illusion #3.)

We also perused a jumbled old surf shop, where friendly shop cats greeted us. The shop stocked everything from license plates to surf boards to garden statues to enormous chunks of glass, and was run by two guys who looked like … well, imagine two guys who run a surf shop on a California beach. They looked like that, wetsuits and all.

Heading Home

The day after the wedding, we sped back down the coast in Jolly’s demonic manual transmission sports car, which was basically a machine made with the express intention of sickening those who claim they don’t get carsick. We drove along dusty mountain paths back down to the coast, and made it to the airport in time to catch our long flight home, where, three days later, we’d drive down to Nashville to catch another flight – this time to Ireland!

Congratulations, Nick & Jessica!

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my post on 21 Ways to Prepare for an Extended Vacation here.

Have you ever been to this part of California? What are some things we should do next time we’re there?


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