State of Play USA: Steve Booker's California

Armed with a camera and some form of road or air worthy transport, we asked three well-known vloggers to send us their tales from America.

Steve Booker (British photographer, traveller and lifestyle vlogger) took off on a 2,000 mile California road trip in search of art, music, food and photography. This is his story.

We were about to drive 2,024 miles in 14 days, saying goodbye to everyday life and hello to sunny Californian living!

We arrived in Los Angeles early evening and, after working out how to drive the rental, headed into the city. Our first day in LA began with exploring Abbot Kinney, a really cool street just up the road from Venice Beach filled with independent boutiques, restaurants and coffee houses. We ended the day with sunset over the canals.

Venice Beach

The next day we headed into the hills to a town called Ojai. Looking to experience some great local live music, we spent an evening at Deer Lodge, a locally-run restaurant with live music every night. After a chilled night in Ojai, we grabbed one of the best breakfasts of the trip at the Knead Bakery before getting back on the road to our next stop, San Luis Obispo. This sleepy college town had such a nice atmosphere, enticing you in with its babbling creek and relaxing coffee shops.

Taking Highway 1 towards San Francisco, we hit Big Sur at golden hour and by chance found the perfect bay (inclusive of waterfall) to watch the sunset. This stretch of road is incredible, making you feel as if you’re part of the title sequence to your very own Californian movie. Once in San Francisco we explored up and coming areas like Dog Patch and Mission, both of which had the kind of original arts culture you don’t find in fully developed areas of the city.

Our next stop was Redwoods National and State Park. Like no other place we’d ever visited, it felt so good to find somewhere with no phone signal, to get lost amongst the biggest trees we’d ever seen and feel like we were the only people for miles around. It was such a great experience to hike up trails and be reminded of the awesomeness of nature. Also a tip from us, stop at the first drive-through tree up to the park it’s way bigger than the second!

We followed our Redwoods adventure with a drive to Yosemite National Park. Due to the time of year, we experienced the craziest weather, from storms to snow and then sunshine. However, every phase was beautiful. Yosemite is such a place of awe, even the section of burnt out forest where the floor is now covered in lush green foliage has become a place of so many contrasting colours and beauty.

After Yosemite, we headed on our longest drive yet to Joshua Tree National Park. Arriving just before sunset, we felt like we’d landed on a different planet. After the lush greens of Yosemite and Redwood national parks, the desert and cactus formations of Joshua Tree seemed alien to us. But then the sun set and the whole of the landscape changed, the cactuses became golden and the sky looked as if it was on fire

A night in Palm Springs later we made our way to San Diego, stopping on the way at the Salton Sea. A vast lake formed in 1905 in the middle of the desert, Salton Sea is like no other place you’ll visit in California. From here we swung by Salvation Mountain, Leonard Knight’s colourful art installation and tribute to God in the middle of the southern Californian desert. It was such an interesting place, especially because of the years Knight had spent creating it and the ongoing project to maintain it.

San Diego was now calling. Known for its awesome craft beer scene, we sampled some of the local brews at the stalls in the ball park before ending up in a downtown Karaoke bar. The following day, we cruised around in a vintage 1964 convertible Mustang visiting beach communities, trying the local Mexican food and drinking coffee. We loved San Diego – the food, craft beer and general vibe was so great. This was our last point before heading back to LA to travel home. We did however manage to catch a last minute sunset at Huntington Beach on the way back.

Within two weeks we visited more places than we would normally visit in a year, and they were all within one state! California has so much to offer and so much diversity throughout, I could not recommend it enough.

If Steve’s Californian dreams have you packing a bag ready to fly, visit our site to see how you could win return flights to the USA and read more from the road trip. Want more? You can watch the rest of Steve and Alexia’s films on our YouTube channel.