The photo above was taken without permission from the Los Angeles page on Wikipedia, since it was too smoggy when we passed through to get such a clear photo.
We never stopped in Los Angeles proper. Instead we headed directly to Santa Monica, the cool and trendy beach town just west L.A.
We stayed in Santa Monica with Rob's long-time buddy Mike Hillson, who we stay with just about every time we're in the L.A. area. Mike's an upstate New York native currently writing for a retail website and living the good SoCal lifestyle, and it was good to catch up with him and his latest adventures.
Santa Monica is also home to Carley's grad-school friend Heather and her husband Lane who's from Australia. Heather is Client Services Director for CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking), and Lane runs the music department at a local college.
Their 2-year-old daughter Evangeline is just adorable!
After lunch we enjoyed a stroll through downtown Santa Monica...
...to the beach playground at the Santa Monica Pier.
In Santa Monica we were also able to meet up with Carley's Peace Corps buddy Jason, who is currently attending UC Santa Barbara in pursuit of yet another degree. (And yes, that is a McDonald's directly behind us, but no, we did not eat their food. The Falafel King next door turned out to be solid choice.)
After lunch with Jason, we rolled on up the Pacific Coast Highway about 20 miles, past Malibu, to Leo Carrillo State Beach.
Yet another opportunity for Rowan to go for a dip! This was a lot different than swimming in the pool, though. Rowan hadn't been in anything like an ocean in more than a year, since we vacationed last summer with Carley's parents in Destin, Florida. (Click the link for a reminder of what Rowan looked like a year ago with almost no hair or teeth!)
Here we met up with our friends Ellis (above) and Kristen (below)...
...and we finally got to meet their daughter Maya (3) and their son Noah (5).
Rowan immediately took a liking to Maya, and became interested in whatever she was doing.
Big thanks to Kristen and Ellis for putting us all up in their house (much to the dismay of their cat), and to Noah for giving up his bedroom for a night so we'd have a place to sleep!
At this point of the trip, our drives from one stop to the next were much shorter, and we only had a 45-minute drive from Kristen and Ellis's house in Moorpark (near Simi Valley, northwest of L.A.) to our next stop in Santa Barbara.
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