Humor Travel Life
For anyone who has traveled between Los Angeles and Grand Rapids, Michigan, you’ve almost always had a layover in another city. Well now, there’s an airline flying between these two cities and here’s the kicker: the price is ridiculously cheap!
I’m talking about Allegiant Air. I recently booked a last-minute flight to Michigan in October because the flight was that inexpensive. The cost for a non-stop round-trip flight? $112!
There are some caveats, though, so you need to have a relatively flexible schedule. The first, is that you have to pay for a checked bag or large carry-on one. Personal items such as a small backpack or purse are included with your flight purchase. You’ll also have to cough up a little extra money to choose your seat. Unfortunately, with these budget carriers you tend to have to pay for any additional luxuries, but considering the larger airlines practically do the same thing anyway, why not go for the cheaper flight?
I mentioned earlier that you need to have a flexible schedule, and that was no exaggeration. Allegiant only flies between Los Angeles and Grand Rapids on Thursdays and Sundays. That being said, if you can work around the dates you want to fly, you’ll find yourself a heck of a deal.
After nearly a decade of living in Los Angeles (though it was broken up by 2 and ½ years in New York and then Michigan), you’d think I've seen enough of California. That’s the thing about the Golden State; there’s so much to explore of this insanely beautiful part of the country.
I knew for my 34th birthday I wanted to travel. However, with the uncertainty of international destinations still prevalent, I’m hanging tight on that dream trip to Spain for now.
My parents were coming out to join me in a road trip up the coast several hours from Los Angeles. Our plan was to see Solvang (a Danish-themed town), Pismo Beach, Mediterranean-inspired Santa Barbara, and Ventura.
After my boyfriend and I hosted my parents for dinner at our apartment, my folks and I left the following morning.
Our first day was spent in Solvang. Aside from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I really didn’t know much about Danish culture before visiting this place. However, I was surprised to find Solvang decorated in windmills, and the addition of wooden shoes in the gift shops - items typically associated with Dutch culture. My guess is that’s why Solvang is often confused to be a Dutch-themed town rather than Danish. Nevertheless, the architecture definitely had a European aesthetic to it, which was fun to see.
For lunch, we went to Solvang Brewing, an outdoor restaurant that seemed to be the perfect fit. We ordered two appetizers and split them between the three of us. The first was the Sausage Sampler, which came with three different sausages, a soft pretzel, a mix of dipping sauces, and pickles. The second one we ordered was the Soft Pretzels appetizer. Both were really good and it was the perfect amount for a light lunch. Aside from looking at the buildings, eating, drinking, and shopping, there’s not much else to do in Solvang, so you could easily spend a solid half-day here.
After wrapping up our day at Solvang, we went to our lodging for the next two nights: Vandenburg Air Force Base. Eh, excuse me, Space Force Base. It was good we had plenty to do outside of the base since it was essentially a ghost town, except for the abundance of deer, coyotes, and squirrels present.
Day Two was spent at Pismo Beach. Dad and I went for a hike along the Discovery Trail at Pismo Preserve, a beautiful stretch of trails overlooking the ocean. The Discovery Trail was 5.2 miles long and about a 2-hour hike. It was easily one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done. We saw so many incredible views of the Pacific Ocean throughout the trail. I swear, the water is bluer up there! I’d recommend this hike in a heartbeat. After leaving Pismo Preserve, we met up with mom in Downtown Pismo Beach. It was busy and the wind kept things chilly so we didn’t end up going for a swim in the ocean. Pismo Beach is a typical beach town with plenty of shops and restaurants to check out.
Day Three, it was time to head back south to Santa Barbara, a place I’ve wanted to visit for a while now. Santa Barbara was easily one of the prettiest – and cleanest – cities I’ve ever seen. Nearly every building was built in that classic Spanish-style architecture that’ll make you feel as though Zorro will come swinging in from a balcony or something. Our first stop was the Old Mission, which was originally built in the 18th Century. It costs $15 to get it, and I think it is worth it. There’s plenty of history here, and it’s one of the city’s most famous locations.
We then went the Santa Barbara Courthouse. Now, you may wonder why we would decide to visit a courthouse of all places. Well, this is one of the most stunning buildings, let alone courthouses, you may ever see. After viewing the front of the building, you can wander into the equally exquisite open garden area. I’d imagine this courthouse would give the pain of jury duty a slightly less sting.
We continued to make our way toward the ocean along the city’s most famous street, State Street, which is filled with all kinds of shops and restaurants. Once we made it to the beach, we walked up the pier. There’s not really much going on aside from a few restaurants and shops, but it is cool to look back at the coast from the pier. With a nearby marina, the water is filled with all kinds of sailboats as well.
For a late lunch/early dinner, we hit up Finney’s on State Street for their happy hour. I really enjoyed this place. We ordered the soft pretzels, Baja chicken tacos, and quesadillas and once again split the appetizers among us. Everything was delicious! And a good price!
We ended the day by visiting the Chromatic Gate, a famous rainbow-colored art installation across from the beach. While the artwork was pretty, I was more excited to discover one of the cross streets it's located on is Calle Puerto Vallarta.
Our final day (and my actual birthday) was spent in Ventura, a small and very chilly beach town about an hour north of LA. Seriously, why’s it so cold here!? Dad and I went on a morning hike to Arroyo Verde Park. While it was a shorter hike, plenty of it was uphill and we still got a good workout. Bear in mind there’s zero shade here, so if you head here make sure to bring a hat with you. Mom, Dad, and I then spent a few hours at a beach spot near the harbor. It was a beautiful beach, and while the wind kept things cool, it was still warm enough to wear your swimsuit. That being said, a dip in the ocean would have felt more like a polar bear plunge.
We ended the day with an early dinner at Masa Sushi, making it just in time for their happy hour deal. They even gave me some ice cream as a complimentary birthday dessert.
Not only did I leave feeling grateful to see my folks again, but to also have the opportunity to travel and see more of this beautiful state. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty California adventures to be had. And here’s hoping by 35, Covid will be a distant memory, and I’ll be on a plane to the real Mediterranean.
I’d argue that summer is the best time to visit Grand Rapids, Michigan. The weather is the warmest and sunniest you’ll get all year, allowing you the chance to see West Michigan in all its glory. Plus, working remotely full-time as a writer, I was able to travel to ‘The Mitten’ for a substantial 2-week trip.
I left Los Angeles on a red-eye flight out of LAX airport. Red-eyes seem like a great idea; you sleep on the plane and arrive at your destination in the morning. But that only works if you can actually fall asleep on airplanes. It’s never been something I’m good at. I’ll close my eyes, feel unbelievably tired, and still can’t manage to doze off. And when you can’t sleep on an overnight flight with no movies and you’re too tired to read, you’re left counting the minutes until it’s time to land.
Rather than be nervous about not sleeping, though, I was more concerned of encountering someone who’d throw a fit about masks, requiring us to make an emergency landing in Nebraska or somewhere. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. And despite the emergence of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, the vaccine did give me a stronger peace of mind while stuck in an aircraft 30,000 miles above the ground with a bunch of strangers.
After landing in GR, I had a busy day ahead of fixing the awful haircut I had received at an LA Supercuts. I had an appointment at Cheeky Strut, a trendy hair salon in downtown Grand Rapids that had employees and customers who seemed more ‘LA’ than me. I listened as the woman getting her hair done across from me talked about her fancy Europe vacations in the tone of a Kardashian. I couldn’t help but wonder if she would have appreciated some of my hostel suggestions…
The next day I went to check out downtown Grand Rapids and wandered into a local store on Monroe Center, Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts. I saw a sign out front notifying people that there was a dog in the store, and immediately upon entering the store, the most adorable golden retriever came right up to me. As someone who loves dogs, especially golden retrievers, I was in retail heaven. The dog, Bancroft, was even decked out in his special Fourth of July bandana, further adding to the cuteness of it all.
I looked around the store, which had so many great items, but my attention kept getting diverted to sweet Bancroft who so excited to say hello. Eventually, I settled on some earrings and left the store, though I could have easily hung out with Bancroft for hours.
The following day was the primary reason for my visit: my dad’s 70 birthday party. To be safe, we had an outdoor gathering which was mostly family and a few of his close friends. And let me tell you, no one is more weirdly invested in whether you get married and have babies than random friends of your parents.
Meanwhile, my Fourth of July experience being back in Michigan was mostly marked by my sheer annoyance of fireworks, particularly from my parents’ unruly neighbor who seems to enjoy doing them unnervingly close to our house.
When Monday rolled around it was back to work for me. One thing I love about remote work is the ability to do your job in coffee shops from time to time. I initially hit up Wealthy Street Bakery, but immediately wish I would’ve packed a coat. That’s the thing about Michigan in the summer: businesses will blast the AC when it’s barely 80 degrees. So, you go in with your summer attire, only to freeze your tuchus off. Later that week I also made my way to The Bitter End, a coffee shop on the west side of town that was slightly less chilly. While I love both coffee shops, The Bitter End is a better working environment since it’s quieter.
I was also able to get in some delicious food during my stay. I caught up with some friends for tacos and margaritas at Condado Taco on Bridge St.
For those of us who grew up in Grand Rapids, it’s surreal to see how changed GR’s west side, particularly Bridge St, has changed in the last decade. What was once a sketchy area, has now become a popular row of bars and restaurants that is especially busy during summer and has some nice outdoor seating.
Condado Tacos is one of the newer businesses in the area. In general, the venue definitely caters toward the 20-something crowd, but it’s a great find and is very inexpensive. Not only did they have excellent margaritas, but you can build your own tacos. Two tacos will easily fill you up!
I also grabbed breakfast with my mom at Cherie Inn, which is located in Eastown Grand Rapids. This is actually the city’s oldest restaurant. Prices were great and the food was amazing. I had the Lake Drive Omelet with toast. They give you a lot of food, so I definitely recommend splitting a plate with someone.
One of my favorite experiences, however, was visiting Happy Cat Café on Division Street. Here you can book a 1-hour time slot to sip coffee and hang out with some adorable kittens who are up for adoption. You are welcome to still visit even if you’re not planning to adopt, though.
$25 gets you 1 hour with the cats, but you have to pay extra for beverages. An hour was plenty of time. Plus, how many chances do you get to play in a room of adorable kittens?
Dad and I also got in some great hikes at Pickerel Lake and Saugatuck. When we went to Saugatuck, we were hoping to see some of town as well, but it seemed everyone else had the same idea so parking was non-existent. If you go here during summer, try to go either earlier in the day to snag a parking spot or on a weekday instead of the weekend.
Despite the mosquito bites and rainy weather, it was a nice trip, and it was nice to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time due to Covid.
During my trip back to Los Angeles, my second flight out of Chicago was one of those massive planes they typically use for overseas trips. It was also a pleasant surprise to discover this aircraft comes with built-in entertainment, so I was able to watch a few movies on the way home which helped the time fly by.
It turns out we did have a middle-aged man on this flight giving the staff some grievance over masks, but thankfully, it didn’t result in us having to make an unexpected landing.
It’s an interesting time when kids on planes are better behaved than some of the adults. My heart goes out to these flight attendants. Any type of customer service job is tough, made worse by the pandemic, which is why I encourage us to be extra kind as I’m sure they’ve dealt with their fair share of stress this past year and a half.
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer and comedian who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Sleep Advisor, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com