About two weeks ago I received an email from the adviser of the Chico State student newspaper saying student reporters were invited to a collegiate journalism conference in Los Angeles. He described it as, “a terrific opportunity to meet other college journalists, attend training workshops and attend professional critiques of The Orion newspaper.” Naturally, I knew I had to go!
Fast forward. It’s late and I’m getting ahead on schoolwork so missing classes for two days is affordable. Then suddenly it’s 6 a.m. on a Thursday and I’m frantically packing my luggage in a half awake state. Risa, the former Editor in Chief of the Orion picks me up, then we pick up the other two of our road trip crew – Elizabeth and Matthew. Before hitting the road, we make an appropriate stop at Dutch Bros, a drive-in coffee shop. The chocolate macadamia nut coffee, aka the “annihilator”, couldn’t have been a more perfect first-time Dutch Bros drink. To my South Carolina friends, if you ever make your way to Northern California, I recommend trying Dutch Bros for your coffee! I still have more to try, but the menu looked satisfying.
I hardly knew Risa, Elizabeth, and Matthew before this trip. But by the end of the weekend, I can say venturing around the city and getting to know these talented individuals was awesome. The same applies to Stephanie and Jenice, who took the quicker route and traveled by plane. With eight hours of traveling to and from the city (plus traffic, and rest stops) it’s inevitable to bond over road trip playlists, newspaper talks, South Carolina differences, reasons we chose Chico State, and anything that came to mind. Kudos to them for putting up with my over-excitement about the lush green landscape where Happy Cows come from, the typical palm tree and LA skyline, and the Hollywood sign that I’d only seen in movies! It’s all probably more normal to California natives.
Our group of four stayed at Risa’s cousin Dave’s house, who lives in Long Beach, a half hour away from the city. (An hour with LA traffic.) I think we were all appreciative and taken aback at how hospitable and welcoming Dave and his wife were. We had the in-home cozy experience in the suburbs right outside the lively city. As a bonus, Dave showed off tricks his talented little dog Bandit could do. Later, he and his wife gave us a tour of Dave’s new event and entertainment magazine studio called Amplify. His fresh new establishment was commendable and he even gifted us with posters, sunglasses, Twizzlers, and Gatorades. His excitement for modern media was contagious. What a great way to kick off the first night in Southern California.
The next morning it was go-time. Actually, the entire weekend was go-time. From the moment we left Chico, to the moment we arrived back at 2:00 a.m., we were on-the-go. And I had to come to terms with reality immediately hitting with my 9:00 a.m. class the next Monday. Was it all worth it? YES!
Day 2, LA
At about 7:45 a.m., our second day in SoCal and the first official day at the conference, we make the drive back into the city. Upon arrival at the Sheraton Hotel, where the conference was held, we were consumed in back-to-back workshops, morning til evening. So many workshops to choose from. So much knowledge, so many highly credentialed speakers, so hard to select just a few to attend! The amount of knowledge gained in just three days was extremely valuable for our passions and future careers. I decided to write a separate blog on everything I personally learned from the workshops I attended. Journalism and mass communications majors may especially appreciate it.
We had fun in the city too! First stop outside the hotel: A Mexican food truck in walking distance from the hotel, and across from the entrance of Universal studios. In the little time we had for lunch, our small group of six from Chico State ventured outside to see what food source would cross our path first. It was owned by two brothers from Texas who travel all over the country with their greasy, flavorful menu. The Texan vibe was real, with their accents, “ya’ll” signs, and ringing of a cowbell when an order was made. I ordered loaded chili cheese fries, something so uncharacteristic of me. Those who know me know I usually go for the more green, healthy food items. But since I was in LA, I didn’t care suddenly. Getaways are good for the soul.
Day 2, evening
The first full day of the conference adjourned but our day wasn’t over! The Hollywood City Walk was a decent walk from the hotel. But even more conveniently there was a Universal Studios tram giving free rides within the vicinity. Once we entered the mini metropolis of fine dining and merchandise, flashing signs illuminated the alley ways. First in sight: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Jamba Juice, and Johnny Rockets. There was even a sock market. A market for trendy socks. Dinner of choice: Bubba Gump Shrimp, of course! I hate to admit, but the last and only other time I went to Bubba Gump Shrimp was on a college tour field trip in high school. I ordered a salad and NO SHRIMP. Since then I’ve matured and learned how to widen my food horizon and enjoy options other than leafy greens. This time I threw down on high quality coconut shrimp. It was a jolly good time. I can appreciate Bubba Gump Shrimp because Forrest Gump is one of my number one favorite movies. And I did take a picture with a large shrimp mascot.
The current Editor in Chief, Stephanie, was getting us all excited for a comedy show happening in downtown Hollywood, starring Joe Rogan, former host of Fear Factor. Honestly I had never heard of Joe Rogan before this night. But with Stephanie’s high level of excitement, one couldn’t help but join in. Bellies full, uber car reserved, we made our way to Sunset Boulevard, where all the action takes place. We were no doubt in a land quite the opposite of small, scenic, Chico. People were rushing , cars honking, and various smells of food and marijuana. Yep. Everything was fast-paced. Definitely not the environment I grew up in. I’m not one for stand-up comedy but it super neat, star-striking moment when Chris Rock soon after Joe spontaneously came on the stage! The first and only celebrity I saw in LA. I’d like to think it was his trial run for hosting the Oscars.
It was our second full day at the journalism conference. More knowledge and skills gained! That evening there was a fancy awards banquet open for all participants. However, since it was $80 to attend and not all of us had that expense covered by the school, Matthew, Jenice and I stuck together and traveled by metro to downtown on a mission for Korean Barbecue. I had never tried KBBQ before this trip. What better place is there to try it for the first time than LA?! The experience was everything I had dreamed of and more. We walked away with full bellies and eyes fixed on the celebrity stars on the sidewalk. While waiting for the others in our group to join us from the conference banquet, we walked the KBBQ off and took in the city surroundings. I finally came across a “Michelle” celebrity star. The ground was filthy, but I sat on the star, just like I had seen people do in the past. I guess you could say I met the Hollywood tourist expectation.
Even cooler, though, once we met up with the rest of our group, we checked out the historical Chinese Theater. There, you can find hand and footprints of various celebrities: the Twilight cast, Hunger Games cast, Marilyn Monroe, Tom Hanks, and more. There was one from 1929 with imprints of hand rifles. (didn’t think to take a picture, sorry!) But I did take a picture next to Jackie Chan’s prints since I loved watching his movies growing up.
It was our final day of the conference and being in LA. It was the final morning drive from Long Beach to the hotel. Big shoutout to Risa for being a champion of a driver, facing the hectic LA traffic day and night, crossing over three lanes to take a quickly appearing exit like a boss. Overall it was a great journalism conference. The Orion Newspaper definitely got some recognition with awards! Stephanie and Jenice took their flight back to Chico, but the remaining four of us decided to venture around a little more, accepting the fact that we’d get back late.
Our plan was to visit the Getty Art Museum and then go to the beach. Surprisingly, we spent a majority of our afternoon at the Getty Art Museum, and ran out of time to see the ocean. Next time! We rode a tram up to the Getty, which was perched atop the beautiful mountainous landscape. The scenery was gorgeous overlooking the city. We picked up food from the cafe, took it out for a picnic in the grass, and split a bottle of wine. It was refreshing to get a change in vibes from the fast paced heart of the city. Somehow we spent hours in a super intriguing photography exhibit.
4:30 p.m. came around quickly and we realized we’d arrive in Chico at 1 a.m. at the earliest if we left right then. So we had to say farewell to the city and make the drive back. What partly made the loooooong drive back bearable was our collaboration of a roadtrip playlist, 2nd edition. Midpoint we made an impromptu stop to Denny’s for a late breakfast dinner. It was the best Denny’s meal I’d had. We were loopy, tired of sitting in a car, and somehow found my pancake funny.
At 2:00 a.m. I finally make it home. It was then time to fall asleep before my alarm woke me up to go to morning Geology class.
From this trip to LA I learned that, although I can appreciate the excitement of the city, I’d much rather live in the suburbs. I gained a few new friends who share the value of journalism. I obtained a decent collection of pictures, memories and stories to share. And since I had DJ responsibilities in the front seat, I’m now team Spotify instead of Pandora. Here’s to a native South Carolinian’s first roadtrip to LA!