Sea Otters and Casey Stoner
Trip Start Jun 06, 2011
51Trip End May 22, 2012
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Where I stayed
What I did
Wildlife and bike watching
KK: Woke up with no bullet holes in us or the car so hit the road. (We were staying on Wible St and had to turn onto Ming Avenue – which sounds like we are making this up). The car was making a strange knocking and grinding noise which we solved by turning the music up and not thinking about it. Highway 58 twisted through the California mountains, we went briefly south on the interstate then with The Beach Boys covering up the car noise we joined Route 1 and hello Pacific Ocean.
LK: I do love the Pacific Ocean (especially from the other side), and we were well rewarded for reaching the West Coast of the States with a stunning, if quite demanding, drive; appealing shades of blue; and wildlife you don't get to see every day. Majestic pelicans sweeping across the near-shore ocean surface, and elephant seals which were so massive that we thought they were boulders on the beach from a distance
KK: Highway 1 clings to the hills on their Pacific side and the road twists and undulates. Scores of motorbikes looked to wriggle past on tight corners while campervans (RVs) would suddenly stop if they saw a place to pull in. The temptation to soak up the scenery was overridden by the desire not to drive into it. By the time we got to Salinas we felt we had been driving all day. I say we, LK drives every inch with me; her grabbing the door or swearing means we should slow down and cursing under her breath at the vehicle in front means we need to get past it. Salinas has a tatty air of art-deco about it; after the luxury of Las Vegas our hostel just had the air of tatty about it. What is that smell?
LK: That’ll be the stale odour of piss coming from the cupboard. What else? The walls are painted in asylum green with contrasting shit brown woodwork, the cold tap is dribbling into the less than pristine sink, there is a monstrosity of a fridge freezer against one wall, not all of the window seems to be present and correct. It feels like a halfway house for rehabilitating offenders, or like the first flat we ever shared in Great Yarmouth.
KK: There is a 1970’s TV and there is a remote control which are clearly not related to each other. The TV hisses nothing but static, the fridge churns and rattles but does turn our Bud Light Lime into some sort of alco-slushy. A baby is screaming next door and motorcycles roar past in the street. The bed creaks and bends and the internet connection flits on and off halfway through emails. We owe Npower £7.87 which they are apparently prepared to pursue us across the planet for. We promised we wouldn’t swear much in this blog... but for f.........
Saturday 23 July
LK: Our first overcast morning for ages as we excitedly set off to pick up our MotoGP tickets. Driving past agricultural expanses bizarrely decorated with giant cardboard cut-outs of farm workers, we don’t even lose our way despite being a bit thin on the map resource front.
KK: Destination Monterey Bay – objective see a sea otter. Sea-lions are honking under the boardwalk (down by the sea-he). You can get quite close – for $2 dollars you can get even closer, they slip swiftly and gracefully through the water then lumber and crash about with their flippers when up on the wood
LK: Objective see a sea otter – we have our target. It’s a sea otter, it’s there just in front of us, larking about and teasing gulls who fancy stealing its breakfast. This is so thrilling (you think we’re overloading on wildlife now, wait til we get to Costa Rica) and we’ve both got stupid big grins at being so lucky to watch this.
KK: A man selling whale tours gets a call that a blue whale has been spotted – we were tempted to take the trip but instead we wandered up the coast and see harbour seals lying on rocks and a mother with a young pup which was happily flapping its way up the beach until a gaggle of yappy girls scared it back into the water. A splendid Saturday enhanced by the discovery of a chip shop. The scenic coastal drive costs $17 dollars which seemed a bit of a cheek so after checking out some surfer types doing their thing we went to Nob Hill (a supermarket - no we’re not making that up either). The wine was dangerously cheap –settled on a Bogle Chardonnay – thank you Liam again
Sunday 24 July – Race Day
KK: Starting to like the motel, which is a worry, it helps that most of the guests are here for the MotoGP so the place is buzzing with excitable types. Met a man in reception who was quoted over $200 for a one night stay who said "I’m scared" as he came in. He was built like an American footballer so I said, “you want to be.” He drove off. Anyway there was a free bus up to the track which was crammed. At the track it took a while to get our bearings, which basically meant us walking a lap to understand where we wanted to be. The GP bikes had a short 20 minute practice which we watched from the infamous “corkscrew” corner. The bikes drop and turn quickly and the noise is exhilarating.
LK: I fear I may have developed an expensive new hobby; the whole event was awesome, helped no doubt by the splendid Californian sunshine. There was always something going on, and we made our way up to the hillside overlooking the turn two Andretti Hairpin which meant we could see about two thirds of the course, giving us a great overview of the races’ progress
KK: There was still an American Superbike race left as we headed out which was good because it staggered the crowd somewhat so we got on the bus and went back to our hostel, had Thai food while still bouncing on the thrill of the day.
Monday 25 July
KK: Had 318 miles to drop car off in LA. Once again thanks to Michelle at Dawson and Sanderson we had until 9pm to do it so we took detours and coastal routes: Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu and Santa Monica. Palm trees and sunshine all the way back to LAX. We considered a paddle in Santa Monica but by then we had less than three hours left, less than quarter of a tank of gas and they wanted $8 to park.
LK: The drive seemed to sum up a lot of what California is about: visually appealing but essentially vacuous. We crawled through the Los Angeles outskirts and miraculously made our way to the car rental return location without having much of an idea where we were. A ridiculously early check-in saw us find some comfy floor space to flit in and out of sleep while waiting for our 02:25 Tuesday am departure from this country. Thanks America, and good luck.