Lost in LA
Trip Start May 07, 2011
20Trip End Nov 09, 2011
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The flight from Miami to LA took about 5 hours and we couldn't sit together. Alison got a window seat and I got an aisle seat further back. It's amazing that it takes 5 hours to cross the US. It only takes 6 hours to go from London to Boston!
I had the more interesting flight and made friends with an old married Jewish couple, Eileen and Maurice. They live an hour from LA but were from Brooklyn, New York and had strong Brooklyn accents. They have two children, four grandchildren and one great grandson. Eileen likes talking, shopping and eating, but not necessarily in that order.
The plane flew through a spectacular thunderstorm above Texas. I think the plane was hit by lightning at one point because all the tv screens went to static at the same time as a bright white flash seemed to come from the wing. After that the plane gained height and changed course slightly to take us out of the storm.
After landing and collecting our baggage, we took a shuttle to an airport hotel
Today we hired a car with the aim of slowly making our way north to San Francisco. Hiring the car proved harder than anticipated. We'd checked some prices on the internet in the hotel and just assumed that there would be car hire kiosks in the airport. Instead there was a free phone which connected to a car hire call centre. It was very difficult hearing so I wasn't sure what I'd booked. A shuttle bus then took us to the car hire depot a few miles from the airport. Turns out we got very lucky and had somehow managed to hire a car for $1 per day. No catches! No one at the car hire place could believe it. As employees, they still have to pay $15 even with employee discount. Since we got so lucky, we upgraded to $10 a day and are now driving around in a brand new Ford Taurus 3.5 litre, V6. It had only done 600 miles and still has that new car smell.
Driving in America seems quite easy. I was worried about 4-way stops but they seem to work really well. Also, I really like being able to turn right on a red light. Feels naughty.
First stop today was Santa Monica, home of the first muscle beach
We walked along the beach and up in to the town. Ate a very nice lunch on 3rd Street promenade in the sunshine. A guy was walking with a puppy. Girls kept stopping him to stroke it. Alison saw him get at least one girl's phone number. Pro tip to single men: get a puppy. The promenade has nice looking shops and street performers providing music. After lunch we visited the pier and watched people training at the muscle beach. One guy has doing hand stands and lowering his feet down to touch his hands. I can't even touch my toes when standing upright.
We decided to drive back in to LA and see some sights. First stop on our random tour was Beverley Hills. No other reason than we had heard of it. All the time I had the music from Beverley Hills Cop going through my head.
Next was Rodeo Drive. Very expensive looking shops. The highlight was seeing a bright yellow Bugatti Veyron. ~£1,500,000 new. Didn't look that special to be honest
We then drove over to Hollywood. We drove down Sunset Boulevard as the sun was setting and back along Hollywood Boulevard. We also decided to see how close we could get to the sign. We drove up the side of the mountain on some really narrow roads lined with quirky but nice houses. We found the start of the Hollywood trail and walked up to get our photo taken. A german tourist took the photo but managed to chop my head off and miss the sign. Close enough.
It was getting dark so we left LA and drove north through the hills. Got very lost and stopped at a grotty, smelly motel, no idea where. Fun day.
Today was a road trip day. Drove north on a collection of freeways and highways. No idea which is which... Alison's excellent map reading skills took us on a very scenic route through Los Padres national park. This is Route 33 and is well worth doing. Twisty mountain road that climbs to 5146 feet before dropping back down again. Take plenty of petrol.
Driving cross-country through California really gives a sense of scale. There are mountain ranges with huge flat plains in between. You can be in mountains one hour and in the middle of a plain for as far as the eye can see a few hours later. We drove through orange plantations, vineyards and fields full of hay on long straight roads. The speed limit of 55mph on empty roads that go to the horizon seems very low. At least the car has cruise control. Also, with all traffic lights and stop signs, having an automatic transmission really makes sense here.
We have stopped for the night just outside Sequoia national park. Tomorrow we shall see the giant redwoods including General Sherman who is 2200 years old, 36 foot in diameter and 275 feet tall.