California again

Thursday 2 to Monday 6 May

We were dreading the drive to San Diego. Jane, our TomTom, estimated a 666km journey which we thought would be very tiring. It turned out to be a relatively easy drive for Bruce and he didn’t even call on me to cover a section.

We stopped at a rest stop that had toilets (very unusual in USA) and then in Yuma for a fill up of coffee and petrol.

The scenery en route was fantastic. We started in the desert with cacti and mimosa. A long freight train was running alongside us. It took us 40 miles of driving to pass it! Sixty-six miles along we left the International 10 and transferred to the International 8.

The land turned baron – just yellow sand dunes and a few scrubby bushes. Then it flattened, the scrub increased, and wind farms appeared. Then we were into California, skirting the Mexican border. Irrigated farming fed by the Salton Sea changed the colour of the land.

It was a stunning entry into San Diego, over the Cuyamaca Mountains – twisting and turning through narrow mountain passes and across deep canyons.

We were in San Diego in less than 7 hours and had time to explore.

We stayed close to the Gaslamp District so wandered down to see San Diego Bay which was totally overwhelmed by the massive San Diego Convention Centre.

The Gaslamp District was the place to party, with lots of noisy bars with multiple TV screens or expensive upmarket restaurants. We finally settled on a bar on 4th street and chose a couple of appetisers.

On advice, we stopped off at La Jolla Cove on our journey – turned out to be excellent advice as we found a great breakfast in the pretty seaside village.

Our last leg was the Pacific Coast Hwy to Los Angeles. Unlike other sections we have travelled, it was seaside town after seaside town. Lots of cafes to be seen in, surf shops and trendy gear. We drove through upmarket towns and then even more upmarket towns where the car sales yards offered McLarens, Ferraris and the like.

The hardest part of the drive was into LA in Friday afternoon traffic.

We had been offered the use of an apartment in Studio City opposite Universal Studios. Our hosts, Earl and Cathy, were away but we relished the idea of a little privacy and not fitting in with hotel cleaning and breakfast schedules.

We found a good Italian restaurant nearby and enjoyed a quiet evening.

The apartment was close to the Metro, we spent $2.70 each for a TAG card and off-peak one-way trips into Union Station and back. We found coffee and the Grand Central Market before heading back to prepare for dinner with longtime friends Ian and Peta.

We took an Uber to a Marina del Rey a 45 minute ride along freeways. LA is a massive city where all the bits are connected by fast multi-laned freeways.

Evan was in Los Angeles for work so he was able to join us for dinner, which he found extremely entertaining, as Ian is an expert on everything and holds very strong opinions.

Bruce had worked with Ian in Dancer Fitzgerald Sample days. The family relocated to the states when their sons were in primary school. They have moved a bit within the states, I remember a few different addresses for Christmas cards. Since their sons grew up here, their life is here and they will not return to Australia.

After dinner we took an Uber to Santa Monica and met Evan’s friend from the LA office, Elgin, for a nightcap.

We only had two nights at Chez Gandel and were faced with packing for another plane journey. My bag was swollen with a couple of additional items for me and for Baby SM, since our last flight. We had left home for temperatures of around zero so a lot of our clothes were no longer needed as summer approaches the northern hemisphere.

After squashing everything into our suitcases we headed out to the Universal Studios Walk which is very close to the apartment. A shuttle bus took us up the hill to the Walk. It was the epitome of the USA. Fast food, a massive sugar shop promising it is what you need, and theme shops. There is also a theme park which we left for the kiddies. With that done we let ourselves out of the apartment and returned the car to Avis.

We had a great car, a great driver, fast roads varying from excellent to poor. We were on the road for 23 days, driven 3668 miles, 5903km, averaging about 257km per day.

I had finished one little jacket for baby SM, and well on the way for the second.

Our last night was in the Sheraton at LAX airport. A little luxury ahead of an early morning flight to Honolulu.