Days 1 to 3: UK to LA to Santa Barbara

Thurs10Sept 040My current location is with Vic in a small tent that smells of plastic, at El Capitan State Beach just off Route 101 to the west of Goleta, which is itself just to the west of Santa Barbara. I can hear the sound of Americans
laughing and high fiving each other while listening to what sounds like a cross between AOR and Country Rock. We have just retired to our tent after a nutritious dinner of bread, not particularly spicy Spicy Doritos, plastic cheese, salami and Heineken. Vic tells me she has had two traumatic toilet trips at the campsite so far this evening, one involving bursting in on a child who hadn’t locked their cubicle door, and the other with a dog suddenly appearing from under the partition. I, of course, have my own problems. The sunburn on the backs of my legs from riding round LA a couple of days ago still hurts, and I still have stupid sunburn stripes on my shoulders where the rucksack I was wearing while riding the bike evidently rubbed off my Factor 40.

Today is Saturday 12th September 2009 and has been our third full day in California, but the first morning where we didn’t wake up at 6-something AM, having gone to bed too early the previous night due to our bodies still being on UK time. We left LA this morning where we stayed the last three nights, swapped our hire car for another which didn’t have a tyre problem, then drove a hundred or so miles to where we are now, through Malibu where we had a tasteless Thai meal , then stopped off and checked out some surfers on a beach near Point Mugu, then carried on through Oxnard, then Ventura, and then in to Santa Barbara before continuing on to El Capitan. The weather today has been quite cloudy, but was previously sunny and hot.

In case you didn’t know, Vic and I are travelling round California for four weeks on our belated honeymoon. We arrived at LAX around 8pm local time on Wednesday night, which would be about 4am UK time. At 11 hours, this was the longest flight I’ve ever experienced. I watched four films, which is probably more than I’ve watched this year. (Burn After Reading and The Hangover were good, Slumdog Millionaire was OK, and Peter’s Friends was disappointingly shit, especially as it had Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in it.)

As a result of our jetlag we were in bed at our hostel, the confusingly named Venice Beach Cotel, not long after 10 LA time (although I managed to fit in my first pastrami sandwich of the holiday at a diner where Vic got asked for ID much to her delight), so were annoyingly up and about not long after 6 the next morning. By 7.30 there were already surfers turning up to fit in a few early morning waves, and a few guys shooting hoops on the nearby basketball court. Just a few hours later the whole area around Venice Beach was full of joggers, street performers, posers, nutters, beggars and tourists. The famous Muscle Beach didn’t seem that different from what I’m used to seeing down my local gym in Epsom – a load of well built guys posing with weights while checking themselves out. The subtle difference however is the fact it’s all outside and they’re wearing incredibly skimpy pants and no tops. A joy to behold.

We spent most of  that day cycling around the Venice area of LA. Obviously when I say Venice, I’m not talking about that Venice, I mean Venice in Los Angeles. We hired bikes which we took round Venice Beach, and up to the Marina Del Ray and back, something like 18 miles. I haven’t ridden a bike for about 15 years, and I’ve never actually ridden one on the road, especially not a one-speed bike with no brakes. Shitting myself doesn’t come close to describing my initial fear, and I pretty much wore out the soles of my sandals doing emergency stops. We finished off the night with dinner at Danny’s, an apparently world famous eatery, while listening to a crazy lady singing jazz, while occasionally telling stories of not being able to keep her hands off people, and something about being Jewish by osmosis…

On Friday morning, we picked up our hire car, and investigated more of Los Angeles. This was my first ever experience of driving in the States, but still much less scary than that bike. OK so driving on the right in a left hand drive car, and being allowed to go through red lights if you’re turning right can take a bit of getting used to, but at least an automatic car stops me instinctively trying to change gear with the door handle as I did while in France last year. So, after stopping off at a Farmers Market for food, we went up Sunset Strip, Sunset Boulevard, down Hollywood Boulevard, then parked up and checked out the Kodak theatre, Chinese Theatre, and the “walk of fame” stars and hand prints. We then drove up into the Hollywood Hills, getting about as close as you can get to seeing the Hollywood sign nowadays  (I understand you can’t get to it anymore as people either try and steal the letters or try and kill themselves by jumping off them.) We finished this off with a brief stint in Beverley Hills trying to spot celebrities on Rodeo Drive, before driving down to Anaheim to watch a baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago White Sox. Today’s Santa Barbara News Press contains a report on the game which talks of come backers, inning-ending double plays, on-deck hitters and solo homers. I still have no idea what went on in that game. If I had to write a game report I probably would’ve just talked about how one guy broke a bit off his bat, and how another guy selling drinks spilled a load of iced water over some woman in the stands.

The music has stopped. The country rock did turn into strange covers of the Kinks, Blondie and Fine Young Cannibals while I was writing all that, but now all I can hear is the generator from someone else’s pitch and the crash of waves. There is perhaps obviously no WiFi here, so I will save this to hopefully upload when we next have an opportunity. I also need a wee so it’s time to put the netbook down. I may read some of Alan Carr’s book in a bit. I’ll be in touch.

Of course, since telling you about needing a wee just then, I have been for several, as it’s 24 hours later and I’m in a motel room in San Luis Obispo, having just re-read and re-written much of the above and about to finally upload it. That will definately do for now. Goodnight.