Alive and kicking!

Thank you to the dozens of people, well two actually, who have been wondering why I haven’t posted anything for a week.  The answer lies in a simple mathematical equation (distance x age x too many burgers = knackered!)  In truth I, and it would seem my rented Satnav, seriously underestimated just how truly vast this country is and how long it would take between overnight stops.  Siri tells me that Seattle to L.A. is around 1,150 miles.  A journey we planned to do in 4 stops.  In the end we reduced this to 3 stops which meant 11 hour days on the road and restless nights in between.  I must stress that the travelling was mostly fun as we decided to take Highway 101 along the coast rather than the more direct Interstate highway.  Great fun but much farther and at times relentless.  So the thought of settling down to write the blog at the end of the day became too much to face.  We have now been in LA since Thursday evening, 3 nights, and my batteries are now fully recharged thank goodness.  As older age creeps up, the conversation often turns to “do you feel old”.  Many of you will be familiar with this topic.  It usually goes hand in hand with an around the table comparison of everyones latest ailments.  A subject that no one discusses until they reach a certain vintage.  A phenomenon which suddenly appears without any warning.  My usual response is “no, I don’t feel old, but then I don’t feel young either”.  Generally, internally, I’d put myself around the 40ish mark.  This cruel trick of the brain is immediately shattered if one stupidly takes a peak in the mirror.  I’m convinced that there is a market for mirrors that can lie.  Take note IKEA.  Please understand that I’m not looking for sympathy here.  I recall this true if not cynical saying ‘never tell anyone your problems as 80% won’t care and 20% are glad’!

We have now driven well in excess of 3000 miles and are pleased to be settled into LA.  After checking into a dozen hotels en route, many for just a single night, it was good to get to the apartment we have rented in Venice Beach for the remainder of our holiday.  One more night living out of a suitcase would have sent Linda into a rage and been seriously bad for my health as a result.

In order to leave Seattle last Sunday, we first had to pick up our rental car from Budget Cars.  Anyone who has confronted this process will know that it is always stressful.  I won’t go into great detail here, other than to say that it took 2 hours during which we were offered 4 different cars (3 of a lower standard than we had paid for and various insurances etc that we didn’t need.  Sound familiar?  By this time it was 2pm and neither of us was in the mood for the 7 hour planned drive ahead of us.  So we had lunch and headed south to Portland for the night – a mere 3 hours away.  I know why these rental companies behave the way they do, it’s because they can.  One is generally tired from the journey and under pressure from family etc to get going.  They have also perfected the the art of scare mongering around the subjects of insurances etc.  Understandable maybe, but also immoral in my view.  As a businessman and capitalist myself I nevertheless detest the attitude of profit for profits sake at any cost, including and especially the customer.  It is not the way to build a trusted business in the long run and I wait for the day (in vain?) when these charlatan industries are brought to book.  I could go on about the general lack of good customer service these days but won’t.  Just to say that it’s rapidly becoming a unique commercial advantage to any company that cottons on.  End of rant!

Despite this before we left, I wanted to visit Jimmy Hendrix’s grave in Renton, also his birth place.  As mentioned before, they do cemeteries very well in the USA, that is for folks with money no doubt.  They had to move his remains to this rather ostentatious site, as the previous one, which was in a secluded area and out of sight of the office, was frequented by all sorts of ‘lovely’ fans who would leave copious gifts for Jimmy including hypodermic needles!

After driving to Portland were happy to be joining the 101 south.  They call it the coastal road. In truth, only about 20% of it offers sea views but when they do loom into sight it’s spectacular.  In all I estimate we covered around 900 miles of this road which is mostly dual carriageway and therefore relatively fast motoring.  The last time we did any extensive driving in the states was 2005 when the speed limit was restricted to 55 MPH.  Now, thank goodness some roads permit speeds of up to 70 MPH.  Radical!

The drive west from Portland to Eugene to pick up the coast road south is stunning.  The whole state of Oregon would appear to be impressive and beautiful (snow covered mountains, fur trees, rivers and streams and lovely country side).  If you haven’t do so already and find yourself close to this area, do pay a visit.

Our first sight of the Pacific ocean from this side of the world.  Don’t we look happy!

We stopped at this tiny harbour town for lunch. Its was very beautiful and had the added attraction of this half submerged boat completely covered in sea weed.  Presumably once used by Green Peace!

That night we stayed in the attractive and evocatively named town of Eureka.  It was a terrible place actually.  Even so we found a micro brewery in town that served really good food.  I couldn’t help wondering if certain people gravitate to this town to find themselves?!  No photos for obvious reasons.

Further along the road we passed through the appropriately named ‘Giants Avenue’.  This road goes on for about 50 miles and is spectacular (I will be using this word a lot).  Giant Redwood Trees and windy dapple roads for mile after mile.  The second photo is of what looks like a giant tree house, now in a poor state of repair.  Our grand children loved tree houses.  We had one built in our garden for them, but not on this scale.

And so onto San Francisco.  Did I mention that since arriving in Chicago 11 days ago we have been feeling cold. After 33 degrees of the Mississippi this came as a shock to the system.  Not unexpected in Chicago may be, but Sanfran?  Here we discovered the well kept secret that not only is SF chilly most of the time, even in August, due to the micro climate created by the bay, but that California itself doesn’t really get going, temperature wise until July.  How did this key info escape us?  It’s far warmer in Spain now and even the UK is basking in hot weather as we freeze (not joking) in California.  Unbelievable! The trouble is we didn’t pack for this weather so I’m having to wear all my new blues related tee shirts at the same time.

Photos above from left to right.  1. The famous windy road.  We drove down it the following day.  It’s much narrower than we imagined. 2. Fishermans Wharf area.  Like Blackpool but without the sophistication. 3. We had a meal at this Thai restaurant on the strength of the newspaper article proudly displayed in the window.  The food was reasonable.  It wasn’t until we left the place however that we realised the article had been written in 1966!  Reminder to self….always read the small print. 4. All Police bikes should look like this. 5. Anyone remember the car chase in Steve McQueens 1960’s film Bullet?  This is where it took place.  Its on six levels and much harder to drive up than down, but it had to be done!  Great fun.

En route to Sanfran (as my daughter tells me it should be pronounced) we stopped at this original fast food place which specialises in hot dogs of every description. It must be at least 70 years old. Occasionally you come across one of the distinctive, iconic original McDonalds buildings.  I love them as they reflect a period in history long gone.  I hope at least some of them will be preserved as they are every bit as important in telling an architectural story of a country. 

As mentioned we made it to Los Angeles late on Thursday evening having bailed out of Sanfran a day early due to the cold weather.  It was a long day on the road of 11 hours (the satnav said 7 hours).  The weather is better here but nothing like as warm as we’d been expecting.  Yesterday was sunny but struggled to get above 17 degrees.  We have rented an apartment in Venice Beach so that we can spread out and cook some decent meals including such exotic ingredients as fresh vegetables.  I’m not sure that we will ever again eat another burger and chips which is a shame as I used to love them.  The beach is vast and impressive, unfortunately this isn’t true of the back drop which is lined with tacky shops and unappetising looking eateries.  This area we have discovered is definitely geared up for young people who clearly love it.  Not for us old gits though.

Photos: top left a scene of how the town takes its name, a blond on the beach and a weird tree that exists along the coast.  It think they must suffer from vertigo and they seem to avoid heights.

Hoorah!  10 minutes from Venice is Santa Monica and sanity.  Now this is more like it in terms of a quality town and restaurants etc.  Despite this I’m showing photos of probably one of the crumbiest bars in town.  Tacky yes, but also very atmospheric and fun.  I watched the Champions League final from here on one of their dozen or so screens.  The vast crowd was around 99% ‘Spanish’ and a very friendly bunch.  Real Madrids 3 – 1 victory over Liverpool may have had something to do with this!  We’re off to Malibu Beach for lunch with the Beckham’s today.  Well lunch anyway!

You know how your heart sinks when someone says to you “come round for supper and look at our holiday snaps?”  Quite!  For this reason I won’t be posting for a few days as our itinerary is packed with all the things and places designed for holiday makers, which most of you will have seen anyway.  The one exciting destination on the horizon is our visit to Normans Rare Guitars later in the week.  You will have to curb your excitement though for a few more days I’m afraid.

As always apologies for any typaloos!



5 thoughts on “Alive and kicking!

  1. Thanks – a great read after a very arduous day prepping the garden for the wedding in temperature of 25+ (The greenhouse hit 45 but that does not count.) I forgot to mention that Angus is doing three weeks in the States at present and for a very reasonable payment I will not tell him where you are! The New Orleans stag crew can also help with speed limits etc and SiL Nick has just been denuded of USD150 for 90 in a 70 by a forward facing patrol car camera. The Patrolman laconically mentioned that ‘you Brits sure seem to drive fast!’. Bourbon Street last night but all have reported that limbs are intact! With very best wishes from Blighty Cark. Ps saw Kelly for coffee on Friday and was impressed by his perky appearance. Nick’s new job going VERY well. First day he goes to survey a building with his boss and ends up getting locked in, at which point they realise they are actually surveying the wrong building! Second night there is a company ‘do’ for Nick and an outgoer and the next morning Nicks eyes could not be seen…… OH to be young again!!!!!!

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  2. Well Nigel you have made up for the missing blog over the last week. Are you still going to Las Vegas ?? When are you arriving back ??

    Love to Linda.

    Brian & Julie


  3. How did I miss all this? Freerstravels has moved right up there in the blog stakes. It’s up for a BAFTA or Nobel prize but certainly not peace cos Trump must win that for chumming up to Kimmy. Couldn’t read it before because the Maritime Internet was so weak and when ashore the free wife (no – WiFi) was snitched by the crew FaceTiming their families in the Philippines, which was fair enough. Much more important than blogging.


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