California is an incredibly beautiful state with oceans, mountains, lush hills, and sparse deserts. It is also incredibly over crowded and paved under. I've been to California a handful of times mostly for business but a couple times for pleasure and every time I leave the state I hope that is the last time I have to go back. Mostly it is the traffic that appears to be a minimum of six lanes where ever you are going, mostly nowhere fast. The most lanes that I counted was 16 on the 101 around Los Angeles, all of them full of cars bumper to bumper in every lane with motorcycles threading between them for good measure. I never saw an old motorcyclist so I have to reason that the life expectancy must be really short.
I was driving a full sized rental van during my stay so I always had the upper hand when forcing my way into various lanes. You quickly learn that when driving in Los Angeles or there abouts, you don't give away your moves by using a turn signal. It is more of an acknowledgement to the guy you just cut off after the fact. Because Mercedes seemed to be the vehicle of choice among the people, they always gave way to the beat up rental van. Still nowhere fast was still pretty slow going despite the vehicular advantage.
All told, I spent nearly two days of my life (40 hours) behind the wheel of the van sitting, flying through or a combination in traffic. I was only able to spend two hours walking the beach and boardwalk in Newport Beach, sipping a couple ice cold Coronas sporting fat wedges of lime at a boardwalk café overlooking the ocean. Had their not been another person in sight, those two hours would have been well worth the 40 hours in traffic but that was not to be. Perhaps tanned beach babes in bikinis would have made it worthwhile but due to the cool breeze blowing, there wasn't much skin in sight. I did enjoy the two Coronas and the 8 feet swells blowing into shore.
Once again, I was saddles with people whose idea of culinary adventure was eating macaroni and cheese in shell form instead of regular tubular pasta shape. The most exotic thing I was able to eat the entire trip was getting crab stuffed shrimp at Outback Steakhouse. I did get a bowl of fucilli carbanara at a place called Charlie Brown's that was outstanding but it wasn't very exotic. I also ordered a hamburger with avocado at a sports bar we went too that was the most exotic thing they had on the menu and it was okay but just didn't do it for me.
I did have a chance to be part of a scene midair on the way back when the man in front of me rammed his seat into my knees three times trying to get it to recline and then madly complained to me mid flight to stop moving his seat. I told him I would be more than happy to do so if he could remove his seat from my knees. He put his seat back once again in the upright position but didn't take a swing. I'm guessing he saw that I was bigger than him because when we landed, he never once glanced my way and made a point of keeping his gaze towards the front of the plane. Flying used to be such a joy for me but since they crammed the seats even closer, took away all the service and go out of their way to make everyone feel like cattle waiting slaughter, it has been something about as bad as getting a tooth pulled.
At least the getting through security to get aboard the plane has gotten better. The most I had to wait in security was ten minutes and about eight of those minutes was waiting on the guy in front of me to empty his pockets, search his bag for liquids and gels, pull out his laptop and take off his shoes, all something that I had done previously while waiting in line. I finally went around him, got through security, got all my shoes, gels, and metallic objects back in their proper places along with my co-traveler before he finally made it through the metal detector. Rookie!
Airport eateries love these new rules. I used to avoid them and instead eat the free snacks the airlines gave out in flight. Now, the airlines are charging $3 for a small bag of chips and $10 for a small deli sandwich making the concourse eateries seem cheap in comparison. Oddly enough, they still give you a can of non-alcoholic beverage for free but I can't imagine that will last long.
As always, now that I'm back home I am extremely grateful for all that I have. I have a five-minute commute on two lane roads to work and that is if I hit the stoplight wrong otherwise I can make it in four minutes. We don't have an ocean but we have streams, we don't have mountains but we have rolling hills, we don't have lush hills unless you count lushness as corn or soybeans and we don't have deserts unless you count the dead spot of grass on my front lawn. It's certainly a tradeoff but one I am gladly making.