Friday, August 14, 2009

California Ramblings

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.


geri said...

Driving in LA... I was quite happy to discover that there is traffic worse than Chicago, especially since I wasn't doing the driving there. You know I have always enjoyed flying even back in the Philippines but my first domestic flight to the US aboard United changed that with the no snacks and, yes, cramped seats.

Btw, here's a link I think you would want to re-check out:

Ed Abbey said...

Geri - If you find them cramped, I don't know how I can actually survive them! I'm familiar with that blog and actually know the people who writes it. Somehow when my wife first came to the U.S., we communicated back and forth about the visa process and have swapped Christmas cards every year. I used to link their site but it seems like it goes through great periods of inactivity so I unlinked it awhile back and just check it now and then with other similar sites. Gary is an inspiration to me and my dream of someday building my own house.

Murf said...

Were you a food snob even before the Mrs. came along?

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - You say snob, I say adventurous eater. I've always been that way.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Food snob, travel snob, yard snob, driving snob, backpacker snob--Ed's got the snob market cornered!

Even at my height (5'8") I've had people callously bash their seats into my knees. I bash back or push back, just hoping they'll want to make something of it. They look back at me and I smile but they see the anger in my eyes and want nothing to do with me. The airlines should just prevent seat backs from going back at all. I only push mine back after I've looked behind me to see whats going on back there. If there's a tall gangly dude crammed up against my seat back I don't mess with it. If there's a kid with plenty of room or maybe a person smaller than me, maybe then I go back, but only after I ask. I wouldn't HATE people so much if they thought things through like that, but most folks just generally SUCK!

Beau said...

Lived in CA for a while... too long, too many taxes, people and regulations. No wonder business has moved out of state. There's no place like home!

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Cogent observations except the one about no old motorcyclists. Maybe they all come south (southeast, that is) but about half of the motorcyclists we see around here have grey beards, faded tatoos and paunches.....and lately American Flags, there must be some big cycle deal going on in Florida. I met a quarter mile long and two lanes wide group of cyclists Thursday (Mostly greybeards like me) heading south on I16.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Huh, it's that bad now?! I still have great memories about Southern CA many years ago when I lived there. Granted, I needed one and a half hour to get to work, but it was alright then.

Ed Abbey said...

Phil - Right on about the most people generally suck comment! I have yet to use the recline button on my seat even if a kid sat behind me.

Beau - I tried clicking my heals a couple times while sitting in traffic but I didn't have Dorothy's magic.

Three Score - Yeah we have a lot of graybeards out here but I never saw one in California.

Mother Hen - I've been there several times and I have not one good memory from southern California save one of eating a tangelo straight from a tree on Christmas morning while wearing shorts and a t-shirt overlooking the smog of downtown LA.

R. Sherman said...

I feel the same way about my commute, although it's a tad longer, i.e. about the time it takes to get through Bob Seger's live version of Travelin' Man/Beautiful Loser. I have going to St. Louis in the AM or PM and for that reason, I could never work there.


Ron said...

Spent the other day in Springfield, MO... by no means a big city, but a heck of a lot bigger than anything around here. Came home with a similar new-found appreciation for our rural life. Had to sit me on a boulder in the woods till well after dark before I unwound. :)

Couldn't agree more... people, generally, suck.


Ed Abbey said...

R. Sherman - I try not to say never because it has bit me before. However I would say any employment in a big city would be temporary.

Ron - I need to get a boulder like that.