We had a rich set of experiences on our southern odyssey. Much more than I expected.
Monday the 19th we headed down to LA. We'd planned to leave at the crack of dawn but ended up heading out at 10am. Just as well. It only took us 6 hours to reach LA and another half hour to traverse that sprawling hellscape to Anaheim.
Checking into our hotel was a very pleasant surprise! Our room was really nice--there were granite countertops, a decent sized fridge and a microwave, a good tub, very comfortable beds. Even the carpet was clean. And we really were directly across the street. The crosswalk was right in front of the hotel! And this was only $67 a night! The Park Vue Inn.
After settling in and making our spaghetti dinner (we pretty much brought our own food, both to save money and for health reasons) we heard loud booms outside. 'Fireworks!' we yelled and rushed out to see. Instead we saw huge bolts of lightning off to the North, followed by intense thunder. The rain chased the thunder and it really poured.
It was still raining a bit the next day as we headed over to get our tickets and tackle the happiest place on earth. The rain didn't bother us, but it seemed to keep alot of folks home. The park was practically deserted! I suppose it's also off season, what with most kids herded into those government run 'education' centers. It was good for us. We walked onto rides I remember waiting an hour to get onto. In fact, we ended up "doing" disneyland pretty much that first day. Or so we thought.
And it was indeed fun, although poor Eden was aboslutely traumatized over a few of the rides and became very distrustful of us. The Indiana Jones ride really did her in. Turns out she thought we were going to the Tarzan Tree House (which is the upgraded Smith Family Robinson Treehouse, by the way). Somehow all the flaming skulls, giant striking snakes, spiders on the wall, the rushing lurching jeep--oh well, I don't see why she was crying. But we had a hell of a time getting her to go on anything else.
Having polished off disneyland we set our sites on the park they've built directly adjacent: California Adventure. We had absolutely no idea what it was, even if it had rides or not. It does. And it's great. What really makes it great is the eye candy of the park itself. Many California icons are present--from the golden gate bridge to the palace of fine arts to hollywood itself. In the evening an old woodie drove in pulling a live and very loud surf band on a trailer. They got folks hula hooping and dancing. Really over the top.
That second day it was rather hot and we were getting footsore, so we went in to watch a few shows. I was cringing a bit, expecting the typical disney patriotic smarm fest. I was very much surprised instead. For example: the first show was all about the history of California. It included the Native Americans and the Mexicans, it showed Chinese getting blown up while working on the railroad, it went into the racism and had one scene of a Japanese mail order bride getting pelted with tomatoes by white thugs driving by in a truck. It also portrayed the whole Hippy movement in a very positive light. There was a montage of famous faces from California history and damned if Jerry Garcia wasn't up there. And Timothy Leary!
The 3D Muppet show we watched had a not so subtle anti-war message. Or so it seemed to us.
I have to admit, disney never failed to impress.
Anyhow, the third day we dragged ourselves around going on our favorite rides again--Soarin' Over California, The Tower of Terror, Dumbo... This was India's actual birthday and our anniversary. Krista got the kids hot fudge sundaes to celebrate.
Right before the park closed we saw something very strange up in the sky. It was an enormous contrail--we could actually see it being formed by some huge aircraft. It was quite dark by then and the contrail was glowing. It was bright white with a bit of orange at the end. I'd never seen anything like it and neither had the other park-goers who had all stopped in their tracks and were pointing up at the sky, taking photos and videos of it. It was like being in a bad sci-fi movie all of a sudden. What the hell is that?!
Krista freaked out. She didn't like it one little bit and wanted to get out of the park NOW. Unfortunately the parade was just ending and about 40,000 other people had the same idea. We ended up getting caught up in a crush, but made it out alive. I was trying to figure out how much time we might have left, if that was a nuclear missle going out.
Turns out it was a missle, or a rocket, from Vandenburg Airforce Base up the coast. Old news to my cousin Laura's family.
We stayed with them in Hollywood, in a neighborhood of huge mansions. We went for a walk the next day and it was astonishing. I found out my cousin's oldest daughter Mars is tutoring a kid who has learning disabilities. The kid is in a popular tv show however, and makes $20,000 a week. I asked Mars 'how much are they paying you?'. $15 an hour. My cousin said that many of her kids friends are 'doing quite well' in the tv-movie biz. Her kids, who are frighteningly good looking, have abstained. The whole thing blows my mind. Fortunately Laura and her clan are wonderful folks and we had a merry visit.
We headed up the coast, out of the smog, and stopped over in San Luis Obispo, a place that seems at least as beautiful as Sonoma County and possibly even more expensive! Then on up to Hearst Castle for a tour. I loved it. But I really had to drag the family along. I think they ended up liking it. It wasn't as gaudy as we feared and seeing the indoor swiming pool was worth the whole trip.
We tooled up beautiful Big Sur and ended up at Jay and Eileen's place "The Garden" which serves Santa Cruz as a Sufi/spiritual/healing arts center. We were made so welcome that we stayed two extra days! Jay and Eileen are wonderful hosts and they had just adopted 3 kittens the day we showed up. This provided endless entertainment for the kiddies whilst the grownups traded stories.
We left The Garden feeling refreshed and re-energized and inspired. And after 10 days travel, flew home from Santa Cruz in just two hours!
It was a lovely trip. Next time we'll bring you along.