A Weekend out West-California
April 17-20, 2014
An unoriginal but very fulfilling goal I have had for the last six years or so is to visit somewhere new every year. So far I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve that goal each year. I would love to visit Europe in the next five years or so, but there are a lot of places in the U.S I still want to go. California is a favorite spot of mine, with so much to see there, I could probably take a trip there every year and not get tired of going there. People often mention the LA traffic, have you been to Houston lately? Not exactly great traffic conditions. So the traffic is no worry to me as I fight it every day going and coming from work.
I had always wanted to drive the portion of the PCH that goes through Big Sur, and the Bixby Creek Bridge was a big reason I wanted to go. Pictures and video of the bridge has always fascinated me, and it was on my list of places to see. Back in January, I decided I was going to see and drive across the Bixby Bridge. Thus I planned the trip. The trip was one of the last things I talked about with my mother; she asked me a few weeks before she passed if I thought I would have a better time if I took a wife or a girlfriend. I told her “of course”, but I’d rather go it alone than to not go at all. After she passed in March, I asked Dad if he wanted to come with me. He said he would like to go, so it turned from a solo trip to a father son trip.
Thursday April 17, 2014,
Our flight was supposed to leave Houston at 9:06 PM on Thursday night, however the plane was late getting in, and then needed a front tire change. Apparently United doesn’t keep the tools required for changing plane tires handy at small regional airports like IAH. It’s not like it’s a hub, right?
The traffic situation was quite a cluster, cars, buses, taxis, all intermingled and mostly sitting still. We waited for 15 minutes or so without seeing a shuttle for Fox, but multiple shuttles for every other rental company. I finally called Fox and was told a shuttle was on the way. He showed up about five minutes later.
Once we got to the Fox site, we were in for another nice surprise, one person working the counter, and about 30 people standing in line. Fortunately it wasn’t 30 cars being rented as there were groups of 1 to 5 that made up the 30 people. It was still a lengthy wait. While waiting I chatted with a slender early 50ish looking gentleman from Hawaii. He was there with his wife and travels to LA every few weeks. I was hoping he would extend an invite to come visit him in Honolulu, but he didn’t. While the wait was frustrating, we were entertained by all the characters renting cars as well as a panhandler traversing through the office. When I finally made it to the counter about 1:10 AM, the clerk didn’t know if they had the Chevy Camaro I reserved in January, but was fully ready to charge me for one. My body was on fumes as it was 3 AM in Houston, I was awake for most of the flight, and had been up since 5 AM Thursday morning. I walk out to get a car, and the clerk out there was having a rough night like the other two employees I saw there as everyone had been yelling at them for the long waits and lack of cars. I apologized that he was having a bad night and just told him I would be grateful if he could get me in A car. He pointed me to a locked Malibu. I walked back and he told me to pick something in section 6. There were two cars in section 6. We went with a red Mitsubishi Gallant that had some dings and beat up rear fender.
Thankfully Motel 6 LAX was right down the street and there wasn’t a line. We checked in and slept for two hours.
Friday April 18, 2014,
Los Angeles, Big Sur, PCH, Hearst Castle, Lompoc
We left Motel 6 a little before 5 AM and headed a few miles down the road to famous LA donut shop, Randy’s Donuts. I wanted to get out and take a few pictures of the large donut on top of the building, but it was five in the morning, thus dark, and I didn’t particularly want to converse with the homeless people in the parking lot. So we went through the drive through and ordered a dozen glazed. They were warm and delicious!
We proceeded north on the 405 highway and things were going great until an hour north of LA where traffic came to a standstill. Three out of four lanes were shut down, many trucks were on the road. I heard that 40 percent of the nation’s imports come through Long Beach, which would explain the abundance of trucks on the road. It took us an hour to go five or six miles.
Finally it was daylight and they had packed up the construction, and we were moving again.
Around 11 AM we finally were on the PCH headed south to Big Sur. It was worth the effort, It is beautiful! You could probably stop every mile and take pictures, or just take it in.
It was mostly overcast, but the drive did not disappoint, and main objective for the trip, the Bixby Bridge, has a spectacular view!
I had wanted to take the hike to see McWay falls, but the parking lot was pretty crowded. Functioning on two hours sleep, I decided to save my energy for the drive south to Hearst castle, and the tour which would require lots of walking and stair climbing. Next time!
Big Sur Driving videos (I had my Canon D10 on a dash mount)
While the route is very beautiful, when I do it again, I will split it into two days as you average about 30 miles an hour due to all of winding curves.
We made it to Hearst Castle about 2:30 pm. We had a light lunch at the snack bar and watched the 3 PM showing of the 40 minute movie about the building of the castle. Our tour was at 3:50. You take a bus from the visitor’s center that goes up the five mile winding road up to the castle. The views from the bus and the top are amazing! This just in, William Randolph Hearst was insanely rich! You had to turn off the camera flash inside the house, but I tried to get a few pictures and capture the feel inside.
It was cool to see a poker table where Walt Disney and Howard Hughes had sit and played cards, or visit the theater where Cary Grant would watch private screenings.
It was well worth the visit, and I highly recommend to anyone out that way! The views from the castle are worth the price of the tour!
From Hearst Castle, we headed south towards Lompoc where we were staying for the night.
Along the way we passed through Morro Bay and caught a glimpse of Morro Rock.
We also drove through Pismo Beach but did not stop; we were tired if you haven’t guessed! Lompoc is not far from Vandenberg AFB.
We ate dinner at a place in Lompoc called El Taco Loco, the food was ok, the people doing karaoke there were bad! So bad they were good, as in entertainment value good!
We made it to the Motel 6. Why were we staying at Motel 6 in Lompoc? It was $62 a night. Before checking in though, I had to listen to a tool wearing a fedora lecture and berate the kind desk clerk wearing a backwards Dodgers hat.
Finally, we were in the room; sleep for all, and to all a good night! I think I turned in about 9 Pacific and slept till 5:30 Saturday morning.
Saturday April 19, 2014
Lompoc, Ventura, Wildlife Cruise, Ronald Reagan Library, Paramount Ranch, Los Angeles
We left Lompoc about 6 AM and headed for Ventura for a wildlife cruise with Island Packers. In 2011, my brother Brad, his wife Angela, and I took a day trip to Anacapa Island with Island Packers and they were very good. I wanted to eat breakfast at the same place in the harbor that we ate at in 2011, but they ware not there anymore. We ate at a west coast chain called Carrow’s. The breakfast was decent.
We were hoping to see whales on the wildlife cruise, but did not. It was still a great cruise as we saw lots of sea lions, many pelicans, cruised around Anacapa Island, and were chased by a large pod of dolphins. It was a three hour tour, but we made it back without incident!
Island Packers Wildlife Cruise GoPro Videos
This one has the dolphin chase!
From Ventura, we drove to Simi Valley to visit the Ronald Reagan Library. I went there in 2011, but thought Dad would like to see Air Force One. During the drive there, I managed to rub sunscreen in my right eye, and was looking pretty frightening by the time we arrived at the library. One of the employees there must have thought I as getting pretty emotional about President Reagan and asked if I was ok. It seemed like the more I tried to flush my eye out, the worse I looked. Somehow you can’t tell in the picture of Dad and I standing in front of Air Force One.
We looked briefly at the exhibits, and I purchased a USS Ronald Reagan cap on the way out.
Next up was Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills. They filmed westerns here starting in the 1920’s. Some John Wayne movies were filmed here, as well as exterior shots for Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. It was cool! Best of all, it was free! It’s actually a national park.
The plan from there was to go have dinner at the Santa Monica Pier, but several thousand other people had the same idea, so once we saw the traffic congestion, we waded out of it and worked our way back to Motel 6 LAX. Our dinner was a fine blend of Domino’s Pizza.
Sunday April 20, 2014
Los Angeles: Canter’s Deli, Capitol Records, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, LAX, IAH
LA Sight Seeing-Picture Album
We woke up at 5 so we could get some early sightseeing in before the flight home. While I was in the shower, I heard a bunch of noise, I thought it was the room above us making noise because I was taking a shower at 5 in the morning on a Sunday. When I got out of the shower, Dad asked me if I heard it. He said there was a fight going on in the room next to us that carried into the hallway and a guy with a bloody back was escorted out by security. When we left the room, there was blood all over the wall and on the floor… I like saving money on rooms, but will probably splurge next time I am in LA.
For breakfast we went to Canter’s Deli on Fairfax. It was very good and I highly recommend a visit! We were there early enough (6 AM) that parking was not an issue and we were some of the only ones there.
Having some time to kill, we made it to the Santa Monica Pier and stayed there for a few hours, although I could have lived without paying $12 to park!
Santa Monica Pier GoPro Videos
Given our Murphy name and the delays experienced at the beginning of the trip, we arrived at the airport three hours early. Here is some airline logic, when we checked our bags at the automated kiosk, United asked if I wanted an earlier flight for $75 EXTRA, then a few screens later said our flight was overbooked and offered up to $200.00 in future air credits. Why not just let us go early for no charge if you have open seats, which would clear some of your overbooking? The wrong people to ask to use logic I guess!
We grabbed some burgers at a restaurant in the airport, while there I witnessed the waitress ask two couples in their sixties to show their id before she would serve them wine. The senior citizens were thrilled! It made me smile.
It was an awesome trip, and I am glad Dad was able to go. I hope he enjoyed it. Mom would have loved the trip too! Several times during the weekend, for a split second I would think “Mom is going to really love the pictures from this”, then quickly remembering that she is gone. No doubt there is a void in me with her not here. When I think I am processing everything alright, a new memory pops up. Travel is the greatest form of therapy to me, and this trip was definitely therapeutic. I wore Dad out by trying to cram so much into a few days, I wore myself out too! You can sit at home and be lazy anytime, I’d rather get as much as I can out of my days off.
A few things I learned from this trip, take an earlier flight. I booked a later flight hoping it would be less crowded. Uncrowded flights appear to be a thing of the past. So the 7pm flight would have allowed for more sleep (provided that flight didn’t get delayed), don’t rent from Fox Rent a Car. The $20 a day you would save is not worth the time you waste dealing with a company with poor infrastructure, go with a proven company!
On the ride down from the Hearst Castle they play a narration and mention that they hope you leave inspired to go chase your own dream like William Randolph Hearst did when he was building the caste. Of course it is easy to chase your dreams if time and money are no option. Inspiration is not exclusive to people with money. While California may have some weird people, and weird laws, I am inspired with each visit. Will I ever achieve my dream of living there, who knows? In the mean time, I can visit. See you next time California.
Here is a video cramming two and a half days into twelve minutes: