home is where somebody notices when you are no longer there

Day six. The last day in California! In some ways, my vacation seemed to have lasted an incredibly long time, but in others, in most ways that I thought about it, it was over in an instant, and I wished that there was more awaiting me.

Well, there was still a bit more to go, even then.

I woke up extra early, keyed up and a little nervous. There were a lot of moving parts to the plan, so I wanted to be certain that my part was locked down. I got up and dressed, and packed the rest of my things. Got my bags airport-ready, which is such a pain in the ass. Helped clean up the house so that we'd be as likely as possible to get our cleaning deposit back. Tried to read, but it was difficult to concentrate. Once the guys were back (the groom and his dad) from their hot-air balloon ride, it was a little easier to relax, since that was one of the parts of the schedule that was more up in the air...so to speak. They had a great time, which was good to hear; they'd both been looking forward to it for a long time, but they two were really the only ones who would be likely to do such a thing, so it was perfect timing.

Once everyone was at the house, there were last-minute showers and a little more clean-up before we split everything into two cars, locked up, and took off. The bride and the groom's mother left first, and they pulled out onto the main road...to the right. We (the groom, his dad, and me in the back seat) pulled out after them...but to the left. The groom said, "My GPS has us going this way." I didn't question it.

I maybe should've questioned it.

This is the whole trip to LAX, the one that would have cost between $272 and $345 if I'd hired a car:

It's almost exactly 100 miles.

This is the most direct (i.e. shortest-distance) route between Temecula and Newport Beach, which is the way that the bride drove. You will notice that it goes essentially north, then west, then back south, skirting a mountainous area:

This is the route that we took, which I am calling "indirect":

As you can see, we went basically south, then west, then north again.

[For what it's worth, if I were ever to make this trip again and had the time to do so, I would ask to make this change:

...which cuts off the last segment of the I-5 and replaces it with a jaunt up California-1, which is the Pacific Coast Highway. I think it would be more of a sightseeing tour and probably very pretty under the right circumstances. Not that I am ever likely to be in this area again!]

The direct route is only a little shorter, about four miles, but the indirect route is around ten minutes longer, depending on traffic. (It was twelve minutes last night, right now it's closer to twenty.) That's enough of a difference that we seemed to be WAY behind, and it seemed to take FOREVER to get there. It seemed, honestly, like we were going to miss my connection with the shuttle service. We were driving so fast on CA-76, it was really very exciting/scary.

And then we made the turn, which is abrupt and has absolutely none of the fanfare that it ought to, considering, onto I-5, and the groom sort of yelled, "THERE'S THE OCEAN!"

First view of the Pacific!
Also from the I-5
And there it was. I grabbed my phone and took the photo to the left, which is blurry and crappy and barely distinct (it wasn't a sunny day), but there is a slightly-discernible strip of darker-blue-gray ocean just at the bottom of the lighter blue-gray sky through the left one-third of the photo. I know it's pretty terrible, but there it is: this Midwesterner's first view of the Pacific.

Unfortunately, the day's schedule wasn't terribly cooperative, and the sky obviously wasn't optimal, and of course we couldn't exactly stop and take pictures, either. The location of Camp Pendleton right there, too, makes it all a little forbidding (and not too attractive, at least from the I-5). But I did get a couple of shots that weren't just of passing traffic, and where you can see that there's actually something...somewhat recognizable...that may be describable as an ocean-like blue stripe beneath a gray sky. That's something, right?

In what I'm starting to count on as standard California traffic, there was a construction/holiday/random traffic thing on the bridge near the Balboa Bay Beach Club, where I was meeting my shuttle. We were less than a mile from the destination for a good five minutes, and I was sweating it every time my phone would vibrate with another text from the driver, who had arrived early. However, we did get there on time (if he'd arrived at the designated time), and we double-parked behind the van so he couldn't leave without me. The groom and his dad hopped out for hugs, we verified that it was indeed my van, I hollered out instructions for good wishes for the bride and the groom's mom, and I hopped in. Onto the next phase of the adventure!

Huntington Beach
The rest of it went pretty smoothly. I was the only one in the van at first. We picked up a couple in Huntington Beach, where I took a few more photos along PCH. That looked a lot more like what I was expecting "California coast" to look like, and I would have liked to stop for a while but obviously that wasn't going to happen.

Huntington Beach
It was a good ride, very casual and quiet. It took a surprisingly long time to get to El Segundo (where LAX is actually located), which is fine since I had allowed extra time to get checked in before my flight. Check-in took forever, but security went pretty quickly. After that, I roamed for a while, because there was a delayed flight leaving from my gate and I didn't want to sit in an airport restaurant with my luggage. I ended up choosing the most ridiculous place possible to get food: La Provence Cafe. I ordered an iced mocha and a powdered sugared crodo, which is a sort of large croissant/donut hybrid, extremely dense and almost impossible to eat by hand (which is obviously the way that they are intended to be eaten, since they are served like any donut anywhere, in a small paper bag with no utensils). I stood in line for a stupid amount of time waiting to be served, and when I was, ordered the things, and then was treated to a disdainful server saying, "The crodo is $5.90. Is that all right?"

I understand the point in asking. There are probably people objecting like crazy all over the place, to a nearly six-dollar donut. But, seriously, don't charge six damn dollars if that's the case.

I was hungry, and I wanted caffeine, and I wasn't going to get out of the line and go stand in another line to wait another twenty minutes to be overcharged for something else. "It's fine." Goodbye, California!

My flight departed twenty minutes, late, thanks to a storm on the arrival end. My nearest seatmate was a mentally-challenged guy who asked me repeatedly throughout the flight, "Where are you going?"
"[the big city]"
"Oooh! So am I!"

Four hours later, I was back east...ish, getting obnoxious texts from Mumbles, who was waiting outside the airport for me, ready to go get a pizza and a six-pack and hear all about it. Good to be home.

[the title quotation is by Aleksandar Hemon, from The Lazarus Project]


  1. "Not that I am ever likely to be in this area again!" Never say never. Maybe we should do a run to San Diego or SF. MUCH prettier than L.A. We can walk on the beach or go visit Alcatraz...or just hang out and watch people....

    ...and then zip up to BC for bowling.

    1. I have heard good things about the area north of LA. However, I've recently decided that less-than-four hour flights are my preference, so prehaps Toronto, or Alberta?

      We're clearly gonna need to break up the Tierra del Fuego trip into a few legs.

      Ooh, or we could take the train...?

    2. I don't think I'm up for what could be a ten-day-long train trip through South America...though, weirdly, I was looking at Amtrak yesterday for a much shorter jaunt.

      We could stop in Denver (2 hours) for a few days....just sayin' :D

    3. I was more like thinking breaking up the T.d.F. trip into several flights, e.g. Miami, southern Mexico coast, Panama, Brazil.... My train thoughts were confined to my next trip to California, and very vague.

      I've only been to Denver's "new" airport, when it was ready for use but when the people-movers were not yet bug-free. That meant a long-ass run from one end to the other on giant conveyor belts that seemed painfully ironic, in order to make a connecting flight. I would love a more positive Colorado experience!

    4. Oh, duh: re South America.

      Hells bells, we really need to remedy this problem!

    5. I'm game. Seriously, Give me a half hour's notice and I will gladly walk out of the Hellhole to fly to CO.

      Or just go out for lunch.

      Or just. Not. Be. There.

      But that's another story. Yes, I'd love to see that place, by your side. That would be awesome.