Mar 9, 2010

Hollywood Nights

Wednesday 3rd March - Day 24

The aim today was to get to L.A. From Santa Cruz that's 339 miles and 6 hours of driving though one big chunk of that, 250 miles to be exact, was going to be on Interstate 5. Easy.

This gave us time to go and check out the beach and the wharf at Santa Cruz. It was cold and wet, just how I like it, but it still shocked me to see guys surfing. Now I can't really comment because I can't swim (yes that's right, I can't swim, it's no big deal) but it looked very cold and very dangerous. And admittedly very exciting. And attractive. I'm guessing no good surfer dies a virgin.

But as cool as it was, watching these guys ride waves which looked about 4 foot high (though I have no idea how they measure these things), it wasn't as thrilling as seeing pelicans and sea lions up close.I once saw a pelican eat a pigeon in St James's Park in London. No one beleives me when I tell them that story. But Santa Cruz pelicans are too mellow for that. They just hang out at the fish counter on the wharf all day like loafing oafs in all night chemists. (I hope these hidden lyrics are being spotted by at least someone.) Sea lions by the way are huge. I don't know if these snaps demonstrate how huge. But even Kevin Smith would agree that they are too fat to fly Southwestern. They wear it well though. And we did squeal like children when we saw them lolling on platforms under the wharf. Oh and yes the seagull with the attitude at the top of the page was also from the wharf. Not as thrilling as seeing a pelican or a sea lion, but he was another Santa Cruz slacker. (Anyone who lives near the sea knows that ALL seagulls have an attitude but these guys did seem a little mellower.)

Anyway, enough of the third rate (ok fifth rate) natural history commentary. It was 11:00 a.m. when we left Santa Cruz and we fully expected to be in L.A. before sunset. The first hour or so was another incredibly beautiful drive across another car commercial worth road and Interstate 5 was as long and as straight and, some would say, boring as advertised. I passsed the time by monitoring our fuel consumption. If you have no nerdy qualities then please feel free to skip forward now, but for those of you who get distracted by numbers then this bit is for you. The car has one of those displays that tells you how many miles you have left in the tank. This can go up as well as down depending on how you're driving and as California is one of the most expensive states for gas we really wanted to make every drop last. The display will also show the average fuel consumption and the instantaneous fuel consumption. So when I managed to get behind a truck I could use the slipstream to increase our instantaneous MPG and therefore the number of miles in the tank went up. Trust me this stuff can be fascinating for some of us. Anyway the important point is that when we were about 75 miles away from L.A. we had, according to the car's calculations, enough gas to be able to cover 125 miles.

Then we hit the Grapevine. It's a stretch of road that climbs to a height of over 4000 feet to pass over the Tehachapi Mountains. It climbs really quickly too. Within about 10 minutes my ears popped 7 times. It's so steep that it works as a sort of bottleneck for trucks which is why the interstate swells to 6 or 7 lanes in some places. It also guzzles gas. Fuel consumption was down to single figures on the climb and at this point we had no idea how high the pass was. Maps don't tell you this kind of thing. The temperature gauge which had been in the 60s all day fell to just above freezing. Darkness was falling, traffic was crazy, the road was like the up haul of a big dipper and the prospect of running out of fuel at the top of a mountain bigger than any in England was becoming more and more real with every dropping digit on the car display. By the time we were down on the other side of the mountains the car reckoned it had less than 20 miles left in the tank. But now we had to contend with L.A. traffic. 7 lanes of some for the most dangerous driving I've seen outside of Italy. People switch lanes like someone promised them a bunch of virgins in paradise. I missed at least three exits due to either cowardice, discretion or both.

It was all worth it in the end. As we drove through North Hollywood this came on the radio.

Something told me I was going to like L.A.

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