los angeles

Killing Time

I’ve spent the last few days killing time, as well as swapping hemispheres and seasons and climate. It’s all a little bit disorientating.

I actually tried to use LA’s ‘public transport system’ to kill some of the time I had before the flight went on Saturday evening. I even gave it a chance to take me to the city centre. It failed.

Having waited for an inordinate amount of time for a bus connection to the city, I headed for the beach instead. When I got to the end of the tram line, I discovered I was still two miles away. I waited for another bus. Nothing.

I gave up trying to actually get anywhere, and went for a burger. And then to LAX for my flight away. At least the airport looked nice (or as nice as airports can) as night fell.

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Having struggled to kill eight or nine hours of wait time on Saturday, I killed Sunday effortlessly. By the time dawn broke after about 11 of the 13 hour flight, it was already Monday morning in New Zealand.

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I presume that there’s some tedious law of physics which prevents one from fast-forwarding the date constantly by zipping across the International Date Line. Which is probably a shame, but would also probably make very dull sci-fi.

What’s important for me is that the IDL is directly opposite the Greenwich Meridian where I started. I’m actually halfway round the world. Strangely, every mile west from here takes me closer to home.

Of course, time will have the last laugh again. I’ve used up both my ‘big ocean fast-forwards’, meaning that the vast majority of the rest of the trip will be overland. And therefore slow. I’ve just left the Beast with a local bike shop to prepare.

Auckland feels very much like home initially. There are the obvious marks of proper civilisation. The roads are the right way round. The Queen’s head is on the money. People can spell properly. And it’s drizzled constantly since I arrived.

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It’s actually more complicated than that, of course. Auckland city centre is gridded, like an American city. There are US chains which haven’t made it to Europe, but flourish here. There are masses of kebab houses, sushi bars and Chinese students, adding an Asian tinge to the culture. And of course, there is the Maori influence too.

So it’s very much like home, and a quite different at the same time.

It promises to be an interesting few weeks exploring NZ. The volcanic north island, the fjords in the south. The whole place looks stunning (when it’s not shrouded in rain). It also looks hilly, which makes me happy I’ve got time to explore properly.

Just hope the drizzle stops occasionally…

The Road to La-La Land

I didn’t intend to head for Los Angeles when I made my half-baked ‘plans’ for this trip.  I didn’t really intend ever to head for LA.  I’m not a celeb-spotter, a wannabe-actor or a psychotic stalker (as far as I know).  And I’m deeply suspicious of anywhere where you can actually see the air you’re breathing (and you can, believe me).

But then my planning wasn’t especially extensive, and I initially intended to fly to New Zealand from Chile.  There are no direct flights from San Diego, so Los Angeles it had to be.  I had to leave the friendly embrace of ‘America’s finest city’ (the locals’ own description, naturally), and head up the coast.  A gentle 120 miles or so in three days, with only the last thirty-ish miles through the sprawling suburbs of southern LA.

I was familiar with the northern Californian coast from a road trip a few years back.  I really liked the meandering coastal highway, with the redwood trees, cliffs, beaches and sleepy little towns.  Southern California is a bit different.

After a first day cruising gently out of San Diego, through its northern suburbs and the seaside towns up the coast, things got a little more exciting on day two.  You need to cross the giant US military base at Camp Pendleton, which appears to be a little schizophrenic about cycling.  For the northern half of the base area (the second section for me), there’s a nice tarmac cycle track along the coast, merging into a state beach area.  This is genuinely nice.

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Unfortunately, the southern half of the base essentially cuts off every road apart from the Interstate, leading to a hairy 12-or-so miles along the glass-strewn hard shoulder, with the traffic doing a minimum of 70 mph next door.  This is nice only in a particularly sarcastic way.

On the plus side, you get to see the US Marines playing with their toys.  I’m not sure whether innocently taking long-lens pictures of military aircraft doing circuits and bumps on the beach gets foreigners into trouble in these paranoid days.  Especially while standing on US military property.  So I found the picture below, which gives a decent impression of what was going on around me (including the huge sand clouds) as I trundled through the base area.

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Having traversed Pendleton, and cleared the sand from your eyes, lungs and crevices, there are a few more miles of seaside towns full of wealthy and semi-wealthy people before you hit the LA suburbs proper (I reckon LA starts a few miles before Long Beach).  I’ve seen more ‘all-too-well-known Seattle-based coffee shops’ in the last three days than in the whole of the rest of the way across the US.  This, I’m assured, is a sign of wealth.

A few more idyllic miles of beach-side cycle path followed, albeit with the dark smudge of LA’s halo of smog darkening the horizon.  This is the bike path along Huntingdon Beach, which is really very pleasant:

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And then an adrenaline-spiked, two-hour rush through southern LA.  I’m not entirely sure what happens to me when you put me on a bike in traffic, but it must be a relic of commuting in London.  Self-preservation requires hyper-awareness, eyes-in-the-back-of-my-head, and fairly (arguably very) aggressive riding between hundreds and hundreds of traffic lights.  The alternative is getting messily squashed.  It’s actually quite fun, in an extreme sport sort of way.  And it’s an absorbing enough game that you don’t notice how tiring it is.

Anyway, I arrived near LAX airport yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), leaving plenty of time to prep the bike for a long, long flight on Saturday evening.  Needless to say, I found a bike box within an hour or so this morning, so have an extra day to kill tomorrow. Not sure that I can find enough to keep me busy out here near the airport.

So maybe I will, despite my best intentions, end up in the centre of Los Angeles.  How unexpected.