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Trip Report Another Californian Odyssey (June/July 2014)

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Another Californian Odyssey – June/July 2014

In the spirit of shanek’s 2010 posting I have decided to post another detailed description of an Australian family’s tour of California. Our contingent is bigger and older than shanek’s and our itinerary not quite as ambitious (nor my narration skills quite as eloquent) but I thought it still might be of interest. Travelling with six semi-adults presents its own problems in terms of rental cars and accommodation.

I am halfway through our 2-3 week trip sitting in my cabin/tent in Yosemite as I start the journal.

First by way of background, we are a family of six, myself (Peter), my wife (Jayne) and our four “children”, Liam (18), Bailey (16), Caitlin (15) and Niamh (12). The trip has been a little splintered needing to fit in with school and university holidays and work commitments as well as a desire to do an iconic and memorable individual trip with each of our children after they finish school (Liam this year). So this trip started with Jayne, Bailey, Caitlin and Niamh flying from Sydney to LA on Thursday 19 June and spending a few days with our good friend Stacy and her family before Liam and I flying out on Sunday 22 June and meeting them in San Diego. The plan is to travel around California for two and a bit weeks before Jayne heads back to Sydney via Hawaii with three younger children and Liam and I go to Mexico and Cuba for two weeks. Jayne and I travelled the US for a few months in a Chevy van after we were married in 1995 and although I have been back occasionally for short work visits it is interesting for us both to see how things have changed and to share them with our children.

Sunday 22 June – LAX/San Diego

Liam and I had an early start having to fly to LA from Sydney via Melbourne due to Frequent Flyer point routing. Our flight from Sydney was at 6am but luckily I could get us into the Qantas lounge for a good breakfast and we had a pretty good flight to LA arriving around 6.30am after 14 hours from Melbourne (but closer to 19 since we left home). LA immigration was a circus and it took us ages to get through (~1 hour) with a lot of variability in how quickly different immigration officers were processing visitors. We finally got through, picked up our bags and headed for the shuttle to Alamo car rental. I had planned on (and booked) a Dodge Grand Caravan for the six of us and our luggage but Alamo only had a Kia Sedona which looked much smaller in the luggage space although they assured me was the same size. Anyway I decided to upgrade to a Toyota Sienna which seemed much more spacious. Liam and I made the trip to San Diego quite comfortably with the help of Google Maps on my iPhone (with a 1.5GB pre-purchased data pack) being able to ease into LA traffic and right-side driving with it being a Sunday. After a brief stop at Carlsbad for a late breakfast at McDonalds (the same everywhere) we met the rest of the family who had been staying the last three nights at the Dana on Mission Bay (and where we spent one more night).

It was great to be together again. Our good friend Stacy had been looking after Jayne and the kids and showing them around San Diego and having Caitlin and Niamh for a sleepover that night which enabled us to get away with one hotel room for the night of our arrival. Shortly after we arrived Stacy and her partner Mike offered to escort us to a baseball game (Dodgers vs Padres) which was great fun. Although I had adjusted quickly to driving on the “wrong” side of the road, following Stacy to find parking in San Diego “ballpark peak-hour” with her erratic unsignalled direction changes was something of a challenge. It was great fun at the baseball (although the Padres lost) taking in this iconic American cultural experience and enjoying hot dogs for lunch. Niamh and Caitlin went home with Stacy for a sleepover with her daughter Lily so Jayne, Liam, Bailey and I had a simple burger dinner at a restaurant in The Dana before turning in - with Liam and I both pretty exhausted.

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