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A CALIFORNIAN ODYSSEY 2010.....A live trip report from the Golden State

A CALIFORNIAN ODYSSEY 2010.....A live trip report from the Golden State

Old Jun 11th, 2010, 02:01 PM
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A CALIFORNIAN ODYSSEY 2010.....A live trip report from the Golden State

My research for this trip had been painstaking. You cant leave too much too chance when taking a family of 4 on their first trip to the USA, especially as we were going for just over a month.

Where to go? What to see? How to get there? Where to stay? How to pay for it? All meticulously and tediously planned, re-worked, booked and confirmed. But still, one necessary question was left unanswered. What to pack?

When all the essential travel items for a family of 4 are squeezed into several large suitcases, how then do you transport this the required 550km’s from Mildura to Melbourne in a compact family hatchback? This was the final piece of the pre-trip puzzle that we faced only 15 minutes before our scheduled departure. With my travel spirits slightly jaded by the early morning rush to get away on time, I pushed, shoved, crammed and cursed until I managed to close the hatch without the rear window popping out and shattering into several million pieces on our garage floor . At this stage, I was hoping that I ticked the roof-rack option on the on-line hire car booking form.

Finally we departed Mildura for the 6 hour drive to Melbourne. We were overnight-ing with my in-laws before catching the morning Red-eye from Melbourne to LA via Brisbane. The drive was made more bearable with my newly downloaded collection of the complete cast recording of Glee. A delectable ensemble of soft-rock, classic standards and soaring show-tunes, all accompanied by my own dulcet tones.

I hate being late and with the panicked thoughts of sleeping in and missing the flight, I set several alarms. My phone for 2.45, my watch for 2.55 and the bedside alarm-clock in Kerry’s parents spare bedroom for 3.00am on Friday morning the 11th of June. Our flight left at 7am. That gave us until 3.45 to freshen up and wake the kids. The airport was about a 35minute drive, 10 minutes to get a trolley and pry all that luggage out of the car and we would have an almost perfect 2 and a half hours to check-in and complete the departure formalities before spending some leisurely time browsing through Duty-free. This was meticulously planned itinerary “fo-pare number one”. Our flight from Melbourne to Brisbane was purely a domestic “red-eye” and at 4.30am in the morning, it took all of 13 minutes to do all that needed to be done. Tullamarine is not the most vibrant place to kill 2 hours at that time of the day, but gracefully, our plane was on time and off we soared to meet up with our international connection. Our Californian Odyssey had commenced.
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 03:00 PM
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Keep us tuned in to your adventures! Good wishes that everything goes as planned!
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 05:40 PM
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"I set several alarms. My phone for 2.45, my watch for 2.55 and the bedside alarm-clock in Kerry’s parents spare bedroom for 3.00am..."

LOL!

What a great start! This is going to be a wonderful read! You have an inimitable writing style!

Looking forward to more!

Thank you for sharing!
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 06:27 PM
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while they're in the air winging to this side of the Pacific . . . we should kvetch about how they could have done it all w/ just carry-ons
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 06:47 PM
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I look forward to reading your report as you travel throughout our state. Have a great time.
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 08:01 PM
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Welcome to California!
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 08:17 PM
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Maitai may have trip report writing competition here!

Welcome to California!
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 10:34 PM
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Everything at LA Airport works like clockwork. Australian airports, particularly the circus that is Brisbane International, can learn a lot from the efficiency and courtesy that seems to happen with ease at LAX. Within minutes of disembarking, we were smoothly processed and ushered into a transit bus to the National Car Rental centre.

As previously mentioned, our attempts to pack light had failed miserably and after telling the attendant at the National counter that we had booked a Pontiac G5, I was met by a stare of astonishment. “That ain’t fittin’ in no G5” she said glancing over to the two trolleys piled high with cases and bags, looking slightly worse for wear from the “treatment” handed out by the V Australia’s baggage handlers. This however, posed no problem as we were shown to a parking lot filled with a multitude of different makes and models that we could choose from. Once again, we were impressed by how user friendly the system was.

Kerry and Caleb were drawn to the size and practicality of a Mazda 5 mini people mover. But we were in the USA. I didn’t want to drive no Mazda! I drive a Mazda at home. Both myself and Joel walked straight over to a shiny new “Candy-apple” Red Chevrolet HHR. Sure it was more cramped and with all the cases piled up we would not be able to see out the back. But it was a Chevy. As I wanted to keep the peace, I offered to decide this dilemma in the fairest and most mature way possible….Rock-Paper-Scissors. “Best 2 out of 3?”, Caleb, my 8 year, enquired. Luckily, my Rock, in the decider, blunted Caleb’s Scissor’s, and off we went.

It was only 8.30am and far too early to book into the Best Western Sunset Plaza, our home for the next 2 nights, so we decided to head straight to Santa Monica to check out the famous Pier. One of the greatest moves that I had made was to purchase the Homer Simpson voice for my Tom Tom as this provided the kids with much amusement, as did my initial attempts to make a left hand turn from the “wrong” side of the road. After a few detours caused by Homer telling me to “Keep to the Left” and “Make a right hand turn” virtually simultaneously, we arrived at the beachside car park. There were plenty of street park’s, but we only had the fresh $20 notes dispensed from teller machine at the airport, so we paid the $8 all day parking fee even though we were only planning to be there for a few hours.

We had a great time wandering around the Pier, sipping on Snow-cones, listening to various buskers and watching the area start to gear itself up for the lunchtime rush. We walked over to “Muscle” beach and did some “people-watching” as the kids played on all the various pieces of equipment on the sand. We grabbed a quick and tasty meal at a “hole in the wall” kebab joint on Broadway St and found a few great bargains on 3rd Street Promenade.

Santa Monica is fabulous. If we had a bit more “lazy-time” in LA, this would have been the place to stay. However, I am happy with our Hollywood location. Close to the hills and reasonably handy to Dodger Park for our Saturday night game. The Best Western is well positioned, in what seems to be a “nice” neighborhood. Plenty of entertainment options on it’s doorstep, like the House of Blues, a Comedy venue, and a short stroll from the “Tram-Car Diner” made famous in some long forgotten Gwyneth Palthrow movie. The Hotel itself is lovely. Great sized rooms, comfortable beds and a very homely atmosphere. They provide breakfast, have all day snacks and a cardio room to work off the breakfast and all day snacks. The pool area was as good as I’d seen at a mid priced city motel.

We only spent a few hours resting and checking emails etc, before it was back into the traffic to find Griffith Park and the Observatory. This is when Homer Simpson let us down badly. I entered Griffith Park, then Griffith Observatory and then Observatory Road into the GPS and nothing came up. I knew that the Hollywood sign was in the general vicinity, so I set Homer the task of finding this and “Bingo” off we went. The plan was to head in the direction of “the” sign and look for a signpost to our actual destination. How naïve could we be? Homer led us through a rabbit warren of windy narrow domestic laneways, barely adequate for 2 pushbike to pass each other, until we got to the point that we could almost touch the sign, but still no clue on how to get to the Observatory. Eventually, we managed to do a 7 point turn and reversed our direction and I came up with the brainstorm of asking Homer to get us to Griffiths Park road. This had us heading closer, but it still took several more detours before we eventually ended up at our desired location about 2 hours after we had left the Hotel. Any thought I had of entering a team into the next Amazing Race was shattered.

By this stage, poor Caleb had collapsed into a Jet-lag induced coma. After searching so hard we decided to test fate and wake him. The first 30 minute was a huge ordeal. The complaining was prolific and we looked like horrible parents, dragging a poor 8 year old around a place that he obviously had no interest in. To his credit and with the help of Joel’s excitement with all the exhibits, he eventually he got his second wind and we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Admission is free, but it is well worth the few bucks to watch the Planetarium show which we all found to be highly entertaining and educational.

We departed Griffith Park at around 9.30, bought a few microwave snacks, peanut butter M and M’s and a $10 bottle of Napa Valley wine and settled in for an early night.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 05:47 AM
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Shanek is here!

Your experience at LAX was a true miracle because that is one of the worst airports ever!lol

Let the kid get some sleep will ya? And enjoy your first full day in California!
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 06:43 AM
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After a several month visit to Australia and NZ some years ago, I was occasionally disappointed by local people's understanding of just what the US is like. Some of them had even been here, but the typical visit seemed limited to LA, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. Hence, not too surprisingly I guess, the consensus seemed to be that the US is hot, dry, and very crowded. ;->

So when I first returned home, as I traveled about my state, California, I used to entertain myself trying to imagine the itineraries I WISHED visitors would see to get more an idea of the variety of even just this one [large] state.

Sounds like you are just the family to do it! I am enjoying the initial chapter of your adventure and looking forward to the rest.

When you get to San Francisco, give me a wave.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 06:56 AM
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I also was agog at your first sentence. He is really talking about LAX?

I hope you have better luck with Homer in the coming days.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 06:58 AM
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Sounds like you are off to a great start! (And if you get hungry late at night - or anytime - you could head to Canter's Deli for an interesting slice of LA life).
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 07:38 AM
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What a blast it is traveling through your eyes Shanek! My belly hurts. It was wonderful to hear how opposite the LAX experience was for you. I avoid it at all costs, if possible. And too much fun hearing all the similarities of adventure into the unknown. Can't wait to read more. Welcome to California!
Definitely try beignets at Ralph Brennan's casual cafe in downtown Disneyland, for a touch of New Orleans and a sugar high. Enjoy the new water show! I haven't seen it yet, but have heard it's spectacular.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 07:46 AM
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What I liked about LAX is that they kept everything moving, there were no unecessary delays, it was well signed and the trolleys were plentiful and easy to drive.

When we passed through passport control, we were quickly ushered through the US citizens line when they saw we were travelling with kids and we didn't have to face a physical check of all our baggage as we often do when we arrive back at home. Both custom's officials that we had contact with told us to "enjoy our trip" and didn't make us feel like we were doing something wrong. Thing's may be much worse on the way back out, but it was a much more pleasant experience than arriving in Melbourne ever seems to be.

I will have to give Canters a go, it looks really kitsch.

Off to the farmers market this morning if the boys ever wake up.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 07:56 AM
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Enjoying your report. Yes, give a wave when you are in N. Cal.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 08:06 AM
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Loving your report! SoCal is a huge piece of Americana in many ways

I am surprised, and curious why you got at HHR. Not that there's anything wrong with them, but they're often driven by - well - that doesn't matter LOL

We have various American mini vans and SUVs as you seemed to want, that allow a much more comfortable ride.

And no, I'm not in the auto industry, nor is anyone else I know.

Carry on Looking forward to it.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 08:17 AM
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GREAT reports! I'm already sore from coughing and all this laughing isn't helping! Have a great day today.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 08:36 AM
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While waiting for the family to wake, I came across Caleb's journal that he wrote when we got home last night.

I thought you may find it interesting to hear about our day from the viewpoint of an eight year old. I will present it verbatim.

"Today we had to wake up at 3am. We left for the airport at about 4am. I took a couple of photo's when we got there at about 4.30. When we finally got on the plane it was 7am!!!

I took alot of photo's on the plane but I deleted most of them.

Our second flight went for 13 whole hours. I think I took more photo's and watched movies for about 7 hours, played games for around 1 hour and slept for about 5 hours.

When the flight ended we went to the car rental place and got a really shiny red car.

Dad put Homer as the voice of our Tom Tom and he said "you are a Genius" whenever we reached our destination.

We wern't able to get into our hotel until 2pm so we hung out at the beach until 1.30 and then we took 30 minutes to get to our hotel.

At about 7 we went to an observatoty where we watched an awesome show about the galaxy.

We got home at about 9.40 and went to bed the momment we got to the hotel and I wrote my journal in bed.

That was the end of day 1"
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 11:04 AM
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That's a great journal, something he should keep and re-read when he's about 30.

Great report, I'll be checking in.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 11:18 AM
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Pretty great writing for an 8 year old. I have a journal I kept on a family cross-country road trip when I was 10, and it is a treasure...make sure he keeps it!
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