California day one
13.06.1991 - 13.06.1991
Introduction: planning the trip
Back in 1991 we decided that the time had come to be a little more adventurous, and extravagant, in our choice of holiday destinations. Until then we had focused mainly on Europe, although there had been a marvellous trip to New York back in 1982, a year after we married, and a week in Egypt the previous year. Now we wanted to see more of the US and after briefly considering a packaged ‘Fly Drive’ holiday we realised it would be cheaper and more fun to plan our own route.
These were the pre-internet days, so our research was done in guidebooks borrowed from the library where I worked at the time, and using brochures which we ordered from the National Park Service. We pre-booked accommodation using old-fashioned snail mail, sending International Money Orders to pay deposits. Quite a few of our reservations were for Motel 6s, as their central reservation centre made the process simpler and their prices suited our limited budget.
There were visas to apply for, maps to be bought, US driving regulations to be studied and memorised … It was all very exciting and just a little bit daunting, especially for Chris who, as I had not yet passed my driving test, would be our sole driver.
Because this was such a special trip for us at the time, I kept a more detailed diary than I had previously done (or indeed have done since, until the point where I started to share my experiences firstly on Virtual Tourist and more recently here). Having unearthed that and the scrapbook I compiled on our return, and scanned the best of our slides, I have been inspired by my friends Sally (Beausoleil), who has blogged about her first ever visit to France, and Katherin (Katherin_E), who recently wrote here about some early trips to Australia, to share our experiences here by transcribing that old diary.
These were also, of course, the pre-digital photography days, so although we were both already keen photographers the number of photos we took was very limited, curtailed by the high cost of film and the need not to waste it. So, while this blog will of course be illustrated, there will be fewer pictures than I would have liked, and those there are were taken some by me, some by Chris (I of course have his permission to use them here). The quality of the scans isn’t great either (I promise you that the original slides look better than this!) but they do reflect our experiences well and give a good sense of what most excited and/or impressed us on this trip. I've supplemented the photos with some scans of the scrapbook I compiled after the trip, including a few postcards which are so old now that I hope no one will mind me using them!
So, let’s hit the road!
Flying to Los Angeles
From my scrapbook
We checked in early at Gatwick to find that we had been upgraded to Business Class for our flight on Air New Zealand – a real treat! We went upstairs in the jumbo jet to our seats, with acres of leg-room, Bucks Fizz and canapés. A four course dinner (English time – lunch US time) followed, with unlimited wine then and throughout the flight. As Chris remarked, ‘I could quite happily live out the rest of my life on this aircraft.’
The flight took us over Iceland and Greenland, with views of icebergs below. We reached America above the northern coast of Canada, flew over Hudson Bay and the frozen north almost to the Pacific coast, before turning south.
We didn’t attempt to sleep on the flight – the films and radio channels kept us amused and besides, we wanted to adjust as soon as possible to US time. Before landing a ‘light’ meal was served, which we were too full to really appreciate.
The plane landed in LA late evening, local time. We saw the lights below through the smog, including those of the Quality Hotel where we would be staying for the first night of our trip.
We were naturally tired on arrival, but LAX proved a relatively easy airport to cope with, and we soon found the stop for the courtesy buses to the hotels. A short wait for the bus, an even shorter drive, and we had arrived!
We checked in behind a crowd of US soldiers. Our room was pleasant enough, overlooking busy West Century Boulevard, so we were grateful for the double glazing. We crawled, exhausted, to sleep, without bothering to unpack. Tomorrow would be a big day ...