A Travellerspoint blog

We search for a guitar

California day thirteen

View California 1991 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Return to LA

We woke up to a rather dull morning, loaded the car and left San Diego heading north on Interstate 5. Almost immediately though we turned off the freeway to visit La Jolla for breakfast, which we had in a little café in a parade of shops (having had some difficulty in finding the town centre).

Continuing north we followed the Pacific coast, at one point passing through a large US Marines camp, with security checks at the gates. We were interested to spot road signs warning of pedestrians running across the road – this stretch of coast is often used by illegal immigrants from Mexico. We stopped briefly at a rest area – very different from services on a British motorway, with just a large parking area, a toilet block, a few snack vans and some picnic tables.

When Interstate 5 turned inland we forked left on the slower Highway 1 and made our first real stop at Laguna Beach. We parked in a side street to take a quick look at the beach. The sky was still overcast but there were a few surfers whom we watched for a while.

Laguna Beach

Chris at Laguna Beach

We also went into a café for some orange juice, mainly so Chris could use the phone to call the Rickenbacker factory to get a list of stockists in the west LA area. This proved to be a long-distance call, so we decided to wait till we were nearer the city before calling the shops.

2017 comment: having to visit a café in order to use a phone seems a quaint idea in today’s era of mobile phones!

Parked in a Long Beach side street

We drove on northwards through several coastal communities, the most attractive being Huntingdon Beach, with lots of surfers strolling around. At Long Beach we left the main road to look for Hamburger Henry’s, a diner that was praised in several guidebooks. It was easy to find and just as described, with a great 1950s America atmosphere, excellent burgers and huge shakes.

Hamburger Henry's, Long Beach

After lunch we visited a bookshop to buy a detailed map of the LA area before returning to the car, which we had left in a pleasant suburban street – neat attractive bungalows, tall palm trees and, by now, bright blue sky overhead.

We returned to Highway 1, but in this built-up area found it frustratingly slow, so we turned further inland to take advantage of the freeway system – very busy but much faster. We passed close to the airport, where our journey had started less than two weeks before, and turned off the freeway soon after.

Venice Beach

We parked in a large car park near the beach and walked along the sea front, known as Ocean Front Walk. This was another place that was exactly as we’d imagined, just as described in all the guide-books – crowds of people, mostly young, mostly posing, with skateboards or roller-skates, slogan t-shirts and deep Californian suntans. There were also, of course, a fairly high proportion of tourists like ourselves.

At Venice Beach

We had a look at the beach – large and attractive, with the Santa Monica mountains beyond, and very quiet compared with the hoards who thronged the sidewalks.

Venice Beach

We saw fortune-tellers, kite-flyers, hair-wrappers, pavement-artists, as well as a lot of stalls selling Ray-Bans, t-shirts and even hats for dogs!

Venice Beach mural

Dog hats and scrapbook page

While in Venice Beach we stopped at a call box for Chris to contact the guitar stockists on his list – and he managed to track down a Rickenbacker at the last one! So after an ice cream at the trendy Sidewalk Café, we turned back to the car to check the shop’s location on our new map, to find that it was in the, presumably busy, downtown area. This meant that we had to brave the freeways in the heavy rush-hour traffic, which had just started. Thanks to the detailed map, and some skilful navigating (redeeming myself for the error in San Francisco!), we found our way to a convenient car-park just off the main shopping street, Broadway, where the shop was to be found. The guitar was waiting for us, was tested and found to be entirely satisfactory. Chris negotiated a fairly good price with the shop’s owner, although higher than he had hoped, and we returned to the car to face the freeways once more.

2017 comment: twenty-six years on, that twelve-string Rickenbacker is still Chris’s most prized possession so it was well worth the effort (and cost) involved in buying it!

A very happy shopper!

Safely arrived in the Hollywood area we made our way to the famous Sunset Boulevard and our motel for our last two nights in California, the Saharan Motor Hotel. This was a very strange place, somewhat seedy but with a faintly exotic air – it felt rather like the sort of place where would-be starlets would have lived in the forties or fifties while waiting to make their big break-through.

2017 comment: the Saharan Motor Hotel appears to be still in operation and fairly little changed from our visit apart from being a bit spruced up and with the addition of free wifi in all rooms.

Saharan Motor Hotel at night

This stretch of Sunset Boulevard itself was also rather seedy, not at all the sort of place of which legends are made, with strip joints and an all-night supermarket among the attractions. We decided not to venture too far afield in the evening and were pleased to see a Denny’s a short distance along the road. This proved not as good as the one in Monterey (and with some distinctly odd customers) but was perfectly adequate.

On returning to our room we had hoped to watch tennis from Wimbledon on the TV, but discovered that it had been completely rained off, so gloated instead over the awful weather we were missing!

Total miles for day: 153

Posted by ToonSarah 01:07 Tagged beaches road_trip california shopping music seaside street_photography

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I'm glad the guitar proved to be a good purchase.

by Nemorino

It did indeed Don - if we ever had a fire I'm really not sure whether Chris would rescue me or the Rickenbacker first ;)

by ToonSarah

Great story. Nicely illustrated. Thanks!


Thanks Adam. Those photos are pretty old now though!

by ToonSarah

Fabulous write up :) You guys were so young :) Nice memories. Bet you enjoyed reliving this trip.... and especially because of Chris's prized guitar. Loved the read.

by aussirose

I was travelling around South America while you were on this trip. It was a six month trip with occasional communication from back home via Poste Restante and to home via letter or from international telephone boxes which were few and far between, not to mention hellishly expensive. How travel has changed.

by Wabat

Thanks again :) Ann, yes so very young!!

And Albert, it has indeed changed. I remember on this trip stopping to call Chris's Mum from a phone box halfway round as she was inclined to worry while we were away and we wanted to reassure her all was well. Not too many years later we were heading for internet cafes to email her every few days, and then again a few years later sending emails from our phones!

by ToonSarah

priceless souvenir ... love it! :)

by Ils1976

It was indeed Ils

by ToonSarah

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