This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Say 'Eh-Oh' to Dipsy – part 1 – Los Angeles

1998 - Just. A long while before Patsy and a long while before the blog too. We did have a computer though. A beige nicotine stained box housing a Cyrix 300Mhz CPU, a 4.3gig hard drive and – wait for it – a whole 32 meg of RAM powering dear old Windows 95. A 56k modem gave access to the world wide web and all it had to offer. Well porn anyway. A 14 inch Acorn CRT monitor, perched on the little kitchen table in my mobile home in Waterbeach completed the set up.
Anyway, this was going to be another long trip – three months or so in all. In those days our respective jobs allowed us to do that. Trev was a self-employed cabbie and I had a very understanding boss who welcomed the chance of not having to pay me in the quietest three months of the year. This was to be our fourth such trip.
We had seen the QE2 cruise ship berthed in Sydney harbour once or twice on previous trips and thought how great it would be to arrive in one of the worlds prettiest harbours on the worlds most famous ship. Enquiries revealed that she (the QE2) would be crossing the Tasman from Auckland to Sydney in February as part of her world  cruise. A friend who just happened to be a cruise agent (how convenient) looked in to it, and whilst Cunard in the UK would not book us on for such a short time, the New York office was happy to do so. For a price. We took a deep breath, took the plunge and booked, building the rest of the trip around it.
Anyway, we set off on  Boxing day – as we had a number of times before – with a coach down to Heathrow. It had been snowing on Christmas night and the roads were not particularly clear, so we arrived quite late at Terminal 4 – British Airways home at the time. We were called forward and the check-in clerk apologised profusely  and told us that because the flight was full we were to be upgraded to Business Class but would not be able to sit together. We attempted to keep a straight face and told her we would try and cope.
Time was marching on and before long we boarded the plane, turning for the first time left instead of right and going upstairs. A hostess offered to take our jackets and we settled down and took the offered glasses of fizz gratefully. It was a little bit daunting at first, but being surrounding by well dressed stuffed shirts with expensive watches didn’t bother me. Not knowing how to operate the seat did. In the end I kept one eye on my neighbour – who managed to keep his nose in the air and not utter a single word through the whole flight – and every time he operated one of the controls of his chair I followed. Trev was doing exactly the same behind me and it must have looked quite funny.
The 11 hours or so on the plane flew by – I suppose it would really. It was nice and quite up there at the front and the seats were lovely. The food was good and the seemingly endless supply of fizz ensured that we nodded off which at least helped the time go quickly. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at LAX and well in to rush hour by the time we’d picked up the hire car having engaged in the inevitable verbal sparring with the clerk who was trying to upgrade us to something bigger.
We headed to  Newport Beach, about an hour south of LAX and a motel where we would base ourselves for the five days we were here. Trev was driving and I was navigating and we done quite well considering they seemed to be ripping half the roads up at the time. It was nearly dark though by the time we arrived. An unsmiling twenty-something checked us in, an eyebrow raising just slightly when he saw that we’d ordered a double room. The room itself was fine – plenty of space and a nice balcony with a terrific view of the er, car park. They’d even furnished the room with an antique – at least it should have been – possibly the oldest telly I’ve ever seen. The most dated anyway.
We've never really got the hang of travelling light and this trip was no exception, but at least we had the excuse of having to bring suits for the QE2. There was something else, though that was bulking out the luggage. An eighteen inch high kid’s backpack in the shape of a Teletubby. Yep, you did read it right, but let me explain.
Around this time, the Teletubbies were huge – in more ways than one. Shown on TV early mornings, they were popular not only with young kids but clubbers coming down from a night on the town and the pills. They were also popular with a particular group of cabbies in Cambridge, and of course Trev used to be a cabbie. Now you can begin to see the connection. The early morning drivers – of which Trev was one – used to start at 4am, and on Sunday mornings, having completed the early airport runs and ferried aforementioned clubbers home, would send out for a pile of McDonalds muffins and put the telly on. The Teletubbies provided a welcome distraction – and probably more more sense than some of the customers.
Fast forward to Christmas and at the cab firms party  - an event not for the faint hearted or weak livered, there was nearly always a fight - Trev was presented with this Teletubby backpack. The green one; Dipsy. They laid down  a challenge that Dipsy had to be photographed everywhere we went on our trip. Great, I thought at the time, as if we haven’t got enough to bleedin’ carry. Anyway, friends will know that to this day, said Dipsy has been on every single trip and holiday that we have and has become something of a mascot, although has made for some questioning glances at airport security at times I can tell you.
Right, back to the trip.My first experience of driving abroad was here. I remember taking the car out on our first full day, driving on the right for the first time and  driving an automatic for the first time was stressful enough. It was also extremely foggy too. After an hour or so I handed the keys to Trev. I was exhausted!
On the first day, the original Queen Mary – moored at Long Beach - got a look in. We were keen to see this as it would give a taste of what to expect on the QE2 later on. We also had the opportunity to visit the car rental company’s workshop on some vast industrial estate when the Nissan – a Sentra I think it was -  got a puncture.
Later on in the week we drove up and inland to Big Bear Lake – still frozen at this time and then on to the lovely Palm Springs. We vowed to come back here to stay but it’s still on the list. I remember too driving through some valley on the way back and marvelling at the massive wind farm taking advantage of the strong hot winds blowing through the valley.
Across the road from the motel was an Irish Bar (where isn’t there one) and we used to call over there for a couple of pints after a hard days sightseeing. It was always empty – or so it seemed. A smoking ban had recently come in and appeared to be hitting hard. It wasn’t until our third visit however that we discovered the truth. To circumvent the ban, bars had built conservatories at the back and everyone was to be found in there – smoking or not.
We toured Beverly Hills, growing dizzy with the smell of Money. We cruised down Rodeo Drive in our er, Nissan Sentra. There was no point in stopping because we wouldn’t have gotten past the shops security. We did stop and walk down Hollywood Boulevard though to see the Chinese Theatre.
A drive around Burbank – home to a lot of the film studios – and downtown L.A. presented our nostrils with some different smells, none of them pleasant. We stopped for grub but couldn’t wait to get going again.
Venice Beach, or Muscle Beach got a look in too – we stopped there for breakfast although at that hour there was none of the promised  muscle on display. The last day we tried in vain to find the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign. I forget how many people we stopped to ask but none of ‘em were sure of the best place to see it. We never did find it on this trip.
Our flight to Fiji was scheduled for 10:45pm. It was New Years Eve and we were looking forward to seeing in the New Year in the air for once.  Sadly, Air Traffic Control had other ideas…..
There’s a few pictures. No digital camera then and I wasn’t as snap happy so excuse the quantity and quality.
1999 - 001 (Medium) 1999 - 010 (Medium)    1999 - 003
1999 - 005 (Medium)1999 - 007 (Medium)1999 - 024
1999 - 009 (Medium)1999 - 018 (Medium)1999 - 016 (Medium)
Look out for part 2 coming soon.

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