Thursday 30 October 2014
Finally our big trip to the US is here. When we first planned to do the trip it seemed like it was forever away, and continued to feel like forever away right up until the time it wasn’t, and I realised I was woefully unprepared.
The logistics for the trip were difficult to get our heads around as road trip rookies.
How do you work out exactly what to pack? You have to have everything that you need for almost three weeks away, but can only take as much as you can carry on a motorbike with quite small panniers.
And how do you get your stuff out there? You can’t take a suitcase because how are you going to carry that on the bike?
We have (hopefully) resolved the problem by purchasing a 30 litre Ortleib waterproof rack pack that can be strapped onto the bike rack (thanks to Philo for loan of the Rok Straps). This solves the suitcase problem and gets us some additional carrying capacity. Aside from this we have a couple of small bags that should fit into the panniers. I also now have a crash helmet newly acquired from Andy. Luckily BA cabin luggage allowance is very generous.
The other logistical problem is airports, as we fly out of Heathrow and back into Gatwick. This was solved by us all staying the night with Andy and Jane in Surrey and getting a taxi in.
Things all worked beautifully. An early, but not ridiculously early, 0700 start got us to Heathrow in plenty of time. Getting through security was even more challenging than normal with so much hand luggage – we were also wearing quite a lot, with several layers of bike jackets and bike boots – but nonetheless it went seamlessly. Our packing troubles seemed to be as nothing compared with the couple in front with 2 small children.
We enjoyed a hearty breakfast before heading off to the departure gate, where we met up with two others who will be sharing at least some of the trip with us: Malcolm and Peter, who are travelling with Hadrian V-Twin.
The flight was long (10.5 hours), but thankfully uneventful. Time to read, watch films and eat airline food. We arrived ahead of schedule in Los Angeles at about 1430 local time.
We picked up a hire car to get about LA for a couple of days: I wasn’t sure that Paul was inspiring confidence with his ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ T-shirt, and Andy didn’t help when he asked for something ‘nasty’, but nonetheless they found us a practically new gangster looking black minivan with tinted Windows. We set about the tedious but necessary business of shopping for essential provisions which, in the case of Sharon and Kate, included crash helmets.
Our impression of Los Angeles so far is not particularly good. The city originated in 1781 when a group of forty-four settlers known as “Los Pobladores” (townspeople) founded the pueblo called “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula”; in English it is “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Porciúncula River”. The Queen of Angels is an honorific of the Virgin Mary. You can see why the name needed to be shortened.
Today LA is the most populous city in California and the second most populous in the US after New York: in 2010 the population was 3,792,621. It covers 469 square miles divided into more than 80 districts and neighbourhoods. We haven’t seen any of the posh bits yet, but what we have seen is just a large, messy sprawl of unremarkable strip malls.
One of the things for which Los Angeles is famous is the smog: the smog season lasts from May to October, so with luck we have missed the worst of it, but the odd vistas that we have seen on our travels so far reveal a distinct yellow tinge to the air.
We got to our hotel, the Comfort Inn Cockatoo, at 7pm, just as the larger group for the Deliverance Ride were meeting up in reception. We had to check in and freshen up, so arranged to meet up with them in a nearby Mexican restaurant once we’d had very quick showers. Although the hotel is not particularly inspiring from the outside, the room is spacious, clean and comfortable.
The Mexican was very good and gave us the opportunity to finally meet John and Nigel, the ride leaders who I have only previously spoken to through the medium of e-mail. As I suspected from seeing pictures of previous trips, we are the youngest of the group we’ve met so far.
We had a couple of drinks with some, including Kate and Jane, going for the cocktail special, which got a definite thumbs up. I had hoped to see something of the LA night life as this is our only real chance, but none of us were really up for it after such a long day.
Hopefully we will see more of LA tomorrow, although less than planned as we discovered we can pick the bikes up a day early; this is good news as it will significantly ease the time pressure on Saturday.
And so we head off to bed around 10pm, trying to ignore the fact that it is 5am UK time. Arrangements are made to meet up at the unreasonably early hour of 8am for breakfast. Hopefully we will get a good night’s sleep despite the pool being just outside our ground floor window and an irregular and disconcerting loud mechanical sound, which I presume is the lift, kicking in every few minutes.