Just a quick message to all those people who have been worried about us and hurricanes, well one person actually my sister. The only hurricane we have encountered is the stampede for breakfast.
We set off very early this morning as we hoped to get as far as the US/Mexico border. Maybe I’ll put in a tender for a bit of wall building if and when that contentious wall ever gets built.
Even so, we took our time as there’s so much to see along the Pacific coast. First stop was to be Laguna Beach and we drove to it through the very lovely Laguna Canyon. We passed a spot under some trees where a sign said ‘day labourers, sign in here’ and there were about 50 or so men waiting and hoping to be chosen to work. Reminiscent of the Great Depression.
We got down to Laguna Beach which was packed! Lovely sunny Sunday, so even at a ridiculously early hour the beach was very busy. We went for a walk around, lovely, lively place with many skateboarders and surf dudes with sun and salt water bleached blonde hair.
The road further south takes you up onto a bluff, high above the sea and there’s a great choice of unusual shops lining both sides of the road. We carried on through Dana Point and San Clemente, more lovely beaches, as we wanted to get to Oceanside before it got too busy.
We went first to the harbour area, full of boats and looking great in the sunshine. It’s like Porto Buenos, near Malaga, but much larger and nowhere near so swanky. We walked almost all around it, quite a long way, and were desperate for a cool drink when we got back to our starting point. We’d parked in a free for two hours zone so had to move the car anyway.
I was rubbing Marigold’s bum as we walked along and said, ‘this is me, by the way.’
She said. ‘Don’t care who it is, just keep doing it.’
I found another two hour zone, no rip off parking fees here, and we walked to a shack where they serve Kombucha. Outside were two Hell’s Angels, all leather, tattoos, and attitude, even though they were in their 40s. Both on Harley’s, obviously, and one in particular was stunning. A riot of chrome and leather.
‘Watch the cycle, lady,’ one of them said to Marigold as she walked by about ten yards away and when she looked startled they both laughed. Really nice people, despite the prison tattoos.
‘How much does it cost?’ Marigold asked.
‘Well now, that there is a Road Glide Ultra, a special order and I paid just under 28 thousand dollars for it.’
We looked suitably impressed.
‘You can add about the same again for all that crap he’s put on it,’ the tall one with the prison tattoos and scarred face added and they laughed again. By now I’d realised they were both a) well on the way to being drunk and b) under the influence of something a bit stronger than alcohol. One wore a badge saying Road Captain and the other Sergeant at Arms, both used to keeping order, so not to be trifled with. I used to know a prominent Hells Angel club member in England and rules are very important.
Those badged leather jackets and vests for instance. When you join they tell you, ‘you don’t own this vest. The Hells Angels own this vest’. If you ever want to leave you have to return your badges, clothing, everything. We left them to sober up and went in to see about the Kombucha.
When we first lived in France, many years ago now, we used to make huge vats of Kombucha and bottle it.
Known as the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese and originating in the Far East around 2,000 years ago, kombucha is supposed to give many health benefits extending to your heart, your brain and (especially) your gut as it’s a great source of Pro-biotic bacteria. We were really looking forward to sampling the California version, but they’d run out of it yesterday.
We went out again and walked down a bit to the Harbour Fish and Chips restaurant. No pining for English food, just on recommendation from the ‘sorry, no Kombucha’ man. Fresh fish and it gets very busy so go now, he said. So, we did.
Too hot to sit outside really but we got a table under cover and had fish and chips, one portion to share. Two big chunks of fish, excellent batter and ‘real’ chips, what’s not to like? It was only just gone noon, but was filling up fast.
We sat next to a family, a couple and three kids. The dad was obviously in the military and brought military discipline to the table. ‘Hey, pipe down,’ he barked when the youngest boy said something to his sister. They all jumped and said, ‘sorry, daddy,’ even the ones who hadn’t spoken.
‘You guys here on vacation?’ The woman asked when she heard Marigold’s accent. (I hoped she was going to tell Marigold to pipe down).
We explained we’re doing a road trip and we soon got chatting, even the kids. ‘He’s a jarhead,’ the woman said, slapping her husband’s arm, ‘that’s a US marine, honey. He’s stationed just up the road aways at Camp Pendleton.’
We talked some more and the subject of Animal Kingdom, the TV series, being filmed here came up. It’s a favourite of ours and one of the reasons we’re here today as we love the locations.
‘They came to film last time when you were in Sandland,’ she continued. ‘Were here for weeks.’
‘Took a few liberties with O’side too,’ said our by now very friendly jarhead. We’s already realised nobody who lives here says ‘Oceanside,’ just ‘O’side.’
‘They’re always driving the wrong way on the Strand for a start. I do that and the cops pull my truck over straight away, but TV people, they do what they want. That board shaper shop where the queer brother’s guy works, that’s up there, just off the Strand.’
Not much political correctness in the Corps.
‘What about when Baz took the girls dad to lunch. The one who’s supposed to be an officer at Camp Pendleton,’ the daughter said. She’s obviously well versed in the inaccuracies of what goes out in the programme as it’s set in her town.
‘Hell, yes, Larry’s Beach Club. Inside they show a really classy joint. Real world, it’s a right dump. Okay for enlisted men, but an officer, no way.’
‘Go to the pier,’ the daughter said, ‘that’s where Jay and his girl go to hang out and once I watched them filming on the pier and Pope was cutting up fish.’
‘Is there a paintball place on the base?’ I asked as that was one of the scenes I remembered.
‘There is and there isn’t. There’s a paintball place near the base, way out in the woods, but no way would civilians( he said ‘civilians’ with immense scorn) ever be allowed to just ride bikes onto the base, or get anywhere near the place. I know all the guys on the gate and no matter they know me, if I forget my ID they won’t let me enter, no way.’
We promised to go and see the pier next and went back to where our car was parked. The family marched in front of us, really marching, even the little lad, and they were parked right next to us. A big black truck with ‘Semper Fi,’ the marine motto on the bonnet.
‘That was interesting’,Marigold said. I told her to pipe down, but I obviously lack the gravitas of a US Marine Master Sergeant.
The pier looked great in the sunshine, but Marigold mutinied when it came to walking to the end. It’s very long, apparently the longest pier in California, or maybe the whole USA, I forget which, and has a Ruby’s restaurant at the end, as with two other piers we’ve visited on this trip. I looked up some details. The original pier was built in 1888 and this one is the sixth version, the previous five having been washed away or made unsafe by the the rough seas. Good for surfing, not so good for wooden piers.
The current pier was opened to the public in September 1987, at a cost of $5 million. Our Jarhead said the locals miss the one that was there before as it was longer and wider, but this new one is six feet higher so should stand up to the waves better.
I looked up some info about Ruby’s Diners as we’ve seen a few of them by now. The first Ruby's Diner opened in1982 in a converted bait shop at the end of the Balboa Pier, where we were yesterday. Ruby was the mother of founder Doug Cavanaugh and the Ruby girl cheesecake logo was taken from a photograph taken of Ruby while cheerleading as a young girl. n recognition of Ruby, every Ruby’s Diner has a picture of Ruby’s high school graduation picture near the cash register.
We set off to go towards the border, not far away now, but as we neared San Diego news came on the overhead signs of a massive traffic delay with all lanes of the motorway blocked for hours. We got off at the next exit. Life’s too short to sit in traffic for hours, in 90!degree heat, so we set off inland. No more beaches, no more Pacific Ocean until we return to San Francisco and that’s a few weeks away yet, hopefully, as there’s so much more we have to see.
Next, we want to go to Palm Springs. This means we must retrace our steps to Oceanside. On the way, on a whim, we stop in Carlsbad, with its big overhead town sign, and are glad we did. Very smart, very upmarket and very charming place with many murals, some of which I am able to photograph. Absolutely brilliant place, especially the Carlsbad Village shops and cafes and a very famous bookshop, Fahrenheit 451, which has achieved legendary status (well, I’d heard of it), and I could have spent a good few hours inside, but no chance today.
The road inland from O’side leads through vineyards, very well kept vineyards, (should probably be saying ‘wineries,’ but I hate the word).
Also in this area are the ‘date capital of the World’ – dates for eating, not romance – and the ‘asparagus capital of the world.’ Nobody ever accused an American of understatement.
Afterwards we passed through Morongo which a bit of a shock. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa is an Indian, i.e. Native American, casino and spa and is one of the biggest casinos in California. It’s certainly among the highest as the tower is 27storeys, and 330 feet, high. 'All the Stars' it says on a billboard. Tom Jones, Olivia Newton John, The Commodores and Mike Tyson talking about life in the ring and in prison, they're all appearing here. Can barely control my excitement.
The Morongo section of the Coahuila Mission Indians own this land and much of the land around here and are permitted to provide casinos as part of their agreement with the State government.
There’s a huge wind farm as we approach Palm Springs. Sinatra loved it here and it’s one of the iconic resort destinations. It’s an oasis in a desert, but classy, not vulgar like so many other resorts. It’s still a place to be seen, to play golf and to soak up the sun. It’s almost eight o’clock in the evening by now and the outside temperature is 107 degrees. Glad we have working air con in the car.
We drive in along the Sonny Bono Memorial Highway. Sonny Bono was Mayor of Palm Springs. Interesting man, not only famous for ‘I Got You, Babe,’ he achieved a great deal after his personal and professional partnership with Sher came to an end. There’s a statue here, but I wouldn’t have recognised him without the aid of the plaque alongside.
He was also a well respected member of the US House of Representatives for four years until his death in a skiing accident. He was 62. His 4th wife, Mary Bono, took over his seat in Congress after he died and was re-elected a further seven times.
My birthday tomorrow. Not a ‘landmark one', that was last year. (Marigold edit – he’s 101 tomorrow).
Last year was spent at Hitler’s mountain retreat, the Eagle’s Nest, in the very early days of this blog. Difficult to top that, but tomorrow evening we hope to be at the Grand Canyon. Not bad, eh?