Sunday, January 18, 2015

Finally a True California Girl

Yesterday, for the first time in my life I a) drove in Los Angeles, b) drove PCH, and c) drove Ventura Highway ("in the sun.....shine").  Despite having spent the first 25 years of my life in Southern California, more or less, I feel like I've just graduated to True California Girl (or is it spelled "gurl" now?).

We could never afford a car when I was growing up, and somehow--don't ask me how--I managed to live, go to university and work in the city without a car for 7 years.  Mostly I took the bus, which despite the best efforts of the Bus Riders Union remains wholly inadequate for a city of this size.  I leeched a lot off of generous friends. But I never had a license until I was 40.  Given that I received my license, and usually drive, in a large rural county of 6800 souls, to say that I was intimidated to pick up a rental car near Wilshire and Western is putting it mildly.

The day was beautiful--78 degrees and clear as the proverbial bell--in January.  I never appreciated how extraordinary this was until I moved to a state, Colorado, that actually has winter.  The rental car place gave me a sporty new Mustang to drive, complete with a thing on the door which projects the Mustang horse logo on the ground at night.  Wild.  I'm a simple girl; our community car is a trustworthy, beloved 2003 Mazda.  I don't have a PhD in computer engineering, which felt necessary, frankly, for operating this car.  I really can't cope with the idea that one can turn on a car engine without a key (though I must admit, it's very cool).

Idiotically, I was still trying to figure out how the radio worked when I got onto Pico Blvd. (looking for Dino's, which I never found).  DO NOT DO THIS.  Do not distract yourself with ANYTHING when driving on a major LA Boulevard for the first in a rental car you don't fully understand.  My guardian angels really put their backs into it, keeping me alive and out of trouble, but by the time I got to the 10 (non-Californian-readers: Interstate 10), all I could think was "never mind the bus riders, why don't the drivers in LA organize for a better public transportation system?!?!?"

As for the driving itself, I decided to take the 10 to the 1 to the 101 to Ventura, so I could drive PCH. (My husband never fails to crack up at how Los Angelenos describe the driving experience.  It really is straight out of that SNL sketch, "The Californians").  But I forgot this is Mudslide Season (the other three seasons in LA being Fire, Pilot, and Awards).  A mudslide on the 1 north of Malibu meant I was diverted over the beautiful but quite curvy Kanan Dume road.  I'd also forgotten it was the Saturday of a holiday weekend, so the roads were far busier and traffic far more backed up than I would have expected.  It took me nearly 4 hours to get from Wilshire and Western to Ventura Beach, which is about as "LA" an experience as one can have.  I enjoyed it as only a tourist could.  The 101 was largely a parking lot, but when traffic DID move, I was doing 70 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, while drivers flew past me in the two lanes to my left.  You get so little opportunity to actually move in your car in LA, I guess no one's going to try to stop you on those rare occasions.

All that said, it was a lot of fun to turn up the music and drive along the gorgeous California coast.  Even sitting in traffic is pleasant when you're in a brand new Mustang with a great stereo system and "seat cold."  (You read that right.  Not just seat heat, but seat cold--I had no idea).  I didn't use it, Except by accident.

I calmed my nerves once I got to the hotel with some Newcastle Brown because, hey, I may be a California girl, but I'm an Anglophile at heart, and I never had decent beer 'till I lived in England, so I still feel a strong sense of loyalty to British ales.   I sat outside, watching the sunset over the ocean, through the smog--which, awful though it is, makes for lovely sunsets--feeling like the luckiest woman on earth.

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