We returned "early", two or three days ago, although days don't really matter to me know that it's summer and there aren't any deadlines. The only things in my immediate future are the Warped Tour tomorrow and work... so obviously I'll be living in my near past for as long as possible!
After Redding, we were treated to 45 degree Celsius heat, which is not bearable, even if you were born on top of a heat register. We headed out to the highway to drive as close to the ocean as we could without driving in (only Westfalia vans float in water, and this one is a Honda). Around 11pm on what we later discovered to be a Friday or Saturday night, we found ourselves in eight lanes of traffic, bottlenecking for a toll-booth that only accepts exact change. The best solution for getting through -according to the American SUV Drivers Association, San Francisco County Chapter- is to honk or lean on the car horn before and during the toll paying. This way, they can justify dashing out of the toll booth at mach four surrounding a car of "Look, a black person wearing ice" Canadians travelling at the posted speed. They didn't slow down for the heaven-white tunnel, or the Golden Gate Bridge, upon which we all of a sudden drove. I mean, it's like on of America's seven wonders of the world, after Hoover Dam and Krispy Kreme donuts!
Anyhow, we made it across with white knuckles (me) and huge laughs (Justin) and turned ourselves towards the Coast highway ...
I don't know if you've ever driven this part of the highway at night, but not only is it one lane on each side, it is pitch black, with hairpin turns, 7% grades, and fog. Which means you can't use your industrial strength headlights. You can hear the ocean, but you have no concept of how close you are to falling right into it. In the distance, there is a lighthouse that eerily illuminates the clouds, and the lights from other cars appearing and disappearing as they round corners and dip over hills and valleys. The terrain is the same one as the arcade game 'Cruising Around America' or something. Seriously. Racing game recognition aside, it was spooky. We finally stopped in Santa Cruz -home to roller coasters on the beach boardwalk- thinking "It's a weekend night, but since we're on a road trip, we don't have to be sociable", and fell asleep near a beach with the incessant cicadas.
Next morning was right out of a Janet Lennon book, driving from the beautiful Carmel and Monterey down to Santa Monica and Pacific Ocean Park. En route, we stopped at Justin's nostalgic Point Mugu, where you camp on the beach, and the highway separates you from the gigantic Californian sand dune.
Driving through LA was less of a hassle than we thought, other than the house-sized Hilary Duff billboards to our left, and the distraction of a three-city-block outlet mall off the highway. On the third of July, Americans were already indulging in fireworks shows, which we idly drove past in the darkness of 8.30pm. We all agreed that there is something weird about being a non-participant in fireworks exhibits. They're always something you plan your evening around, not just another "Oh look out that window" as you drive.
Anaheim was a mess of mis-informed turns and twists as we finally stretched our legs in the lobby of the hundred-dollar-a-night, king-non-smoking Ramada hotel. This Ramada went all out in it's Affluent Asia theming, right down to the fragrant bok choy mixed with indoor pool smell in the hallways. We left, and wandered until we were generously referred to a budget motel under the name of "Penny Sleeper", the same one, it was revealed, that Justin's family had patronized four years earlier. We chose our beds, and Sam and Justin headed out for the take-out Denny's down the street for inexplicable breaded steaks and soggy french fries, before we slept for our first big day in... Disneyland.