Road Trip, chapter 4: Comin’ into Los Angeles

We’d come back to San Luis Obispo in a heartbeat, and we didn’t even see the beaches or the Cal Poly campus or the neighborhoods or the surrounding hills and wine country.

We pulled into town on a Thursday evening and headed for the Farmers Market (for my money, it’s a street fair). Get this: every week about six blocks of the main street through downtown is closed off between 6-9 PM so that food and produce and clothing and craft vendors can set up shop. San Luis Obispo is a town of about 20,000 (40,000 when Cal Poly is in session), and it seemed like an awful lot of them were at the Farmers Market. We walked through the crowds eating our dinner of nachos, a grilled cheese sandwich, a burrito, and crepes with strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream. After the festivities ended we remarked on how quickly the vendors dismantled and packed up their booths.

Back in our motel, Zack (having heard my woeful tale of tossing and turning in the anti-snoring pod in Monterey) offered to sleep on the floor so I could enjoy the comfort of a bed. Are these great kids, or what?? As we were doing our various Nightly Beauty Routines, I sat on the corner of my bed only to have the leg break off right under me. I know I’m not quite as trim as I used to be, but I refuse to believe that the bed just collapsed under my weight. We called housekeeping (engineering, actually) and requested a replacement leg. A guy eventually showed up but he didn’t have tools, a key to the workshop, or any ideas of how to fix the bed. Zack had the winning suggestion: break off the other three legs. That was kind of fun for all of us – including the repair guy – and the problem was solved. With the sound-dampening help of the air conditioning fan that stayed on through the night we all slept pretty well.

The next morning we paid a visit to the Madonna Inn. This place was built by a couple with more money than sense, and is completely over the top in almost every way. Take a look at one or two of the understated rooms as examples. One of the inn’s most popular features is the “waterfall urinal” in one of the mens rooms. If that doesn’t give you enough of an idea of the place, you should probably go visit.

Walking around downtown we were amazed to find no trace of the previous evening’s Farmers Market. We did a little shopping, then set sail for Los Angeles. No time to stop in Solvang or Santa Barbara (except for gas and cold drinks) or Ventura. Highway 101 turns away from the coast at Ventura. Goodbye, cool ocean air. Hello, soupy brown smog.

Driving changed as we got closer to LA. It seemed like almost every other driver on the road was competing against us. I felt as though passing a car was regarded as a personal insult or an act of aggression. Perhaps our Washington license plates identified us as easy marks, or as needing driving lessons, California style. My one concession to this pressure was learning to make speedier lane changes. Put the turn signal on and boom – move right over; allow as little time as possible between indicating your intent to move and making the move. I think this technique really helped us blend in.

We crossed the city limits into Los Angeles proper about 2:45 on Friday afternoon, immediately joining tens of thousands of other motorists slowing to a crawl along the freeways. It was almost 100 degrees outside. About two and a half hours later we reached our hotel in Pomona. The first order of business was to hit the swimming pool; about 150 others had the same idea. After cooling off we did what any normal LA resident or visitor would do: got back in the car. Susan’s sister’s home was just two freeways away.

So nice to visit people who don’t mind if you bring in a load or two of dirty laundry, or if you crawl into their bed to take a nap. We checked email, got laundry going, and helped ourselves to what was in the fridge. Susan’s sister is a wonderful host. Her home is welcoming and comfortable. She is smart and efficient about preparing for company, but she is relaxed and present as dozens of people traipse in and out of the house. This is the weekend of our niece’s wedding, and Susan’s sister’s home is a main gathering place and staging area for family members and friends from up and down the West Coast. That’s a lot of hospitality, and she makes it look effortless.

Our hotel this time offered something we were all very excited about: a hide-a-bed in the living room and doors to close off the bedroom. This, of course, was a made-to-order chamber of snorers. Couldn’t wait to fall into bed.

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