American Adventures - Southern Californian delights...


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Published: May 13th 2018
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SolvangSolvangSolvang

Charming and authentic Danish village with the pleasant scent of pastries luring tourists.
" Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." Benjamin Disraeli.

Routing. Highway 101 to Santa Barbara and then Highway 405 to Los Angeles. Distance 285 km. Total distance to date: 675 km.

The real beauty of RV travel is that there is a basic plan but other than plotting a next destination, it is more or less a case of "roading" by the seat of one's pants. And so, on a chilly and misty morning, Sue and I slipped quietly out of Pismo Beach with a southerly plot to Los Angeles where we planned to spend a day with Richard and Laura Biebuyck (Richard is the son of Julien and Jeanette whom we had spent time with in Lancaster, PA). We left our travelling mates behind as they wanted to spend a day at Hearst Castle which was about 40 km inland. And, importantly they were going to spend a night at the Pismo State Beach campsite which was right alongside the RV camp and had a cost of $38 per night versus $70 at our RV joint. Important to keep the lid on costs given the inevitable
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Count the number of girls pedalling to move this thing and then swigging from their own beer keg on board.
multiply by 12 conundrum. California has numerous state run beach and park camping locations which we needed to tap into.

It's never a straight and dull road and there are plenty of things out the wide front window to feast the eyes on and then, every now and then, an irresistible magnetic force guides the mighty Ford off the highway. The countryside became greener and hillier and seemed to be well suited for grapes and wine production which was there in abundance. Worth mentioning that we have found the Californian wines to be very good and their Pinot Grigio stocks have been reduced somewhat by our thirsty travel team. And we haven't even got close to Sonoma and Napa Valley where the legendary wines of the State are produced!

Sue had been flipping through the excellent guide book used on the trip and spotted a compelling reason for an exit from the busy highway. Mid morning meant hunger had to be dealt with and Danish pastries were too good to miss especially as they had a historic angle to them. There are always little surprises whilst travelling and this proved to be the case as we drifted quietly
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The pier that keeps burning down due no doubt to the chef getting it wrong in the kitchen.
into Solvang, a historic Danish Village with outstanding old-world European architecture intact since the village was founded in 1911. After a gentle stroll around this enchanting and authentic village, we found a pavement located table and tucked into some really good food watching with intrigue the activity and crowds around us. Most people who visit the States probably haven't heard of, let alone seen, this little gem just off one of the many frantically busy highways.

Being a Saturday, one would assume maybe just a tad less traffic. Not to be! Cars in huge numbers moving in both directions on some of the best freeway systems in the World. This kicked off a thought process. Just how BIG is California? Consider this. The GDP of California State is $2.45 trillion which means very little until there is context. South Africa's GDP last year was $294.8 billion. Do the maths....California's economy is roughly ten times bigger than our entire country. These numbers were provided by trusty navigator, Susan, who has also become a more than competent "googler."

Highway 101 threaded off to the right and we were soon back on the coast and heading towards Santa Barbara. This is
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The J Paul Getty Museum and Roman amphitheater.
a city which has found it's way into many Californian lyrics and the impression gained on arrival was of a sun drenched holiday paradise. Laid back with no sign of high rise buildings and an enormous beach front area which is where we parked the beast and set off on foot. Stearns Wharf is a famous landmark and was swarming with people piling into the tourist shops and seafood eateries. Interesting was the fact that this wharf has been badly damaged by a few fires over the years and in dogged fashion rebuilt each time retaining as much of it's original charm as possible. Could have spent the entire day there soaking up the gentle pace of this delightful resort city but Los Angeles beckoned. Why, some may well ask?

Keep in mind that this entry into LA was on a Saturday afternoon, nothing can prepare the boy from the Eastern Cape for the myriad of six and eight lane highways, entry and exit ramps and sheer number of automobiles of every size and shape. Mostly large. "Doris", our lady somewhere above, used vast satellite skills to keep us on track and deliver us to the Walnut RV Park
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As you would expect to find in Rome except beautifully recreated in the USA.
in Northridge located on the outskirts of this insanely busy city. I simply cannot imagine how anyone could travel in this vast country with it's huge highway road networks without GPS. This RV park was interesting in that a large number of our fellow "campers" actually live in their motorhomes and work in LA or surrounds. Late afternoon and having hitched up to power and water, it was more than appropriate to slide into sundowner mode.

We were collected at midday the next day by Richard and Laura and shown some of the highlights of the area including a visit to one of two J Paul Getty Museums, this one located at the Getty Villa in Malibu. The location has all the right bells clanging and it is a hugely impressive Roman edifice housing a priceless collection of ancient art from Greece and Rome. It also mirrors opulence and wealth on an almost obscene scale but such is the legend of this man who amassed a fortune from oil. We then drifted down to Santa Monica which has magnificent homes which are the preserve of seriously wealthy Californians. Richard threw around house prices and quick calculations suggest not much
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With Richard Biebuyck and huge beach area in background.
worth looking for under R25 m. The beachfront was absolutely immense and it was hard to imagine this vast area of sand being wall to wall with people in the summer break. Great bike paths reinforced the extent to which every city visited thus far has established clearly demarcated cycling lanes. So this was the hang out of the rich and spunky types but to just to ensure balance we next visited Venice and the beachfront there was way more "interesting". People were teeming on the beachfront esplanade which exuded a bohemian mojo with it's funky shops and the odd impromptu "performer" doing a bit of subtle extortion encouraging folk to empty their pockets. An interesting contrast of the old and new as we wandered along the promenade late afternoon. Inevitably thirst had set in and we ended a really wonderful day with two very special people in a close by Italian restaurant which was buzzing and testimony to their excellent food. Weary and more than content we drifted back "home."

We had been told to forget leaving LA before 10am unless we wanted to find ourselves in the largest car park on the planet. Good advice as we
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Anything goes but keep your hands on your loot. This guy is after it.
drifted out with a southerly heading on Highway 405 towards San Diego, 200 km away. Sue, again, was on top of her research game , and early afternoon we left the highway and rolled gently into San Juan Capistrano. Where you may rightfully ask? This historic town was founded in 1776 by early Spanish missionaries from Mexico. A chapel promptly went up in 1782 which is reputed to be the oldest church in the State. A little later a sturdy Stone Church was built nearby but sadly crashed to the ground during mass one Sunday morning in 1812 following an earthquake. Beautifully restored and with colourful gardens to stroll through, it proved to be one of yet another unplanned but thoroughly enjoyable detours. As they say' it's not the destination that counts but the journey in between.

Soon after leaving this charming Spanish enclave we were on Highway 5 running along the shoreline. Late afternoon was a good time to find our lodgings for the next three nights. Just outside a laid back beach town by name of Encinitas was the Elijo State Beach Camp which was chock a block full and not expecting another late arrivaL, no booking
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Beautiful preserved buildings and colourful garden. And Sue, of course!
RV. A bit of good old SA charm did the trick and we secured our booking plus two more for the Craig's and Wilson Jones's due to arrive the following morning from LA. Stunning location right on a sandstone cliff edge about fifty meters high with the Pacific and it's beaches below. An ideal location from a budget aspect and to launch forays into San Diego about twenty clicks further south. The one factor unplanned for was a very busy railroad meters away from the camp and I swear the dudes steering those suburban passenger trains deliberately blasted their hugely noisy horns with a little finger upwards as they rushed past the camp. Got used to it!

Having cursed the "Coaster" train over sundowners the evening before, we duly caught said train to San Diego for a day of exploration with the team now back to full strength. Brett and I opted for the Maritime Museum on the waterfront and this was simply astonishing. For a small fee of $13 one gets to step on board a number of old sail ships, steamers and two submarines. Wonderfully preserved with plenty information about their construction and life at sea, the
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Give that man a Bell's! Bobby in complete command of the fire. Beach just behind. Drinks in hand. Bliss!
lingering thought was just how brave and hardy those early seafarers were. Apart from the very real prospect of the ship sinking at sea, reading about the ravages of scurvy were chilling.An eye catcher was the legend of how these early seafarers would drink as much rum as was humanly possible and keel over unconscious if the ship was likely to sink for whatever reason. This was a preferable death as they mostly couldn't swim and did not want to face the horror of drowning. The Soviet submarine on show was famously involved in the Bay of Pigs crisis and had it not been for a particular Russian Officer on board who convinced the Commander not to fire a nuclear warhead at the USA, World War 3 would have probably started. The girls had opted to go to the Balbao Park which they toured and raved about. The world of Apps is astounding and one can hire bikes on the street simply by downloading the appropriate App, scanning a code which unlocks it, and then off one goes which we duly did. Great way to get about a city with clear bike paths everywhere. At an agreed time we rendezvoused
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Beautiful pond and garden in Balbao Park.
downtown, swopped experiences and discovered an almost unanimous common thread. San Diego is a delightful city and one where we could easily row to and live in if the chips were truly down. It is that good! This was also a good time to talk about finishing a wonderful day on a special note. Brett opted to cycle further and having fulfilled his fetish for flying craft in museums and on aircraft carriers, he went off to check out Balbao Park. The girls had found info on Old Town San Diego and not too long thereafter we were seated in a Mexican restaurant located in the original Mexican settlement established in 1769. Once again the historical buildings and artefacts have been wonderfully preserved and now maintained by California State Parks. Of great importance was the type of liquid needed after a long and hot day walking and cycling taking in the splendid sights of San Diego. In a nanosecond the girls settled for a jug of Margarita which was quaffed lustily whilst some great Mexican food was nibbled on. A touch wobbly and amid much giggling we boarded the "Coaster" and headed for our RV homes.

Bobby, our permanent
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Margarita's pulled a wonderful day together. The girls had built up a serious thirst!
fireman, rustled up a roaring fire, which presented the ideal backdrop, with waves crashing onto the shoreline close by, to wax lyrical about just how good San Diego was and how one should spend more time there. But, then a reality check. This was more or less the end of week one and we still had a huge amount of this chunk of the Pacific West Coast and interior to get to.

Dear reader. If you have got this far, well done! If you want see the pics larger, just click on a pic to enlarge. Comments and chirps are welcome but criticism, foul language and the like are encouraged and will be tolerated. Seriously...you are able to comment, send a message etc., on the blog page. Please...no news about Zuma or the Gupta's!!




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