Monday, July 11, 2011
Thelma and Louise's Most Excellent L.A. Adventure. Part 2.
And so it begins. The great adventure. We jump.
The first miracle of the day is when my little travel alarm went off at 3 a.m. and then promptly, the battery died. It had just enough miracle left in it for me so that I didn't sleep through my adventure.
Having packed the night before, all I really needed to do was shower (which takes me a long time), dress, slap some make-up on and try to manage my hair. I left myself plenty of time so as not to feel any more anxiety than I already did.
I picked up Thelma at her place at a little past 5. I would have been totally on time if I hadn't tried to print just a few more maps from MapQuest. As promised, she was waiting on her porch and ready to go. It's a four hour drive to the airport in Portland, from where we live in rural Northeast Oregon. So we were off. Plenty of chatter and bonding in the car and potty stops with nobody to tell us we had already just gone. Middle aged women like to potty a lot. Used to be "party" but now it's just "potty".
Somewhere before The Dalles, we spotted a group of 4 big horned sheep rams, followed by three more a little while later. That's very cool.
Made it to the airport area by around 9 and called our friend who met us along the way, picked up my car, dropped us at the airport, and kept my car saving us about $100 in long term parking fees. We made it through the electronic kiosk check-in, printing our boarding passes for Alaska Air/Horizon, checked our baggage ($20 per piece of checked luggage each way...ouch) and headed for security where we uneventfully made it through with no arrests or full body cavity searches. That's always a plus. By the way, we booked our flight and motel ourselves, online through Expedia.com. It really wasn't very hard and it saved us the extra fees of booking through a travel agent.
So many new experiences. We're not frequent fliers, so each step was a new uncertainty that we worked out together. Lines, lines and more lines were the story of our first and last days of this journey. But heck, we had people to watch and each other to talk to, and we allowed lots of time so as not to have to rush or stress, so it was all good. Who cares where you are, as long as you're having fun, right? Cranky in line? Us? Never. Oh, sure we SAW some of that but it just looked silly. You can't make a line move faster by being huffy.
We found our gate and settled in to wait for the boarding call. Hopped on that baby, and away we went. Not a hitch. Too bad they charge for lunch on the plane. We're too cheap to pay too much for bad food. We got free water! WOOT! We got a free tiny bag of some dry snack thingy. We toasted to a glass of water laced with Airborne, (we brought tons of it with us along with EmergenC), and settled in for the flight. We chose our seats ahead so I had a window seat (she doesn't like them) and she sat in the middle so whoever weird was in the isle seat, she would deal with. Gotta love that about Thelma. Thelma don't take no shit. I'm a bit of a push-over...so we planned around it.
As it turned out, the person sitting next to Thelma was a pilot, in uniform. I asked him who was flying the plane and should I be concerned? I also grabbed the airsick bag and started making noises (think, scene from The Goonies)...his eyes got big for a second before I folded the bag up and put it away. Thelma gave me a look like "Are you TRYING to get us on the 'no-fly' list????" Soon he put his head phones on. Nothing says "I don't want to talk to you or engage with you in any way" quite like headphones. I use that trick myself quite a bit. I suspect though, that he didn't actually have anything playing on them, and was listening to our gab, hysterical laughter over just about anything, everything and everyone. Who would want to miss that??? We really got going when the flight information started and the flight attendant's voice was syrupy-fakey-sweet-sing-songy. Is this for REAL??? Oh, there was no way we could keep it together during that...especially not with my commentary interspersed. It's possible we just made it to the no-fly list.
We arrived in LAX, found our luggage, and figured out where to go for the car rental shuttle (neither one of us has ever rented a car before either, but thanks to a relative who works for Enterprise, we got a sweet family discount so decided to give it a shot...as long as Thelma drives!...not over a cliff). That shuttle ride was a long one...we had to stand and hold our balance (and our bladders). LAX is HUGE and confusing, but everyone we asked for help was very nice to us.
We arrived at the car rental place and got in one of those maze of roped-off lines that wind back and forth...schlepping our luggage with us...only to find out at the end that we were in the wrong line and needed to go upstairs. We were hungry and tired by now...late afternoon. We ate some energy bars that Thelma had procured, which totally saved our bacon, and got on the escalator with our luggage to get in the next line (which luckily was shorter). Got our car...they let us pick from a group of available vehicles. We chose a white Chevy Malibu LT, which was a sweet car. We liked it. Not a Thelma and Louise convertible, but we are on a budget. That model is a little challenging to get in and out of for old knees, and if you're shorter like Thelma, it wasn't as comfortable....but for me, with long legs, it was. Lots of leg room for me, hard for Thelma to adjust the seat close enough to reach the pedals without having the steering wheel in her face.
With our handy maps printed ahead of time, we set off to find our motel.
We based our trip out of Santa Monica. From friends, we learned that it was probably the quietest, less chaotic area to stay in for those who are not city savvy. So we stayed at the Santa Monica Travel Lodge on Pico Blvd. It was not super expensive, nothing fancy, older, but well cared for. The staff was very nice and helpful. We got a room with a King bed and fridge/microwave. Everyone's taste for accommodations varies, so it is hard to recommend something that everyone will find adequate. On a budget, this was a good value. It was clean, and quiet. Amazingly quiet. I'm sure this may vary depending on the location of your room. We were in the first building (where the office is) on the second floor, facing a side street. They offered a continental breakfast, and an evening snack, which we never even took advantage of. But that's one more way to keep your budget in check. It is centrally located and, as we found, Pico Blvd goes to the beach and probably to New York at the East end. We almost ended up there one night. I would stay at the Travel Lodge in Santa Monica again. We were able to print maps (for a small printing fee per page) via the information center that had two computers for guest use. We were within walking distance of Trader Joe's market. We were about 31 blocks from the beach. They even lent us a metal spoon and knife from their office to use in our room during our stay.
As an aside, we decided that Pico Blvd is rather like the stair cases at Hogwarts (Harry Potter reference); half of the time we couldn't find it even though we are all around it, and sometimes we swear it changed it's north/south orientation. Just so you know. Pico is bewitched in that way. It had nothing to do with us. We were in....bum bum bum...The Twilight Zone.
We found a parking space, checked in, hauled all our stuff to our room, (if you stay on the second floor, you will be using stairs) got ourselves organized and found that despite having been up since 3 (and not having slept well even before that), we were in good spirits and still had some energy. But we needed food badly. We walked to Trader Joe's where we stocked up on sandwich making stuff, and other food items, some stuff to eat for dinner and bottled water. Another cost saving measure is to buy an individual size bottle of water for each person, and then a gallon of water to refill from. Keep them in the fridge and you're good to go. A guy there was very friendly with me so he was forever dubbed "my boyfriend, Trader Joe". Nothing weird...just very chatty. Average "Joe" in a Hawaiian shirt, chatting up Louise.
After eating, we still had a little daylight left to burn and some energy to boot. Thelma said she was feeling brave enough to drive into "the hood", or East L.A./Echo Park area as it is known to people who live there, to see if we could surprise my son who was supposed to be at work until about 10 p.m. HE thought we were arriving the next day. We wanted some buffer of rest time. So, with maps in hand, off we went. Thelma zipped in and out of traffic like a pro, while I read her the exits and streets and lefts and rights. We found the shop and the parking lot around back (which I had viewed ahead on Google Earth).
We met my son's boss leaving the shop for the night and asked him if he was there. Low and behold...he wasn't. DRAT! Foiled again! His boss (Sal of El Classico Tattoo), was very nice to us and let us use his office and computer to look up more maps to see if we could figure out where he might be. He wasn't answering his cell. One of his buddies decided to punk him for us. So he called, and got him to answer, and told him that a chick had dropped by to see him and wanted to hook up with him but wouldn't be there long. Some conversation took place that I'm sure went something like "What does she look like? Is she hot?". Anyway, at last, he agreed he would come check out the waiting potential hook-up. I was a bit afraid he might be mad he got punked only to find his old mom waiting, but it all turned out OK. So we waited in his piercing room for him to arrive...which turned out took nearly an hour.
This is me...waiting and wondering if we are making a big mistake. It's getting later, and darker, and we don't know if my son will get sidetracked and blow us off.
Luckily, it turned out fine and he wasn't mad. He was happy to see me. This is our first hug in 9 years. It was AWESOME.
We chatted for a bit, took a few more snuggly photos and then said we really needed to hi-tail it back to the motel as we were beat and it was dark...two things that are a bad combo for us. We had more hugs and headed back to the motel.
I think we may have been asleep before we laid our heads down. It was more like, put some jammies on, start to lean, fall asleep and fall the rest of the way onto the bed.
That's day one. We are setting a precedent for packing a lot into a day. Stay tuned for day two when we head to the Santa Monica Pier, and take a hike to the Hollywood sign. The boy is busy at work, but Thelma and Louise make hay while the sun shines.