Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Getting my money's worth out of CAA

I was running some errands yesterday and had another flat tire! I guess it's the first flat with this new car, but I have had a string of flats in the past year or so. It's funny, I felt the car pulling to the right just before I realized I had the flat, but I was driving in a right-hand lane that was half-pavement and half-concrete and dipped to the right, so I was thinking "gee, if I wasn't on such a strange surface I'd think I had a flat tire!"

A motorcycle pulled alongside me and started gesturing to me, and I figured out he was indicating I had a flat. I pulled off the road and yep, sure was. I don't think I'd driven on it long though. It was on the rear passenger side so I'm lucky he spotted it and told me about it, or I would have driven further before noticing, due to the strange road conditions in my lane.

It took AAA a while to check to see that I was a member, but once they did the repair guy came within 20 minutes. I pointed out the tire, and he went to get his jack.

Once he had it up, he started taking off the front tire, when it was the back tire that was flat. I said, "what are you doing to that one? The rear one is flat." He said, "this one's flat". Some back-and-forth ensued, and it turns out that one was partially flat too, although he might have just been covering for tackling the wrong tire.

It was two nails through the flat tire, but the guy also pointed out that all 4 tires are cracked (which is sad, since he says "they look new", as does everything on Mom's rarely driven car), so I am going to have them checked out. He got the nails out and fixed the tire on the spot for only $20 (the repair wasn't covered by AAA). He didn't put air in the others as he said with the cracking it's better not to until the tires get checked.

So, I may need new tires. Guess I'll find out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bike ride in the South Bay

Yesterday I went on a bike ride with the West LA cycling club. This particular ride was one that they hold once a month, for beginner cyclists and new members. I didn't qualify as a beginner, but I was new, so I strapped my bike to the car and headed down to Dock 52 in Marina Del Rey. (I could have biked there, but biking there and back would be enough of an outing, and the ride they had planned was around 26 miles).

It was foggy, so I didn't take the camera. I did take the GPS for the car ride, although I had studied the route so I had a plan, and man, that GPS has a sense of humour. I figured out afterwards that I still had it configured to the "mostly freeways" setting, so it was pretty determined in trying to find me one, and every turn it wanted me to make was in the opposite direction of where I was going. In the end, it never would have gotten me there, it didn't recognize the street address when I arrived. The place I was going probably isn't a common destination though.

It was a big ride, I think we started out with 28 people, about half of whom were pretty new, and a handful of them were first-timers like me. It was an easy ride, flat almost all the way, partly on the bike path that runs the length of the beach in the South Bay, and half on roads that parallel the beach, as the trip leader prefers roads to bike paths.

There were lots of stops, so it was a very leisurely pace, and I seemed to be in the middle of the pack speed-wise, so I think I'll be able to keep up with their regular rides (and don't care particularly if I can't).

We passed by three beaches, which are really just segments of the one huge impressive beach that forms the west border of Los Angeles. Marina Del Rey is nearly halfway down this beach, at Ballona creek, which divides the beach into two large segments. We biked the southern segment, which I think is what the words "South Bay" correspond to, which comprises Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches.

The path is paved, and didn't have too much sand on it, although I guess that can change if it's windy. I found I had enough traction, I had been a bit worried about sliding.

Hermosa beach was the most interesting area, there's a beach community there with cottage-like houses on narrow streets, some of which are pedestrian-only. Reminds me a bit of a more densely-packed version of Toronto Island, with commercial streets. I'll have to go back there on my own to explore.

One of the beaches (Manhattan, I think) has a huge area for beach volleyball, although most the courts (is that the word?) were free yesterday.

Redondo had a commercial pier with lots of little beach-like shops, I'll have to check that out sometime on my own too.

I really liked the people, I'll go back. They weren't cliquey at all, everyone chatted with everyone, although there were some more serious riders that disappeared for a while, I think they did a slightly longer ride.

After the ride there was a potluck where one member showed his video of the "Ragbrai" 500 mile ride done every year in Iowa. They get 10,000 riders! Holy smokes, now that's a group ride.

After the potluck, I had only vague notions of where I was (I had followed the trip leader there), and I wasn't quite ready to toss myself at the sole mercy of the GPS in the dark. The trip leader was nice and let me follow her again back to a boulevard that I recognized, and I found my way home from there. Los Angeles is pretty easy to find your way around in compared to a city like Ottawa, and I think once I know more of the main boulevards and where they are in relation to each other, that I'll be able to navigate without too much trouble.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bike Ride, Part 4: Hollywood Blvd.

The light wasn't very good up in the famous part of Hollywood Blvd. (plus a part was blocked up for some event, don't know what) so these are mostly photos from the residential parts, heading west from roughly La Brea Ave. I'll have to go back up here sometime to explore more on foot.

This one is just at the western edge of the commercial part:

Then it becomes residential. Pretty, eh?

Looking up at the hills on a side street off Hollywood Blvd:

... and that's it for this morning's outing, it was only around 12 km round trip. I'll try to take you someplace else soon!

Bike Ride, Part 3: Sunset Blvd.

This is on another residential street heading north, Alta Vista, which I have to turn onto to proceed to Sunset (since Martel ends at a park).

Two views of Sunset Blvd:

Here's a side street off of Sunset, I forget it's name. Beautiful palms, eh?

Bike Ride, Part 2: Crossing some famous Boulevards

On my way up Martel, I cross these Boulevards:

Beverly Blvd:

Melrose Ave.:

Santa Monica Blvd: (and that's a car-wash on the right that I plan to try, to scrape the bugs of America off my car from the cross-continent drive...)

Bike Ride, Part 1: heading north from my apartment

I took to the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood this morning on my bike, and took pictures too. It was hot, not sure what temperature (somewhere in the 80's maybe, since it was only 9 am), but sweat-generating on two wheels.

I'll break the photos into segments to make them easier to post (the blogger interface is a bit of a nuisance in dealing with photos!)

Here are some from my ride up Martel Avenue into West Hollywood, which is just north of me. Martel is really an extension of my street (Hauser Blvd.), it just changes names north of Third Ave.

See, this is what biking on the residential streets of Los Angeles is like, it's not so gruesome, is it?

I think in the one below I'm approaching the intersection with Beverly Blvd.:

In the one below I'm starting to get a good view of the Hollywood hills:

Public Service Announcement

Please avoid igniting anything recklessly. Particularly at odd hours; but really, at any time. In addition, false alarms are frowned upon.

This announcement has been brought to you by people living adjacent to fire stations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's official, the heat is more tolerable here

It was toasty today, in the 90's. I forget how high exactly in American degrees, but I looked at a weather site in the later afternoon (which may have been past the peak), and it was 36 degrees Celsius.

I didn't have the air conditioning on once though today. I kept the windows closed in the afternoon, and figured at some point I would feel warm and put it on for an hour or two, but never did.

My apartment faces east, I think this helps to keep the heat down as the sun is off it by noon. But basically, it has to be a lack of humidity. I know if it was 36 back home, I'd be dying in the heat, but here I didn't even break a sweat once, even when I was walking to and from the pool.

I saw a funny photo on the internet today of a celebrity (I think it was Britney Spears but I'm not sure, the name wasn't on it) wearing those Ugg boots in this weather! The thing is, I saw the very same thing on someone yesterday at the grocery store! High heat (in the 90's), and this woman has fleece-lined tall leather boots on.

I may never fit in. I still have myself slated to wear sandals in January, although I brought some shoes just in case. The locals will probably be in parkas. Expensive, designer parkas.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Maybe they need valium in the water

My first impression is that the people in Los Angeles are not the laid-back Californians they're supposed to be.

That is, at least not when they are driving either a car or a shopping cart. The vibes of impatience and "hurry, hurry, hurry" are thick on both the roads and in the aisles.

I saw my first road rage incident here today. Do you know that car insurance commercial, I think it might be the "Grey Power" one, where the lady is jerking back and forth in her driver's seat, and the voice-over is "you don't drive like her"? Well, an elderly man wearing a yarmulke was doing just that at an intersection on Beverly Blvd., and honking at a young man driving in front of him who was dithering about making a turn or not. It's always amusing to see folks in visible religious garb acting in an uncharitable manner, and so vigorously at that!

Last week as I was pulling into a parking lot at the thrift store (on a furniture run), I missed the one open parking spot as I was passing it, so I put my signal on and backed up a bit so I could turn into it. As soon as I'd backed up far enough to turn in, a lady coming the other way pulled into it! There's no way you could have missed the fact I planned to take that spot. My jaw dropped. As this was happening, someone else was honking at me from behind because I was blocking her as I tried to pull into that spot. Holy smokes. The lady who stole my spot didn't make eye contact, but her partner smiled apologetically at me. I guess that's just the way it's done here!

And the grocery store! Everyone is polite since they're not wearing an automobile for protection, but the smiles are thin and tense, and the cart speeds are deadly, although they usually brake before the collision. I don't think I'm an especially plodding shopper, but I am getting those "let me through NOW" vibes quite a bit.

The totally weird thing is, is that when I am out on the road as either a pedestrian or on a bike, everyone is courteous! Not that they're not tense, they'll still come zipping up at hell-on-wheels speeds to an intersection, but when they see me, they are noticeably deferential. This is so different from Ottawa, where the aggressive crowd will be consistent and run you off the road whether you're in a car or not, and perhaps even more so when you're not. I wonder if there are enhanced fines for killing non-motorized people or something. Or maybe we're so relatively rare that the motorists are saying "hey, what's that thing running loose?"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thanks to everyone who's reading and commenting!

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who's commented on the blog or sent an e-mail, glad to have you reading!

Are the photos showing up OK for everybody? I'm on a laptop and the screen is not as good for checking the lighting in a photo, so I have to go with my best guess when I edit the photos. Some of them look a little washed out to me (but that's due to some atmospheric conditions too in the photos), but I think that's usually my monitor and not the photo. So anyway, if you notice photo quality being poor, let me know and I can try to remedy it when posting future photos.

Location, Location, Location

When I looked for an apartment, I wanted a place where I could get my everyday errands done without always having to get in the car. Walkable preferably, or bikeable if needed.

It worked, especially in the food department, which in my view is the most important department. My place is around a 10-minute walk from a Ralph's (common grocery store chain here), a Trader Joe's (organic and health-conscious food under their own label grocery store, and not pricey), a Whole Foods (pricier organics, but a whole large grocery store of them), and the Los Angeles Farmer's market (not too heavy on the real farmers, but has all those handy stalls for things like meat, poultry, fish, specialty items, take-out food, etc.).

I'm also right near The Grove, an upscale outdoor pedestrian shopping mall. I won't be doing much shopping there, but it's still neat to be so close, and there's a great big bookstore there, I think it's a Barnes and Noble.

Sometimes when you see paparazzi photos of celebrities in the paper, they're taken at the Grove or the Farmer's market. I won't be watching too closely for celebrities though, I'm not plugged into enough pop culture to recognize very many!

The apartment complex is across the street from the Pan Pacific city park, which I haven't had a chance to check out yet, but it looks like a nice medium-size city park, and L.A. doesn't seem to have too many parks.

I wasn't sure when I picked this spot how good it would be for cycling, but my preliminary report is, so far so good. Yesterday I took a ride up to the entrance to Runyon Park at the base of the Hollywood Hills, and the way there was very nice, down residential streets that had traffic lights where they crossed major streets. I think biking will be fine once I find a network of streets like that, and I don't think it will be difficult, the street layout here is a lot more predictable and user-friendly than Ottawa.

I'm within an easy bike-ride of a lot of the tourist stuff, like Sunset Blvd. and the stuff up that-a-way, and about 2o minutes biking from the Hollywood hills, which I won't tackle on the bike until the weather cools down a bit. I was sweating pretty heavily yesterday just from biking to the base of them! Until you get close to the hills though the landscape is nice and flat for biking, yet the hills are visible to provide visual interest.

I'm a little further from the ocean than I would have liked, when I measured on the map it was at least 12 km from here, and judging from my ride on Saturday it might be more like 15+. But, you can't have everything, and it's still an easy biking distance, or driving for that matter (although parking there might be an issue, must look into that, and also driving in that part of town is also said to be a nightmare.). I'm also more central to other things by living here, so it's a trade-off. Plus, rents seemed to be even higher in Santa Monica and Venice (neighborhoods that are adjacent to the beach).

Even the subway (yes, L.A. does have one!) is only ~2km or less east of here, I could bike or walk to the end of one of the lines, although I don't think I'll need to travel so far very often that I'd need it. Still, for those places it does pass close to, I'm sure it beats driving, and I will use it!

Oh, and there's a K-Mart within a 10-minute walk, too. And a Goodwill, where I bought some of my very rudimentary furniture. So my bargain-basement needs are covered too.

It's nice and far from the highways (which are everywhere!), so just a quiet distant hum of city traffic noise (I'm on the 9th floor), but very close to a fire station! Luckily the firefighters aren't horn-honkers, but they are siren-users, so I hear those several times a day. There are a lot of helicopters passing overhead too, especially during afternoon rush-hour, I suspect most of those are traffic reporters.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the neighborhood so far, and pretty lucky that it turned out well, considering I'd never been here before renting the place while I was still back in Ottawa!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why Los Angeles?

A lot of people have asked me, "Why Los Angeles?" as a destination for my long winter trip?

At the beginning, the idea to come here was work-related. I'd been thinking for it for a while, in fact, I have been thinking of doing some work in the States off and on since I was in nursing school. I almost went to Connecticut when I first graduated, and then changed my mind and went to Northern Ontario instead.

This time, I came to a firm-ish decision when I was up in Grise Fiord last spring. It was a cold "spring" there (spring temps are still in the below zero zone at the best of times, but these were down in the -30's much later than one would have expected), and I was getting tired of my eyelashes freezing shut every single time I left the health centre. As I was walking amongst the icebergs frozen in the ocean (it's so cold there that last year's ice doesn't melt before the new stuff forms), watching for wolves and polar bears, I would think, "maybe I could give California a try."

Why California? Well, I wanted ocean, and I wanted less humidity than back home. That eliminates Florida and the Gulf of Mexico states. I wanted warm, which meant California rather than the more northern pacific states, and I didn't want Vancouver-like weather, so ditto there in the elimination department.

Now, why not San Francisco? If I had never been there before, I probably would have picked SF, but I was there last September, and I actually found it to be a little cold! It was a nice place, but it didn't grab me the way I expected it to, and I thought I might want a little warmer, and more beaches.

So why not San Diego, which I hear is a nicer city? When I did my research, it seemed to me that San Diego wouldn't be as interesting; it looked to have a lot of military, elderly, and more conservative population.

I really did want a big city, even though I'm not a big-city person in terms of wanting to live in one my whole life, as I get claustrophobic after a while. However, I've been spending so much time in Nunavut that I am ready to be out of the extreme wilderness for a while, and why not do an extreme city while I'm at it? Both New York and Los Angeles fit my idea of extreme urban, and New York was out for all the other reasons listed above.

Now, all that said, I would also have list of why NOT Los Angeles! Traffic, overuse of cars, city structured for cars, and pollution were biggies on that list. Also, being in America means health insurance is a pain (depending on employment), but I did want to try living in the States awhile, and am eager if I ever do work to see what health care is really like here from the inside.

Last but not least, when I looked at where the jobs were, lots and lots of interesting nurse opportunities seemed to be located here. So, after weighing the pros and cons, I decided to give LA a try.

Of course, wouldn't you know it, just when I get my act in gear for an American work stint, is when their economy melts down, so from what I have heard is that there are way fewer jobs open right now. I am willing to bet they are still hiring though, as they were needing nurses very badly before and health care doesn't just grind to a halt when the economy falters.

Another kink in my plan is that the bureaucracy is moving much more slowly in getting licensed than I had hoped, so I am still working on that. I think both that and looking for work (if I still want to once I have experienced life here) will go easier on the ground in California, rather than doing it remotely in Canada. It may not all get done though before my allowed time as a visitor (6 months) runs out, so I may have to go home for a while and come back later, which is OK too. I figured I might as well come for an extended visit now anyway, whether I ended up finding or even looking for work or not, just for the experience, especially of a winter in a warm climate.

It's fun to be here so far (I just loooooove the pool!), and I have found lots I like about the place, so we'll see how it turns out! Stay tuned!

I'll post more about my apartment and neighborhood next time... haven't wanted to do so too soon since I am still discovering the place.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bike ride to the Pacific Ocean

I headed out on my bike today to bike to the beach. It was hazy when I set out, so I didn't take my camera this time.

By the way, I must mention that I don't find air quality here to be too bad at all so far. I've seen worse in Toronto. The air is not completely clear, but that's a moisture thing as much as (or more than) a pollution thing, since the city (or the part I'm in, anyway) is in a basin surrounded by mountains on 3 sides and ocean on the fourth, so the air gets trapped here. It's also more humid here than I had counted on (darn!), but nothing like Ottawa, still bearable. And yes, it is very much still summer here! Beautiful weather, never brutally hot, and cool (but not that you'd need a jacket) in the evenings and at night.

When we have bad air in Ottawa, I can feel it in my lungs, and I haven't felt like that here yet. I'm sure it does happen, but so far so good, at least bad air days aren't an everyday occurrence. I also don't have any allergies here- I was worried that I might since the plants would be different from back home (I did 4 years of allergy shots in Ottawa that worked so I don't have allergies there either), that maybe I'd be affected by something here, but so far so good on that too.

Anyway, back to the bike ride. I set out hoping to find a bike path that follows one of the "rivers" here, the river being a concreted-over drainage ditch.

I did find the path, but couldn't find a way to get down to it anywhere! So I ended up on some very pleasant residential streets in Culver City (a west LA neighborhood), but those eventually came out onto Venice Blvd, which has a bike lane, so since that had been my plan B I figured I'd better take that rather than risk getting lost on my first outing. LA is a grid city though, so it's hard to get completely lost.

I found the bike lane to be great, and the motorists very respectful (it's a shared parking/bike/right hand turn lane), no close calls or homicidal vibes at all. However, Venice Blvd. is just plain ugly! Six lanes wide, plus the cycling lane in each direction, and lowbrow commercial the whole way (the kind with parking lots out front), with some pockets of residential.

It's a great route in terms of being direct (and long, it runs from the ocean almost to downtown), but I am going to have to find a better route for aesthetics. I had chosen a pleasant route on the way to the bike path I couldn't get onto, and there are no doubt other routes like this. My own street (Hauser Blvd.) seems good this way, it's pretty, mostly residential, traffic not too insane, and it has lights at the major intersections. LA seems to have lots of semi-residential routes like this, it's just a matter of finding them, so I will work on that.

So, at the beach (it was Venice Beach I ended up at due to the Venice Blvd. route) I stood in the ocean for a few minutes and watched the surfers, and then headed back. It was 38 km round trip (that said, I took an indirect route there as I was hunting for that path) and 2h 15min of biking.

The beach path looks great, but I didn't bike much of it today as I'd already been on the road an hour once I got there. The beach path is incredibly long, follows the beach the whole way from Santa Monica down the coast to the bottom of the city.

On my return to the apartment, it was fun watching the altimeter on the bike computer shoot up as it passed each floor.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Elephants at the motel

In some of the hotels and motels along the way the towels and facecloths were folded into little sculptures, and I particularly liked these elephants in Barstow, California.

The Nevada desert

I liked Nevada, but Utah had been so unexpectedly breathtaking that Nevada ended up being a little ho-hum in comparison! Should have done Nevada first I guess, but east to west was my route...

Utah was incredible!

Utah was definitely the most dramatic and beautiful landscape on the trip. The scenery changed around every corner, too, different rocks and different shapes. Luckily, although this was the scary "no services for 100+ miles" part of the trip, there were lots of places they'd made to pull off the road for viewing and picture taking.
The one above is called the "St. Rafael Reef". It's a lot wider than this.
Above is the "Black Dragon". Not sure if the dragon is the one on the left or the right!
I think the one above was at the area called "Ghost Rock", but the "ghost" is not in the photo I don't think.
I forget the name of the spot from the photo above, something about eagles?

I have few more but I'm on an unpredictable internet connection right now (my own connection comes next Monday, so I just surf for now on the spotty unsecured WiFi that drifts by), so I'll post this for now, better than nothing!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Corolla vs. the Rockies

My little car did pretty well in the mountains. I had to turn overdrive off quite a bit on both uphills and downhills, and occasionally even needed to go down into second gear. Once, as I was leaving Central City (which seems to be in a deep ditch at the top of the mountain), I realized I would never get out of there without going down into first gear, but that was the only time I had to take such drastic action.

I find the driving a bit challenging sometimes as there are two lanes, but the right hand one has trucks chugging along at around 45 miles an hour, and the left one has people driving incredibly fast at 75 mph, so a Corolla like me has to change lanes quite a bit, to keep my momentum up (if I slow down behind a truck, it would be impossible for me to get my speed back.) The speed limit is usually 65 mph, but I can't do that on the uphills usually.
These two photos are from rest stops and viewing points along the road.

Crossing the continental divide is interesting, as you're in a big tunnel when you do! They mark the spot with a green sign on the wall of the tunnel, and once you're through there's a relentless downhill.

Here's my car at the entrance of a canyon that I have forgotten the name of (Glenwood?) and my guide books are still in the car so I can't check. It was neat driving through this canyon, it had some short tunnels, and a river running through it.

This photo above is from the same rest stop just at the start of the canyon.

Arrived alive!

OK, I’m getting out of order with my trip, but I’m here!

It’s true what they say about LA traffic, it’s insane.
That said, I made it here in one piece, and navigated many interesting interchanges on the way.

I like my apartment, except for the fact that it has no fu
rniture yet. They have furnished apartments but they cost $3300+ a month, so I instead rented a $1750 (I know, rents are high here, but I’m in a great location) 1-bedroom and will buy a few pieces of cheap furniture, probably at the thrift store. I’ll just donate it back when I leave.

It’s a gated complex, with real locked gates, even for
pedestrians. The streets have a quiet, community feel to them, there are people and families hanging out at the fountains in the evening. It’s nicely landscaped, with mature trees everywhere.

Here are a couple of views from my apartment- it’s great, an unobstructed view facing east towards downtown and the mountains, and the observatory at Griffith park up in the hills.

I’ll be back soon to tell more about my trip through the mountains and Utah, with some photos.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Central City

Climbing out of Denver, I really had to go to the bathroom. I had missed one exit that seemed to have a gas station or restaurant as I was passing a truck, so I decided to get off at the next one, as there weren't many places in that stretch of road. The exits are pretty good on the interstate in that they are marked "no services" if there aren't any, so I took the next exit since it didn't have that sign.

Once I was off the highway there was nothing there at all, except a road heading up the mountain to a place called Central City, so I took that, figuring it would be just around the corner. It turned out to be 8 miles up, and straight up at that! Gave the little Corolla quite the workout, had to take it down to 2nd gear quite often. I figured now that I was off the road I might as well just head there, as I didn't know where the next exit would be on the highway.

When I got to town, it was a really pretty little place! I took a couple of photos, but didn't see anyplace to eat and I didn't want to get too far behind schedule since I didn't know what the mountain drive would be like. Central City was a gold rush town back in the mid-1850's, and it still looks kind of like one. It's now a casino town, there are casinos in the old stores.

Oh, and once I was back on the interstate, it turns out that if I had stayed on the road about one more minute, I would have arrived at the usual cluster of fast-food places and gas stations. Oh well, if I had done that, I would have missed Central City!

First view of the Rockies!

Can you see the Rockies? They're in there... click to enlarge if you need to! I took this at a rest stop approaching Denver, that's the I-70 in the foreground.

Tallgrass Prairie

When I passed through Kansas, I shortened my day and unfortunately picked a hotel that was way further off the road than I had thought. The upside of this is it passed a prairie research preserve, with a scenic lookoff. Here's a photo I took there the next morning, you can click it to enlarge it. They study the ecology of the prairie there and graze buffalo on sections of it. This lookoff is between the I-70 and Manhattan, Kansas, where I spent the night.

I really enjoyed the prairie between Kansas City and Denver. It was very interesting to see it morph from rolling hills to flatland, some of it farmland, some of it pasture, and some of it very, very unpopulated! It was a soothing day's drive, with no cities enroute (after the previous day's busy drive between St. Louis and Kansas City).

Kansas City vs. the GPS

I'm using both a CAA TripTik and a GPS to navigate me on my trip.

The GPS and I have an uneasy relationship. In the Ottawa tryouts, I would leave it chattering happily to itself on the dash while I ignored it and went about my usual routes. I noticed it had a malicious streak, and more than once tried to turn me down a torn-up street, that I never previously even knew existed, on a cross-town trip.

I like having it on the long trip. In order to keep conflict to a minimum, I don't tell it we're going all the way to California, I just give it that day's hotel destination, and we usually more or less agree on a route (especially when the route is generally "take ramp to I-70, drive 6 hours, exit on the right and turn left..."). I already know where we're going (we being the GPS and me) by the CAA Triptik, so the GPS is a reassuring back-up.

The GPS does not like stops for gas or burgers, however, and nips at my heels like a sheepdog at any deviation from the road. I find too that if I miss an on-ramp, (always intentionally, on my way to feed self or car), it will try to send me down the on-ramp in the opposite direction, as if we might as well just head home if I won't listen to it. It will also sometimes sulk once I return to the car, and not talk to me, but will still grudgingly give an approving chime when I turn back onto the highway.

In Kansas City the GPS got the better of me. On my CAA TripTik, it was kind of missing a small segment at the far side of the city, so I knew I might have to look for a ramp to stay on I-70. So, when the GPS urgently told me to take an exit, I believed it, although I also missed the exit, as it did not say I-70 as I would have expected.

The GPS then demanded I take the next exit, which I did, only because I had no time to think. It then turned me around and sent me back east, and then onto a highway headed south.

I was getting pretty nervous at this- south to Wichita, Kansas was not on my route! However, I decided to trust it and take it's route, especially since I was getting lost at this point.

Around 10-15 minutes later, it turned me onto another road heading west, which I was relieved to see was marked on my TripTik, and which merged with the I-70 ahead. Unfortunately, traffic was building at this point (my original plan would have had me clearing the city just before rush hour).

The road turned into city streets, and then the GPS turned me north, and then east again! I could see the highway south of me, so I figured we were taking a typically unconventional GPS route back to it.

Then... it turned me north on a dirt road! A DIRT ROAD! I was supposed to be on the interstate! At this point, I was lost, so I gritted my teeth and decided to trust it, because I had no time-efficient alternatives, and besides, we were only 150 km from destination...

Another dirt road later and we were back on a regional road, which morphed to country road, then to 4-lane divided highway (but not the interstate), and back and forth. Eventually, we got back on the highway. Later, I figured out it had been configured to avoid toll roads, and I guess I-70 had a small toll section on it. It did take me back to the I-70 eventually, and then on to destination.

It was nerve-wracking, but also reassuring that it did get me to destination, although probably an hour and maybe 50 extra km's later.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My route

I hope to be back later this evening to update the trip, but for now here's a map of my route. You can click it if you want to see it larger, but it's a little blurry (sorry!). This is the map the CAA gave me, I have a triptik too, and a GPS. The numbers mark the places I spent the night, which were:

Sept. 8: Clark's Summit, Pennsylvania (515.0 km)
Sept. 9: Mansfield, Ohio (630.3 km)
Sept. 10: Vandalia, Illinois (667.9 km)
Sept. 11: Manhattan, Kansas (715.6 km, but GPS took me on a joyride, details to follow)
Sept. 12: Limon, Colorado (665.6 km)
Sept. 13: Clifton, Colorado (552.9 km)
Sept. 14: St. George, Utah (643.4 km)
Sept. 15: Barstow, California (444.8 km)
Sept. 16: Arrive Los Angeles (205 km)

Grand total (updated on arrival): 5091.3 km

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My big cultural experience

On Sept. 10 I drove out of Ohio, across Indiana and into Illinois. I stayed in Vandalia, IL, and right behind the hotel was a Walmart Supercenter, so I moseyed on over. It took about 10 minutes to cross the huge parking lot on foot, and I suspect I might be the first person to ever arrive under her own steam. Despite the parking lot being almost empty, the cars were drawn to me like flies, I must have been accidentally walking in their usual parking-lot migratory routes. The place was huge- I only visited the food section and it was as big as a medium-large grocery store back home. Here's a photo taken from my hotel room:


The second day I drove across Pennsylvania. I saw a funny billboard on the way... it said in huge letters: "Neurosurgery?" and then something like "consider institution X". I liked they way they pose it as a question... when they put it like that, you think "oh, why not, maybe just a little!"

Crossing the border into New York (Sept. 8)

I packed up the car and got on the road about 9:50 on Tuesday morning, Sept. 8. Crossing the border wasn't too bad... the border guard asked me around 25 questions though, as my story must have sounded a little unconventional (I'm not really in the 6-month-vacations demographic), but I answered everything honestly and I guess she must have figured that if I was up to something I would have given more conventional answers.

The drive across New York State was fine, quite a bit of construction and one large accident (not sure what smashed through that guardrail and down the hill, but it must have been a big rig!), but everything was signed so well traffic flowed perfectly.

Here's a couple of photos of the landscape from a rest station:

I spent the night in Clark's Summit, PA, which is just north of Scranton. I hated the little town! It had no sidewalks on it's main street. After arriving at the hotel I headed out for a bit of a walk and to find something to eat, and the town is just not designed for pedestrians at all. No sidewalks, highway ramps everywhere, no pedestrian crossings (and the main street is 6 lanes wide!), and yet it's a residential community. I can't imagine living in a small town where you have to drive everywhere, not because of distance but just because there isn't even a road shoulder to walk on to get to any of the local businesses.

I also visited my first-ever drive-through bank machine... on foot. Luckily, no motorists came screeching around the corner up to the terminal as I was standing there.

OK, you guys had better read this blog!

By popular demand (OK, 3 family members), I'm starting a blog about my trip to Los Angeles. I'm on day 6 of my 9 day drive across the continent, so I have some catching up to do. Better get started...

If you drop by here and read my blog, please take a minute to say hi in the comments! I'll only keep up the blog if I have a reader or two...