Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Los Angeles, California

Tuesday 20 July 2010
Hey Folks
Here we are on the road again, heaps better than yesterday, jetlagged, nauseous, writing the furthest thing on the wishlist.
But, after re-assembling the CB, having a squirt round LA, and the imagination fired up, here we are!

First off, the JohnnyReb write de plume has to go.
There's about 3 pages of them on facebook, and a zillion hits on google, some of them pretty unsavoury looking if you ask me.
Then the connotation with the Southern losers.....
I'm outta here, hoping to pick up on a better one as i ride round US of A.

Mainfreight have been totally brilliant, kiwi boys in the big smoke, rounding the turn off a busy blvd to be met by the familiar big blue and white sign.
Spent the morning getting our bikes out of their crates, personally attended by kiwi boss Steve.
The warehouse was a pretty interesting place,
several Shelby mustangs and camaros, among others waiting for shipment.
Regs have been eased, and one can now get these and similar classics into NZ without having to do RHD conversions.....
for about $1800 freight!

LA's a featureless city, no skyline landmarks to orientate on,
vast and flat, not much high-rise.
Along Sepulveda where our hotel is you ride under the LAX runway, while a big jet glides in.
We drove 8km on a straight 6 lane street, turned right and did about the same,
still no end to the place.
One part through houses with grilles on all windows and doors.

Again, I'm struck by the hugeness of american consumption.
We're in the south tower of the hotel, tower of babel, all sorts of lingo in the elevator
krautish, japoneseii, korienseii, espanol......
I forgot, the loo-bowls here are half full of water.
Thats 40 odd rooms per floor, 8 floors, just in the south tower,
all that water coming from somewhere, going somewhere, 
all those vehicles on the streets.

In a Diamond "Collapse" sort of way, you'd wonder if "its" coming.
But I'm unusually comforted by this stream of humanity and a sense that there's enough resourcefulness to get us through handsomely.
I think the Mayans fell over because they were dumb bastards.
They might have been smart enough to count astronomical cycles,
but their human sacrificial practises and the associated mode de accompli sort of gives them away.
That Gorman bloke, in "Social Themes" talks about the banana complex,
equatorial peoples had their lives too easy, their food just grew as fast as the master-lords that controlled it.
The descendants of Isaac who moved north had a tougher life and grew their societies slower and solider.
Well, its a good theory.....

And again I'm overwhelmed as a kiwi, that we take our wordly responsibilities too seriously.
I dont think the average pleb in this vast metropolis gives a turkeys about what we do with ETS.
We're a bit like those old pensioners who turn off their heaters and shiver for the national good when we have power shortages.
Killing off farming and food production with an ETS load in the cause of climate change mitigation WILL cause "Collapse".
Or is it kama just putting the brakes on for us.

thats about it for today.
The GPS has been just brilliant.
The american version tells me which lane to get in, what the speed limit is (in kms), kms and meters to next turn,
time and date, whatever......
See, there's that human ingenuity at work.
And getting back to LHD has been a breeze.
I've had a swim, and found my drink favorite from last visit, SoBe, several flavours, each with different herbal additives.
I got a coffee and panini for breakfast also from the supermarket across the road
$8 US, the price being an indication of its size.
Had half for breakfast, and the rest for lunch, so i guess the price was OK in the end.
The cars here are smaller and more modern than i saw elsewhere last year.
Several women zipping round in mini cooper s's or BMW coupes,
more range rovers than i've ever seen in one place.
Santa Monica Pier, the end of Route 66
Wonder what they do with them here when they break down.

And wealth...
mile after million mile of homes in the Hollywood district,
but Santa Monica and the beach nothing to write about.
i've sort of noticed the people here are a bit bigger too.
A cop who couldnt get out of his car fast enough to catch somebody running away,
a couple of motorbike ones who'd look more like PR men than GI's, pleasant and laid-back they were.
A lady walkble-ing through the supermarket carpark cellulating through a bluetooth earpiece.

See you later.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Morro Bay, California

Wednesday 21 July
Kia ora

Lower key day today, getting out of LA, under the landing jumbo jet one last time, through Santa Monica onto the Pacific Coast Highway
but, as usual, the Wet Coast turned on another misty, cant see too far, morning.

Took a long time to get to sleep last night, partly the body clock still out of phase
some of the others decided the best remedy was to go out and get sloshed, fall into an induced asleep, and problem fixed.
Not my room-mate.....,
on with the TV and 2 hours solid of congressional hearing on the US economy, Ben Bernanke, etc
and a tirade on how useless the Yanks were, a bunch of losers who run up debt and create nothing, and how the world's coming to a fiscal end, when that great nation China calls up its chips.
Dunno if it was chewing on that kept me awake, but when he stirrred for a pit stop at 1 am, I told him i didnt agree.
Had he noticed two stone throws down the street from the hotel a big building with "Boeing" writ across the top
had he not noticed we flew with 600 odd other souls for 12 hours in the jumbo that brought us here in its 30 year old airframe, safely
did he not notice that the email he bummed off me and my notebook, and the wifi and software that runs it, got created just over the hill in Silicon Valley
and what was it that he drooled over in Mainfreight's warehouse, those.........,
whoa there, american icon creations, chevy camaro's and shelby mustangs?
hell, he used to own a camaro years ago
and what has china created for the world?
other than fireworks, and a language thats as hard to learn as it is to write
they even copied communism off that great human, Stalin.

Its this great melange of ethnicity that fascinates me about Nation America
and its youth, hardly any older than NZ.
There isnt any such thing as an "American", unlike african, arabian, or european races whatever
its the wellspring of creativity, proficient bilingualism the first step.

He's at it again tonight, my roomie
two hours of Bernanke in front of the congressional finance committee
America's 14 trillion down the gurgler
the next 12 months GDP wont equal that much
there's 2-3 trillion sitting unused in company balance sheets after refinancing at lower rates this year, and hanging onto improving profits
90 banks have gone under in the last 12 months
and today and yesterday, as opposed to last year, I couldnt find a gas station would accept my mastercard.

Here in Morro Bay....
the fish and chip shop down the road was still alive
a bar and grill looking over the bay, a cup of the nicest chowder I've had, a basket of shark n taties, a Coors Light, and all's well in JohnnyReb's world
but I worry about my mate
he's going to miss america in 6 weeks at this rate.

It was sheer hurly-burley in the traffic on the way up, freeway stuff at 100k's
with a diversion out of the mist to Solvang, a Danish community tourist burg, where I happily resisted lots of cakes and pastries
even went past Flag Is Up Farms CA spread, notable thoroughbred stud
then on for a quick gink at the Madonna Inn, on the Madonna family ranch, (no, not our singer lady)
and here we are in Morro Bay, a little fishing, boat marina, tourist, town
also looks like a coal-fired power station along the bay too
SanFran tomorrow.

Have to mention us NewZealanders seem even more recognised than last year
when you say NZ in response to the "your accent?" question
ah, kiwi........... is the response
Peter McKenzie told me Jemaime and Brett played to a packed 16,000 at Hollywood Bowl a month or so ago, so they would have helped the impression pioneered by Peter Jackson, Rachael Hunter, Scott Dixon, Team NZ, et al 

No pics, nothing funny enough, just a gang of bikies disappearing into the mist
and that garish Madonna Inn, but Rona and Ken got a shot of me in the gents, engaged at the Eiger face of the imitation waterfall that was the urinal!

Monday, August 2, 2010

San Francisco, California

Friday 23 July

One of the inevitable things about being a tourist in a big strange city is you walk yourself stupid
but we got a bit of reward from looking up at the Orpheum Theatre, festooned with the green and black hoardings for.....
Wicked, the musical
so after an enquiry at the box office we walked away with A tickets for tonight, discounted from US$90 to 75!
So for today I can be JohnnyWicked
I even scored a pair of pyjama boxers from the outlet store @ $2.16 tax incl, having left mine at home
also left at home, was my medication, and one plan was to get a local prescription, but on fronting to the walk-in medical centre in LA
and being informed the doc consultancy cost was US$145, and the  pills on top, we'll give that a miss
I'd more likely die of that, than going without
how lucky are we in NZ....

Neil lost his padlock key too, and we managed to find a locksmith of 22 years experience down on 4th, who informed us it was a Master 937 padlock,
he could disassemble the lock for about $20 to pattern a new key, but it'd be better to buy a new lock for $26
Neil also lost a competition for the most economical bike
he's been a bit sensitive about his 850 BMW, and I honestly thought it was a 650 and had been telling everyone so
much to his chagrine, so yesterday we succumbed to his insistence on an economy trial, to let him get some save of face
Well, the winner was, at $3.466, carrying load of 150kg's rider and pack, Johnny Wicked's Honda CB1300
2nd was Sam O'Shea's Suzie Bandit 1250, at $3.60 and small-change, carrying Sam and Rona, plus their side panniers and topbox
and last was Neils 650 Beemer, at $3.80 odd, and the lightest load of all, probably half.

As usual, the harley boys are on a race to the next town, or to keep up with Ken so they dont get lost.
We've gravitated to a little group of muddlers who stop to look at anything and everything
and from all reports, the tail-ender group will grow in size tomorrow when we head north
quite a number have come in direct to SF, and renting bikes here, we havent all met up, but keep bumping into black-shirts in the lift
so the hotel is distinctly kiwi
38 total folks on the tour.

This morning the walkies have taken in breakfast at Rocco's,
then around to a bike shop on 8th where new helmets, bike intercoms, and other gear has been purchased
the pricing looks a heap like somewhere between 30 and 50% cheaper than home.
I had a brief affair with a $270 converted to NZD jacket, that was more enticing than my current $546 model
but it was a size too small.
We figured it was the sheer size of the market in US that gave the marketers superior purchasing power.

San Fran hasnt changed, although the streets look a little dirtier, I guess, and more in need of maintenace, rough surface etc
there are quite a few shops vacant and boarded-up on Market, but definitely fewer panhandlers.
I've got a sense too, that the screw for gratuities wherevever we've been isnt as aggressive as last time
like theyve got a message that they shouldnt quirken the quarry
several times we've been asked if we'd like change in response to deliberate over-payment
and there also seems to be a different attitude in a younger generation of service assistants.
The Americana  Hotel has been taken over by an asian chain, by the looks, even though its still sporting the Best Western signage 
they tried to get another $20 out of me and Neil to cover bike park, Ken's already paid.

It was a pretty full day yesterday from Morro Bay to SF
We took in the WA Hearst Castle, looked at the pictures in the tourist centre instead of taking the $24 bus trip up the hill
During the Great Depression, Hearst was 126 million in the donger, he went underground and left his lawyer to sort things out
the lawyer saved 15 newspapers and this CA ranch obviously, with the castle on the hill
and when he died in the early 50's his fortune was back up to $60m odd.
He started out as editor of a university student rag, although his parents weren't short of a bob.
I should have photo'd the ranch's mission statement
a long winded diatribe about using the environment sustainably and keeping the animals doing what nature meant for them in peace and harmony
and I said....
hey, thats what I do, run a farm!!
I mentioned last year, my surprise nearly everywhere we went in the States, that tourism made up >30% of local economies
converting farms to tourist ventures is very common.
We passed one place with a maze-labyrinth and huge castle, made up of conventional straw bales
no smoking, I bet.

We took in a sea elephant colony, the bulls weigh 5000lbs, and the signs said they were surprisingly fast, so dont tempt the fates
we didnt
then it was back to familiar territory, Straganos family diner on Santa Cruz Pier, where Richard and I breakfasted regally last year
this time char-broiled mahi mahi, green veges, w/ rice, fries or bake spud, a cup of chowder, and a fresh loaf, $15.
The GPS put me crook starting the last 80km leg to SF, trying to run me back to the major internal freeway instead of CA1 up the coast
so we had to turn off the freeway and scored a delightful run down a tree-covered valley road back to Santa Cruz.
The run into SF was a bit on the anxious side but the GPS got us through the freeways and spaghetti's spot on
the others reckoned I ran a red light, in front of a cop, but I never saw it, I was watching the cop.

Not much else, other than its been bf cold
froze on the bike yesterday, 57-60F
we all put extra layers on during the day
one lady told us its been 5deg cooler than normal
the fog hid everything all day.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Eureka, California

Saturday 24 July
1235 km

Wicked was worth it, plot cleverly constructed to prequel seemlessly into Wizard of Oz
the players brought it out nicely, climaxing with one of my favourite pieces of music, "For Good"
although experiencing the rest of the score had more life live on stage than that on my CD.
With the rarity of a lotto win, Neil got seated behind the hugest and only afro coif in the theatre
but we managed a shift enough rows back when the lights went out.
He also commented he couldnt make out the lyrics at times, missing the odd gist of plot and innuendo
common fault when female singers trill and warble
the girl who did the wheelchair bound one was great though, and the male leads were clear
Golden Gate
the Wizards part contains some very clever lyric, great stage set
pleased we went...

Out of SanFran this morning, first stop for the customary group shot at Golden Gate
then out to the coast on CA1, over the hill to Muir Beach and on up the coast
little winding road like the Parapara used to be.
Brunch stop at Point Reyes Station, an old coaching stop, where we caught the saturday market
looked to be totally organic produce, and enticing it all was too, everything from native potatoes to homebred meats.
There's a split showing in the taking to market of farm produce in North America
either you're a contracted supplier to a food company giant
or you supply the farmer's market, where you authenticate food origins yourself.
The Wanganui team at Muir Pt
I spoke with one lady farmer who said they have an open day every sunday on the farm
so you can see where your next meal's coming from.

This place is 30 miles from north SanFran and they were having a pretty busy time with weekend drivers
and road cyclists by the dozen.
Its one thing to comment on American obesity, but I still reckon Ive seen more fitness activists than couch slouchers here.

Unfortunately we had another day of fog and low temps, so the spectacular coastal views didnt eventuate
Nice view when the mist cleared
even in the few sunny breaks, 57F was order of the day.

Had a couple of roadside chats with locals
but theyve so hi-jacked the questioning, their curiosity being greater than ours
havent learned a great deal........... yet.
Most think we're pretty wealthy to be able to ship bikes over, so firm is the grip of depression
Again we've had a day of very reasonable menu prices, and no pressure with the tips
typically, big breakfast and coffee, well under NZD20
and tonight, a decent soup, steak, mushrooms, green veg, baked spud, garlic bread, and 2 coronas, NZD34 all in.

We ducked inland after Mendocino and Ft Bragg
and the temp shot up to 84F,
with some clothes shed when we called at that ridiculous drive through giant redwood
only $3 this time, i'm sure it was $5 last year
another farm diversification project.

Another 20 odd miles of twisties through the forest, then down the Avenue of Giants, (redwoods).
Southern CA's more like Australia, up here we're into proper forest.
A quick call at Fortuna where we were told there was a classic car show, but too late
Avenue of Giants
all we caught was the vintage farm machinery which wasnt going anywhere overnight
this was back down near the sea, and temps plummeted back to that of the fog-shrouded morning

And so ended our day...
having escaped the civilisation of LA and SF, our credit cards have started to work at the gas pumps too.
Story of the day was a convo had by another of our group with a big Abe Cleminger sort of coot in bib overalls
who said he was a "tarler", (tiler)
but when questioned about the state of the building industry, he replied it was rooted
or words to that effect
and when further questioned about what he did for a crust now
he said he grows marijuana, $2600 per lb.
I recall seeing a bit in the paper recently about production for medicinal purposes being discussed in northern CA and OR
and on googling Eureka, I find its on the local council ordinance discussion papers list
but you only get a blank screen when you click the link.

Neil won todays fuel economy test, by 1/3 of a gallon on the only refuel of the day
we arrived at the motel, fortunately a day late to catch a Yamaha FJR convention
a holiday-maker who stayed last night told us there were 300 of them parked here