Friday, 16 October 2009

The Westward Expansion: Reaching the Coast

Day 3: (Flagstaff, AZ to Huntington Beach, CA)

I woke up in Flagstaff to the sound of trains tooting away as they cut through the thick mountain landscape. Throwing on some clothes, I wandered to the elevator to catch an early breakfast at 7 a.m. Lo, I did not beat the other guests to the buffet. The dining area was infested with tourists, mostly German-speaking tourists, actually.
The breakfast at this Holiday Inn was a bit disappointing. The only eggs (I rarely eat eggs for breakfast, except when I'm road-tripping--then I crave them--weird) available were perfectly formed eggbeater mini-omelettes containing some sort of liquidy processed cheese. I had one for a protein boost, then went for a biscuit that was dry and crumbly. That's where Texas had put Arizona to shame. I abandoned my crumbly biscuit for a banana and then headed upstairs to digest a little bit before hitting the gym for a morning workout I desperately needed.
The fitness room was teeny, but contained functioning treadmills and a stair stepper. I alternated between machines to get a good cross training workout for my atrophying legs and booty. A half hour later, and I'd worked up a good sweat and was ready to hit the road again.
I'd discovered that the first several hours of my drive after getting a good night's sleep were always the most blissful. I was pain-free, refreshed, joyful and skimming the earth like a low-flying hawk, taking in the breathtaking scenery as I went. After about four hours of this bliss, however, and after a couple of days of it, I'd gotten sick of my iPod music, the mountains, the desert, my own thoughts even, and was ready to get there already.
A friend had called me and I was on the phone when I crossed the boarder into California. There was a checkpoint shortly thereafter. "What are they checking for?" I wondered. I stopped as the friendly guard smiled at me and asked me where I was coming from. "Missouri," I replied. She asked me if I had any plants, fruits, vegetables or animals with me and I told her that I didn't. She waved me on through. Weird state, California.
I knew that I was about to go through the Mojave, so I stopped at a lone gas station in the middle of nowhere. Gas there was astronomical. I cringed as I pressed the highest fuel rating button. A service guy came out of nowhere and leaned against the pump. "I like your car," he said. I said thanks and walked around to check the tires.
"They look a little low," the guy remarked, squinting through the glare of the desert sun to check out my wheels.
He had a gauge in his pocket, pulled it out and read it. "Yeah, you're at about 20. Pull it around and I'll fill em up for you."
I pulled up and the guy ran around the car, quick as a jackrabbit, filling up my tires. I thanked him and ambled back to the highway. I guess you pay an extra dollar a gallon for good service in California (?).
Finally, the desert gave way to civilization. The roads wound and sliced through the mountains for a good hour. However, when I hit the mother-of-all traffic jams, I practically squealed for joy--I was in L.A.! I had, of course, stumbled on Los Angeles during rush hour. Luckily, the majority of the traffic flow was coming from the opposite direction. I was close enough to my destination, and I'd come so far that a little traffic wasn't even much of an annoyance at this point.
Soon enough, I'd reached the coast. Walking along the boardwalk on the way to dinner that evening with Donna and Greg, I thought about how far I'd come. And the adventure is just beginning.

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