Sunday, July 25, 2010

My own personal L.A. Story, Pt. 1

What a week!

I've spent the past 8 days in (or near) the City of Angels, hanging with my younger sister, spending the majority of my time being a beach bum. This has been the single most eventful vacation I had ever had...and I truly hope it will continue in the very near future.

My journey began a week and a day ago as I arrived into Long Beach Airport on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon. Having just left behind the chilly morning mist in Seattle, my Levis and long sleeve top were ill-suited for the weather. My flight was nearly 45 minutes early, as I learned when I texted my sister and she was still a ways from the airport (e.g. - had not yet left her place). She told me to grab a cocktail at the bar and she would text me when she arrived. If you have ever been to LGB you will understand just why that is amusing. This is clearly the airport that time forgot and not only is there no bar in the terminal, the baggage claim is outside in a covered area of the entryway, cooled by giant fans. One gets the sense they are arriving to an exotic island nation in the Caribbean and not the rundown city of Long Beach.

I grabbed a Vitamin Water from the coffee cart outside and found a spot in the shade in an effort to keep cool. A short while later, Sister drove up in her eco-friendly Prius, a bright orange kayak latched to the roof. Hugs and smiles were exchanged. She informed me the kayak's name was Carrot (of course it was!) and he would be accompanying us to the River Kern, where I had reluctantly agreed to spend the weekend camping, while Sister kayaked down the "Killer Kern". What the hell, I thought...I'm turning 40 soon and it's about time I stepped outside my comfort zone. As my brother pointed out though, there is stepping outside your comfort zone, then there is making a long jump outside your comfort zone; as my idea of roughing it to this point was a stay in a Doubletree, I was pretty much trekking through unchartered territory.

After checking the ties on the kayak, Sister and I took off for Points North. She pointed out that we should be conscious of the kayak, as even though it was securly attached to the roof of Cosmo (the Prius), we just need to make sure the straps dont loosen. Up the 5 we went, chatting amicably and getting caught up. At a point midway on the Grapevine, I noticed the wind whistle around the kayak changed pitch. No sooner had I generated the thought did we hear a *thunk* and both of us looked over to find Carrot hanging off the side of Cosmo. Ever the laid-back, chill California girl, my sister assured me there were no worries and she would just pull over and re-attach the boat. The words weren't out of her mouth when Carrot took off and landed gloriously in the right lane on I-5. Sister still had not realized this when I told her she needed to stop now.

"Why? Where is the boat"

"In the ROAD"


Cosmo barely came to a stop when she leapt out and ran down the shoulder of the 5, towards oncoming traffic in her flippy mini and Havis, waving at the semi barreling towards Carrot. Fortunately the driver saw her, saw Carrot, quickly surmissed the situation and hauled ass into the next lane, while slowing down in an effort to slow the traffic around him. This enabled Sister to leap into the lane, grab Carrot and drag him back onto the shoulder.

Mind you, this all happened in the span of about 30 seconds.

While Sister hitched the 50-lb/6ft boat onto her 5'2" frame and started walking back towards the car, I began to pick up the pieces of the now destroyed roof rack that had essentially fallen apart while we were driving through high winds on an elevated portion of I-5. If you have never driven the Grapevine, it's a long, winding section of Interstate that traverses mountains and valleys for several miles outside L.A., towards Bakersfield. The wind that day was much stronger than we thought and was the likely culprit for sending the kayak flying in the first place.

To Sister's credit, she held it together. She went into crisis mode and immediately attempted to reassmble the destroyed roof rack. When it became obvious that was a lost cause, we attempted to fit Carrot into Cosmo, around all the camping gear and my luggage.

Want to know happens when two blond sisters try and force a kayak into a Prius?

The rear view mirror is ripped away from the windshield and (literally) hanging from a thread of a wire. We didnt think about this as we yelled "PUSH" from the rear of the Prius.

In a situation such as this, all one can do is laugh. Or curl up into a tight ball, beating your fists about your head, wailing for it to stop. We chose the former option.

Eventually, AAA was called and we got assistance with getting Carrot and Cosmo to the next exit so that we could regroup and figure out our next move. After emptying the vehicle, CAREFULLY pushing Carrot into the Prius and repacking everything in and around the kayak (duh!), we had enough room for me to drive and Sister to lay in the fetal position for the remaining 2 hours of our journey to the River Kern.

By the time we arrived at our campsite, it was close to 11PM. Sister was in no way deterred. She expertly set up the tent, with all the amenities fit for a restful night sleep (as restful as one can get in 85 and humid weather in the middle of the Sequoia National Park!) She even built a campfire and got us set up for roasted marshmallows. She's a rock star, that Sister of mine!

As there was a nice, albeit large, Filipino family sharing the campground around us, I inquired as to where I could change out of my Levis. Sister pointed out that it was pitch black and I should just change wherever I was standing.



What I didnt realize was that 6 feet away was an SUV filled with Filipino teenage boys who opted to sleep in the truck, rather than under the stars. I'm pretty sure I heard "Take it off, baby!" in Tagalog as I was trying to change out of my shirt!

The next morning arrived early, burning hot & humid. After packing up the campsite and indulging in a yummy brekkie in town, Sister and her kayaking buddies took off and left me with Cosmo. I had been informed that the Giant Sequoias were just 10 miles up the road, so I thought I would check them out.

40 miles later, I finally stumbled upon the Trail of 100 Giants. It was a nice mid-day hike through the woods, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Making my way back into town, I camped out in the Park by the river where I was eventually recruited to shuttle Kayakers back to their put-in location (kayak-speak for where that day's run began - in this case 10 miles away), but was more than happy to oblige.

Eventually I met up with Sister as she finished her final run; we drove home while she basked in the afterglow of the River. I was secretly jealous of this love affair she was having and really enjoyed listening to her stories on the way back to her home in Playa, and the start to the second part of my vacation.


To be continued...

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