The Wilds of LA

We are in fact underway now, though this particular post is unlikely to be vey exotic since our first day is in Los Angeles, where as I mentioned we spent the night with friends before flying out “for real” tonight.

LA is sort of in a class by itself and written about endlessly so I’ll spare you any faux insights. I will make the observation that its famously ferociously crowded traffic is exacerbated by a traffic engineering mindset that was clearly conceived in the pre-medical marijuana era (“Hey dude, let’s put an on-ramp, like, over here.”). We observed this most dramatically while driving to our friends’ place, in the mountains about 90 minutes south of the airport. Smugly, we glided into the HOV lane, flipping the metaphorical bird the worst of the traffic in the normal lanes, only to receive a karmic comeuppance 20 miles later as we sailed past our exit, unable to legally LEAVE the HOV lane and realizing our plight about 500 yards too late.

Our friends Bruce and Linda live in a beautiful casita that they built themselves more or less in the middle of nowhere, or as close as you can get to the middle of nowhere in this region. Perched on a mountainside, their view is spectacular, looking west to the Pacific. Here’s a mediocre picture that I took with the IPad to give you the idea:

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The sunrises are utterly gorgeous from here. Jet lag assured that I got a good view of it this morning; Alice rather more sensibly slept till about 8:30am.

The weather is unseasonably hot and dry at the moment, with a lot of dust in the air because the last several days have seen the Santa Ana winds blowing in from the east. These bring several days or even weeks at a time of heat, dryness, dust, and wildfires. I wondered if they were named after Mexican General Santa Ana, who killed Davy Crockett at the Alamo and thereby created great source material for Walt Disney about a century later. But this turns out not to be the case; the origin of the name is unknown. In the early 20th century it was known as the Santana wind, and you can insert your own Grammy jokes here.

Bruce is retired, while Linda has a one-hour commute as a hospital administrator and spends her free time at home giving Bruce dirty looks. In order to look busy and avoid the stink-eye, Bruce’s big retirement project (and secondary retirement income source) is an avocado grove that he maintains on the mountainside. And by “grove” I mean 1100 trees and an annual harvest of over 25 tons of avocados… 36 tons last year. He designed the whole thing himself, including a very elaborate irrigation system, and I am very impressed. If I had undertaken this endeavor it is quite certain that I would have ended up with 1100 dry stumps and 3 tablespoons of guacamole.

(Ironic note: at dinner last night Linda served a salad with homegrown tomatoes and store bought avocados because the harvest isn’t ready yet.)

We will spend the afternoon in the city after ditching our luggage at a private storage facility, then have an early dinner and get to the airport at 7:00pm or so. Then the real fun begins: 19 hours to Cairns including the layover in Auckland. Thanks to everyone for all your Bon voyage wishes, and stay tuned…!

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Categories: Australia/New Zealand | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Wilds of LA

  1. Interesting about nobody knowing why the Santa Ana winds are so named. I was going to tell you to spellcheck but you already did! Looking forward to seeing you on Nov. 10!

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