Wednesday, 7 October 2015

And That's a Wrap

Hi y'all.

We've been back a little over two weeks now and I think I am just about over the jet lag. Still not over the post holiday blues though, especially with it raining, as it has the last few days. It was damned hot on the Route but we never complained, as we can rarely rely on such sustained warmth in this country. OK, there may have been a slight grumble from Ms Dozey on our sightseeing day in L.A., as we trudged around the street in 95+ degrees but that was all. I guess on the road, the air-con in the Escape always beckoned, if it got a tad warm.

It has taken me quite a few days but I have, as promised, finally uploaded a selection (about 1/7th) of the photos I took. I'm hoping it gives you a flavour of what we saw and got up to along the way and that you enjoy looking at them. There's one or two there that I am quite proud of. What I might call the money shot. Not bad for a bloke who just points and shoots!

To access the photos, which are stored on Flickr, page down the blog until you reach the Historic US 66 shield, just below Ms Dozey. Click on that and, fingers crossed, it will take you straight to the album in Flickr, where you can either view them singly or in a slide show, by clicking the the little icon (toggle slideshow), top right.

Once again, I hope you enjoy them.

Falling back into daily life after such a fantastic adventure, isn't easy, especially when I am following several Facebook sites, related to Route 66, so I shall just have to keep myself occupied by planning my next adventure. That, a Scandinavia Motorcycle Tour with my Wild Hog buddy Grizzly, is well into the planning and booking phase and if you're interested, you can follow that adventure from the blog link below;

We'll be spending 18 days on the road, starting July 3rd next year, so not too long to wait.

As far as this adventure is concerned, it's time to say, That's All Folks!  All that remains (apart from paying for it all), is for me to thank Catherine (Ms Dozey), for allowing me to drive her, for being such a wonderful companion on this trip and for helping to make the trip a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable one. I couldn't have done it without her......

.......well I could but it wouldn't have been the same.

I'd also like to thank y'all for taking the time to read the blog, wish you all the best and hope that you'll follow me again some time soon.



P.S. If anyone wants to try this themselves, I'm happy to pass on my routes and offer any advice.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Ms Dozey's Daily Diary - 9

Day Twenty

Well, despite warnings that public transport was “iffy” we took the subway into town, changing lines twice and finding nothing unusual: just one man telling me his father was getting an Emmy that night (too modest to name his Dad) and a musician being pestered by fans for selfies. Despite his distinctive haircut and clothes, I haven’t been able to identify him so sitting next to a star has been wasted on me. 

Back in the UK, when we planned our walking tour of LA, it was a pleasant temperature in the high 60s, maybe breaking into 70s.  When factoring in another thirty degrees, the plans became too ambitious.  After the first 90 minutes outside I needed a long shade break – we took a rest in the underground and headed off to Hollywood hoping it would be cooler than the civic centre of LA.

It was cooler there as the buildings offered some shade but we still did not do everything we planned and in the end had to sacrifice the tour of China Town.  We saw the key sights and enjoyed some of the quieter side streets away from tour guides and ticket sellers pouncing at every step.

We made our way back to the hotel, stopping to photograph aircraft coming in to land and then checked in for our flight the next day.  Whilst at the hotel’s flight desk we had a few comp drinks which we now think were for conference delegates in a nearby room.  

Day Twenty One

Thank you to our lovely friend Carol who picked us up and drove us out to Manhattan Beach for breakfast.  The well-heeled town had a much more authentic feel than Santa Monica which had been brimming with tourists.

After breakfast, on the patio of a trendy restaurant, which had long queues for tables and waiting times of at least half an hour, we had a walk on the pier and a peep into the real estate agent’s window. I don’t have a spare $6m but if I did, I could probably buy a one bed apartment there. Carole dropped us off with a couple of hours to spare before our check in time – enough to squeeze in a last ice cream sundae and root beer. It was almost time to say goodbye to the sunshine.  

Virgin was very accommodating on the flight home and despite pre-ordering a veggie meal, there were none on board at breakfast time.  I ended up having a hot meal from first class (should have been a cheese croissant), loads of posh cookies (also from first class) and two fruit bowls which I shared with fellow passengers.  I felt more than compensated for the oversight.

Weather at Heathrow was not as cold as expected and after stopping for a sleep at the services – we were both really fatigued and it would have been dangerous to carry on driving – I arrived home to a lovely clean and tidy house and a small premium bond prize, so all was good!

Before signing off, I leave you with my top tips for America – if you don’t drink coffee, take a travel kettle.  Some hotels do offer tea bags but the hot water is tainted with the taste/smell of coffee making it unusable.  Send any paperwork to your kindle/tablet – saves carrying paper copies around and I found it easier to read on the move. 

Till the next time, Ms Dozy is signing off.  Family and friends can look forward to a VERY BRIEF slide show and Americana Night once we have chosen highlight photos and video. You can check out the selection of photos Neill has linked on FLICKR, just as soon as he gets through sorting and uploading.

Ms Dozey's Daily Diary - 8

Day Eighteen

We left the Best Western in about 83 degrees around 09:15, nipped back into Arizona from California as fuel was significantly cheaper.  After a long drive through the desert we arrived at our second Wigwam Motel.  This one had had much more investment and was well equipped and a better standard of accommodation, in palm tree gardens.

Earlier we met a couple at a volcanic crater in the desert who were also staying there so we caught up with them by the pool. The site was a little remote so we bought drinks at the local store and ordered pizza delivery -  watched the news and weather.  A bit like being at home except for the heat!

Day Nineteen

The rest of the drive through California to Los Angeles was a bit hairy with (at times) seven lanes with over and undertaking on both sides.  We made use of the car pool lane (two or more occupants) but it was not really much quicker.  We visited one or two road side attractions on the way but most had fallen into disrepair (e.g. The Rialto Theatre, Aztec Hotel) and with one exception of a gas station, nothing had been refurbished like in the Mid West.

The end of the route is in Santa Monica with all the same attractions as the British sea-side (pier, fortune tellers, fast food, fairground, amusements, expensive parking) plus added attraction of warm sunshine, blue skies and the Pacific Ocean. It would have been nice to stay longer but with road works and heavy traffic we didn’t want to miss our hire car drop off time slot.

Tomorrow we plan to go to China Town and Hollywood on a self guided walking tour. Walking is a bit unheard of but we are convinced it will be the best way to visit landmarks and sight see in our own time.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Day 21 - The Final Countdown (Part 2)

We weren't waiting long before the shuttle arrived. As it turned out there were only about 6 people getting on it, so we were easily accommodated. The check-in desks at the airport were fairly empty, so we were quickly sorted out and made our way outside and in another door (?) to proceed to security.

A woman asked to see our passports and boarding cards. Fine. We then followed the marked out zigzag about 40 feet, to a guy, standing about 10 feet away from the woman. Yes, you guessed it, he also wanted to check our boarding passes!  Security was no less painful, with everything having to come off (well not everything, but you know what I mean) before we entered the body scanner. There were no alarms for Catherine this time round, so we grabbed our stuff and made our way towards the gate.

We had a couple of hours to kill at the gate, so I did some of my blog, whilst Catherine went off to see what she could spend the last of our dollars on. The battery on the laptop is useless, so it wasn't long before I had to shut down. Catherine came back without a purchase, so we've brought back about $15. Sure I know a couple of people who might take them off our hands.

We were seated at the rear of the aircraft, a brand spanking new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, so were able to board first. First of the plebs, that is. We had two seats of the middle three, so Catherine (I don't do strangers!) had a guy next to her. Turned out he was something to do with film making and he and his colleague had been rushed out on business. Catherine didn't get any further info though, so no scoop for you.

Boeing 787

Slightly later than published we were up in the air, heading out over the bay, a 9 hour something flight ahead of us. We were told we'd arrive earlier than scheduled, either because of the jet stream or maybe the new aircraft was faster, I'm not sure. The data readout for the flight did show us travelling in excess of 600mph, which is bloomin' fast.

We had dinner (not all that nice, to be honest) and I settled down to watch the Hobbit trilogy. I managed to get through two of the three, before my eyes cried enough. after little over an hour, I was awake again and they were serving breakfast. We had about 90 minutes to go till touchdown.

When it came, at dull and cloudy Heathrow, touchdown was a rather bumpy affair and the aircraft was squirming left and right for a while before the pilot got it under control. I'm not going to say my life flashed before my eyes but I think there may have been a slight tightening down below!

As usual it took ages to disembark but security was painless with the new passport scanners. Even collecting the bags went smoothly enough and we were soon outside at the collection point for the car park. There was a bus already at the stop, so I had to wave to get his attention, else we'd have had a wait for the next one. Not something I wanted, as I was still in my T-shirt and this wasn't t-shirt weather. It never ceases to amaze me, that a few hours flight away, everything can be so different. 38 degrees different, in this case!

Back at the car, the fun AND the rain began. 3 weeks in an automatic had me pressing the brake pedal and wondering why it wouldn't go into gear. Aah, yes you have a left foot and another pedal Neill. DOH! By the time we got onto the M4 motorway, it was lashing down, a distraction in itself. Add to that, jet lag, lack off sleep and it's easy (I think) to explain how I totally missed (forgot even) the turn off to the M25. It was only when I saw a sign saying Wokingham, that my brain started to work properly. By this time though, the next junction off the M4 was Reading, making it about a fifty mile detour, back to the M25. Double DOH!

There was no letup in the rain, in fact it was getting harder and visibility was very poor. Clearly my concentration levels weren't that great anyway, so I decided to pull off at the service station with about a third of our journey (excluding detour) to go. After a quick toilet visit, we both reclined the seats and went to sleep. We awoke about 75 minutes later, not exactly feeling refreshed but at least feeling awake enough to continue the journey.

We arrived home at my place about 30 minutes or so later, without further misadventure. Baggage unloaded, Catherine picked up some bits she'd left at mine and I ran her home. I got back to mine, sorted though a mountain of post, then flopped down in front of the TV, cursing, as I discovered my expected recordings hadn't happened. Still lots to catch up on though.

And that my friends, is the end of our Route 66 adventure. I'm back at work tomorrow, though working from home, so I don't have to get up too early.

Soon as I get time, I'll sort through my photos, some 2000 and add some to Flickr. You'll then be able to access them from the blog, by clicking on the shield. I'll let you know when, so keep watching.

Till then.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Day 21 - The Final Countdown (Part 1)

A bit like Groundhog Day, the alarm woke us and the sun was beating down once more. That's not to say we haven't seen rain, just not really very much. Great for us from the UK, not so for the Californians suffering years of drought.

We readied ourselves for the day and finished our packing. Carol was picking us up at 10am, so we dropped our cases at left luggage and went out front to await her arrival. And arrive she did, bang on time. Carol drives a 12 year old Infinity Q35, which surprised me a little, as it's a big car and she's so petite. It is well spec'd, with leather interior and heated AND cooled seats, amongst the toys. I sat in the front, as Carol drove us to our destination, Manhattan Beach. The towns around here seem to take their name from the beach, if you get what I mean, the town is Manhattan Beach, not Manhattan.

It's about 20 minutes from the hotel to MB and we were soon there. Carol pointed out some things of interest along the way, including a street a little way from the seafront, where her son lives. MB is a bit of a rich man's playground, by the looks of it, so it seemed Carol's son must be quite successful. A proud mum revealed he is, being able to retire at 40!  I wish :-(

As we search for a parking space, the place is heaving already, we spotted where we were going to have breakfast, Uncle Bill's. They were queueing in the street. No big deal though, as the sun was blazing and the temperature was already approaching the nineties. Parked up we made our way round to Bill's and added our name to the list of those waiting. The girl said it would be 30 minutes, so we walked along the main street to kill some time. Passing an estate agents (realtor), we were intrigued to see what was on offer. I don't remember all the details but I recall seeing 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, plus the price, $6.5m!

Back at Bill's, we sat in their waiting room, some white plastic chairs on the sidewalk. Catherine went up to check how much longer it would be, just as the girl called out her name. Perfect timing. We were shown to an outside table where we studied the menu. In the main we've been having fairly light breakfasts, so I just had 2 eggs and pancakes. Unlike in Winslow though, these pancakes were 'normal' size. Not like our UK pancakes, that we'd have on Shrove Tuesday but several millimetres thick, almost like a Scottish pancake. On the side, I had some bacon. I don't know what it is but I do like their crispy bacon.

I forget what Catherine had, possibly just eggs and hash browns but I do know she wasn't happy with her toast, pale brown one side, just pale the other, so she sent it back. Also, she had ordered rye bread, which, everywhere else we had had it, was a dark brown, with a slight aniseed flavour to it. This was just a white bread, as far as we could see.

Having finished, Carol insisted on treating us, which was kind, so we put down the tip. We then made our way down the hill to the small pier, with its oddly named roundhouse aquarium at the end.  Odd because the building is octagonal. I guess round was easier to say than build, eh?

Carol & Catherine, Manhattan Beach Pier

With one eye on the time, parking was for 2 hours only, we made our way back up from the seafront and back to the car. Catherine was like a cat on a hot tin roof, as she sat in the car, the leather was scorching. It certainly was a great day to be at the beach.

It wasn't long before we were back at the hotel. Hugs and kisses abounded as we said our goodbye to Carol. It was really nice to be able to see her again and we shall definitely try to meet up, if her and Dean come back to London. We had about 90 minutes to kill before 3pm, our planned departure time for the airport but after collecting our bags and sitting in the lobby for a while, I noticed there was quite a queue for the shuttle bus, so we decided we'd be better off getting on that, sooner rather than later and waiting at the airport, than at the hotel.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Day 20 - Los Angeles Sightseeing (Part 3)

On the South side, the first thing to really stand out is the El Capitano Theatre. Now owned by Disney and showing Disney films exclusively, it opened in 1926. Before converting to a movie house, the likes of Clark Gable, Rita Hayworth and Douglas Fairbanks Jr, all trod the boards here.

El Capitano Theatre

A little way down the street, your attention is grabbed by a huge T-Rex atop the roof of a 1920s building, originally used as offices and apartments. Now, it is home to Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. The tour guide shows the T-Rex with a clock in its mouth but that has gone and it now sports sunglasses and a camera around its neck. Right next door is the old Hollywood Theatre, housing the Guinness World Records Museum. Out front stands a model of the world's tallest man, Robert Wadlow, who stood 8 feet, 11 inches tall.

Terry Rex

Further along, there is the Pig and Whistle Restaurant and the Egyptian Theatre. The restaurant was one of a chain of family restaurants. It opened in 1927, with pipe organ music welcoming the diners. Now you don't get that in McDonalds! The theatre was originally going to be a Moorish palace until Howard Carter stumbled across the tomb of King Tutankhamen and the building was hastily rebuilt to resemble an Egyptian temple. Opened in 1922, the decorative ceiling inside, modelled on Tutankhamen's tomb is still there for all to see. That is, unless they have an event going on when you visit and not even the old Neill charm and an English accent can gain you entry! We moved on, somewhat disappointed.

The Egyptian Theatre

With another side stroll, we came to a building shaped like a cruise ship, with a globe on top of the mast, Crossroads of the World. Originally a shopping mall, it and its surrounding buildings, now look like private dwellings. When it opened in 1936 it was the city's first cosmopolitan shopping mall.

The Crossroads of the World

Back on the boulevard, we were starting to flag. The sun was still beating down and we'd been on our feet for a good many hours.

Pressing on, back towards Hollywood and Vine, the boulevard took on a rather seedy look. The highlight of this area and no doubt why it is now mostly filled with, shall we say, lingerie shops, is Frederick's. This 1940s store, with its pink awnings was the first of its kind, selling 'unmentionables'. Today, those around it are selling far worse! At this point we decided to call it a day and made our way back down into the metro station.

3 trains, red, blue and green, later and we were back at the station, at which, we had started our day. As we walked back under the flight path once more, we stopped again to watch the aircraft landing, counting the sets of lights twinkling in the sky, on the approach.

Back at the hotel, we did some packing, before heading out to Denny's again, for our dinner.

Tomorrow will be our last day, as we fly out at 6pm. Before that though, we have a breakfast date with our friend Carol, who is taking us to Manhattan Beach. Should be nice, as the weather is predicted to be scorching again.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Day 20 - Los Angeles Sightseeing (Part 2)

Stepping out of Hollywood and Vine station, the heat and sunlight hit us once more. This was going to be hard work.

Armed with my second printed tour/map, we set off. This one is a bit easier to follow, as, apart from the odd side walk (north or south) it is a walk along one street, Hollywood Boulevard, East to West. Incidentally, if you fancy doing these walk yourself, the website is;

Starting on the North side of the boulevard, we came to The Pantages Theatre. Built in 1929, like most of these old building, it has seen better days. In deed, it was the home of the Oscars during the 1950's. Passing the Capitol records building, which looks like a stack of vinyl records, a side stroll north took us the the Knickerbocker Hotel. Now private apartments, as a hotel, it had quite a dark history. Actress Irene Gibbons slashed her wrists here and jumped from the 11th floor (for good measure), whilst film director D W Griffith dropped dead under the chandelier. Although apartments, we were able to gain access and view the afore mentioned chandelier.

Knickerbocker Hotel Lobby

Further along the boulevard, there's the 1927 Warner Pacific Theatre and the Janes House, the oldest house on the boulevard, having been built in 1903. It's described as the last Victorian Queen Anne house on the boulevard. make of that what you will. It has been moved back from the road and is now practically unreachable, certainly from a photo point of view. Least they haven't knocked it down, though it doesn't sit well with the sports bar now in front of it!

The Musso and Frank Grill, is a 1919 restaurant. My friend Carol had said we would like this place. It was nearing lunchtime, so we popped our heads inside. It retains that old world charm but is very much a silver service establishment, with waiters in proper uniform. The prices on the menu reflected its up market status and needless to say, we did not partake. I can see Carol prefers the finer things in life ;-)

Another side stroll on, Highland Avenue, took us to the Methodist Church, which featured in the 1952 War of Worlds Movie. Further up Highland is the Hollywood Bowl but this was a stroll too far in the heat, so we returned to the boulevard and continued, stopping of at McDonalds, where Catherine found they did a veggie wrap.

Back on the boulevard, we came to the busy end and the Kodak Theatre, the new home of the Oscars. This is very strange, as it is embedded in the shopping mall, so not obvious from the street. I'm not an avid Oscars watcher but I'd never guessed from the red carpet shots I've seen that it was like that. Up in the mall, there's the only real view of the Hollywood sign up on the hillside. It's an awful long way off but full zoom gets a decent enough photo. Right next door is Grauman's Chinese Theatre, with its hundreds of hand and footprints of famous actors and actresses in the pavement/sidewalk outside. Another Route 66 vintage place, opened in 1927.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Reaching the La Brea Gateway, a tribute to the women of Hollywood, we started the trek back along the South side of the boulevard.