Los Angeles is another world…The traffic is outrageous!…Fun dinner out with Julie…

We encountered hundreds of wind turbines as we entered California.

It was a perfect road trip. We decided we’d be OK with burning some data on Google Fi at $10 a gig and would listen to podcasts while on this long road trip, ending in Minnesota around May 10. While here, we won’t listen to any Garage Logic and other podcasts as we do daily and save the episodes for the remainder of the drive across part of the US.

For our friends and readers who live outside the US, here is a map of the country showing how far we’ll be driving from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, with a stop in Salt Lake City.

United States political map

Road trips across the entire US can be made by car in about five days without having to drive 12-hour days. We prefer to drive about six hours daily since I have to be mindful of not getting swollen feet and legs on longer drives due to my heart condition.

Yesterday, we drove for about 6½ hours, and that was plenty. We stopped every few hours to get out of the vehicle and walk around. Plus, we stopped for breakfast at the beginning of our trip and then for fuel partway through.

But the magic of yesterday’s trip was using our new Bluetooth speaker, paired with Tom’s phone, to listen to the podcasts. Tom’s lousy hearing, especially when driving due to road noise, makes it easy for him to hear the podcasts. This made a world of difference to him, and I also enjoyed listening.

The hours flew by, and before we knew it, we checked into our hotel, the Comfort Inn in Santa Monica. We have never booked a Comfort Inn in the past and were concerned it wouldn’t be a good hotel. We didn’t expect much at $216 a night in this expensive area. But it’s OK with comfortable bedding, good parking, and clean rooms and facilities.

The traffic started picking up about one hour before we reached Los Angeles.

After all, this isn’t a “vacation.” This is a part of our daily travels concerning where we’ll rest our heads at night, and although in most cases, it’s lovely locations, hotels such as this are OK from time to time. We slept well and welcomed the larger bathroom and sleeping area over the tiny spaces in Apache Junction, living in a park model.

Fortunately, we could use some credits we’d accumulated with Expedia as VIP members, bringing the cost down by over $250 for the three nights. Dining out for the three of us will run an average of $175 per night. Breakfast is included with our hotel reservation. It’s the usually processed eggs, ham, and a few odds and ends, most of which I don’t eat. I had a small container of cream cheese, a dollop of processed eggs, and a few thin slices of Canadian bacon. That was fine. It will hold us until dinner tonight.

Snow on the mountains in California.

Speaking of dinner, we went to a fantastic restaurant in Brentwood, the Wood Ranch. The only odd thing both Julie and I observed was that the red wine was served too cold for our liking. We asked for room-temperature red wine, but the waiter informed us all the red wine was kept cold. These were good wines. I didn’t understand why they kept them so cold.

The waiter was happy to oblige and swapped our glasses for white wines, which are best chilled, and we were content. The smoky open-fire grilled food was delicious. Tom had the beef brisket with mashed potatoes, beans, and all three buns served at the table, which neither Julie nor I would eat. See the photo below.

These rolls looked and smelled delicious. My guy ate all three of them. He sure likes his bread, doesn’t he?

I failed to take other food photos, but the conversation was lively and animated, and I completely forgot to take food photos. Nonetheless, the meal was divine and well worth the $140 bill for us.

We will try another of Julie’s favorite restaurants closer to the beach tonight. Julie and I will look up menus today and see what works for all three of us. Tomorrow, the “cousins” lunch is in Los Alamitos, about 45 minutes from here in traffic. There will be nine of us.

I’m looking forward to seeing my cousins, whom I have seen in about 60 years. Oh, good grief, I must be old.

Tom will drive Julie and me to her doctor’s appointment at UCLA Medical this morning and pick us up when we’re done. Then, he’ll drop us off at her house, where she and I will stay and chat until he returns to pick us up around 4:00 pm to head to the beach and then dinner. He’ll gladly spend some quiet time alone in the hotel in the afternoon. It will be another good day.

This trip to California will certainly be worth the detour of our route to Minnesota, and of course, seeing my sister after four years is lovely.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 2, 2014:

It was odd to see these blue jeans in the souk. For more photos, please click here.

Organized layers…on to Albuquerque…

Yesterday, it was 82 degrees in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at 5:30 PM when we checked in to our hotel, a newer Comfort Inn & Suites.  Never having stayed in a Comfort Inn, I was tentative at the low price of $79 a night including tax. We’d decided when we began this journey that nicer hotels would be reserved for our future travels, not for getting us to Scottsdale.

Surprisingly, the room was a clean mini-suite with living room,  comfortable sofa, spacious bath, mini refrigerator, microwave, flat screen TV and free wireless although unsecured Internet.  

We left Des Moines Iowa at 9 am, stopping twice for gas with two additional stops  to stretch our legs, mine particularly cramped from sharing the passenger floor space with the cooler.  

Since starting our low carb, gluten free, sugar free way of eating 15 months ago, we no longer are hungry for lunch.  We saved at least an hour by not stopping for meals.  It was a good day, our first official fully retired day for both of us together.

Frequently we glanced at one another in a state of awe.  We did it!  We left! We said our goodbyes to loved ones with tear filled eyes. We let go of all of the entanglements one acquires in their lives, the stuff… and we left.  Sadly?  Yes. Easily? No.  But we did it.  And, we can’t stop smiling.

During the day, I received a text message from Verizon reminding me that I’ve used up most of my allowed text messages with three days left until the end of the billing period.  Ah, who cares? 

Along the way, my fingers flew across the tiny keyboard on my Android phone (soon to be replaced by two unlocked international smart phones) chatting back and forth with family and friends. See, we aren’t going to be so far away!

Tom and I chatted.  We laughed. We silently contemplated our lives.  We enjoyed the driving, not anticipating the future as much as reveling in the moment, coming to a single conclusion:  We are on a permanent vacation that may never end. 

No longer will we have angst on Wednesdays as a week’s vacation rolls into its mid point. No more will we be dreading the mail accumulating in the box (we cut our snail mail down to a few pieces a month, now going to our new mailing address in Las Vegas).  No newspaper to call to resume the delivery. No sense of dread on Sunday evening anticipating Monday morning’s tough reality. How in the world can this be?

How in the world did this happen?  The first discussion, flippantly spewed from Tom to me, resulting in us both surprisingly saying “yes” at the same time, seems as if were a lifetime ago, when in fact it was only 11 months ago.

And this morning, as we packed the organized layers of only that which we need in the hotel room, not a stitch more, we’re already in step as to who does what. 

In these few short days we’ve developed a routine, so familiar, so comfortable that, oddly in itself, begins to feel like “home.”