The Long and Winding Road (that leads to the pier)

At last after 4 weeks and over 3.500 miles with all our detours, we finally made it along Santa Monica Boulevard to Santa Monica Pier. Getting from Vegas to LA was a nightmare drive, rather like the horror film where a guy is driving along and a big truck with blacked out windows comes up behind him and starts bumping him forward and trying to kill him.

The Interstate 15 has 3 lanes; the nearside is for trucks (speed limit 55mph) and ‘slow moving vehicles’. The speed limit for everyone else is 70 mph but travelling at 65 mph I ended up in the slow lane being overtaken by trucks and practically shunted to go faster. By the time we got to the turn-off from Interstate 10 for State Highway 101, (which wasn’t signposted in advance, but don’t get me on about Highway signposting) we were being seriously intimidated by maniac drivers with short tempers. Getting across 5 lanes of traffic moving at speeds of over 100 mph was a white-knuckle ride for us both, but when a pick-up truck driver tried to run me off the sliproad on Pat’s side, it was all I could do to control the car and stop it being shunted into the barrier or over the top.

There was no respite from the volume of traffic till we got to the hotel and we were both so traumatized by the whole experience we decided to travel the last few miles today by bus along Santa Monica Boulevard, and the last few hundred meters to the pier by foot. Maybe it was cheating, but we made it in one piece and met a lot of really nice people along the way.

This hasn’t been the furthest I’ve driven – my brother and I drove 5,000 miles around S. Africa and Namibia in the 1990s – but it has been the most eventful and potentially dangerous regarding other drivers. I don’t know where Highway Patrol cars or police officers are but they’re certainly not on the highways or the streets. No-one obeys speed limits and in all the weeks of driving and the places we’ve been I have only seen a police car twice – one of those times was in St Louis when I asked an officer for directions, the other was when I saw one parked up at a diner and the officer was having breakfast. I never complain about our police officers and they have gone even higher up in my estimation.

So the long and winding road trip is over and it’s time to reflect on what I’ve learnt, what I’ve enjoyed most and what have been the thrills and spills that will form the stories to tell over and over to anyone who will listen. But right now there’s still LA to enjoy and the trolleycar ride around Hollywood tomorrow…

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