SoCal Update

First, a Ryan update. He is recovering well from surgery. That part has been close to miraculous! He has seen his doctors and they are pleased with his progress but his sciatica kicked in big time. He has been pretty much bed-ridden since coming home from the hospital. He's had all kinds of painkillers etc but I think the only thing that is going to help is time - and patience! And that is not something he has inherited from me. I hope that tomorrow will find him back at work!

Once Ryan was settled at home, I went up to Apple Valley in the high desert to see Cody, Mel and the little boys. They have grown so much in the three months since I saw them! Both as cute as can be and extremely active. Meaning you have to be young to be a parent and have the boundless energy to keep up with the kids!

The area is all desert, the yards decorated mostly with multicolored gravel and desert plants. With limited water, there are very few grass patches. But we went for a drive around Spring Valley Lake which is a man-made lake surrounded by typically southern California type suburban homes. It has a clubhouse, pool, tennis courts, a beach and boats and marinas. A real surprise way out there. And the bonus is, it is extremely inexpensive to rent out there. A 4 bedroom, 3 bath house is just on $1000 a month! It would take some getting used to, living in that barren sort of environment, but it would be fun to be close to the little boys and a good place for them to visit with water and beach close at hand.

Now I am staying at Betsy's while she is away for three weeks. Getting here was a challenge and a story in itself!

To go up to Apple Valley, I rented a car which needed to be returned in Burbank, close to Ryan's house. Betsy's place is in Seal Beach, a 1.5 hour (no traffic) drive. It turned out that the day I was to return the car, there was no way for me to get from the rent-a-car place to Seal Beach. Ryan not driving, Les working and Betsy already left!

So I resorted to public transportation - and THAT was an experience! A 1.5 hour trip took almost 5 hours to complete.

First of all I had to figure out the schedules. And being inter-county, coordinate two disparate bus systems. I finally - I thought - figured out. The start was right near the rent-a-car drop off so I thought I had it made! What I hadn't factored in was you pretty much need to know the area before you try to work out where the bus stops are. So first off, I ended up at a stop going the wrong direction! I sort of got a funny feeling that I was turned around so asked someone also waiting, and sure enough, I needed to be across the intersection on the other side of the street to get the right bus!

Fortunately, I hadn't missed the one I needed and climbed aboard. Being a "senior," this bus only cost me .25. There weren't a lot of people on board this leg. The announcements of which stop coming up, then approaching and then arriving became rather annoying, but at least I wasn't going to miss my stop. At one stop, a young man in a wheelchair, with his little dog boarded and he was so stoned... he reeked of pot and he was certainly a happy chappy!

That first leg ended at the iconic Hollywood and Vine intersection. The bus trip planner said to get the Red Line to my next departure point. OK, where is the Red Line station? Not realizing that it was the subway, I was totally at a loss until I asked a little old lady where it was, and she told me in very broken, Russian-accented English that it was across the street - the Subway!

Here I was in the middle of Los Angeles, earthquake central, getting ready to go on the underground! Oh well, as they say "In for a penny, In for a pound!" Besides, if I didn't take the leg I had mapped out, I had absolutely no clue how to get to the third leg of the trip! So I descended into the bowels of the Metro. First I had to figure out the payment system which of course didn't want to take my quarter! When I finally managed to shove the coin in the slot, head through the gates and get to the right platform, the damn train was heading away into the tunnel.

underground

The station was really attractively tiled and the ceiling covered with old film reels. It was very clean, although at this station I didn't see any Metro personnel to ask questions.

By this time I was getting a little frazzled, with no idea which direction I was supposed to go. So again, I asked and a very helpful young man directed me to the right platform and showed me where the map of the system was. So then it was about a 10 minute wait for the next train, which whisked me off to the Blue Line station which was in the same terminal at my next stop. Fortunately, this time there was an official Metro person to direct me to the right platform.

This train, from downtown to Long Beach was packed! Standing room only. Lucky for me I managed to snag a seat, but I did see a young Hispanic man get up and offer his seat to an older lady, so chivalry is not totally dead! At one stop, an old Mexican guy got on, selling chocolate bars - 2 for $1 - I wondered how old they were and then he was off the next stop before he could be thrown off! Gotta make a buck, somehow!

Ninety-nine percent of the passengers had much darker complexions than me! The shades ranged from Nigerian blue-black to cafe au lait and everything in between. I felt like I was back in South Africa, a definite minority! Ryan had expressed concern about me taking this particular train as it goes through some very rough areas of the city;  Watts, South Central and other not so salubrious areas! Graffiti decorated the walls lining the tracks and the houses looked very rundown and tatty. But I had no problems and felt quite at ease with the whole situation. The train made at least 14 stops before we got to Long Beach, where again I ran into the issue of which way do I go! Asked again and once again, was going to head in the wrong direction!

Each of the first three legs cost me a quarter, all three being in Los Angeles County. The fourth leg was a local city bus which cost me sixty cents. The further south I went, the more the bus cost! The last leg, from Long Beach to Seal Beach, one of the shortest legs, cost $1.25 - and that was the senior fare! No wonder fewer people take public transportation down here.

But during the two train legs - not once was I asked for my ticket so wonder how many of the other passengers were actually stowaways!

For me, this trip was an experience, an adventure. Fun to do - once. But for the majority of riders, this is their only means of transportation and I can only imagine the frustration of having to deal with it every day. Waiting, changing trains/buses/tubes and dealing with the masses. We are very fortunate having our own wheels to come and go as we please.

I was very happy to get off the last bus at almost 7pm, walk the last couple of blocks and pop a bottle of wine. Sleep came easily and early.