Day 1: Saturday 6th.
Started very early - I didn't sleep very well, waking several times in the night. Got up about 6.15am and finished tidying the house. I even managed to put some more ant killer down and do the change of address letters I'd put off so long! The taxi arrived on time, and when it got to the bus station there was time to nip round to the post office to send off the letters before the coach arrived. I was very nervous, and at one time thought I'd left my Psion - major panic.
Met a German girl as we boarded the coach - Isa or something like that. She had just finished a fortnight with a Cambridge family while she attended an English school. We chatted for a while, very pleasantly, but parted at LHR to go to different terminals.
I booked in to the UA flight ok although I am glad now I opted for the earlier bus as it seems to be very full. They were handing out leaflets asking people to go Sunday instead at the desk. The body search at the security desk was a new experience, but the lady was very gentle.
The flight was long.... I was sitting next to a lady who lives in Seattle but who was born in Wales; she was very nice, and thought I should have a lovely time. She is just retraining in computing after a career break to have children, which sounds daunting. I did manage to sleep a bit at the beginning of the flight, but it was cramped and my neck wasn't impressed.
Day 2: Sunday 7th:
Got through customs fine - not really much of a delay even, and after a bit of a search found the phone for the hotel. The Furama is a typical low-rise city hotel - not particularly plush with no views. My room mate is Pat, who had been told I was called Ivy and was dreading having someone in their 60s turn up! She is perhaps 40, and we are getting on fine. Last night we went out for a wander around the area before making our first purchases in a US store - a small supermarket - type place where we both bought bottled water - before heading for a cafe attached to a bowling alley next door to the hotel where we had an evening meal. Strangely, "French fries" turned out to be thick cut crisps, which rather threw me. We have decided to go back though for breakfast this morning.
We met the tour guide, Dean, at the hotel, and after getting introduced the eight of us (Pat, Cordi, Bruno, Julienne, Janette, Mayumi, Dean, and myself) we set off on a tour of LA, including a fair bit of Beverly Hills including Dean's lovely dog, Sasha and his parents dog Kimba when we visited his house. We also saw some lovely houses, the "Beverly Hills Hotel", a large building in pink painted stone. Rodeo Drive, the original heart of the area, was rather like Kensington - full of very upmarket Gucci like shops
We then set off for Sequoia, The mountains which surround LA get higher, with many sharp ridges, but the the landscape changes to rolling although still high hills before flattening out into the expanse of the San Joquin Valley. This Dean describes as the most fertile area of California, supplying much of the food for the rest of the state. We stopped in Bakersville for lunch and our first shop. We went to a supermarket (just a "market" here) having decided which meals we want. One group has been charged with getting and making dinner, and they go off with one trolley to get that while another group get breakfast and lunch things - usually sanndwich fare. The shopping must then be packed in coolboxes with the ice (which is really easily available and cheap here). Having shopped got directions to a Sizzler, which Dean said was a really good resturant chain, but the one we found was rather expensive for it's kind so we went across the road to a Wendys. The food was ok but nothing special.
Back on the road, we left Bakersville for Lemoncove where we were to stop for the next two nights. The camp site is located next to a small man made lake, and is really quite pretty. Dean gave us a demonstration of how to set up a tent when we had unloaded the gear from the roof. A tent consists of a frame with a ridgepole and four structs which form two inverted V's. The groundsheet and interior sidewalls are all joined together, with zips on the entrance side. To erect the tent, you lay out the material, insert the tentpoles in pins in each corner of the tent then hold the tentpoles and the ridge together with the "bone" at each end. The flysheet then covers the whole thing, and holds the tent in place with it's four pins unless you need the extra security of pinning the corners of the tent too.
We all put the tents up, Pat and I electing to share one. Bruno then made supper for us and we sat around the campfire for a while. After a bit an American Indian guy came over from a camper in the next lot and we exchanged stories for a bit. He was on a big vacation havig done well at school. He wanted to go to Uni I think, but thought his parents would want him to stay at home helping with the ranch in South Dakota, where the family had several thousand head of cattle.
We got to bed late but I was happy.