The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Apr 22, 2010

Driven Around The Bend

You may scoff and await news of staggering contretemps (as Veena did) when I say that I planned a holiday in Los Angeles and didn't arrange a rental car. Expectant schadenfreude simply rolls of you, I see. Well, boo. We spent nine days in Lalaland and its environs, and managed admirably on public transport.

I must confess that we took cabs the first couple of days. Major sticker shock. A jaunt down 3rd Street from Downtown to that shopping Mecca of the
Grove set us back nearly $30. And this was on a Sunday with hardly any traffic. Then, trying to be clever, we took a cab from Hollywood to Beverly Hills. Big mistake. To atone for our sins, we grabbed the fast shuttle bus back Downtown. For the princely sum of $1.25 each, we got back in 45 minutes. The little fellow was beside himself with glee. "A bendy bus! In America!" he was heard to exclaim.

You can even get around from town to town in the greater LA area on public transport. And I don't mean
Greyhound with its stinky buses and sticky stations. The Pacific Surfliner is a convenient, if slow, way to get about Southern California. It runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, stopping at points of interest such as Santa Barbara. For the most part, the view out of the windows north of LA is of industrial wasteland. Then the Pacific Ocean appears. There are hills to the starboard. It's all pretty as a picture.

Sometimes the trains smell a bit like sweaty underwear. After a while, the brain tunes the odours out.

Los Angeles Metro is rather good, too. Off-peak, there are only four trains an hour. Not ideal with an impatient little fellow like our little fellow. He loved the trains, though. They fairly zip from station to station.

I'd have loved to take the Gold Line to Pasadena.
Jet Propulsion Labs, here I come, I thought. The thought was nixed with alacrity by the rest of the clan.

When the metro system extends to LAX, the airport, it should make life easier for car-despising Luddites such as us.

We weren't always thus. For the seven years of my life in the US, I drove everywhere. I loved it. (I loved it so much that rumours circulated about my having driven from DC to Nashville for a pizza. All lies. (It was actually for whisky. Ssh.)) But who needs a car in London? No one. Even trips out of the city are conveniently achieved by train.

Trains do stymie us. When we lived in Islington, Eurostar trains went to the Continent from Waterloo station. By the time, they switched termini to St. Pancras, a mere 10 minute walk from our old flat, we had moved south of the river. Eurostar can get me to the centre of Paris in about 2 hours or so. But I have to add another hour to get to St Pancras. Net-net, as financial professionals like to say, I'm stymied.

Trains are convenient - generally. Except during public holidays, of course, when the train network seems to shut down for maintenance. And so it is that in seven years in the UK, we haven't been to the Lake District. Or Cornwall. Or Dorset. Or Norfolk. Sure, there are railheads in each of these areas. But once you get there, you need a car to get around.

The wife has been hinting that we should throw in the towel and buy a vehicle. My excuse is that all my driving licences have expired. 15 years after I passed my driving tests, I'm now forced to retake them. The thought fills me with the heebie-jeebies. I passed one exam by bribing the examiner, and another by the skin of my teeth.
My hero Bill has managed to get a licence on his eighth attempt. Or possibly his twentieth, I don't know. But I'm running out of excuses. The provisional licence mocks me every time I look at it.

It felt very peculiar to be in the heart of America's driving culture and not driving. And, looking back, I'm not entirely sure why I'd been so blasé about being unable to drive in California. I guess we were just lucky to get away with it.


km said...

I'm impressed - vacationing in SoCal or Bay Area calls for a car. (For all its "green" posturing, one cannot spend a weekend in the Bay Area without a car...shame on you dirty stinking hippies.)

But how the heck does one *truly* enjoy the Pacific Coast Highway without a car and a loud car radio?

Veena said...

Did you have the Surfliner and the Metro trains all to yourself? I can't imagine anyone else travelling in these things.

Also, news from up North is that I have managed to pass the theory test with flying colours. Scheduled the practical one as well! What finally drove me around the bend was Bill attempting to drive with moi in the passenger seat. We have come to the conclusion that some of us are born to be drivers and others well, navigators. It doesn't work the other way.

Fëanor said...

KM: One stays off the PCH and on the PCR, if you know what I mean.

Veena: no, both were fairly crowded. The train was filled with tourists (and not just foreigners) and the Metro with Hispanics.

So: theory+hazard+simulation - all done? Excellent stuff!

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