I’m back! What a big adventure it was traveling by myself to California, spending time with my daughter Marissa, seeing lots of Los Angeles sites, and hiking in Yosemite for a few days. I’ll write about the trip in a few installments, rather than trying to cram it all into one post.
I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll start with a little about the emotional aspect of traveling. As mentioned in my post the night before I left, the last time I traveled anywhere big by myself was in 1979 when I flew down to meet Tim in the Caribbean. I was 19 (oh, my poor parents), and flew into St. Thomas, where my handsome, buff and tanned guy met me at the airport. We spent a night at Larry’s Hideaway, visited St. John, and camped at Brewer’s Bay on Tortola for a couple weeks. I think the only other time I’ve flown since then was to see my sister when she lived in New York.
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So it was a very big deal for me to take this trip to the west coast by myself, and not that long after Tim passed in January. Thankfully, I had a lot of great advice from my travel-writer friends, as well as friends who travel a lot just because they love it. The lead-up to the trip and also flying to California was a little nerve-wracking, but I did ok. I just decided I was going to do it, no matter how scary it was. After all, my daughter is there and it seems like she’ll be there for a while, so I have to get used to traveling.
I flew out of Traverse City (of course I got there two hours early, as instructed by the airport’s website!), had a one-hour layover in Detroit (just enough time to find my next flight), then flew to L.A. I may be the only person on both flights who actually paid attention to all of the instructions by the flight attendants. I wasn’t sure how my nervous stomach would do (a Johnson trait), so I didn’t eat much on the planes. I did chew gum, though, and didn’t have any troubles with my ears at all.
I just missed a good photo of the Peninsula, but you can see it on the far side in this photo. That’s Hastings on the right and Garfield in the middle. I’m going up with my brother Ward at blossom time, so I’ll get some good pics of the OMP then.
Also, I learned a lot about what NOT to do when it comes to packing. I had a carry-on piece of luggage, and also a shoulder bag with my laptop and anything else I thought I might want access to on the plane. But the shoulder bag was way too heavy to lug through the Detroit airport, so I did something different on the way home. More on that later. I also didn’t used my laptop at all. I had one opinion piece come in, but just posted it from my phone. Of course, my plan to pre-schedule a few stories for when I was away didn’t happen. I’ll work on that for future trips.
I flew Delta Airlines there and back, and have nothing but good things to say about them. On the way there, I flew “Comfort+,” which gives you a little more legroom than the Main Cabin level. Just a few rows ahead of me was the First Class level, and boy, they seemed way less stressed than the rest of us. Also, the flight attendants were amazing. Ours were, too, but up there, a whole different level of service. More on that later.
Comfort+ was still pretty cramped, but my seat-mates were nice and helped me figure stuff out on the plane. I had a window seat, but didn’t keep my window open too much because they were trying to watch stuff on the Delta screen and the glare was a bit much. I did, however, crack it open a few times to see what was out there, and I’m in awe of the vast countryside down below. Lots of mountains and sandy landscape, with tiny dots of homes and small towns seemingly in the middle of nowhere. How did people get there? What do they do there? So many questions.
And here is the view coming into Los Angeles. So many homes, highways, cars and buildings.
Once I arrived in L.A., Marissa couldn’t pick me up for a couple hours til she got out of work. She’s an assistant manager at the Alamo Car Rental branch near LAX, but in a different building a little ways away. Right away, I made the rookie mistake of leaving the main part of the terminal and then couldn’t get back in. Otherwise, I would have just hung out in a cafe or bought a day-pass to the Delta Lounge (although I learned on my way back that they don’t sell day passes at that particular lounge – oh well).
So I hung out in the baggage claim area and watched all the people come and go – a trait I happily inherited from my mom. But apparently, they really don’t want you spending time in the baggage claim area, because there’s not one seat to be found. Not one! So I climbed up on some pseudo-steps near the door, where all the other poor souls were stuck waiting for people, too. I was never so glad to see my girl! And she actually found me based on my limited knowledge of where exactly I was. Here she is fetching me.
That first night, we went back to her apartment in Culver City (a cute little studio apartment) and had pizza. Pizza is my favorite food group, so that was swell by me. The next day, we hiked an absolutely gorgeous trail at the Point Dume Natural Preserve in Malibu.
This trail has amazing views of the beach, and it’s the place where I first dipped my toes into the Pacific Ocean. They were filming a commercial there when we pulled into the parking lot, so that was kind of exciting. Point Dume also has a fascinating history, which you can read more about here.
The Pacific Ocean was cold and exhilarating. We saw a pod of about 20 seals on the rocky beach below the trail, and a flock of pelicans flew by. Thrilling! We also spread some of Tim’s ashes in a little cove here, but I’ll write a separate post about that (oh that Tim – he made himself known).
From there, we went to the Santa Monica Pier and had dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. “Forrest Gump” is one of Tim’s favorite movies, so of course, we had to eat there. And it was fantastic.
Also, a few weeks before I left, I made the trip to St. Ignace to get my TSA Pre-Check (the closest location, although I heard they’re doing some TSA pop-ups at the Traverse City airport).
It didn’t matter so much at the Traverse City airport (I totally didn’t need to get there two hours early), but coming back, it certainly sped things up at LAX. I still had to go through a line, but you don’t have to take your shoes off or take your laptop out or anything. I highly recommend getting the TSA Pre-Check. There’s my newbie travel advice.
Next up: Yosemite National Park, where we hiked about 30 miles in two days. Whew!