13-14 September: The US trip kicks off!

Author: Mr A

Location: Sydney, Australia to Pasadena, USA

Thursday: This was the longest Thursday ever! We got up at 6am in Sydney, flew to LA, spent hours crawling through LAX immigration and LA traffic up to Pasedena, then went shopping, had lunch, more shopping, then dinner. A total of 33 hours awake with a quick 40 minute snooze.

Thanks to Pasedena local Deborah (Catherine’s friend though her Facebook group for fellow sufferers of her airway disease*) we were collected from our motel, driven around to organise local mobile SIM cards, banking and then to the local outdoor chain store REI, where I promptly got stuck in to some much needed retail therapy. Catherine wasn’t quite as lucky finding her size in things.Deborah also took us to the best places to eat, with Japanese dining at lunch, a break for a local brew mid afternoon and American grill in the evening.All were superb high quality food experiences with great service.

Mrs A almost committed a rookie error when visiting the bathroom though. There was a dispenser by the sink that was full of blue lotion. Catherine was about to squirt it into her hands (assuming it was soap) when the lady next to her, who seemed unable to speak, began gesturing enthusiastically. Catherine twigged…it was mouthwash she was about to clean her hands with! We then got chatting to Catherine’s rescuer and her dinner date. Everyone’s so friendly.

Pasadena isn’t going to be on everyone’s tourist list, we came here to see Deborah and escape LA traffic before collecting our hire car, but we could easily have spent much longer here. The higher elevation here means its a little fresher than the smoky LA basin, so a town grew up framed by the mountains that provide a scenic backdrop.

Location: Pasadena to Atascadero, California, USA

Friday: After some much needed sleep we headed down to sample our first US breakfast. Now, apparently the grey porridge looking substance in the photo is….biscuits in gravy. Not something I’m going to add to my roast beef anytime soon!

Then we were off to pick up our car. Driving on the right here we come. Deborah transferred over her “care package” for us – a slab of water bottles, disposable plates, cutlery and all sorts for picnics. What an amazingly thoughtful lady. She keeps thanking Catherine for all her help and support through the Facebook group, and was grateful to be able to do something for her. Don’t tell Tassie, but there was a little bit of time with Deborah’s very cute Pomeranian ‘cat-dog’ Houdi (Houdini!) before we headed off.

So all equipped we headed off north up to Route 101…minus Houdi!When we stopped at a junction just outside Santa Barbara, we spotted this young guy with an interesting proposition.A stop was called for in Santa Barbara, first job a quick wine stock up (we need to get used to the premium price of Californian wine compared to Australia), and then spotted a sign for “Cat Therapy”. We couldn’t resist of course. It was a business just about to open as a cat café, and the young ladies us allowed us in for a preview.The idea is they take cats from rescue shelters in LA and use the café to showcase them to patrons as prospective adopters. Brilliant.

Lunch then beckoned in the form of the number 1 recommendation on Trip Advisor. We can see why, after fish tacos with a fresh salad that were top class. Gee this is going to be a tough trip on the waistline!

Santa Barbara had a lovely feel to it with wide open boulevards, Spanish style architecture and upmarket shops. Clearly some money floating around here.

As we pulled away from Santa Barbara we were treated to magnificent views over the Channel Islands National Park and the valley below. Ever the tour guide, we received a message from Deborah recommending we stop for a beer at the Cold Springs Tavern, an old staging post in the hills. We took the short diversion – very nice…loving the locally brewed beers and the very cute blue Californian Steller-Jays. The views from the road were superb as we climbed up to our friends’ place in Atascadero where we will spend the weekend. Dave and SJ moved out of the hustle and bustle of San Francisco a year ago to this incredible spot way up on a ridge with 360 degree views towards either the ocean or the vineyards.

A superb dinner was spent sampling some local products from those vineyards, awesome surf and turf to soak it up. It’s awesome to see people like these guys so change their lives from inner city to rural isolation. Just check out these views and our first taste of their local hummingbird population.Our friends recently also moved to fur parent status. Check out this poser!We’ve certainly had a fantastic start to our month in the USA – how can it get better than this?

*Idiopathic subglottic stenosis

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