Monday, May 22, 2006

Motoring into Big LA

"LA is a great big freeway" droned in a loop in my head. We would hit the "big smoke" later in the day. Each Land Rover team was armed with maps and written instructions on how to get to our accommodation that night. TH and I were in front. The Series One hugged closely behind.

The countryside was lacklustre, dusty and flat, made even more ugly by the numerous oil wells. The pumping machines toiled all day, every day, like giant grey seesaws, sucking the land dry. Huge highway advertising signs further blighted the landscape. Most were dull with the exception of one for a pest control firm – "Zero Return on Infestment".

The San Fernando Valley yielded a few welcome spots of colour with the last of the Californian wildflowers before we hit Interstate Highway 5 into Los Angeles. Up onto the onramp and suddenly we were sucked into eight lanes of traffic. It seemed we were in a maelstrom, a tidal wave of metal hurtling us forward. Our engine was screaming at full revs to stay afloat in the tide. The smaller engine Series One bobbed uncertainly in our wake and was lost behind.

We couldn’t stop or slow down and all I could do is hope that the maps and training I had provided F2 would be enough.

The highway signs were easy to follow and, long in advance, I spotted the signs for Highway 405. We whizzed ourselves through a gap in the traffic to position ourselves into the correct lane and zipped off onto Highway 405. Later, the Venice Boulevard exit was also well marked and we slid down the off ramp with sighs of relief. While we were waiting at the traffic lights, the Series One came hurtling down the exit ramp to pull in behind us. We all grinned at each other, as we were justifiably proud of ourselves.

A few more turns brought us to the home of Steve and Nancy. Like Mark and Anne (in Klamath Falls) TH had "met" Steve on Rovernet, a website "chat room" for Rover and Land Rover fans. Again, like Mark and Anne, he had offered us accommodation in his home, even though we were complete unknowns. Steve owned a Land Rover Defender 90.

Steve and Nancy were lovely and very welcoming. They were in their early to mid thirties, but looked in their 20’s. Steve was dark and good looking, with a zest for life that was infectious. Nancy was tall and more serious, but very charming. We were lucky to have such generous hosts, particularly as downstairs part of their house was being seriously renovated. All the floorboards were up and we had to pick our way over the wooden crossbeams. It was like an enormous cattle grid. The kitchen downstairs was intact and this led off to a den/TV room. Upstairs were the bedrooms and bathroom. TH and I were given the guestroom, with a very inviting, huge queen sized bed. F1 and F2 brought up their air mattress for the spare room.

Back in the kitchen Steve was making us coffee. I heard a strange, snorting noise coming from the den. At my raised eyebrows, Steve said that he must introduce me to Pricilla and Peepers. I thought perhaps they might be two dogs, but that was a very unusual sound for a dog. Something was butting against the door into the kitchen, accompanied by more odd snuffles and snorts. Goats, maybe? Steve grabbed a handful of pellet shaped nibbles from a dish and moved towards the den door. He called out over his shoulder, "stand back". I didn’t know whether to brace myself or leap up onto the bench.

Fortunately, the den had a barn door arrangement and Steve opened just the top part. There was raucous squealing, determined rat-a-tat drumming of hooves on the door and I was halfway up on the bench before Steve could throw the pellets out into the den. Steve tossed the pellets, there was a slight pause as I saw them arc into the air, before pattering onto the floor. Instantly, there were screams, squeals and a lot of crashing and banging. What the hell was in there???

"Have a look", said Steve. I inched my way towards to door and peered over. Two, pot bellied, Vietnamese pigs were storming around the room, knocking over the furniture, snuffling up the pellets and squealing in delight.
Wow, this was my sort of house. I just LOVED pigs. Seeing my delighted face, Steve said that he had been worried I wouldn’t like them.

He opened the bottom part of the door and they stampeded over. They were the size of half-grown piglets but with that energy, they could easily knock over a human adult. Steve gave them each a pile of pellets and they settled down to graze, while I admired them. They had black, almost hairless bodies, twirly tails and neat little claws. Peepers was the smallest. He had his eyes closed, and he chewed on his food in a contented way, emitting the odd satisfied grunt. Pricilla kept an eye on Steve and I while she ate. Her bright eyes constantly flicked to Steve’s hands, to check out if he had more food. She was definitely more opportunistic of the two.

The den opened up into the garden.
"Come and meet Fido and Fluffy", Steve said.
"Hmmmm", I thought, "after those pigs I bet these are not going to be cats or dogs."
And, they weren’t.

They were two desert tortoises (turtles), each about the size of a large, kitchen mixing bowl. They had three babies, as yet unnamed. Fido and Fluffy didn’t make any noises at our approach, and barely noticed us. Much quieter sort of pets.

We stayed with Steve and Nancy for three happy days.

The day after our arrival, F1 and F2 visited Universal Studios. TH and I had been there on a previous visit to LA, so we had a rest day. Well, sort of a rest day. I wrote another article for the Land Rover magazine that we were on assignment to, while TH caught up on maintenance chores on our Series 2A Land Rover.

I sat in the den with my laptop and worked all day. Every time I needed a break, I would put my computer safety out of the way, and then throw pellets to Peepers and Pricilla. I don’t know who had the most fun – the pigs or myself. Occasionally, I would go out in the garden to see Fido and Fluffy. Sometimes they would look up at me, inscrutable, while chewing slowly on whatever they had in their mouths. Dull maybe, but I had never seen turtles up close before, so I was still fascinated.

On our second day in LA, the Local Land Rover parts dealer, "British Pacific", treated us to Disneyland. He was also called Steve.

Steve Hedke was a Disney junkie from way back. His parents brought him to Disneyland at aged two, when the park opened in 1955. He has been a "Gold Pass" member since then.

He met us when the gates opened at 10am, used his Gold Pass to secure free entry for us, and headed us straight for the Indiana Jones "Land Rover" ride. There was a long queue but we chatted Land Rovers and compared adventures. Soon we were at the head of the queue and in the front row of this exciting, jungle ride. We lurched up and down, sometimes in darkness, with flashing explosions, gunshots, rolling boulders, poisonous darts, and the best part for me, squishing "rats" under the wheels, before zooming out into the light.

Steve H paid for our lunch and gave us British Pacific hats and tee shirts. He had to get back to work in the afternoon and he made sure we had Disneyland maps for the rest of the day. He, Steve and Nancy, Mark and Anne were some of the many people in America, and the rest of the world, who’s generosity and kindness made our expedition special and memorable.

After a big and happy day, we staggered back to Steve and Nancy’s home. We had pizza for dinner, with the voracious Pigzilla (our nickname for Pricilla) trying to grab it off our plates.

Tomorrow we would have to hit the road again.

© Eventful Woman, 2006
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