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Tuesday 5 Nov 2013
Santa Barbara, USA

Turn right at the third Pier and straight on to Mexico...

This is it.  The final stretch of my epic 45-day American Road Trip.  I've had two awesome friends to share the trip, met old friends and new along the way, and put on at least a stone from all the huge portions that I tried to stop eating.  But what fun!

Ailsa and I back-tracked from San Simeon a couple of miles to see the Elephant Seal colony that live on a nearby beach.  There were too many of them to count from the safety of the board walk - they don't call them Elephant Seals for nothing, I wouldn't want to get too close!  Actually, they get their name from their trunk-like snout, though they are huge and noisy.  We watched them wrestle, swim, cuddle up, bark, wriggle, bury themselves with sand and scratch themselves with their flippers.  A mutual friend of ours had challenged us to get a photo with the grizzliest Harley biker we could find.  We found the perfect opportunity when a gang of 8 bikes pulled in behind us to see the seals.  They were great fun and even held the up clapperboard with a message for Jean in the photo.  

We carried on down Highway 1 to Pismo, a small seaside town.  We found our way to the Splash Cafe, reputedly serving the best clam chowder in California for over 40 years... which, naturally, wasn't gluten free.  Nor were the scallops (battered), or the fish tacos (battered) or much of anything at all.  After a lot of questions to the kitchen, I ended up with a delicious piece of grilled fish and curly fries while Ailsa tucked into the clam chowder in its sourdough bread bowl.  Which was, she assured me, excellent.

We followed the coast along to Sant Barbara and came of Highway 1, only to follow State Street for 5 miles in the wrong direction.  Stupid satnav... A quick u-turn and we found ourselves in downtown Santa Barbara, with its Spanish style buildings and terracotta roof tiles.  We walked out along the wooden pier and watched the all pelicans perch along the roof of the fish restaurants.

After another browse through the shops - oh look, another Lululemon - we found our final motel of the trip and set about the monumental task of fitting seven weeks worth of luggage, souvenirs, scrapbook materials and roadtrip detritus back into my backpack... and failing miserably.  As usual.  Ailsa, my wonderful, wonderful friend, stepped up to the cause yet again and took a load of stuff home for me.  Mental note: MUST go back to the one-magnet-per-country rule after this trip.  Even I recognise there may not be a fridge in the world big enough to handle all my roadtrip magnets.

Our last day took us the rest of the way down Highway 1 to LA, stopping at Malibu for the obligatory photos with the Baywatch lifeguard stations.  Sadly no actual lifeguards for us to pose with, so we had to save our Hasselhoff fantasies for another day.  There were some beautiful houses along the coast and it was easy to see who had the most money.  Not a bad life for some, eh?

We carried on down to Santa Monica Pier and walked through the fairground to eat our lunch by the ferris wheel.  We stopped to watch a trapeze artist, then realised he wasn't just playing.  People were queuing up to swing out on a second trapeze, hang upside down and be caught and swung by him, before being dropped gently onto the safety net.  That looks FAR more fun than bungy jumping if you ask me!

Our next aim was to drive along past Venice Beach and catch a glimpse of the muscle men and roller skaters that made the area so famous.  However, the boardwalk area is all pedestrianised and we didn't really have time to stop, but the area seemed like fun, with lots of arty looking shops and building decorations.  Another one to explore next time, perhaps.  We decided to finish the trip as it had started, with a drive through Hollywood.  Verity braved the crazy LA traffic at night on the back of a long-haul flight, so I think I got the better deal, making our way across the city in broad daylight.  Even so, the LA freeways were decidedly less friendly that the San Francisco ones and I was actually more comfortable on Hollywood Boulevard itself, tourists and all, than I was on the freeway.  It was actually quite good fun to be able to drive along knowing the layout this time, rather than trying to work out how to drive a crazy backwards car and where on earth we were meant to be going.  I was able to point out the sights to Ailsa, who seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was.  Grumman's Chinese Theatre was fenced off with the red carpets laid out for a film premiere, though we couldn't tell which film.

We beat the rush hour traffic back over to LAX and found the Travelodge I'd be staying at tonight, in order to drop my bags off.  Luckily, the Alamo car returns place was only a few blocks further on and we were able to drop the car off without any problem.  I donated the coolbox and its remaining contents to the guys shecking the cars back in - they were more than happy with a couple of beers and half a bottle of Bacardi!  

Farewell silver Chrysler, you did me proud for the last 2700 miles!

And then it was time for one last goodbye. I saw Ailsa through to the terminal and had a last drink before she went through security.  It won't be long before we meet again in another new country on another new continent... 




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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #1 America

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