If you are a regular reader of this fine blog then it is no secret that I like to drive. Some drives are long and boring, some involves driving through lots of cultures especially when in Europe whilst others are simply magical.
This was one of them.
TomTom predicated nearly 7 hours to get to Santa Clara. My trusty US cell phone said 5. I had both going with my UK iPhone connected up to the sensational bassy car radio system. With shades on today resembled yesterday. Very cloudy skies but quite literally at the turn of 11.45 the clouds almost disappeared immediately and I was driving in bright sunshine and deep blue skies.
I had received tip offs from friends back home about a place called Pismo. After heading up the 101 from LA the temptation to deviate upon seeing the signs to the beach was too much.
Soon I was in paradise watching the Pacific Ocean waves crash. After some Wish you were hear posts on Facebook, I was surprised on how many people had been here.. I had never heard of it before. And now I want to go back.
The journey was similar to that of driving in South Africa. Every different turn in the road providing a new landscape to look at. The rocks and the hills reminded me of last year when I could have been shrunk and driving in a model railway set. I kept waiting for a giant hand to reach over one of the mountains but thankfully it did not happen.
I got to Santa Clara and found the stadium with ease. The phone was correct, just over 5 hours.
After meeting some really nice Baggys fans the game started. I happened to be sitting in front of a couple wearing WOLVES shirts! They had been living here for 17 years and they decided that it would be fun to wear the Old Gold and Black shirts of Wolves. Only in America would they get away with wearing them at an Albion match!
The game was all about one goal and what a goal it was…
Pictures speak louder than words..
2-0 down at half time, Albion got a goal back but the MLS side won 2-1
After sending back a few pictures I was quickly back on the road heading south back to Los Angeles Airport. Listening to some fine US Radio Stations I played the game of trying to identify the song in 10 seconds. I got 9 correct but a Jeff Beck song broke my duck.
I got to LAX in OK time and checked in to go to Boston. I was amongst a group of 22 Chinese children. All quit and sleepy except one girl aged about 8 who had heard of Simple Minds but had never heard a Simple Minds tune – I was wearing my SM T-shirt again.
As soon as I sat on the plane I was asleep!
I woke up somewhere near New England as I could see the sea and it was not long until we landed at Logan Airport.
Apparently I had missed a hullabaloo on the journey. Two Chinese boys had over dosed on Pepsi and had been uncontrollable! They had never drank such epic portions of caffeine and sugar before and apparently had been rowdy and annoying other passengers. Thankfully not me!
My bags arrived safely in Boston and in no time after getting yet another rental car I was on my way to Foxboro. However I was greeted with a terrible thunderstorm and witnessed more flooded roads and my hour long journey took two hours instead.
Upon arriving at the stadium, yet again there was no pass for me. Although I had applied correctly I had to call a few people and eventually got in, however at one stage I feared that I would be not photographing this game. Yet again the Americans adopting a zero tolerance policy with simply no consideration that I had traveled thousands of miles to cover my team of Manchester United.
WBA had taken 37 people with them on their tour. The number of Man U people had exceeded 110. Mascot Fred the Red was there, Alan the Old Trafford stadium announcer as well as over ten marketing staff. The stadium was littered with adverts with a huge McDonalds sign at the back of the home of the New England Patriots. The field advertisements constantly pumped out Man U ads for Facebook, MUTV and so forth. It was quite something.
Now I am not the greatest person for appreciating football talent, but up until now, I would have rated Ashely Young at Aston Villa as being very average and have never understood why he plays for England.
Here today, I have drastically reconsidered my opinion of him. Playing his debut for the Red Devils he seemed to be wanting to challenge Messi as Player of the Year.
He was sensational. As was Michael Owen and Federico Macheda.
Owen scoring the first goal and Freddie getting two and Park another.
The game seemed to go quickly and right on cue it started raining again but thankfully when the referee blew for full time. I was the only English photographer in the photo room with the photographer from The Sun and the Man U photographers I guess in the press box some 6-7 floors up.
After editing and captioning and syndicating over 100 pictures – Manchester United were in their new shirt – I returned to my car and left the stadium.
It was now about 2am. I had to be at the airport for about 5 ish. So I followed my previous tracks to this state and decided on a visit to Shrewsbury again.
I had been here many times before but it was fun driving around at 4am sending funny facebook messages to my friends in the real Shrewsbury back home in Shropshire quickly passed the time of night.
I wasted more time by going back to the airport the long way around the circular M25 type highway as dawn greeted me with another shower.
So without another hotel for the second night running I checked into yet another American Airlines flight only to be told that AKA Ryan Air fashion that I had to pay a fee for my luggage. Apparently this was normal policy despite this now being my 4th flight with something like 11 to go. I was too tired to argue but pencilled in an argument waiting to happen when I got back home.
As always I shut my eyes to be woken up upon landing, this time in Dallas. What an airport this was! It made Heathrow look so small. After waiting around for an hour or so I was back in the air trying to sleep but I was restless, itching and felt like I wanted to embark on a ten mile run. I was thirsty too and could not get the attention of the air stewardesses to get me more fluids.
Back in LA for what was the 6th time in 3 weeks, I waited for my bag – my relief at seeing it on the belt was soon turned into frustration as I could see a gaping hole! Somehow the bag had got torn. I was a trainer down. I don’t think I had lost anything else. Also we had landed at Burbank Airport and not LAX. For one that never assumes anything I was barking mad at myself as I had booked a hire car from LAX and assumed when booking the flights that the chap on the phone had got me a flight to LAX. In Boston and Dallas they simply labelled the flight as Los Angeles.
Whats more every hire car company under the sun was here expect mine – Dollar. Could I get through to Dollar on the phone? Could I hell!
I quickly understood that I all kinds of things could have gone wrong – flights delayed which would have resulted me missing the Man U game, lost bags full stop and I had fulfilled my brief error free so far. Today was a free day and I had no impending appointments – only the dream of falling asleep in the Californian sunshine.
I basically needed to get to LAX to get my car.
Some shuttle company wanted 65 dollars to take me to LAX. One car hire company wanted 158 – third choice of asking was car hire company AVIS – after handing over only 52 dollars I was on the road this time in a huge mother of a station wagon. It was so nice, that I decided to get my booked hire car later in the day. I needed a shower and drove instead to my home for the next 5 days, Ventura.
I got to the hotel and was greeted by a lovely girl called Margarita on the hotel reception. She got the Ventura County Fusion to agree a great hotel rate and my bad day was ended with a stinking hot shower. I went back to see Margarita who told me where to get a new bag from in an unfamiliar town and helped me with all kid of other little issues like hotel wifi, car parking etc. If she did not win employee of the month then I would be writing a stern letter of complaint. This was American helpfulness at its best.
I finished uploading my pictures from the past two games and went for a drive around Ventura. I could stay here for a long time. It resembled Honolulu in many ways. The cheap PlayStations I saw in shops, the DVD box sets of my favorite TV show at the moment Breaking Bad and countless other DVDs of The Office (american version) were resisted as I simply purchased 2 litres of water and some much needed orange juice. For the past two days I had been eating rubbish again. I felt myself getting fat and I was tired. I needed vitamins and a proper rest.
Eating crap food does not help with my mental state or my physical state, but where on the road can you buy nice blackberries, bananas, spinach etc..? Its all McDonalds, Dennys and about six varieties of Twix bars that we simply do not see back home. Yes I tried them all!
However, I resisted the utterly amazing offer of 50 – FIFTY McDonalds Chicken McNuggets for only $9.99!
My day ended with the drive back to LAX to pick up my original hire car. If I did not collect it then I would be charged. On the way back it took nearly two hours and there was evidence of Carmageddon…
The 405, sometimes 9 lanes wide in LA is going to be closed this weekend. Every single electronic sign said expect BIG delays. The man in the hire car company said they never use the word big. Radio Stations were already playing tunes with cars and traffic in the title as almost an anti-celebration.
It was now 4am on Friday morning. I had still not yet had a proper sleep since Tuesday (I think!) I said my goodbyes to my facebook buddies back home and turned the light off… I had to be up in 5 hours to cover West Bromwich Albion training again.