From my travel journal: Monday 4 April, 7.45 am

Ventura. Happy birthday Mum!

The view from my motel room. A small hedge separates the carpark from a multi-lane road, busy with traffic (all going the same direction – right must lead towards work for everyone). That’s not the freeway, though – that lies beyond, a concrete monster towering over the road, I don’t know how many lanes wide, with an even more constant roar of traffic. It’s so constant that it didn’t really disturb my sleep last night – it was kind of like being by the sea. Beyond that, smoke rises from some distant industrial plant, and beyond that again, hazy in the smog, are the mountains. And everything glary already from the sun. (Yeah, I left my camera in the car and had to resort to a sketch, how could you tell?)

I’ve just noticed – what I thought was a strangely shaped tree is actually a cell-phone tower in disguise! I remember reading about the scheme somewhere ags ago, and now there’s one right outside my room. It looks kind of like a scraggly fir tree, but then (mostly because it’s silhouetted against the sun) you notice solid shapes hiding among the branches.

I was reading a book on travel journalling last night that Skyring lent me, and it was talking about culture shock and the frustration of not knowing how the toilets work in a foreign country, and it struck me that that’s actually what I love about travelling. I love it that in America all the light switches are upside down, and the plugs are stupidly flimsy, and the toilets do this weird back to front flushing thing that sucks the water out, and that it takes 10 minutes in each new place to work out how to control the shower (actually, that’s not a feature of America, it’s just a feature of showers in general – how hard can it be to design a shower control system that’s intuitive to use?). I love that when I order food I’m never entirely certain what I’m going to get (partly through the food being unfamiliar, partly because nobody can understand my accent so I end up getting something completely different to what I ordered – that happened last night, but it tasted good anyway, so who cares 🙂 (the server also had an interesting approach to spelling names – she had to write our names on the order dockets so they could call them out when your food was ready, and I ended up as “Jeiffer”. Better at least than Skyring, who got something like “Scugurg”.)). Ok, I don’t so much love the fact that you never know what anything’s going to cost because you have to add taxes, and gratuities, and California’s healthy food surcharges, and… (and it seems to be different in every place!), but the food is so cheap that it doesn’t matter anyway (most mains – sorry, “entrees” (that is so weird!!!) – are about $10-15* for an enormous plate of food – I don’t think I’ve managed to finish a meal yet!), so it’s all just part of the adventure.

*And that’s in real restaurants – my meal last night (in a fast food place) was $7 for a huge bowl of chicken, salad, rice and beans, and as much soft drink as I could drink. I’d expect to pay at least twice that for fast food back in NZ.

It looks like the others are stirring (we said we’d try and be on the road by 8 – a bit of a sleep in after yesterday’s early start), so I’d better finish packing up.

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