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California - Part 1

The great California adventure began auspiciously enough, with a fight over the rental car. The Lovely Louise thinks it’s a great adventure to rent the smallest car in the world and then see if we can fit ourselves and our suitcases into it. I, on the other hand, would go for the biggest, baddest SUV they have. This time I won, and I’m in shock she let me have it so easily. She’s got some trick planned, I know it.

Our plan is to leave Los Angeles and drive up the coast to San Francisco and then spend a week with friends in the Napa Valley. Leaving the airport in our fancy Jeep Grand Cherokee, we head to Venice Beach to see the muscle guys.

No muscle guys. It looks just like every kitschy, beachy tourist area on the planet. Not impressed. I’ve heard that California is the home of beautiful people, but looking around I have to say they must all be at home or at work.

And so onward. Next stop, Santa Monica. Must park and see the pier. Hmmm … low-end restaurants, baby roller coaster, Ferris wheel and carnival games. Well, what did I expect? I don’t know, but it looks a lot more impressive in the movies and on TV. Come Louise, off we go.

Malibu. Oceanfront homes that are so close together you can reach out your window and shake hands with your neighbor without leaving your house. I know these must be worth millions and millions of dollars, but to live on top of your neighbor on an ocean that’s too cold to swim in? Not for me.

Louise likes the name Oxnard, so we head up the highway to check it out. Lots and lots of farmland as far as I can see. Southern Oxnard is very much a farming community, with inexpensive housing and nowhere that I would want to live. North Oxnard is much nicer, but we decide we not to stay, and back to the Pacific Coast Highway we go.

Hey, the sign says Ventura Highway! And it’s in the sunshine. Quick, see if the days are longer, etc. Louise doesn’t think I’m funny either. In any event, we pull of the highway and head towards downtown. She’s checking her phone for nearby motels. She loves doing this and then arguing with the front desk about whether or not she can book it cheaper on Expedia while standing right in front of the clerk.

I notice a nice-looking place right on the beach and suggest we stay there. Too much money, says my Lovely. I plead with her. It’s our first night; let’s spend it on the beach with an ocean view. Once again she gives in, which makes me even more suspicious. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for the jeep and the room, but I do know it’s going to cost me a lot.

Wonderful view, and she’s only reminded me twice on the way to the room that it’s over $100 more than the Motel 6 down the street. And what’s this about $12 for parking? I hadn’t told her about that.

The hotel has a Mexican restaurant on-site, so we decide to eat there. Being incredibly thirsty, I order a Mexican beer. Now, I should tell you that I normally don’t drink beer. Something in the beer gets me very drunk, very quickly. I figure I’m not driving anymore, and I’m on vacation so what the hell. Louise orders her beer and we ask for some appetizers that look appetizing. When she orders the guacamole, the waiter asks her if she wants it “hot.” She says of course, and the waiter leaves, smiling knowingly.

When he brings the order, she takes a bite and her eyes start to grow very large. Louise likes spicy food. I do not. I have a very low tolerance for things that are hot. This guacamole is so hot Louise can’t eat it. I, on the other hand, can’t seem to get enough. My eyes are bulging, I’m sweating like I’m in a sauna, and my entire mouth has gone from numb to serious pain. That’s OK, I’ll just have another bite. Louise is staring at me in complete astonishment as she watches me eat that guac. She’s so impressed, she texts her son to tell him what I’m eating. I’m curing the heat with a Patron Silver margarita with Grand Marnier, so things aren’t too bad.

Finished with dinner, we head back to the room for the night. I’m okay; I just can’t talk. I can only nod, and my eyes won’t stop watering. As I fall asleep, I’m still wondering what Louise is going to do to me for renting the big Jeep.


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