Heading Home

I’m sitting on the flight from LAX to SEA surrounded by other first class passengers with Mike of Hood, OR fluttering around serving with great energy and a plethora of unexpected adjectives for the normally mundane (like the in-flight snack). I don’t really have a particular goal in mind for this posting, so it may never see the light of day, but as I’m waiting for food and maybe another Coke Zero, I’ll make the best of it.

I don’t even recall when my last posting was. I’m thinking it was towards the end of the disney portion of the trip, explaining the group dynamics. I guess we’ll fast forward to after the Happiest Place on Earth…

Our departure day was special. Everyone packed up and was ready to go fairly promptly. The car loaded, Nick & Amy took off towards DL for more adventures. Heather & I drove my mom back to LAX to drop her off and spend a bit of quiet time together. We made it back to the park and finished out our last checklist items – primarily the Aladdin show in the California Adventure Park. (It was great!) We hooked up with our posse, and got moving towards our next ticket item: Medieval Times!

Medieval Times (Links to their webpage)I’ve never before been to such a show. Tickets can be spendy for four, but I totally recommend any and all upgrades. I had made reservations via the phone, and then arrived to find out there were more options; on site I purchased the “Kings Royalty Option” (or some such thing) and found out that you could even still purchase more upgrades (such as a silly $3/ea charge for a cool backdrop on your “complimentary” photo). Next time around I’ll know better what to expect. We were ushered into a massive waiting area with a bar on one end and gift shops lining the other walls… Bar drinks are epic. Anything you purchase from the bar comes with a keepsake, umm, “beverage holder”. I can’t call them cups, because they were anything but; these were huge goblets, massive steins or other options that all held no less than your common big-gulp sized beverage. There’s something fun to holding a big stein o’ liquid as you are transported back to times more raw. The actors play the parts well, complete with honed accents. The physicality of the performance is mesmerizing: these guys are full-on attacking each other with full-metal gear (swords, maces & shields) and they must be finely skilled to capture a 2″ ring at the end of their pole while galloping at a good clip. Needless to say the experience was great. Our knight was the first to die, but that didn’t stop us from cheering or booing subsequent contests. Eventually the red knight overcame the evil green knight, and peace was restored to the land. All in all, I was like a kid again. Excited eyes, enthusiasm for the battle and awe at the whole orchestration. It was definitely a highlight from the trip, and we have trinkets and photos to help recall the memories!

After our dinner & show, we headed towards Seal Beach. Nick and Amy were slated to stay at the Pacific Inn for the three nights. Heather and I still hadn’t decided where we’d end up for the night; we talked with the evening host and figured out a couple of spots that we could visit. I hadn’t planned on such a late evening for our arrival at Seal Beach, so while I was willing to drive whatever distance, getting back in our stylish minivan (I’m not joking there – I could write a whole other post on how awesome this bright metallic orange Grand Caravan was) wasn’t the first thing on my mind. Fortunately, our friend Sterling returned our call and we decided to go pick his brain about places to end up. He was only 2-3 blocks away and invited us to stay for the night.

Casa Tropicana, San Clemente (links to their website)In the morning, after breakfast, we headed down the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway through various high-scale communities seeing Tesla & Ferarri dealerships along the way. Someday we’ll want to come back through, but this time around, it was simply fun to see. We found ourselves in San Clemente around 4:30pm and decided that bunking down for the next two nights would be a good plan. Thanks to the TripAdvisor app, we found a nice Bed & Breakfast right down on the pier. High ratings, willing to work with our budget (even though I opted to upgrade for a larger room), welcoming owners, and great amenities (like a full complimentary mini-bar) made for an excellent stay.

Thursday we connected with Zori, another friend who was just 10 minutes away on Camp Pendleton; we decided to head out on a shopping trip to a nearby outlet mall for a Bennett Shopping Spree. It was fun (and this may be the first time I’ve used the word “fun” with regards to a shopping experience). We were able to catch up with Zori, and of course we tried to catch Steven, her energetic 3yo son affectionately dubbed “Turbo”. In the evening, we sat with their family and Matthew took the time to share some of his experiences with the Marine Corps. I’m thankful that there are men who are willing to serve to protect our liberties and it was enlightening to hear what a more authentic experience was rather than what common perceptions are and what the media makes it out to be.

After a long evening of chatting, we made it back to the room for a bit of packing and a lovely spa together with Heather. Morning comes very early when you stay up that late. It didn’t help that I woke early to go for a walk to experience the sunrise. I meandered maybe a mile down the shoreline on the trail and walked back along the surf. We finished our packing and hit the road around 9:00 to head towards Anaheim for a quick gift-shop stop before routing towards Seal Beach to pick up Nick & Amy.

On our way from Seal Beach to LAX, there were a couple instances to remind me why I’m such a fan of small-town road systems. First, someone was insistent on running a red light, and thankfully I had noticed his speedy approach prior to entering his lane. I had slowed expecting him to blow by (albeit very close for comfort), whereas he finally noticed that the light was red and that there was a bright orange mini-van crossing traffic perpendicular to his path. He slammed on the brakes and skidded for a bit before continuing on. Fairly low stress for me because I had seen him coming early on, but as always, an adventure in how focused people can be while talking on their cell phone rather than watching lights and keeping an eye out for large vehicles in the way. But, like I said, this was a calm occurrence, comparatively. It wasn’t but an hour later that my heart was racing for a very different reason.

On our route to LAX, I was traveling via the carpool lane, almost entirely. In LA, it seems that they take a different tact of navigation and have specified areas near exit ramps that one can enter or exit those carpool lanes; at other times, they are a double-yellow line. We were coming up to the LAX exit when I realized that the exit seemed closer than comfortable… I still had to wait for my dashed white line to escape, and once it did, I had maybe 1/4 to 1/2 of a mile to weave through traffic on my way to the opposite side of I-5. I started moving, looking for gaps in the traffic from lane to lane when suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear honking to my right. Even still I have no clue if he was just in my blind spot and moving fast, or if he was speeding so fast that I thought I had more room than I actually did, or maybe he came in from the next lane over… But regardless, suddenly there was another car inches from our right side. It was a big one too – I can’t imagine how I would have missed it (think big SUV like escalade or tahoe).

It was a shocker enough to have this giant rig close enough that Heather could have reached over and tapped on their window without shifting in her seat. As we moved back to our respective lanes, it became apparent that this gentleman was, in fact, not intending to be gentle. From what I could tell, he was a black 20-something man with two passengers. It seemed like an image from some stereotypical rap song. It would have been perfect had he had copious chains around his neck too and a shiny gold tooth. He was visibly angry even though contact had not occurred… After “communicating” his disgust for my lack of observation, he and his passengers seemed to be leaning over to look through the glovebox. My thought: “Oh sh*t.”

Fortunatly our paces changed and I resumed my efforts to get back to exiting. Thankfully he is behind me and my hope is that he has a better day from here on out and that he’ll go on his merry way. Keep in mind, this is all transpiring in mere seconds. My mind is racing of options considering what if scenarios that included his return from the glovebox with something other than a map or his insurance card. I continued to the exit and much to my chagrin, he decided to follow and pull up alongside us again. Yikes this could get bad fast… did he find something?

Thankfully, there was no weapon brandished and my miming skills were strong enough to communicate something along the line of “I’m so completely sorry, you have no idea how sorry I am to have encroached on your lane and threatened your vehicle. Please forgive me.” (Which was my posture from the very beginning once we had returned to separated lanes.)

I completed leaving I-5 on my appointed exit ramp, and he continued back towards whatever his destination. Thank God that he left his weapon at home that morning as he ran out the door to pick up his friends.

While the experience is still very pungent in my mind, I can’t help but wonder how the interaction would have been different had he been in his car alone. Or had a gun. Or if I had been agressive in return? Maybe I’m just a small-town kid, but wouldn’t it be more effective to simply be thankful that there was no contact made between our cars?

I’m now decending on the way into Ketchikan and my heart rate has returned to normal. It’s good to be heading home where those interactions simply don’t happen. As much as I like travelling, there are certain things I could do without…

Anyhow, till I think of something else to share, have a great weekend!


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