California Day 4 – Surfing and Santa Monica

The day started early – an 05:45 start in order to be on the road to Santa Barbara in time for the surfing lesson at Carpinteria Beach. This meant that we couldn’t have the provided breakfast and so ate the bagels we’d bought from Target a few days previous. I decided to have two – one with peanut butter and one with jam.

We’d left the motel by 06:30, left the keys behind in the room for them to collect later, and continued the journey. Once again I was behind the wheel as the first signs of light started to illuminate the sky. This however was a harder drive as between the low sun and the intermittent patches of fog the visibility was not amazing. I could definitely have benefited from having my sunglasses to hand instead of them being in the boot.

After the first several miles I started to use the cruise control, another feature I’ve not used before, to try and make it an easier journey. The route was scenic and in some places you could see low-lying fog over fields and in valleys in the distance. It was quite picturesque, but we didn’t have time to stop. Our ETA was a little passed 08:30 which would mean we’d arrive 30 minutes before the surfing lesson was due to start – if we didn’t hit traffic outside Santa Barbara.

Fortunately we made good time and arrived at Carpinteria Beach with plenty of time to spare. After parking up we wandered around for a while before getting ready for the lesson. When the surfing instructor arrived we got into the wetsuits and headed out onto the beach. To start with we had to practice going from laying down on the boards to standing up so that we’d not only know what we needed to be doing before we got into the water, but also to know which foot to tie the board to.

Once we’d learnt the basics we went out into the water. For my first attempt I got onto the board and was told when to start paddling and when to quickly push up. Amazingly, and almost unbelievably, on my first attempt I stood up quickly and rode the wave in all the way to the beach. The next few attempts weren’t so fortunate and I found it was actually quite difficult to do – I’d just gotten very lucky on my first attempt.

As time went on we had many attempts at riding the waves in, all to a varying degree of success. There were probably 3 or 4 more times I’d been successful, and one of these was a very last minute attempt – whilst going back out I saw a wave coming in so quickly jumped on the board with only a second to spare so immediately stood up and rode it in to the beach.

Some of the waves that were coming in were incredible and numerous times they were so big that myself and the board disappeared under the wave – one of these times included the board smacking into my face and tearing the prescription goggles from my face (though I did save them from being washed away).

About half way into the lesson I had to pause for a while as my left calf muscle suddenly went completely taught and I found it incredibly difficult to ease it off. It did however start to fade and I was able to stand enough to continue the lesson. After about 90 minutes we headed back to the car and dried off. The lesson cost $89 + tip each, something which I do think was worthwhile for the new experience and the enjoyment of the morning.

Although it had been quite cool when we arrived, by the time the lesson was over it had warmed up to at least 19C and was proving to be quite a pleasant day. Due to the cramp in my calf muscle, my friend decided he’d do the driving from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles to give my leg time to ease off.

This drive was about another 90 minutes and as we approached Santa Monica the number of lanes became crazy – in places there were 6 or 7 lanes of traffic in each direction! Based on the amount of traffic though it was a clear indication that they were needed just to keep traffic moving.

We arrived at my friend’s office at 12:25 and for the next 20 minutes I sat in the car whilst he visited his colleagues. However I soon joined him up in the office when he found that he needed to do a bit of work. Not the best thing to need to do whilst on holiday on a day that was already going to be tight due to the amount of driving and how much we wanted to see. We’d arrived slightly ahead of schedule though, so in some ways we weren’t really losing any time – so it did in fact no matter. It also gave me chance to catch up on a few things.

At 13:25 he’d finished his work and we headed with one of his colleagues to a nearby place for food, called Mango Cafe. His colleague was incredibly kind and bought us both lunch – I had a packet of crisps (or potato chips as the Americans call them), and the Parisian sandwich which was a croissant filled with maple ham, brie, and green salad.

Our next stop after lunch was the Battleship Iowa, but getting to it proved interesting. The freeways in Los Angeles are wide and busy, and the driving at times seems a bit erratic. The satnav didn’t really help matters either as my friend who was driving still found some of it’s directions to be a little confusing. Understandable really, as I found myself that it didn’t always make sense. With the traffic being heavy we got to the USS Iowa at around 15:30 which left us with 90 minutes to see it all.

The USS Iowa is pretty impressive, and is apparently the only remaining warship in the world. This one was commissioned during World War II and later was recommissioned by George H.W. Bush in the 80’s – presumably because of the Cold War. The tour winds all over the ship and there are many decks you don’t get to see – but those that you do give you a good idea of what life onboard the ship would have been like and to some degree it’s operation. This is one where you don’t get to see engineering, etc. though unlike the aircraft carrier, USS Intrepid.

By 16:00 they were starting to close up the tour, and by 16:50 we’d just finished looking around – it seemed like they were eager for us to go even though they were technically open for another 10 minutes. I got the feeling that during more normal hours the ship is probably a lot busier, though it was nice to have photographs without getting other tourists in the shot. The tour eased off the cramp in my calf muscle and I hoped it was enough to mean I’d be able to run the next morning.

I drove from the USS Iowa to where our hotel was located in Santa Monica. Having 7 lanes of traffic travelling in one direction, in the dark, with many drivers switching lanes at a seconds notice (seemingly without looking and often without indicating) and slotting into spaces that were barely larger than their car created one of the most stressful drives ever. Although it was under an hour I was still glad when it was over.

The Days Inn on Santa Monica boulevard wasn’t bad, and for the first time this trip it offered secure underground parking for the car. Once we’d checked in and dropped off the luggage we headed out looking for food and decided upon a cafe over the road called Coogies Cafe Santa Monica.

I went for the Orange Chicken which was a crispy chicken in orange and ginger sauce and was served with rice and and bell peppers. Unfortunately they’d used so much ginger it was overpowering and was pretty much inedible. I did however force myself to eat the chicken, though the sauce prevented me from eating much of the rice.

Once again we were back at the hotel by 20:00 at the end of another long day of sightseeing.

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