Sunday, August 12

Going nowhere fast

We've arrived safely in Los Angeles after a rather long and eventful flight. Our three week road trip up the US West Coast has begun. I say eventful as it started with a 3.5 hour delayed departure after our plane suffering damage in the gale force winds that swept through Sydney yesterday. Apparently the wind flipped an unsecured set of stairs into the side of an engine, causing some serious damage.

Engineers worked through the night on repairs. However, at the last minute Qantas decided to substitute the A380 we were meant to fly on with a smaller B747. This decision resulted in 70 passengers being bumped off the flight, while those who made it aboard found every available seat was filled. The substitution also meant that our entire flight crew were a team pulled from standby with less than four hours notice.

We cashed in a wad of frequent flyer points for an upgrade to First Class. On the A380 this is a magnificent experience. The same cabin on the B747 pales in comparison. The old cabin is tired, cramped and no better value than a regular business class seat. We'd never spend points on an upgrade so the late substitution of our airport was a real disappointment. We'd have preferred to have saved our points for another occasion.

Our flight across the Pacific did have one endearing quality. Jamie Durie, the former Chippendale dancer turned TV personality, was on our flight. He sat one seat away in my row, leaving me with a permanent crick in my neck after 13 hours of subversive glances. As Garry wryly noted we can now claim to have slept in the same room with Jamie.

Getting out of LA and on to the coast road proved quite a test of our jetlagged driving skills. We arrived to a picture perfect, hot and sunny California Summer's Day. As a result it seemed that everyone in the state was headed for the beach. The freeways were jammed and traffic along the coast road was barely crawling. The first 17 miles of our anticipated 2,000 mile journey took well over an hour to complete. Given that our first day involved a 160 mile drive this initial pace was quite a shock. Fortunately the traffic slowly began to thin and our pace soon quickened.

We arrived at Solvang, our first night's destination just as the sun began turning fiery red on the western horizon. Solvang proved to be a great choice. The town was settled early in the 20th Century by Danish migrants. Over the years this Nordic influence has progressively shaped the town resulting a clean, quaint and slightly kitsch faux European streetscape. The contrast between this quiet, orderly town and LA's grinding traffic chaos couldn't have been more stark.

• Posted from my iPhone

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