Wednesday 1st - Friday 3rd December
It was a 0520 start from San Marcos on Wednesday morning - and by jiggling with the plus 3 hours to Philadelphia and the plus 5 hours to Manchester I calculate that "door to door " time was 21 hours, aided by aircraft keeping to time and fast westbound jet streams.
We sat at the bottom of the hill below the Cal State University railway station bridge for simply ages, a red arrow barring our way and absolutely no traffic moving. We began to discuss shooting the light and became aware that another car had pulled in behind. Finally the lights changed, and the car behind appeared alongside - the distinctive black and white of a California Highway Patrol car. It was a wise decision then to stay within the law...
Again we bowled out to the coast and down the Interstate 5 freeway. Traffic was moving fast, four and five lanes of it at at 75 plus, vehicles under and overtaking as they do, rarely with
any signal. About twenty minutes north of San Diego, sharp hills on all sides comes a totally arresting view, one that is so extraordinary that I remember cross-questioning Cal Son about it on our very first visit in 2003. Very, very close to the freeway, but slightly above it, stands a sugar-white twin-spired building, the two towers each embroidered by four, I think, pinnacles. Lights always flood out of the building and external floodlights wash over the whole structure. I've not been in it, I seem to remember that it is not open to casual visitors - it is a Mormon Church, officially the San Diego California Temple. Now, (perhaps not there on our last visit?) the church is overlooked by a tall rather brutal slab of a building with a gentle arcing roof, a hotel, I suspect. Again I am struck by the impression that the sort of planning regulations which require sympathetic development with the locality and the natural environment are not the case in California.
By the time we reached the airport the sky was just lightening. Despite the huge controversy in recent weeks over enhanced security checks which started at this airport we were soon smoothly through to airside. Some travellers bury their heads in their laptops or sleep while they wait. The Captain is inclined to gaze at aircraft movements while I stroll the terminal. Here white rocking chairs at various viewpoints encourage rest and relaxation. Visible from the ground floor and the departure level is the Spirit of St Louis, a life-size model of Charles Lindbergh's monoplane. The current art exhibition is provided by ceramicists from Spanish Village and of course there are as well the stunningly beautiful wax and yarn pictures created by Native American artists and relating to their mythology.
It was about a 5.5 hour flight to Philadelphia. The take-off over the city is fascinating, up over the watery lagoons of Mission Bay, out over the Ocean, a turn back towards first beaches, then houses, roads, ridges, canyons and very soon rocky heights. Fifteen minutes or so on and a city appears, Palm Springs (?). Then the long haul high above the desert, sand, unmarked by road or human activity, rocks, ridges, the distant vista of water, occasional watery trails, more rocks and ridges... Eventually green geometric shapes appear, rectangle, square and circle, irrigated cultivation grabbed from a hostile environment.
We touched down to 46 degrees F at Philadelphia Airport, a huge international hub. Crowds thronged the terminals, many in the winter dress of East Coast temperatures. A jazz quartet entertained diners at the food court; curly-bearded Santa sought out younger travellers for a word or two of hope and expectation. Large photos and information line the corridors detailing the history of Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. Those laden with dollars or credit cards can enjoy wide-ranging shopping opportunities. We plumped for a slice of quiche, salad and a cup of hot water with a teabag. Northern accents gathered around us, four "Corrie" women nearby, one still in light top and sandals. A Florida or Las Vegas Girls' trip? Seven hours then strapped into the Manchester-bound aircraft and despite news of Gatwick's snow-enforced closure we touched down one minute ahead of schedule. Wonderful sight: Techno Son-in-law's father was there to meet us, his arms full of extra coats and fleeces!
Later on Thursday Boatwif went to meet the Cheshire One from school: she trundled out, tights and extra socks under her warm trousers, bundled into thick coat, scarf wound round the neck, fleece hat pulled down over the eyes. What contrast: just two days earlier Cal Mom had urged Cal Guy to find his coat, so casually abandoned in school the previous day. "You'll need it," she'd said, " it's really cold today, it's not going to get above 63 degrees Fahrenheit!" ( about 17C)
So back at home, first view was of an icicle suspended from the outside tap. But all was well inside. If only I wasn't awake, jet-lagged at 5am, considering writing just one last blog...