Day 8 – 14th May
I’d elected not to take the Coast Starlight back to Los Angeles; it would come into Union Station late in the evening even if it was running on schedule, which I thought might be unlikely given that it was coming all the way from Seattle. So I took a Megabus instead. This meant I had to take another bus north – in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go – to San Jose Diridon Station in order to get on the Megabus, but it was on time and got me back without any problems. The journey back was on I-5, further inland than the train had been; mostly there was a lot of flat farmland stretching far away to the east, which eventually gave way to rugged hills as we approached LA.
Then it was back on the Metro, where there was a man in a dressing gown and another who kept slapping the subway door when it closed.
Day 9 – 15th May
For my last full day, I headed down to the area close to LAX, where happily my hotel allowed me to check in early. There were a couple of things I wanted to see that were within reach of this point.
A friend on Twitter had recommended I go down to the headquarters of SpaceX in Hawthorne; I couldn’t go in the building, of course, but I could see the Falcon 9 first stage that is on display outside. This isn’t just any old first stage, but B1019, the first booster that SpaceX successfully landed back on Earth following launch, on 22nd December 2015. It towers over everything around it, so much so that I had to go across the street to fit it into a single photo.
Although I was pretty tired – public transport gets wearing after a while, particularly in a busy city – I still wanted to go down to Venice Beach as well. The sky was overcast yet again, so I couldn’t see a proper sunset as I had hoped. But it was still very pleasant to stand on the pier, watching the waves coming in, looking out at the Pacific and reflecting on the fact that there is nothing in that direction for thousands of miles until you hit Asia.
Finally, I went to the Cheesecake Factory at Marina Del Rey. I hadn’t been able to indulge myself with good American food as much as I’d hoped on the trip; partly due to being on the go so much; partly because with other things to concentrate on a lot of the time, I wanted something quick and familiar at mealtimes. But that evening, I sat down and just went for it: a big bacon cheeseburger and a chocolate hazelnut crunch cheesecake. Oh, yes.
Day 10 – 16th May
The beginning of the journey home was a little more stressful than I’d hoped. As both of my flights were under Virgin Atlantic flight numbers, I was under the impression that I would need to check in at the Virgin Atlantic desk – but it never opened. Eventually, since the domestic flight to Las Vegas was operated by Delta, I went to their desk; but while they could check my luggage through to Manchester, they could only give me a boarding pass for the first flight. As I only had a small transfer window in Las Vegas, this got me concerned – particularly as due to high winds in Las Vegas, incoming traffic had been reduced and our plane was late in leaving LAX. I did at least get to sit to a very nice British man, who lived and worked in California but was going to watch Manchester City in the FA Cup final. He didn’t mind that I was a Liverpool supporter, since his wife was one too.
Thankfully, upon arrival at McCarran, I was able to transfer quickly between terminals using the tram, get my boarding pass and reach the gate just before boarding. From there, it was a smooth journey back home.
I took a lot of lessons away from my self-planned holiday in California. Next time, I will need to factor in a few more rest days, and as the American public transport could be stressful at times, I may hire a car. When it comes to sightseeing, quality is more important than quantity. And while the solo travel felt a bit lonely on occasion, it showed me that I am capable of planning a long itinerary and carrying it out; I dealt with problems when they came up, and I saw and did everything that I’d planned. Now I need to decide where the next adventure will be!