Early the next morning I peeled myself off of one of Kelly and Chris' living room sofas. Seb was lying there on the one opposite me with a gigantic fan blowing on his naked belly and a 6.5 foot long Iain could be heard snoozing in the next room in a child's 5 foot long bed. Without any say in the matter, Chris and Kelly's poor kids had had to up sticks and bunk up elsewhere in the house to accommodate us for our steaming sozzled Newport Beach antics. My eyes came into focus and as I saw what the time was, I remembered I was supposed to be going for breakfast imminently with a very nice American girl from the bar we were in the night before. It wasn't Jenna Jameson, thank God. If it had been, the cafe might not have had enough sausages to go around.
It had been a busy night for us it seemed and keen as ever to mingle with the locals on this trip, I sorted out the morning's plans over a few texts. With her staying with friends and me with a Seb and an Iain in tow, we decided to all head out somewhere together to feed our collective hunger as soon as we possibly could. Still shaking from straight up vodka shots and tequilas I wobbled downstairs, careful not to disturb the sleepers. I stepped over the kids as they sat near the front door by their school bags playing Angry Birds on iPads patiently waiting for their mum to awake after the late night's shenanigans and get them to school. Within half an hour, almost everyone (not Seb) was up and about, coffees were flying around left right and centre, the kids were off to school, the breakfast plans were set and… it was Chris' birthday. Woop.
Breakfast with the Californian trio of girls at Sugar Shack on Huntington Beach was a lot of fun and once we had had a good feed (Seb-pancakes etc) we said our goodbyes, wondering if our paths might ever cross again one day. It had definitely been very cool to be welcomed in so warmly by the locals anyway. With all the brilliant family gatherings in Lancaster and here in Lakewood and Huntington Beach over the last few days along with the different friends we we've been making around the country, we're realising more and more that the trip isn't just about America exactly or the sights we see, but about the people we're spending it with along the way.
We made our way back over to Newport Beach that lunchtime where Seb went off to bake himself red in the midday sun on the beach with a good book, Iain went shorts shopping and Chris very generously gave me a haircut at his and Kelly's salon, Desa Salon, refusing to let me pay him a dime. What a lovely guy. Then again, it was his birthday and I bet he couldn't have wished for anything better that day than to have me crawl into the salon, bleary eyed and shedding hair all over his floor. My gift to you, Chris. You're very welcome.
One pretty darn spiffing haircut later and we picked Seb up from the beach and drove down to Laguna. Houses hung off the edge of the cliff over 1000 Steps Beach like an array of Bond villain hideouts but with various incarnations of the Southend-on-Sea Cliff Lift running between them and the luxury of the sandy beach far below. We slept a bit and played frisbee until Seb actually lozzed (Seb says that apparently that's the word for it now) the frisbee into the harsh underbelly of the Pacific ocean. It hit the water for only an instant before it was sucked under, never to be seen again. That was the true death of Iain's brilliant frisbee. Goodbye old friend.
We had planned to head north to play golf the next day but after Chris said how he loves to play and recommended local Huntington Beach courses highly, we realised it was definitely worth staying in the area until the next morning so we could all play together. We were weary of outstaying our welcome but of course as had been the case with our amazingly accommodating relatives throughout California, this was never going to be the case. They insisted we come to the Kickin' Crab that night after the kids' football games (not the soccer kind) and join in the celebrations for Chris' birthday. Crab and Shrimp were dumped upon the table in huge thick see-through polythene bags, the kind of bags that might be used to clean up the remains of a chopped up human, and we were all encouraged to dig in and give finishing the lot of it our best shot. I was pretty stuffed after a huge crab leg and maybe 10-15 shrimp, Iain had even less. But Seb… oh Seb.
I just don't know where he puts it. He has no off switch. It is mindless but it is impressive. If anything I'm envious. Seb amassed a pile of about 50 shrimp shells in front of him and a couple of giant crabs legs As garlic butter dripped from his chin and he washed down the seafood with bottles of Sam Adams, Seb proclaimed,
'We must open a restaurant like this in London!'
We will keep you posted on how that goes…
Sadly it was time to say a fond farewell to another bunch of the family once again. If we could have, we would have all sincerely loved to spend another week around Lancaster with Trevor's side of the family and Orange County with Roger's as we had been made to feel so welcome, but alas that just wasn't possible this time around. We really needed to be getting a move on after golf the next morning as it was now only about 3 days until we're supposed to fly out of San Francisco. I know I'll be back very soon though. Roger very kindly put us up for one more night, showed us a dirty white scarf covered in Elvis' sweat and ketchup (or maybe it was blood) that Elvis had given to him and Linda during a show in Vegas back in the 70's. After a good feel of that, we had to call it an early night as we were teeing off before 9am the next day and those prawns were starting make me feel a bit funny.
I settled my stomach in the morning with the best toasted egg, cheese and bacon muffin I've ever had and we were even sipping Coors Light by the third tee - roughly 9.17am. Golf was, as ever, brilliant fun with silliness on buggies, great sunshine and another opportunity to try a completely different course, Mile Square, Orange County. In general though, our standards had slipped. We were playing on unfamiliar clubs and were finding that somehow our balls were forever being magnetically drawn to all the water hazards on the course. We all came out with far fewer balls than we had started with and far worse scores than we had at the Louisiana State University Golf Course a few weeks earlier, but hey, let's not go into it. Chris got a very nice 91 which he wasn't even that pleased with so that gives you an idea of where he's at with his golfing, but with the way Seb, Iain and I were smashing balls about in every direction that day, Chris must have had the patience of a saint. We're very grateful to him for that.
We powered on after a big feed at - you guessed it - Denny's. I went to get wifi in the restaurant across the road so that we could load up our route for the journey that day. They didn't have it, I turned straight back and I was back in my seat in Denny's 20 minutes after I had left it. Correct, it took me 20 minutes to cross a road and come back again. Those roads… Everything is absolutely massive here. The meatballs that were waiting for me on my far from triumphant return were no exception. I ate two and Seb ate my third one, obviously.
We worked it out eventually of course and headed up the Pacific Highway to Carpinteria, a small town near Santa Barbara.We were able to camp right on the edge of the beach, make a fire and toast marshmallows so that is what we bloody well went and did. So many people nearby us in the campsite were brilliant and helpful, giving us extra wood and lending us a hammer as we demonstrated once again our complete ineptitude at setting up our tent. Once sorted though, it really was a perfect place to spend a night. As well as being surrounded by a very cool community of families of campers, we also had great weather, we were comfortable and we only had to deal with the risk of racoons now as opposed to the lions, spiders and bears that we faced in Texas. We ordered a Thai take-away and scoffed it down with some local beers that we whipped out from our newly purchased ice box/cooler. That's right we had been drinking warm car beers for about 27 days and only now had we decided to buy ice and a cooler for the last few. Boy did it all taste good though. We took a couple of bottles onto the beach and drank the tasty IPA from them under the night sky as it was lit up by the millions of stars and the three or four massive oil rigs a few miles of the coast. A true bliss you can only find off the west coast of California.
Every day on this trip has been completely unique; destinations and settings that change sometimes daily are helping to pinpoint and solidify individual memories that I know I just can't and won't forget - there is no way one day has been able to merge into the other (except for maybe those 6000+ miles in the car). From the people, gigs and NFL in New Orleans to sneezing beer out of my nose in Vegas because I got too excited and from laughing so hard at the Comedy Cellar in New York City to the time we spent with old and new friends fishing and drinking in the lake in Oxford, Mississippi, every moment of this trip has been completely special and memorable and even though we didn't write everything down here over the last four weeks, I know I'll be able to reminisce about so nearly all of it for a long, long time to come. Our family and friends here have made it a trip beyond what I ever expected it to be and I'm so grateful to every single one of them.
As for Seb and Iain… well I guess it would have been nothing without those two either.