West coast: Los Angeles

A couple of weeks ago, my work place had to shutdown for the summer. It was some sort of cost saving initiative or something so everyone had to take their vacation during that time. I only had one week left for vacation so I worked during the second week of the shutdown. Jenn and I planned a west coast trip to Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California. We decided to fly into Vegas and then drive over to LA. The reason behind that was because it was cheaper to fly to Las Vegas than to Los Angeles. We redeemed our Aeroplan points for the flight and going to LA would have used up three times more points than Las Vegas.

West coast

Since Jenn and I travel back and forth between Canada and Hong Kong so often, we had enough Aeroplan points to redeem for a free flight. The only catch was, we had to pay taxes on that free flight. That kind of defeats the purpose of a free flight. I would have assumed that everything would have been free and Aeroplan would cover any extra costs. But since they didn’t, we had to pay an extra $125 each for the flight.

We selected a morning flight to Las Vegas and because of the time difference we landed in Vegas in the morning as well. I didn’t realize until the last minute that I had forgotten my camera at home. Usually I bring my camera everywhere I go so I can take pictures of stuff but since we were already on the road, I didn’t want to have to turn around to get it since Jenn had her camera already.

The flight took five hours to get to Las Vegas. The thing that surprised me was the fact that we went through US customs in Canada so when we landed, it was only a matter of picking up our luggage and leaving the airport. I’ve heard so much bad publicity about the US airports that I was expecting long delays but it turned out that it wasn’t all that bad.

Once we exited the terminal, the first thing we noticed was how long Las Vegas was. We were expecting heat but we didn’t know it was that hot. You’d be outside and in a matter of minutes, you’ll feel like you’re being baked in an oven. Luckily, the shuttle bus that we boarded had air conditioning. I think with out A/C, we wouldn’t be very comfortable.

The shuttle bus took us to the car rental building where a whole bunch of car rental companies were located. We had to wait about twenty minutes in line before it was our turn. And that’s when another surprise hit me. Our car rental was supposed to be about $210 for the week but with the added insurance, it worked out to be an extra $100. I think because I had a Canadian license, I couldn’t use my own insurance but I stupid and didn’t inquiry about that.

Las Vegas

Once we picked up our car, we were on the road heading for California. The drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles is about 400km long. It took us about four hours of driving through nothing but hot desert. We saw a few dirt devils here and there and we even ran into some sort of mini tornado. It was a bit scary because you’re driving along and then all of a sudden, a gush of wind comes around and pushes you off the road. I saw the truck in front of me swerve a bit but I assumed that he was swerving to avoid garbage on the road but as soon as I entered the high wind zone, I saw that there was not garbage. The wind was strong enough to force the car towards the side of the road. It was a good thing that there weren’t any cars beside us or else we would have side swipe them.

Las Vegas

After being on the road for about four hours, we finally reach our hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The sun was still out so we decided to drive around and just do some site seeing. We didn’t go too far since we weren’t familiar with the area but we managed to stop by here and there. To my surprise, a lot of the businesses were closed by sundown. I thought that LA was like NY where people didn’t sleep much. We drove around looking for a Starbucks but most of those Starbucks were since a mall and that mall was closed. So much for sight seeing.

Los Angeles is a pretty big city with lots of places to go. It’s close to the other cities as well so visiting them was easy. We drove around to Hollywood, Beverly Hill, and Pasadena and stopped by the Santa Monica Piers. We took a tour of the NBC studio and visited Universal Studio. It was a fun fill few days in LA and we made the most of it. We were thinking about driving up to San Francisco but were advised otherwise.

We met up with Jenn’s relatives and had lunch and dinner with them. They were a nice group of people and seem to have plenty to talk about. I remember during our first night out, they made me finish everything on the table because I was the youngest guy there. Well, Jenn’s cousin was the youngest but they made me do it. I was really full after that dinner. They were the ones that recommended that we head down to San Diego instead of up to San Francisco.

The drive down to San Diego was about 200km. Our plan was to drive down at night, sleep at a rest area and then continue to San Diego in the morning. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a rest area along the highway that we took so we booked a room at a Motel 6. They had wireless internet so we used it to book a room at hotel in San Diego.

While in San Diego, we visited a few nearby cities and points of interest. Coronado was a ten minute drive, the gas lamp district was just around the corner from our hotel. Before heading back to LA, we stopped by Olde Town San Diego and walked around. It was interested to see how life was back in the day.

On the way back from San Diego, we planned on doing the same thing, sleeping in a rest area but again, there weren’t any along the highway that we took so we just parked at some car pool parking lot and left when people started arriving in the morning.

The trip to LA was an experience to remember. We did so much driving around and sight seeing that it was a shame that I didn’t have my camera. But at the same time, it was a good thing that I didn’t have my camera because I was able to do more. If I had my camera, I would have just been taking pictures and I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself as much.

I’m starting to recommend to people that if they want to go to Florida, they should go to LA in stead. You get the same type of weather but you get more places to see. From what I heard from my friends that goes down to Florida, they only visit a couple of places. It seems like LA has so much more to offer than Florida. I guess the reason why they would go down to Florida is because it’s closer and cheaper. But for myself, I’m a traveler so LA is the place to go.