Back-seat drivers are the worst. They give commentary, advice, directions, restaurant preferences, speed observations, wrong directions, editorial remarks, conflicting directions, and sometimes, can’t even decide which direction right actually is. And for some odd reason, they get angry when you get lost on top of a large hill and find yourself on a road that dead-ends onto the edge of a cliff.
Now, I must admit that I made the different wrong turns at the same intersection three times. But seriously, Beverley Hills traffic is messed up. Now, I know what some of you are thinking, “You went to Beverley Hills?! That’s not continental or exotic! Lame attempt at travel blogging.” Yeah, whatever cynical travel elitist. I was curious, and I lived in California for the last year. I had never been to Los Angeles before. So, why not?
But back to the story. Well, back up a bit, I like non-linear story telling. It keeps you on your toes.
It started back in November or December, I forget when exactly. I, and two other guys from my college bought tickets to the David Gilmour Rattle That Lock concert at the Hollywood Bowl in April. I promptly forgot about it for a few months until suddenly, without warning, the concert was three weeks away.
I had three weeks to figure out a way to get down to LA for the concert and make it back up without going broke. My girlfriend was in town then as well. So, I rounded up two of my friends. Two of them, plus my girlfriend and I made four. We looked through all the possible modes of transportation that could get us down there. Planes were way too expensive. We were unlucky and didn’t tie into any of the periodic specials that airlines run for the SFO-LAX route. We looked at buses, but they were ungodly expensive. They were almost $120 per person because we started making plans so late. For some reason, Amtrak was even more unreasonable and took an ungodly amount of time to get to LA.
We naturally started looking at renting a car after all of our public transport options turned out to be too expensive. One fact continued to give us problem after problem. Although every one of us is an adult, no-one will rent us a car. 20 was the lowest we could find, and that company seemed a bit sketchy. The rest of the mainstream spectrum was between 21… and 25. In San Francisco, there are a good number of 24 year olds who can afford Porsches. Yet they aren’t allowed to rent a Prius C. Because that totally makes sense.
Anyways, as our frustration at the mind-boggling duality of age-related laws in America (Opportunity to be forced to fight, can sign contracts, get married, but can’t drink or rent a car) increased steadily, we were forced to consider one the worst possible options, price-wise. Zipcar. But then in a deus ex machina level of fortune, I received an offer from Zipcar that I could get 40% off of a five day rental. We booked a Zipcar. A Subaru Impreza, in fact. (No, not the WRX, the “Sport” model is what we had.) The Impreza is a five seat car, and we only had four people. We couldn’t convince our other friend to go with us, so we did what any reasonable adolescents would do. We posted in our college Facebook group asking if anyone wanted to come to LA. One person did reply, so naturally she was our first choice.
On the appointed day, one of the two aforementioned friends and I set out on our arduous journey to pick up the car. Five minutes later we arrived at the Fairmont parking garage. Set amongst the Mercedes SLS’, Porsche 911’s, and even a Ferrari La Ferrari was our little Subi. A nice white little blip of proletarian underpowered steel, in a sea of import carbon fiber bourgeoisie. We scanned into the car, and set out. We made it 200 feet to the corner of Powell and California, where all we would have had to do was make a left turn and drive for between 20 and 800 feet (Location is a secret.. Shh…) to get to the dorm, but alas, there was a no left turn sign. Being the constantly lawful and limit following drivers that we are, we took the right turn onto California. And promptly found it impossible to turn around. 20 minutes later, after much googling, polite cursing, and questioning the intelligence of San Francisco planning department, we made it back. We angled in in front of the door as best we could on the hill, and packed everything and everyone in to the back of the Subaru. For some mysterious reason, the car felt much more sluggish after that. The rear suspension also appeared to be about two inches lower. That’s mass for you, I guess. We made our way out of the city.
At this point, I should probably point out, that upon deciding to get a car, we also resolved to take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) all the way down to Los Angeles. We had also booked two Airbnb’s. One roughly halfway between SF and LA and the other in Long Beach.
Anyways, we hit Highway 1 pretty quickly and fell in behind a fairly quick Camry. The day was not all that ideal in terms of picturesque weather. Pacifica and Half Moon Bay came up fairly quickly in the light mist. We got out, took a few pictures, and whined off, the little 2.0 liter struggling to make way at speed on the turns, hills, and switchbacks of the PCH.
It was all going well until we pulled up behind a minivan. This particular minivan was not even making 10 MPH below the speed limit. After ten minutes, I started to feel my soul departing my body as I aged. “Don’t let me expire of old age in a base model Subaru!” I thought frantically. About ten years later a long straight came up, thankfully divided by a broken yellow. It was clear, so I floored it. And nothing happened.
About 3 seconds later, a strange pingey growl emerged from the hood of the car, and we surged forward in a very similar fashion to a supertanker coming out of port. Eventually, we passed the Camry and took off back into the hairpins bordered by cliffs. This is when that dreaded back seat driving began. One in the back prefaced the third set of turns with a, “You know what you’re doing right? Cause don’t kill us.” I took the turn at a reasonable speed and did not cut the apex, because I am of course, a consummate professional. The rain began to get worse as we neared Santa Cruz. It suddenly cleared as parked next to the boardwalk.
After being deeply disappointed, our day was further saddened by the drizzle that slowly turned into a downpour. Leaving Santa-let-down-Cruz behind, the road cut inland and evened out. There was possibly one wrong turn on the way out of town, but that didn’t cause too much outrage from the cheap seats because the different phones were disagreeing with one another. Google Maps really needs to see a psychologist. It can’t even give the same answer to one person twice, let alone three.
We roared into Monterrey at an astounding 40 MPH. The rain was gone, but the misery was replaced by traffic. And hunger. Monterrey has many signs pointing to many things. The problem was though, some in the back seat still couldn’t decide where they wanted to eat. We first tried Fisherman’s Wharf, but decided that the parking cost too much and there was nothing we could afford. We continued down the road, and ended up at Cannery Row. Also a place full of quality, low-cost food. Not.
Yelp did provide an alternative. A small cafe up the road with solid reviews and a classic chowder became our mess halt.
Although Monterrey was quickly left in the rear-view mirror, the smell of chowder was not. The sun started to set as we made time down the flats near the beaches. I started to see signs with pictures of giant seals on them. A series came up advising us that an elephant seal rookery was near. I turned in without too much thought. The back seat woke up on the rough entry to the parking lot and wanted to know why exactly we were stopping.
“Elephant seals,” I said. “What?..” was the collective response.
We walked out, and immediately found elephant seals. And a brilliant sunset. But the elephant seals were cooler. After twenty minutes or so of elephant seal watching we decided to finally head for our overnight halt in Templeton.
After the sun sank below the horizon, fog began to roll in. Visibility went from great to almost nothing. Our phones were dying, and one charge cord was broken, another horribly inefficient. We made to an inland two-lane highway and followed a local through the rolling hills. The fog got thicker and I started following the local BMW more closely. The thing is though, that BMW was doing around 70 MPH in thick fog. Keeping up was a chore. The rain faded a little as our hypothetical turn came up. Waze announced that the turn was in 500 meters. I couldn’t see any road, though. The fog was too thick. Waze by Morgan Freeman announced the turn again, I still couldn’t see any intersection, only fog. Wet asphalt glimmered for a fraction of a second off to the right. There it was. I made the turn. But the back seat complained again. Tire squeal and traction control noises aren’t marks of a quality turn apparently. The road darkened further as it ascended a large hill.
Eventually we found our way to our destination somewhere in the middle of the woods. Just as promised, quiet, secluded, and surprisingly cozy. The day was done. I had managed to survive the first day of the back seat drivers. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.
Next, we hit Los Angeles. The city of Angels, Hollywood and the Interstate system gone horribly, dreadfully, miserably wrong.