Hollywood, Disneyland, Sunset Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills, bad traffic are the things most Europeans will rhyme off if asked of their L.A. knowledge. During my week there I got to see all of this and more. But most of all, I caught up with an old buddy and hung out with some great people.

Bernard is an Orcale consultant I met in Amsterdam a couple of years back and on hearing of my trip he kindly offered to put me up when I hit the City of Angels. I also met up with Tim, Rose and Chris all of whom I’d met a couple of weeks earlier in Death Valley. During the day I did various tours while the evenings consisted of eating out or eating in.

I was glad not to go on the lash, as I was pretty tired from the previous two weeks distance riding and from my week in Vegas. As my friends worked I visited: Universal Studies, The Getty Museum and The Huntington Museum. All of which impress for different reasons. At Universal I enjoyed seeing the Jurassic Park and T2 shows, production sets including Desperate Housewives (although never a fan of the show I know a few real-lifers) and my favourite – Jaws. However the USD85 entry (plus USD15 parking) fee was completely overpriced. What an expensive day out if you had to bring a family. And the offer of a free return visit within a year is valueless unless you live in California.

As for The Getty Museum, all aspects of the location captivate. From the oil tycoon´s philanthropy in donating his fortune to the foundation, to the building itself and naturally the contents on display. There was a special exhibition of European mid millennium manuscripts. It was good to be reminded that these pages are the fossils on which our knowledge of the past has been handed down. The skill required to pen so faultlessly, illustrate as if on canvas and bind so brilliantly was certainly humbling.

While visiting this exhibition I learned that the Caesarean section was named after Julius Caesar who was the first infant to be born using the procedure. And that Dido was the first Queen of Carthage. I wonder if the current day singer of the same name knew this herself or whether a clever marketer suggested the pseudonym.

The Huntington Museum is unique as it houses a botanical garden, art museum and library all of which are famous in their own right. I spent almost a day rambling the 100 acre facility. The cactus garden reminded me of Jardin de Cactus in Lanzarote where I have a small place. The American collection had the correct botanical terms of the plants where the Spanish version tried to be humorist and called the cactus stools – mother-in-law chairs.

On one of these evenings I cooked a BBQ fest for Bernard and his family. Good fun, good food and really nice people too. The Suva’s are Filipino emigrants who’ve been in the US for twenty years. I didn’t know that the Philippians was a Spanish colony for over 300 years. A reason all members of the family speak varying degrees of Spanish. A useful skill in California. On hearing I’d never eaten Filipino food Robert and Ms Suva cooked me a traditional dinner later that week of: Kare Kare (Ox Tail), Pacit Bihon (noodles) and Chicken Adobo. Outrageously tasty. In addition, Uncle Bob (Bernard’s step Dad) kindly took me to Venice Beach one afternoon.

A cool chilled place. While the beach was pretty empty, too cool for the denizens, the promenade was fairly lively with people: walking, jogging, roller blading etc. All of whom were entertained by talented street performers. Interestingly we were approached by a number of people enquiring as to whether we’d like to obtain a medical licence to smoke marijuana. Purely for medicinal purposes of course.

I got the distinct impression that a mere headache would be a serious enough aliment to justify a doctors permit to carry 8oz of gangue. So while the vote to legalise the drug failed only six weeks earlier by (54%), de facto the herbal elixir is freely available. We finished up our tour of the Italian named beach with a great calm chowder and a couple of beers.

Another great reunion included hooking up with Tim from Death Valley who’d offered to take me on a bike ride around the north L.A. twisties. I met Tim and his buddy George at 9.00am Sunday morning for an early morning tour. Great men and after a short bike ride we stopped at The Rock Store for a biker breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs etc. An amazing line-up of bikes of all colours and creeds on display and of course the banter with the lads. The affinity between bikers, is one of the reasons to drive a two-wheeler. I mean, you just cannot see this happening between Camry, E-Class or VW owners…..

After our light breakfast we hit the hills, great fast tracks, deep turns, almost dirt roads all of which got the adrenaline going. However, the guys were too nice to say that I probably slowed them down a bit. As their Suzuki Bandit and BMW GS bikes were better suited to the terrain. Regardless we had good fun. We finished up around lunchtime and Tim kindly offered another bike ride the following Wednesday. The advantage of being your own boss and pretty cool of him to take the day off to speed around mountains with yours truly.

Surprisingly Tim and George are only the second group of bikers (after Bar Harbour) I’ve hung out with on this trip. Guess it owes to the time of year. Anyway, great to hang out with two well-travelled bikers and Tim has biked for over 30 years, raced dirt bikes for a time and his Dad only stopped in his mid 80’s.

Our mid week ride started at 9.00am and finished after six where we travelled over 150 miles through some stunning country side taking in mountains and lakes via Highway 33, Ojai Valley, Reyes Creek, Lockwood Valley, Elizabeth Lake. We stopped at two biker bars; Reyes Creek Bar where we ate phenomenal burgers and I joined past patrons in posting a note (albeit a Euro and not a dollar) on the wall and later on a beer was had in the Rock Inn where we also shot some pool. L.A is motorbike heaven.

Great roads, various terrain which keeps rides interesting and most of all – with the exception of the five days per year that it rains you can ride your machine all year around. After we split, I headed directly to Rose’s house where I made stew for both Rose and Chris.

This time, with all the required ingredients a broth was made which even Mother Dempsey would be proud off. It was great to see them both again and a perfect ending to a superb day.

Other memorable events included Bernard’s tour of down town L.A., taking in: Beverley Hills, Sunset Blvd, Rodeo Drive and Hollywood. Great to see the theatre where the Oscars are hosted and the walk of fame where I stood in the steps of some of my favourite actors including: Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and Morgan Freeman. We also visited the Griffith Observatory which is fairly impressive.

On my last night along with Bernard, Trish and some of her friends I went to Art Walk. Another once a month art convention but unlike the one I visited in Portland, Oregon this was a mix of both traditional, impressionist and street art. Where the Prada heeled mixed with the braded haired bohemin types. All a bit more down to earth and the better for it.

I enjoyed most watching an artist shape a neon light exhibit from scratch. Interestingly the food stations were just as eclectic as the exhibits and attendees. Being California naturally there was tacos galore being sold from chuck wagons but Korean Tacos and Jose O’Malley Irish tacos were a first for me. Both delicious.

Both the Portland and L.A. monthly art days are enjoyable events, which attract people who wouldn’t normally partake and are infinitely better than the sombre Sunday markets in Ireland and Europe. Where aspiring artists sporting tweed waistcoats over patterned shirts or women with long hippy dresses try to sell charcoaled or pencilled drawings of bridges or animals.

The last event of note included dropping my machine into the valet wash. Never liked doing this job myself as it takes hours and spare time is too precious to be labouring over chrome. Riding the bike is fun; cleaning the in-between bits with a toothbrush is for the obsessed or unhappily married. So after leaving the bike into the motor laundrette, I spent an hour visiting the nearby Starbucks. A grande cappuccino with an extra shot while doing emails is always a productive session.

I returned to a practically new bike and was again struck how this exercise is a perfect example of labour cost arbitrage. A similar wash and wax would cost Euro70 in Amsterdam, USD80 in Chicago and only USD45 in L.A. Thank God for Mexican migration – having said that, it was the Moroccans who gleamed up the bike in The Netherlands. Emm – will have to think about this one further. Anyway.

While I enjoyed the places visited, what I’ll remember most about my time in L.A. is how chance encounters with friendly strangers can lead to friendships, which I hope will last, and the opportunity to reciprocate. Bernard, Uncle Bob, The Suva’s, Tim, George, Rose and Chris – Gracias amigos. Until the next time.


14 January 2011