Today is a really early start: the alarm goes off at 4.45 and I am straight out of bed to pack. I know, from warnings given, as well as from previous experience, that the traffic into Boston can be a nightmare. My flight is at 9, so I will be hitting the worst of the morning rush hour.
Following my losses when leaving Norfolk I make sure I pack very methodically this morning, checking and re-checking that I have everything with me. Phone, chargers, wallet (with all credit cards), two sets of costume, top hat, cane, scarf, scripts and books are all accounted for.
Of course it is still dark as I roll my cases to the car. The sky is clear with stars shining brightly and the shimmering disk of the moon against the black, looking like a Pearly King’s button . The clear sky means a frost, so I have to leave the car running for a while to let the windows clear.
I had wanted to get going by 5.45 and am actually on the road at 5.25, so things are going well so far.
Even on the freeway here in Nashua the traffic builds up every time a new road joins and soon the road is a mass of constantly moving traffic. Nobody overtakes or changes lanes because there is no point.
As I look down the road the hundreds of tail lights remind me of the World War 1 art installation at the Tower of London, that George was so interested in yesterday. In my mind every little red glow takes on the same significance as the individual poppies in the moat. Once that image is in my mind it is almost scary when suddenly all of the ‘poppies’ intensify in colour, as some delay causes everyone to brake hard.
Ever closer to Boston and ever heavier traffic. As I pass those good old Essex towns of Chelmsford and Billarica (the English version is Billericay), we slow to a crawl. I still have plenty of time and I can use the slowness of the traffic to run through Top Hole in my head.
I get to Logan airport and drop the car off before taking the bus to terminal A. When I check in I stay at the computer terminal after my boarding pass has been printed, waiting for a second one. I am so used to having a connecting flight, that I forget that today’s flight is non-stop.
Once checked in I find a restaurant and settle down to breakfast and start to write the daily blog. Unfortunately I didn’t make many notes yesterday, so I am scrambling through my memory to remember what happened.
When I am finished, I go to my gate to await my flight to Los Angeles. All of the announcements are made in English and Spanish and it is interesting to look at my fellow passengers and divide them into New Englanders and Californian. There is a definite difference
I mentioned in a previous blog that I rather missed the days when every flight was made on a 737. Today my nostalgic wishes are answered. There is the dear old familiar snub nose and the engines, with their flat bottomed cowlings, slung way ahead of the wings.
Once we are onboard there is a delay, and it is so nice not to have to worry about a connection at the other end. Eventually the captain comes over the intercom to tell us that a fuel pump is not working, but it should be ok shortly. I’m not sure if that’s very reassuring.
We wait a bit longer and the captain comes back on: the technicians have discovered that it is a sensor issue and the pump is working fine, they just can’t tell it is working in the cockpit. Everyone up front seems happy, so we are ready to go. I have the thought that if the sensor is not working and the pump DOES fail, then presumably the crew won’t know that either. Probably best not to think about it.
I have downloaded The Da Vinci Code on my phone, so settle into my seat and start watching. I have a coffee and order a cheese/fruit plate for $6 but the time passes slowly.
The film finishes at about the same time as my phone battery runs out, so I read for a bit before trying to get a little nap. It doesn’t work terribly well.
The flight tracker is showing another four hours to go, so I scroll through the film choices in the plane’s system and chose Jersey Boys. It’s a good movie but, boy, does Frankie Valli’s high voice cut straight through my head like a knife.
At last the flight is into its final stages and we are starting our descent into the smog covered metropolis of Los Angeles. I haven’t been here for a few years but the sprawling city is very familiar to me.
Because of our delay in leaving Boston we are late arriving, and the flight attendants ask that seven passengers who have tight connections be allowed to deplane before everyone else.
As soon as the plane stops at the gate everyone stands up and blocks the aisles with their bags, making it almost impossible for the passengers in a hurry to get through. It seems very selfish.
I’m quite near the back of the plane and it is fascinating to watch everyone getting off. There are three seats on each side: the six passengers in each row slowly filter their way to the middle and then are released, unchecked, towards the front off the aircraft. It is like watching grains of sand falling through an hour glass.
Los Angeles airport is so busy compared to Boston, let alone Norfolk and Knoxville. It is a huge seething mass of people. I get my bags and then go to wait for a bus to take me to my rental car office.
It is now that I can see how sensible the Boston system of car rental is, where all of the companies are housed in one building and are serviced by a single bus route.
At LAX each office is separate and each has its own van, so it is a matter of waiting at the curb side until the correct one comes past. On the evidence of this afternoon Fox Car Rental only has one van for it seems an age before it arrives. As we slowly circle the other concourses we drive past the iconic Theme Building, which looks like something out of The Jetsons.
The Fox office is a long way from the terminal building, which I must remember when I drop the car off in a few days time; I must build in plenty of time to get to my flight.
Once all of the car paperwork is completed, the agent takes me out to the garage but can’t find the size of vehicle that we’d booked, so I am upgraded to a people carrier (a large one in English terms, a small van in USA terms). I’m glad to have something a little bigger as I head out onto the LA road network.
There is so much traffic covering so many lanes. It makes my Boston drive this morning seem positively sleepy. The drivers are much more aggressive than on the east coast and, competitive too: no quarter given or taken. You really have to be aware of what is going on all around you as people are changing lanes at high speed all of the time.
My destination is Riverside, where I have been a few times before. It is a drive of some two hours and the traffic never really lets up, although eventually it loses the manic quality of LA itself.
A complete run of Top Hole brings me nicely to the exit for Market Street and I am soon in the Hyatt Place hotel, checking in.
Once in my room (a lovely mini-suite), I find a large basket of fruit from the Riverside Dickens Festival organisers and my Top Hole costume, which I had shipped out prior to the event. There is also a note inviting me to dinner at 5pm in the hotel across the street.
I have time for a quick shower and a change of clothes before walking to The Marriott and meeting up with many old friends from my previous visits.
We all chat about the forthcoming events and the festival itself, which is actually in February to celebrate Charles Dickens’ birthday. I have a lovely steak which is a real treat after a long day in the air and finish with a coffee. Dinner is over by 7.30.
I know I mustn’t go to bed too early, or I will be waking at 2am or something silly, so I sit up, watch some television and write the days blog before giving in to the inevitable and getting into my very comfortable bed