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The Odyssey - a continuation
Wednesday 25th April 2007 - Day 1
We had an early start this morning - why do these journeys always seem to start in the middle of the night? - with Moshe, our taxi driver, arriving from Sederot exactly on time at 03:30. We got to Ben Gurion shortly before 04:30 and had to wait only about 20-25 minutes before checking-in. I was able to choose our seats to Paris and obtained a window on the starboard side for myself way back clear of the wing and an aisle seat for Elisabeth to my left. It was also possible for me to book our onward seats for the Paris-Los Angeles leg: Row 48 on the big Boeing has only two seats on each side rather than three so we each had the seat we wanted without being separated by a stranger between us. We had ample time to browse through the shops and have a light snack and a coffee before boarding. At 08:15 we began taxying and at 08:30 the wheels left the ground and we were airborne. The flight was uneventful and as far as Athens the skies were clear. Thereafter it clouded up somewhat and apart from occasional glimpses of the ground there was not much to see. Brindisi, however, was fairly easy to locate and identify and most of the Alps a little later were visible - spectacularly so - and beautifully clad in snow as well........
After that, Switzerland and France were quite clear until we landed at Charles de Gaulle. The wait at Charles de Gaulle was not over-long - by the time we got off the aircraft and went through all the transfer and security procedures there was not much more than about 60-70 minutes or so before boarding our flight to Los Angeles and a light snack filled that time-lapse comfortably. It was marred, however by the loss of the special bottle of wine I had purchased at Ben Gurion for Elisabeth's new "Dafina" internet friend, Bebert, who had already shown great friendship and a promise of future hospitality towards her concerning our visit. I had been so certain that anything purchased at an airport Duty-Free was automatically considered "safe" from the new and stringent security regulations that I didn't even think of any other scenario - and here it was on its way to "liquidation", no matter how much we pleaded! I had no idea how our route would be - whether we would head out straight west over the Atlantic, or turn north over the channel and take a Great Circle route over southern Great Britain, Wales, Ireland and so on - which is what I expected - and I watched eagerly to see how the pilot manœuvred after taking-off along one of the east-bound runways. If his first turn was to starboard (south) then it was almost certain that we would be going straight out over the Atlantic because being then south of the airport, he would hardly turn north from there and cross all the incoming flight-paths. As it happens, he did turn quite quickly north shortly after his straight-ahead climb-away - the first good sign that we would be crossing England - though I could not yet be certain until he began to cross the channel with no hint of a further turn to port. In fact our route did indeed take us the whole length of England as far north as Scotland. Edinburgh was identifiable off to the north-east.
Our track followed a Great Circle route just south of Iceland and we were approaching Greenland before I drifted off to sleep in full daylight: we were "chasing the sun" all the way, of course!
When I awoke and looked at the small icon on the screen in front of me, I could see we had crossed into Canada and were on a heading of about 250-260 degrees just over the east coast of Hudson Bay. I filmed a few scenes showing it all as a barren, desolate, white wasteland. It was still early evening when we landed at 18:55 local (Pacific) time. The wait in-line for all the registration and passport procedures was a bit tedious but it was a comfortable feeling that I now had my renewed, machine-readable passport. Security now requested a digital-computerized photograph of all visitors together with an accompanying finger-print - all executed on the spot by the border control officer and then we were through. Stewart was waiting for us and we walked across the street to the car-park, piled into the car and in about twenty-minutes or less we were in South Spalding.
After all the greetings - Sonia had another guest - Patricia Lewis, a precious-stones dealer originally from England - we had a light supper of delicious grilled salmon and were ready for bed.
Thursday 26th April 2007 - Day 2
In the morning I called the Driveaway people in Los Angeles to see if they had anything going to Phoenix in the coming days....nothing! But the office clerk advised me to call again in the morning when his supervisor and manager will be present - and of course, I will.
At around 11:00 a.m. Elisabeth's new friend, Bebert, called asking for local directions. He arrived shortly and whisked us off for a wonderful, hospitable day, visiting his home and gorgeous "Moroccan" garden. He had other close, personal friends arriving - Madeleine - who had been instrumental in forging an internet contact between Elisabeth, herself and Bebert - and her husband, who "just happened" to have strong connections with Moshav Gayeh, just a few kilometers across the fields from us, near Ashkelon! - and their son and her niece from Montreal.
Here is only a selection of some of the scenes in his wonderful garden, constructed entirely with his own hands:
He has a most wonderful generous and giving nature and we enjoyed ourselves immensely in his company. Later he took us for lunch to a wonderful restaurant - the Cheesecake Factory - at 6324 Canoga Avenue, Woodland Hills,
where we had an excellent meal on the terrace and then took us back home to South Spalding. Once there, we found our jet-lag catching up with us again and we had to rest for while. As the evening wore on we simply had to go to bed only to wake up in the small hours. It was nearly 05:00 a.m. before I drifted off to sleep again for an hour or so.
Friday 27th April 2007 - Day 3
We hung around for a few hours until I went shopping with Sonia to her local supermarket (or more accurately perhaps the local delicatessen because it certainly wasn't a "standard-size" American supermarket!), on near-by Pico, kosher, of course, with many Israeli products. Then a little later in the day, Bebert again came to pick us up and this time he treated us to a conducted tour round several areas of Los Angeles not normally seen by the brief visitor - the "normal" live-a-day places where "ordinary" people live and work. This is what had been missing on our 2004 brief visit.........We first accompanied him on two of his brief business calls somewhere way down the eastern end of West Olympic. We also visited the garment and textile districts, light industrial and commercial areas, an early Mexican settlement area, the historic center at Main Street and 8th, and so on....we also saw down-town Los Angeles, the cultural center, including the Walt Disney buildings, Chinatown:-
.....the University Campus and almost the whole length of Wilshire Boulevard, with me rubberknecking the whole way and spotting The Good Samaritan Hospital and the synagogue:-
We finished up with a late lunch at the Jewish "BBC kosher café," where I had broiled trout and fries. It was here that Bebert told us the saga of his father and grandfather - of the similarity between their lives and his own; how his grandfather's resting place became lost in the hiatus between the two generations and his seven-year efforts to rediscover it in the farthest reaches of rural Morocco up in the Atlas Mountains. The tale would have made a most excellent adventure-story - a real cliff-hanger - and the sincerity, emotion and warmth with which he told it had us both in tears! Shortly afterwards, he drove us both home and we parted from him most reluctantly, thanking him profusely for his great generosity in devoting so much of his time and himself to us, on such a short acquaintance. Neither Elisabeth nor I are in any doubt that we have not seen the last of Bebert and that this is - to use a trite saying - "the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
I needed to rest a little and slept for about 90 minutes before getting ready for Shabbat........
There were other guests besides Patricia, whom I have already mentioned: while in Israel, Stewart and Sonia had made friends with the proprietors of the restaurant at Rosh Ha-Nikra who lived in Bustan Ha-Galil. I recalled that I had been acquainted with someone there in my very early years in Israel nearly 40 years ago - either in Frutarom, or Helena Rubinstein: it is so long ago now that I can't even remember which. Earlier in the day, I had tried Driveaway again, to see if there was anything moving but it seems not and we may have to make other arrangements to get to Phoenix. We will get in touch with one of the car hire companies - probably Hertz on S. Beverly Drive and see what they have to offer.
By the time the guests had left it was - quite naturally - rather late and we were both happy to get to bed. Probably by tomorrow our bodies will have adjusted themselves....
Saturday 28th April 2007 - Day 4
Again a restful morning until I phoned the Hertz office and rented a car to drive to Phoenix tomorrow; we will pick it up at 09:00. Stewart went to the synagogue and invited me too. For some reason I decided spontaneously to decline - I don't know why - I would normally have accepted the invitation without hesitation........Perhaps I thought that some other option may turn up, I don't know. Nothing did and the morning passed into history. At four in the afternoon, Stewart and Sonia took us along the coast to Malibu Beach were we spent a pleasant hour or so. On the way we passed a sign indicating a beach dedicated to the memory of Will Rogers and also directions to Paul Getty's mansion on top of the hill - now a museum. I thought of taking a photograph of it up there on the hill-top but it was very misty at the time and the visibility poor and the result - at that distance - would have been useless, so I didn't bother
The Malibu Beach area was interesting and obviously popular. We sat around drinking a coffee and taking in the atmosphere. Way up on top of the hill was an enormous mansion built, the style of a mediæval castle by someone with a few dollars to spare....
On the way back we stopped off at a beach-side house which was the home of friends of Stewart - Peggy and Bill - and stayed there for about 40 minutes or so then moved on. Their home, right on the beach - literally - was the very antithesis of the general sense of luxury surrounding them in the Los Angeles area! A very simple two-level home made mostly out of wood and seeming to be not much more than a furnished beach cabin - but so quaint...........
Right on the edge of the highway with the rear deck perched right over the incoming tide! The modesty of the home was off-set by a delightful plaque they had on their wall - "If you are lucky enough to be on the beach - you are lucky enough!" How true!! A little later I had the chance to drive the Jaguar. I asked Stewart to make a brief video clip of me driving it "for posterity", so to speak and he made a hilarious production out of it putting all three of us into stitches of laughter - Thank you, Stewart!!
It is over 45 years since I have driven a top-of-the-market vehicle; my old friends Michael and Alan (R.I.P.) had access to a Jaguar (in those far-off days) and I had a brief opportunity at the beginning of my driving career to drive it occasionally. On the way home, back in town, we passed an equestrian statue of John Wayne....
There was a most depressing Indian film on TV about a young boy and a girl companion who was forced into a life of prostitution and degredation - terrible - I followed Elisabeth to bed..........
Sunday 29th April 2007 - Day 5
Today is the day we leave Los Angeles for Phoenix and Michelle! We picked up the car at Residents Inn on South Beverly, where Hertz have an office. We were given a full upgrade to a Pontiac........
We went back to load up our baggage and say our farewells and we were on our way to make a few last calls - 810 North Linden, owned in the 1940's by Virginia Hill and the house where Bugsy Seigal "got his"..........
Then I went looking for the mansion that Eddie Murphy "commandeered" in "Beverly Hills Cops 2". One of the sources quoted an address somewhere behind Grauman's - which I knew and had visited in 2004 - and I identified as Hillcrest Road. When we got there I could see that this was definitely not the site and having no further access to reference material, I gave it up for this trip and we continued on to Al Jolson's grave at Hillside Memorial in Culver City......We spent a little time there - as we did in 2004, but being under less pressure than we were then we extended our visit a little and examined some of the stones in the mausoleum; a few of them rang bells in my memory but it was time, nevertheless, to move on.
We made our way to the I-405 via the Culver City section of Sepulveda Boulevard and then on to the I-10 and began our journey eastwards. We stopped off for the first time at Bloomington, at a Taco Bell, for burritos. Shortly after we passed an area absolutely covered with wind generators; I wouldn't like to exaggerate the numbers but I seemed to get the impression that they stretched for miles and must surely have numbered in the tens of thousands! - just two shots at a distance to give you an idea.......   Then we stopped again at Chiriaco Summit, mainly because I spotted a statue of a soldier at the road-side and I wanted to investigate. It turned out to be a spot with quite a bit of history and lore attached to it having been settled many years ago by a pioneer. It is also, today, a Veteran's Memorial site and home to the General Patton Museum, and it was his statue that had caught my attention.........
Some short while later we crossed the State line into Arizona..........
Sunset came just as we were approaching Phoenix along McDowell and after one or two phone calls to Michelle to correct our navigation, we arrived at the junction of the 101 loop and Olive, where John met us a few minutes later and led us home. Our day's driving ended at about 19:15 and we had covered approximately 410 miles including our excursions within Los Angeles before starting out. It was great to see Michelle and John again and we went to bed very tired.........
Monday 30th April 2007 - Day 6
Today is Michelle's birthday and we are scheduled to go out for a celebratory dinner this evening. We returned the rental car on time to the Hertz office, which turned out to be very close-by and dropped the Dodge truck off for a steering-gear check and repair. Michelle then drove John to work while we stayed home watching "The Kingdom of Heaven" on TV. Later on we went to a mall and Elisabeth had a good time! When we got back we all had an afternoon nap. At 19:20 we got up, showered and changed and went to pick up John from work. Then we drove to Glendale, just south of Peoria, where most of the best restaurants are located on Bell Street and chose the Black Angus where we had an excellent meal with the establishment supplying - gratis - a complimentary small birthday cake for Michelle. Then it was home again - tired!
Tuesday 1st May 2007 - Day 7
Today was another restful day, mainly with Elisabeth and I spending time with Michelle - which is what we are here for! - doing a bit of shopping, accompanying Michelle taking care of some documentation activities concerning the sale of the house in Las Vegas and watching TV. In the afternoon we spent about an hour in the back-yard pool.......
......and then having a nice snooze. In the evening we booked our return flight to Los Angeles from Phoenix for June 5th at 16:45 which will get us into Los Angeles about 3 hours before our flight to Paris.
Wednesday 2nd May 2007 - Day 8
Today was another completely restful day for us with Elisabeth fighting bravely to overcome a stomach complaint which hit her quite suddenly. We did, however, make two excursions - one to pick up the repaired truck and the other to deliver it to John's place of work so he could get home under his own steam..... During the afternoon, Michelle went to do some bits of shopping while I stayed home keeping Elisabeth company. John and Michelle made an excellent meal of grilled salmon steaks, asparagus, artichokes with garlic butter dip, and rice. I am, at last, eating consistently less and hope that I will soon see some rewards for it. Bed at around 21:30 or so.....
Thursday 3rd May 2007 - Day 9
Today was a great day - probably the best or most spectacular of any day I have so far encountered in my one-and-a-bit visits to the U.S.A! We drove north on our much awaited day-trip to the Grand Canyon. The 210 mile drive there was also very interesting and picturesque. The arid desert-like scenery of southern Arizona with its dry scrub gave way to hills and mountains increasingly overgrown with trees which themselves were getting larger as our altitude grew higher and the climate more supportive........
Beyond Flagstaff, at the junction of the 180/64 we stopped for lunch where there were several tourist attractions - a traditional-looking "trading store", "tepees" and a camping area named for, and illustrating, the Flintstones....
Some of the views were typical "Marlboro Country" with ranch-houses, corrals and barns set in pastures with snowy mountains as a backdrop............
Eventually we reached an altitude of 8044 feet AMSL! The weather at that elevation was definitely cool and I was just about on my comfort-limit in a light, short-sleeved summer t-shirt. Elisabeth and Michelle suffered a little from the conditions. And the Grand Canyon? What a sight it is! No film, photograph or vicariously offered aerial presentation can possibly do justice to the reality of standing there and looking at the magnificent splendour of the real thing - this magnificent work of nature. To use an "Americanism" - it is just awesome! We will have to leave it at that and hope that nevertheless my meagre photos can convey something of this remarkable spectacle and at least remind my eyes of the views that they have seen in reality.
The one disappointment of the day was the fact that we had expected to see and visit the new glass-bottomed walk-out ramp that I had wanted so much to experience. When we entered the National Park we of course asked where it was and were devastated to hear that it was about 250 miles downstream! Oh, well - next time..................... Nor was the visit to the Grand Canyon our only "reward" for the day's driving. As I suspected there was a slight reduction for senior citizens and we also took the opportunity of arming ourselves with a National Parks Senior Citizens' card for future use - I had thought of this while programming our original route via northern California and the northern states eastwards, because it would have included quite a number of National Monuments and Parks, etc. that I had planned on visiting.
On the drive home the wing mirror gave some trouble: it had tended to swing inwards a little under pressure of the slipstream and on one occasion, in a moment of carelessness, I had signalled and then commenced to drift out of lane slightly to overtake a vehicle, barely pulling back in time to avoid a side-swipe; we will have to fix this somehow or other before leaving Phoenix for our cross-country! Also, there was an occasion when, approaching a road-works area, I failed to slow down rapidly enough to comply with the changed speed-limit, although there was a heavy truck in front of me which was forcing me to slow in any case, and a vigilant Highway Patrol officer pulled me over. However, when he saw from my international driving license that I was from Israel, he got very excited and told us about his recent holiday there and how much he had enjoyed it, letting me off with a caution. (Getting stopped by the Highway Patrol seems to be a favourite pastime of mine in Arizona, I hope it doesn't develop into a habit! See
here). We got home a little after dark - around 20:30 or so. What a great day!!
Friday 4th May 2007 - Day 10
Today, Michelle is scheduled to undergo minor surgery on her knee. There was a fretful morning because her cat, Sam, had failed to appear after a night's carousing. At around 10:00 am Michelle drove herself to the Arrowfield Medical center on West Union Hills Drive and 67th. It was after 12:00 when she was called in for her prep. and at that time we drove home to get a sweater for Elisabeth who was suffering in the intense cooling system of the waiting room. When we got back, 20 minutes or so later, we still had a wait of over an hour until we were called into the recovery room to see her, already awake and alert. After she got her post-operative instructions from the nurse, we piled into the truck and I drove her home where we spent the rest of the day.
Dinner was an excellent meal of chicken-breasts, grilled with oven-baked fries, some very tasty rice and boiled vegetables. We watched "Lord of the Rings" for about two hours and went to bed.
Saturday 5th May 2007 - Day 11
We spent most of the day resting and giving Michelle the opportunity to rest as well, although at one point we did go round the immediate neighborhood with her, putting up fly-posters about the missing Sam. Later on we watched more of "The Lord of the Rings" and in the evening we took Michelle and John out for dinner to Dillon's on West Thunderbird. Another day.............
Sunday 6th May 2007 - Day 12
This morning Michelle and Elisabeth went out shopping for some supplies. John had been up earlier washing the car. I had seen him go out but hadn't realised what he was doing and by the time I found out he had virtually finished, so I didn't get to help him. John and Michelle were intent on buying a small cooler box to plug in to the car and one of the tyres needed some attention as well, so John and I went off together. We went first to a Home Depot to buy some sealing tape for the car window - the slipstream made a bit too much noise - and then on to a fantastic sports goods supermarket...Cabela's. What a store! An endless choice of equipment and every conceivable requirement for all known sports - fishing, shooting, archery, hunting, flying.......the list goes on and on and includes ancilliaries as well - clothing, camping furniture et al, ad infinitum! It was here that John found and purchased a small cooler. Our last stop was the tyre depot which we discovered was closed on Sundays. Back home, John and Michelle showed me the two small bins of picnic/camping equipment they have and we stored it in the pick-up, although I rather fancy we won't be using it too much. But its good to know its there. For our evening meal we had excellent barbecued ribs, grilled corn and foil-wrapped baked potatoes. We watched the last episode of "The Lord of the Rings" and I did most of my packing for tomorrow and made plans to go early with John to get the tyre fixed.
For Part Two please press  Here  Or return to the introduction here