At the end of May Daniel and I flew from Scotland back to California. Originally we had been planning on coming back to the States around this time because we had two family weddings scheduled for the summer; however due the pandemic both of these have been postponed. After thinking it over we decided to return anyway, and spend a few months doing a road trip around the country since international travel is still iffy as countries come out of lockdown.
Flying during the pandemic wasn’t very different from normal except that all 3 airports we were in were virtual ghost towns. There were far fewer flights in and out of the airports, but our planes were nearly full and the ticket price was similar to the pre-pandemic costs. We did have to wear masks the entire time, which was miserable since the flight was fourteen hours long, but the bigger issue was that we couldn’t find masks for sale anywhere. Unlike the United States, the UK didn’t have any mask requirements, so Daniel and I had to rustle some up specifically for our flight. In the end, Daniel bought a very cheap pillowcase from a grocery store and used a travel sewing kit to hack together a couple of masks. They weren’t the most comfortable, but I was impressed at his resourcefulness.
Once we got into LAX we stayed with my parents at their home in Carpinteria, which is a small beach town near Santa Barbara. My parents are handling their lockdown well. My dad already worked from home, so there was very little change for him, and my mother has been working remotely.
Carpinteria is known for growing avocados (there’s an avocado festival held every October), and my parents have twenty-five acres of avocado trees that are beginning to get ripe, which is also keeping them busy. Every day my dad would come home from their orchard with pounds and pounds of avocados that had gotten ripe and fallen off the trees. My mom would divy these up into bags and drive around town dropping them off to friends, or else she would make huge vats of guacamole which she would urge us to eat.
Also at my parent’s home was my youngest sister Vicky, who was just finishing her freshman year at UCLA online after having to move back home when her dorm closed and all of her courses went remote.
Even though she’d had multiple internship offers before the pandemic hit, when it did all of them were canceled. So instead Vicky got a part-time job at the local beachside burger stand, The Spot, where she takes orders, cashiers, and makes milkshakes. Daniel and I went a couple of times to see her as she worked. (She recommends the burritos.)
While we were in Carpinteria, Daniel and I spent a couple of days at the beach, which was packed despite the local campgrounds being closed. We also went hiking a few times, including a seven hour, 16 mile hike to the end of the Franklin trail that I did with Vicky which left both of us pretty well wiped out. We also did many shorter hikes and walks along the beach and bluffs.
While we were staying with my parents I celebrated my birthday, the first birthday I’ve had with them in a long time. Daniel and Vicky worked together to make me a 7Up cake, which was really good.
Daniel and I also drove out and took a day trip to Solvang, a little Danish village in the San Ynez Valley. Originally settled by Danish immigrants, nowadays the town is a tourist attraction for its Danish-style architecture and Danish restaurants/shops. The main activity to do there is to walk around and window shop, but it’s a cute place and I always like visiting. Daniel had never been before, so I made sure that he tried the aebleskivers. Aebleskivers are basically spherical pancakes served with jam. I don’t particularly care for pancakes, so I can’t say I really enjoy aebleskivers, but Daniel loves pancakes and he was nuts about aebleskivers.
When we started thinking about doing a roadtrip Daniel got really excited about the idea of buying a car. He even made and presented a slideshow to me that detailed the cars he thought that we ought to consider. Before we’d arrived back in the US he’d already set up five separate test drives at different nearby dealerships. After driving several cars and bargain hunting for a few days we bought a new-to-us 2019 Mazda 3 Hatchback!
My last car was a 2003 Mini Cooper with a lot of problems (broken AC, broken windows, broken radio, shot shocks, etc), so by comparison our new car seems very large and modern. It has a backup camera, lane assist, and a blindspot sensor. It’s kind of shocking how far car technology has come in the last fifteen years. Daniel’s last car was a 2008 Miata, so between that and my Mini Cooper both of us were used to tiny cars and this new Mazda feels huge.
Coming back to Southern California and spending time with folks was nice. Laying out on the beach and eating copious amounts of popsicles and avocados made me feel like I was on one of the summer breaks I’d had growing up. It was good to see my family again and good to see familiar places again. It’s also nice to be on the move again, and we’re looking forward to seeing the country on our US road trip.