Thursday, April 30, 2009

Monterey and it's watery world

Santa Barbara to Monterey – and fishy paradise.

Had an interesting drive today. We left Santa Barbara early, the idea was to drive to Monterey up on the coast and go to the Aquarium. However, we had various people give us differing times for travel, and in the end it took us about 5-6 hours, with a couple of stops on the way. Partly because we were meant to leave the interstate – i.e the busy busy road – and head back to the Pacific Coast highway, however, I didn’t figure this out until after the turnoff, so we kept on driving
But what has been interesting today.
Firstly, the sky has been littered all day with the vapour from endless planes flying across. Another thing was is the dramatically changing landscape. By Santa Barbara the scenery was lush and flowering and then the further we headed north the mountains and landscape turned quite brown and dry. And yet this area, as we found out later was called the Salad Bowl. I can understand why. For thousands of acres full of lettuce, carrots, and literally 20 miles of grapes growing. IT was amazing as this was so lush and fertile and yet behind it the land was dry as a bone. The rivers that we passed over were dry for the most part. One wonders if the lack of water is because it’s been diverted for irrigation or because of the lack of rain. We read that the southern area only has 50 days of rain a year. Would they like some of Auckland’s rain!
Road surfaces at times were quite poor which surprised me. I didn’t expect that at all. Monterey is on the coast as was famous as a ‘sardine town’ for its canning of sardines back in the 1920s. The old cannery area in the waterfront has become a tourist attraction with shops and food things and of course the aquarium. A great educational spot regarding our planet’s oceans.
We’ve booked into a motel nearby which comes with a continental breakfast. Not sure what that means in the USA, but we think it’ll be coffee and Danish, which is kinda fun.
One funny thing happened today. On the freew ay, Neil was playing with the buttons that are attached to the rear view mirror – it has a compass thingy on it – which is very helpful – but then he pushed this button and it was a built in phone for emergencies and an operator answered. We just about died. Apologised and said we didn’t reaslie what it was, then she cut the call and we all cracked up. It was hilarious, but nice to know we can get contact if in need of help. What a great idea!

Catch everyone tomorrow.
Jane Beckenham


Today in day three.5 of our journey we ventured onto the freeways again and surprisingly it was a relative ely easy task, getting us north of Los Angeles in just over an hour. We were kinda free-driving, aiming for San Simeon, which as at four pm, we haven’t actually got there...but we hav e had a bit of an adventure. First we drove to Santa Monica, thinking we might stop and dabble our feet in the Pacific – at least this side of the Pacific, but you had to pay $6.00 for the priviledge of parking on the pure white ‘contoured’ sand. We tried to find a place to park to ‘rethink’ the strategy and then were promptly asked to ‘move on’. We had parked in a valet parking spot for a posh restaurant, and were made to back up. Oopsie. So around several blocks we drove, glad that our ‘sense of direction’ kinda worked. and then it was back on the Pacific Coast Highway, heading north. Next came the houses of Malibu, and the rich and famous. Gosh these houses are jammed packed together. But the sad thing is that the general public can barely get a view of the beach and the only state access i saw to the beach it certainly wasn’t the golden sands of Malibu. So i wonder if there is a beach for the rich and a beach for the rest of us plebs.
We again took a rather circuitous route, read that as took several wrong turns. But we stopped at Oxnard which was interesting in that my uncle’s sister lives there but i don’t have her address. Had our first experience of Wal-Mart – the girls ecstatic with the prices of clothes that they JUST HAD to buy something. Sadly one of our wrong turns came next, but it took us instead on the freeway onto some absolutely lovely country roads. The one interesting thing I’ve noticed today is the changing scenery. From LA to Malibu was the coastal wealthy, lovely gardens, homes, palm trees, the large gates securing properties. In north of Oxnard it changed to horticultural which was interesting in that the surrounding landscape seemed quite harsh and dry. Acres and acres and acres of crops. Then we ‘diverged’ and headed towards Ojai and lovely winding roads, really lush green and pretty. And now we’re ensconced again in our Motel 6 by a freeway! i.e. Noisy. But cheap, and we’re about 5 miles south of Santa Barbara. We’ve driven a lot longer today than expected but i think some of it although unplanned is really worth it. Pretty and easier driving that’s for sure.
No pictures today, but wud love to hear from readers if you’re ‘seeing’ what’ i’m seeing LOL

Catch u tomorrow

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Disneyland was on the agenda for today /Tuesday.
Well what can I say, pure fantasy. Lots and lots of people and i’ve never seen so many strollers (pushchairs for downunder readers) plus babies, in my life. Everyone leaves the strollers outside the event and they’re fine. But do remind me never ever to go on Space Mountain again, it was horrendous, kept my eyes closed tight the whole time, saw nothing, and my daughter’s leg was crushed beneath my fingers as the carriage rocketed around corners and I squeezed her leg. There was It’s A Small World, train rides, and of course the Tea Cups, they were more my style, a paddle steamer ride, buildings that look so realistic they could hurtle this writer back in time, which is kinda fun for a time traveller writer. Then there were the photo opportunities with the stars, Mickey and crew. Places everywhere to eat, but 3 bottles of soda at $3.00 a shot – which in exchange rate terms meant $18.00 NZ so an expensive drink!
There are constant shuttle busses taking tourists back to the hotels which are great, but again only adds to the ever moving traffic here.
Dinner, again we are wide eyed at the cheapness in the supermarkets. 8 pieces of cooked chicken only $4.00.
So fantasy of LA is about to end as we head north. We were watching the weather channel today, again a fascinating thing for this kid from down under where our weather report takes about 5 minutes max. This is a whole channel! And it really highlights how big this country is with such a broad range of temperatures all happening at once. For example snow storms in Montana – help we’re driving thru there in about 4 weeks and we have no winter clothes!. Then in Florida they’re in drought. There’s floods somewhere else and threat of tornados too. This I think highlights how BIG this actual land mass is.
Now, we’ve got to drive across it.

Catch u again after our drive to San Simeon – that’s after Freeway 101 and 5! Eeek!

Monday, April 27, 2009

We have joined the Universe! And Hollywood!

Well our first full day in the good ‘ol USA was eventful. Not much sleep for us the first night, getting used to time zones. But today was a real – getting used to America day. First off was picking up our rental car then driving from the airport area to Hollywood where we went to Universal Studios and i must say that this writer just about had a nervous break down as we drove along freeways and the morning traffic scooted past. Every time a car passed us I kinda moved towards the other side of the car. This driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road takes some getting used to. But we made it to Universal with only one wrong turn and a few heated words in the car.
What can you say about Hollywood. It was a fabulous day. The outside of the Studio was shops and displays, spaceships hanging out of buildings, live cartoon characters, i.e Spongebob, Frankenstein etc, which we had photo opportunities with. Even Spongebob and Neil had a handshake. Half way through the entrance area we were asked to do a questionnaire. What a worthwhile thing that was. We ended up getting a jump the queue ticket and so when we went to do the actual tour – a four carriage tram, we got priviledge entrance and went on first. Now if you had seen the queue you would understand how happy this made us as there was a 50 minute wait otherwise, and you know how men don’t like waiting!
So we’ve seen Jaws, and been through an earthquake, cars being shot up and bridges collapsing along with Moses parting the Red Sea and through back lots and buildings that have appeared on numerous movies. But the thing the girls liked the most was going down ‘Wisteria Lane’ from Desperate Housewives, the ladies had just finished filming and we didn’t see them!
Then it was on to Hollywood where the gold stars are on the streets. There were even a few stars with no names, and lots of names I didn’t recognise, so stars it seems can be unknown. But one cool thing was outside a theatre they were setting up for a premiere with the red carpet etc. This was going to happen tonight and already the press were lining up for their photo shoots.
Driving here is AN EXPERIENCE. Put it this way, i am really glad that i had my hair colored before we came here, otherwise I’d be grey again. We didn’t have a proper map, but had the names of the roads – interstate freeways to go and so had to guess. Traffic jams, following a truck that had Anaheim on it, hoping it was heading towards Disneyland was all part of the next hour. But WE MADE IT. Disney area is all hotels. We went out to find a place for dinner and the places are deserted for the most part. I wonder how much this recession is hurting the area. One guy at Universal said it was really quiet, yet to us it seemed busy. So busy must REALLY be busy..
So we’re here, Disneyland is tomorrow, while Neil heads out to look at vintage cars and parts. Looking forward to Disneyland tomorrow. This place really is fantasyland.
Jane Beckenham

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We've hit the USA - watch out!

Well, we are here, we made it in one piece, though at zero hour, minus one, the new lap top decided not to work and so we (read Jane) had a rather heated discussion on the phone as to what to do. However, my hero arrived, our house sitter/computer fixer extraordinaire and the guy had it going within minutes.
We had a long, cramped flight, but the kids are movied out i.e. about 4 movies apiece, then had to come to grips with the US phone system and money. There was no shuttle available to the motel, but the motel people said grab a cab and they would reimburse – and they did! So GO MOTEL 6!
So now we are ensconced in our motel room, staring out at a dead flat landscape with tall powerlines and palm trees. It’s a nice warm day, just pleasant, and there is lots of car traffic. To the delight of the girls we’ve seen our first vintage car (yes, we’re on the look out. A 50s Pontiac according to Neil.
Neil and Anzhela waled up to the car rental place and came back all excited about the Mustangs - must be 10 a penny here,....we want to take one home!
Dinner early - 4.30 but we're pooped and out of cync with the time. But we've experienced our first Californian diner - a Mexican place where they must have thought us weird as we had to figure out what it all was. But hey...fries are fries in any language, and we can cope with that.
Onto Universal studios tomorrow, so hope we see someone famous.
And... yes while Neil was out at the car rental I even did some book editing....
Catch u all tomorrow.

Jane, Neil, Yana and Anzhela.... and we're all missing Bingo. Pinkie has yet to hit the streets of LA!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We have lift off!

All packed and ready to go. Pinkie and crew. The Beckenhams are ready to hit the USA, but the question is, is the USA ready for us
Catch u all soon
Jane Beckenham

Friday, April 24, 2009


Who would have thought that time could fly. Well it has, and we have one sleep to go until lift off. The bags are packed, still the glorious task of housework to get done, and my editor sent last minute edits of my coming release TO KISS AN ANGEL. So what do I do? I play on my new toy, my husband calls it my 'writing expense'. It's my lap top. sleep and a 12 hour flight and we'll be enjoying the warmer weather of Los Angeles. So please California, heat it up a bit for us if you can.

Pinkie is taking a break from flying in that she is going baggage class = yes she has been considened to the hold INSIDE the suitcase - suitably PINK of course. And what do you think hubby gave me for my birthday last week? A PINK passport holder. Just to keep PINKIE company of course.

So stay with us and stay tuned, what was it that Batman said, same time, same bat channel, well, you get the idea. Hang around and join our travels

Happy reading
Jane Beckenham

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I'm going to miss my baby - my dog Bingo. He is my everything, yes i'm a sucker for doggie drool, but he's such a cutie pie and I wouldn't be without him. But it's a whirlwind getting organised. 8 sleeps to go! Do I sound like a kid?

Too bad. It's exciting, all the wonderful things and places we're going to see. Mind you gotta get this driving on the 'wrong' side of the road thing sorted, and the money that's all the same color - how the heck do you figure out which denomination is which and not make a mistake and give the wrong $? Plus then there's the subject of tipping.....well, it's not the done thing here in old kiwi land, so i had better figure that out too, then of course, don't get me started on the exchange rate ... not fair!!!! I' mean it's costing me $NZ 2.00 for every US$1.00. Oh well, who cares, it's only money, right?

So any way.... keep checking in... we'll update you on Pinkie's progress and of course now Pinkie has a mate... yes, a PINK suitcase to match. I mean a handbag has to have the fashionable accessories, right?

Happy reading and writing to all

Jane Beckenham

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pinkie comes along for the ride

Okay, so i've bought the pink suitcase and i found this great pink bag to come along for the journey. But it seems i'm the only one who likes it! So just to make sure i know what i'm doing for a travelling blog, i thought I would introduce Pinkie to you, and you can vote if Pinkie should come for the trip or not!

So...what do you think?