February 13th, 2010


Catalina Island

Friday Feb 5th I left St Louis for Los Angeles and caught the ferry across to Santa Catalina Island, the final destination for my US trip this year.

For some unknown reason, I started my day at 4:30am. I guess I always wake up early whenever I'm flying that day. I'm dreadfully fearful of sleeping in and missing my flight. No problem this time; snowdog gave me a lift out to the airport with plenty of time to spare! Just like last year, buran couldn't be roused from her slumber to see me off. ;> The weather forecast was for overnight snow but it was dark, wet and generally miserable weather. Oh well!

Unlike my first US trip where I had 4 domestic flights (6 if you count stops), this time I had just one. There was a stop in Phoenix where I grabbed a caramel pecan Cinnabon (cinnamon scroll). I wolfed that down because my flight had started boarding. I found it strange not having an allocated seat.

Landed in Los Angeles in miserable weather. WTF?? I was very unlucky with weather in SoCal this trip. It's unbelievable. I caught a Prime Time Shuttle from LAX (flat rate shuttle, shared ride, full of win) to the ferry terminal at Long Beach. I wasn't sure what time I'd get to the terminal so I didn't prebook my ferry ticket. I was waaay too late for the 2pm crossing and took the 4:15pm instead.

I had to walk out into the rain with my luggage in order to board the ferry. I imagine that wouldn't normally be a problem except for the freakish weather we were having! The crossing itself was interesting. 10ft swells! I thought I was going to be sick, but fortunately I was only mildly nauseous. I'm starting to wonder if citric acid triggers my motion sickness.

We got to see orcas! Sadly I didn't have my camera with me. But how awesome is that? =D

The ferry stopped at Two Harbours first, which added about half an hour to the journey. I'd actually started dozing off at one point, so the ride can't have been that bad. Finally arrived at Avalon where Kathy (wolfwings' mom) was waiting to pick me up in her golf cart. Dropped my stuff off at her apartment (which is very small, like most of the lots in Avalon) and grabbed some food from the local grocery store. I was bad and picked up some frozen dinners, root beer, and cookies. Kathy and her flatmate Alex don't cook and can't afford to eat out all the time. In hindsight, I probably should have eaten out anyway! Didn't get to sample enough of the local cuisine. =)

I didn't do a whole lot Saturday. The weather was still being inclement. Wandered around Avalon for a little while, taking photos. Had fish and chips for lunch at Original Jack's, which were goooood if pricy. Watched Surrogates, which was predictable and stupid. A single episode of Battlestar Galactica contains more thought provoking commentary on artificial life than the entire three hours of Surrogates! We tried to watch The Departed because I'd never seen it but the DVD crashed 36 minutes in. Augh! I'm going to have to buy/rent it soon. We rented Taking Woodstock instead, which was pretty good, but I think a lot of it went over my head. We also saw HBO's Temple Grandin biopic, but I can't remember which night that was.

I started out Sunday by going for another walk to take photos because Kathy and Alex were still snoring out in the living room. There was a couple taking photos around the casino and so we took photos of one another with our own cameras. It was the first photo taken of myself with my own camera all trip! Depressing. =)

Kathy took me out into the interior of the island in her jeep. You can only go into the interior if you're a resident or go on a tour, so I'm pretty lucky to get a free tour!

The island is very mountainous, rugged, and sparsely populated. I was expecting there'd be more wildlife, but there wasn't much to see. There were some amazing views, particularly on the western side of the island. Sadly, there's no cell phone coverage in the interior. =p

There's two unreleasable eagles on the island, a bald eagle and a golden eagle. There's also a Catalina fox in a pen, but she was hiding when we came past the first time and it was too dark for photos on our return trip.

Kathy was surprised that we didn't see any buffalo until we got to the campground at Little Harbor. wolfwings had plans to go camping there but we didn't get a chance to visit Catalina before FC because of the bad weather.

We stopped off for a late lunch in Two Habors. The was a raven perched on a lamp who waited quite patiently as I took photos of him! We went into a bar (one of the few places actually open), devoured a pizza, drank a Californian microbrew ale, and watched the Super Bowl on the telly. How more American can you get? XD (I didn't see any guns, but that didn't mean there weren't any.) The game made no sense to me. I considered the football to be filler between the commercials.

After lunch we drove up the hill to peek inside the hotel that the Banning brothers built. On the drive back, we stopped off at the campground again to take more photos of the buffalo, then raced back to Shark Bay to take photos of the sunset, which we got there just in time. Amazing!

By the time we got back to Kathy's place, we were both absolutely knackered. Kathy had to work the following day and asked if she could sleep in her bed. I ended up sleeping on the living room floor. I slept surprisingly well on the floor!

The following morning, I got a voicemail message from Kathy telling me that one of her friends was going for a hike. I gave her friend Sandra a call and met up with her at her apartment. She cooked up some stirfry vegetables, some toast with lemon spread, and some "sleepytime" herbal tea (which doesn't work, by the way), and it was all very tasty! Simple meals can taste great!

Neither of us was feeling particularly energetic so Sandra picked a route for the hike which took us to the top of a hill behind the memorial. It was a great walk! She had a portable iPod dock so we listened to some AC/DC and CCR. We both had our cameras out, of course. She warned me to look out for ticks, but fortunately we didn't pick up any.

The hike certainly gave our legs a good workout! I had trouble walking the following day. The view was fantastic. The weather was pretty good although we had a sprinkling of rain. The hike back was all downhill, fortunately! The path took us through the back way into the memorial, so we saved ourselves the $5 entry! The memorial looks incredible. I got a photo taken with Sandra there, haha. =) The gardens were interesting too, especially the cactus garden. I also spotted a Catalina fox! He darted off into the bushes before we could get a good look at him.

We had lunch in a cheap Mexican tent near the golf course. Omnom tacos. I had a "$2 beer" too, which turned out to be Bud Light. Uuuuuugh. I'd managed to avoid ever drinking Bud up until then, and now I've experienced why. Bleargh!

By this point, it was starting to hurt to walk. We made it back to her apartment. We watched Terry Gilliam's Tideland, which was a freaky and bizarre movie.

Sandra had to do some grocery shopping, and I like grocery shopping so I tagged along. We didn't want to walk back so we called Kathy and met her at the store. Sandra offered to cook us dinner, which was awesome. We had crumbed chicken breast and vegies, some vodka and OJ, and talked for hours, mostly about relationship stuff. I have to say, I learned a LOT from that discussion. It made me feel ashamed to be male, though. =/

Tuesday, I got to go out on a free cruise around the island! Sandra is captain of a cruise boat, which is totally awesome! The cruise was great, got to see sea lions, seals, dolphins, bald eagles and other birds. The weather had started to turn on our way back, and I got hit with a lot of sea spray unfortunately, but otherwise I had a great time!

Later in the day it started bucketing down with rain. I'd accidentally left my baseball cap in Sandra's apartment (yes, it was a genuine mistake - birdbrain!), so I had the key to her apartment and spent a couple of hours there just reading and napping. She came home at one point and had her crazy stalker with her. She said she was glad that I was there! She had to go to her second job at a restaurant. I hung around for a bit longer then eventually left because it's a concrete bunker and I couldn't get cell reception (noooo, precious internets!).

I spent some time repacking my suitcase because it was a bit of a mess and I was flying out the following day. I wandered down to the restaurant where Sandra worked and she wasn't kidding when she said it was cold and empty! I chatted with her a bit at the taco/burger joint next door and had my first buffalo burger (omnomnom!). Eventually, she got some customers and I decided to take off because it was freezing!

That's pretty much the end of my Catalina experience. I caught the noon ferry back to the mainland, was in LAX by 2pm, and had waaaay too much time to kill until my flight at 10pm! I finally visited the Encounter bar (you have to walk through a carpark, which is crazy!) and it was absolutely worth it! I can't believe there's actually REAL food at LAX!

My time on Catalina was awesome, I'm so glad I went! The day I went on that hike with Sandra was the best day of my trip. It was completely unexpected, awesome to get some exercise, and she was great company. It's awesome making new friends. ^_^