The familiar and the less so…
The drive from LAX down to San Marcos can take up to two hours, or three, or four – it all depends on the traffic and whether you use the toll roads.
Rental car allocated (a NEVADA plate again, curious) luggage loaded and satnav set, it was time to get on the road. As on previous occasions Boatwif sat in the passenger seat (on the right-hand side of the car), hands round a bottle of water, teeth and buttocks tightly clenched in equal portions of fear and fatigue…
Down the freeways, six, then eight lanes wide, southbound, cars and trucks passing on either side. Remember the rules: only use the left-hand Car Pool lane for two or more occupants and enter it only where there is a break in the yellow lines. Eventually the traffic flow lightened. The Los Angeles conurbation was being left behind and the freeway began to cut through the hills.
It’s a relief when the ocean is glimpsed; if not quite home territory at least more familiar views and place names come into view. There’s a weighbridge, then a nuclear power station (decommissioned now), a rail yard with Coaster commuter trains lined up, then signs to Oceanside.
The exit up onto the eastbound I-78 has a vicious curve, it’s remembered well as the car leans to the right… Heading inland now Oceanside at some point becomes Vista, which at some point becomes San Marcos. The roadside buildings, usually white or pale coloured structures, are mostly commercial. In this dry climate many are flat or very shallow roofed. Surprisingly perhaps, there are plenty of trees and shrubberies planted in what must have been planned developments. It’s hard to identify particular features along this freeway unless an earlier memory acts as a trigger. Midway along on the south side of the freeway progress has been made since last year on a large open tract of land. Where last November bulldozers were flattening and terracing the rough terrain this year there are hundreds of timber framed houses and condominiums, evidence that along Southern California’s coastal strip and further inland too there is pressing need for all types of housing.
Heading eastbound there was a sighting then of ‘the volcano’, a totally artificial structure. It’s what’s visible from the freeway of Boomers, a place of easy entertainment: crazy golf, bumper boats and go karts, where hitting your golf ball off course or soaking your grandmother is all part of the fun…
Onward, into San Marcos arriving from the west. ‘San Marcos, next 5 exits’ says the freeway sign and the travellers had arrived back among the sunlit hills, palm trees and roadside blooms. This one-time sleepy agricultural valley has become a thriving city with a population of about 85,000. Houses now creep up the hillsides or are perched on flattened summits; the Cal State university campus, founded in 1989, currently has about 14,000 students and there is continued building development both on campus and on adjacent previously undeveloped land.
Fleeting observations of how things may have changed are brought into sharp focus with the annual Granny equation. Cal Guy Jnr (last year measuring 0.6 granny) now comes in at 0.8 granny . Cal Gal (last year 1.0 granny) is now 1.1 granny while these days Cal Guy Snr (14) takes in oxygen at a completely different altitude!
A first domestic shopping trip provided some gentle surprises: a visit to Home Depot (think B&Q) for a key cutting service meant walking past this part of the business. (Do folk in the UK still use the word “lumber”?) Buying a key these days seems to involve a whole new world of choices… It always amazes how in the US every season is seen as a retail opportunity: Would you buy a Christmas themed shower curtain or music themed hand soaps…?
If all the above is an observation of how familiar people, places and things are slightly changed then one entirely new topic needs an introduction. Cal Guy Snr has now moved as a 9th Grader into High School (4 year groups, 2,500 students). The purpose built school was opened in 2004. So far there’s been a peek inside a gym (see the fold up seating on either side and the school’s grizzly bear motif on the wall). Outside last Friday (in 70ºF/21C at 2pm on Veterans’ Day, a public holiday) 150 students were running around the pitch, as bidden by their student leaders… Cal Guy Snr is part of a high school marching band. A 7-hour rehearsal day preceded the last inter-school Band Competition of the season. This band business is totally foreign to the Cleddau crew; it dominates home conversation, dictates family schedules – and is totally fascinating.
Next time then, marching bands.