Across sea and land to San Marcos
Google San Marcos and you’ll probably find references to San Marcos in Texas or San Marcos in Central and in South America. But right now the Cleddau crew are in San Marcos, California…
“And what is the reason for your visit to the United States?” asked the Border and Immigration Official.
“Visiting family – for Thanksgiving,” the Captain replied – and, fingerprinted and photographed, entry to the US was allowed.
It had been a smooth trip, a trouble-free M1 /M25 ride to Heathrow’s renewed and smart Terminal 2,
To help you pass time on a long-haul trip the in-flight entertainment system offers films galore, a wide range of music to chill out to – and constant Moving Map images. During a flight time of ten and a half hours it is tempting to check progress periodically.
Hours on, after heading over Canada towards Salt Lake City place names on the map took on a vaguely familiar or almost romantic ring. “Oh look, Spokane…” Here Boatwif nudged the Captain (Jaq’s place!) Crazy Mound, Little Belt Mountains, Bighorn Basin, Yellowstone, the Great Divide… valleys, deserts, mountain ranges, plains. Flying for hours across this vast and varied country makes you realise just how tiny our own British Isles are.
Bang on time, ten and a half hours after take-off it was touchdown at LAX. Once through Immigration, Baggage Reclaim and Customs (all swifter procedures than usual) the journey slowed. Eyes were gritty and legs heavy as traffic sped past the LAX terminals. In LAX territory you stick to public transport, hang on for a hotel courtesy bus and finally sink into bed for a few hours of oblivion.
Dawn came, revealing tall palm trees against a brightening sky. With time to kill before breakfast the TV was tuned into the Weather Channel. Great swathes of the mid-west and the north east of the country were smothered in thick snow. The presenters and met experts were thrilled by these unseasonably harsh conditions. “It’s snow on steroids,” shrieked one. “I’m geeking about those snow pictures,” announced another. “We gotta get the vehicles unstuck,” explained a reporter from snow swamped Buffalo. Non-emergency driving was completely banned and a winter’s worth of snow had fallen in three days… It’s a great channel for maps, graphics and expressive language and a stunning reminder of how very large and very varied North America is. But here in Southern California the three year drought is a matter of wide concern: the populace hopes for abundant snow on the mountains this winter with a slow thaw to replenish the very low reservoir levels.
Mid-morning there were two more courtesy bus trips, back to the airport, then on to the rental car depot. Then, just after midday Wednesday, phones and satnavs connected, (Boatwif’s) ordeal got under way. Traffic is never less than busy and the freeways heading south are twelve lanes wide. Two hours on it was a relief to parallel the Pacific Ocean on the right and to spot familiar road signs. Now it was just twenty odd more miles to San Marcos.
Would there be clues? Would it still be apparent that for days wildfires had torn around this valley last May?
Yes – blackened scrub, skeletal bushes and scarred hillsides, terrifyingly close to Cal Son’s neighbourhood. What a relief it had been to the Cal Clan to return home after a mandatory evacuation of three nights and four long days to find their home safe and unburned. In a masterly understatement Cal Son had said over the phone: “There’s nothing quite like seeing pictures of your home flashed around the globe on TV, fire trucks outside it and water-dropping helicopters overhead…”
There was glee all round at our arrival. Within moments Cal Gal was saying “Let’s play a game Granny!” On the way down the street to the park next day Cal Guy Jnr announced to a neighbour: “This is my Granny.” Later, to neighbourhood playmates it was “Aw, I got a Grandma over…”
So it’s back into Cal Clan routine: Hedbanz at dawn, tricks at the park in the sunshine and board games at dusk…