Well met, my friends!
It’s late, but I figured I’ll write about it anyway, before all the details fade away. This blog post is about my USA trip in March 2014 that I mentioned in the previous blog entry.
Saturday 15th of March:
I arrived in Los Angeles, after more than 10 hours on a plane. I did not manage to sleep during the flight. Instead, I watched the following five movies: Escape Plan (IMDB score 6.8), which was an 80s style Schwarzenegger and Stallone action movie, despite being from 2013. I’d say it was decent, but the best scene was Schwarzenegger’s typical move, where he grabbed a stationary machine gun, carried it under his arm and mowed down hordes of attackers. The next movie was Ender’s Game (IMDB score 6.9). Strange enough, they sorted it in the “family” category, even though it was pretty dark. Unfortunately the writing excuses guys already spoiled the ending for me, otherwise I might have ranked it higher. Next up in my ranking was Thor the Dark World (IMDB score 7.3) and then the Wolverine (IMDB score 6.8). The latter is a dip down when it comes to the IMDB score, but I liked it best out of the four. I did not want to gamble on the last movie, so I re-watched Lost in Translation (IMDB score 7.8), which is still great on the second viewing.
After this movie marathon, I felt pretty knackered, but I wanted to stay awake for as long as possible in order to beat the jet lag. Following a slightly modified tip I read on Daniel Negreanu’s twitter account, I also tried to reset my food clock in addition to the sleep clock. Negreanu phrased it as “Don’t eat x hours before you plan to go to bed in your new time zone”, but I changed it to eat according to the local time, even if you are not hungry. Basically it is the same advice that holds true for sleeping: you just follow the habits of the new time zone, even if it means over eating on the first day.
The guy at the rental car place looked like the actor Jeffrey Tambor from arrested development. Since I was alone on this trip and didn’t have someone to look at maps during the drive, I also rented a GPS. When I complained that the rubber suction pad to fix it to the windscreen was missing, the guy told me: “It is forbidden by California law.” Instead, the GPS was affixed to a sandbag, which was put on the dashboard. Weird.
Sunday 16th of March:
I walked around Beverly Hills and was shocked to see that there were a lot of vacant shops for rent. I guess with all the commerce shifting online, it should not have surprised me that much.
Despite the popular claim that fast food is so much cheaper than healthy food in the USA, I found a bag of mixed vegetables for 1.19$, whereas the frozen pizzas cost 3$.
So even in the USA the Herbertz diet would be affordable. That’s my “don’t try this at home!” diet of replacing my usual dinner of pizza and fizzy drinks with vegetables and water, which allowed me to go from 94.4 kg (207 lbs) to 79.5 kg (175 lbs) over the course of a year.
Monday 17th of March:
At 6:30 in the morning, an earthquake of magnitude 4.4 woke me up. A lot of people on my twitter feed commented about it.
I missed the opportunity, because I went back to bed. Hours later, I also mentioned it, before leaving Los Angeles. Originally my plan was to drive around the coast with a few stops and then to reach my hotel in Santa Clara in the evening. I picked Santa Clara, since it is 50 miles from San Francisco and other locations, which would allow me to take day trips. Also, hotel rates in San Francisco are more expensive than the ones in Santa Clara. However, I misjudged the distance to get there from Los Angeles a bit, so after driving along the coast for a while, I had to abandon that plan and head to the highway instead. If I were to do it again, I would split this one day trip up into two days and visit a few places along the way. On the way I noticed a bill board that advertised the in-N-out burger (check out Daym Drops’s review) 16 miles away. From all the different burger places (Johnny Rockets, KGB, Heart Attack Grill, in-N-out and probably some others that I forgot) we tried in Las Vegas last year, I liked that one the best, so I made sure to stop there.
One of the odd things about driving in the USA is the way warning labels are arranged on the pavement. The argument is that you are speeding by and read a single word like “signal”. Then a bit further down the road, you see another word “ahead” and are supposed to combine it to “signal ahead”. However, anyone who isn’t a mole and has half way decent eyesight will see both words at once and read them from top to bottom as in a book. The notices then become “ahead signal”, “clear keep” or “xing ped” (pedestrian crossing).
Tuesday 18th of March:
The highlight of the day was meeting up with my buddy Dr. Bob (not the one who appears on google image search) at the Fire Station. When I mentioned that I wanted to take a day trip to San Francisco, he suggested to take the Cal-train, which is as fast as going by car, but is cheaper and more convenient than driving and paying for parking.
Wednesday 19th of March:
I followed Bob’s advice to take a day trip to San Francisco. The Cal-train is indeed pretty nice, but I should have boarded it at Sunnyvale, which is in a cheaper zone than the one I started from and it has more trains that stop there. By accident I walked past the GDC in San Francisco. In the meantime, they’ve pulled Day‘s talk from the free to view section of their website, but Nika Harper‘s talk is still available as of writing this.
I walked through China town, expecting it to be a few streets like in London. Instead, it was quite extensive. As you can see in the picture, people in San Francisco know that you are supposed to turn your tires when you’re parking at an incline.
Eventually I reached Fisherman’s wharf, where I saw the sea lions.
In the evening I met up with my friend Martha for dinner. The very next day she flew to London and met up with mutual friends. I told her that I had been eating a lot of Mexican food during that trip, but when she enquired about that, I had to admit that it was mostly Chipotle. That counts as Mexican from a European perspective, right?
Thursday 20th of March:
Although Bob suggested to see Alcatraz instead, I drove to Alameda on Thursday. They have the decomissioned aircraft carrier Hornet there, which was turned into a museum. I certainly recommend seeing it, but it’s essential to go there after lunch. Apart from vending machine snacks, there’s nothing to eat on the ship and there is nothing near by either.
There were two guided tours on the ship, which were included in the ticket price. First, I joined the one that showed the flight deck, the tower and the bridge. The second tour went down to the engine room and showed that the commands from the bridge would then be cross referenced on a chart to see how many RPM would correspond to a certain speed in knots. If the main bridge and the secondary bridge were gone, the procedure was to manually reset the rudder and then turn to one side by using only half of the engines. In addition to the tours, there were a few areas that one could freely visit. Since the Hornet was also the ship that welcomed the Apollo astronauts back, they put the mobile quarantine station on display, where the astronauts had to live for a few days until they were transferred to a bigger quarantine facility for a longer duration.
Friday 21st of March:
Before driving back to Los Angeles, I took the opportunity to visit the Winchester Mystery House.
Unfortunately it was forbidden to take pictures inside, because some film studio reserved exclusive film rights, but they haven’t even started working on their movie. Wikipedia has a whole list of haunted sites across the world and apparently the Winchester Mystery house made it into the top 10. It’s certainly worth a visit, if you are in the area and have two hours to spare. Even though I did not manage to do so, I would recommend booking the tour for Friday the 13th when they do special flash light night events. Spooky!
Saturday 22nd of March:
As mentioned, the highlight of the day and of the whole trip was the Day meeting with its separate blog entry.
Sunday 23rd of March:
Unfortunately it was time to go. A bit more than one week is a nice duration in the sense that the 10+ hour flights are justified, but apparently it isn’t long enough for me to get homesick. I certainly could have stayed longer, but since I’ll be back twice more this year, it didn’t matter all that much.
It’s strange that out of all the people, who were queuing up for the security check, I was the only one that opted out. They didn’t even have any regular gates anymore, so I was told to step through the Terrahertz scanner when it wasn’t turned on. The security person, who operated the scanner, was alarmed at that and asked around what was going on, so I mentioned that I was getting the pat down.
In the waiting area after the security checkpoint, I waited in line to get a pizza. The start of the line wasn’t clearly marked, so everybody was confused. The dude next to me used that as a conversation starter and I found out that his name was Pierre and that he was going to Japan for a week. My advice for him and his buddy Sean was to memorize the few characters that they needed, like the one for the stop they want to get off of the train or the ones for the tuna mayo onigiri (there’s one that looks like a mirrored E and another one that looks like a smiley face…). Later on, as we were all waiting to collect our pizza, he complimented a girl about her leopard trousers. Her name was Britta and even though she’s American, she lived and worked in Munich, so she spoke both English and German without any foreign accent as far as I could tell.
Then Pierre says to her: “Do you have a social network, like a facebook or twitter, where I can add you? Is that weird, because we just met?”
That was some serious channeling of Carly Rae Jepsen right there, but it actually worked!
On the flight back, I only watched one movie (Red2, IMDB score 6.7). This time around I managed to get some sleep, so I wasn’t as jetlagged when I arrived back in Germany.
Pursue your dreams and see you next time,