Day 61 – Lompoc to Pasadena and 4th July!

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I am massively behind on my blog again, and somehow wrote a nice long post on our day in Pasadena that then mysteriously disappeared! So I’ll start again.
We left Lompoc fairly early as 1: we stayed in a Motel 6, therefore no coffee or any other good reason to stay any longer, 2: we were worried about traffic going into LA and Pasadena as it was 4th July and there are parades and celebrations everywhere, so you never know what to expect. On the way out of Lompoc we got a cup of coffee at Starbucks where I used their Wi-Fi to give mum a quick call. We then set off for Pasadena.
As we were inland it was sunny and dry and we drove through the mountains on the 246, on to the 154, rather than heading straight for the coast. The area is of course very dry and reminds me in some ways of the Northern Cape and Karoo. We drove through a town called Solvang, which was a Danish community originally and still reflects this in a lot of their buildings. They had a parade on which meant it took us ages to get through town, but that actually turned out to be our only traffic related issue of the day. The road got busier as we carried on and I was hoping for some good views as we crested the top of the mountain, but sadly everything was once again covered in fog! We drove down and through Santa Barbara’s beach front, where thousands of people pitched their tents on the strip of grass between the sea and the road, and were BBQ-ing and sitting about, celebrating 4th July. At Ventura we headed inland again, still aware of the time and not wanting to get to Pasadena too late as we wanted to explore the town before the fireworks at the Rose Bowl in the evening.
We soon hit some massive freeways, with 5 or 6 lanes, which kept Brian on his toes! The driving in LA is a bit mental as people jump across lanes and back without much warning or indicating so it can be quite stressful, but it really helps having satnav – I have no idea how people coped before! I have to add, driving to Pasadena and through bits of LA I wasn’t overly impressed as
We got to Pasadena and checked into the Lincoln Motel. I was a bit nervous about the hotel as I got it for $75/night which is extremely cheap! When I started looking for hotels in LA I very soon realised that even the more reasonable hotels double their prices for 4th July weekend, so to get somewhere at that price, and handy for the Rose Bowl made me a bit dubious. The place looked ok though (despite the painted walls, and our standards are low anyway!), so we dumped our stuff and took a (long) walk to Pasadena’s Old Town. Pasadena was fairly quiet but a very nice town, and we managed to find a restaurant I read about, Slater’s 50/50, that is famous for their half beef, half bacon burgers. Unfortunately we weren’t hungry as we were still eating the pizza from Lompoc, so I got a Graceland Milkshake with chocolate, peanut butter and banana, and Brian a beer. The milkshake was HUGE and very filling and lasted me for the rest of the day!
We didn’t want to drink too much as it was still going to be a long day to 9pm for the fireworks, so walked to the Norton Simon Museum, which was unfortunately just closing. We could walk around outside the museum for some pictures of the Rodin sculptures so it wasn’t a wasted trip! We then made our way to the Rose Bowl, using my trusted Google Maps – which led us straight down what I suppose you can describe as a small canyon, or arroyo. It was just a path down the hill to the Rose Bowl but not something I expect to see in the middle of a big city – but then I realised over the next couple of days that that is the way LA is laid out basically, with houses on hills and open spaces everywhere. At the Rose Bowl the gates were just about the open and everyone was queuing up so we walked around and got a beer for $8, which we thought was outrageous – until we got inside and beer was priced at $12-16 each!!
Inside we settled down for a long evening or people watching and watching the various bits of entertainment before the fireworks; this included some motorcycle stunts, the singing of the national anthem and Elvis and Beatles tribute bands. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly a woman freaking out and dancing to Elvis – I wasn’t sure she realised it wasn’t the real Elvis! She had glasses on with sideburns, very strange – it entertained us much more than the organised entertainment though, especially watching peoples’ faces as they walked past and saw her go mad. Finally the fireworks started and it really was an amazing show, well worth the money and organisation. Afterwards we just walked back to the hotel with loads of other people, all in all a great day!

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