Just because it is so funny – here it is one more time
More vids soon of my little kelp dive in Santa Catalina
Just because it is so funny – here it is one more time
More vids soon of my little kelp dive in Santa Catalina
10 days have passed since I arrived here in So Cal. I can summarise the visit so far in just four words – so if you are planning a visit to Los Angeles, Orange County or the immediate surrounding areas – one thing you need to know
THE TRAFFIC IS SHITE
Four simple words that perfectly summarise what you can expect here. I did venture up to Las Vegas for the weekend, primarily to shoot some guns but I also indulged in a couple of other things that were of interest to me – indoor karting with electric karts and also indoor skydiving.
The karts were superb – and quiet too so you could even hear the music they were playing while you were razzing around – I posted the second fastest lap of the session, which was a disappointment – I overtook everyone at least twice, even gently giving some of the slower fannies a nudge as they slowed me up but there was one person that was half a second quicker than me – most likely that anorexic 14 year old that was also in my group – the little spotty twat!
Nonetheless – thoroughly recommended – www.polepositionraceway.com
After that little flurry – I was prepared for something a little more hard core so headed to Vegas Indoor Skydiving. I paid up, signed in and had an hour or so to kill before it was my time. I watched a few kids having a lot of fun but more importantly I watched people my own age give it a go too. Finally, in a jump suit that the girls from ABBA would have been proud of, I entered the fan room/wind tunnel or whatever you might call it. From this point – my description could only be considered gibberish so I have uploaded the video onto youtube so follow the link to watch it. I will try to add all videos here but wordpress want to charge a lot of money to add video and youtube is free.
That was enough fun for one day.
Sunday – midday, I have an appointment at the Gun Store – Now this I thoroughly recommend. Ok, it cost me 500 dollars but I had the VIP range all to myself with an instructor and was able to shoot a Glock 19, SIG SAUER P226, FN/FAL, G36, AK-47, MP5, M249 S.A.W., Russian RPD, AR-15, M4 to name just a few. Rifles in semi automatic and also in full auto. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but a couple of them did put a big grin on my face. For added bonus points – all shots were on target – even in full auto.
I have video of all of them of course – the muzzle flash from the AK-47 in full auto was very cool – I am posting all videos today hopefully so come and have a look – they will either be links to youtube or I will splash out and buy the upgrade for this site.
Tomorrow I am heading to Catalina Island for some scuba fun before finally heading back to blighty on thursday.
I loved that flight – it might have been over 10 hours long but it certainly didn’t seem like it. A direct flight to LA from Heathrow for less than 500 quid! Ok, I paid an extra 30 quid at check in for a seat with 3” extra leg room but that was well worth it – it was so comfortable and smooth and the flight crew were just EPIC, Virgin Atlantic are now at the top of my best airline list, dropping BA down to second place.
Now, pushing my luck – I chose to watch one very specific movie – ‘Final Destination 5’. For those that are not in the know, the whole final destination series is about groups of people that escape from a fatal situation only to be picked off one at a time by other disastrous yet hilariously funny consequences – and of course there is the air liner crash too – I was fair shitting myself with that one – I did wonder how many other passengers might dare to watch it.
I saved a couple of movies for the return leg, Johnny English Pt. 2 , Cars 2 and also Tower Heist.
So lets talk about America – Fuck yeah! – or more specifically Los Angeles. As we were flying in, it wasn’t possible to see the whole city as the smog was blocking the view. Then we cleared the airport, even had very pleasant border control staff that got the job done quickly – unlike Newark! A rental car – Chevy Malibu and the bird found 50 bucks on the toilet floor – Nice! then we hit the motorway – or as they say here ‘Freeway’. There was absolutely fuck all free about it I can assure you – 6 lanes – 6 in each direction, all going nowhere. It took over 3 hours to do the 31 miles from the airport to the hotel. They have a car pool lane, probably called a high occupancy lane in some places – 2 or more people in your veeee hickle and you have a lane all to yourself – best part of that is, that lane is slower than the others, kind of removes the incentive to share cars, reduce emissions, improve the air quality and save money but then what would I know – I’m just a dumb ass limey !
We trotted off to Huntingdon beach at the weekend – very west coast! It’s very calm and relaxed out here, so much so that it reminded me of that old Baz Luhrmann song – Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen, where he suggests ‘Live in Northern California once but leave before it makes you soft’ Pure genius, kind of summarises the place perfectly.
I also headed out to Hermosa Beach on tuesday and rented a bike, a cruiser to be more precise. I rode along the beach front for 20 miles or there abouts, all the way up to Venice Beach and back. I found myself strangely drawn to a factory with two big chimneys. I got my camera out and started snapping when finally a police car passed me. On his door ‘El Segundo’ – I was only in Tyler territory. Still none the wiser? Then look up a film called ‘Singlefin: Yellow’ you will then know exactly where I was standing – better still, ask me nicely and I will lend you the DVD.
So – for the weekend – Vegas baby. I have booked in at a local gun range there, 500 dollars gets me my own instructor and a wealth of firearms to experience – including two belt fed machine guns, 3 fully automatic machine guns, 2 semi automatic assault rifles and 3 hand guns of my choice. I aim to see if I can understand Americas fatal attraction with firearms – and just for the record I hope to capture my experience with my Go Pro HD camera so be sure to stop by here in a weeks time to see what is up there to view
Finally yesterday I made my way to the village that was once known as Ypres. These days it is known more by its flemish name of Ieper but everyone knows the name Ypres.
I wanted to see this monument, the gate that leads eastward out of the town where many soldiers walked out of on their way to the front line. I wasn’t really prepared for what I would experience.
I parked close to the monument and approached from the southern end. I stopped at a small monument for the 160,000 Indian troops that died in both wars before walking up to the now imposing gate. The gate itself is huge but the first thing I noticed was the southern wall filled with names, ranks and regiments. It did truly take my breath away.
We are all aware of the ‘numbers’ involved with human life lost during the wars but numbers really mean nothing, especially when they are so huge they are incomprehensible. I was now face to face with a wall maybe 50 feet high and 100 feet long – filled from floor to ceiling, end to end with names from all around the world.
I started walking down the stairs to pass inside the gate. At my first turn, I noticed more names on the walls, in fact, at every turn, wherever there was wall space there were names – from top to bottom, from end to end – under the archways, besides the stair cases – there was no space free.
Then – inside the gate itself, a huge cavern, decorated with names – every where you look, huge long lists, 50 feet high or more.
I crossed the road inside the gate and passed out through the northern entrance – again, every inch of wall space had a name, rank and regiment on it. Some names had poppies stuck next to them – some people must have brought ladders to put them up, they were too high for even me to get close to. Some freshly laid wreaths from the evenings ceremony the day before.
Since 1928 – The Last Post has been played every night at The Menin Gate – only stopping briefly between 1939 and 1945. I planned to stay on to witness this too.
8pm sharp! As you would expect with military precision. I was surprised at how many people turned out bearing in mind that this is a daily tradition – even more surprised to see the majority of visitors were school age. I snapped a few sneaky photos of the Buglers before they started playing, then lowered my camera and took my hat off as The Last Post was played. By the time the ‘Rouse’ was played I was shivering. Cold from maybe 3 minutes without my furry hat. It was cold. snow on the ground and just below freezing. I was left wondering just how, in trenches dug in open fields, with no technology keeping them warm, those soldiers survived months on months of this cold and still had energy and the will to dodge german artillery and bullets.
Back in my nice warm car on the way back to Brussels I started thinking. There are 54,839 names on the Menin Gate. These are names of soldiers that have no known resting place which effectively means somewhere out in the Belgian country side, there are 54,839 bodies buried under the soil – Think about the enormity of this for just a moment – nearly 55,000 bodies laying in the countryside – but then I remembered that wasn’t true – The Menin Gate is just 1 of 4 such monuments in Belgium.
To the right of this posting is a link to the photos I took while there – entitled ‘54,839’. Please take a look at them – click the link, then click the first photo to view it full page and scroll through all of them – I tried hard to capture the scale of what I was seeing.
For the Lazy Facebook generation, you can also click this link –
I finally made it there – 20 minutes from the birds pad in downtown Brussels. Ok, so the thought of diving in a pool may not fill you with excitement but this is a custom built jobbie with underwater caves, air locks so that while you are at 10 metres down you can surface inside the cave and take your gear off and have a chat, then there is a part they call ‘the pit’. The entrance of the pit is in 10 meters of water but then it drops a further 23 metres straight down until you are 33 metres under water. My dive buddy was not a deep diver so I left him sitting on the edge of the pit while I went down to have look. Also a recent addition is a ‘Smart Car’. In around 5 metres of water, completely stripped out so that you can swim through it – although I am curious as to why it had a brand new set of tyres on it and even more curious as to how they got it up there and into the pool.
Now the best bit – water temp of around 28ºC so shorts were the order of the day. We did take a couple of photos so if i get them emailed, they will appear here.
This afternoon I got to the pad at around 3pm, checked my mail and then started playing xbox live. After less than an hour of slaying Nazi Zombies i took my headphones off just in time to hear the ring of a text message arriving. Was there snow here was the message. I opened the blinds and by crikey if there wasn’t two inches of fresh snow covering everything – excellent ! Now of course I don’t mind the snow but the missus is on her way back from Hamburg and is a little delayed. Better still, the ring road around central Brussels is at a stand still too, so I may get an unexpected bonus time on the xbox!
We also had the green light from her boss for me to accompany her on her next business trip – TO LOS ANGELES !!!!!!!!!! So i get 2 weeks out there and only have to pay airfare and food, the return flight with Virgin was less than 500 squid so no problems there. One curious thing I noticed, the BA flight and Virgin flight were exactly the same price – down to the penny. Weren’t they both accused of price fixing a couple of years ago ?
Anyway – I chose Virgin for 2 reasons. 1. Never flown with them before, and 2. the BA flight was on a 747, if you get an older one, no individual TV and videos – imagine that on an 11 hour flight! (Lufthansa – hang your heads in shame, last time I transatlantic’d with you on a 747 it was old and worn)
A trip to the supermarket today meant that I could stock up on Chimay Blue which will surely make a few faces smile in England. I am heading back on Thursday morning to tie up a couple of loose ends and then get on that Virgin flight back to 30º temperatures.
But for now, I think I am about done.