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California!

One man's insignificant trip around the state.

I started my journey in bad weather, but that was as far as my luck held. As soon as my plane landed I found myself alone in a strange land as there was initially nobody there to greet me. The first week of my holiday was spent pandering about and recovering from my flight.

On reflection I realise that the events of the first week were partly my fault, partly my friends' fault, and partly due to circumstances beyond our control. It would be wrong to blame any one party.

Having landed in San Francisco and been taken to Santa Cruz by my friends over there, I was dropped off at the Santa Cruz International Hostel, a change of plan to start with, where I was to spend four nights in total; approximately five nights were spent fending for myself in what was little more than a shack a few miles outside of the town at Bonny Doon. A lonely place indeed, and one I was glad to get away from if only for a decent cooker and human company in the evenings (and no more howling coyotes at night!) If anyone has seen Any Which Way But Loose, there is a scene where Clint Eastwood comes across Sondra Locke while jogging along a road. It was exactly like this road near to where I was staying (the shack was at the end of a little dirt track off the main road) though I imagine there are many roads like that in the US.

I had very little help in finding things for myself from the people I went to stay with, they picked me up from the shack on their way to university and dropped me off on their way home. While at the hostel at least I could walk to a nearby shop or something. I was still reeling from my flight and the shock of having to fend for myself in a strange place, I felt sleepy a lot of the time and lack of good food (or an appetite) didn't help matters. The most helpful people I met were the ones at the hostel, and I thank them for their wonderful hospitality.

I eventually learned that there was nowhere to buy normal food in the town center and that it was acquired from supermarkets. Silly me! There I was, expecting to find a nice bakery, butchers' shop and newsagents on the high street, no such luck!

Here's some things I learned in my first week:

  • Don't shop in the bulk-buy places (Target and others), go to Safeway or Longs as they usually have smaller stuff available. Bread is expensive though, and don't expect to find white sliced like Kingsmill! There seemed to be many breads to choose from but very few like British bread, and some contain a lot of sugar.

  • Newspapers are normally to be found in three places: coin-operated boxes on the street, in some supermarkets such as Longs, and 7-elevens.

  • Bread, cakes and sandwiches can be found chiefly in supermarkets (spot a theme here?) but also in 7-elevens.

  • 7-elevens are the equivalent of very small local Co-ops or Late Shops, hence they are usually to be found near residential areas. Don't expect too much from them.

  • Buy some small plastic food containers (eg Gladware) and transfer bread/jam etc to them - no heavy glass jars to lug around and risk breaking, and the bread won't get squashed. Get a spreading/cutting knife. Also acquire useful large plastic/paper bags with handles to carry excess stuff (like food) around with you - paper is ok but will need replacing after a few days, ordinary carrier bags will self-destruct too quickly and dig into your hands. Carry a thick pen and some labels if you intend to stay in hostels - this is to mark your food in the kitchen.