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Ever been lost in a really large city, in the dark? I have! 🙂

But clearly and fortunately, common sense got me out of trouble, and here I am, in my safe and cosy Motel 6 room (#205) somewhere north  west (?) of L.A., just as planned.

But, let’s start at the beginning, when I woke up in Carlsbad and had my by now customary chat on Windows Live Messenger with Angie. This was followed with my last visit for a while to the Carlsbad Denny’s for breakfast and a lazy drive north to L.A. – first to the Bell Flower neighbourhood where Eunice had invited me to conduct a mealy bug inspection (honest, that’s what we call a visit to somebody else’s collection among our UK clan and I can report that none were found.) Very nice, although perhaps not as many cacti as I would have liked. However, lots of hybrid Aloe, Agave, Echeveria and Dudleya. The camera clicked as usual.

Then another healthy lunch at the local Mimies, and although the food was very good, the waitress service was ‘standard’, rather than the previous ‘exceptional’.

But it had all taken more time than I had planned, so instead of finding a Motel 6 near the venue for my talk, booking in, freshening up and go to the talk, only 5 miles away, it was a case of going straight to the venue. Google map had warned that the journey could take from 41 minutes to 2:30 hours! I had allowed 2:30, but would have preferred to have arrived earlier to walk through the community gardens and chat with some of the members. I was welcomed by the Society’s President, Jeff Karsner, whom I had met earlier at The Huntington. But immediately, one of the members, Chris Rogers, had recognised me and greeted me like a long lost friend, telling everyone how, when he was really ill in Argentina, on our 2005 trip, I had talked him into seeing a doctor. The doctor had very successfully dealt with the problem, but the length of the needle that was applied to Chris’ rear-end grew as the story was repeated during the trip. Now, 3 years later, it went for the record of largest injection needle on the planet. It was great to see him again. He also says hello to Cliff & Ian.

Crassulady, whom I had met earlier at the Huntington was there as well and was disappointed that I would not be a guest at her house. I explained that hotels had been booked and paid for, so, not this time. She recognised Angie from pictures in the talk as a person she had travelled with on one of Warren Wither’s Continental Coach trips! She says a big hello!

There must have been some 60 members present – more like a UK convention than a branch talk. Several people knew me from the Copiapoathon Diaries and wanted to join me on future trips in South America. We’ll see. I’ll check with Graham Charles and Guillermo Rivera how much they charge, as I would not want to undercut my friends 🙂

I received a number of very complimentary remarks after the talk, so have raised my hero status another few notches. Must get a larger hat 🙂

Then the journey home – tired after the talk and a full day, on to Highway 101. I had memorised the names of the exits leading up to the one I had to take to get to the motel, but as they had still not appeared half an hour after I had joined 101, I decided it was wise to retrace my steps. No problem. Back to the venue for the talk, now in complete darkness with everybody gone home. No problem, found a nice place to park along the road, study the minimalist map that Eunice had kindly printed off for me. Kicked myself, as I seemed to have done everything right, so must have missed an exit. The problem lies in driving in a river of steel at 65+ mph, with everybody apparently on full main beam, 7 lanes + each way in many places, but continually changing that number as junctions come and go. Loads of roadside information, so how could I get lost? Although the names were familiar, from films, songs, books etc, I have no idea about their geographical relationship. I had remembered 3 exit names off 101 and would use these to count down to the one I needed to take. Here we go again.

No good, the first 2 exit names did not match my memorised names. Then it dawned on me: I was on the right road, but travelling in the wrong direction! Fellow travellers, you have been warned! Convinced that I was now on the right track, I put my theory to the test and to my great relief, there were the names I had memorised, there was my exit and eventually, there was the extremely welcoming sign of Motel 6. I was pleased to find that the wifi connection is free, but disappointed to note that so far I can’t make a connection so that I’ll have to walk the laptop over to outside reception and see if the signal is any better there. I have seen other guests do that. I’d rather pay and not have to go through this procedure. Angie, I’ll pass on our daily chat until I get to Motel 6 in San Diego on Friday night.

The other snag today was that the Society’s treasurer wanted my name to put on the cheque that he was going to give me. I explained the problem of not having a US bank a/c. Heads were scratched. Well done Eunice for anticipating this at the Long Beach meeting.

Fortunately, one of the officers, Matt, is coming to the San Diego meeting on Saturday and will bring the cash with him, so that I’ll leave the US the next day with a pocket full of Dollars. I’ll email Mark to warn him that I need cash, not cheques.

So all’s well that ends well. I actually feel quite chuffed to have gotten out of this pickle by keeping my head. I did have Plan B – find a sign to a place I knew, even if it had been San Diego, and drive until day light if need be to find the Motel 6 there. Having devised my back up plan, I could then get on with a calm search.

Now the next challenge – getting this message out. If you are reading this, I succeeded!

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