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After a couple of months of dark and often wet weather we’re off!

Nice bright sky as Peter drove us to T3 at Heathrow Airport without any hold ups. Although we had a BA Flight Number, we were directed to the American Airlines desk for check in. Who are they kidding with these multi numbered-all on one plane deals and of course every provider with a different price ticket.

During the online check in process we found that Angie and I had been allocated seats at opposite ends of the plane. Not a problem as I tend to sleep most of the way while Angie plays computer games to pass the time. But neither of us had the sought after aisle seats that allows me to stretch my 6ft 4 frame along the isles and so trip up the air hostesses while Angie avoids climbing over people on her way to the toilets. We could change seats, but at £54 per person (and no doubt again on the way back) you have to draw the line somewhere. We did change seats so that we were at least sitting next to each other – me next to the window and Angie on my deaf side. At take off, the aisle seat next to Angie was still empty so a swift game of musical chairs saw her next to the aisle and the central seat empty for stretching. Great! and all for free.

We arrived at LAX two minutes early; this was all going very smoothly, until …. we hit immigration! Lots of signage to say that US Citizens and folks like us with ESTA approval could go to the automated control stations, except that there, a man directed all non-US passport holders to the ‘visitors stations’. This coincided with the arrival of a number of mega airliners from China so that we still had to endure the mega-shuffle to the manned kiosks where eventually we were welcomed into the US. That was the first 75 minutes on US soil.

Eunice was there to meet us, having anticipated the queueing. We loaded our luggage in Elsie, her Land Cruiser that had been our home on various trips since 2008 and headed to Dollar Rent-a-car as this was the only car rental firm in California as far as we were told that allows rented cars to be taken into Mexico, at an additional cost of US$ 27.50 per day. The rate had changed from US$ 15 in 2008, but comparing total rental cost with those in Mexico were still slightly cheaper.

While queuing an irate customer came in, loudly insisting on seeing the Manager. She had paid for an SUV, only to find that there were none to be had! Slight concern, as that was the type of car that we needed.

After completing the pile of paper work – during which the strongly recommended International Driving Permit and the new Unique Driving Licence number for UK drivers were NOT required, off we went to find a car.

The lady had been right. Their stock was down to – (yes, minus!) 36! We could wait until the next car was returned, checked and cleaned inside and out, expected to take another hour OR take a KIA van: similar size to an SUV but no 4×4 and less clearance. I negotiated to take one so that we could at least go to the Naples Rib Factory where last year I had enjoyed one of the best steaks, washed down with a Blue Cadillac Margarita. These trips are not all about food and drink, but there are standards to maintain! We could swap this for an SUV at San Diego the next morning. We had to pick Jonathan Clark up at SD, so the car swap was not too much of an inconvenience.

The steak was excellent. We even got a US$ 10 discount voucher to celebrate the fact that we had visited them 12 months earlier!

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