‘What’s the purpose of your trip?’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘Cycle across America.’
‘Errr… because I like it?’
This didn’t satisfy the man with the stamp. What’s more, he seemed to think I was mocking him. The final hurdle of bureaucracy I had to overcome was this administrator with a loaded firearm.
Wait a minute, why is he armed? My god, they’re armed – all of them! Dozens of armed customs agents, and this one was suspicious of me.
“Well, what did you tell them at the consulate?”
“That I was cycling across America.”
I paused for a moment because I didn’t want to repeat the same answer.
“I don’t understand what you want me to say.”
The customs agent looked at me like I was stupid. Not the sympathetic kind of stupid, the way you look at the last person in Maths class to work out Pythagoras’s Theorem; the kind of stupid that is wasting your time and potentially dangerous.
“If you’re here for tourism, why didn’t you get the visa waiver?”
“Because I’m here for more than 90 days.”
“Oh. Go through.”
What? That’s not exactly an obscure rule, and the duration of my stay was clearly printed on the piece of paper that asked me to list the duration of my stay. He’d had that piece of paper in his hand ever since he’d set eyes on me.
Surely having this many people doing a mind-numbing job with ready access to a killing machine is a net-deficit to general human well being.
Anyway, I mostly stayed in the Venice/Santa Monica area, which suited me fine. The whole city is so damn big that a bus from the beach to the city centre takes over an hour.
Demi & Julia: top notch hosts
I was staying with two girls right on Venice Beach. They had moved there from New York and I imagine they were enjoying the lack of blizzards. In fact, the weather was pretty much perfect for early spring: cloudless skies and 20 degrees – but scant rigs on show at the beach. Very odd.
I left the beachside to go to an NBA game at Staples Center, which was pretty intense, but I ate a cookie on the way there and I guess that’s standard. Portland came back to beat the Clippers in overtime, so I got my money’s wor- …I was entertained.
In a particularly auspicious moment of sporting history, Clippers point guard Chris Paul III passed Muggsy Bogues to move to 17th on the NBA’s all time assist list. The commentators pay special attention to it.
Coffee scene is an absolute shambles. Even the hipster joints are underwhelming. These charlatans even tried to tell me that a cappuccino already has two shots in it. Excuse me? You can’t just make up rules. This isn’t backyard cricket with your younger sibling.
As I was about to board the train to Santa Barbara, I realised I didn’t have my wallet, and hadn’t had it since boarding the bus at Santa Monica. The extremely unhelpful woman at the other end of the bus’s help line told me that I couldn’t consult lost property until midday the next day, which meant abandoning train and accommodation up the coast for a night in a pretty grungy downtown hotel.
Next morning: wallet wasn’t found; Seb swore at himself relentlessly, before a frustrated conversation with ANZ, Skype with mother dearest thanks to Union Station’s public WiFi, then a five hour train ride to the new beginning of my trip: San Luis Obispo.