USA Coast2Coast Day #1 – Spaghetti Junctions

Driving in LA is much like driving in Sydney, except bigger, faster, and with more palm trees. There's freeway onramps that instantly become offramps and if you're not savvy enough to change lanes at top speed before this arrangement ejects you, you enter a compulsory Mr Squiggle on the road map trying to get back again. Entering a worse area of gridlock is compulsory in such cases. Then there's the hotel that the GPS insists you've arrived at, except it's across a concrete road partition and you're on the wrong side. Note: This will require forty minutes of corners, lane changes and spaghetti manoeuvres to correct. You can then collapse in a grateful heap on the lobby floor, because now you can stop chanting, "keep right, keep right, keep right!" under your breath.


The hire car company will fail to have the GPS you were told was "confirmed", and ask if that's "ok". To their credit, they will bend over backwards to find one if you present the right shade of colour-drained face. Staying awake for 24 hours will assist with this. However, you will also be required to pass the "but the one-way drop fee is $200 more than you were quoted" hurdle. Once that's done, though, you can finally be on your way. Just be sure not to put the weird footbrake on (because the rental people left it off, and you have no idea what on and off is with it, so you put it on and drove down the road with the car alarming at you.

You will arrive at Santa Monica Pier under the most broiling of skies, with rain spatting down and the ocean all angry, and far too early for a coffee and not at all like a carnival. You'll catch yourself thinking that this looks a lot like the Gold Coast, until you look up at those hulking mountains and realise it's not just another city, but another continent. That you just flew over that huge expanse of Pacific, and everything you love is such a long way away. Everything will be vast, and the road and the city go on and on. But there's rest to come, and you got here in one piece – and met some interesting people along the way, and there was chips and the best ice-tea ever. And a few laughs about the sign in one of the bathrooms. And tomorrow you'll drive across the mountains and see what's on the other side.