You know, it's funny. Last year, when it would snow in April, I just had to suck it up & deal with it... put on the boots, hat, scarf, & gloves. But this year? Well, when I'm tired of the cold & the snow in April (or May, June, etc., this is Colorado after all), I merely hop on a plane & jet to Los Angeles. Why? Because there is a direct flight there first thing in the morning & a direct return flight home that same day in the late evening. But Megan, how could you possibly be sick of the snow?! Because it's April. And it looks like Christmas outside. My backyard should only look like Christmas in the month of December. And this is what Colorado Springs looked like on April 4, 2017.
Five hours after purchasing said Groupon, I was wide-awake & on my way to the airport. Coincidentally, the sky was blue & the snow had mostly melted, with the forecast set at a high of 52 degrees fahrenheit. That's Colorado for ya. But, my parents didn't raise a quitter. so I still went to LA!
I know, way to take one for the team, right? Someone's gotta do it. I volunteer as tribute. My wide-open flight departed Colorado Springs at 7:15 A.M.. When I say wide-open, I mean it, as just about every passenger had the seat next to them unoccupied, which was convenient for me because we flew on a CRJ-200, a small regional aircraft that holds a maximum of 50 passengers. No First-Class option, no Economy Plus option, just the one bulkhead row for "Premium Economy" & the rest of us get squeezed in like linked sausages. As a person who is almost six feet tall, I rather enjoyed having the seat next to me open, so I sat sideways (still buckled, of course) as I drooled out the window flying over the Rockies, watching the mountainous terrain transition through Utah, Nevada, & parts of California. I yanked out my D40, feeling like such a tourist, but I didn't care -- the mountains were too incredible with the fresh powder shimmering from peak to peak to resist snapping photographs. Note to self: learn the flight plan so I can actually identify these peaks next time.
When we landed in Los Angeles, we sat on the tarmac for just shy of 30-minutes. LAX is notorious for "Flow Delays", which is just an influx of aircraft & not enough space for them to be accommodated for landing & takeoff -- common at the giant international airports. Rumor has it there has been some runway construction happening as well. Usually the delay happens before the plane ever departs Colorado Springs, so I didn't mind waiting on the aircraft for a few minutes while we taxied to a gate. Plus it gave me extra time to enjoy having an entire row to myself.
I was originally going to take the bus to the beach, it's only $2 with stops along the way -- but, I am a very impatient traveler. I didn't want to mess with taking the terminal bus stop to the public bus station, then waiting for a bus to take me to Venice Beach with about eight other stops along the way. I didn't want to waste my time that way, after all, I barely had nine hours to spend & I just burned through 5% of it sitting on the runway. The cost for roundtrip Uberfare directly from the airport to the beach was about the same price as renting a car, but without the hassle of paperwork & paying to park. So I ordered an Uber. Score. I did a quick tap-tap on my phone & waited to be picked up by Shareef. (NOTE: pay attention when you order an Uber, especially at an airport. Most airports have designated pick-up areas, & the Uber App will tell you exactly where to wait for your driver. Don't do yourself or those drivers a disservice by waiting wherever you want!)
I wore my sunglasses & smiled while I waited, admiring the lush, green palm trees that seemed to wave at me with each turn of the wind. As is customary when I land at my final destination, I basically just stand there in awe & amazement at the ability to hop on a flight & go... And go anywhere. Well, okay, anywhere that has open seats, but still. I always feel overwhelmed by the experience, & I don't foresee that feeling ever subsiding.
Shareef arrived on schedule, & took me to the Venice Beach, asking questions the entire way -- this is what I live for, the connection with local people. He was foreign, & very unaccustomed to women with tattoos, so we talked for half of the trip about the various stories & meanings behind my pieces. He asked if he could touch my National Park System arrowhead tattoo on my left forearm, to which I obliged him. I think he expected the outline to be raised on my skin, but he was pleasantly surprised to learn that tattoos heal & become a part of you. Anyway, it was a lovely 20-minute ride to the beach. When we turned the corner & I saw the Venice sign (like I've seen in many movies, commercials, & TV shows), I could barely contain myself. Julia Roberts lives in the area, along with Kate Beckinsale & Nicolas Cage. Full Tourist Mode: Activated.
I meandered around the beach for a few minutes to get my bearings with the new surroundings. I knew that I would need to purchase sunscreen, so I stopped in one of many shops -- would you believe, sunscreen was $15.99!!! Whatever, I'll just get a sunburn, I reasoned.
...Famous. Last. Words.
I stopped in at Bike Curious Rentals to redeem my Groupon, & the owner was so pleasant, you could just tell that he loves his life & he loves sharing his bike collection with the locals & tourists alike. He released a beautiful, orange bike to me after I signed my life away in liability waivers. As he relinquished Selena (yes, I named my bike) to my loving arms, he reminded me to stay with the bike at all times, as my rental didn't include a bike lock -- & since he didn't want the bike stolen (and I didn't want to have to pay him for a brand new bike that was stolen on my watch), I agreed that I would stay with the bike & treat it like my own. And so, my love story with Selena began.
I took Selena all the way from Venice Beach, through the Santa Monica Pier, & onward to Will Rogers State Beach. I think in total, the roundtrip was a little over 12 miles. We saw a lot of sites together, including a Baywatch rescue boat, Muscle Beach, & the famous amusement park that occupies the Santa Monica Pier. Mind you, I was still in pants at this point & beginning to feel quite sweltering. Before arriving to Will Rogers State Beach, I reasoned that I should put on my swimsuit, relax on the beach for five seconds, & then continue on my journey. All along the coast, right next to beach access parking lots, were public shower houses, which would have been the perfect spot to change in to my swimsuit... except that there were no secure places to leave Selena. Maybe I can find a trusting stranger. Or bring her into a larger stall with me. Or just change really freaking fast & pray that no one takes her.
Truthfully, I didn't like any of those options, so I kept passing by the bathhouses. One by one. And then I saw it -- my opportunity to change clothes without making a complete fool of myself or having Selena stolen. Except that this opportunity presented itself in the form of a shipping crate stowed between the sand & rocky shoreline, not quite the beautiful bathhouse for which I was hoping. I'll just change really fast. And I did. I propped Selena against the shipping crate, hung up the two pieces of my swimsuit on her handle bars, & went lightning fast in exchanging under garments for swimsuits. I succeeded, with minimal mooning, & left that stretch of beach feeling quite proud of myself.
I continued on my route back to Venice Beach, stopping plenty of times along the way for photographs of the boardwalks, the people, the palm trees, & the colorful architecture in the area. Los Angeles has so much spunk & personality, I just love the beach-side of the city. All in all, I had spent about two hours riding the coast & taking photographs, so I wanted to spend some time meandering the boardwalk, stuffing my face, & laying on the beach. I returned my bike to Curious Bike Rentals, gave him a sincere thank you, & started on my trek down the boardwalk.
Venice Beach is perhaps most famous for Muscle Beach, where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be a regular, which is home to Strongman competitions & a variety of other weightlifting contests. I didn't want to gawk when I walked by, but it was hard not to -- I suppose it was more strange than anything to see this open air fenced-in gym where members could workout right on the boardwalk. Truly bizarre, so to take full advantage of the awkwardness, I bought myself a chili cheese dog & fries. Where on earth did I find a place to sit? Catty-corner from Muscle Beach, duh.
I should have set up a video camera, honestly. Maybe LA women don't like to eat, but I sure do. My goodness, it was like people had never seen a woman eat something sloppy & unhealthy in public, so I embellished the experience by being extra sloppy. I'm a true lady. A homeless man approached me & said he was hungry, so of course I let him in on the sloppiness too.
After getting myself somewhat cleaned up, I bought myself a Muscle Beach towel (I purposefully didn't pack a towel so I could purchase one as a souvenir) & headed for the sand & surf. My new towel was the perfect size & I was able to use my backpack as a pillow while I watched parasailing tourists, pesky seagulls, & the brave folks who actually dove into the cold ocean water. I dozed off for a few minutes at a time, never once feeling insecure or worried about someone nabbing my backpack. My skin was beginning to get that "bacon" feeling -- you know, the feeling when you're getting sunburn but it's too late to do anything about it, you're just sitting there sizzling & helpless. Like bacon, but far less delicious. I spent a little over an hour on the beach before having to arrange my transportation back to the airport & my skin was beginning to tingle in protest.
By this point, my phone was completely drained (sun totally killed it), so I stopped in one of the local restaurants, a Hawaiian taco bar of sorts, & ordered a coke in exchange for using their wall outlet so I could get my Uber back to the airport. Win. The man behind the counter was extremely friendly & gracious, keeping me company while I sat there for my phone to be brought back to life. Within five minutes, I was able to order my Uber, & Johanes picked me up for my return trip to the airport. We conversed along the ride (of course, I don't know how to shut up), & I learned that his parents live overseas. He hasn't seen them in over three years because he's been there in school. That conversation made me think about my parents, & think about how blessed I am to have been born in this country. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at LAX & we bid each other a good luck & a goodbye.
After making it through security, I made a pit stop to the ladies room. My skin had been screaming at me since I arrived at LAX, & when I finally saw my reflection in the mirror, I understood why. I was the same shade of red as my Hydroflask, no joke. Maybe that sixteen dollar sunscreen would have been worth it, I thought. I put on as many layers as possible to hide my scorched skin before proceeding to my gate.
I was awarded the First Class upgrade, which was outstanding because I didn't have time to grab dinner before arriving at the airport. No worries, a pasta salad concoction (with whiskey & coke) arrived about fifteen minutes after takeoff. Beautiful.
Once we landed back in Colorado Springs, I was exhausted & ready for bed. But first, I had to make a pitstop by Walgreens for some aloe vera. I turned down $16 sunscreen on the beach, but I ended up spending $10 on skin soothing & repair products. Lesson learned: just buy the dang sunscreen no matter how much it costs. You are porcelain, Megan, & no matter how much you enjoy direct sunlight, your skin doesn't. And it never will.
But alas, Los Angeles was still a welcome adventure & one heck of a way to spend a few hours on my day off. Sunburn aside, it was a perfect day in paradise.
Megan Elizabeth is a storyteller based in Kalispell, Montana. Take a peek at her blog & portfolio, drop her a line, & follow her story on Facebook & Instagram.