LA á la GoGoDermo!
Inspirational Freebird Club member Dermot Higgins (aka GoGoDermo) is currently mid-way through his epic journey to become both the oldest, and fastest man over 50 to cycle around the world. Dermot has now landed on US soil and starts the formidable coast-to-coast American leg of his cycle in LA. The Freebird Club is providing Dermot with some accommodation stops along the route, where Dermot can rest up, refresh and recuperate in the welcoming homes of supportive Freebird hosts. Here Dermot shares his experience of LA and his pit-stop sojourn with friendly Freebird hosts Gaili & Michael, and a mysterious Hollywood actress...!?!
America! What an amazing country! Such generous, broadminded, kindhearted people! I’ve been here in Los Angeles at the home of my Freebird Club hosts, Gaili and Michael for two days now. If this introduction to the USA is anything to go by, my planned seven weeks here are going to be a wonderful experience.
I’m even surprised myself that I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport feeling quite refreshed after the 12 hour flight across the Pacific. I’d managed to catch up on my blog, read an entire book and enjoyed chatting to the very interesting American lady who was sitting beside me.
Baggage retrieval, clearing customs and currency exchange - some of the issues which frustrated me at previous airports - were a cinch at LA Lax International. Although it was only 7:00 AM, Gaili was waiting for me outside of the terminal with a van and it took no time at all to arrive at her beautiful house in Culver City. There I met Michael and it became clear very quickly that we were kindred spirits.
Both Michael and Gaili are professional musicians and like myself have a background in education. Michael has Irish roots, they have a grown up family, have travelled extensively and have been to Ireland many times, so we had a lot of common ground. One thing was clear, we were all going to enjoy our two days together in Los Angeles.
On a practical level, I was thrilled to find that CRUA the Irish outdoor equipment company had sent a brand new expedition tent to Los Angeles and my winter cycling kit was also waiting for me here. Fortunately, I won’t need it yet - the temperature here was a really mild and very pleasant 25°.
I slept for most of the morning in my lovely cosy room and when I woke up attended to some chores, putting Karolina (bicycle) back together again with help from Michael and washing all my laundry. Gaili has a huge, top loading washing machine so it was possible even to wash my sleeping bag.
Later in the afternoon I went for a stroll down nearby Washington Avenue. I needed to buy a bottle of wine and some dessert because Gaili and Michael had invited me to have dinner with them that evening.
I’m not a shopper but I loved visiting ‘Co-opportunity’; a wonderful, no waste cooperative venture, very close to Michael and Gaili’s home. There it was possible to buy anything you could possibly need - dried foodstuffs, fruit and veg, cosmetics, cleaning materials, without any packaging at all - the way shopping should be!
We enjoyed a superb meal back at home and then Michael invited me to join him at his local, the Cinema Bar, in downtown Culver City where a gypsy jazz band was playing.
The band itself was superb, but at one point during the night a strange wash descended on the audience. Then a long-haired, older guy with a guitar, took to the stage and began to sing. It was Jackson Browne!
Who remembers Lisdoonvarna back in the early 80’s?
“....... and Jackson Browne They had to build a special runway just to get him down”
He played a couple of songs and we even had the opportunity to chat for a while. What an experience!
On Tuesday I had the luxury of another full rest day in Los Angeles. I decided to take the opportunity to relax a bit and go for a swim, explore the city and shoot some video for my sponsors. There are so many tourist attractions in Los Angeles but as followers of this blog will know, I’m not a tourist!
Having a dip in the Pacific Ocean at the beautiful Playa Del Rey, right beside the more famous Venice Beach, was quite a special experience. I won’t swim in the ocean again until I reach the Atlantic Ocean at Florida, a journey which is going to take at least four weeks.
Michael and I had cycled along a really good cycle path to the beach but he had some business to attend to in the afternoon, so I had the whole day to myself. I sat for an hour or so at a lovely seaside restaurant, sipping coffee, gazing out to see and charging up Iphy.
There was no real structure to my day. I wandered casually around the city heading vaguely towards the huge Hollywood sign which can be seen from very far away. I’m not a fan of popular culture but it was fun to cycle down the streets made famous in so many songs and movies - the Santa Monica Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Avenue!
I stopped outside of a travel agency and a guy came out to see what I was doing. He was also of Irish descent and immediately offered me a spot on the Hollywood Tour. This, I graciously declined because the tour involved another ethically dubious activity - celebrity spotting!
I continued, winding my way up towards the huge Hollywood sign at the top of the hill . The only vehicles allowed this far belong to the rich and famous who live up here in salubrious mansions, guarded by burly security guards. It was too steep for most people to walk or cycle up. So when I got to the top I was surprised to find that I had to wait quite a while for someone to shoot the video for me.
There was another curious and very sweet experience on the steep descent. I decided to take a different route down the hill but very quickly got lost in the warren of beautiful tree lined avenues.
A pretty, brown haired young lady was working in the garden of one of a beautiful but slightly more modest of the mansions. Iphy’s battery had died so I wandered over for directions. At first she was a little taken aback but we got talking and she was really interested in what I was doing. Of course, then she invited me in to the extraordinarily beautiful house and garden overlooking the city for coffee and cakes.
I’d love to have stayed longer, but I had to get back for dinner so I asked the young lady if we could have a photograph together for my blog. She blushed and politely refused.
“You really don’t know who I am? Do you?” she said. I had to admit that I didn’t. She told me her name and even then, it meant nothing to me. This, she found hilarious and wouldn’t stop laughing for ages. When she showed me some photos of her in action in some real Hollywood blockbusters, the penny dropped. She looked so different in her gardening clothes! I’d inadvertently spotted an ‘A List celebrity’ and was now having coffee with her.
I promised not to reveal her name and the location of her house on my blog. We said our farewells and I continued feeling quite exhilarated down the Hollywood Hill. Another amazing serendipitous experience!
Michael and Gaili brought me out for dinner in their favourite Mexican restaurant. After having eaten so much bland food in Australia and New Zealand, it was wonderful to have my taste buds tingled by these delicious and authentic Mexican dishes.
Back home, later in the evening, Michael and Gaili played beautifully while I sang badly and we recorded some video.
Then Michael and I retired to his man shed, which is a fully equipped recording studio at the bottom of the garden. We played, drank some wine and sang until well into the wee hours - songs of loss and joy, songs of hope and despair, the songs of Irishmen a long way from home.