Friday, August 29th – marked a new chapter in my life. (Pardon the writer’s cliche, but it just seemed appropriate here!) I left the old working life behind and embarked a a new, retired phase. How wonderful I could kick-start this part of my life with a dream vacation, a trip of a lifetime — to the South Pacific Islands!
First stop – Cali.
When I boarded the plane in Salt Lake City, the connection between Atlanta and Long Beach, I walked onto the plane through one of the accordion tunnels we all know so well. But when I landed in LGB, the cabin door opened to bright sunshine, fresh air, pleasant temperatures, and a blue sky adorned with puffy white clouds.
I have to admit I felt a sense of euphoria walking down the roll-away staircase to the terminal. I use italics here, because it took me about two minutes to cross the A/B terminal and out through the doors marked Baggage Claim — right into that dazzling sunshine again. Signs led me to the where I could collect my suitcase (all still outside) and … voila! There it was! On the conveyor belt heading my way! Anyone who’s experienced the mysteries of the gargantuan Atlanta airport can appreciate my awe.
With the assistance of a very helpful Jet Blue agent (I flew in on Delta), a Skycap who was wheeling another passenger in a wheelchair, a policeman guarding our safe crossing to the other side of the street, and a very nice taxi driver, we made it to our hotel in Long Beach. Many thanks are owed at the Hilton, too, for a helpful, courteous, and friendly staff.
Right outside the hotel, we hopped the Long Beach Passport bus, a free ride that takes you around the town to all the tourist attractions, as well as some of the more residential areas. We dropped off at the Queen Mary for a short tour, and then caught the bus again to the Shoreline Drive shopping area for a delicious dinner at Tequila Jack’s. Another fantastic experience with yummy food, a funny and friendly wait staff, and a water view to ooh and aah over.
Temperatures were in the low 70s with little to no humidity, so we elected to walk the mile-and-one-half back to the hotel. You learn a lot about a city by riding a bus or walking the streets. While I’m sure Long Beach has its own dark side (all cities do), what we saw and experienced here blew away every preconception I had of California. I came expecting earthquakes (they had one a few days before we arrived, one that did some serious damage north of here), plastic people (Hollywood ain’t that far away, folks), squalor, and definitely gangs. Street thugs. Didn’t see nary a one.
The streets in Long Beach are wide, as are the sidewalks. The city is clean and well kept, with a very large park area near the water. A few people lounged on blankets, soaking up the sun. Totally not crowded, not on the bus, the streets, or the shops. Drivers obey the law, even to giving over the right of way to pedestrians in or out of the crosswalks. We saw families walking, couples strolling, dog walkers with the doody-bags in hand, lots of bicycles — all smiling and with a friendly wave or hello. There was no barking, yelling, or car horns, although we did hear one firetruck wailing. All the cars pulled over to the let it go by. The only loud music we heard spilled from a couple of bars we passed, but no lewd or drunken behavior.
Long Beach is nice, a respectable little town that I enjoyed immensely. A real melting pot of nationalities, all living in harmony and with a lot of pride.
Kudos to you, Long Beach. I can’t wait to come back.