East to Key West
Day 1 – Los Angeles to Goodyear
After three months filled with a massive workload, a trip to Sweden and one to Vegas, out-of-town guests, garage sales, a drop-off of a trailor-load at our Arizona storage unit (aka., my parents’ place), a farewell party and a dozen last dinners and lunches, we closed the door on an empty apartment this morning and headed east.
We waved good-bye like children to the Venice Pier, where I walked baby Ellis to sleep a dozen times, to the Cow’s End where the owner recently got his finger bit off by a homeless person and to the Starbucks where the Uber Chef hangs out in the mornings after his workout. We said good-bye to various streets along the route that Greg and I walked together between our place and our friends’. Good-bye to the old Waterloo. So long to the ramen joint. To the 405, good riddance. Farewell Hollywood sign and the hills, which shone out in living color, unobscured by smog, as if they knew that today was a day to look picture-perfect. Then, for the first time since I realized this was all really happening, I had a good cry.
We are officially on the road. Last night the Uber Chef, my dear friend and neighbor, sent us off in style by serving up a 12-plate meal at the newest Superba location in El Segundo, a restaurant he’s opening in L.A.
While we ate a man stood putting the finishing touches on an image that he had plastered onto the wall. A back section of booths remained to be completed and staff were still unpacking the bar, but once we sat down I noticed none of the detail work being installed around us. My attention was riveted on the plates that kept hitting the table – and the company.
Greg and I were joined by two other good friends, a couple I met when I moved to here three years ago who have, like the Uber Chef, shaped how I think about L.A. They are moving soon, too. We laughed and talked and ate until we couldn’t eat another bite. The nostalgia, already kicking in with the realization of our leaving in the morning, seemed to add another dimension to the meal. We may not eat here again, at least for a long while. We might not see each other for some time, who knows? The lyrics from Dave Matthews Tripping Billies kept running through my mind, “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
After our companions left I sent Greg to get some tequila and we concluded the evening with a round of shots with the chefs. I could not have imagined a better sendoff.
so why would you care
to get out of this place
you and me and all our friends
such a happy human race
We just drove through Blythe, the first place in 60 miles where there was any green in this deserted landscape. My parents place in Goodyear, Arizona, is our destination for the night. At 7:21 this morning my mother texted and asked if we could come an hour early, but this rig only goes so fast. It’s about a seven-hour drive for us, including a stop to refuel. Our days will be shorter the rest of the trip, but this is the perfect first stop – and it includes a real bed. From here on out we’ll be doing it Old School, sleeping on an air mattress in a tent!
At my feet I have a magazine rack full of Sauveur 100 issues that I’ve been meaning to root through, and as Greg drove I read a piece by René Redzepi from the Jan/Feb 2014 issue. Last year Redzepi, the chef behind the world-famous Noma, which was for many years the #1 reigning restaurant in the world, moved his entire restaurant team to Japan. In the article he explains why. “This trip is a way to shatter any groove that we may have established and truly humble ourselves,” he says. He goes on to list some of the things he wants his staff to learn, experience and hopefully take back with them. All of that, he says, and because being there throws them off balance.
“Who knows what will happen,” he continues. “Getting out of your comfort zone is an important part of being a cook. Give it a try sometime. Not knowing what will happen next has always led us to good things. And it’s that uncertainty and adventure that we’re craving right now.”
Every time anyone says how great Key West is or how they’ve always wanted to live on a boat in Florida, Greg shoots me this look. I had no idea when I started reading the article that it would prove so poignant – that Redzepi’s words would become another argument in Greg’s campaign to get me to be less sad about leaving and more excited about the destination. “See?” he said, for the hundredth time. “You’re going to love it.”
Here’s our current route – if you have any input on favorite stops or eats along the way, we’d love to hear about them!