Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 17: California is the Dream

(listen to today's theme)
The morning started under a geodesic ceiling, with a good bowl of oatmeal and a scenic cruise to church. I might have spoken a lot about Rich, but I swear, his wife is just as incredible. Today, I went to church with her, given my curiosity about American Catholicism (I am a Catholic myself) and the opportunity to see her singing in the chorus... not to be missed!

We drove up to a modest construction next to the church, where we soon were greeted by a smiling man who looked like Steven Spielberg. I am terrible for names, but all I can say is that the room where we all gathered soon filled quickly with energetic personalities, ready to propel into the heavens through the sheer power of their voices.

After some practice (nailing down the hymns, working on enunciation), we went to the church itself, a wonderfully simple building surrounded by wall-to-ceiling stained glass panels detailing the Seven Sacraments, using water (its flow, its life-giving powers) as a continuous theme throughout the congregation room. I had some wonderful conversation with a professional Master Theologist whose name I do not remember (d'oh) on life, choices, skills, travel, pride, selfishness and evil. Then, Mass followed.

The first thing I noticed about the Catholic ceremony, compared to its Spanish counterpart, is the lack of fear. The American God is an accepting God, just as American culture itself, with its many waves of immigrants. He is there NOT to smite you, not to burn you alive, or to make you repent your own existence on a daily basis. There were also a few very concrete ceremonial differences (holding hands, go to the altar anyway to receive a blessing if not fully confessed, sprinkling with Holy Water...), but the fact that one did not feel miserable after the service was the greatest. For a change, I was inundated with optimism and joy.

After lunch, Rich and I arrived to the conclusion that the bouncing was my driver's side tire. Phew! He had to change a tire in his 280E, so we killed two birds with one shot and got an Klondike ice cream taco afterward. And it was all good. Tacos seem to have that power, for some reason.

We changed the tires, looked for some clean door rubber strips to replace one of mine, tightened the fuel filter with a new aluminum washer, and we were all set. We played a little with an outdoor cat, a rather lazy one, before Rich's friends arrived in a W123 300D and a W116 300SD. We had a good few Blues Brothers reference moments, and soon enough I was invited to take a look at a mint 1980 wagon, a gorgeous gold-on-brown, 100k-mile example with the strangest bundt hubcaps I have ever seen.

We spent so much time drooling on that loop upholstery Rich became worried. A quick repacking of luggage and a turn of the ignition, and we were on a roller coaster of countryside curves towards the highway, ready to eat at the big diner for our Los Angeles area GTG.

Sometimes coincidences happen, many a time in beautiful, magical ways. Today evening we arrived to a vintage car show to host our... own car show. Corvettes of all eras, 1960s Mustangs, a 1939 Chevy sedan, and many other beauties full of muscle and (occasionally) tackiness.

A dim clatter in the distance announced Nate's arrival, who was soon followed by Jim's 560SEC, a W123 300D and a 190D 2.5T. We talked, and shot photos, and kept talking about benzes, geography, and travel. Many people started gathering around the Scotty, curious about such oddball trailer in that parking lot. I was honored, but not as honored as when I received a voltage regulator from Nate; "a welcome to America gift", in his own words. I must say, he really made me think about the meaning of my experience in the context of this country, and really made me realize that, in the broader context of history, a 22-year-old with an old Benz and a lot of creative ideas still has a lot to give to this country.

The burger (thank you, Nate!) was fantastic. I lost count of how many I have eaten, but surely I would get a stomachache if I saw them all on a table. I participated in two simultaneous conversations, one of which carried on in the parking lot (on alternative fuels).

I was in Route 66. And I was headed for Santa Monica. And where does Route 66 end? In the Santa Monica pier! That would be the end of my western travels, leaving only about 500 miles north of that precise point. Much like in Florida, I had reached the water at the other side of the country. So I kept going on 66, passing through sketchy downtown.

I parked in front of my friend's house, who happened to be with his family for his graduation. I knew the neighborhood well, a perfect place to park the Scotty and take a deep sleep.

Fat cat who refuses to move.

It won't do anything!

The Benz collection, with the little oddball sticking out.

Am I in a dealership? Oh, it is just California.

100k mile wagon. With the brown third seat!

Rich's friends in Hesperia. Not sure if they are on PeachParts.

Does this look like a $200 car to you? Well, it was.

Rich and his wife. What you see behind is the reason he's ROLLGUY.

Outskirts of Hesperia, ready for the roller coaster.

And then we drove towards the heavens.

This was the car show to precede our show.

Oye, guey, no pongas el Chevy 350! Pongale un diesel, amigo!

This... is too much... for an engine bay.

Let the GTG be started!

Dear Bree: I confess I have seen a lot of nice asses today.

The wild bunch.

How cute! This jerrycan will fit in your spare wheel hole!

Putting things in perspective.

Jim_B, me, WVNate, ROLLGUY, his brother and (do not remember!)

I got on the road to make the night mine.

End of 66. Now, I will head North soon.

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