Homeward bound…but where is home again?

To paraphrase the Michael Buble hit: Another winters day has come, And gone away, In even Reno and LA, And I wanna go Home, Let me go home. (And no, I’m NOT gay – I bought the CD for my Mum!) I didn’t really want to go home, but as I had finished my last photo shoot at June Mountain and I felt my shooting season was done I started to think about getting home to enjoy my first big family easter in five years in a little place in central Victoria called Tarnagulla. The more I thought about it, the more I began to miss home and started to plan all the final steps: packing the bags, cleaning the apartment, getting the landlord inspection, driving the crew to the airport, finding a place to store the car for several months…and finally running the gauntlet of check-in chicks with my excess baggage. Then of course there is the three actual flights and 17 hours or so of sitting on my arse from Reno, via LAX and Sydney, to Melbourne. Why can’t heading home just be easy? I guess any big move is always a pain.

Things were winding down at our place as we all thought about home, but although I wanted to pack it away, the camera couldn’t quite go in the camera bag yet. A couple of candid “lifestyle” portrait shots needed to be taken, and it was down to the wire to get a shot of Cohen Davies. A huge snow-dumping storm had rolled into Tahoe on the last couple of days making all our outdoor locations a bust, and with his lack of mobile phone credit, he was lucky to catch me still at home before I busted a move back down to Reno (I had aleady made a trip down and back to drop Darragh off at the airport early that morning…only seeing 4 wrecked cars on the side of the road in the blizzard!) Evil Editor has the shot and it will come out in issue 1, but not the frame I preferred as somehow Cohen was reading the newspaper upside down. I swear I thought he was actually reading the paper as I fucked around getting the lighting right – he must have upside-down eyes, or didn’t notice as a result of the previous night’s action?

We filled our last few days in Tahoe on a little bit of a party train – unfortunately everyone else in town was winding down and the party ended up basically being 20 bored guys around a dowstairs pool table. We had to find ways to amuse ourselves. The highlight for Darragh was his packet of peanut M&M’s (he’s mad for the things!) and the 3 buck McLovin fake ID he bought in 7-11!

More fun was to be had on my last night in Reno. I booked into the awesomely rad 30 buck-a-night Terrible’s Sands Regency (Terribles is actually a chain based out of Vegas – not merely capitalised adjective as you might think – but has the added benefit of running petrol stations around Nevada so you can cash your “Terribles Bucks” for gas on the way out of town. Awesome.) I was rooming with Longy, who was down to his last 10 bucks (in fact he had to borrow $5 off me to pay for his $10.99 all-you-can-eat at The Eldorado Casino) and couldn’t eat again till late the next evening when he got aboard the V Australia flight home. In fact, now that I think about it, Longy never paid me back for that 5 bucks!

It was Tim’s birthday, and the last night in the States for 3 of us as Ben was flying out to London on the Wednesday too, so the three of us not-totally-skint-guys (ie, not Longy) hit the town. It was an adventure, to say the least, but a lot of fun. Sort of like a trashy Vegas. But not bad for a Tuesday night. However, now I know why The Man in Black sang ” But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”: he was putting the guy out of his misery!

I had a reasonably late arvo flight, and despite the gods of time and scheduled lunchbreaks working against me, I managed to store the car away, check in and get my bags checked through all the way to Sydney (even if I had to secretly stuff some gear back into my board bag behind the pillar before I dropped it off at the Oversize Baggage section). I was confused when I saw the destination for my Horizon flight flash up as Mammoth – apparently, weather depending, that flight makes a short stop on the way to LAX in Mammoth Lakes. The flying scaredy cat, Longy, would have hated the swirling and turbulent landing, but it was worth it for the amazing snow stormy views out the door. Longy had taken an earlier flight to LAX, but would join me on the V Australia flight to Oz (one of the only times I have shared a flight with a mate in a long, long time. It was a welcome change…and I got my revenge for the missing $5 by freaking him out pointing out every mysterious plane noise, bang and bump on the 14 hour flight home!) As I took off from Mammoth, I turned around to see Falls/Hotham rider Lauren Smith a few rows back – while I had spent the day ferrying crew to the airport, running round Reno and waiting for my flight, she had been cuting laps in knee-deep Mammoth pow before she threw everything in a bag and made the 5.30 flight to LA and onto Oz. I wish my last day was so simple.

Los Angeles to Vegas, Baby!!!

I don’t know where the time went in LA – I flew in late on Monday afternoon and hit the highway northeast to Vegas on Thursday. The major task in LA (besides doing a bit of shopping at the Beverly Centre) was picking up my car, the Black Beast Chevy Tahoe SUV. A friend from Red Bull had been graciously looking after it for the last 6 months I’ve been back in Oz…and she treated it great, giving it prime position with an ocean view down at Manhattan Beach.

I thought I’d live out some of my Keanu Reeves fanstasies by taking the bus from the backpackers in Santa Monica down to Manhattan Beach…but unfortunately there was no-one near as good looking as Sandra Bullock onboard, and with all the traffic and frequent stops there was no way the bus was ever going to get near 50mph. After a 2 hour trip with transfer at the picturesque LAX transit centre/metro station (by car direct it’s only about a 20 minute drive!) i found the car, had the keys to start her up…but the battery was dead flat. I hailed down a passing pimped-out Toyota FJ Cruiser and the ripped, tight-t-shirt, long-grey-haired and be-spectacled, goateed driver tried to jump start the beast with leads from his ride. The battery was so dead, and i must have loked so pitiful that my knight in shining (matt black duco) armour gave me a lift to a mechanic’s 15 minutes away in Redondo Beach, and took me back with a replacement battery! How nice of him. And chatting in the car it turns out he was involved with UFC from the start and had to rush off to go teach a mixed martial arts class at his school. Who knew that MMA fighters had hearts…

Somehow the rest of my time in LA flew by, however I did get to check out the monster winter swell hitting LA down at Manhattan Beach, and then neighbouring Hermosa Beach the next day. I do know that besides getting over jetlag, dealing with freeway traffic (and monster-sized road hogs: see photo) I remember a couple of trips to the DMV, bank and mechanics. But before long i was champing at the bit to hit Interstate 15 out to Vegas to meet up with some Falls Creek crew for Brooke van-der-something-dutch’s 30th Birthday!!! I really don’t need much of an excuse to hit up Vegas…And once I hit The Strip six and a half hours after I left, i quickly forgot the hellish 100km of LA freeway traffic jams once that first beer was thrust into my hand…But one nice thing on the drive was the glimpse I got through the smog of the huge snowcapped LA mountains (and whet my appetite for our magazine trip there in a few weeks time).