USA Trip: Day 7 – Bubblegum, College Football, Space Shuttle & Roller Derby

USA Trip: Day 7 – Bubblegum, College Football, Space Shuttle & Roller Derby

Los Angeles

Today was possibly the busiest day of the trip so far. We needed to be up at 6am to conquer it all. Of course we woke up at 9:30am having slept through our alarms. We quickly washed, got dressed and checked out of the hotel well behind schedule. We stopped off in town to visit bubblegum alley before leaving San Luis Obispo. Yes it is as disgusting as it sounds, lots of chewed bubblegum stuck to the wall of an alleyway. The beginnings of the alleyway are not clear but it has been around over 60 years and theories range from high school graduation tradition to college students rivalry. Unsurprisingly, there was a strong smell of strawberry or whatever flavoured gum they chewed here in California. Some people used multiple piece to spell out names or places but the general consensus is to just chew and stick.


We moved on having left no gum and roared down the 101 to Pismo Beach for a nice walk and some breakfast. We drove around for five minutes and couldn’t find a space at the beach so we holed up in a nice coffee shop called Central Roast. It had east coast college football on and the breakfast burritos were pleasant. I had a couple of other beaches noted down in case Pismo was busy and we racked up another 100 miles to Faria beach. This place was fantastic. The beach was clear of people bar a few surfers and not a piece of rubbish or British beach around.  By British beach I mean jagged stones, rocks, sewage and condoms. We took off our socks and shoes and went for a nice walk. The water was pretty warm once you got over the initial hit of going from 95 degrees to sea water temperatures. I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to swim but the trunks were packed away, we were still three hours behind and Los Angeles was calling.


We had tickets for the USC v Utah State football game at the LA Coliseum. By the time we got parked we had missed the first half but had made up enough time to watch the majority of the second half. There were drunks everywhere. It was a midday kickoff yet there were young tanned Californians unable to stand and chucking up in bins every few yards. The current USC team is pretty poor. Their head coach Lane Kiffin is widely disliked and there were protests outside the game to fire him. The fans had grown impatient with him and unless he started winning games by 30-40 points I doubt he would make the end of the season. [UPDATE: He was fired a week later in a brutal fashion. He was pulled off the team bus at the airport and fired in the car park. The bus then left without him.]

USC v Utah State


We had decent seats nice and high behind the goalposts. I’m not a big fan of watching the game from behind goalposts but the Coliseum is so large and impressive it gave you a great view of the stadium.

Emma was gobsmacked at the size of the place. This is a common reaction from British people unfamiliar with the scale of college (university) football in the US. It draws in more fans than the NFL. Can you image university soccer stadiums being bigger than the Premiership stadiums? Of the top 25 stadiums in the world by capacity US college football stadiums make up 14 of them. Wembley sits at 19th with 11 college football stadiums bigger than it. We were sitting in the 13th largest stadium in the world. It was the old Olympic Stadium that hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics games. The University of Southern California has been using it for football games since  it opened in  1923. Despite its 93,00 capacity officially there were only 63,000 there. If that stadium had 63,000 in it I’ll eat my hat. This picture proves that it wasn’t even half full.


The fans had lots of time to protest as the game was terrible. The USC QB was shocking and they just about escaped with a 17-14 win. Outside the stalls were packing away and we scored a HUGE toffee apple. It is hard to describe how big this toffee apple was but I took a Luke sized bite and only got chocolate and marshmallow. Emma had fooled me. She knew I wouldn’t eat a chocolate and marshmallow apple so she took over and devoured it. We had a look around and dodged the drunk fans outside the stadium and jaywalked our way across the road to the California Science Museum. We’d been looking forward to this for a while. The museum contained the Endeavour space shuttle. We got in five minutes before the doors shut and raced to the shuttle. It was housed in a huge warehouse with exhibits and pieces of shuttle all around. We followed a group of walking USC merchandise into the warehouse. A few metres before the door one of the drunk girls hardly able to stand went to spit in a bin, as she half spat, half threw up in the bin her man friend (could have been a boyfriend, could have been a pimp) yanked her hand. She missed the bin and it fell onto the nicely polished museum floor. Of course they didn’t stop she just went “Oops” and they went off to go look at a big piece of metal they knew nothing about and no doubt  would later tell their friends they had seen Neil Armstrong.



The space shuttle was breathtaking. It was hoisted up on a plinth and you could walk round it under it and take as many photos as you wished. Around the walls were descriptions and photos of every space shuttle mission ever undertaken.  I am a huge space nut and for those who don’t know Emma is a scientist. That meant we read and watched everything on show. By the time we spent a weeks worth of wages in the shop we were the last people in the warehouse apart from staff. I took this time while Emma paid for our merch to quickly snap a photo of the space shuttle with no other punters in sight.

As we were staying two nights in Los Angeles we booked into a swanky hotel. I had got a decent deal on the interwebz and knew it was a mistake as soon as we turned up. I was in a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops. The other hotel guests were in suits, evening dresses and tuxedos. It was like a modern day, pretty woman but with a fat guy. The lobby and halls were phenomenal. The Millennium Biltmore was a landmark in Los Angeles. It’s ballroom had hosted the Academy Awards eight times between 1931-1942. That was where the good impressions stopped. The room at the Holiday Inn in Modesto was five times better than this. But we shall cover that at another time.

Go Local Sports Team!!!

From there were hustled to Carson City to watch some roller derby. Emma has been a long time fan of roller derby and likes the contact sport aspect of it. The Angel City Derby Girls had a fixture on that night so we went down to watch. It was very organised. There was an entrance fee but you got bang for your buck. It had more contact than I thought it would. It was a bit like football on wheels. The competitors would race head on into the back of their opponent with a you or I mentality and they would often end up sprawled across the track. The two teams were friendly to each other between bouts and I liked the whole atmosphere to it. My favourite thing to do was try and work out their names. Each girl had a name that suggests something. Most of the time it was violent, however sexual and rude ones were also flying around.


After the fight was done and the home team racing away we snuck out for another In N Out burger. Apart from the morning burrito and a toffee apple it was the only other food we had had that day. Too busy for lunch or dinner a late night burger hit the spot. We retreated back to the Millennium Biltmore where after another extortionate valet tip we watched TV and repacked the clothes for the hot week ahead in the desert.


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