I’m not a planner. 

I do have plans, but they’re typically extrinsic. I know where I need to be tomorrow (though very rarely the day after that), I know whether there are things that need my attention at some point in the future (but only if not fixing them will cause a problem: if the plate is still spinning that’s fine). 

At work I have grown-up colleagues who do all the logistics stuff. At home I have Mrs T who has taken, in recent years, to sending me calendar invites to even the most basic thing. If I reciprocate it will be because I’ve bought tickets to an event I hope she might like to accompany me to, or because Cato has a gig. 

Weirdly, I do the bookings for the band most of the time (just because it’s often me that’s asked whether we can fulfil a date) and the fixtures for my cricket club (a role I took on in 2002. It struck me as odd that every other fixture secretary was close to or well-past retirement but now I know that it’s a job that you never get to quit until you die). But both of these roles are “extra-curricular” and anyway, passive. 

So, this holiday had worked fine whilst we were heading towards the fixed point of Mrs T’s middle-weekend: Alcatraz Friday, Monterey Aquarium Sunday. I’d managed to get us to both in plenty of time, though as I mentioned previously, we probably could have done another day on the Oregon coast to do it justice. Now though, today, we ran out of plan. 

We have to be at LAX on Friday, sometime (by which I mean, a very specific time- Norwegian are unlikely to hold the flight for us, but that Mrs T will know what that time is and I don’t really need to, so I currently don’t). But between arriving at (the frankly astonishing) Aquarium (and if you go yourself, I recommend the fish.) (*boom, tish*) and heading out for dinner tonight, I realised I needed a plan. 

First part of the plan was sorted for me when Mrs T said that she could do another day in Monterey, so we booked another night at the hotel and made a (tentative) plan to cycle the peninsula to Carmel tomorrow. I’ll let you know how that pans out. 

For the rest of the week, there were three options (btw, I’m the king of options: they’re different from plans):

  • Drive to San Diego and walk to Tijuana, as we had in 2000. Lots of driving, Tijuana is a tacky shithole at the crossing and there’s every chance that US Border policy might change in the hour we’re gone leaving us stranded with only 6-for-$10 margueritas and off-prescription drugs for solace
  • Drive to Yosemite and spend a night near there. I’ve a feeling I’ve “done” Yosemite but I wasn’t paying attention at the time. I’ll ask Finbar when I return. Either way lots of driving. The *real* reason I was interested though was that the route would take us through the staging-post of Merced (Welsh for something like ‘girls’ I think; might be ‘clowns’) which has a suburb called Loughborough. Just so that I could ask locals how they were pronouncing it. 
  • Dolly down Hwy 1, and tit about on beaches, scenic views and increasingly gentrified coastal towns before slipping into LA in time to fly home.

You may think that in this telling, I’ve already made my mind up, but far from it. I’ve certainly indulged in a little post-hoc rationalisation. For most of the day, the 900-mile detour to get a photo of a sign was way out in front. 

Here’s what happened. At lunch, Claire was torn between two menu choices: mussels and snapper. I suggested she toss a coin: she did, mussels won. When she came to order, the restaurant was out of mussels. She was briefly disappointed and then happy with the alternative. It was the perfect combination of free choice and destiny and one of the things that we share is a fairly optimistic fatalism about things in general: seafood preferences, politics, cat husbandry. But it reminded me of a study that I read about somewhere where folks were asked to toss a coin to decide on (moderately) significant life choices on the proviso that they would be bound by the outcome. The trick being that actually the study was looking not at compliance, but at the subject’s reaction to the outcome. So in fact, if a subject was delighted with the outcome, great; if they were sad or disappointed or even mortified, it suggested that actually it wasn’t the choice they wanted to make and so they were advised to ignore the coin flip and, I guess, flop, with impunity. 

Again, I may not have been paying attention to that, either, but it struck me that I could use the same process to help me settle on a plan. 

Now remember, this is about plans, not decisions. I have no problem making decisions: I do it plenty and increasingly and sometimes I’m wrong but always I’m happy I made the decision. This is about plans. And specifically a plan that affects how we end what has been a great trip so far. 

I had ruled out San Diego. My own caveats were enough to make it more trouble than it was worth. Also, since we hadn’t started by setting foot across the US/Canada border, it wasn’t as if we could claim to have done the whole West coast from soup to nuts. 

But the pointless but funny diversion inland vs the lazy coast road that loads of people had done was the coin-toss moment. Flip the coin, then decide how you feel about it. 

I needed a coin. Claire’s been custodian of the cash whilst I’ve marvelled at my Monzo card (oh my, how good is the Monzo card? You must get one). Consequently, I had no coin. 

I found a coin under the bed of our hotel room. (I found other stuff too but you don’t need to know what and the cleaner probably needs to be in a programme somewhere.)

  • Heads, the lazy beach run to LA
  • Tails (for Wales!), Loughborough, CA, we’re coming for you. 

Tell you how that went later. 
In the meantime, here’s a fish I thought looked like Mark King the singer and bassist with Level 42. (You have to imagine that he’s playing a bass, obviously)

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