Travel Log 2011: Los Angeles

Last Updated
Matt Mueller

Update 2023: This travel series was ported over from an older blog. The content has been left in its entirety. Enjoy!

Welcome to my travel log! I built this little website because I wanted a nice way to share and remember my adventure. I began my trip on May 15th and am traveling in Asia till August 1st. I will be visiting seven different countries on my way through Asia. The trip definitely started with a bang.

map of Los Angeles

Passport Problems

To visit 7 different countries requires lots of visas.

Some of them are easy to get. Vietnam's you simply order online and then obtain at the airport. For Cambodia, when you cross the border, you get the visa.

Some are not so easy to get. The Chinese and Russian visas require you to send in your passport to the consulate. This process could take up to four weeks. I did not have four weeks when I applied, I had two.

I paid about $250 to expedite the process and the Chinese and Russian embassy were able to get everything done by Friday, May 13th. What a sigh of relief.

They were to overnight my passport so I would get it by noon on May 14th, the day of graduation. When I got up in the morning of graduation, I was surprised to see that the tracking had not updated on my package.

I gave Fedex a call and to my horror, they seemed to have misplaced it. Graduation will forever be remembered as the day I finished school and the day I no longer trust overnight shipping.

Flying Part Way

After it became clear that I was not flying out on May 15th - I had to come up with alternative arrangements. The cheapest and best option seemed to be to fly to Los Angeles so I did not have to reschedule both flights.

I asked Phil if I could stay with him and within five minutes he responds, "Sounds good, you can stay as long as you like."

Great, I had a place to stay until I got my passport. I flew to Los Angeles on May 15th and got in at 11:30pm. Phil was waiting at the airport for me.

Getting my money back

This misplaced passport was a pretty big deal. I had to cancel my current flight - $200, I had to reschedule another flight last minute - $100, and I had lost a week in Vietnam - $80.

Since it was completely Fedex's fault I sought a refund for my losses. This proved to be significantly more difficult than I thought. I called Fedex about 30 times over the next two days in Los Angeles.

I spoke with managers, managers of managers, and managers of managers of managers. I did not seem to be getting anywhere.

As a last ditch effort I Googled the CEO's email and found about ten Fedex executive emails online - I emailed all of them.

A Letter to a CEO

Hi Fred,

I am currently going through your claims department but do not see any sign of reimbursement, so I decided to contact you directly.

Last Friday morning, I paid $39 to overnight ship my passport from Washington D.C. to Wisconsin. The delivery date was supposed to be Saturday, May 14th at noon. Instead one of your couriers left my package in one of their trucks and it was never delivered. I needed my passport for a 1:00am Monday flight from Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

I will incur at least $299 to change my flight. This is the absolute bare minimum lost and does not include losses on expedited visas and bookings in Vietnam.

Everyone I have talked to acknowledged that it's a failure on your end. Fedex has a market cap of $29B, I'm a poor college student with $30,000 in loans, you guys have planes flying all over the world. Get me on one of those. Be creative. Please do something about it.

Thank you,
Matt Mueller

Case ID: 0516642457

An Unexpected Call

The next morning I received a call from a direct number from Fedex headquarters. It was Carmen from Executive Services - she told me to email her my receipts and she would look into it.

Finally I was getting somewhere. Now that I have covered my expenses, I could have some fun in Los Angeles.

Venice Beach

Phil lived very close to Venice Beach. He worked during the day, but let me borrow his bike to explore. I biked ten minutes to Venice Beach and walked around.

Venice Beach is one of the most interesting places on the planet. It's a beautiful beach with a big boardwalk of counter-culture shops. I had visited it one time earlier as a child with my parents. Much of it was the same - outdoor workout gym with huge muscly men, funny shirts, and an abundance of weed.

There was one very noticeable change. Since the decriminalization and legalization of medical marijuana in California, weed can pretty much be sold on the streets. There were a bunch of merchants offering medical marijuana "green cards" that you could buy for $30.

Hermosa Beach

The next day I biked to Hermosa beach in search of some familiar places. It took about 45 minutes to get there. It was a beautiful bike ride up to the marina then along the beach. I passing beautiful houses that overlook the beach along the way. These houses have incredibly diverse architecture - some are old and quant, others modern and sleek.

I stopped to grab lunch at El Tarasco, a hole-in-the-wall burrito shop that my Dad used to go when he lived nearby.

After lunch, I biked up to the beach passing by The Good Stuff, a great breakfast restaurant, and the hotel that we stayed at twice before. Biking to Hermosa was a beautiful revisit of past experiences.

Griffith Park

Phil got home early from work and wanted me to see Griffith Park at sunset. So after a 20 mile bike ride, we hiked up a mountain. The view from the top made it worth it. Griffith Park overlooks Los Angeles and has a great view of the Hollywood sign. After taking pictures and walking around, we made our way down.

The sun had set at this point, so it was difficult finding our way back. We went the wrong way for about 15 minutes and had to turn back. We could not really find the real way down, so we took a very steep path down. I was worried the whole time about spraining my ankle before my trip. Phil was worried because he doesn't have health insurance. At one point, we were faced with a completely vertical rock path, something you would strap in and rock climb.

This couldn't be the right way. It was completely dark and we thought we were stuck. Fortunately we found an alternative path to the left that was much safer. We worked our way down and headed to UCLA for their famous ice cream sandwiches as a reward.

Both Phil and I got two, but could only finish one because they were so sweet. They were delicious though.

Last Day in LA

It was the Friday, the final day I had in LA. I spent the day packing. In the evening Phil and his roommate, Dan, took me to their favorite Taco place. It was a big trailer set up in a gas station parking lot.

They offered soft shell tacos for a dollar. We each got five tacos. I tried lengua (tongue) - it was surprisingly delicious.

Afterwards, Phil drove me to the airport for a 1:00am flight. What I thought would be a catastrophe, turned into a great week with a great friend in Los Angeles.

Next Stop: Vietnam!

The adventure continues in Southern Vietnam.