72 Hours: Los Angeles

I’m Alive is a series about traveling to 14 cities to film a two-and-a-half minute YouTube video. We spent 72 hours in each city. Los Angeles marked our return to the west coast and the beginning of a big zip-line adventure on Catalina Island.

Car2Go had just launched in South Bay/Los Angeles just before we arrived. It was one of the newest cities added to the lineup before departing for the whole trip. As you might assume, we drove the thing to Hollywood, Santa Monica, and the beach towns like Hermosa to capture the basics. But, there was one activity we had in mind from a few cities before that we were looking to line up. That activity was zip-lining. We got on the phone and spoke with a super down-to-earth and friendly woman from Catalina Island Zipline to help setup our adventure. She was surprisingly supportive of a couple of young filmmakers coming to be one of the many who’d flown across the lines of the island and captured it for good cause.

Most people don’t even realize that California has a 22-mile long island thirty miles off its coast (as part of the Channel Islands) with an active population of residents. It’s a weird anomaly that no one mentions when they bring up California. It has a two-thousand foot mountain peak and looks like it belongs in Hawaii. This is home to one of the best and most scenic zip-lines on the West Coast. It’s about 300 feet above the ground and 600 feet above sea level, which you can basically see the entire way down across its five lines.

We originally looked into the ferry option as a means of transportation to Catalina, but it was expensive and crowded. Given our past helicopter luck from Seattle, Calgary, and Niagara Falls, we decided to give it another go. We called up Island Express Helicopter and told them our mission. It really seems like people that fly helicopters are permanently happy because they gladly let us take a couple of empty seats and were really interested in our project. It was a fun group to hang out/fly with.

We took flight in the morning to a cloudy and overcast sky. It was essentially like flying into a storm over the ocean where we couldn’t see more than a few hundred yards in front of us. The helicopter pilot didn’t seem to mind, so it was all good. This option for travel was much better, as it only took fifteen minutes versus an hour with potential seasickness. Just as the island came into view, the clouds parted, and it became sunny like some sort of little, magical paradise. And little, magical paradise it was: a touristy, golf-cart riddled, tiny little town called Avalon.

We explored a bit, met the cool lady we talked to on the phone, and then headed up to the line. It was about a two-hour stint with incredible views, a quiet place to take in this unpopulated part of California, and capture some amazing footage. The zipline stuff made it into the final cut, as did most of the adventure activities. There was even a terrified 70+ year old man who was ready to zip-line for the first time. While he never once said a word, everyone was pretty sure he had a blast… well, he didn’t die, anyway.

Our helicopter was leaving to return to the mainland about fourteen minutes after we’d gotten off the line. There was a man who took us on a wild golf cart race through the ‘city’ to get us there on time. This involved other golf cart drivers feeling challenged and racing us down the little streets. All in all, it was a pretty good time. We jumped off the cart just in time to catch the return flight where were accompanied by a rich plumber and his Dallas girlfriend’s back.

There were so many things to do in LA that it was really quite difficult to do it any justice in just a few days, but we made the best of it by crafting a last-minute helicopter-zipline-journey. What really mattered was that the footage we worked the hardest for make it into the final cut. And that, it did.

We then headed south to San Diego where Nic requested a mariachi band to come and sing “Cielito Lindo” with him, followed by skydiving.