I am walking down Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, followed by three youths wearing hoodies. They are right behind me, muttering and swearing. They are breathing down my neck. I can smell their sweat.
They are my sons.
This is our last Big Family Holiday. The Boys are aged 20, 18 and 16. So before they flew the nest, we flew them to California, where under 21s are not allowed to drink alcohol. The challenge was to find out if all the family could enjoy themselves in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas while respecting the local laws regarding minors. Would the boys be too old for Micky Mouse, too young for Caesar’s Palace?
Luckily many attractions in California reduce even mature adults to the level of children. By the time we reached The Simpsons’ Ride at Universal Studios, Los Angeles, we had practically turned into Homer, Marge and co.
In San Francisco, the hippy trail on Haight Ashbury was strangely intriguing to a generation conceived 20 years after The Summer of Love, but the boys’ favourite stop was at the sobering island penitentiary Alcatraz. We escaped The Rock for milk shakes on Pier 39.
Leaving California behind, we drove through the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas, stopping en route at Calico, developed in 1881 during the largest silver strike in California. Now a ghost town, it is a quaint and rickety taste of the old Wild West where grown men and big kids alike can play at cowboys.
Las Vegas is where Peaches Geldof married ,aged 19. ‘There probably wasn’t anything else to do’ empathised my sons. Although bouncers kept them away from the gaming machines and the bars, star struck teenagers found the buzz and bling of Vegas addictive enough on its own.
Flying home across the Grand Canyon, we agreed that although alcohol-wise this region is as dry as the desert for the under 21s, we all got a kick out of California and Las Vegas.