Vacation Day 13: L.A. Lifestyle

I’ve started this blog early, so Rich isn’t awake yet.  I’m sure he will be in a half an hour.

For those who don’t know, Rich told me that the most important event every day has been that he woke up on the right side of the grass.

I woke up early today for some reason.  I didn’t hear anything in particular.  This is my usual time back home so I might just be getting back into the mindset.  I put on my robe and grabbed some things to go set out on the porch.  I figured I would moisturize and read.  I get on the porch and what do I see?  There is a small herd of deer feeding right in front of the lodge.

 I dashed back into the room to grab my camera.  Who knew there was a photo op this early in the morning.  I started taking pictures when I realized there was a stupid woman with a camera chasing them down the hillside.  Doesn’t she know to take pictures, but not to disturb the wildlife?  She kept walking toward them trying to get closer.  I guess she doesn’t understand the danger of an attacking deer.  Too bad she didn’t find out either.  The deer finally gave up on breakfast and took off down the hill.

As I sat reading on the porch, a Japanese family came out of their room talking at the top of their voices.  I shushed them and they nodded and went right back to talking loud!  It was 6:00 AM here!  They proceeded to the parking lot and were yelling back and forth.  I’m amazed at the number of rude people in the world who don’t stop to think about those around them.  Hotels seem to be the worst place.  I guess we all have our moments though, don’t we?

Today, we leave the wilderness for another type of wilderness.  We are headed to Santa Monica.  First, we are going to the LeBrea Tar Pits and the museum there.  Then we are going to the Santa Monica pier.  You see this so much in the movies and TV shows.  It’s cheesy, but memorable.  Rick has to go to the Naughty Dog offices to get a picture.  They make one of his favorite games.  We are meeting Claudine for dinner tonight as well.  Claudine is Rich’s cousin and she lives in the area.  We’ve not seen her for a while, so we have some catching up to do.

Alright, time for Rich to finally get up.  It’ll be another good day!

Much later…. 

We had breakfast and packed up our room to leave.  I’d like to have spent more time at the lodge and see more of the park.  I like Sequoia.  It is less overwhelming with things to see and do than Yosemite.  At least we had phone service if not WiFi here!

My plan was to head through the south gate of the park.  This was going to tack on more time, but I felt like it might be worth it.  Unfortunately, there was major construction on the downhill slope leaving the park.  We had approximately 5 or 6 miles of one lane road.  Crews were installing retaining walls on the roadside.  It was cool that they had dug out the side of the mountain getting a solid footing for the wall and then was backfilling the dirt and rock back in.  It’ll be a nice safety feature.

To get out of the park, we continued downhill until we hit the flat land of the fruit and vegetable farms in the area.  From here, we took a smaller highway down to Bakersfield so we could hit The 5.  Rich notes that Bakersfield is the home of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.  That’s nice, that’s real nice.

In the LA area anyway, most of the major highways are referred to as The.  Or least they had been when I was here.  So you say The 5, The 10, The 405.  Maybe it’s to emphasis their importance in the scheme of transportation out here.  Anyway, we get on The 5 and head up the mountains towards LA.

Not much to say about the drive.  The mountains are pretty cool.  I was looking for cell sites where I had worked in the area.  A few of them are actually still standing, just maybe not used anymore. 

As we climbed the mountains, the clouds were coming over the top and spreading out into the valley below it.  We could see this from a distance and it looked kind of strange to watch this white stuff spread out and cover the face of the mountain from view.  There was a front earlier in the day in Santa Monica that was supposed to bring rain.  Figured these were the clouds that were part of the front as it moved north.

Driving in LA isn’t really any different than driving in any other large town.  There are just more cars and a couple of other rules you have to remember.  Motorcycles can legally drive between lanes on the expressway.  I had forgotten about this when I got into traffic and one went whizzing by me.  It’s great if you ride a bike, but the commuters didn’t like it much when there is gridlock or you change lanes.  I remember being stuck in traffic once and everyone was opening their doors to block the lane.  It was kind of like, we all go or no one goes.

Getting to the LaBrea Tar Pits meant going into Hollywood.  So we took the Hollywood Freeway.  That’s The 101 in highway label speak.  The 101 is really old and kind of narrow.  It’s not the nice big 6 or 8 lanes.  It has lanes, but they are narrow.  The traffic also continues to move just as fast as the larger expressways, too.  We found our exit and were in the heart of Hollywood.  There were tourists everywhere!  Luckily, we got through this part of town. 

We found the museum district and the tar pits on Wilshire.  This part of town was looking pretty worn these days.  I remembered it being more upscale.  But then the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and Rodeo Dr. were a little further down.  We circled the complex and found the parking lot.  Gathering up cameras, we prepared for the hunt in the tar pits and the adjacent Page Museum.

The complex has several tar pits.  We looked through the fence at the famous one that you see when they have anything on the pits.  Sadly, they have to restraint people from diving into the black gooey waters.  The pit bubbles as it releases gases still trapped in the tar.  This pit is kind of cheesy with its statues of extinct animals that were found in the pit.

The other pits are more interesting.  These are working excavation sites, but no one was there today.  You could see fossils protruding from hardened tar with tools ready to dig in and release them.  Pit 91 had a nice enclosure with an observation deck.  This is one of the few in ground pits they are still working.  Pit 23 is a series of 23 crates containing cross sections of tar taken from other locations.  Each crate is opened and the person works from the top down to clear away the tar and find the fossils inside.  The Observation Pit was closed at this time of day, so we didn’t get to see what was in there.

Now the Los Angeles County Art Museum is right next to the tar pit complex.  Aunt Fran had asked us to be sure and see the large boulder that had been moved from San Bernardino to this location.  Since it was so close, we walked over. The boulder was covered in a large parachute, so we couldn’t really see it.  The rock is part of an art sculpture being installed called, Levitation.

The sculpture consists of two concrete structures acting as rails for the rock and then you should be able to walk under it.  Kind of a cool idea.  I’ll have to get more info on the rock itself. 

There were gardens all around the pits and museums.  Everything seemed to be in bloom.  I had a hard going from one thing to the next without looking at the flowers and trees.  There appeared to be a locust tree with large blue or purple flowers.  I found it fascinating that a rather large tree would have purple blooms.  These are usually white or a pale color.  It was beautiful.  They had rather large agave plants around the property as well.  Really cool to look at.

We went into the museum to see the fossils and working laboratory they have on site.  Unfortunately, the lab wasn’t working.  It was about 4:00 and probably time for them to leave for the day.  They had several bones labeled for what they were working on.  Zed was a Columbian mammoth that had been found.  These were really large bones.  The other animal was a saber tooth tiger named Fluffy. 

Time to go and find our hotel.  The GPS got us onto The 10 and headed to Santa Monica.  Our lanes were fairly clear, but the eastbound lanes were slowly crawling down the freeway.  LA traffic at its finest.  I’ve sat in a lot of that in my day.  We managed to get off the freeway and find our hotel.  I just had trouble finding out how to get into the parking lot!  I got turned around and back to the front of hotel where you drive through the entrance and down to the parking lot underneath. 

After resting for a bit, we headed out to meet Claudine for dinner at Casablanca.  This was a cute little restaurant with characters and scenes from Casablanca the movie.  It was great.  We got inside and met Claudine right away.  She had gotten a table already.  Because no one was willing to drive in the area, I had to pass up the wonderful little margarita cart that they rolled up to the table.  They made the most wonderful looking drinks. 

So we ordered food and talked and talked and talked.  Gotta warn the family here, we did gossip about you all.  We had to get Claudine caught up on where everyone was, who they were with, and what was going on.  After all, she is family.  We talked about Busia, too. 

Claudine knew exactly what Rick wanted to do with his career.  She apparently works with people who do UX.  That’s User Experience.  I never heard the acronym, but it fits.  That was cool that she understood and knew something about what was going on.

After dinner, we said good-bye to Claudine and went to see the Santa Monica pier.  This part of town was really busy.  It was hard to find parking, but I finally got to a lot within walking distance.  We got out to Santa Monica Blvd and walked toward the ocean.  At the Third Street Promenade, there was music, food, and people galore.  It was really busy with everyone walking up and down the closed street. 

We got down to the ocean and walked over to the pier.  Duh, there was parking right at the pier and plenty of it.  It was a little costly though.  So Santa Monica pier is technically the end of Route 66.  Now the guys can say that they have been at the start, some of the middle, and at the end of it. Things were closing up, but the crowds were still flowing in.  We walked to the end and back.  Along the way, Rich became fascinated with a bird on the side of the pier in danger of being washed away.

There was some unusually high tide expected into the beach in the morning.  The waves crashing in were really high and hitting the beach much higher up than expected.  A lot of people were playing in the waves and trying to see where it would get them. Fortunately, the bird didn’t get taken out while we were down there.

We walked back up to Santa Monica Blvd.  The crowds were moving around us.  You could get hear all kinds of languages as people walked by.  It was almost like being in Yosemite again.  Unfortunately, there was some guy peeing in the street.  I think Rick and Rich got turned off by the grunge and feeling a little unsafe.  We weren’t in the worst part of town though. 

We made it back to the car in one piece and back to the hotel to settle in for the night.  Tomorrow, we leave for Las Vegas.

My camera was tired before we left to must Claudine.  It kept telling me the battery was exhausted.  So I let it rest up. 

Deer were feeding in front of the lodge this morning. I had to run back in to grab a camera.


Just to cheat a little bit, an older gentleman came down to the garage in the morning as we packed the car.  Wearing a Route 66 camp shirt, he got into a vintage late 1970s style Corvette with a loud engine.  He was beginning his trip down Route 66 to Chicago.  We would too, but not exactly on the same route.



Deer were feeding in front of the lodge this morning. I had to run back in to grab a camera.
This is an example of the porch where I was sitting this morning. Only mine had rocking chairs instead of gliders.
Rick and Rich standing in front of Pit 1 at the LaBrea Tar Pits in downtown Beverly Hills. I always wanted to see this place and now we are here.They use large Saber Tooth Tiger paw prints to lead you through the site. This is probably their most famous animal to date, besides Zed.
Pit 91 is enclosed as they dig through the layers that are still in the ground. Flags indicate where fossils were dug out recently.
This is one of the pits where the water has dried up but the primordial tar keeps oozing up expelling gases.
Pit 23 is actually a collection of 23 crates that contain sections for another site where they had to take them out of the ground to get them out of the way for construction to begin. The volunteer sits on top of the crate and works their way through the contents to find fossils. Not as glamourous as Pit 91, but the ventilation is better.
Sign at the LA County Art Museum describes the Levitation sculpture once it is completed.
The mystery rock awaits unveiling to become part of the sculpture.