Summer Road Trip Chapter III – Los Angeles & Area


The Route

Calgary – Kennewick

Kennewick – Redding

Redding – San Francisco

San Francisco – Anaheim

Anaheim – Laguna Beach – Manhattan Beach – El Segundo – Los Angeles

The Stay: 2 Nights

The Nest: Doubetree By Hilton LAX 

The Miles: Anaheim – El Segundo 120 Kilometres

Total Miles: 2,850 Kilometres (Approx) 

After a fantastic, eventful trip to Anaheim, we were due to set sail for LA. However, there was a destination we missed the opportunity to spend some time in, and it was killing us. So, I tried my best to somehow make it work. We weren’t able to check into our hotel in El Segundo, until 3:00pm, so we had some time to kill. Perfect. We can backtrack a few miles, stop in Laguna Beach for lunch, and then drive all along the coast to get to El Segundo. Much further, and longer, but… It was much worth it.

Laguna Beach / Manhattan Beach 

Day 1

Day 1 of our journey to LA, and as most of our Day 1s… Drive.   As mentioned, we backtracked a bit so we could make a special stop in Laguna.  I had to go to Laguna Beach, it wasn’t an option, had I never spent parts of high school dedicated to the MTV series, I probably wouldn’t have cared to go there.   So we headed in the opposite direction of LA, and drove to Laguna!  It was…. not at all what I was expecting, and I will thank MTV for that one. It had a small town vibe to it, reminded me a lot of Sydney/Victoria BC area. Everywhere you turned there was an art gallery of a different kind, or an art school, or something art related. I totally did not expect this, and the people were very friendly. I was for some reason expecting this ultra-“classy”, hoity-toity small city of super vehicles, wicked modern buildings, plastic barbies and high heels. While some of this was true, mostly because I was looking for it… It’s not at all what I thought it be after watching five seasons of Laguna Beach….  Surprise!   Stupid reality TV.  Should have known better.  

We walked up a few streets along the beaches and checked out some of the cool shops, stores, and looked at different places to eat lunch. We came across this place called “Cliffs” that was right off the beach, but situated on a… yes, a cliff looking right over the water.  Such a clever name now!   It was absolutely amazing. Thanks to MTV. I was totally expecting to walk into this place, feel completely awkward in my Canadian summer outfit and order a cold beer for what would probably be about $25. Nope. It was a very, very welcoming place, the service was phenomenal, the view was even better, and the food was priced as same as anywhere else, and the beer was cold.  Both of which were deeelicious.  Oh, and no one judged me, that I know of at least!  Everyone else looked the exact same as us.  I was completely stunned. I didn’t know what to think of this place. MTV………..

After lunch, we headed back to the truck, and walked along the beach. Again, I was almost expecting the beach to just be littered with plastic barbies, perfect bodied men and women, but nope, wasn’t at all. I got in the truck, absolutely mystified and drove towards to El Segundo. Completely stumped.  

Driving through was a little bit more of what I had expected, going through Newport Coast and Del Mar area. It was funny; cause one of the things I was so excited to see in Califrornia was a plethora of cool vehicles and I was mentioning to Amanda how disappointed I had been, because I hadn’t seen any. I’m not totally sure what I was exactly expecting that I don’t see in Calgary. Maybe frequency. I mean, it wasn’t like driving through Edmonton, there were still nice whips all over. Mercedes, BMW, Cadillacs, Range Rover, Porsche… etc, but same thing you’ll see anywhere else. It was about moments later after saying that. Boom. Rarri’ Lamb’ Bentley, Astons and one of my favorites… The Rolls Royce, then we saw McLaren, and a McLaren dealership. This, I had never seen. Wow. Ok, so I didn’t have the best vehicle in Cali anymore, apparently. That rolls may have taken me. Maybe. I’ve seen two RR before, both parked in Cgy. So to see one rolling through, was… cool. Amanda didn’t seem to understand my excitement.  Whatever.  Anyways, did you guys catch my Ricky Roosay lingo there???  Yep.  Lamb. Rarri.  

Anyway, turns out… Maaayyybe Laguna/Newport is pretty fancy, just like they perceive it to be on MTV shows, but not nearly as snooty in my limited experience.  I felt normal in Laguna, and I felt completely out of place in Newport. Out of place… Actually, I felt terrible about myself. Haha. I hated it that 10 block stretch.  

The rest of the drive, I felt like a human being again.  It was a beautiful drive, we went through Huntington Beach, which was getting set up to start the Vans US Surf Open the next day. We then went through Long Beach, which was.. well, moreso like Edmonton. Then, we drove on through the hood. I thought it was pretty interesting, yet kind of sad that not 25 miles south, you have the absolute elite driving around in their rolls, Bentleys, and then you drive a little, and you’re…. well, just about in Compton, and the rest of the hoods. Amanda, of course… Unphased by all of it, was only concerned about stopping for a nail fill. So when we saw the first place that said Juanita’s Nail Bar & Guns, we had to stop. And, I may or may not have had a pedicure, and… ah maybe enjoyed it. Whatever. I didn’t have a choice.

Eventually, we made it El Segundo after passing through Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan Beach.  All amazing places.  At least driving through them.  

In El Segundo, our hotel was situated within an industrial park, with some pretty interesting massive offices right outside our window, and down the street. The LA Air Force Base, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Various airlines… then the toy company Mattell, and then the… the LA Kings! So you have all these military, weaponry, nuclear corporations, then you have a toy corporation, and a hockey team. Kaypppp.

Finally, hours later, Amanda was ready to go.  W had made plans to head back to Manhattan Beach; the home of the LA Kings. So of course we were going there.  If it’s good enough for Anze, good enough for me!  But first… We had to make a pitstop at the Toyota Sports Centre – LA Kings practice facility. It was nothing but three-rink arena with the LA Kings logo plastered everywhere and normal little kids playing. Amanda loved it! I think it was her favorite part of the vacation.  

We headed to MH Beach. Drove around for a few days looking for parking, found it. Finally. Walked around just as long looking at different spots to eat, walked out along the pier, and then finally found a cool pizza restaurant, and settled in there. And, that was the end of our adventurous day through…  wherever it was that we had just gone.  

Los Angeles

Day 2

Promise, I will keep this shorter. We left after Day 2, so this is it!

We were heading to Universal Studios. It was a bit of a hike from our hotel, and Amanda and I were arguing about something that morning. Probably directions, or how long it took her to get ready. Or both. Actually, ya I think it was both. But, this one got so silent; we didn’t talk for about 10-20 miles. Which is really weird… for her especially!  

I thought I’ll guide us there on my own, whatever. Don’t need her help!  …5 miles later, I thought… K, this doesn’t look right. Wasted some data on my phone to check my directions, instead of asking her… who had the maps.  I soon realized… Shit, I’ve gone about 25 blocks completely the wrong way. I was well, let’s say… humbled.  I turned around, pretended nothing happened, admitted defeat.  I am sure Amanda loved every second of it. Finally, we got along closer to Universal, and good thing. I asked Amanda if she was super excited for Universal, and the minions… which I knew the answer too, but as she was still partially pouting, I thought this would be a good test.  Sure enough, her response.  “NO”

Haha. Ok. 2 minutes later we weren’t 10 feet from the entrance, and she was losing it, worse than in Disneyland. Worse than a kid!  Couldn’t hide it anymore behind the pout.  It was hilarious. Of course, we had to head right to Gru’s Café, and have lunch. This place was actually remarkable. Was identical to Gru’s house in the movie. And the food, was unreal. Universal was already better than Disneyland, though I pretended to not be phased by it as I tried to be the cool guy… But, I thought it was probably one of the coolest things too.  You could get a massive baseball stadium sized can of beer, and walk around with it. So we did.   When ordering the Universal tickets, we spent the extra money and got the “Front of Line” pass, which thank God we did, because unlike the fast pass…They actually worked.  

We went to a few different shows, including an Animal Actors show where they had many of the animals in that act in the Universal movies, and they do some skits and a show with these creatures. Cats, Dogs, Owls, Eagles, Hawks, Guinea Pigs, Roosters, and ten other kinds of animals, it was actually amazing. Amanda, again.. I don’t think reality really set in with her about this place yet. We headed to the Universal Studios Tour afterwards, and this was my favorite part. They take you through all the lots where they film shows, movies, everything. All the facades that are standing, show you what was where, and the tour guide shows clips of the scenes filmed where we were.  Then they take you through Jurassic Park stuff, the props, the vehicles.  The fast N furious prop car parking lot.  We went through skull island and there was a bit of a 3D ride there.  It grabbed our trolley car as we entered this dark tunnel, started shaking, and then this humongous 3D screen got going with a T Rex and Gorilla fighting. It was so neat, when the animals would take a beating, you’d get wet from their “blood” or “drool” or whatever. I can’t even explain it.  but, I felt I was in the middle of a gorilla dino fight, and I had never felt that before!  They take you through “Whoville” the Desperate Housewives street, A plane crash scene from War of Worlds. This was remarkable. It’s apparently an actual plane, they bought and then destroyed it. It looks so real. There’s all kinds of debris everywhere, fires going, electrical sparks. Then, you go through the island Jaws was filmed at, it’s really just a small pond. And they show you the actual Jaws shark. Well, actually, this thing just jumped out at our trolley. This huge mechanical shark, then stuff went on fire. Thennnnnn, they take you through this subway station setup, where they re-enact earthquake scenes. So your trolley starts shaking, noise like crazy, then this propane truck slides out of nowhere inches from our car, then another vehicle smashes into that one, stuff starts on fire again, and then from the other side a huge bang goes off, and all the water comes rushing through.  All the while, they show the exact same scene from an episode of Bones.  It was absolutely amazing how they do all of this. I am still marvelling about some of it.  

That was by far my favorite part of Universal, we ended up doing a few rides afterwards, and another show. We did the minion ride, which was actually disappointing, then Amanda called it a day on the rides, and left me to do the rest. So I went on the transformers one, which was awesome. They’re mainly all 3D cart rides, but still cool. Then, I did the Jurassic Park ride.. by myself… twice, and I wasn’t allowed the third time. We left the park, and walked through the Universal Studios CityWalk which was pretty cool. Bunch of different stores, restaurants, bright lights, and live music. Finally we had some sushi, I had been waiting all trip for it, and couldn’t find any that wasn’t $100 Chef Choice. And, with that… We knocked LA off the list, and headed back to the hotel and had chips.  

Final Synopsis

It was cool, I really enjoyed our brief time there. It was unfortunate, we were unable to do a lot of different things just because of time, but the places we did go to were spectacular. Our hotel wasn’t in the best location, so that made things a bit of a challenge. We were going to do Hollywood the night we left our hotel, but the last thing I wanted was to be driving 25 miles from Hollywood to El Segundo at 1:00am, so I just said screw it… I don’t even want to go into Hollywood, I’ll save it.  Universal Studios was awesome. I would recommend it over Disneyland a million times, unless you’re with kids… maybe not? Then I’d recommend neither.

If you’re going…

  1. Visit Laguna, Newport absolutely, I would spend a night there, and another in the Manhattan/Hermosa area.
  2. Go to a Dodgers game
  3. Go to a Kings game
  4. Try and time it around one of the US Surfing Open events, or the Bud Light Beach Volleyball events.  There always seemed to be something going on, minus the night we were there.  Of course.  
  5. Certainly go to Universal Studios, but ensure you buy the Front of Line pass. I think it was $85 extra, but believe me, beyond worth it. 
  6. Eat at unique little restaurants, I was guilty for eating at PF, and CPK in Anaheim, but the rest of the way eat at independent places.
  7. If you’re a weirdo… the TMZ tour?

 Next Time

  1. I would plan for a lot more time. I think you could easily spend weeks just in the LA/Hollywood area, and visit Venice beach. 
  2. I would follow #1 above, and then stay in Hollywood rest of the time.
  3. Would love to go to a game at Dodger Stadium
  4. Having done Universal, and as good as it was. Wouldn’t go again.
  5. So much more

I really look forward to going to the LA area again. One of the beauties about traveling the way we do is we get to see a little bit of everything, the beast can be that we don’t get to see a lot of everything as a result. But, this way, we know the places we will go back too, and what we will do. Next time, we’ll spend a night or two along that coast from Anaheim to LA. Then spend as many nights as we can in Hollywood, and I would just get lost there and do whatever I found. I would maybe do a city tour, that’s all.   But all in all, Of all the places we visited, this is hands down the one I can not wait to return too!

– B

Summer Road Trip Chapter 1: San Francisco

Calgary, Facebook, Mozilla Firefox, San Fran, Travel, Twitter, Uncategorized, YYC

The Route

Calgary – Kennewick

Kennewick – Redding

Redding – San Francisco

The Stay: 3 Nights

The Nest: Hotel G – Downtown off Geary Street.

The Miles: Approx 2,072 Kilometres

San Francisco

Day 1

San Francisco has always been one of those cities on my travelling bucket list, having never been there before.  So it was a must visit for us when we began planning our trip in the winter.  

It was our first “real” stop of our trip, after staying a night in Kennewick, and Redding as a checkstop. 2,000+ kilometres later, and 20 hours later.  We had arrived at Hotel G.  Checked in. Left the truck for valet, for an excruciating $65/night.  We made it.  

The beauty and the beast with our holidays is we don’t really plan any activities, other than a few ideas of places we’d like to go, and things we’d like to check out. This works for us, because we’re more relaxed, not stressed out, rushing to get to somewhere.  You just kinda go. It also works because you get to see lots of things you otherwise would maybe miss if you had more structure. And, I hate structure.  It makes no sense.  

So, we walked. With a little handheld map, and a brochure from our hotel suggesting things to do.  We decided to head to the ferry building on the water, and check out the “Hidden Gem” of San Fran. The beast with not having any plans, or structure is often times transportation. We have no idea really where we are going or how to get there, and sometimes this can be a battle, and often turns out to be the only fight Amanda and I ever have.  San Fran has a pretty intensive transit system, with buses, trains, trolley cars and well…  everything but a flying karpet basically. And they call this the BART, the flying BART. – Bay Area Rapid Transit.   We knew where we had to go, but no idea how to get there. So I hopped on the first trolley car I saw. Apparently these things have designated stop, and pick up zones. Well, I am from Calgary so I didn’t know. I hopped on it, then hopped off it the next street when I didn’t think we were going in the right direction. The driver on the trolley car didn’t like my method, and let me know. So as he drove away after I had jumped off, I had to run back to get on. It was cool. I felt like an episode of full house, or one of those chick flick movies where the guy comes running after his girl on the trolley car.  

Anyway, we luckily… actually accidentally found ourselves at a BART Hub (I think) And, we figured out the train system well enough to get us towards the ferry building.  Well, it wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. And, the map I had told me AT & T Park was right around the corner, which I was way more excited about.  So, we stopped for supper on the water at this pretty restaurant that ended up just being far to hoity toity for me and if anyone knows me well enough, you know I get extreme anxiety at these places, stressed out and I hate them. Well, this happened. And, in turn, I get grumpy, irritable and very uncomfortable.   After this odd meal, I convinced Amanda to let me walk over to the ball diamond. It was awesome.  I was like a lost squirrel. I thought everything was so cool, and I took 500 hundred pictures, and proceeded to just take off, leaving Amanda in the dust…  Not my fault, she couldn’t keep up, there was so much to see! I looked back at one point, and pretty sure I saw her taking a selfie with a statue of a seal…  Apparently she asked me to take the picture but I was marveling at McCoveys Cove.   We then stopped at the pub at the park, and enjoyed a couple drinks and a snack. Amanda had some kind of pretzel, while I had a chocolate sundae with popcorn in it. It was again, cool. Then, we just aimlessly walked back in the direction we thought was our hotel. It was. Thankfully, and that was Day 1. Awesome. I still hate the Giants.  Go Cards.  

Day 2

Again, no plans, other than to sleep in and get some rest. So I woke up at 6:50am, and said LETS GO!, LETS GO!!! …  So we did. Once Amanda was ready, seemingly forever later. The San Fran AM routine began – Walk to starbucks, get a ham and swiss with a coffee. The weather wasn’t great, so we spent a bit of the morning in the mall wondering around my favorite place – Nordstroms. I found absolutely nothing, except an adult male reading the paper while an older fella who could hardly stand shined his shoes. And, this outraged me. Are you that special you can’t shine your own boots pal? Seriously. This was the only highlight of the AM.

Then we went back to Amandas favorite place, the BART, headed to the wharf, and then we walked, and walked. Along the wharf, we stopped at this little seafood joint right on the pier. Committed to trying seafood in San Fran, we shared a Dungeness crab. Yes. An entire crab. Typically Amanda is the world’s slowest eater, while I am the opposite. Well, I have never had a full crab placed in front of me so this thing took me about 90 minutes to crack up, dig out, and eat. While she sat there staring at me for half of that time as if she were a seasoned … Crab Meat Picker? I don’t know? But, it was fantastic. One of the better meals I have ever had. Full Crab – Crushed. Onto the next place, again no idea where that was going to be. We would just stop at something that looked sweet. So. Pier 39 it was. What a zoo! Here I thought this was like one little pier with a few stores and shops. Nope. This damn thing I swear had us halfway to Maui. It went on forever, and had the entire population of Hawaii, Japan and Texas on it.

We checked out some different shops, walked around, and just took in the experience. It was cool, except the lineups to piss. Not cool, and with this bladder, really not cool. While we were travelling to San Fran, I decided I was finally going to get the next tattoo I wanted, just a quick walk in would suffice. I wanted to go somewhere in Hollywood and get it done, but we came across this real cool place on the pier that was rated phenomenally and a hot spot for the SF Giants. So, of course. I had to.  If it’s good enough for the Kung Fu Panda… Good enough for me!  That ate up a huge chunk of our day, getting seven letters tattooed on my bicep. Amanda of course, completely supportive and waiting patientally the entire time.  This is one of a million reasons why I can’t wait to call her my wife. She is the only person I know who would patiently wait around for three hours while this happens, and not snicker once. Not once.  I couldn’t. After the tattoo, we just walked some more, went to a few more little restaurants for snacks and drinks, then we found the Rainforest Café… Which I had to drag Amanda into, promising her it would be cool. Well, forty minutes later, and I think about hundred dollars later, I had a hell of a time trying to get her out of there. Finally, I got her out of the kids restaurant and we went for a quick wine tasting, then waiting in the cable car line for the rest of the night, and hopped on that to call it a day, and evening.  By the way… I get that this is a tourist attraction for San Fran. But, they need to retire these things. They take forever, and are complete POS. Get rid of them.

Day 3

If you’re still reading this, thank you, and I apologize for your boredom.  

I have acquired this new liking to wine, thanks to a trip to Penticton with the fellas. So we decided we wanted to do a wine tour. You can go on actual tours that would take you through four or so wineries, but it would take all day, and cost a bunch. So instead… Of course. We did our own wine tour. Asked a few locals where to go, got suggestions, and we set off across the Golden Gate – Which was another extreme anxiety moment for me. It’s got to be one of the most fascinating structures on earth, no doubt… But, it doubles as the saddest, and I had a hard time going across it. Anyway.  We headed towards Sonoma Valley to check out some wineries, once in the Sonoma/Napa area, there were wineries, after wineries, after wineries. We checked out one right away, that was awesome – Viansa, and then drove around for hours just marveling at the fields, and trying to find the next one to go to. We headed into the Sonoma town, did some tasting there, had lunch and then went to the Sebastini winery, which is one of the oldest ones in the country, and probably one of the most profitable, if not the. So we did the tour as well, which was interesting, and had some tastings, of predominantly reds, which were all terrible and tasted like smoke. I hate red. Day 3 ended with us driving around some more, and some silence because we briefly got lost, so I got mad… But, we found our way to Golden Gate Park, enjoyed dinner and then called it another night, and a final chapter on our San Francisco journey.

Final Synopsis

Yes. I have pages reviewing what we did, and then a final review of it. I liked San Fran, it was really cool, much different than what I was expecting.  Though as cool as it were, I was perfectly content with leaving after the 3 days, I felt like we did a tonne, and almost everything I wanted to do except a Giants game, as they were out of town.  Not sure if there was much else in SF I would have wanted to do.  I enjoyed how unique the city was, everywhere you walked there was something to check out.

Things I didn’t like, it was very expensive, and at times seemed a little too intense for me. For example, driving home from the winery, as we were getting on the golden gate, I was going 105 KM, which was equilvalent to just over the speed limit where we were, and this vehicle two back was wailing on her horn, I had no idea it was to me, but when she eventually passed me in the other lane going mach II, she let me know it was me that was fucking up apparently. This still rattles me, and I think I got honked at a few more times, and even walking down the street, everyone hammers on their horn at other drivers.  I also didn’t find the people there the most friendly of sort, not that they were blatantly rude, they just weren’t as friendly as some other people in different places I’ve visited.  

I would go back to San Fran, but it wouldn’t be before I went to about ten other cities first, and I don’t think I would stay for too long. I’ll give it a B. I think I’d get bored if I had to stay there much longer, or I’d be broke.  

If you’re going…  

  1. If you like sports, go to AT & T Park, even if the Giants aren’t playing.
  2. Do the fishermans wharf walk, plan a whole day for this. Eat small at a few different places – end it with the sourdough clam chowder.
  3. Skip the expensive, exhausting winery tours. Do your own. Take some time and do the research, check with local people in the bar/wine business about good wineries, then just go on your own, and at your own pace.
  4. Cable Cars are stupid. Don’t waste your time.
  5. Oh, and don’t drive too slow!!! 

Next Time

  1. I wouldn’t go to SF again, unless the Giants were playing.
  2. I’m a bit of a geek, but, I’d like to check out the twitter offices, then zip to San Jose/Palo Alto area and check out Facebook, Apple and Google always interested in those sorts of things. Much to Amanda’s dismay.  
  3. Not screw up the Alcatraz tickets….  
  4. Save more money

That’s my wrap on our journey through San Francisco.  I’ll try to do a recap on each place we visited, I promise they won’t be as long as this one, will post Anaheim tomorrow!  

– B