Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Road-trip 2017, Days 18 – 21

Having gotten our fill of urban exploring, we headed out of LA and back into the deserts.  After a stop at Coco’s Bakery & Restaurant (a western chain) for a bite of breakfast, we motored on to Mohave National Preserve in southeastern California where we spent a perfectly delightful few hours hiking about.  The preserve is expansive at about 1.6 million acres.  We could have spent a lot more time here, but the Grand Canyon was calling.

Motoring on, we paused for the night in Williams, AZ, staging for an early morning visit to Grand Canyon National Park.  This stop was on our “must do” list for this road trip as neither Mike nor I had been here.  It would not disappoint.

The following morning we drove up to Tusayan where we parked the car and caught the free shuttle into the National Park.  Though our schedule would not allow for a hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon (Mike’s edit: nor would our old legs), we thoroughly enjoyed our morning trek from the south rim, part way down the Kaibab Trail and back up.  Our afternoon was spent shuttling about the central part of park, walking part of a paved rim trail and generally gawking at the views.  Back in Williams, we had dinner at the Historic Brewing Barrel and Bottle.

The following morning we were up and out early for a drive back into the south end of the park, and out towards the east end to explore the Desert View area.  We enjoyed more amazing views of the canyon in the morning light, poked around the Tusayan Museum and took in the architectural detail and fascinating artwork of the Desert View Watchtower.  The tower was designed by Mary Colter, a renowned architect of the time; find more history and some photos, including of the interior,  on the NPS page for the tower.

As with other places we’ve visited on this road trip, we could have lingered a lot longer, but we’ve got miles to cover and some more family visits on the calendar.  We headed out of the park at mid-day, stopping for lunch at a little Mexican place by the airport and some photos ops in downtown Winslow, AZ.

From here we picked up the pace to cover some miles.  After an overnight near West Mesa/Albuquerque we enjoyed a lovely Easter Sunday Brunch at the Slate Street Cafe, took a quick pass though Albuquerque’s Old Town (mostly closed on this holiday morning) and headed on into the vastness of Texas.


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Road-trip 2017, Days 11 – 17

LS_20170410_073226 view from patio at D&D's

view from Duncan & Daniela’s

Finally we reached our western-most destination for this road trip, Los Angeles, CA.  Our week would be a combination of hanging out and sight-seeing with family and doing some exploring on our own.  What follows are some of the highlights.

A day spent in nearby Pasadena included a tour of the Gamble House, an American Arts and Crafts style home built in 1908 for the Gambles of Procter & Gamble fame.  It’s now a National Historic Landmark.  Indoor photography was not permitted on our tour, but the Gamble House website has extensive photos as well as information about the restoration.

A completely unexpected bonus to our trip to California was that it coincided with what’s referred to as a super bloom.  An unusually wet winter resulted in a spectacular explosion of wildflowers across much of the California deserts.  We would catch the tail end of the show.  Below are a few shots from our hike about Point Mugu State Park near the coast.  I couldn’t even begin to identify all of the wildflowers, so I didn’t even try.

Mike and I again braved the traffic of LA for a drive over to Venice, FL for a walk about the canals.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the canal district, along waterways lined with small but beautiful homes fronted by meticulously tended gardens and a few unusual watercraft.  After lunch a bite of lunch of course we had to dip our feet into the Pacific Ocean.  A building at the south end of the Venice boardwalk sported a most unusual mural, the Luminaries of Pantheism (photo below).  Turns out the building is headquarters to a nonprofit organization called the Paradise Project.  I quote from their website regarding the mural: “The mural was completed in March 2015, and features famous scientists, philosophers and poets who have espoused pantheistic views of the world — views that everything that exists consititutes a unity, and that this all-inclusive unity is divine (frequently described as “Everything is God”). Put simply, these great thinkers saw beauty in the connection of the universe. The Paradise Project, an organization dedicated to this ideal, is proud to honor these wise men and women for their contributions to human evolution and culture.”  An awesome bit of public art!

One of the things we love about visiting major metropolitan areas is the multi-cultural vibe.  It won’t be a surprise to those that have know us for a while that we decided to take a day to explore LA’s Little Tokyo.  We love opportunities to be reminded of our time in Japan and this day was no exception.  Appropriately, we opted to take advantage of the metro system which was quite handy.  We spent several hours exploring the Japanese American National Museum.  In addition to their permanent collection, we caught a couple of temporary exhibits that were particularly compelling and relevant in our current times.  “Instructions to All Persons: Reflections of Executive Order 9066” reflected on the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.  “Only the Oaks Remain: The Story of Tuna Canyon Detention Station” featured bits of reconstructed buildings from a detention camp along with the personal stories of some who held there.   On a bit lighter note, the final exhibit exploring the life and career of George Takei was also quite good.

Our brains full from the museum, we enjoyed a wander about the Little Tokyo neighborhood. We slurped a couple of bowls of ramen from Ramen Maruya, reminisced our way through a department store that could have been lifted from our neighborhood in Japan and last but not least, I was successful in my quest for a favorite but hard to find Japanese treat, black sesame ice cream, which tasted exactly as I’d remembered it!

Our last full day in LA found us on an urban hike in Griffith Park, a metro park sometimes referred to as the Central Park of LA. It was nice to stretch our legs and to catch a glimpse (though not a good photo of) the infamous Hollywood sign, the view of the LA skyline frankly made me want to hold my breath for a very long time.  Still, nice that they managed to carve out some 4300 acres for a public park instead of more buildings.

Having gotten our fill of the big city, we head back into the natural world, well kind of.  Next stop: the Grand Canyon.

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Road-trip 2017 Day 10

After a serviceable breakfast at the very retro Courtesy Coffee Shop (Lounge by night) in Blythe, CA, we headed on for a last bit of the wild before finishing up our drive into Los Angeles.  Joshua Tree started its life as a National Monument (proclaimed so by FDR in 1936) and was renamed/redesignated  Joshua Tree National Park in 1994, and protects 792,510 acres of mostly wilderness where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge.  It proved to be a fine place to stretch our legs a bit.

We started our explorations in the southeastern part of the the park, part of the Colorado Desert, with elevations of less than 3,000 ft above sea level.  From near the Cottonwood Springs Visitors Center, we opted for the Mastodon Peak trail which did not disappoint.  Desert wildflowers and cacti blooms were abundant, although the intense sun of late morning made for some challenging photography. (ID help welcome!)

A few lizards also captured my attention.


As we made our way north and west in the park, we passed through what is referred to as a transition zone entered the Mojave Desert with elevations above 3,00 ft.  We stopped along the way for some shorter hikes.  It was at these elevations that we found expanses of the the park’s namesake, the Joshua Trees.  Tough and curious things, they’re not trees at all, rather belong to the yucca or agave family.  They have spiky succulent leaves that are kind of bayonet-shaped and every bit as sharp.

Of course in reading about the Joshua tree, I couldn’t help but stumble over references to the 1982 U2 album of the same name.  This Irish rock band was quite captivated with the deserts of the American southwest and found the landscapes to be quite fitting with the theme/songs of the album.  The cover photo however was not taken in Joshua Tree National Park, rather at another location in the Mojave Desert some 200 miles away.  While the actual tree fell some time ago, there is reportedly a plaque placed for those who go searching.

LS_20170405_171212 road snacks, Mexican-style

We left the park in the late afternoon with a plan to be at Duncan and Daniela’s place in LA for a late dinner.  A search for a milkshake or some such thing took us to a brightly lit place called La Michoacana in Beaumont CA where we picked up a couple of mangonadas, a kind of sweet, spicy, party-colored Mexican fruit drink with tamarind-coated straws.  Not bad really.   In any event, they quenched our thirst and tided us over to LA.

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