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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ACCESSIBLE ATTRACTIONS: Monaco


Our ratings are...

Fully Accessible - You can access all of the attraction, with no problem, in any type of wheelchair.

Mostly Accessible - You can access most of the attraction, and all of the important parts of it, with your wheelchair.

Partially Accessible - You can access a good deal of the attraction but some parts are inaccessible and some important parts you'll miss.

Inaccessible - Kind of speaks for itself, avoid if you're in a wheelchair.

Here's Monaco...



The Casino - Fully accessible. Accessible entrance it to the side of the main entrance. Long pants, dress shirt, and jacket required to enter. Entrance fee charged.



Royal Palace Square - Fully accessible. Get to the top from the Place 'd Arms by taking the accessible bus. Get there before 11am if you want to see the changing of the guard.



Royal Neighborhood - Mostly accessible. The hilltop area around the palace has a lot a great shops, restaurants, and little alleyways to explore as well as the country's aquarium.

Monaco (the entire country) - Mostly accessible. The entire country gets an entry because it is so small. You could walk across the entire country in an hour or take 5-10 minutes in a bus. It's very hilly but a network of elevators and accessible buses gets you to anywhere you want to go.




Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved





Friday, March 20, 2015

California's Central Coast - Morro Bay and Avila Beach




UpTake Travel Gem


While strolling along the commercial fishing wharf in Morro Bay, we encountered a couple from Germany and got to talking.  We talked about our love of Munich and Bavaria and then asked what they thought of this little town.


“It is very beautiful,” they replied, “but what is THAT?”

Watch the Video!

They were pointing at the one thing that keeps this little seaside town from becoming a real tourist mecca, the large power plant that mars the view on the north end of the bay.  They were aghast, mostly because they thought it was a nuclear plant plopped right into the middle of town.  Not to worry about that, I told them, it’s just a conventional plant that’s been there for half a century…I think they were confusing it with the Diablo Canyon nuclear generating station, which is located several miles south of here.
The Power Plant is Hard to Miss

Ignore the plant and you have a great, scenic, and reasonably priced seaside getaway.  It may just be because of that plant that the prices here are as low as they are.

Morro Bay lies due west of Bakersfield on California’s Central Coast.  This is the section of the state’s coastline that extends roughly from Santa Barbara on the south to just below San Francisco on the north end.  Many of the state’s gems lie along this route: Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Monterey, and Santa Cruz just to name a few.

We start off in Bakersfield and take Highway 46 over the coastal hills.  This is a lonely, scenic road and is historically one of the area’s more dangerous roads…it was nicknamed “Blood Alley” for the large number of head-on collisions.  About halfway over the hills, in a pretty little valley is the intersection with highway 41, is the spot where the most memorable of these crashes occurred.


Here on September 30, 1955, actor James Dean…on his way to race his Porsche Spyder at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey…crashed head-on into a truck that crossed into his lane.  He died a short time later when he was taken to the War Memorial Hospital in Paso Robles.

Just up the road is a small diner where a memorial to Dean sits in the parking lot.  Walk around the back…signs warn you to watch for rattlesnakes…and you’ll see a line of trees.  That is the spot where the San Andreas Fault cleaves the state in two.

Driving carefully over the rest of the route, we arrive at Highway 1 just north of Harmony and turn south.  Somewhere in the hills to the left, another black day in the state happened when fired airline employee, David Burke, burst into the cockpit of PSA flight 1771 and shot the pilots dead.  The plane dove into the ground at full speed, killing all 44 aboard including the supervisor who fired him.

After this tour of gruesome California history, we see our destination shrouded in fog up ahead with Morro Rock poking through the low-hanging cloud.

Our hotel for this trip is the Best Western San Marcos Inn, just two blocks from the waterfront.   Barrier-free rooms with two queen beds are available and the hotel serves a free light continental breakfast along with a wine and cheese mixer every evening in the lobby.  There is no pool but instead a large hot tub with views of the bay.  Just about everything in town is within walking distance.



After checking in and taking in the view from our room, we head down to the water to have a look around.  Weaving in and out around the buildings on the wharf is a walkway where everyone can walk along and drink in the gorgeous ocean views.  The town has gone one step further and made this entire walkway wheelchair accessible.  It’s not a straight line, but you can stroll along the entire waterfront from the huge Morro Rock in the north  to the marina at the south end of the bay.  It is a very common site to see sea lions and otters frolicking in the water along the way. 


And the rock?  It’s the town’s signature feature.  A morro is a volcanic plug where the surrounding mountain has worn down exposing the rock underneat.  There are nine of these ancient domes in the area, Morro Rock being the most famous, spectacularly sitting between the town and the waves.


Dinner tonight will be at the Hofbrau where you can get a delicious beef dip sandwich, custom carved right in front of you.  There are a few German beers available, along with the usual suspects on tap.  We get some of these delicious sandwiches and sit next to the windows overlooking the water.  It’s a very inexpensive, good restaurant with a view.  That’s pretty rare.

Tummies full, we continue walking along the water until we get to the Morro Bay Aquarium.  This old, frayed-around-the-edges, sea life facility will never be mistaken for its flashy cousin to the north in Monterey, but is a good way to while away some of your time and only costs a buck or two depending on your age.  The small aquarium houses and rehabilitates animals from sea lions to sharks, octopi, and other creatures brought in by the local fishing fleet.  Cal Poly uses them to board their collection of horseshoe crabs.  A few pools outside hold sea lions that were injured or abandoned.  Visitors can feed them.

The next morning we have a delicious breakfast of omelets and pancakes at Dorn’s, a nice restaurant sitting atop a small hill overlooking the waterfront.  After eating, we head out to the rock. 


An unpaved, but fairly smooth path allows wheelchair to get a little ways around the rock toward the ocean.  Soon, however, the path will get too rocky to allow access all the way to the water.  For birders, looking up will reveal hundreds of nooks, crannies, and little caves where gulls and peregrine falcons nest.  We came upon a small group of watchers with telescopes set up on tripods who allowed up to look at a mother falcon guarding her brood.


A drive across town leads us to Morro Bay State Park where another morro, White’s Point, sits next to the visitor’s center.  A path leads around the rock but the last hundred feet or so to the top is too steep to make wheelchair accessible.  Back at the visitor’s center, several spectacular views of the bay are barrier free.  The center is also undergoing a makeover to make it more accessible to wheelers.


Back in town, we take a bay cruise on a boat with windows under the water.  It’s not wheelchair accessible but Letty and I take a quick ride to get pictures for Tim.  Another cruise operator at the north end of the wharf, Chablis Cruises, offers accessible tours on a more traditional boat.

After the cruise, we stroll around looking at the shops.  A garden center across the street has quite an array of custom fountains.  I come close to buying one for the yard, but decide not to when I think of how I will get it home.

Today is the Morro Bay Music Festival and several bands are rotating through the main stage set up in a parking lot across from the wharf.  Up on the hill in the downtown section, there’s a great farmer’s market with more live bands…seemingly playing in every bar and corner.  It’s a very musical day here in Morro Bay. 

I buy some fruit and cheese for a lunch snack as we sit back and listen.  An orchid greenhouse nearby provides a quiet getaway from all the action on the streets.

Dinner tonight will be at Tognazzini’s, an out-of-the-way restaurant nestled in with the commercial fishing fleet at the north end of town, based upon a recommendation from the skipper of the tour boat.  We are not disappointed with the fish and pasta dinner that we have.  


Afterward, we stroll along the fishing fleet as we take our last sunset views of the town.


Checking out in the morning, we head south to the town of Avila Beach.  Formerly a run-down, funky ocean side enclave of hippies, fishermen, and surfers…the town is undergoing a renaissance thanks to a huge settlement and remediation given to them by the Union Oil Company whose oil facility leaked hazardous waste under the town for decades.  The oil company demolished a huge part of the town, removed the tainted sand, and rebuilt from the ground up.  Still funky but no longer run down, the waterfront is a sparkling jewel sitting on a beautiful beach.


We have breakfast at my favorite omelet place in the world, The Custom House.  The previous incarnation here had a patio out back overflowing with plants and exotic birds in cages.  With the new building, the birds are gone and the new patio, while still beautiful, seems a little sterile without the birds.  The food is still great, however.

Nearby is the Harford Pier, built in 1873, where another local restaurant…Fatcats…sits on the hillside.  Many people, including my parents, swear by this little diner.  It is very good, but the linguica omelet at the Custom House always beckons me.


Being one of the very few piers in California that actually let you drive on it, we head out to the end where we find a handicapped spot and unload.  A nice but pricey dinner house, The Olde Port Inn, sits atop a bustling little fish monger shop.  At the end is a large platform where people set up to fish, no license required.

When I was a kid, we had a family reunion type party here and the several of us fishing caught 250 red snapper and netted dozens of crabs for the boilers we set up on the camp fire.  I don’t think there’s that much to catch anymore, but it’s still a nice place to drop a line.


Down below on the boat dock platform, a dozen sea lions lounge on the wood.  Off of the pier, several more of the illiterate animals sit on a platform with a sign begging users to close the gate to keep the sea lions off.


Refreshed and relaxed, we climb back into the van and head south along the ocean on Highway 101 back into L.A. and home.  It just dawned on me that I haven’t thought about that damn power plant at all since we talked to that friendly couple from Germany…just soak up Morro Bay and you’ll put it out of your mind too.

The Far Side of Morro Rock

Darryl
Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ADVENTURES CLOSE TO HOME: An Ode to a Politically Incorrect Bag


It's quickly becoming extinct here in California and, as California goes so does the rest of the country, look for a plastic bag ban in your near future, too.

While I understand the reasonings behind the bans and the environmental ramifications of keeping them around, I will miss their extreme utility.

I do have to say that I never send a plastic bag to a landfill or litter the roadside with it. It's too valuable.  Instead, I use it until there is no longer any life left to it, then send it off to recycle.

Far from just being the bag the groceries come home in, that is just the beginning of the uses this bag will endure.



Leftovers in Glad bowls get taken to work in them for lunch.  I line our hanging plant baskets with them to conserved water.


Shipping boxes get lined with wadded up bags as packing material to cushion my parcel.

Christmas decorations get stored in them so the garage dust doesn't cover them up.

Put a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fingerling potatoes in one. Shake it up and wrap with tin foil (after you remove from the plastic bag, of course). Throw it on the grill and you have a great side dish for dinner.

And, in the end, use it to line the kitchen waste basket for a trash bag (our waste disposal company sorts them out at the transfer center before being taken to the dump).

When there is nothing left, we can either toss it in our recycling bin (again, the waste disposal company says it's OK and they recycle them) or take it to our nearest supermarket where recycling bins are locating just for these bags.


We'll live with it once they're all gone but in the meantime, I've got a big container filled with a year's supply to take me through those lean times.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 16, 2015

THE HEART OF CALIFORNIA'S CENTRAL COAST: San Luis Obispo

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There’s too many to count, really. Maybe millions. Whenever I bring it up, I’m met with either shuddering disgust or local pride.


Here in this narrow alley, there is not one iota of wall space that is not covered up with a used wad of gum. This colorful fiesta of chicle and spit is Bubblegum Alley, where locals have been sticking their gum on the wall since World War II.

Welcome to San Luis Obispo.


Watch the Video!

The alley can serve as a metaphor. Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco but doing its own thing, this pretty college town lives in another California…the one not defined by big cities. Rather, it’s coastal, green, and laid-back.


While many people coming from L.A. take the coastal route up Highway 101 through Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria; our route takes us over the hills from the central valley via Highway 46, past the James Dean Memorial Interchange, and over the green hills on Highway 41, coming in to town on the rather steep Cuesta Grade from the north.

Our day will start with coffee, followed up by a quick stop to Bubblegum Alley to film the intro to our video. After that, it’s out the west end of the alley to Higuera Street and to Mission Mall on the other side.



While there are some fine shops in this little arcade, including a nice toy store and a shoe shop, it also makes for an easy, wheelchair accessible route to San Luis Creek in back of the building.

About 240 years ago, Father Junipero Serra hung a bell from the big sycamore here, rang it to call the faithful to mass, and founded Mission San Luis Obispo.

There’s still a big sycamore here but I doubt it’s the same tree. The creek still flows, however.

Steelhead trout find their way up this wide trickle of water to spawn. It’s about twenty miles or so from this point to the creek’s meeting with the Pacific Ocean in nearby Avila Beach. The fish numbers have severely dwindled. Now they’re protected and don’t even think about fishing here.

It’s serene and very beautiful to walk along the water here. Behind the mall, there’s a ramp down for wheelchairs to get close to the water.

On the other side, the massive adobe building is where Father Serra’s mission found a permanent home. Finished in 1819, visitors can now pay a small fee to visit, see the church, and its historic courtyard.

A wheelchair accessible pedestrian bridge spans the creek here.

Back on Higuera, we finish our morning stroll window shopping. We’re taking in a local Ross store, the Apple Store, a chocolate shop, and a Bath and Beauty Shop where my wife takes advantage of the after Christmas sale to stock up on lotions.




A twenty minute drive takes us over the hills, past Cal Poly University, the penitentiary, the community college, and the state’s first National Guard base to the Ocean in Morro Bay.

Morro Bay is a tiny seafront town with a giant rock. The wharf, rock, and bay have a spectacular view that is marred a bit by the big generating plant at the north end of town.


We can get by without it ruining our day, so we head to the waterfront for lunch at the Hofbrau. The star of the show here are the roast beef dip sandwiches that are hand-carved to your specification at the counter. 

We get a couple and wash it down with a cold, German hefeweisen. It’s very good, hearty, filling food under $10 a person with a million dollar view.


After lunch, it’s a stroll along the waterfront. The town has done a pretty amazing job of laying out an accessible route so wheelchairs can also roll along over the water.




We pop in to Rose’s bar, another whopper of a view, which features a completely wheelchair level and accessible bar shaped like a boat. The tequila sour goes down good with the view as we toast the end to this quick little trip up to the heart of California’s Central Coast.



Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ADVENTURES CLOSE TO HOME: Exploring Without a Car

 

While we had fun in Baja, the bumpy dirt roads to the beach weren't to kind to our wheelchair lift.  Not long after we returned home, it began to make all sorts of awful noises before quitting altogether.  The local mobility dealer said they could fix it but they had to order parts and we had to wait (it would eventually take over 3 weeks).

Being stuck in the house is no adventure, even for a homebody like Tim.  The only decent restaurant within walking distance to our house is a pizza parlor (which we walked to the first week) but after 2 weeks, with cabin fever setting in and our anniversary date arriving, we had to do something.



Consulting our local bus company's web page, we found that the line by our house would easily take us to Pasadena or Claremont, both fun places to kill time. We chose Claremont and walked to the bus stop.



It's about an hour ride to the Metrolink Train Depot in Claremont, where the bus drops us off.

It's a very pretty college town. If you saw our earlier report on Claremont or it's doppleganger...Davis, in northern California...you can get a glimpse of what we're in store for.



Browsing the shops, Letty gets some custom made lotion at one of the shops and I get this mini Hohner harmonica at one of the world's best music stores, the Claremont Folk Music Center.



Hungry for dinner, we end up at the Press for some vegetarian lasagna and drinks. It's OK, but Letty is not happy with the lazy service or the bread that comes out with the hardness of a hockey puck.

She declares we will not be darkening the door of this establishment again.  No worries, we've still got Eureka!, Union on Yale, Aruffo's, and many more restaurants we've still yet to try here.



After dinner, we go with something much more reliable, dessert at Bert and Rocky's ice cream parlor.




Grabbing some candy to go, we head over to the nearby bus stop to catch our ride home.


 
Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 9, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP - Route 66 - Part 2

Note: this story was originally written in 2002.  I've tried to update the information for 2010.



Part 1 Here

Day 4

Today, we want to see the ocean. From Pasadena, we take the Gold Line to Union Station.  Take the Red or Purple Line to 7th and Flower St.  Transfer to a southbound Blue Line train to Long Beach. At the end of the Blue Line in Pine Square, we board a free shuttle that takes us to the Aquarium of the Pacific (from Monrovia, take the 187 bus to the Sierra Madre Villa station of the gold line; from Claremont take the Metrolink train westbound to Union Station)

Union Station
It's nice. We see plenty of sharks, rays, and watch a sea lion show. You can walk underwater in a coral reef, see divers feeding the fish, and pet lorikeets in an outdoor aviary.


Winter Warm-up Event: Savings are Hot!


A block away is Shoreline Village (and the Long Beach Convention Center...occasional West Coast home of the Abilities Expo) where you can samples hundreds beers at the Yardhouse. The other way, that same free shuttle can take you to the Queen Mary where you can tour the famed ocean liner. For a completely different adventure, you can catch a ferry to Catalina Island at the terminal next door to the aquarium.

We take a long walk on the beach where a great, smooth, paved path winds a few miles on the sand to Belmont Shore. Lots of families frolicking in the ocean, people flying kites and radio controlled gliders, and speedo-clad gentlemen looking for new friends.

After the beach, it's a long ride back to Monrovia. We have dinner across the street at Tokyo Wako, a teppan-steak house that's very good (think Benihana's).

Day 5

We're tired of traveling around, so we want to stay close. The eastbound 187 takes us again to Myrtle Ave. A three block walk north takes us to the fun and charming Old Town Monrovia district. We have breakfast at the busy Monrovian Family Restaurant where I have a delicious special of eggs and rib eye steak while my wife has heuvos rancheros. Tim has a burger.
It's a very familiar site here, the old-fashioned hardware store, the many quaint shops. Why? Because over 150 movie and TV productions a year film here. You've seen this street many times before, even if you've never set foot within a thousand miles of here.

After strolling around and talking to the friendly (well, mostly friendly) shopkeepers, we take in an early matinee at the Krikorian Theater here.

Day 6

The trusty 187 takes us westbound for a change and deposits us at the brand-new Paseo Colorado mall in Pasadena. This is a wonderful outdoor shopping plaza that makes for as good a place to people watch as it is a place to shop (much better than the Hollywood and Highland mall). Just one block west is Old Town Pasadena where hundred more shops and restaurants tempt you to stop in.

After a morning shopping, we head a few blocks east to Yahaira's, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that serves the best tortas I've had in a long time (a torta is a Mexican style sandwich). Their salads are pretty impressive too. For those so inclined, Yahaira's has a bargain priced dinner menu and you can then take in an obscure movie at the art-house Laemmle Theater across the street.

For us, dinner takes us back to the area around our hotel where we have one last meal at BJ's

And so concludes our trip along this unsung portion of Route 66. Although, we didn't do too much kitschy Route 66 stuff, reminders of it abound here with the Historical Route 66 signs greeting you often, the old downtown districts of Pasadena and Monrovia, the old roadhouses such as Pinnacle Peak in San Dimas, The Derby in Arcadia, and the Azusa Drive-In Marquee which is preserved by Azusa Pacific University. Nearby Duarte also has a Salute to Route 66 parade and picnic each September to celebrate this road's place in history. Not to forget, except for our detours to Long Beach and Hollywood, the whole trip takes place on Route 66.

-Darryl
Copyright 2002 and 2010
All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 6, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP - Route 66 - Part 1

Note: This story was originally written in 2002...I've tried to update the information to 2010 where applicable.

This is a very low key trip, yet it is connected very well with some very major tourist destinations. It's served by excellent, accessible public transportation yet you will be hard pressed to find other tourists while you're here. You'll find yourself on possibly the most famous...and fabled...highway on earth but you won't feel you're at a tourist mecca.


Route 66 of course is that fabled route to California from Chicago made famous by the likes of John Steinbeck and Bobby Troup. Although the highway was decommissioned, hundreds of miles of it still exist.

One stretch that almost no one talks about any more is the part that winds its way though San Bernardino County into the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. The past icons along this stretch are quickly succumbing to encroaching suburbia, but there is still much to see and do here.
Winter Warm-up Event: Savings are Hot!


There are three areas of lodging that are particularly good here, depending on what's important to you. Staying in the lovely little college town of Claremont gives you superb access to the area's transporation grid...even if it is a bit out of the way. It's also close to our hiking area, noted below.

Staying in Pasadena puts you right in the thick of things and gives you great transit access via the Metro Gold Line. You'd probably want to avoid it around New Year's day unless you're doing the Rose Bowl or the parade.

The third choice is my choice for the best compromise. There is a hotel/restaurant row right on the border of Arcadia and Monrovia that gives you great affordable lodging in a good neighborhood with a very short walk to dozens of good restaurants.

For lodging, you have budget (Oak Tree Inn), midrange (Springhill Suites, Hilton Garden Inn), and upscale (DoubletreeEmbassy Suites) to name but just a few. All the hotels in this area are newer and have good handicapped rooms.

You can fly to Ontario, Burbank, or LAX to get here. Ontario or Burbank would be best.

OK, on to the report...

Day 1

Since this is our hometown, we are going to have to imagine some of the following, but...apart from staying in the hotels...all of this actually happened.

The Springhill Suites is located just east of Santa Anita Racetrack n Arcadia.  We sleep in a bit, wanting to shake off travel fatigue. Just up the street from the hotel, we indulge in an early lunch at BJ's Pizza, Grill, & Brewhouse just west of the hotel. There are so many restaurants here that the only problem will be choosing which ones to eat at.

I have a superb french dip sandwich, my wife has a pot roast sandwich, and Tim has a BJ's burger. It goes very well with BJ's own beer and cider. For three people, it's less than $25.

After lunch, the Foothill Transit route 187 bus (the 187 traces mostly along Historical Route 66 from Colorado Bl. in Pasadena to Foothill Bl. in Claremont) picks us up across the street and drops us off a minute later at Santa Anita Racetrack (for those up to it, it's about a quarter mile walk from restaurant row to the track). We enter the back entrance which leads into the infield and spend the afternoon watching the ponies and trying not to lose all of our money. We actually end up about forty dollars ahead. (Santa Anita has live racing in October and from late December through April...it is pretty much open all year for sattelite wagering)

One note here, although we had a lot of fun and met some wonderful people who work at the track, we did go up to the clubhouse restaurant (we had clubhouse passes) for drinks and ran into the rudest people who work there. After receiving very poor service and attitude, we left before ordering anything and returned to the friendlier confines back at ground level.

After the races, we returned to the hotel and had dinner at the Claim Jumper, just half a block east of BJ's. Priced moderately to expensive, you get three meals worth of food for each order. You could very easily split something, or take leftovers if you have a place to store it and heat it up.  Even better is their monday through Thursday happy hour where a pizza costs just $3.  It's all very tasty...and filling!

Day 2

Wanting to exercise some of those Claim Jumper calories off, we again board Foothill Transit's 187 line heading east right in front of the hotel. In Claremont, it's an easy transfer to Foothill's line 292 at Mountain Avenue and Foothill Bl. The 292 drops us off at Baseline and Mountain and we walk three blocks west to the Thompson Creek Trail.


This trail, owned and maintained by the City of Claremont, is a very wheelchair friendly paved path that traces the edge of civilization. On one side are the tract homes of Claremont...which progress from humble bungalows to stately mansions at the end of the trail...on the other is mostly wild area, scrubby chaparral.


Thompson Creek is really a concrete lined drainage ditch, but other than that, the scenery is wonderful. My wife, ever the bird watcher, pointed out hundreds of Cedar Waxwings, a Flicker, dozens of Robins, warblers, and the occasional hawk or eagle. I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye and stopped. Up on a ridge about 100 yards away sat a family of four deer keeping a wary eye on our progress. The two mile trail (four miles round-trip) ends up in a brushy field in the shadow of Mount Baldy. Another more primitive trail starts just north of this one. We'll save that for another trip.

Retracing our way back, the 187 westbound takes us to a true Route 66 treasure, Pinnacle Peak in San Dimas. On the menu here are big, juicy, cowboy steaks cooked over hardwood charcoal served with beans and bread. What's not on the menu here are ties. Thousands of forbidden ties hang from the rafters. They are cut off the offending owner's neck and strung up. If you do wear a tie to dinner here, just to add to the collection, be aware that they have a big ceremony where everybody in the place stops what they're doing just to see your tie get sliced. That's the voice of experience talking there...

Day 3

Today we want to expand our horizons a little. After breakfast, we take the 187 west to the the Sierra Madre Villa terminus of the Gold Line.  If you stayed in Claremont or Montclair, you would have easier access to Metrolink but be farther away with less amenities...the choice is yours.


First, a word about tickets. Metro offers no transfers, so get a day pass instead of a single ticket. We ride the Gold Line into Los Angeles where we get off at Union Station and take the elevator downstairs to the Metro Red Line.  The North Hollywood bound train takes us to the Hollywood and Highland Station. Upstairs is the Hollywood and Highland complex which includes a shopping center with great views of the Hollywood sign, restaurants ranging from hot dogs to very expensive sit down dinners, the Kodak Theater (home of the Academy Awards), and the Chinese Theater...a true Hollywood landmark.

We grab a couple of hot dogs and compare shoe sizes with the stars in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater. The shopping center has great access from the subway and is nice if a little bland. It does make a big improvement to a very nasty neighborhood. That's a big step in the right direction.

Back downstairs, the Red Line continues on. The next stop in Universal City.

At that stop, we cross the street to catch a shuttle up the hill to Universal Studios. The shuttle pulls up and...it's not accessible. No problem, the driver radios up the hill and a lift-equipped van is dispatched to pick us up (you don't want to walk up this steep hill in a wheelchair...even if you're up to the challenge, the curb cuts stop half-way up, forcing you into a very busy street).


Universal Studios is a lot of fun. We take the studio tour, see the Backdraft special effects walk-through, ride Jurassic Park, and see the Waterworld stunt show. In between, we have a few beers at Mulligan's Pub and then out from the pub to see Terminator 3-D across the way. Afterwards, we have a nice dinner at Karl Strauss Brewery and Gardens at the adjacent CityWalk. The Red Line takes us back to Union Station where we catch the Gold Line back to Pasadena and take the 187 back to the hotel.

Stay tuned for part 2, the finale.

-Darryl
Copyright 2002 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved