Sunday, May 31, 2020

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Cadillac Margarita


You see this variation of a regular margarita at many restaurants these days.  It's becoming so prevalent that you can now go into just about any bar and order a Cadillac margarita and the bartender will automatically know you talking about tequila, grand marnier, brandy, plus a sour component.


Watch the Video!

This is just an upgrade from a regular margarita but it does make it taste better...if you do it right.  The key is to use good ingredients. 100% agave tequila, Grand Marnier (or Cointreau) instead of triple sec, a nice brandy (or cognac if you really want to go upscale) for an added kick.  Lime or lemon juice in place of sweet and sour mix.

All hand shaken and served over the rocks.


INGREDIENTS
2 oz. - premium tequila
1.3 oz - Grand Marnier or Cointreau
2/3 oz - brandy or cognac
2 oz - lemon or lime juice (or 1 oz. of each), fresh squeezed


Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, shake and pour over ice into two salted-rim margarita glasses.


Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, May 29, 2020

If We Can Just Make it to the Border Before Sundown...Baja Bound



(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Part of the allure of travelling is going someplace new. Exotic. Off the beaten path. We’ve often had some of our best adventures by pointing ourselves away from where everyone else is going.


We’ve had great times in Yuma, Arizona; Carson City, Nevada; Cortez, Colorado; Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and…of course…our great and very fun weekends up to Bakersfield. None of these are what you would call tourist hot spots.




Seems like we’ve mined out much of what is local and easy to reach for us but there’s also a great big country just south of us where adventure awaits around every turn. Sometimes it can feel dangerous, most of the time it feels foreign, and all of the time it surprises.




I’m talking about Mexico, which for me is a wonderful place to visit but for Tim it’s a place of obstacles to access. Mexico is about 20 to 30 years behind the USA in terms of wheelchair access but there are signs of improvement.



When I was younger, we’d go down frequently, mostly to beach cities like Ensenada on the Pacific Coast and San Felipe or Guaymas in the Sea of Cortez.  When Tim was young, it was almost an annual tradition to spend some time each fall in Puerto Vallarta and, with my wife being Mexican, we got to spend a week in Mexico City to go get her visa after marriage.


As Tim has gotten older, heavier, and harder to lift, Mexico has pretty much dropped off the radar for us. When he was young, it wasn’t too hard to lift him down a flight of stairs. Now, it’d only be done in an emergency…it’s too dangerous for him or me to do that now.

With that being said, there is plenty of Mexico within driving distance where we can have our adapted van and be able to negotiate around any bumps in the road so we’re trying to slowly increase our time down there and find out accessible ways to get around in this fascinating country.




Starting with our trip to Ensenada a couple of years ago and continuing with the next trip where we go beyond where any of us have been before down the coast of Baja.  It’s access in the rough, but we do find what we need…some of it in surprisingly beautiful locations.


It's Mexico Season! Follow along as we present our adventures in Baja California, Mexico.


Darryl
Copyright 2015 – Darryl Musick
All rights Reserved

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Repositioning Cruise...San Diego, California


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Repositioning cruises are for ships that change ports for the season. A Royal Caribbean ship spending the winter on the west cost of Mexico, for example, might move up to Seattle or Vancouver for the summer Alaska cruise season.

You can take a ride during this trip, usually at a great discount because you not really going anywhere spectacular, you're just moving the ship.


Watch the Video!


Well, we're kind of repositioning. We don't want to drive all the way to our destination in Baja, which would require a six-plus hour drive from L.A., so we're repositioning to San Diego for a day to break up the drive.

Our digs for the night will be the Courtyard Hotel near the intersection of the 805 and 5 in the north part of San Diego. The hotel was clean but, of course, they didn't have the accessible room they guaranteed for us.

Oh well, it was just one night and I would be filing a complaint when I got back (which led to a corporate apology but nothing else).

Now that we're here, we drive over to the waterfront in downtown San  Diego where we're immediately crushed with tons of people, cars, and nowhere to park.


Apparently, we've stumbled onto the festivities for the Holiday Bowl and the fans of USC and Nebraska are overunning the area.


We bail out as quick as we can and head over to Old Town San Diego, an old plaza where the city originated from after the mission was built.

It's nice and we spend some time exploring, as you can see in our video above. As Angelenos, it's more like an expanded version of Olvera Street than anything else for us.


After some jokes I made to my wife about the baby Jesus in a nearby Nativity scene looking like another famous San Diego native...Jack In The Box...we take our leave back to the hotel.

Across from the Courtyard is a lonely outpost of the Karl Strauss brewery set in a very lovey Japanese garden next to the corporate headquarters of Qualcomm. 


Watch the Video!


The food and beer are very good but the room is like a refrigerator.  The staff even resorts to brining one of the propane heaters in from the patio to make things bearable. I don't know how safe that is but we finish up and go.

The restaurant is not the only thing that's cold. Our room is freezing and no amount on the heater would fix it but in the morning, we're heading to Mexico so we soon forget about this cold night and crowded day.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 24, 2020

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Breweries of the Gold Line


Up here in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley, our lifeline to the rest of the Los Angeles area has become the Gold Line light rail line. You might have followed along with our original Gold Line pub crawl, or maybe one of the subsequent journeys like this one or this latest one from last week. Or, if you need some food along the way, you might have seen our post on the best places to eat along the line.

Since it is Sunday and time for the Cocktail Hour, we'll go back to the more liquid highlights of the line. We like to use it for that because it involves no driving on our part...we can just go out and have a good time without the worry of getting behind the wheel.

This time, we've come up with the complete list of breweries along the line within walking distance of the stations. We've got a mega brewery, a bunch of craft breweries, a couple of 'micro' breweries that are actually huge companies, and a tasting room or two.

We'll start off at the eastern end of the line in Azusa and work our way towards the other end in Downtown Los Angeles.


AZUSA DOWNTOWN - Our first brewery is a true micro craft brewery - Congregation Ale House. Travis Ensler's small chain of Catholic-themed restaurants brews a pretty extensive line of their own beers at the location just a couple of blocks south of the station on Azusa Avenue. The line up changes a bit from time to time but my wife will always go with whatever sour ale they're pouring and I like their saisons.

IRWINDALE - Although the giant Miller brewery (owned by Canadian company Molson) sits adjacent to the station, it is not open to the public nor does is offer tours. A mile and a half hike (or a short Uber ride) will get you to nearby Lagunitas Brewery...California's largest microbrewer...up on Todd Avenue, a couple of blocks away from the Costco that you can see across the freeway from the station. We have not been there, yet. Currently, the tap room at Lagunitas is closed but a new one is scheduled to open this spring.


MONROVIA - Pacific Plate, about two blocks south of the station on Myrtle Avenue, does brew some very interesting and good beer. We particularly like the agave wheat and the horchata stout. We do not like the tasting room experience, however. It is very cramped and, with the brewing equipment close at hand, gets very hot and sweaty. They have opened a more comfortable location in Glendale but that one is not Gold Line adjacent.

Closer to the station, Hop Secret brewery operates out of a storefront about a 100 yards from the Gold Line platform but has not been open when we've been by.


ARCADIA - Mt. Lowe Brewing Company is just about our favorite. Located a block east of the station, it's a bit hard to find the first time as it sits pretty non-descript among the industrial buildings and warehouses along St. Joseph Street (look for the 150 address). Inside is a large room, filled with tables and booths like a nice restaurant. They serve no food, however, but there's usually a food truck parked just outside the door for your convenience. We are partial to the tacos and mulitas served by Sandoval's Tacos on Tuesday nights and the Firefresh Pizza Truck on the third Friday of every month.

You are also free to bring your own food with you and, with an In 'n Out just around the corner, that is an option we take advantage of frequently.

As for beers, my favorite is their rarely served saison but, on a daily basis, I'll go with their Rubio red. My wife likes their hefeweizen and tears of 1,000 apricots sour ale. Tim goes with their blonde.

An honorable mention should also go to Vendome Liquor store, adjacent to the station, where they also have a nice wine and beer bar.


DEL MAR (Pasadena) - Escondido's Stone Brewing has a tasting room right on the southbound platform at this station, across the patio from the Luggage Room pizza. Don't really care for the beers here but you might.

We should also mention that there's another location of the Congregation Ale House across the street from the station exit on Del Mar Avenue.

CHINATOWN - You'd think Highland Park Brewery's tasting room would have been back at the Highland Park station but it's just opened up here near the Chinatown station. It's brand new so we haven't been there yet. Maybe next time.

LITTLE TOKYO/ARTS DISTRICT - The last station with close-by breweries (as least as much as we know) is right where the line turns back east to go to Boyle Heights and East L.A. Here, there are four breweries close by.


Boomtown Brewery is my favorite of the four so far. It's also the only one on the north end of the station. It's a long, two-block walk...east on Temple, then a bit west on Vignes...but the big room has a lot of space to stretch out, play games, and find a spot for your mates to gather and converse. There's games to play and even a small patio outside.  The Belgian style saisons, strong blondes, and white beers are my favorites here.


Angel City (owned by Boston Brewery - Sam Adams) makes some strong tasting, bitter IPA's. Not really my thing but they do offer others that are either a little lighter in taste or smoother going down but, overall, the beers here are a little to strong and unbalanced for me. The space, however, is spectacular. A former factory that made steel cables (some ended up on the Brooklyn Bridge) it's wide open with lots of room to roam. There's an old spiral slide in the middle of the space that was used to shoot spools of cable to the loading dock...management would appreciate it if you didn't take it as a challenge.

It's just a block south of the station on Alameda.


Arts District Brewery is a block east of Angel City. We haven't been into the brewery, where you can play Skee Ball, yet but have had their nitro beers at Fritzi next door, a restaurant that specializes in rotisserie chicken. It's very good.

Mumford Brewery is on the other side of Alameda, firmly within the boundaries of Skid Row.  We haven't been and it's not a comfortable walk to get over there, either.

There you go, a dozen or so places to get a great tasting brew along one of L.A.'s great public transportation routes. Who knows? Maybe we'll run across each other on our next tasting adventure.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 22, 2020

Remembering The Drive In


We took Tim to see “Twister” at the Foothill Drive-in Theatre in Azusa, California in 1996. To date, it is the last time...and will probably remain the last time...we ever saw a movie in a drive-in theater.

I mention this because with our current pandemic, drive-ins are suddenly in vogue again. Mainly because it’s a good way to go out and see a movie while still maintaining a social distance. Health authorities have also seen this as a bone they can throw out to the quarantined masses...some entertainment you can leave the house for that is officially sanctioned.

This is not the drive-in experience we had when watching watching Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt battle flying cows, mind you. The snack bar is closed and the playground is off limits. You have to stay in your car, bring your own food, and use a credit card. You still get to use the tinny, window mounted speaker. Or, the flaky radio connection in newer locations.

The kids in the back seat are still gonna complain that they can’t see with the rear view mirror and you’re not going to be able to stick them outside on lawn chairs to make up for it. The teens in the back seat probably aren’t going to mind…

It still reminds me of our heydays of drive-ins growing up.




We had the relatively classy El Monte Drive In, which was featured in the modern remake of “The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” with Daryl Hannah, where you had to pay full price for everyone in the car.

It is now a Home Depot.



Edwards Drive-in was located in Arcadia at the corner of Live Oak and Myrtle. It, too, was featured in movies where a complete diner was built out front for the movie “There Goes My Baby” with Dermot Mulrooney and Ricky Schroeder.

It’s now several hundred expensive houses.




Picture courtesey of cinematreasures.org


The Big Sky in our former home of Duarte, California was knocked down to make a shopping center which is now anchored by a Target. The center still keeps it’s toe in Hollywood...the Sonic Drive In restaurant onsite is the location used for all the chain’s TV commercial filming. More interesting to us is our friend Max’s restaurant...which can be seen in the background of those commercials...where you’ll get some of the best, hand-mixed margaritas around.

The Edgewood in Baldwin Park, just up the street from the very first In ‘n Out burger stand, was our party location. Only charging $2.50 per carload, this was the one where we’d load as many friends as we could coupled with as much beer as we could fit and then not pay any attention to the triple bills they showed.

The Kaiser Permanente hospital where my dad died now occupies the site.

Near where I grew up in South El Monte, California, we had the Starlite Drive In. I remember going to movies there but remember more the swap meet that is still held there. I never enjoyed going to it.


Picture by David Zornig

One thing all of these old drive-ins have in common is that they’re no longer there, with the exception of the Starlite, which operates strictly as a swap meet these days. Another thing they have in common is that they were replaced by things that bring in a heck of a lot more money than ticket and snack bar sales.

And that’s the point...the reason why drive-ins went away and why they won’t really return with a vengeance anytime soon is that they occupied large parcels of land that were way too valuable to let sit empty except for a few hours in the evening. Developers and cities hungry for property tax dollars spelled the end for these outdoor movie palaces.

Oh, and that drive-in in Azusa where we saw "Twister?" it became part of the campus of Azusa Pacific University althought they still saved the classic marquee (picture at top).

While it might be fun to dream about the return of a treasured childhood memory, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2020 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 18, 2020

CLASSIC TRIP - Chicago, Illinois - Part 2

The Loop as seen from the El


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Previously, the hotel didn't want to honor our breakfast deal, it snowed during Spring Break, and Frank Lloyd Wright designed some amazing buildings...

Tuesday morning: ah, the luxury of a big, freshly cooked breakfast in the lobby of our own hotel. Delicious! No, really, it was...

Outside, it’s sunny but bitterly cold and windy. After lounging around a bit in the morning, we take the red line subway to Wrigley Field which has an accessible station nearby. Maybe 3,000 people are at the afternoon game today. We find our accessible seats which is just where a couple of seats have been ripped out of the top row to accommodate a wheelchair.




Since the game is so sparsely attended, we kinda feel like we’re in Siberia by ourselves up at the top. The windy cold makes it physically feel like Siberia. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s the hard facts: ambient temperature is 26 degrees. Wind chill factor is 16 degrees.

After making several trips to the snack bar for coffee (forget the beer today!) and buying expensive souvenir blankets at the gift shop, we soldier on for four innings before Tim finally admits it’s just too darn cold and we retire back to the hotel for some much needed warmth.

That evening, we take our dinner at the Frontera Grill, a trendy little Mexican restaurant run by Rick Bayless who has a cooking show on PBS. It is very good but be prepared to wait. There are no reservations and the line was 2 hours long when we left.

We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel just sitting in our warm rooms watching tv. The next morning, it’s off to our lakefront day.

We can see the Field Museum from our window so we decide to walk. It’s a lot farther than it looks. Here, we come to see Sue the T-Rex. Sue is the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found.




The front of the museum is not accessible. The signs point to a side entrance next to the loading dock. Inside, we find that the basic admission, usually $8, is free this week....I’m imagining because it’s spring break and all the kids need somewhere to go.

That sounds good in theory, but in practice it makes for an extremely crowded museum.

After waiting in line for about an hour we get to see some mummies. Tim has the worst of it because no one sees him in the chair and he literally has to fight his way in for a view. After that, we wait while three loads of able-bodied adults decide that the adjacent escalator is too much work, clog up the entrance to the elevators. Upstairs, we see Sue, take some pictures, and head back to the exit.

I guess it’s the nature of this type of museum, but there was a strong smell of formaldehyde here. Add to that the over-powering aroma of the on site McDonald’s and you’ll know why I had to get out of there before I hurled!

A quick stop to Soldier Field (Tim has a goal to see every professional sports stadium in the country) for photos and it’s off to the Navy Pier.

No train comes close to the Navy Pier so we take a bus that deposits us a few blocks away and walk the remaining distance.

Navy Pier is one of those tourist meccas with lots of shops and a few attractions. To me, it seemed like Chicago’s version of Universal Studio’s Citywalk or Downtown Disney. It was fun but not exceedingly so.


The Interior of Gino's East


Next, it was off for some Chicago pizza. We head over to the River North area and dine at Gino’s East, a graffiti-leaden pizza joint that’s a Chicago landmark. It did look very touristy and was in a neighborhood littered with the likes of Hard Rock Café, Rainforest Café, and Michael Jordan’s. Even so, I was very impressed with this place. The pizza was just superb. Very cheesy, covered with tomato sauce and surrounded with a thick rim of a crust. Among the very best that we’ve had.

Thursday is spent back in Oak Park browsing through the shops there and then one more stop at Fast Track for some more of their delicious dogs. It’s sunny today and in the 50's so we eat outside on the patio.


Tim Enjoys the view at Comiskey U.S. Cellular Park. Directly
behind him at the rail is the wheelchair seating area.


After lunch, we take the red line again, only south this time to Comiskey U.S. Cellular Park (another name change - Ed) where we are allowed to go in and take a few pictures and visit the gift shop (the White Sox were out of town this week). As you can see in the picture, the wheelchair accessible seats here are superb. Tim now has all the Chicago stadia in his collection.

On the way back, I see a stunning view out the front of the El train of the Loop and snap a picture. Then I was informed that this is illegal. What the...? Are there state secrets here? Anyway, like I said I snapped the picture first, so enjoy the forbidden fruits at the top of this report.

The next morning, at checkout, I am told their will be no consideration for our two missed breakfasts. How did I know this would happen? The manager who told me is nowhere to be found, in fact, they even charged me five dollars for the 800 number call to my travel agent to straighten it out. Nice to leave Chicago with the steam coming out of your ears.

We go to Midway Airport to catch our flight. Being that we have two hours till flight time, we explore a little bit and find out just how miserable this airport is. We tell the gate agents we’re there so they can have plenty of time to arrange for someone to take Tim on board the plane and to stow his chair. Of course, you know where this is going...

Boarding time comes and no one is to be found to help. We end up waiting until AFTER everyone else is on board before someone finally shows up. Much finger pointing ensues between the airline people and the airport people. Finally, someone takes Tim on board but I am still stuck outside waiting for someone to gate check his chair. I inform them that I will not board the plane until I physically see someone put a tag on his chair and put it on the plane.

About 10 minutes later, I’m on board but we wait another hour because the caterers did not bring enough soda for the plane (ATA does not serve meals so I don’t know why this was such a big deal). Finally, we take off and head for home. 

NOTES:


What did we like about Chicago?  Great shopping...I mean great. Fantastic sports town with outstanding food. Historic and original architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright.. Good transportation.


What didn't we like? Can get very, very cold. A lot of rules that sometimes don't make sense. The hotel management doesn't win any awards with me but next time, it'll be somewhere else.


Although not noted on any CTA maps (at the time, maybe they are now - Ed), the Red Line stop adjacent to Comiskey Park is accessible.

Each CTA station has a chalkboard next to the attendant booth listing all station elevators on the system that are not working, check it before being surprised at your destination.
As alluded to in the report, only about half of Chicago’s bus lines are accessible. Even if a bus with a working lift is operating on a non-accessible route, it will not pick up a wheelchair rider. (UPDATE:  all buses and lines are now accessible - Ed)

Distances within the loop are generally pretty short. Don’t worry if where you want to go is 3 stops away from an accessible El station. It’s a pretty short walk.

-Darryl
Copyright 2001/2010 Darryl Musick

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Golden Journey Without Leaving Home: The Gold Line Crawl


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) It used to be you couldn't get around the Los Angeles area without a car but that's changing. Ever since the days of Tom Bradley, city leaders have been investing in transit...in fits and starts...and creating a new network of railed, public transit.

We're now starting to get to the sweet spot in the results of all that work and billions of dollars worth of investment. The city's rail lines span just over a hundred miles, not counting the regional trains of Metrolink and the express bus lines of the orange and silver lines.


Watch The Video!





Recently, the latest extension of the Gold Line opened up in our area of the eastern San Gabriel Valley (another extension of the Expo Line has also opened and you can go from downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier). Originally, this line went from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles and now has been expanded to run from the Azusa/Glendora city line in the northeast to the edge of Montebello in East L.A. to the south.



I've been commuting on it daily to work, now I'm taking a day to bring Letty and Tim along to do a little exploring.



It's around 45 minutes from our start at the City of Hope in Duarte to the Little Tokyo/Arts District station one stop beyond Union Station. To get a little fortification for our journey, we start off with a little pie and coffee at the Pie Hole, a small coffee shop in the Arts District.

This former industrial area and extension of Skid Row attracted a lot of artists with it's low rents and large lofts where they could experiment and create away from the attention of Hollywood and downtown.  Those days are gone and now it's a gentrified hot spot of Los Angeles. 



While we're here, we'll take in a little tasting session at one of the microbreweries here, Angel City Brewery on the corner of Alameda and 4th Streets.  We taste a variety of their beers and ales. Some are good, some are a bit more average.

Moving on, we head a couple of blocks east to Little Tokyo. This historically Japanese neighborhood is full of sushi bars, kimono shops, Japanese grocery stores, and restaurants.



Today, we're coming here because my wife is a big fan of Japanese knitting and crochet books, which she painstaking translates into working patterns.  She finds these at the Kinokuniya Book Store in Weller Court, next to the Little Tokyo Doubletree Hotel.

A DASH bus takes us to downtown's other Asian enclave, Chinatown. Just north of the Hollywood freeway, in the area around Broadway and Hill Streets, Chinatown is another historical neighborhood that was originally Italian. When Union Station displaced the original Chinatown when it was built, the neighborhood moved a few blocks north to its current location.

A Shaolin festival is going on today with booths on meditation, books, musicians, and souvenirs.



The main stage features kung fu demonstrations by pint-sized students of local schools.



Around the corner on Broadway, the Phoenix Bakery has been turning out very good sweets for over 80 years.

The owner takes pity on me and gives me some free samples of the sugar butterflies, just being finished. They are outstanding.



Of course, that leads to me buying a box to take home along with the almond cookies my wife bought.

Chinatown has it's own Gold Line Station so we climb back onboard for the last leg of our trip to the eastern end in Azusa.



From the Azusa station, it's a short walk south until we hear Max yell out, "it's been a long time, where you been? I was about to call your house."



Mexican food fans in this neighborhood know that this is the call to come sip some of the state's finest margaritas and eat some fantastic food at Max's Mexican Cuisine.

We're on the train, so we'll take two. Why not?!?

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 15, 2020

CLASSIC TRIP - Chicago, Illinois - Part 1

This report that I did a decade ago generated some critical e-mail.  What can I do?  I just tell it like I see it...at least you know I'm not just a cheerleader for the destinations we visit.  When I have been able to get updated information, that has been noted in the text...

Buckingham Fountain
What can I say about the Second City? There were a few things I liked, some things I didn’t, and a lot of things that didn’t sway me one way or another.

In general, wheelchair access is fairly good on the El’s (the subway/elevated trains) and not nearly so good on the buses (the CTA's web site says that the bus situation has since been improved - Ed). The food here can be excellent at times. So come on along and see how the trip went.

Our flight out from LAX was on time and non-stop. We arrived at Midway airport around 6pm local time. Midway is under major construction and as a consequence, the walk out to the baggage claim was very long. Construction should be finished later this year with close-in gates.

ATA airlines did a good job with our electric wheelchair and with assistance in getting on and off the plane. We were worried because this is our first major trip by air with the power chair (we did one weekend in San Francisco a few years ago). (UPDATE: ATA went bankrupt and is now owned by Southwest.)

After claiming our luggage, we head out to the Midway El station. The Orange Line comes right into the airport here. The Blue Line connects the city with O’Hare airport. Both airport El stations have elevators and are accessible..

The lady at the station couldn’t be more helpful. She assisted us with purchasing our 5 day CTA passes and asked if we needed a gap filler (a ramp) for the train. I asked her if the elevator at our destination station was working and she assured me it was.

We loaded onto the train with our luggage and headed into town. We exited the train at the Library station on the south side of the Loop. After the train pulls out, we notice the elevator is out of order.  To be sure, this is partly my fault because I should have looked at the board for stations with broken elevators before we boarded the train. 

To get around this we must wait for another train and take it three stops up the line where we can cross over and catch another train back to the Library station and use the working elevator on the opposite platform.

The Congress Hotel on Grant Park

After we finally get on the ground, it’s a short 3-block walk to our hotel, the Congress on Grant Park. We had booked a package with the AAA that included breakfast. The hotel didn’t want to feed us. Even after showing them a printout with the rate package that included breakfast, they wouldn’t budge. AAA was closed on Saturday, so I would have to call on Monday.

So far, I wasn’t feeling very good on this trip.

Sunday was a bright sunny day, if a bit on the cool side at 45 degrees. Since the hotel won’t feed us, we head out around the corner to Ronny’s Steak House. There is a very generous breakfast for $3.99 that included 2 pork chops, eggs, toast, hash browns, and coffee.

The Green Line El takes us out to Oak Park where we visit the Frank Lloyd Wright house and studio. Oak Park is a tidy and pretty suburb where Wright lived at the turn of the 20th century for a decade at the beginning of his storied career. It’s a pleasant 4 or 5 block walk from the Harlem/Lake El station to the Wright house.

One of the Wright designed homes in Oak Park

The studio is accessible but the house isn’t. Wheelchair users are shown a video of the rest of the house while the tour leaves them behind in the studio. There is also a walking tour showcasing about a dozen Wright designed or rehabbed houses in the neighborhood that is completely accessible. We opt for the walking tour.


The houses are amazing starting with the first house he designed, “under the table”, while working with the firm of Adler and Sullivan who didn’t allow their staff architects to take on outside projects. The tour also includes some magnificent examples of Wright’s prairie style architecture that would more define his style later.

Back in the Loop, we have dinner at Ada’s deli on Wabash that consisted of some delicious sandwiches and bagels delivered by great servers. We grab some desert on the way out, but sadly the sweets didn’t live up to the tasty food.

Monday is another sunny day but storm clouds are on the horizon. It’s a ten block walk from our hotel to the Sear’s Willis Tower. (The name was changed but it will always be the Sear's Tower to me - Ed)  Along the way, we have a completely forgettable breakfast complements of the surly staff at Wall Street Deli. Funny, here in LA, Wall Street Deli is one of my favorite lunch stops at work.

The view from the Sear's Willis Tower
The view from America’s tallest office building is suitably spectacular. We enjoy the open air deck of the Empire State Building more, but this trip to the top is also quite nice. Except you’re not at the top. The observation deck takes up the 103rd floor while there are seven more floors of offices above you.

Today’s lunch is at Fast Track Hot Dogs, a block away from the accessible Clinton stop on the Green Line El. It’s delicious with everybody going back to the counter for another dog.

We continue on the Green Line to Kedzie to see the Garfield Park Conservatory. This is supposed to be one of the largest gardens under glass in the world. It is indeed spectacular but we had to walk about a half-mile from the station through a very rough and dangerous looking neighborhood to get there (an accessible station is now open right next to the conservatory). About 3:00pm, it starts snowing...heavily...and doesn’t let up until sometime between bedtime and waking up. (This is April 16th, folks)

After lunch and back at the hotel, I call my travel agent to complain about the breakfast situation. After being on hold for 45 minutes and being told that, essentially, it’s not their problem, someone finally looks up the record and says, yeah, you are supposed to get breakfast. The travel agent calls the hotel manager who sheepishly forks over food coupons for the rest of the week and promises a “consideration” on our final bill for the two breakfasts we’ve missed.

Will we get that consideration on our bill?  Will it warm up?  What else will happen to us will we see in Chicago?  Stay tuned for the conclusion in Part 2 of this report.

-Darryl
Copyright 2001/2010 Darryl Musick

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Southern California's Top Three Burgers


Not too long ago we released our first e-book, Golden State Eating. The first chapter is about the top three margaritas in Southern California. Well, to go along with that idea, we're going to tell you about our top three burgers to kick off a week dedicated to our home of Los Angeles and the surrounding area.


We've lived here all our lives and have had burgers from the borderlands of Imperial Beach all the way up to the shadows of Mt. Lassen.  Probably spent a good chunk of our meager fortune eating them, too.

At the top of the list is the best burger, bar none...price be damned...in the area.



Perched atop a dramatic cliff, overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean is Nelson's. Nelson's is named after Lloyd Bridges' character in the old Sea Hunt tv series, which was filmed on this very spot back when it was Marineland of the Pacific, a sea-life park like Sea World.

Now, this 300 acre plot of land is the spectacular resort called Terranea in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The Nelson's burger (pictured at the top of this post), weighing in at a base price of $16 (now $24 - Ed), is no lightweight on the wallet.  1/3 pound of premium ground beef, cooked to your specific order, topped with arugula, tomatoes, red onions, sweet pickles, and a cup of black bean mayo on the side. We get ours with the addition of bleu cheese crumbles and applewood smoked bacon for the most savory, juicy, and satisfying bite of beef and bun you're likely to have. 

The cheese and bacon bump up the price to $18 and it is worth every penny and more. It also includes an order of very good fries and million dollar views of the ocean next to cozy firepits.



Our second favorite burger is a little more than half the price of the Nelson's burger. Eureka! is a new, growing chain in California with 7 locations spread out from Fresno to San Diego. Our local location is in the college town of Claremont, on the Los Angeles/San Bernardino county line.

While there are a number of great ways to have your burger here, our favorite is the Cowboy burger with a 1/2 pound patty, topped with two nice slabs of bacon, shoestring onion straws, and a house beer barbecue sauce. Also served with fries, you can upgrade to sweet potato fries, onion rings, cole slaw, or a side salad for $1.25 extra over the $10.95 (Now $14 - Ed) price.

It's juicy, a bit messy, and very tasty. Especially, when washed down with one of the excellent craft beers on tap.



Our last burger is legend. It's an absolute bargain, too, at less than $5...the best fast food burger is the well known Double-Double at In 'n Out. With locations across California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Texas, the privately held company was founded here in Baldwin Park and has never looked back

You can get it any way you like but the basic burger comes with two beef patties, two slices of American cheese, sliced onions, pickles, tomato, lettuce, and secret sauce.  Many, many variations are available beyond that...diced onions, grilled onions, patties cooked in mustard, extra patties, no buns...the only limit are the ingredients available and your imagination.

Every food item at In 'n Out is cooked fresh when you order and the company is famous for not having any freezers on the premises...everything is fresh and very delicious.

Alright, there you go, our best burgers.  Now go out there and enjoy one tonight.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Seattle, Washington - Part 2


Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) 

Previously on Seattle, Part 1...


We'd saw some overpriced baseball, met some TV stars, watched big fish swimming underwater, and just missed having to be evacuated from a monorail.





The next morning, we decide to walk downtown. A bit of a mistake when we pass a rough section where drug deals are taking place out in the open and a couple of guys start to fight because one thinks the other shorted him out of a couple of rocks of crack. It’s just a short strip down the wrong street but next time we’ll get back on the bus instead.





At the ferry terminal, we buy our tickets and take a 30 minute trip across the sound to
Bainbridge Island. It’s about a half mile walk from the ferry terminal to the middle of town…there are also buses if you can’t walk that far…where we find a delightful little farmers market going on with some unusual fruit and vegetables. We buy some to make a picnic with later. Down at the waterfront, we find a boardwalk and dirt trail along the water that allows us to hike about half a mile up an inlet where we see some old ferries being mothballed, many blooming flowers, birds, and some beautiful houses.




Back in town, we buy some burgers to go with our fruit for a waterfront picnic.

After spending the morning in Bainbridge, it’s back on the boat. My wife wants some seafood, which curiously, we cannot find a whole lot of here. Some guides suggest Ivar’s, near the ferry terminal, so we head to an outdoor counter there where you can buy food to eat in a nearby dining area.


Ordering here is unique…basically there is no line, no system. Everybody crowds in and when the order taker is ready, everybody just kind of shouts their orders in at the same time. I’m told this is just the traditional way to do it here. We do eventually get our food but it is very chaotic and confusing…not really my cup of tea. The food is good, but it is heavy on the “deep fried” variety of seafood.


Earlier in the week, we walked through the Seattle Center where the Space Needle is located. We had learned that it would be $16 just to take a ride up in the elevator. That’s quite steep. I also learned there are a couple of alternatives.




The circa 1914 Smith tower (of Smith/Corona typewriter fame) near Pioneer Square is one of them. Just a bit shorter than the Space Needle (522 feet vs. 605 feet), the observation deck is actually 2 feet higher than the Space Needle, which has a deck at 520 feet. It’s only $7.50 to go up here to the famous Chinese room and to step out into the fresh air.


It’s very beautiful up there, and it’s not just the view. The owners have amassed a collection
of Chinese antiques and furnishings to enhance the surroundings. A chair up there is supposed to grant magical powers to single women that sit in it…they are to find their groom after doing so.


It is at this point where I’d usually say we went back, had another nice night in the hotel, and went back home but there is one more adventure that would await us. I called the same taxi company that brought us from the airport and reserved an accessible cab for noon the next day to take us back.


At noon, waiting in the rain in front of the hotel…nothing. At 12:20, I called the cab company and asked where the cab was. The man on the phone said, quote, “just because you reserved a cab doesn’t mean one will show up.” When I asked for an ETA, he hung up the phone somewhere between the letters T and A.



Where I come from a reservation means they will set aside the item to be reserved. Also, when a paying customer calls and…politely I might add…asks where the item to be reserved is and when it will be there, you don’t hang up on them.



We had a problem; the airport is 15 miles away on the other side of town. We had no idea when, or even if, our ride would get there. We had one slim chance to get out of town in time to make our 2:40 flight.


Grabbing our bags, we hoofed it to the busiest bus corner about two blocks away. When a bus pulled up, we ask the driver the quickest route to get to the airport. She said, “hop on.”

At Pioneer Square, she dropped us off at the Downtown Transit Tunnel and told us to catch a bus down there (the transit tunnel is like a subway, only used by buses instead). We find the bus, get on, and make it to the airport about an hour before departure. Indeed, Seattle transit workers are the nicest and most accommodating we’ve ever encountered…they really saved the day, and our vacation, by their actions.


As I’m waiting in the departure lounge, my cell phone rings. It’s the taxi driver. He’s in front of the hotel, wondering where the hell I am. I said to him “do you know what your dispatcher did to me when I called?” He said no. I pressed the disconnect button.


Darryl
Copyright 2009 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved