Best of May 2005
The California Edition
Miles Traveled (in Altima)
exactly 2,500 miles.
Most Pleasant Affirmation
Natural beauty can unite people in a shared and joyful experience. Of the several languages we heard on top of Moro Rock, high above the clouds in Sequoia NP, there were three we could understand: English, Spanish and Polish. Exclamations were exactly the same in every tongue: “It’s like being in an airplane!” and “Be careful with the camera!”
Best Weather Day(s)
Central and Southern California brought a whole month of hot, sunny, low humidity days. Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Merced, Orange County, Oxnard, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Ventura. We love you all.
Best Opportunity to Test Michael’s “Jacket of the Year” (Worst Weather Day)
None! Only one day of rain the entire month, a light sprinkle in San Diego, Calif. on May 5.
Most Effective Billboard Slogan
“Last Chance! Next Best Pizza 3000 miles away – on the East Coast,” Pinocchio Pizza, Gilroy, Calif. Sadly, we had just eaten lunch so we couldn’t test their claim.
Most Talked About Natural Phenomenon
Snow melt in the high Sierras is no joke. We watched news about flooding in the Yosemite Valley and icy nights in Kings Canyon from our warm motel room in Bakersfield, Calif. After delaying our visits by a few days, we were left with some snowy trails in Kings Canyon and breathtakingly powerful waterfalls and cascades in Yosemite NP.
Most Talked About Unnatural Phenomenon
Random shootings on the LA Freeways. Two actually occurred as we were driving on a (different) LA freeway. Don’t tell the moms.
Most Fun with World Leaders
The Richard Nixon Museum and Birthplace in Yorba Linda lets you mingle with life-sized statues of Golda Meir, Winston Churchill, Mao Tse-Tung and Leonid Brezhnev among others. Most are much shorter than we’d have guessed. Imagine the conversations at that dinner party.
May 4. 179 miles from Los Angeles to San Diego through heavy traffic in time to catch an afternoon Padres baseball game. Not such a long day, really, but we definitely would not want a daily commute into either of these congested cities.
Most Beautiful Capitol Building
No capitols for the second month in a row. Are we really on a road trip?
Our early morning trip to the Fox and Hound in Studio City to watch the final games in the English Soccer Premier League and seek out Nick and Steven – hosts of one of our favorite radio talk shows World Soccer Daily. We wanted to tell Nick and Steven how we listen to them every day and share in the excitement of expats cheering on their beloved teams.
Instead of a rowdy crowd of soccer fans, we found a quiet street and closed doors. A quick check on the internet showed that all of the morning’s games were postponed due to bad weather. Did everybody get the memo but us?
Most Pleasant Surprise
Finding the Dog House Grill within walking distance from our motel after scouring the internet for clues where to find cheap eats and a comfortable place to be in Fresno. Delicious sandwiches, friendly wait staff and NBA Playoffs on every TV. We highly recommend the tri-tip steak sandwich and a side of onion rings.
Most Unpleasant Surprise
Finding out that black bears don’t really need a reason to break into your car. When we arrived at the Potwisha campground in Sequoia National Park, the camp host and a Ranger informed us that there had been two bear/car incidents the previous night, one in the site right next to ours and for no apparent reason. No food or scented items were in the violated car. Ugh. Even after removing every single removable item from the ‘Tima and placing it in the Bear Box, we wondered if our trusty vehicle would make it through the night. She did, but we can’t say we slept well.
Almost Celebrity Sightings
None! We did, however, drive past two movies and a car commercial being filmed on Mulholland Drive in the Santa Monica NRA.
First Rattlesnake Sighting
on the trail to Marble Falls, in the foothills of Sequoia NP. We waited patiently for the rattling tail end of the reptile to disappear from view before walking (swiftly) past.
The “Fancy Meeting You Here” Award – The Los Angeles Rams 1951 World Championship Banner and autographed photos of Rams Tom Fears and Norm Van Brocklin found in the dark recesses of Tom Bergin’s Irish Pub near the Miracle Mile in LA. Michael shed a silent tear for his beloved Rams and ran outside to call his dad about the find.
Most Gluttonous Day – Sunday Brunch, celebrating the marriage of two wonderful friends, Greg and Emily in Tujunga, Calif. Bagels, Bloody Marys and all the leftovers from the previous evening’s festivities were hauled out and devoured. Who brought the delicious blintzes?
Most Expensive Ballgame Ticket – $12 left field reserved seats at PetCo Field to see the San Diego Padres.
Cheapest Ballgame Ticket – $2 upper deck, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, Calif. Yes. We were there at the last of Dodger Stadium’s infamous $2 True Blue Tuesdays. Brawls, teenagers running onto the field, 10 minutes of debris being thrown onto the field and incredible amounts of foul language. Everything you would expect for a $2 major league ticket. And guess which celebrities were there: long forgotten rappers Tone Loc and Coolio.
Best Sporting Experience – We had a great time at $2 Tuesdays but it probably wasn’t the best place to bring kids.
Scariest Night – What’s scarier than $2 Tuesdays in the nosebleed seats? A night spent amongst rogue black bears at the Potwisha Campground, Sequoia NP. The car next to ours was broken into the night prior to our stay for no apparent reason. Michael knows he heard bears walk near our tent during our sleepless night.
Scariest Mannequins – Cabrillo NM, San Diego. Everywhere we turned these dudes were staring at us. Ack!
Most Scenic Drive (National Parks) – Southside and Northside Drives in the Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, Calif. Waterfalls in every direction, Half Dome and El Capitán. Just wish there weren’t so many cars.
Most Scenic Drive (Highways) – Calif. Route 180 between Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon NP. The road takes a dramatic descent into Kings Canyon (a deeper canyon than the Grand Canyon), following the rushing Kings River. Absolutely breathtaking.
Most Scenic Drive We Chose to Walk – The world’s crookedest street. Lombard Street, San Francisco. The traffic line to drive this famous stretch went on for blocks in all directions and was managed by several traffic police. All to test your brakes and skill at downshifting. We preferred to walk alongside the winding cars. The view was just as nice.
Best Day Hike (Ever?) – Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, Yosemite NP, Calif. Walking up the side of a 317-foot high waterfall rushing at full blast. Can anything be better?
Worst Day Hike – Pinnacles NM. If the swarming flies weren’t enough to keep us moving at a fast pace, the vultures circling overheard provided extra incentive. Steep climbs. Rising temperatures. No shade. No fun.
Best American Kabuki – “Thermy” at Carnival in San Francisco. We can’t remember which stand he was from, but he certainly “warmed” up to Gab and our friend Emily.
Best Paper Mache Sculpture - We found this colorful creature at Carnival as well. And look, he matches Emily’s glasses.
Highest Price for Gas – $2.49 on May 6th at Citgo, San Diego, Calif.
Lowest Price for Gas – $2.25 on May 24th at Lucky Gas and Liquor, Fresno, Calif. Gas prices actually went down this month. Yippee!
Most Out of the Way Site – Kings Canyon NP. Only one road leads into this High Sierra wonderland and most of the Park is accessible only on foot.
Most Welcome Uninvited Guests – The sea lions who have taken up permanent residence on Pier 39 in the Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. These bad boys are big and loud and the object of everyone’s attention. We think they like it.
Best Burger – In-N-Out Burger. Again and again. This is our California mainstay for lunch on the road. We can personally vouch for locations in Placentia, Laguna Niguel, Oxnard, Ventura, Tujunga, Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Salinas….Are we embarrassing ourselves?
Best Bagels – The Bagel Shack, San Clemente. These may be the best bagels we have had in a year and a half. And they brewed a fresh pot of coffee for us. This stop brightened up our foggy morning drive to San Diego. So much so we stopped again on the way back to LA. Sadly, they were closed for the afternoon.
Best Free Samples – Garlic World, Gilroy, Calif. How many ways can you marinate garlic cloves and olives? How garlic-y is garlic marinated with more garlic? Gab wasn’t leaving until she found out.
Most Unusual Food – Garlic Ice Cream from Garlic World, Gilroy, Calif. Tastes just like you would imagine. Gab loved it, Michael didn’t. P.S. Gilroy is the Garlic Capital of the World.
Best Local Cuisine – The tri-tip taco from the second street vendor, Old Town, San Diego. Cinco de Mayo brought some of San Diego’s best Mexican kitchens right out on to the streets. Our first two burritos were OK. Not great. The couple perched next to us on a bench alerted us to the much tastier fare a few steps away. We felt compelled to get yet another dinner. In the name of research, of course.
Best Impulse Purchase – A fabulous pair of sunglasses from a street vendor at Carnival, San Francisco. Gab thinks she looks like a rock star, and so did a set of women dining at an outdoor café who stopped her to ask where they could get a pair. Michael rolls his eyes.
Los Angeles, CA • Fullerton, CA • Placentia, CA • Yorba Linda, CA • West Hollywood, CA • Beverly Hills, CA • Bel Air, CA • Westwood, CA • San Clemente, CA • San Diego, CA • Pacific Beach, CA • San Juan Capistrano, CA • Laguna Niguel, CA • Dana Point, CA • Laguna Beach, CA • Newport Beach, CA • Huntington Beach, CA • Malibu, CA • Oxnard, CA • Ventura, CA • Thousand Oaks, CA • Simi Valley, CA • Studio City, CA • Burbank, CA • Tujunga, CA • Bakersfield, CA • Tulare, CA • Visalia, CA • Dunlap, CA • Fresno, CA • Wawona, CA • Yosemite Village, CA • Merced, CA • Gilroy, CA • Monterey, CA • Salinas, CA • Soledad, CA • Castroville, CA • Santa Cruz, CA • Pacifica, CA • San Francisco, CA • Berkeley, CA • Oakland, CA •
Richard Nixon Museum and Birthplace • Cabrillo NM • Santa Monica Mountains NRA • Ronald Reagan Museum and Library • Sequoia NP • Kings Canyon NP • Yosemite NP • Pinnacles NM • Golden Gate NRA • San Francisco Maritime NHP •