Caleb was enrolled in Outboard Engine Overhaul School at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. After he would get out of school in the afternoons we would take Sparky to the Dog Beach where he was allowed to run around without a leash, the dog that is. After school finished we would begin the drive across America to his next duty station, Naval Station Mayport. He was in school for two weeks and this gave us a weekend of exploration in southern California. For both outings, my Dad had kindly prepared a half guided/half reserved itinerary which kept us from getting overwhelmed with the big ‘what to do?’ question. I had picked this information up on my way through Phoenix, AZ.
Our weekend began early, as do all our vacation days. We reached Huntington beach at 8:00am and got out to stretch our legs. We are not use to all the pedestrian traffic on a non-holiday/event weekend; we get caught up in the ambiance temporarily before we are back in the car. We drove through West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. We got our picture taken with people dressed as celebrities and then walked Hollywood Blvd’s Walk of Fame and visited Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Forecourt of Stars’ Footprints.
Having lived in a place that has a tourist season, Virginia Beach, I should’ve known that a place that has tourists all year would have the same ‘No Public Restroom’ policy. I got lucky eventually when I found a place willing to sell me a bottle of water, how helpful, (I could drink it down and then use it) and give me a coin to insert into their bathroom door lock. Just so happens, the janitor was in the doorway and I got to use the bathroom and keep the coin as memorabilia, or in case I needed it later.
My Dad recommended Mashti Malone’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream for rose water or saffron falooda. We found lunch next door at the Sultani Restaurant. After all this energy intake it was time to burn some off at the beach; toes in the sand, wind in the hair, sun on our faces. Where we parked the car we could see houses and trees on one side and big rocks, sand, and surf on the other. We made our way around birds, kids buried in sand, plants washed ashore, sunbathers and enjoyed some time letting the water touch our feet.
Off to the Wilshire Motel to get good parking. We had been reserved the room directly across from the office and were able to park our car in the cubicle-like space available between two rooms; there are not many of these great spaces available so we were grateful. For those that arrive after us, they would be offered free parking around the corner. If we thought that was going to be a long walk, we were in for a treat to the 3rd Street Promenade.
We took our time getting down to the beach taking pictures of plants, birds, window art, signs, structures, people, and paintings in the making. We get there early and walk to the pier and along the park. Tonight’s entertainment will consist of many a street performer singing, flipping, balancing, dancing, juggling, and making money disappear. We got to enjoy trees lit up with white lights and patio dining at all the restaurants. We had another early day ahead of us and a long walk tonight.
In all the excitement, I hadn’t realized we walked three miles to the beach; we would walk just as far before we could rest our tired parts. Caleb ended up carrying Sparky for awhile to try and speed up the process between my random picture taking. Now I have some insight as to why some people get strollers for their dogs – the cement on the sidewalk can eat away at the padding on their feet or they have lazy dogs. Sparky was ready to curl up in the nearest bush and Caleb was more than willing to use him as a pillow.
The room was sufficient for what we needed: a bed to sleep in, a shower to wash in, and an over-sized area (closet) with dresser for our one bag. Out before the sun and we are on our way north to Malibu which is not as Malibu-Barbie as I expected. We pass fancy homes cliff-side and beautiful terrain adjacent to the road. Soon we are in the hills pausing in the road to keep the view available awhile longer. It’s marvelous to see hills, trees, bushes, sand, water, and fog all doing their part this morning to paint us a wonderful piece of eye-candy.
I enjoy what seems to be random in this area. There are winding roads that sometimes you lose sight of and when out of the car could imagine you are somewhere else entirely. There are cactus and homes of adobe that give a desert feel to the countryside filled with purple wildflowers and jackrabbits. We miss our exit, unknowingly, and this gives us the chance to see a home in the valley down a steep drive, to see white wildflowers and rocks stare at us from the hills, and to drive through thick fog with a few feet of visibility.
We are closer to our lunchtime goal when we notice a grey car covered in red reflectors except for the lights, windows, and tires. We are lucky to pass a local market and get close parking to check it out. Sparky is not allowed to look around with us, so he guards the car in the shade. We get to try local cheese and oranges and almost buy an entire cake before we realize we already have plans for lunch on the corner of Willoughby Ave and N Fairfax Ave at the Oki Dog. We order a pastrami burrito and some fries; what we got was a whole leg of cow, a grocery bag full of veggies, and a sandcastle-size bucket of cheese and flavoring all wrapped in a couple of feet of tortilla.
There had to be at least three whole potatoes worth of fries on our tray! The service was fast and served with a smile. The price was great considering the mound of food we had to contend with. It’s sunny out and we’re in no rush, but I don’t remember how much I finished before I was in a taste-overload induced semi-coma. Caleb is busy reconsidering my Dad’s math skills – when he said enough for two people, “Are you sure he didn’t mean four?” This will be all the food we need to get us through the rest of the day. Is it noon yet?
There is another market going on; it looks like a tent event. We get our little green star stamp of approval for entry and make our way around. There are homemade dresses, purses, jewelry, dog wear, wood crafts, and metal arts. There are food vendors that we keep at a distance. Some booths seem more like yard sales with old family pictures, chairs, and shiny heirlooms. The weather is nice, the people are friendly, the food is filling, the activities never ending. The only thing so far not to like about this place – smog.
Off to the LACMA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to drive around to find the underground parking which will keep the car and the dog cool. I expected a line and the place was built for one but we must have arrived just as the first wave made their way inside. There was some art that caught my eye but the main piece was a steel installation almost 13-feet tall, Band, done by Richard Serra in 2006. The museum itself had some eye-catching architecture and designs.
Three hours later it is time to drag ourselves away from here to have a peek at the Le Brea Tar Pits and they are just that – tar. The pits are part of the Page Museum and offer a different view into the preserving ability of tar, a deadly substance. A drive through Korea Town and soon we are walking around Little Tokyo checking all the windows of the over 50 restaurants and shops looking for a circular bread item – imagawayaki. I almost got distracted by Boba tea, taro is my favorite, and then I saw them.
A couple of years prior my Dad had taken me on a trip exploring the different regions of California, or perhaps just the culturally different foods of Los Angeles. We had stopped at a corner shop somewhere and he had me try this foreign, strange to me at the time, snack. I thought it a bit too sweet at the time, but something about the snack kept it entering my mouth until it was gone and I was determined to find this experience for my husband. The treats are made while you watch, and sold, at Mitsuru Cafe.
I didn’t realize they actually sold anything else. I watched the lady flip the bean paste-filled mini-cakes and then quickly ordered ten to go. I was oblivious to the cost or my surroundings as I took that first bite; they are still sweet, but still utterly delicious. I’m not sure Caleb shares the same taste, but he was happy, as always, to see me smile. I do have to agree with others that have tasted them – they are better hot off the grill. This would be our last stop for the day before heading back to Coronado; or so I thought.
The sun was getting close to the horizon and I wanted to watch it set. We raced to the nearest exit and parked in the first empty spot we saw. We went running down the sidewalk to catch a glimpse, well worth it and amazing, and then lingered on the beach and walked out on the rock jetty to soak in the moment. To finish the night we would stop at Robin’s Nest Cafe for an alcoholic beverage and something to replace the space Oki Dog had filled all day. And now, we could head back to Coronado, still an hour away, and the sky would be an excellent shade of darkness to help us enjoy the lights of the bridge even more. Weekends can make the best vacations.