Wednesday, August 17, 2022

our trip to SoCAL

Tonia, Joseph, Daniel, and I went to LA and SD, July 4-11. We flew Spirit Airlines both ways and had a very good experience. Spirit is less expensive, as long as you can take it easy on luggage. (We brought two large bags for the four of us.) We were even able to buy our fourth ticket with a few days to go (Joseph decided to go at the last minute)-- for a bit less than the three tickets we'd bought earlier. 

We rented a car from Kyte; that was weird, but inexpensive and excellent. It was $220 for a new Toyota Corolla all week. The odd part was that they had no footprint in terms of buildings. They used a shuttle from the airport to meet us in a rental car parking lot, where they met us with the car and computers to check us in.

Everything except groceries was considerably more expensive. Gas was $1-1.50 more; fast food was pricier in most cases. That said, we did get amazing donuts and an inexpensive, delicious torta at Winchells' Donuts!

The weather was lovely in LA and SD, but super hot once you got off the coast. Temps were 70s in SD and low-80's in LA-- although the sun's intensity made it feel much warmer. Ranging inland, we were well into the 100's. Cars were much nicer: not as many super-nice cars as expected, but I'd say 20% were BMW's and few beaters. People were in much better shape: few people overweight and very few who were obese. This may sound odd, but traffic did not have as much stand-still as I expected, but was also generally heavier than I expected. More broadly, you're not on the interstates as much as you'd expect and it's slow-going with traffic lights, etc. 

Lodging was difficult to find for reasonable prices. In LA, we stayed all four nights at Deano's-- an old-style motel. (We were scheduled to stay elsewhere for two nights, but they reneged on my paid reservation. I'm still trying to get to make that right. My first bad experience with them, but this has been terrible.) The other lodging of note: my first BNB of some sort: staying in a room at a really nice Jamaican's house and sharing a bathroom with another tenant.

Overall, I'd say this was a good trip but not nearly our best-- compared to our top trip: SF to Glacier in 2016 (hard to beat that!) or other top-tier trips to New York State in 2011SD and eastern CO in 2012, and Arizona in 2020(We've taken many other smaller trips that were roughly equivalent: ChicagoNC/SC twice, Atlanta/Florida, Michigan twice [mostly southern and northern], and St. Louis/Memphis.) 

The highlights in LA the first few days: The Petersen Auto Museum was the best of many auto museums we've ever seen. No surprise: this was a Top 3 trip moment for Daniel and Joseph! The Getty Museum had amazing architecture and tons of art in a beautiful setting. But the art didn't have enough variance-- and was not exactly in our wheelhouse in terms of tastes. It's a must-see, but it wasn't all I hoped it would be. The LaBrea Tar Pits are interesting and a quick stop. It's free unless you go in the museum, which didn't look to be worth the price. We also drove around a lot: Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Dr., Sunset Blvd; Santa Monica Pier, some of the canyons, and the park at the Griffith Observatory.

Heading out of town to the east on Wednesday, we visited Huntington Gardens. The art there was solid, but the gardens were huge, varied, and amazing. That's a must-see. Continuing east, we visited the NHRA Museum where they were having a car show. Both were solid, but not as exciting as I had expected for Daniel and Joseph. We finished up in Palm Springs, with its oppressive heat and high-end stores. We walked around and had Ben/Jerry's for the first time. 

We stayed the night in Palm Springs to be in position to take the San Jacinto Peak tram on Thursday AM. It's a 10-minute beautiful ride with a tremendous temperature change and the opportunity to walk/hike at the top. (We had other things to do, so we weren't up top very long.) Then, we went to Joshua Tree NP-- solid but redundant and ultimately disappointing (perhaps because we had been to Arizona so recently). If we'd driven through Joshua Tree, we would have ended up near the Patton Museum. (Interestingly, I read O'Reilly's Killing Patton on the trip.) It was beautiful and varied landscape the rest of the day, as we hit Julian’s Apple Pie (wow!) just before a four-mile hike to the top of Stonewall Peak in Cuyamaca SP. (It was one of the most satisfying hikes I've ever had: steady climb that reached the actual peak of a mountain. And I had just broken my ankle less than four months earlier!) 

We finished the day by driving to San Diego. On Friday, we spent a big chunk of the day in Balboa Park (amazing, but apparently had wise counsel to avoid the museums). We also drove through Gaslamp Quarter and Old Town (seemed ok, but touristy) on our way to the beach at LaJolla (boys weren't as interested as we expected and snorkeling was limited/ineffective). The boys did paragliding at Torrey Pines (another Top 3 moment for both of the boys). With limited time at the beach, we had time to head back to SD for more time on scooters. 

Saturday was a mixed bag: a brief stop at San Onofre Beach. (We hoped to see surfers, but the weather did not cooperate.) We visited San Juan Capistrano mission which was solid and comparable to similar stops. And then we spent the rest of the day walking (and scootering) around Long Beach. On Sunday, I spent the day at the Reagan Library (amazing), while Tonia and the boys walked and scootered in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. 

The Reagan Library had a strong WWII exhibit, along with its coverage of Reagan's life. His background and how it prepared him to be effective as a politician. His impressive style. (Check out this quote: "Whatever else history may say about me...I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts." So different from the last two decades!) And his many policy achievements. (I can name a half-dozen important things he accomplished-- in immensely challenging times. In contrast, I can't name more than one for any of the presidents since him.) By any consistent metrics, he's easily the greatest president since at least Coolidge. What a way to finish our trip!


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