Getting Closer

Getting Closer
Getting Closer

Sunday, January 1, 2017

12-29-2016 First Day in LA

Current Location: Pomona Exposition Center   Southern California

I must first mention the weather.  This day dawned sunny and gorgeous for us with a high temperature predicted in the mid 70’s.  Not a sign of the rain that was predicted to show up before the weekend.  The other thing I must mention once again is that our long day away from the rig was made possible by our friend Laura, who offered to drive down from Azusa to give Mattie a walk and a potty break.  Laura said Mattie did fine after she stopped growling and shaking, and it was a good thing that Laura was a dog person and knew to simply sit and wait with her, offering treats till she calmed down.  Seems as though they became the best of friends.  Such a great gift form a truly thoughtful person who only met me once and had never met Mattie!

Now on to the day. First of all, when I say “LA”, I use it in the sense that locals have since I can remember.  To someone raised in Southern California, LA does not simply refer to the city of Los Angeles.  It encompasses most of the region, with a nebulous boundary determined by the user.  If I am in San Bernardino, I might still say I am in LA, but I would be corrected by purists.  Here in Pomona, I am definitely in LA, at the location of the LA County Fair, probably one of the biggest and best fairs in the country, although I am sure that Iowans would disagree with me.

Our first day in LA, however, we were actually in the city of Los Angeles, where we visited some of the iconic locations that represent what a tourist to the city wouldn’t want to miss. The big comfy bus, where we rode high above the freeway traffic, took us through Downtown, past the old General Hospital, around the huge skyscrapers that now dwarf what was onCe the only tall building in the city, City Hall. 

We skirted the campus of USC, visited the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum, continued to the historic Phillipe’s Deli for french dip sandwiches, were awed by Union Station, walked a section of Olvera Street, and continued on more freeways to the location of the historic Rose Bowl, where we were treated to a great tour. As a former Angelino, I do know how to say “the 5, the 110, the 210, the 405”.  Not sure if this way of speaking of highways extends beyond southern California, but it is definitely the way to refer to a freeway if you live here.

Maybe it is obvious why I haven’t managed to keep posting each day’s events, since every day since this first one has been filled to the brim in the same way.  Not much down time so far.

Growing up in LA, going to the La Brea Tar Pits was a given.  Everyone did it.  It was often on the school field trip lists, and I have no idea how I managed to grow up in the nearby San Gabriel Valley, and never went there.  I have wonderful memories of many visits to the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, where I learned all about the tar pits, thrilled at the dioramas of the animals found there, thrilled at one of the first exposures to science that triggered the spark that led me to a scientific career.

Today, however, we actually visited the pits and the magnificent Page Museum that helps to explain the significance of the La Brea Tar Pits.  Seems as though the area was in Nickie’s back yard at one time, and she knew all the inside outs of the place, and showed us where to look for the tar bubbling up through the walkway pavement and here and there on the lawns.

Some time between 50,000 and 11,000 years ago, animals became trapped in the heavy tar, including the extinct mastodons, dire wolves, and big toothed cats.  Animals that still exist were found as well, including coyotes, skunks, many kinds of birds, and other mammals.  The pits were discovered at Rancho La Brea, first in the mid 19th century, but not recognized as the treasure trove of fossils that it is until in the early 1900’s.  There is a complex and varied history of the development of the pits from the early excavations to the present day magnificence of the Page Museum, more than I care to repeat.  If you want more detail, look it up.

It was a fascinating morning, watching the paleontologists working meticulously gluing tiny bone fragments together, viewing the dozens of dire wolf skulls on display, the recreation of the magnificent mastodons, different from wooly mammoths in their smaller size.

I love the dioramas, one of my favorites showed the skeletons of birds displayed in front of imaginative paintings of the bird. 

Watching the ominous hot bubbles bursting in the main pool (fenced off of course) was fun, imagining the heat of the oil and tar beneath that held the record of so much natural history.

So much fun hanging with friend Nicki at the Tar Pits

Back on the bus, we made it to Phillipe’s by 11:30 for our scheduled lunch.  The crowds were already gathering, the noise level deafening, and yet it was a great “LA experience”. Tourists and locals alike lined up at the 8 counter stations to order their famous sandwiches, on fresh rolls dipped in the juice of whatever meat you chose. We found a spot upstairs to eat, and didn’t discover until we went hunting for the bathrooms that the place was much bigger than we first thought.  Great lunch!

After lunch, the four of us decided to go walking.  The magnificent and historical Union Station was just down the block, graced with pillars and tiles, historic leather wood trimmed chairs, and Arts and Crafts light fixtures.  We walked around in awe of the craftsmanship and creativity of this beautiful building, one I remembered from an unaccompanied train trip from LA to San Francisco I took as an 11 year old to visit an aunt. 

This iconic station has been “reimagined as the vital downtown center of Los Angeles”.  I am not sure who is doing the reimagining, but they are doing a fabulous job. 

Just across the street is the historic Olvera Street, also knows as  the El Pueblo Historic Monument, Calle Olvera, and La Placita Olvera.  Located in the area that was the historical beginning of the city of Los Angeles, it is a crowded, colorful market street that feels like Old Mexico.

It is another place that is considered a don’t miss for tourists to LA, and I did visit repeatedly as a kid.  Today we didn’t spend much time, hastening back to the bus in front of Phillipe’s, and with full tummies from lunch we had no desire to cram in the obligatory taquitos.  We lost Jimmy and Nickie on the way back to the bus and they told us that yes, they DID manage a taquito!

Visiting the Rose Bowl in the afternoon was an unexpected treat.  Adventure Caravans managed to get this tour scheduled for our group to replace the cancelled Equest Fest horse show.  The Rose Bowl is an historic building, on the National Register, and as such, the renovations that have taken place over the years are in keeping with its status.  As the guides said repeatedly, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some  of the newer stadiums, but it is truly beautiful.

We walked into the stadium via the old tunnel that was used by the football teams before the newer tunnels were constructed. Visiting the old tiny locker rooms was in stark contrast to the huge locker rooms now in use.  I was amazed at the grass, Kentucky blue grass, painted with more than 100 gallons of paint for the upcoming bowl game.

The greens keeper is held in a place of high esteem, monitoring every tiny blade of grass that may have yellowed.  There are monitors beneath the sod to manage moisture content, and the sod itself is replaced every year and sometimes more often if it is damaged.  The sod is grown both near San Diego for the cooler temperatures and in Palm Springs, with two football fields of sod at each place ready to go at all times to the Bowl.

We were treated to a visit to the loge boxes, where guests have 4 seats outside with their own tv and access to cuisine prepared by Wolfgang Puck himself on game day.  We toured the press areas, and the view from the 50 yard line.  Mo likes football, but I never really cared much, so I was surprised at how interesting it was to see this famous coliseum.  Thinking of it from a cultural perspective, I remembered the coliseums we have visited that are a couple thousand years old, and enjoyed noticing the similarities.  Games.  I also realized that much of the excitement about visiting a bowl game like this one coming up has to do with the ambience of the place itself in addition to the actual game.  It is a “thing”, and somehow visiting the Rose Bowl gave me a taste of how much fun that “thing” could be.  But not the price.  I think the cheapest ticket for this game is more than $600.00

We weren’t allowed on the actual field, except for one woman from our group who was from Pennsylvania, and got her photo taken right on the Penn State goal.  Mo said putting her foot on the actual grass was a lot like making sure that you touched the ocean, and as we walked along with the “don’t walk on the grass” signs all around us, she jumped over the line to touch that field with her feet for only a moment.

It was a great tour, with an excellent guide and one we both appreciated tremendously. I have no idea what we did when we got back to the camp, but I don’t remember cooking a thing so there must have been food of some sort. Adventure Caravans keeps throwing in little extra meals, light hors d’oeuvres, maybe pizza, or some shrimp, along with wine, beer and other drinks almost always available in the big tent on the field behind the rigs.

Be sure to check out Nickie’s blog about our shared day here and here.