A California Driving Adventure: August 2002

Did you miss the first part of this webessay? Go back and read about our week in Minnesota!

Sunday, August 25th, 8:58 AM

We’re in Los Angeles now, or actually Whittier, at Sal and Sue’s house. Yesterday was a very long, fun day that spanned two states. We did get up and out at 4 AM as planned, with a very sleepy Aurora. We saw Mom, Dad, and Aurora through checking in their bags and going through security, and we checked in for our own flight early so that we could go through with them and wait at the gate together. Then, with them safely off, we checked in our own luggage and started driving toward Minneapolis for breakfast at a little place I’d found. Halfway there, we discovered we must’ve left our cell phone back at Mark and Vanessa’s, so we turned around and drove back to Vadnais Heights. At first, we couldn’t find the phone anywhere, and as it now was all of 7 AM on a Saturday, Mark and Vanessa were naturally still sleeping. We finally managed to find Vanessa’s cell phone, with which we called ours, and then we ran around the living room trying to pinpoint where the faint ringing was coming from. Having at last located our cell phone, between two of the sofa cushions completely out of sight, we left the house quietly and continued on to breakfast.

We ate at Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown, north of downtown near the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus. Al’s is dinky itself, with about a fourteen-seat counter. We took the last two available seats, and soon there were people lined up against the wall in the narrow aisle behind us, waiting for seats. Keep in mind this is still before 7:30 AM, now, on a summer Saturday. Al’s customers were a diverse lot, including U of M students, middle-aged folks, and us. I ordered a waffle with walnuts in the batter, and Robert ordered a waffle with bacon in the batter (on the menu), and also with cheese in the batter (not on the menu).

“Please tell me you said omelet. Omelet, not waffle,” the college-aged waitress said vehemently to him.

“No, I said waffle,” he replied.

“A waffle with cheese inside? Oh boy. Oh boy.”

She looked at us in such disbelief that I felt I needed to give Robert some support.

“There’s a place in Los Angeles where they put cheese in the waffles,” I offered.

“There’s lots of places in Los Angeles where they do many strange and unnatural things,” she said darkly.

Two feet away, the cook said she’d try it with the cheese.

“I hope you like dark, burnt, crusty cheese,” the waitress said, “because that’s what it’ll be.”

Robert and I conferred briefly. “Okay,” he told her, “your extremely violent reaction convinced me. We’ll have a waffle with bacon and walnuts in the batter, hash browns, and corn pancakes.”

The waitress appeared to be shocked. “Violent? Violent? I hope I wasn’t violent. I just couldn’t imagine someone revolutionary enough to want cheese in their waffle.” Briskly now, she pulled out her pad, which she had never yet gotten around to writing anything down on. “Okay, corn pancakes, browns, and one Wally waffle with bacon. Done.”

The waffle arrived, fluffy and nice, with tasty bits of walnuts and bacon that was good, but would have been better if it had been crispier or cut in smaller pieces. The corn pancakes were excellent—very, very good basic pancakes with kernels of sweet corn in the batter. I ate them slathered with jam, while having an interesting conversation about colored ketchups with the waitress and the people next to us. When the woman next to us asked for ketchup for her hash browns (huge, with a crisp outside and a beautifully creamy potato-y inside), we talked her into using the green ketchup. The waitress applauded.

Breakfast, food and atmosphere both, were excellent, and with it over, we drove once more back to the airport. We returned the car and boarded our plane almost immediately, settling ourselves in our tiny, cramped, two seats near a window. I was asleep before takeoff, but I think Robert dozed over his book, but never really slept for the whole flight. When the flight attendant appeared in the aisle next to us with breakfast, I opened my eyes and was suddenly wide awake. A banana and a Pepsi with three pieces of lemon later, I fell asleep again. Robert seemed staggered by, and somewhat envious of, my ability to sleep on planes, curled up in my seat with blanket and pillow on his shoulder. At the end of our 3 1/2 hour plane ride, he was far less comfortable and well-rested than I was.

We arrived in LA to a beautifully sunny, 84-degree day. It was quite a change from the hazy, chilly weather we’d been having in Minnesota, and the lack of mosquitoes—rampant in Minnesota, and extremely scarce in LA—also contributed to our enjoyment of the weather. When we’d picked up our rental car (a blue Chrysler Sebring convertible with leather seats and a CD player, from Thrifty), we headed straight to Westwood for quarter cookies from Diddy Reese (soon to increase in price to $.35, actually, although the ice cream sandwich with two cookies and a scoop of ice cream will remain fixed at $1), a pass through Aahs! (where I discovered a blue Star Wars Episode II tee shirt I liked), and a drink from Boba World. Thus fortified, we drove down Wilshire toward Santa Monica, eating fish tacos along the way at Wahoo’s, which we agreed in retrospect was a worse choice than Rubio’s because Wahoo’s doesn’t fry the fish for their tacos—they grill it instead. In Santa Monica we parked at one of the free parking garages around the 3rd Street Promenade and walked around a little—down to the beach, in the water up to my knees, down to the Pier, then along the Pier and over to the Ferris wheel, which we rode and appreciated the great views from. There were more people in the water than we’d ever seen before, and the water itself was very warm. We had a Jamba Juice on the Promenade, and free samples of Wetzel’s Pretzels, like always, and then left a familiar outdoor shopping area for a new and unfamiliar one.

We drove to The Grove mall, across the street from the Farmer’s Market off of Fairfax and 3rd. Elegantly landscaped, and apparently designed to be the new, classy, Century City mall, The Grove has one main feature that drew us there: an Apple Store. And, it being Saturday the 24th of August, the official release date of Jaguar (OS 10.2), we simply had to go. We browsed the store, trying to get various salespeople to give us free Jaguar tee shirts that had been given away the night before at their 10:30-midnight Jaguar release party. We didn’t succeed, but Robert did get an answer to a tricky VPN question he had, and I got a replacement rubber foot for Crystal (one of hers having fallen off at some point on our travels). The Grove was very pretty, but after a quick jaunt around it, we drove out on the 10 and then the 60 to meet the California cousins for dinner.

We arrived at Sal and Sue’s house around 7PM, and Sal soon arrived as well with dinner. Everyone was there—Mrs. Hom, who looks exactly the same, Winnie, Gracie, and L.E.; Aunt Phyllis, Carl, Cindy, Craig, and Corey; and of course, Sal, Sue, Jenna, and Annie. Annie and L.E. got immensely tall—they’re now taller than Jenna, and much taller than me. We had a nice evening, just talking, until being awake for quite so many hours started to catch up with us, and everyone else went home and we went to bed. [Pictured, above right, are five young cousins--Jenna, Corey, L.E., Craig, and Annie..]

Wednesday, 9:30 AM, Las Vegas

Sunday morning we left the house around nine, a couple hours after Sue went to work and Sal went to a football meeting, leaving Jenna still sleeping and Annie watching ESPN. We picked up Jason, one of Robert’s UCLA friends, at his parents’ house just one exit further down the 60 from Sal and Sue, and went for a very nice, early dim sum at Guang Zhou Palace on S. Nogales Street, in Rowland Heights. After dim sum we stopped at Little Bean, a boba place, for a tea-coffee combo drink and a shaved ice with mangoes and sweetened condensed milk [pictured at left]. Jason gave us all the UCLA office gossip he knew, and directed us on the best route to Disneyland, so when we dropped him off we headed straight to Anaheim.

We had never gone to the new part of Disneyland, the California Adventure, which opened just two months after we left LA, so that’s where we were planning on going. After a complicated and confusing experience in the parking lots and buying tickets, we walked through Disney Downtown (the new shopping and entertainment area meant to be comparable to Universal Studio’s Citywalk) and entered the park around one o’clock.

By the time we left at nine, and by virtue of making good use of our FastPass tickets, we had seen nearly everything. The park is divided into different worlds, each representing a region of the state of California. There’s a Hollywood section, with a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire game show, two 3-D movies (the really adorable Bug’s Life and the cute, but not as original Muppets one), and a huge section on Disney animation. The animation tent included Disney karaoke, as well as a spot for you to see which Disney character you’re most like, by answering questions.

1. Would you rather 1) curl up with a good book, or 2) go out and party? (both of us: 1)
2. Are you ruled more by 1) your passionate heart, or 2) your logical head? (Robert: 2; Christina: 1)
3. Would you rather 1) do something you’re used to doing, or 2) try something new? (Robert: 2; Christina: 1)
4. Do you like to 1) plan ahead, or 2) be spontaneous? (Robert: 2; Christina: 1)
5. Would you rather 1) eat lunch with nice people, or 2) eat nice people for lunch? (both of us: 1)

With these answers, the computer then told Robert that he was a great friend and funny, optimistic, and up for anything, and that he was most like Jiminy Cricket. It told me I was loyal, true, and not afraid of mice, and that I was most like Cinderella. We decided it was fairly accurate, and later wished we’d also answered the questions on behalf of some of our friends, just so we could’ve seen which Disney character it would say Howard, for instance, was most like.

The California Adventure also had a wonderful world meant to be Yosemite, with a really great white water rafting ride (one of the best of its kind) and a better version of Tom Sawyer’s island in which you could rock climb, cross rope bridges, enter caves, and basically hike around and through redwoods. We enjoyed it a lot, especially the rock climbing part, which wasn’t all that easy, even with the careful, Disney-placed hand- and foot-holds.

We liked the Bay Area section as well, with its fish taco stand (excellent, fried fish), and its tortilla factory and sourdough bread factory tours. We missed the tour of the winery, but Robert really appreciated the hot, fresh flour tortilla samples, straight off the press into his mouth. The park in general was very nicely landscaped. [At right, you see Robert in front of a beautiful wave, surfing-type fountain.]

And of course, there was an amusement park section patterned, it seemed, after the Santa Monica pier. We rode the Ferris wheel, on its rocking inner ring of cars, and a giant swing ride, one of my favorite rides of all time. There was an excellent, very long, very smooth old-fashioned roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs and a loop, and one of those big shot, frog-hopper type of rides, that shoots you up into the air and bounces you around a little before letting you down. Both of these were really perfect examples of their type of ride, without any of the jerkiness, whiplash, slam-your-head-against-the-head-rest-and-give-you-a-headache-for-a-day motion that Six Flags rides of these kinds tend to have—at Disney, they were both exceptionally smooth and nice.

At the end of the day we walked through some of the stores in Disney Downtown, including a stuff-your-own-bear store which had stuffable cows for sale as well as bears: you choose the amount of stuffing you want, watch them stuff your cow in front of you, run your cow under a fluffing machine to fluff up its fur, and then dress it in a selection of clothes before printing up its birth certificate. Had I actually stuffed my own cow, I would’ve had her wear only a pair of genuine, blue and sparkly, Skechers sneakers. I think Robert decided that, now that we were no longer with Aurora, however, there was no reason for us to cart stuffed animals around the country, so we left without the Skechers-clad cow.

We stopped for a chili-topped burger at Tommy’s Famous Burgers on Whittier Boulevard on our way back to the cousins’ house, and the guy at the drive-in gave us free fries as well. We visited a little with Sal, Sue and the girls before heading off to bed—Sue and Jenna both had tender ears, having gone that day to get pierced the part of their ear that sticks out and connects to the side of your head.


Monday morning, Sal left early for work, and Jenna, L.E., and Sue left before eight for the girls’ learner’s permit tests. Leaving Annie sleeping late, we got on the road around nine for Las Vegas.

Driving always with the top down, and reapplying sunscreen liberally, Robert nonetheless got a little red by the time we arrived. We had an exciting episode when we were nearly at Las Vegas because the car was running low on gas, but Robert didn’t want to stop until we hit Primm, Nevada, right over the border. When we drove through Baker, California (a good forty miles from the border, we now know), we thought we were just a few minutes away from Primm. The Sebring very helpfully displays your miles until empty, and when the number began approaching zero and we were still far from Primm, we started to get slightly panicky. Thankfully, there was a 6% downhill grade for ten miles, so Robert’s expert coasting skills preserved enough gas that we were able to hold out—the dial still saying zero miles left—until we pulled into the gas station near the outlets in Primm. It was a close, but thrilling, call. We stopped for fried cheese and lemonade and a pass through the Old Navy outlet, and then continued on to Las Vegas.

Once in Vegas, we checked in early to our room at the Paris hotel. I had booked us a Summer de Romance package online, so we knew that for the same price as two nights of a room at Mandalay Bay (where we’d stayed both times we’d come to Vegas in the past), we would be getting two nights of an Eiffel-Tower-view room at the Paris, plus many extras. The concierge was very helpful, and the room we had was lovely—a corner room with two huge windows, one looking at the pool and the Eiffel Tower and one at the big Paris balloon and the Arc de Triumphe, a king-sized bed, and two comfy chairs and a couch. We had a pear crepe to tide us over, then we went down to the pool and relaxed for awhile, and then we had our free dinner (an $84 value) at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Le Provencal. Robert had a really good, juicy pork chop on polenta, and I had a pleasant chicken piccata on fettuccini, both with Caesar salad and creme brulee. Dinner came with two glasses of champagne, which we couldn’t finish, and a bottle of wine, which we ended up sending back uncorked because we knew we wouldn’t be able to drink it and they wouldn’t give it to us uncorked to take home because of the kind of liquor license they had. We were having a spectacular day, with the only bad point that, by dinner, we both had full-blown head colds and coughs—Robert had started wheezing and dripping on Saturday night, and I started Monday morning. We think we caught it from Aurora or various other small children in Minnesota, but in any case, we were clearly sick by Monday night. So, after dinner, all we did was take a brief walk around the Paris hotel and out to the sidewalk to see the dancing fountains at the Bellagio across the street, before heading up to bed.

As another part of our package, our bed had been turned down and had fresh yellow rose petals scattered across it, and six plump, chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne awaited us in our room. The strawberries were marvelous, but we still haven’t drunk the champagne. The next morning, just before ten, we had breakfast in bed (according to the check, another $80 value) delivered to our room with a fresh flower—two mimosas with strawberries, coffee, orange juice, six croissants of various kinds, jam, butter, whipped cream, and syrup, a chocolate heart holding more strawberries, and two Belgian waffles with strawberries and creme fraiche. Everything was beautifully presented, and the waffles were great.

Trying to rid ourselves of our colds, we went back to sleep after breakfast until one o’clock, and woke up feeling better. We took an abbreviated walk to a few other casinos because the heat was really getting to me. We did get to see part of the Flamingo Gardens at the Flamingo Hotel before hurrying back to coolness and safety. We picked up our day passes to the Paris spa (a $50 value) and investigated it, but except for a two-second whiff of the eucalyptus steam room and fruit and juice from their lounges, we didn’t take advantage of anything at the spa because everything, from the saunas to the steam room to the hot tubs, was sex-segregated, and we didn’t feel like sitting in separate empty tubs or rooms. Instead, we went up to the pool again, and stayed there until it was time to go back and shower and dress for our champagne cocktail reception (another $50 value) at the Napoleon jazz and champagne bar. This was a classy place, very unsmoky for a bar in Vegas, with low tables and a one-sided lounge chair. We could’ve had multiple glasses of champagne if we’d wanted, but we barely touched ours as it was. Still, we really liked the included buffet, with wonderful little freshly-carved steak sandwiches with whole-grain mustard, dip and veggies, including pear-shaped yellow and red sweet, juicy tomatoes, various cheeses, and grapes. Robert appreciated the sinus-clearing power of the horseradish, and we both enjoyed the atmosphere.

When the buffet ended at six, we took our car over to the Hilton for the Star Trek: The Experience ride. After a leisurely walk through the History of the Future museum, which we noticed had been updated to include data on Captain Archer’s crew from the “Enterprise” series, we went on the ride, liking it every bit as much as the first time we were on it, in 1999. We stopped for a soft drink at Quark’s Bar and Grill afterwards, and while I was sipping my fountain Pepsi with two slices of lemon, a couple Ferengi strolled over toward us.

“Hu-man, fe-male,” they greeted us.

“Hi,” I said, happy to have my picture taken with them if there were no Klingons around, but willing to hold out for a Klingon if one should stroll around the corner soon. “Are there any Klingons around here?”

“Klingons? Klingons? I should say not!” one of them said.

“Why, do you owe them money?” the other said. “If so, you know, you could pay us.”

“Yes, we’re licensed money lenders, with limited powers of attorney, so any money you might owe the Klingons we’d be happy to relieve you of,” the first one said.

“So, there’s no Klingons around here at all?” Robert asked for me.

“Here, now, listen—listen—hear that?” one of the Ferengi said. They both leaned forward and cupped their ample ears.

“Ah—the sound of: nothing,” the first one said. “No, no Klingons here—you wouldn’t be able to hear yourself think!”

“Thank the Nagus, no!” the other said. “Here, take a whiff—smell that? Fresh air! You know, when Klingons are around, I think the air actually smells dumb.”

The first one nodded sympathetically.

“Will the Klingons be back?” asked Robert, laughing very hard.

“Oh, they’ll be back—tomorrow! We’re free till then, though,” a Ferengi said.

“Are you sure you don’t have money you need to give them? We could take it for you,” offered the other one.

“Well, how about a picture instead?” suggested Robert.

Walking back to our car, we decided that the very best of the aspiring actors and actresses in Las Vegas had to be working at the Star Trek ride.

By now, it was nine o’clock, so we drove over to Treasure Island and parked there for what one of the Las Vegas magazines in our room had told me would be the 9:30 Pirate Battle—a free show we’d managed to just miss every day we’d been in Vegas the last two times, but were determined to see now. Unfortunately, it turned out that the show wasn’t actually supposed to start until ten, so a tired, coughing, dragging Robert sat down on a bench in a Starbucks while I darted next door and returned with a cup of water and a Ben and Jerry’s One Sweet Whirled ice cream soda. Ice cream always makes sick people feel better, and after that, we ventured outside into the crowds to wait for the pirate show to begin. However, at ten o’clock, they announced that the show would be cancelled for the evening, “due to high winds.” This was quite a joke to everyone standing out there, packed in shoulder to shoulder, as there was a pleasant little breeze which made the night fairly comfortable, but by no means anything which anyone would call “high winds.” We decided we were simply never meant to see the Pirate Battle, so we went back to our room and to bed for the night.


This morning, we got up and had a little breakfast (raspberry croissant-turnover thing, juice, and a banana) and put some of our stuff in the car, before returning to the room so that Robert could rest a little more and I could pack and write a little. We’re going to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower (an $18 value, also included in our package), and to Caesar’s Palace to ride one of their simulator rides before checking out and driving to Death Valley. Hopefully, Robert’s cold will be better when he wakes up again.

Thursday, 11:15 PM, Riverside, California

Robert woke up kind of late yesterday, and we had a seafood crepe for lunch. Then we gave our tickets to the Caesar’s Palace Race to Atlantis simulator ride (only $3 each when bought as a combo with the Star Trek ride, so we got them just in case we wanted them) to a nice family with two kids. The girl got all excited, and her mother said that she’d really been wanting to go on that ride. We loaded up the car and headed out of Las Vegas to the north.

We drove through funny desert places north toward Death Valley, and stopped at the old gold-mining ghost town of Rhyolite, a kind of cool, but brief detour along the road. Most exciting was the odd-looking old man who was locking up the bottle house (built from beer and Coke bottles and mud) as we arrived, explaining, in true ancient prospector speech, that “we’s closing up early today, cuz we’s got a meetin’ to go to,” and the long-eared rabbit we saw along the trail.

I had booked a room at Stovepipe Wells Village, one of basically only two hotel/motels inside Death Valley, so we drove there and checked in. [Pictured at left: the view from Stovepipe Wells, of scrub brush and sand dunes both.] Along the way we admired the picturesque sand dunes, the scrub brush landscape, and the mountain roads and passes, as we changed elevations rapidly, ascending to nearly 5000 feet and then descending to sea level. It was extremely hot, as any August day in Death Valley is expected to be, but at least the pool at Stovepipe Wells would be open until midnight—we imagined how nice a late-night swim would be, and even anticipated taking advantage of the internet access offered in the guest lounge. However, we first decided to use the remaining daylight to see a little more of the park, so we drove down 190 a little to the Salt Creek boardwalk trail, a 1/2 mile flat trail in what the informative tablets told us was “the wettest part of Death Valley,” alongside a salt-water streambed. The tablets kept asking things like, “Do you see insects in the water to your left? That’s how the fish live—by eating these insects!” It was all pretty amusing, as the streambed to our left was entirely dry—a low, flat, section of the desert floor with the remains of salt tracks on it, and certainly no fish to be seen. Supposedly, the only fish that can live in that stream is the salty pupfish, a fish unique to Death Valley, which evolved to tolerate the extremely salty water as the stream changed over time. Sadly, we didn’t see any salty pupfish today.

Sunset was approaching, so we drove over past the old Borax works, off the main road into Mustard Canyon, then through Furnace Creek to the parking lot just below Zabriskie Point to view the sunset. There were all of three other cars there, and I noticed just how deserted Death Valley was in contrast to, say, the prime sunset viewing spot at the Grand Canyon. Sunset was lovely, and after that we drove back to Furnace Creek and ate dinner at the 49-er Cafe. Always a sucker for good descriptions, I ordered the “Special Lemonade with Lemon Wheel,” which turned out just to be a glass of lemonade. When the waiter returned, I inquired about my “special lemon wheel,” and he obligingly came back over the course of dinner with three thick lemon slices. Later, pulling a Grandma Gracie, we rescued the lemon slices to add to our cooler of water in the car for the next day’s drive in the desert. Robert had a buffalo burger with guacamole and cheese, and I had potato skins, and by nine o’clock we were back in our room at Stovepipe Wells, watching a Buffy second-season episode on DVD on my iBook.


Friday, 11:09 PM, San Diego

Thursday morning we got up leisurely and drove to Panamint Springs, again ascending and descending through mountain passes and valleys several times. We passed stretched of pure white sand, of scrubbrush, of volcanic rock and ash, and multi-colored rock. We stopped for another burger (double beef, this time) and chili cheese fries at Panamint Springs, and then continued on to Father Crowley Vista, where we got to drive our trusty Sebring down a very rocky gravel road for awhile to overlook some volcanic rock formations. We kept going out to Lee Flat Joshua Trees, on an even rockier gravel road through groves and groves of Joshua trees. Along the way, we saw three tiny roadrunners and a very un-shy coyote, adding to our wildlife total. This entire day, we were the only car we saw along any of these gravel roads. [At right, see Robert petting a Joshua tree.]

We drove back through Panamint Springs down toward Ridgecrest, putting the top down for part of the way (unusual for us as long as it was over 100) so that we could admire the F-14s doing training maneuvers over our heads from the various Naval and Air bases around us. We followed a sign for the Trona Pinnacles and drove off the road again onto a seven-mile dirt road leading to some strange and beautiful rock formations that used to be on the bottom of a prehistoric lake. From the guestbook there when we arrived, we saw we were the fifth visitor in four days—apparently not many people take this turnoff, and as we city people got progressively more uneasy in this completely deserted, wild spot, far from the view of the highway, we began to understand why. Movies like “Breakdown” flashed into our heads, but we did enjoy driving around the pinnacles. Had it been under 100, Robert might’ve even made us hike up one of them, but as it was, we were safe. [Below left, see Robert in our progressively dustier Sebring, near the pinnacles.]

Thursday night we decided to spend in Riverside, because the AAA tourbook for this year listed a mini-golf amusement center there that had go-carts, and we thought it would be a fun stopover on our way to San Diego. However, we couldn’t resist being so close to Los Angeles and not detouring in for a tasty Asian dinner, so we drove west on the 10 until we hit the Golden Deli, a small Vietnamese place on W. Las Tunas in a mini-mall (of course). I had read about the springrolls here in a New York Times article, and we weren’t disappointed. We ordered a fresh rice noodle appetizer dish, with the warm rice noodles rolled around cooked minced pork, and ate that with the massive, juice, and inexpensive springrolls. They were truly exceptional, and after our appetizers, we left to have our main course somewhere else. We got distracted along the way by Crepe in the Grip, a small Japanese creperie across the street on W. Las Tunas in another mini-mall, a tiny, wonderful place with colorful walls and a friendly guy who made me the best crepe I have ever eaten—full to overflowing with stiff freshly whipped cream, chunks of perfectly ripe mangoes, and drizzles of sweetened condensed milk, all eaten out of a paper cone.

We continued our progressive dinner by going to Monterey Park, to another restaurant I had read about, namely Lake Spring Cuisine on E. Garvey, where we ordered the jade shrimp and the pork pump as the Times article had directed. Though neither dish sounded like much from its name, the jade shrimp were delicious, tiny sauteed shrimp in a garlicky sauce turned green from the tips of chives. They slid right down, paving the way for the pork pump—a huge lump of pork in a thick sauce, cooked so that it was very tender and moist, on a bed of spinach and sauce. If you like huge lumps of meat, this was a great one. Unfortunately, it was also a huge one—we couldn’t even come close to finishing it.

We drove back out to Riverside on the 60, top down, reveling in the cool 86-degree air around us. Having found a Motel 6 right around the corner from the Castle Hill go-cart place, which also looked like it had a lovely mini-golf area, we made our way to the go-cart parking lot and investigated. We seemed to have trouble finding the front door of the place, as parking lot led to parking lot, and a lot of closed kiddie rides confused the issue. At 9:20, forty minutes before the closing time announced in the AAA guide, we finally found our way inside—only to find out that the go-carts were closed, and had been closed for the last three years. The manager seemed surprised, though not distressed, to hear that the AAA book listed his place as having go-carts, and that we’d come out of our way just for that reason. He offered us free mini-golf, even though the golf courses had officially closed at 9:00, to make up for it. The mini golf course, as we had suspected from the view from the highway, was indeed exciting—many double-level holes, lots of slopes and funny tunnels and things, and an island and lots of fountains around us. There were also the fattest, most dodo-like ducks we’d ever seen waddling around the course, eating popcorn, as entertainment.  


Sunday, September 1st, on a plane back to Boston

Friday morning we drove straight to San Diego, stopping only once for brunch at an In-‘n’-Out, where Robert ordered a lettuce-wrapped double-double and I ordered a grilled cheese. It’s very nice going to a drive-in in a convertible, though it’s slightly less nice making sure that french fries don’t blow away as you zoom down the freeway before you get a chance to eat them. We walked around the Old Town in San Diego a little, and then made our way to our Holiday Inn Express in La Jolla, which I’d picked because it was all of a three-minute drive from the place where Brigitta and Ryan would be getting married at 5 pm. Our room actually had a full kitchen, a lot bigger than some of our friends’ kitchens, which was a nice surprise, though we didn’t take full advantage of it. The hotel also offered pink lemonade and warm chocolate chip cookies when we checked in, which immediately won Robert’s heart.

The wedding was very nice—Brigitta’s dress was gorgeous, and at one point I got to be the “follow her around and hold it up” person. I kept thinking that Ryan had a funny look on his face the whole time, but eventually Robert reminded me that Ryan always has that look on his face. Robert got a chance to say hello to four or five UCLA finance professors, who came because Brigitta works in the department, and during the reception we sat with some of Brigitta’s friends from college and some of her office colleagues at Anderson. The wedding ended at 9:30, because it was in a residential neighborhood and everything needed to be quiet by 10:00.

Back at our hotel, we realized we didn’t have a single picture of the two of us all dressed up that evening, so we wandered out into the courtyard and enlisted the help of the first man we saw. He turned out to be an adequate, and extremely enthusiastic, amateur photographer, who re-posed us several times against the best background, adjusted his stance many times so as not to get the motel lights in the background, and generally made us laugh very hard as he took our picture. That night, we watched episodes of “Buffy” on DVD and ate microwave popcorn made in our kitchen.


Saturday morning we availed ourselves of the free breakfast at the hotel (Robert especially appreciated the guava juice), and then drove back to Los Angeles.

We got to Anderson at 11 AM, picked up Jason, and went over to California Sushi Roll on Santa Monica Blvd. for lunch. Max met us there a little later, and we ate numerous delicious, messy, completely untraditional maki. We also had a reimagining of nachos with spicy albacore and tempura flakes on a bed of nori tempura, and a sushi pizza, as well as the old standards like the donut roll and the chupa cabre roll. Much later, and much fuller, we went back to Westwood for ice cream sandwiches at Diddy Reese and a leisurely drink in a booth at Boba World. Meanwhile, I picked up a box of forty or fifty cookies to take back to the cousins’ house that evening.

Ah, why do I say, “forty or fifty” cookies? Well, after some discussion about the box itself, I handed the man a ten-dollar bill, which is enough for forty cookies, and proceeded to choose four of this, and four of that, up until what I thought was forty cookies. At that point, I paused, and the guy kept looking at me. “Do I have more?” I asked, confused. “I thought that was—” “You have ten more cookies!” ordered Max, and the cookie guy and I both decided not to argue with an authoritative-sounding Russian, so I chose ten more cookies and the cookie guy put them neatly in the box.

Around 5 PM we found ourselves back at Sal and Sue’s house, with Jenna and Annie squabbling over the cookies, and Sal and Jeff grilling in the back. The rest of the gang came over in dribs and drabs, and we are a barbequed feast of hamburgers, Dodger dogs, pork ribs, and tuna steaks. After dinner, prompted by our story of the abortive go-cart attempt but the free mini-golf, Carl suggested we go to a local go-cart place. Carl took Craig and Corey in his truck, and we took Jenna and Annie in the back of the convertible, and we spent the next few hours primarily standing on go-cart lines. Robert and I and the four kids went on regular go-carts, and then Robert, Craig, and I went on the slick-track go-carts while everyone else played in the arcade.


Sunday morning we left just before 7 AM for the airport, waving goodbye to Sal and Sue. We stopped for breakfast burritos at Burrito Brothers on Washington, just before the 605, and got the first two burritos of the morning—bulging, tasty packets of chorizo, eggs, and potatoes for me, and beef, eggs, and potatoes for Robert. Car returned, bags checked, security cleared, we boarded our plane home, at the end of a fun-filled two-week trip.


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Created: 9/06/02. Last modified: 9/06/02.