Friday, June 6, 2014

Road Trip... Part 4

After several hours wandering around the Reagan Library (It would be easy to spend an entire day there) it was time to move on. We were less than an hour from Brad's home in Sherman Oaks. I called him to get directions to his apartment. It turned out he was just a few blocks off the 101 freeway and it was very easy to find. He met us out front.

We hadn't seen each other in 15 years. Our ages kept moving up as our metabolisms kept slowing down. We were both heavier than we were in our 40s but we were still friends. We visited for about an hour before he had to get ready to leave for a pre-arranged evening of Dodger baseball with his son. Sadly, I didn't get to see his son. It would have been interesting to see him again at age 17...

By the way - Brad has developed a new software that will allow six of your favorite web pages to stream on your phone at the same time. Called "myTikr," it is now in production and should be released in the next 3-6 weeks. It could very well make Brad an overnight success. I hope it does.

Far too soon I said good-bye to my old friend. As headed toward Coldwater Canyon Drive to go ever the mountains and into Beverly Hills we came across this street where the Jacaranda trees were in full bloom.

Coldwater Canyon Drive is a narrow road that winds up and over the mountain pass then down into the posh neighborhoods of Beverly Hills. There are numerous hairpin turns yet the locals seem to think they're in a road rally. I pulled over several times to let people pass me that wanted to go 50mph on a road where the safe speed was 25. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy roads like that if I'm driving the right vehicle. But I was driving a mini-van with a luggage carrier on the top. Not exactly a road rally vehicle.

Anyway - we safely navigated the pass and ended up at Sunset Boulevard. I looked to the right and there was the Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows - a very famous, posh hotel where many celebrities, past and present, like to get away without leaving town. They say it was a favorite hangout of Marilyn Monroe.

We parked and got out just to walk the grounds and go to the gift shop (and the restrooms....) Everything was a coral pink and lime green. Everything. But the grounds in between the bungalows looked like a tropical jungle and the inside of the hotel was luxurious. There was a sign at the entrance to the pool area that insisted no one take pictures while in that area. They require everyone to respect the privacy of others. We didn't see any celebrities but we did see some people who obviously have more money than they know what to do with. A great example of that was parked just outside the main entrance...

Yup - it's a solid chrome Mercedes Slr McLaren convertible. It appears to be a 2007 which has a current Blue Book value of around $260,000, base price. Add whatever options are on it and the chrome exterior surface and you're looking at at least $300,000 (at the very least) for a 7 year old car. And I'm sorry - I wouldn't own a solid chrome car. But that's just me.

When we left the hotel we turned East on Sunset Boulevard, toward Doheny. A few blocks away we passed a street that called us to turn around so we could take a picture...

Movie and TV star Mitzi Gaynor used to (and may still) live on Arden Drive. I'm old enough to remember her in "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "South Pacific." 

We turned kept going East on Sunset to Doheny, then South to Santa Monica Boulevard. A left on Santa Monica took us back to the infamous Rodeo Drive. We turned left onto it and drove one of the most famous stretches of city street in the world, from Santa Monica Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard, passing designer name stores and ending at the Beverly Wilshire hotel - know by many as the hotel where Eddie Murphy stayed in the movie "Beverly Hills Cop."

Playing typical tourist - we bought a map to the stars' homes and but decided we would wait until the next morning to do that. We wanted to hit Hollywood while it was still daylight. I headed East on Sunset Boulevard down the infamous "Sunset Strip."

When we got to Hollywood I accidentally turned right instead of left to get to Hollywood Boulevard. (It had been a lot of years since I was there.) As it turned out, the mistake was OK because we ran across this mural on the side of one of the buildings.

We went North the few blocks between Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards and there it was...

It was one of the things I promised Arden she'd get to see while we were in California. She was pleased. I wanted her to see the Walk Of Fame and what used to be Mann's Chinese Theater. It was originally opened as Grauman's Chinese Theater in 1927, by Sid Grauman, a vaudeville type showman. He began collecting handprints and footprints in concrete slabs outside entrance. Now owned by TCL Corporation - the theater is finally under Chinese ownership. Fortunately the new owners haven't removed or destroyed any of the history in front of the theater.

We walked down Hollywood Boulevard, passing the stars of the stars. Here are a few of the great ones, all gone now with the exception of Carol Burnett.

The entire area in front of the Chinese theater was packed with people. I only took a few pictures - of the prints of older, more beloved stars instead of newer ones.

We wandered back to the car eventually, as it grew darker, and decided to find a hotel. Knowing the ones in the area would be sky high we headed back to the West on the 101 to Van Nuys. As we drove up the 101 we saw the Capitol Records building on the left side of the road. You might recall it being where the stripper went to greet the alien ship in a party on the roof in the movie "Independence Day."

We found a very new Holiday Inn Express that was reasonable. For some reason I haven't figured out - I felt like we were drawn to the hotel. I took a picture of the parking lot...

That's a solid chrome Aston Martin. The start at a base price of $207,000. For the life of me I can't imagine why anyone would take a car that valuable and put chrome all over it.! Nor the Mercedes. Maybe one of you can explain it... ?

We got a good night's sleep then headed back to Beverly Hills in the morning. We had breakfast in a place called "The Nosh," a family owned bagel store/restaurant on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Roxbury Drive. They had the best cheese bagels either of us had ever tasted. Our waiter, the owner's son, was funny and informative. He said his mother does all the cooking. When Arden asked him to point out his mother he pointed at a little Mexican woman behind the counter. He knew that we knew he was lying but he played it out anyway. We had a good time.

After breakfast we headed up Roxbury past the homes of Jimmy Stewart, Ann Bancroft, Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz, Peter Falk and Rosemary Clooney. Actually, Roxbury Drive has been the home to more stars than any other, according to some sources. Besides those named above - Roxbury has been home to Jack Benny, Rick Schroeder, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Jeanne Crain, Elizabeth Montgomery and Agnes Moorehead, Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O'Sullivan, Mia Farrow....  The list goes on and I don't have time.

We hit a few more streets before heading out Sunset Boulevard to Santa Monica. I wanted Arden to see the pier before we left town to head South. We came out on the Pacific Coast Highway at the Northwestern edge of Santa Monica. We headed down the coast past the Santa Monica beaches and saw this incredible wild growth of bougainvillea on the North side of the highway.

When we got to the pier we pulled off the highway into the parking lot under the pier. They wanted $16 to park - even if we were only going to be there for a few minutes. We decided not to do that and got back on the highway. And as I'm typing this I realize I didn't get a picture of it.

We headed South out of town on the 405 freeway. We were meeting my old friends, Paul and Della, for dinner at a restaurant of their choice near Oceanside. We were to meet them between 3 and 4 so we'd have time to visit for a while. 

We wanted to go down the Coast Highway since we had time. So at the Redondo Beach exit I turned toward the coast and found the PCH. Big mistake. We ended up in San Pedro at a dead end. Turns out you have to go inland at Long Beach to get around the Port of Los Angeles. Who knew?

So we had to backtrack and take the bridge across the port. We found the 405 again and stayed on it until it ran into Interstate 5. Just outside of Oceanside we stopped at a rest area. They had an observation area from which you could see the ocean and the marshes in between the water and the highway. The trees were interesting - they suffer from a constant Westerly wind. Notice they all are pushed to the right (East) and look like they've received haircuts.

We were a few minutes early so we took a short ride through the North end of Oceanside, down to the harbor. It's a nice area.

After our little tour we headed to meet Paul and Della. I hadn't seen either of them since 1999. Paul and I were on the SORT team together in Lompoc when we were young studs. We remarked that we both are now feeling the results of those days. But neither of us would trade them for the world.

We sat and talked for an hour or so before we had to go to the restaurant. We had reservations for 6pm at a really nice restaurant called "Bistro West," just off I-5. It was situated on several acres of property that included West Steak and Seafood, West Inn and Suites, and West Mart Service Station. I don't know who owns this conglomerate of customer service but if the other restaurant and hotel are anything like the Bistro they are excellent.

The Bistro was far more fancy than we expected. They had one wall that was nothing but a wine case, about 12 feet long and filled floor to ceiling with various wines. They had a rolling ladder, like the ones in the old big-city libraries, so the bottle on the top shelf can be reached.

They had a glass partition on one side of the room that was actually a thin tank filled with oil. From the bottom, thousands of bubbles erupted continuously toward the ceiling with ever-changing colored lights at the base. It was truly beautiful.

Paul and Della graciously bought our dinners and a bottle of wine to celebrate old times and renewed friendships. We spent several hours together before it was time to move on. Once again we found ourselves reluctant to leave good friends. Paul, Della - thank you again for your generosity and for a great evening of food and friendship! Please come to Texas so we can return the favor!

We would be traveling on to San Diego in the morning. For now it was time to get some sleep. We found a nice hotel just down the road in Encinitas and crashed for the night. Tomorrow would be La Jolla, Coronado, San Diego and dinner with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law....

To be continued...

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