53 Miles

One of my 2018 resolutions this year is to hike all 53 miles of Griffith Park’s official trails. It should be easy enough: pick a trail a week and I could be done by spring break!  How-evvver, I’m not exactly good with hills. There is a great likelihood that I could get into it for two weeks then forget about it. I’m keeping it real. So far, so good, though!

Miles 1 to 3. Maybe a bit more because I took a different route on the way down and got  lost for a bit. I hiked from The Observatory to Mt. Hollywood, which is not the same as the Hollywood sign.

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Two days later, I walked the trail from the Pony Rides to Circle K and then back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watts Up! Community Is Rich with Food For the Soul and the Tummy

I recently had the chance to take crashed a private tour of the Watts Towers Cultural Center with a friend. My friend was kind enough to invite me when he was invited to visit the historic site.  Prior to the visit, I had only really looked at the Watts Towers structure and admired the bright pieces of tiles, glass, bottles, seashells, housewares and other found objects attached to the structures.  Having worked in the area many years ago, I was somewhat familiar with the story of Watts Towers and about Mr. Simon Rodia, the artist.  But I didn’t know about or paid attention to the details which held the stories that truly made Watts Towers the special structure that it is.

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In addition to the Watts Towers, the Watts Towers Cultural Center has a gallery, art studio, music center, a garden, and other offer many arts programs. They partner with local schools, community organizations, and offer the programs to the community at-large.

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Homes across the street have similar art work that were done by students and artists from the Watts Cultural Center.

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Ms. Rosie Lee Hooks is the Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus. She makes it happen! Rogelio, one of the educators, is from the community, took classes at Watts Towers, finished college, and now back in the community, giving back and enriching lives!

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After our tour, my friend and I wanted to grab a bite and discuss one of our projects.* The spot where we planned on meeting was under renovation and we were stumped on where else to go. Then a couple of young men suggested a place, Watts Coffee House, located half a block away. I was a bit wary because, although I could see the business sign, I didn’t any other sign that there was a business– a couple of tables and chairs outside, perhaps, or even one of those neon coffee signs.  When we asked the guys if they had food-food– as opposed to just coffee and muffins– they said, “They have everything!” It’s true!

Watts Coffee House is seriously a hidden gem– like, you have to find the door, walk in, then find the other door or follow the smell. Once you fine it, you will be rewarded with everything– soul food, pancakes, coffee. I had Gangsta #1 Combo which included a pork chop, link, salmon croquet, chicken wing, hash browns, three eggs, and a biscuit. OMG it was so delicious!

In addition to the deliciousness, it was so awesome to see Jordan High love and the wall signed by super cool musicians like Tony, Toni, Tone!

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My stomach, my heart, and my soul were full. What a great day!

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Exploring L.A.: 818 and 310/Pilar’s Thanksgiving Weekend

REI told the world (or at least Americans) that they would be closing their stores the day after Thanksgiving and that people should #optoutside instead of shopping. According to my Facebook feed, we needed this reminder and we listened. Perhaps the 405, the 101, the 5, et cetera deter us from going anywhere past our own little neighborhood bubble. But, people! There is so much to see in Los Angeles for little to no cost! This past Thanksgiving weekend, I stayed local and rekindled my love for L.A.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day
Orange Line Bike Trail

Did you know that there is a bike trail that goes from North Hollywood to Chatsworth? The Orange Line Bike Trail is right next to the Orange Line Busway, which runs from–you guessed it– North Hollywood to Chatsworth. The total length of the trail is 18 miles.
Due to Thanksgiving duties (reheating the Gelson’s dinner, football games on t.v.), I only biked nine miles roundtrip, from Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Balboa Park to the Sherman Way Bus Stop. I was going to ride just a little bit further but it looked like it was about to rain. Most of the westbound trail from Balboa Park is on Oxnard and Topham Streets, which are located in residential neighborhoods. But once you get to Canoga Avenue in Woodland Hills, go south a couple of blocks and you will hit a major shopping area.

Regardless of where you start on the trail, exploring Balboa Park should be on your agenda. One of the many reasons that people should not have any hate for the 818 is Balboa Park. Personally, I think Balboa Park is better than Griffith Park. Balboa Park has three golf courses, many running trails, the L.A. River (with water), a lake, many playgrounds, a baseball field for special needs sports programs, a shallow stream where the little ones could splash around, and even surreys for rent. And that’s only the central part of the park. Across Balboa Avenue, the west side of the park, there are numerous soccer and baseball fields and even a velodrome. The velodrome is one of the only three in Southern California. If you head south on Balboa to Burbank and go east, you will find the Hjelte Sports Center on the south side of the street. Keep going east and then head north when you get to Woodley.  Along Woodley, you will see signs for the toy helicopter/airplane field (Bruce/Caitlin Jenner used to come here), a  Japanese Garden (where you will see the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which was a Star Trek filming location), cross country trails, cricket fields, and even an archery range. And of course, lots of picnic tables everywhere.

If you decide to check out the Orange Line Trail, plan an hour or two for Balboa Park.

Black Friday
O’Melveny Park

You are welcome. This is an L.A. City Park tucked in the northwestern part of the City. I hiked this with a bunch of friends and some of us (me) huffed and puffed while others were able to quickly make it to the halfway point of the trail. Due to the cold wind, we turned around at the 1.5-ish mark.

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Photo Credit: Carol Lee

I actually hiked this trail a couple of months ago. The very last part of the trail was steep and narrow.  The end of the trail was marked by a large stone at the very top. Were it not for the skunk that I saw in the bushes between me and the stone market, I could have crossed O’Melveny on my list of completed trails. Grrr! But this mini outdoor adventure did not just end with the skunk. Because instead of taking the same trail back down, I decided to take a different trail. The trail looked like it had nice zigzags with a view; I thought it would be more pleasant and scenic. However, after the first switchback, I quickly learned that taking this trail was not a good idea. The trail down was steeper than it looked and had loose dirt. I had to go down the trail sideways because it was slippery. I finally spotted the park but my happiness was short-lived as another steep hill with loose dirt separated me from the flatter parts of the trail. The hill was almost a vertical. Thank goodness for fellow hikers who placed a rope that others could hold onto. Otherwise, the only way I could have gone down that hill was on my behind. But when I finally made it down the hill, I spotted a mountain lion or a coyote from less than 50 yard away! I was by myself (note: NEVER a good idea) and didn’t know what to do. I froze and remained still. Thank goodness that I had cell reception up there and was able to Google what to do. This adventure was more than I bargained for.

Morals of the story:

  • Don’t knock out San Fernando Valley.
  • There are other hiking trails and parks in L.A. other than Griffith.  Yes, I agree Griffith is cool. My point is: explore.  Go beyond the cliché.
  • Do not go hiking by yourself.

Those are the reasons why my friend and I rallied a group. And after our hiking excursion, we feasted on everyone’s Thanksgiving leftovers. We ended the fun day by going to Wanderlust Creamery for some super delicious ice cream. I highly recommend lavender honey on ube cone.

Saturday, Confronting My Thanksgiving Meal
Culver City Park

The most difficult part of exercising for me is getting up when my alarm goes off. Like a toddler, sometimes I even exclaim in a loud, angry voice, “Ohmigod it’s so so early! Why? Why???” on the first alarm beep, as if it was someone else’s fault that it went off. Since it’s been hard to motivate myself lately, the only way I could get up to work out in the morning is to be accountable to other people. I pride myself on not being a flake. So, although I had to drive down from The Valley on that cold, Saturday morning, I was at the park by 8:00 a.m.  to meet my friends.  My friends and I joined Kate, from Happy Hour Body, who led the group in dynamic stretches and other warm ups.  After the super legit warm up (we did sit-ups and squats! whuuut!), we headed across the street to Ballona Creek Trail for a short run. The pace and distance varied based on ability.  Each of us had a running buddy.

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The Ballona Creek Trail starts near Jefferson Boulevard near La Cienega and ends at the beach. Some people think that the area between Sepulveda to Lincoln can be shady. I think it’s fine; my friends agree with the other people, though. In general, it’s always better to not go alone. Plus, it’s more fun. Anyway, once you get to the end of the Ballona Creek Trail, the trail becomes the Marvin Braude Trail. Take the Marvin Braude Trail north to Marina Del Rey, Venice, and Santa Monica or south towards Playa Del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa, and Redondo.

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Photo credit for this section: Jen Mason

Along the Route and Useful Info Along Trail:

Once upon a time five years ago, Jefferson Boulevard was just a short cut from Sepulveda to La Cienega. Now it’s the pretty much the eastern end of Silicon Beach. You’ll likely spot hipsters and creative types.

Exit Duquesne and head north to Downtown Culver City for coffee, brunch, bars, food, ice cream, etc. If you head south on Duquesne, you will see Culver City Park is just across the street. If you go east on Jefferson about half a mile, Baldwin Hills Overlook/Baldwin Hills Stairs/the New Stairs Because the Santa Monica Stairs is Now Passe will be on the south side of the street. There are a few bike racks at the bottom. Very few. The top has great view of L.A. and the Hollywood Sign on a clear day. The small amphitheater, garden area, and the visitor area are all worth the hike up. if you want to skip the trail and the stairs, you can also walk up Hetzler Road.

Exit Sepulveda: If you need a bathroom stop, there is a McDonald’s on the west side of the street.

Exit McConnell: There is Beverage Warehouse. It’s open to the public. Great selection. Also, if you want to grab a bite, take this exit and head past Culver Boulevard to Bonaparte and then head west on Bonaparte. Bonaparte turns into Glencoe (Glen Alla Park on the corner). Keep heading west for a couple of long blocks and you’ll see a shopping area with a lot of quick bite and dining options.

Saturday PM, Date Night/Just Another Night Out With The Boyfriend
The Getty Center

The Getty Center will be open until 9:00 p.m.on Saturdays until January 2nd. If you get there after 4:00 p.m., parking is $10, instead of the usual $15 per car. If there is long line to get on the tram, hike up! It’s about three-quarters of a mile. I hiked up wearing 2-inch boots and was fine.

The S.O. (Significant Other/Boyfriend) and I took advantage of the slightly quieter vibe. Most of the people who were there also seemed to be on dates. Who could blame them/us? It was such a clear day that we could clearly see the Pacific Ocean as soon as we arrived. We also arrived just in time to watch the sunset. Because it was not crowded, there were a lot of quiet spaces where we just chilled and drank our adult bevs before we checked out the exhibits. My favorite area: West Building, Lower Level: Sculptures.

Sunday
And so I rest. The S.O. and I did the ultimate suburbia thing and went to Red Lobster and had Cold Stone Ice Cream.  Ok. *I* had Cold Stone Ice Cream.

Don’t wait for REI to remind you again. Keep exploring L.A. one area code at a time!

The Randomly Selected Ones

When I was 9 years old and was living back in the old country– the Philippines– I collected Tang UPC Codes.  I collected Tang UPC codes because you could exchange them for a NASA Space Pen, the kind astronauts used.

Collecting the codes required effort. My family lived in a small fishing town.  We shopped at a public market made up of small stores and local vendors where bartering skills were imperative.  In order to purchase Tang, we had to go to the supermarkets in Manila, which was at least a couple of jeepney rides away.

Back then, I didn’t– couldn’t– even dream about going to NASA.  NASA was in another country, thus, out of reach.  And, in my 9 year-old my mind, it was a special place only accessible to important people doing really big things.  The pen was as close as I was going to get to NASA.

Receiving the e-mail that I was one of the 100 randomly selected to participate in NASA JPL Social on November 4th and 5th was surreal.*

Most of the pictures below are from the first half hour.

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*I have been to JPL before, but it’s a completely different experience when you are there with some sort of a badge.

Got On The Bus!

Today, I rode the bus to work. I know it’s not earth-shattering, but it’s a bit of a change for me and big news in my world. The last time I rode the bus was during Carmageddon I, to a pub crawl. And the time before that, I rode the bus to the second CicLAVia. And the time before that, it was to the U2 concert at the Rose Bowl. In the last 10 years, I only rode the bus as part of a ‘fun experience’ that was part of another social activity.  It was certainly not a part of my daily life.

My job requires visiting different sites throughout Southern California. In addition, I have to attend a lot of events in the evenings. The freeways are interwoven in my existence.  Although I have accepted L.A. traffic as a way of life and the bargain most of us made with the devil for the 70-degree weather in February, it still stresses me out. So, while Giuseppe, my car, is at my favorite mechanic for a week for a little face lift, I thought I give public transportation a try. I wanted respite from driving and traffic.

Fortunately, I live near one of the main L.A. thoroughfares and work near another one. It should take me two buses each way to get to and from work. But, I get distracted.

Instead of getting off where I needed to transfer to take Bus #2, I decided to get off half a mile before my stop, right in front of my favorite donut shop. The donut shop wasn’t too far from work but it was not a short walk either. I had plenty of time so I decided that instead of catching Bus #2, I would get a donut and walk to the office. Along the way, I crossed one of the streets that overlooked the freeway. It’s one thing to sit in traffic, but it’s another to see how far it extends. Or not see.

I sit in this traffic every. single. day. five. days. a. week.
I sit in this traffic every. single. day. five. days. a. week.

I kept walking and said ‘hello’ to a few people I passed by– the man walking his dog, the film crew setting up outside a house, and some random guy just leaning next to a door without a sign, smoking. I must admit that I had a Law & Order/Criminals Minds moment but I assured myself that, well, should anything happen, I’m on a fairly busy street with witnesses.

If I were in my car, I would not have seen that the woman on the balcony was watching me.

Cost: $1.50 for the bus fare and $0.79 donut. 1.45 mile walk.

The good thing about where I worked and where I lived was that there were various bus options. I decided to take a different bus on my way back. I got off at the last stop and was planning to transfer to another bus that would drop me right on my block. But as soon as I stepped out of the bus, the temperature was just too perfect.  It would be wrong not to walk home.

The walk home was at least twice the distance of my morning walk. But I figured that it would allow me to knock down some cardio time.  And since I was walking along the bus route, should I get tired or lazy, I could just hop on a bus. But I kept walking.

I had a nice steady pace going until I got to Downtown Culver City. Then I saw people. And the farmers’ market. And then a clown. Then I smelled the scent of carne asada mixed in with the fragrance of fresh lilies and the sweet smell of kettle corn. I had to participate in this Tuesday fun! I rushed passed the local businesses, went to the ATM for some cash, and bought a carne asada sandwich, hummus, pita bread, fried pita chips, and a bunch of lilies.

Shortly thereafter, the sun started setting quickly. It was really time for me to head home.

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Cost: $1.50 for fare and $21.00 for farmers’ market purchases.

To be continued…