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.

20151127_142505

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.

11202602_10153758075873320_935787343837378139_n

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.

12313897_10153758052728320_4238684530189498890_n

12308575_10153758053098320_941133443812512147_n

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!

Advertisements

If You Give Me An Oreo, I’ll Tell You About Earthquakes

I love field trips. I enjoy experiential learning out in the field. Fortunately, I have a diverse group of friends from various fields who invite me to their events. My favorite kind of field trips are science field trips where I get to learn about my super smart friends’ worlds. Through my friends, I have been able to get a closer look (get special tours) at really cool places such as JPL and SpaceX. Recently, my friend Matt, an earthquake engineer, and I toured the San Andreas Fault with the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society.

It was an early Saturday morning road trip to San Bernardino but it was worth it. The group met at Cal State University – San Bernardino, which was pretty much right next to the mountains. The tour was led by Dr. Robert DeGroot, a.k.a. Bob, who was the Project Manager at the Office of Experiential Learning & Career Advancement at the Southern California Earthquake Center at the University of Southern California. Got that? But, at the end of the day, Bob was a chemist at heart. He quipped about his colleagues from “other sciences” such as biology throughout the day. He’s still friends with them.

Anyway.

Bob took our group of 40 or so to the geology lab where he gave us an overview– an orientation– of the items in our packets, the plan for the day, and an activity to get us started. The group was comprised of professionals but there were a couple of families who brought their teenagers. The presentation, as well as the entire day, was very newbie/regular person friendly. I do not have a science background but I understood a lot of the concepts. It also helped that the first activity to explain the basics of tectonic plate movements involved Oreos. The activity was actually created by Robert J. Lillie, who wrote a book called, “Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments, and Seashores.” Science and food… I will have to check out this book.

Below are my takeaways from the lab intro:

I thought we were going to drive to the Fault but it was about a 2 kilometer hike from campus. From the campus, you could see where the Fault might be just by looking at the vegetation. You could see that there was a change in landscape, e.g. bushes not present in other parts of the mountain. Bob encouraged us to pick up rocks and feel the dirt in our hands. We stopped several times and he explained to us the geology of the area. For example, Badger Hill was 60 million years old and made up of metamorphic sedimentary rocks. Bob explained the concept of erosion (movement and transport) to us and why some of the rocks we picked up were not jagged (because they have not been transported enough).

Hike takeaways:

  • Mountain High Ski Resort is on the San Andreas Fault.
  • Faults, in general, have many different strands.
  • The San Bernardino Strand of the San Andreas Fault is on the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.
  • On top of Badger Hill, there is a GPS that could detect the plates’ motion in millimeter square. It moves 15 millimeters per year.
  • Why everyone is and should be freaking out:
    • There have been a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in most of the Fault’s stretch every 150 years, BUT
    • the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault (from San Diego to San Bernardino area) has not had one in 350 years.

Someone asked if a bunch of smaller earthquakes– the 5.0 magnitude variety– would be better than just having The Big One. Bob answered it with the spaghetti strand experiment:

  • 5.0 magnitude = 1 strand of spaghetti (listen for the crack; look for how it breaks)
  • 6.0 magnitude = 32 strands of spaghetti (try to listen for the crack, or if you can even crack it; note how it breaks and how it doesn’t break in the same place)
  • 7.0 magnitude = 32 x 1,000 strands of spaghetti
    and so on…

    • Bottom line: The larger it is, the harder it is to break. But when it finally breaks as a group, notice how each strand breaks at a different place and how, the more strands there are, the more it is all over the place. That’s basically our situation: When The Big One hits, huge and all over the place. That gives a whole different perspective to our 4.5’s, doesn’t it?  Like, whatevs.

We hiked back down to the lab to eat our lunch. As I chewed my turkey on white Subway Sandwich which, at that time, tasted like filet mignon after the warm and super breezy hike, I thought about how much nature is all around us, how much is going beneath and above us even when it feels still, and how little most of us know about it.

We all need to take more field trips.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Other info:

What to do if there is an earthquake: DROP. COVER. HOLD ON.

A Flavorful Community

Culver City is bursting with flavors. While Akasha and City Tavern continue to be Downtown Culver City institutions, new hot spots, such as The Wallace, are also attracting foodies and locals alike. West on Washington, the Alibi Room continues to be a stronghold with their drinks and unique bar food, while A-Frame gets re-conceptualized. And in the middle of West Washington Boulevard and Downtown, there is an occasional gathering of food entrepreneurs and restaurant hopefuls.

I recently attended the World Foodie Fair held at LA Spice Cafe on Sepulveda Boulevard. The gathering was a pop-up: eight food entrepreneurs who want to kickstart their dream offer a sample of their food to determine if their food is good enough. Cost to sample is minimal: $1 for one tasting ticket, most samples cost three tickets. I sampled four of the eight stations: Pablo Chang, Cheeky Styley, Mexicain, and Opium Chocolate. Attendees also received a bonus ticket to sample Craft Meatball.

Craft Meatball is possibly the best meatball I have ever had; it was meaty and flavorful without the flavor overwhelming the meat. The roasted meatball was topped with cream Roquefort sauce. Cheeky Styley’s beef cheek cream puff was made with traditional French Choux pastry filled with tender Bordelaise braised beef cheeks and blue cheese potato mash then topped with horseradish cream and grated parmesan; it was also delicious. The description was true– it really melted in my mouth. And Pablo Chang did a great job fusing the flavors with his Asian barbecue pork belly with slaw and wasabi mayo. As to be expected, my sweet tooth required something post eating anything savory. I tried Opium Chocolate’s macaron with a surprise flavor. It was good, but I couldn’t identify the flavor: sweet with a slightly sweet/sour after taste. But the talk of the night was Mexicain’s French-inspired churros with sea salt dulce de leche. From the time I checked in at the door, I was urged by everyone I encountered to make sure I save three tickets for the churro station. They were right. I should have saved six.

At the end of the evening, attendees were asked to vote for their favorite. Food entrepreneurs who received the most votes got invited to the next World Foodie Fair along with a new set of entrepreneurs. After five minutes, two sheets, and checking and unchecking my vote, I finally decided on one and submitted the sheet before I could change my mind again.

Besides the food, what I appreciated about World Foodie Fair was the community effort. Husband and wife team Steve and Leanne Schwartz, who owns the building and operates LA Spice Cafe, respectively, not only opened up the space– including the kitchen– to the food entrepreneurs, but were also present and supportive throughout the event. World Foodie Fair organizers also explained that, prior to exhibiting samples at the event, food entrepreneurs met with a World Foodie Fair chef for feedback on the flavor and presentation.

With already exciting restaurants that align Washington Boulevard from the east to the west, coupled with a community supportive and nurturing of food entrepreneurs, Culver City will continue to be an exciting food destination.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One Friday Afternoon…

Hidden gem in the City of San Fernando.  A cool place to be alone with other people.

Spotted:

  • A girl organizing her personal finances (as can be seen with her receipts and other files)
  • Someone on their laptop, intently typing
  • A group of three guys in their 20s, discussing how to improve instruction in schools
  • A group of women, just chit-chatting

If you are in the City of San Fernando, definitely check out Compañía de Café.  Check out this LA Times article to learn more about their story.

Compañía de Café

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My Race Course Is Cooler Than Yours

Students Run LA (SRLA) provides a six-month long-distance running program to prepare middle and high school students to enter and complete the Los Angeles Marathon.  Students run with their leaders three to four times a week and attend community races that bring all the SRLA groups together.  Team leaders also prepare in their role as an SRLA leader by attending a Leaders Training Conference.  Over the six month period, students participate in a 5K, 10K, 15K, two half marathons, and an 18-mile run, culminating with the Los Angeles Marathon.  The program provides students with a safe, supervised program of exercise, mentoring and goal setting, a healthy and constructive alternative to involvement in gangs, use of illegal substances, and sitting in front of the television.  The students learn that hard work and persistence leads to success.

I’m fortunate that I am able to crash their runs, especially their 15K at Universal Studios Backlot.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Following the Path of Bieber

Trying to learn how to become a superstar in one happy hour.

Pics from YouTube Space LA Happy Hour.  Basically, it’s a YouTube movie studio.  Access is for those with lots of followers.  My friend Jacob and I were probably the only two without a YouTube station.  Ok, I have one but I only have one video. Anyway, the event was fun and had “HollyTechies”– a portmanteau of ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Technology’.  My friend Jacob coined this word so I can’t take credit.  But just imagine the kind of people you would see sipping chai latte on Melrose Avenue on a weekday and techie folks in one big, industrial, artsy room.  The name badge displayed our name, interests, and channel.  Jacob recognized YouTube personalities (is that what you call it?) in the room and most seemed to know each other.  Meanwhile, we toured the space, explored, and people-watched.

It was so… L.A.!  We loved it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.