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.


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.


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.



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.

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!


Humble Pie

Forgiveness is rewarding. And humbling. If you give people a chance to correct their mistake, they might surprise you two-fold.

Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I rushed to Coco’s to pick up the banana cream pie that I ordered for a party. I called yesterday afternoon, well before the 5 pm pre-order deadline. When I arrived, there was a long line that went into the outside sidewalks for pre-order and regular pick up. Employees were trying to sort out pre-paid, pre-order but not paid, etc. It was just chaos. And then I overheard that they were out of banana cream pie. I was still in the middle of the line and got a little nervous. Long story short, they were out of banana cream pies and they could not find my order.

I was livid. I was craving banana cream pie and I wanted to bring it to the party.

One of the employees said she would get the manager but I was just pissed. I left, drove away.

Then I realized that it’s Thanksgiving and where the heck was I going to find another decent pie? Also, looking for another place would just create work for me. I decided that I would go back, speak to the manager, and my “demand” would be to just get a pie and pay right away, instead of stand in the long line.

I walked up, asked to speak to the manager (I’m calm by now), and waited a couple of minutes. I explained the situation and she gave me my pie options. I told her I would just get one pecan. She gave me the bag and I walked up to the register and took out a $20 bill. She would not take it, sincerely apologized, and explained that it was chaotic and that she hoped I had a better day. She gave me two pies. She was genuinely nice– calming.

I was humbled. When I was driving away, I thought about writing a Yelp review and vowing never to eat there again. Even though my original intent of driving back was out of desperation and selfishness, I would like to think that there was a part of me that wanted to give Coco’s a chance to correct their mistake. Oftentimes, we end relationships with people and businesses without giving them a chance to respond. We forget that there were factors that played into the situations and that they were people, too. Businesses were also made up of people with feelings and were fallible.

So on this day of Thanksgiving, I am adding the manager of Coco’s Culver City on my list of people for whom I am thankful.

Going Around and Around, Very, Very Fast

Imagine a NASCAR track, but the banking is at a 45-degree angle and beyond.   And instead of cars, imagine bicycles without brakes racing around that track.  The track is a velodrome, and the sport is track cycling.  It’s fast, furious and Kate Wilson is one of the best at it.

Kate Wilson, a senior at Summit View School, is a nationally-recognized track cyclist. She is a member of the Connie Cycling Junior Racing Team, based at the L.A. Velodrome at the Home Depot Center in Carson.  Coached by Olympian Connie Paraskevin, Kate started in 2006 and has medaled more than a few times.  Most recently, Kate, along with a teammate, won the gold medal in the Women’s Madison Event at USA Cycling’s 2011 Elite Track Championship.  Kate also competed in the Junior Track Nationals in Texas and was one of the 16 cyclists who represented the United States at the Junior World Track Championships in Moscow.  In addition to track cycling, Kate also competes in road racing.  She is on the NOW and Novartis for MS Development Team.  She also competes in biathlon, a sport that combines cross-country skiing and shooting.  This last winter, Kate placed first in her division at the Mammoth Biathlon.  And before cycling and biathlon, Kate played soccer for a club and for her high school.

All these sports and school! But perhaps athleticism is in her genes.  Kate’s mom, Jan Palchikoff, is an Olympian in rowing.  Her father, Dr. Wayne Wilson, is a renowned sports historian and is the Vice President of Education Services at the LA84 Foundation, a private foundation established with part of the surplus from the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.  Dr. Wilson also competed and placed in the side horse event at his state’s high school gymnastics championship.  When I ran into their family at Mammoth last winter, I ended up on a cross-country skiing adventure.  Their love for sport is quite contagious.

If you see Kate and her family in the neighborhood, my advice to you is to start stretching. Because before you know it, you’ll find yourself participating in some kind of really, really fast sport.

Fox Hills Forever*

On any given Saturday or Sunday, the space is bustling with sounds of children running around, the clickety clack of some woman’s heels, and vendors tempting passers-by with sea salt scrub, new cell phones, cell phone covers, helicopter toys, pillows and the like.  Women and men wait near the modern stalls where they can get their brows waxed and get a haircut, respectively.  Cotton candy, popcorn, a celebrity-endorsed milkshake, the Orange Julius/Dairy Queen-adjacent-to-Mrs. Fields situation, smoothies, and pretzels tempt many who are on their third diet that week.  Meanwhile, customers stop by Shiekh, JC Penney’s, Macy’s, and Bakers’, as they have for many years.  Though the need for toilet paper and desire for new electronics bring new people in for practical reasons, a new gym, a hamburger stand, and the restaurant/brewery make them stay.

If you are a Los Angeles native in the Culver City and neighboring communities of Ladera Heights, Baldwin Hills, Windsor Heights, View Park, Crenshaw, Westchester, Marina Del Rey—and basically any surrounding community within the five-mile radius—the mall off the I-90 Freeway on Sepulveda/Slauson, the revamped Westfield Culver City will always just be Fox Hills Mall to the locals.

Beyond shopping, the Fox Hills Mall continues to serve as a social scene and the central marketplace for the community.  When I asked a friend to go with me to Target at Fox Hills to pick up cleaning supplies, she quickly replied that she would need another 20 minutes because she would have to put on mascara as she was sure she would see someone she knew, which was often true.

As we made our way to Target, we passed by deejays and their turntables in front of a couple of stores (including Macy’s), saw our younger selves in the next-gen set shopping for clubbing clothes, and dodged kids racing to the Halloween Spooktacular event.  But beyond clubbing clothes, items for the home, cleaning supplies, and seasonal events, Fox Hills is also where people run into their high school friends and maybe even their third cousins, including non-biological cousins.

As you make your way from Claire’s to Hallmark, you might learn who just got married and/or had a baby.  I am willing to bet that there are people who have left the state-or even just the neighborhood—and ran into a friend or family during their Fox Hills visit.

Fox Hills Mall is Culver City’s marketplace.  It is where the action is and where it always has been.

It is a central gathering place for the community.

Fox Hills forever.**

The blog was also posted on Culver City Patch.

*Original Title

** Edited out of Patch.

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