Tag Archives: California

Roadside: The Lafayette Hotel, San Diego, California

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I use to find myself in San Diego more often, but these days I barely even get as far south as Orange County. The work and school double header schedule keeps me on my toes (or more accurately keeps my butt glued to a chair and my eyes crossed in the glow of a computer screen). Thankfully this summer a work conference pulled me out of my orbit around the center of Los Angeles, and sent me out into the wilds of the Balboa Park region of San Diego.

I have a soft spot for old hotels, and when I get to pick the pillow I lay my head on at night, you can bet it’s going to be in a location that’s at least twice my age, if not older. The bright side to this travel affinity is that older hotels are often cheaper, or at the very least equivalent in price, to a decent mid-range modern chain. That was definitely the case on my recent conference jaunt, that led me to a very budget friendly but snazzy stay at the Lafayette Hotel.

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The photos on the web really don’t do the location justice. Sure, there’s a great pool and it was in a convenient location for Balboa Park. But what tops it all is the lingering mid-century pizzazz. It’s like all those years of star stays left a little sparkly residue.

The rooms themselves are clean and relatively basic, but then you get the old bathroom style and the big old windows. The lobby area is really where you feel jazzy. The umbrellas hanging off the ceiling look a little silly in photos, but in person they work.

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And then you can drink San Diego craft beer while overlooking the pool. Good beer outdoors with a view – here’s my number Lafayette, you’ve got my heart.

Why I’ve been MIA: July.

Home in the Sierra Nevadas

Home in the Sierra Nevadas

My appreciation for the outdoors is really thanks to my college friends Jess and Kate. I’ve always thought of myself as a “city person” and most of my outdoor adventures in the past happened as a result of someone else’s planning and burning desire to tromp through wilderness. Basically Jess and Kate and other associated friends took me outside, put me on a trail, and made me realize that nature is awesome and that there is nothing wrong with doing your business in outhouses (or bushes), dirt, and encounters with all the non-human creatures that exist in the great outdoors.

Kate was brought up as a summertime mountain gal and her family is awesome about sharing the beautiful space they have up in the Sierra Nevada mountains. To get to their place you take a ferry across a lake and then hike in 4 miles. I always find it a little challenging to explain the place to others. They have a very established site with structures, outhouses, and showers. It’s somewhere between cabin and campsite, depending on which pillow you lay your head on at night.

Sallie Keyes

One of the Sallie Keyes

Before I went I was a little skeptical that this was my dish, but I was hooked after going for a week a couple years ago. I’ve been back twice since and when I need to go to a mental happy place I think of the blue-green of Sallie Keyes Lakes or the smell of trees after rain, or the water spray from motoring across Florence Lake in a boat.

There is something really nice about being detatched from electronics and focusing on your surroundings, including people. Conversations around a fire, reevaluating the definition of warm at Warm Lake, realizing how big the universe is, and appreciating existence. Ahhh.

Being outdoors also makes me aware of my own physicality and individual agency. You really have to own the choices you make while climbing mountains and choosing trails because you can’t call anyone up to come pick you up if you overexert yourself or get too far out for your own good. I climbed a mountain last time I was up there (Mt. Senger, what up?) and that was something that I use to think was out of the range of my abilities. It was one of the most challenging physical things I’ve ever done, but food tastes better and sleep is sounder afterwards.

My only real chicken-out situation was sleeping alone at Al’s Camp,  or rather, taking a short nap before staying up all night because holy crap didn’t that splashing in the river sound like a bear coming over to see if I had snacks?! I turned on my flashlight and waved it around and made a bunch of noise and was a general idiot. I didn’t see any bears, it was probably a raccoon or a deer or something. Having a fantastic imagination when you’re alone in a dark, foreign place is a terrible thing.

Some people have friends that get them into drugs, excessive drinking, or shenanigans that get them put in jail.  Thankfully I have friends whose version of getting high is climbing a 12,000 ft. mountain.  I think a big part of me will always be a city girl, but I had my eyes opened to something I never would’ve initially sought out on my own.  Thanks guys!

Happiest Place on Earth.

Happiest Place on Earth.

Pico Adobe, Los Angeles, California

Inside the Pico Adobe

Inside Pico Adobe

One of the things that I love about Los Angeles, but also one of the things that makes its history so enigmatic, is the tendency to find very historic things next to very unglamorous things.  Earlier this week I got a chance to visit the Pico Adobe.  When it was built there was only one other second story house in existence in all of Los Angeles (according to the docent).  The core of the structure was built in 1834 and additional rooms were added on in following years.  Although it was blazing hot outside it was cool and comfortable inside, and I marveled at the usefulness of old timey construction methods.

The adobe is in the northernmost reaches of metro Los Angeles – and right next to a trailer park.  This juxtaposition of über historic California craftsmanship with a cluster of small thin walled dwellings is somehow appealing.  It’s this sort of tucked away quirkiness of Los Angeles history that often makes it difficult to parse, but also gives it its charm.

In the backyard of the Pico Adobe

In the backyard of the Pico Adobe

Roadside: Thoughts, plus Blythe, California and Shields Date Garden, Indio, California

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I think the perfect roadside kitsch is a combination of authentically old remnants of past structures and cultures combined with an almost sideshow like willingness to exploit these remnants. Parking is always available and if you’re a city dweller there is something especially great about getting to talk to people who work and live in these areas.

I think part of why Wall Drug was fun to stop at but not as memorable was the lack of opportunity to really talk to anyone local. What made a small jewelry stand in Quartzsite, AZ so interesting and a stop at an old bar counter in Goodsprings, NV and Randsburg, CA so satisfying was the chance to talk to locals about where they come from and what they do.

On the Quartzsite trip me and my road trip buddies also stopped in Blythe, California at Courtesy Coffee Shop and at Shields Date Farm in Indio, California.  We didn’t spend too long at either place, but they were both worthwhile stops.

Courtesy was worth the stop for the ambiance.  We totally didn’t realize that there’s a nighttime mood lighting dinner menu side and a bright, cheery, family friendly diner on the other side of the building – we ended up eating diner breakfast in romantic mood lighting, whoops.  What rebels.

Shields blew away my conception of dates.  Thanks to a (generous, enthusiastic, date promoting) researcher at work I’d already had a chance to sample a couple different kinds of dates, but going to ground zero of datedom is an experience that further altered my feelings toward the fruit.  There are so many kinds of dates that I’m starting to believe there’s one for everyone (I liked the honey ones best, and the date bread was also pretty killer.).

Now, where to next?  I’ve got a full tank of gas and a case of the go-sies.

 

Roadside: Charlie Brown Farms, Littlerock, California

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Charlie Brown Farms is pretty much a grocery store and a restaurant with ok food. I was pretty impressed they had a vegan chili (I guess it’s close enough to the Los Angeles health cult aura to merit throwing a few bones to the health conscious metropolitans passing through town.). I can’t judge a desert place on their vegan chili (I’ve had way better – thank you Phoenix Saloon in New Braunfels, TX for setting the veggie chili bar impossibly high), but my friend got the ribs and rated them only ok, so I’m gonna say food is not the reason to come here. They had a fun selection of honey, molasses, snacks, candies, and sodas, so I don’t regret the stop, but the charm is just not there. They had some small dinos hanging out by the parking lot, but nothing to write home about.

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Roadside: Randsburg General Store, Randsburg, California

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On a trip up to Red Rocks Canyon State Park (the California one), me and my hiking buddy stopped at Randsburg, CA. Randsburg is a bit more touristy than Goodsprings, NV, but it was still a heck of a lot more engaging than Calico. At the Randsburg General Store we got to sit at a 100+ year old counter in tiny little bar chairs constructed for the size of the average American circa 1900. The diner style food was only average but their lime phosphate was legit and it was fun talking to the cashier/server/waitress about her life out in the desert.

Roadside: Calico Ghost Town, Calico, California

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Everytime I drove between Southern California and Las Vegas I wistfully looked at the signs advertising Calico Ghost Town and wished we had time to stop and take a peek. Last Vegas trip my dreams became reality! It was sort of a disappointing reality. It was July and well over 100 degrees, which was sort of exciting to experience in a masochistic way. The little shops and town were cute, but they looked more touristy than ghosty (I know, I’m writing about my love for tackiness and I complain it’s too touristy?!). I don’t regret the stop, but I probably won’t be back.