Monday, August 10, 2009

Finally getting out of town

It's been a long couple of months, but Alli & I were finally able to get out of the Las Vegas heat this past weekend -- ironically, doing so while the heat was taking a few days off itself. After a home cooked meal Friday night... we woke up Saturday morning (well, Alli woke up, I had trouble sleeping) and we jumped in the car for a quick trip to LA.
The drive down went pretty quick. Alli & I took turns driving so that helped. Once we got into the heart of LA... we ran into some heavy traffic (impossible to avoid in some areas) but made it to stop number one: Santa Monica.

We paid ten bucks to park, and walked around a little looking for a place to eat lunch. Ended up a small deli on the south end of the Third Street Promenade ( Alli had a delicious half-veggie sandwich & a salad and I had half turkey with some french onion soup. Everything was very tasty. Then, we strolled by the desert counter and picked up a big loaded chocolate chip cookie for the walk down to the beach.

The beach is... very deceiving. The water looks so close when you're 5 stories above it... but when you get down to the actual sand, you realize just how much of a hike it is to the water. It's damn near a half mile - in the sand! We took of our flip flops and made the trek across the Sahara before finally reaching the water - where pretty much half the population of the Los Angeles Basin was waiting for us. The people watching included a guy with a multi-colored softball size bruise on his side, a woman with an enormous belly stuffed into a bathing suit, some mutant with a growth on his stomach resembling Kuato (photo at left, from Total Recall), and an assumed pedophile snapping photos of pre-teens in bikinis.
So, after walking through the water for a little bit, we headed up to the famous Santa Monica Pier and slowly made our way back to the car. It took us a little over an hour to get to the Hilton Pasadena.
We got checked in and relaxed for a little while before getting ready for the game. The hotel was pretty nice, but we were smack in the middle of a wedding reception and a 20-year reunion when we walked in.
Alli and I got on the road at 6:00 and made it inside Dodger Stadium before 6:30. (The hotel is just 8 miles from the stadium, a straight shot down the 110). We walked around for a bit, before getting settled into our seats with a beer, a hot dog and a pizza. We were sitting in the second deck, just four rows back from the edge down the right field line. We could see into the Braves bullpen. It was perfect.
The first several innings went by very fast. The game was a pitchers duel, so very few hits and mostly quick outs. After the 4th, we followed our noses, hunting for finest of ballpark delicacies, garlic fries. We ended up spending about an inning and a half on the left field side, watching Manny Ramirez jog out to his post, while we were licking the garlic off our hands. Disgustingly good. Just like Dodgers' starter Clayton Kershaw on this night (Seven shutout innings, 10 strikeouts and a bunch of just gnarly curveballs).
Still... no score. The game went extra innings - bonus baseball - but in the 10th some guy hit a two-run homer for the Braves that landed right below us and we immediately bolted. We go to the car and from there, made it back to the hotel in about 15 minutes. I've never in my life gotten in and out of Dodger Stadium so fast and so easy. Luckily, (or tragically) the Dodgers late rally came up short, according to the little man in the radio.
On Sunday, we got ready quick and cut out to explore Pasadena. What a gorgeous city! We had breakfast at the Central Park Cafe ( Alli had French Toast croissants covered with chocolate shavings and strawberries. I had the Alaskan Benedict with a side of fruit. Her dish was perfect and mine was exceptionally tasty. Even the coffee was pretty good!Justify Full
From there, we drove to One Colorado, parked in a garage (another $7 for parking) and did some window shopping. We were a little early -- there's nothing open until 11, save some really cute sidewalk dining restaurants and this crazy place: which was a fantastic little shop filled with unique and disturbing knick knacks.
We made a pass through a few shops, once the stores opened and spent some time in the Container Store looking for a breadbox but not finding anything we were in love with - except each other.
After that, we hit the road for a quick drive past the Rose Bowl. The grandaddy of 'em all was hosting a giant flea market that Alli & I are planning to go back to another day. The city of Pasadena itself is beautiful. Big trees, great mountain views and a neighborhood full of homes that would make it hard to leave. We are definitely planning to come back and explore it some more.
We took the 210 to the 15 and stopped in Barstow for a snack. Then, for the icing on the cake, we made a stop at the "world famous Mad Greek" restaurant in Baker ( The place was packed! But what a gem. Alli ordered a greek salad and I chose the chicken gyro. For good measure, Alli insisted on a giant pickle. It made for a good snack while we waited for our food. The place didn't appear to have any air conditioning and it was really crowded, plus, maybe a bit overpriced in my opinion, but everyone was pretty friendly and suprisingly patient. We waited about 15 minutes for our food and it was well worth the wait. Alli's salad was delicious, packed with feta, olives and red onions with a pita kicked in for good measure. My gyro was presented on a bed of white, buttery rice that felt a lot healthier than fries and was just as satisfying. I had to eat my gyro with a fork! But it was terrific. We were excited to learn that there are two Mad Greeks in Vegas so we won't have to drive all the way to Baker to enjoy it next time. We're going to have to try the shakes.
And that was our weekend. We got back around 5:30 Sunday. A quick trip where we didn't spend more than about 24 hours in LA but it went a long way toward refreshing us for the long two weeks ahead... Until next time... B