The Journey to Casa Madera – Los Angeles

November 15, 2010 – Tonight I gave Alfonso a ride home as he lent his bicycle to Marco whose bike had broken and lived farther away.  We were told last week by our insurance agent that Mexicans are not allowed to be on foot in our neighbourhood after 6:00 pm unless they live in the neighbourhood.   Otherwise they run the risk of being picked up by one of the many police patrols that run through the area.  I am pretty sure that is not a ride any of them wanted to take so I loaded him into the jeep and ran him over to Jarretaderas which by car is only 5 minutes away.

The man loves to talk and he loves to talk about music (no wonder I like him).  And he really likes to talk about english music.  It was very strange his first day here when he turned his ghetto blaster up to about 9 (so he could hear it over the smashing concrete) and into our home flowed Can’t buy me love by the Beatles.  This was followed up with many other Beatles classics.  Throughout the day we were treated to Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, The Bee Gees and finally the one english music radio station in town.  CKUA stayed silent in the house that day.  Mainly because there was not a snowball’s chance in Puerto Vallarta that we could hear it!

But I digress, all the way to his casa he talked.  Trying to find the right english word for this and that.  Asking me for the proper word in english for this spanish word.  Now this would be just fine and dandy if my spanish vocabulary was more than about 200 words!  I fear that he is going pick up the wrong english from someone who had no idea what he was asking me in the first place.  It was quite the enjoyable ride.  Reminded me of many of the rides we were on in Disneyland….

November 10, 2008 – when we checked out of the hotel in Santa Barbara (who knew it was an elitist playground? apparently everybody but Heather and I) after we coughed up the ridiculous amount of money they wanted for a very average hotel room we asked the desk clerk about the Monarch Butterflies.  We had been reading that there is a park where the butterflies rested in Santa Barbara on their migration to Michoacan, Mexico for the winter.  The desk clerk told we where the park was and said it was very close.  He gave us directions and we set out to find it.  After driving in circles for what seemed like hours but probably was only 45 minutes, we said the heck with it and headed for the freeway to LA.

The Freeway to LA

Our plans were to hit a few high spots in Los Angeles on the way through and spend the night in Anaheim so we could hit Disneyland the next day.  We figured that we were there so we should make a stop at the Happiest Place on Earth.

One just never tires of seeing that

First stop, Beverly Hills. What can you say about Beverly Hills that has not already been said.  Rodeo Drive

I would like to actually see this at night!

is kind of cool and they have chandeliers for street lamps.  Had no plans to actually shop on Rodeo Drive or shop period as we could barely fit a bag of chips in the car as it was so we just drove the street.

On to Hollywood and Hollywood Boulevard.  Checked out Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the walk of fame and moved on to the La Brea Tar Pits.  Those were interesting and worth checking out if you are stuck for something to do in LA.

The largest lagoon at the Tar Pits

Over the years we have heard so much about Venice Beach so we decided it was a nice day we should check it out.  We were 2 of maybe 6 people on the beach.

This would be something to see in the summer

Not much going on but what a beach, goes forever.  The water however is not the warmest in November.

The Venice Canals

The day had been full so we thought we should mosey on to Anaheim before the traffic really built up on the freeways.  I have driven the freeways before with a map and made out ok but man the GPS makes things so much easier.  The little voice tells you a couple of kilometers ahead that you will be exiting right instead of the passenger (does not matter whether it is Heather or me who is the passenger) saying I think that was our exit we just blew by.

Thank god for Garmin!

It was a nice comfortable drive to Anaheim, found a reasonable hotel (100 bucks cheaper than the night before in SB) and relaxed for a bit before heading out and finding some dinner.

The next day we awoke to an absolutely perfect Southern California day.  Sun was shining, temperatures were warm but not too hot, all in all a great day to visit Disneyland.  We did every possible thing we could do there.  Watched the parades, listened to the Barbershop Quartet, watched some of the shows.  It was great.  We especially enjoyed the evening show, Fantasmic.  You had to be in place early but it was worth it!

It had been a long day and we had a lot of miles to cover in the morning so we said our goodbyes to Mickey and started the walk to the hotel.  It was a beautiful night and enjoyable to be walking without a coat in November.  We were hoping we would never need a coat in November again….boy were we wrong!

The Journey to Casa Madera – The Pacific Coast Highway!

Thursday morning 7:50, November 11, 2010.  Heather and I have just come back from walking Alexa and there is Alfonso, Roberto and Marco waiting at the gate to get to work.  They are into the third week of what we thought was a minor renovation to build a new kitchen and improve the air flow and light in that area of the house.  There is still a pile of work to do before they can start to put on the new roof.

this was only just the start

They are their usual selves, smiling, happy, ready to start their long day.  As Alfonso goes through the gate he says, yo tengo desayunos por ustedes.  For the readers who don’t understand spanish, he brought us breakfast.  We told him we would get Alexa settled away and would meet him in the black hole that would one day be the kitchen.

Man it is so much bigger without cabinets!

Now as a background, we noted the day before that the boys had brought their own hot plate to heat up their breakfast as they don’t eat before they leave their respective houses.  We come into the kitchen after filling our coffee cups and Alfonso tells us that he got the food from people who live by him who own a lunch truck.  The truck goes by our place twice a day with food for the people who work in the area.  They serve full meals at a reasonable cost.  And man is it good but more on that later!

Breakfast with the boys, Alfonso Jr., Marco, Alfonso Sr., Roberto, Me

First off Alfonso offers us both Cokes.  Ice cold right out of his cooler.  In glass bottles so you know they are delightful but we just cannot drink Coca Cola at 8:00 in the morning so we stick with coffee.  Coca Cola is the national drink in Mexico, most people may think it is Corona but it is not. Its plain and simple, Coke.  I am pretty sure it outsells everything else 4 to 1.  Even though you can buy Pepsi cheaper everybody in this country drinks Coke, a lot of it.

Need I say more?

But on to breakfast.  He offers us a choice of loaded tacos, one type is arrachera (a personal favourite) and the other is lengua.  Affectionately known in english as tongue.  Never a real high point in my menu but its a taco and we must be polite so we go for the lengua first.  Now I have never liked tongue, tried it a few times but it never did anything for me.  This taco was unbelievable.  It was absolutely delightful.  Everything had been mixed to perfection and everything just melted in your mouth.  The flavour was fantastic.  It reminded of some grape tomato’s we bought at a farmers market outside of Marina, California as we were heading for the Pacific Coast Highway.

We left our hotel in San Francisco on November 9, 2008 at 8:03 AM dressed in shorts and light shirts as we were looking forward to a hot day in the car.  The sun did not disappoint.  At 8:00 it was warmer than it had been the entire day before when I seriously considered putting on my Saskatchewan Roughriders sweatshirt.  It was a very much appreciated gift from Mr. Cook and his cohorts and has come in very handy here on the cold mornings but I would rather no one who knows me ever sees me in it!

We worked our way out of the city into the California farmland.  There were farms everywhere.  We are used to seeing farms but being Albertan we are used to seeing waves of wheat, rye and canola, not lettuce, tomato’s and other vegetables.  We were rolling into Marina, California when we spied a fast food chain where we could grab a coffee and use the bathroom.  Off the highway we went and lo and behold weren’t they having a farmers market in the parking lot.  Well that had to be checked out and check it out we did.  We found some fresh picked grape tomato’s that quite simply were the best tomato’s either one of us have ever tasted.  They were sweet and juicy and well we could go on but then I would lose the G rating.  The 2 pound clamshell that we paid about 2 bucks for was gone before we got to Monterey.

We thought we might stop in Monterey to sightsee but realized that it is a long way to Los Angeles and even longer on the PCH so we kept right on moving.  The Pacific Coast Highway is a nice drive.  The road is narrow, twisting, hilly and very slow. It was the perfect road to drive to get us ready for what lies ahead in a few more days.

It may be a winding road but it is beautiful

Traffic was not bad, the scenery was spectacular and the road was fun to drive.  At 1:25 we had been driving for 5 hours and had managed to go 291 kilometers.  The average speed after we left Monterey was 35 miles per hour.  We had a long, long way to go yet.

The California Coast

We stopped at Piedras Blancas which is just north of San Simeon.  There is an Elephant Seal Rookery there and you can get pretty close to observe them.  It was pretty cool.

The face says it all

Still driving, lots to see on the road.  Looked a lot at the water and vistas, decided to pass on Hearst Castle.  Maybe next time.  Still 236 miles from LA.

We drove and drove and drove and drove.  Just when it seemed like we would never see civilization again at about 5:00 pm we rolled into Santa Barbara.  We decided at that point it was time to pack it in for the day.  We spent the next 45 minutes looking for an acceptable hotel.  We finally decided on a Best Western.

I parked the car and we went in to see if they had a room.  Yes, $170.00.  Man I almost swallowed my tongue!  We had seen some of the other hotels and they were not that great.  170 bucks, man we only paid a 100 in San Francisco!  Oh well they had nice bathrobes.