Friday, August 19, 2016

City of angels and traffic

"And so for you, I came this far across the tracks, ten miles above the limit,
And with no seatbelt, and I'd do it again."

I thought I'd just do a quick recap of our California trip this past week. We flew to L.A. on Tuesday afternoon, went to Disneyland on Wednesday, the ANA Money Show on Thursday, Channel Islands National Park on Friday and the La Brea Tar Pits on Saturday before a late flight home.

But seeing as it's me writing, and knowing that the devil is in the details, you may guess that I've got a whole lot more words to say about our trip.

Right you are.

We were upgraded to First Class on the outbound flight. I'd forgotten how much fun that is. Drinks before takeoff, hot towels, chairs that recline into beds, movies and headsets, a hot meal with real china and silverware and - get this - freshly baked cookies and milk served for desert. When Neil retires, our premier perks will go away, but until then I'll enjoy the heck out of them.

Disneyland. My first visit to the west coast park, 20 years after my first trip to Disney World in Orlando. And I think it may be possible that I'm done with Disney. The unexpected love affair is finis.

My first trip to Disney World was in the summer of 1996, when Kandace and her competition dance troup danced at the park. The way that works is that the studio sends an audition tape and when the the group is accepted to perform, Disney cooks up a park-hopper package where the girls get to pay to dance and their 50 or so adoring families get to pay to watch them.

This was about 18 months before my first marriage gave up the ghost and the first time our family had taken a real vacation, one that didn't mean a visit to grandparents, although my parents did drive up from Pompano Beach to spend a couple of days with us.

I didn't expect to like Disney World. I thought it was everything that I didn't like, hot in June, crowded and expensive. I'm not much for rollercoaster rides. But the magic got me. I loved it. That was before the advent of FastPass, so we stood in a lot of long lines and I still loved it. We ate pricey meals, including the Polynesian Luau, and I still loved it. It was a splurge (but a bargain compared to today's prices) and I still loved it.

It was also at the height of the Beanie Baby craze, when you couldn't get them anywhere, and Disney had them everywhere. Magic.

The best ride ever was the cable cars. We floated over the Kingdom at Sunset and it was lovely. The worst ride was the Thunder Mountain Railroad, billed as a moderate coaster. It traumatized my mom, who was holding on to her front teeth (which like the stars, come out at night).

The park in Anaheim is more or less Magic Kingdom from Disney World (before Disney World ditched Mickey's Toontown) right down to the layout. Main Street to the Castle, all the lands, Adventure, Frontier, Fantasy and Tomorrow. We got a FastPass for an Indiana Jones ride and stood in line for the Jungle Cruise. We got a FastPass for Splash Mountain and stood in line for the Haunted Mansion.

We went back to Main Street and got ice cream and sat and people watched while we ate it. We got Fast Passes for Star Tours and stood in line for Autopia. By then the sun was high and hot, the crowds overwhelming. I had made a dinner reservation at the Grand Californian (or the Hotel California as I kept calling it).

At World we've enjoyed a lot of character dinners and meals at the various hotels, such as Sanaa at the African Kingdom Lodge and Cape May at the Yacht Club Resort. We've dined with Disney Princesses at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot and enjoyed high tea in the Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian.

We've also played Disney on No Dollars a Day, riding the monorail round trip and ferrying across the Seven Seas Lagoon. We've watched the fireworks from the beach at the Polynesian resort and traveled by water taxi to Fort Wilderness.

Disneyland is different. For $18 parking you can enjoy the Disney Marketplace, but that's about it. You can't so much as get on the monorail without a park ticket. Fortuitously, the monorail ran between Tomorrowland and the Grand Californian. Unfortuitously we had to wait in line for that privilege.

We did take a nice break at the Grand Californian and had a light dinner which was mostly OK. We could have waited about 30 minutes and had the buffet (which looked amazing when we passed it on our way out) but Neil wanted to sit down and order right then. Then we monorailed back to Tomorrowland where we tried to get a FastPass for Finding Nemo (they don't do FastPasses and the wait was 90 minutes) and for Hyperspace Mountain (none left for the day even though the park is open until midnight).

So we wandered over to Toontown (bypassing It's a Small World) and stood in line for 30 minutes for Goofy's Barn Stormer, a coaster ride that Neil timed at 50 seconds. All right, enough whining. We went back for the Star Tours simulation (I kept my eyes closed mostly) and decided we were done. I'm not sure we had $210 worth of fun, but we'd sawed the park in half, multiple times, getting FastPasses and going back and forth to used them. We were tired.

We walked back past the Castle and down Main Street, stopping to buy our due-in-December grandson a stuffie. We also stopped at Jamba Juice in the Marketplace. Did I mention I bought some cute earrings at a little silver jewelry shop? In for a penny, in for a pound I guess. Then we hiked out to our rented car and headed for our hotel home.

And I realized my 20-year love affair with Disney had fizzled. It's time to forget the magic.


OK, it really was fun, hot, crowded, expensive fun. And I carried beads for Beads of Courage.

Thursday, I'll be brief. We went to a coin show. I walked the bourse, bought a silver chain because that is what I do, and then sat in the Legacy Suite drinking coffee and eating chocolate and reading until Neil was ready to go hours later. We split for Camarillo and endured 3 hours of LA traffic to travel 80 miles, arriving at Lure Fish House with literally minutes to spare in time to order from their Happy Hour menu. Chowder, calamari and seafood tacos. We didn't leave room for dessert.


The second picture is me in our hotel room. I'm a huge fan of Dar Williams and this rolled by on FB: In honor of the 20th anniversary of Dar's Mortal City album, we’d like to make a lyric video for the song “Iowa” starring YOU! In the comments below, post a photo of yourself holding up a line of your choice from the song for a chance to be included in the video.

Friday we had reservations with Island Packers for a trip to Santa Cruz Island, one of the five (of eight) Channel Islands composing the Channel Islands National Park. Some of the islands currently are only accessible by plane. We docked at Scorpion Anchorage where, due to storrm damage to the pier, we were shuttled in skiffs to shore.

Most of our fellow travelers were kayakers, some outfitted with their own paddleboats. A few were hikers like us. We hiked to Cavern Point and along the elevated coastline to Potato Harbor. We skipped the strenuous hike to the summit. At Potato Harbor we picnicked on bagels with peanut butter and honey, skavenged from the hotel breakfast buffet. We took an inland route back, with a quick stop at the historic Scorpion Ranch.

Santa Cruz Island and the Park has a complex history. The islands were designated a National Monument in 1938 and became a National Park in 1980. The six nautical miles around the park are a National Marine Sanctuary . However the Park Service owns just 24% of Santa Cruz Island's 60,00 acres. The rest is owned by The Nature Conservancy, a charitable ecological conservation organization, and there is no public access.

Historically privately owned, Santa Cruz Island was ranched with imported livestock and planted with non-native vegitation. Feral pigs were introduced and decimated the native fox population. Golden eagles invaded and displaced native bald eagles. Ongoing conservation efforts have restored much of the native habitat and species. We saw island foxes, hanging around the campgrounds of course.

We also saw scores of dolphins and a humpback whale on the ride back to the mainland. I'd say the whale was awesome, but I mostly caught the splash and the water spouting from the blowhole. Ashore we just missed Happy Hour at Lure in Ventura, so we went the whole hog, if that's the right way to describe a seafood dinner.



Our flight home Saturday wasn't until evening so we went to the La Brea Tar Pits. We didn't get an especially early start but traffic in LA on Saturday is like every other day in LA. We didn't leave enough time for the price of museum admission to be worthwhile so we just walked around the Pleistocene Garden and checked out some of the excavations and free exhibits. It was hot and stinky in the garden, but interesting too. We cooled off at Starbucks where I ordered two drinks, a cold smoothie and a hot latte for the caffeine.

Our flight home was routine, slightly delayed and a little turbulent thanks to the storm systems related to the flooding in Louisiana. We got home in the small hours and the cats were happy. On Sunday we met Laurie for breakfast and I did a lot of nothing, including binge-watching the one and only season of Awake.

It's been rainy and gray since we've been back, which is great for beadmaking at this time of year. I've had some good days at the torch and as usual after a break from Facebook, sales picked up. I have some cute new beads, including a really stupid (but cute) Sharon Peters-inspired lizzard that I think I'll keep. For a while anyway. He's the middle one.


It's hard to believe, but a week from Friday has us heading out on another trip, to the right coast this time. Till then, there's still time for more beads and stories.


I've never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could
And I've never found a way to say I love you, but if the chance came by, oh I, I would
But way back where I come from, we never mean to bother
We don't like to make our passions other peoples concern
And we walk in the world of safe people, and at night we walk into our houses and burn

Iowa, oh-oh, Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh-I, Iowa

How I long to fall just a little bit, to dance out of the lines and stray from the light
But I fear that to fall in love with you is to fall from a great and gruesome height
So I asked a friend about it, on a bad day, her husband had just left her
She sat down on the chair he left behind, she said
What is love? Where did it get me? Whoever thought of love is no friend of mine

Iowa, oh-oh, Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh-I, Iowa

Once I had everything, I gave it up for the shoulder of your driveway and the words I've never felt
And so for you, I came this far across the tracks, ten miles above the limit, and with no seatbelt, and I'd do it again
For tonight I went running through the screen doors of discretion
For I woke up from a nightmare that I could not stand to see
You were a-wandering out on the hills of iowa and you were not thinking of me.


Iowa, oh-oh, Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh-I, Iowa

(Dar Williams)