So we started off making a 9 hour run to Albuquerque, NM for night one. This will be the longest stretch we'll have to make until we're coming home. Just as we arrived outside Albuquerque the terrain really began to look different than Texas. I've got to admit that the 9+ hours hadn't been bad at all. One quick lunch stop for our Mickey D's dollar menu favorites and two restroom breaks had us making great time. The kids have always done very well with car rides thanks to those trusty his and hers DVD players, I-Pods & I-Pads. This generation has no clue what it was like back in the day when the only thing they could do on a road trip was enjoy the scenery.
Our trek through Nevada to Vegas was a sight to see. The red rock we traveled through was so beautiful.
We decided against taking a tour of the Hoover Dam which divides Lake Mead and the Colorado River. This massive wall of concrete was completed in 1936 during the great depression.
After a quick glimpse of the Hoover Dam we headed to Viva Las Vegas and checked into the Treasure Island.
Undoubtedly, this was the nicest place the kids have ever stayed but oddly enough the least expensive of the entire trip. The view from our 14 floor room was amazing. Facing east we could see the strip toward Paris, New York New York and the neighboring Mirage hotel. It had been years since Cari and I had visited Vegas so it was very cool to see this place once again.
|It doesn't take too long to turn any room into a mess. haha|
We warned the kids about the chaos that they soon witness and told them they were to stay at arms length to us at all times. Once we stepped into the hotel they knew exactly what we meant. They were in awe of the circus around them. Even though Cari and I had been to Vegas, you never get use to the massive amounts of people and craziness.
The pool was amazing and the kids stayed in for hours.
We'd planned on venturing out onto the strip for dinner but decided to take advantage of the 2 for one buffet in our hotel. We were exhausted from the drive and the pool time earlier that day.
Before Cari and I had finished dinner both kids had fallen asleep at the table. Yep, a kodak moment for sure.
Our overnight stay in Vegas was mainly just to break up the drive and let the kids say they have seen the city of lights. We didn't get a chance to do much gambling at all. In fact, Cari only lost $15 and I lost zero. Nope, I didn't spend a penny. I was completely fine just spending time on photographing the sights and enjoying our short stay in a place that wasn't Weatherford, Texas.
I'm an early riser and normally will grab coffee in the lobby. The next morning before the kids got up I decided to walk the strip to see if I could find a little coffee shop. I'd walked 1.5 miles down to Paris for coffee then made my way back. Yep, coffee in Paris...
•Day 4 Hello Hollyweird
Traffic, traffic and more traffic. Wow, what a mess and we weren't even close to downtown LA. We were 30 miles outside of Hollywood and it was already bad and we were at a crawl. Our hotel was just a couple of blocks away from Hollywood Blvd. and the famous Walk Of Stars. The retro style Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel was so cool. The walls were covered with framed celebrity photos with their autographs. The Franklin Hotel was built in 1948 and slept many stars through the years such as Doris Day, Rita Hayworth, Roberta Flack, Barry Manalow just to name a few. Aaron Spelling met his wife here and invited the owners to the wedding. Later the Franklin would be renamed Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel. We stayed in room 315 and had direct view of the Hollywood sign. Well because of the treetops all we could see was the "ood" haha. The 101 Coffee Shop on street level has been equally popular with stars in the past and even today with celebrities. I was told that many many stars have dined here like James Dean, Mickey Mantel, Carol Burnett but regular celebs to eat here Ashton Kutcher, Mini Driver, Justin Beiber (puke), Johnnie Knoxville just to name a few. The clerk said that Knoxville (Jackasses) is the most friendly of all. "He will actually stop by and have long conversations with us at the desk when some celebs will not even look over our way". Interesting I thought.
|We strolled past the famous Capitol Records building.|
So with much anticipation and apprehension we started our 10 minute walk down to the famous Hollywood Boulevard, a street that every major star has been on. We started on the east end of the Blvd. which is the most sketchy portion of the walk. By sketchy I mean the older part. There aren't as many people/tourist milling around this area which seems less safe I suppose. I was told it was dirty and busy and crowded with homeless, hookers, street people with weird clothes and hair. And I must say, that's exactly what it was. I was still impressed with everything about it. After about a 20 minute walk you'll end up at the most crowded area around the Graumans Chinese Theater and Dolby Theatre (home of the Academy Awards). Now we can say we've walked where the stars walked. We made our way back to the hotel but decided it would be best to grab a taxi so we wouldn't have to walk through the sketchy areas in the dark. It was only a couple of blocks ($4.65) cab ride another first for the kids. After a nearly 3 mile walk, we were all exhausted and slept hard.
Yes, we never let too much space get between us and the kids. They were in awe of the people around them.
The original Chinese Theatre was commissioned following the success of the nearby Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, which opened in 1922. Built by a partnership headed by Sid Grauman over 18 months starting in January 1926, the theatre opened May 18, 1927, with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille's film The King of Kings. It has since been home to many premieres, including the 1977 launch of George Lucas' Star Wars, as well as birthday parties, corporate junkets, and three Academy Awards ceremonies. Among the theatre's most distinctive features are the concrete blocks set in the forecourt, which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular motion picture personalities from the 1920s to the present day.
The TCL Chinese Theatre has partnered with IMAX Corporation to create the single largest IMAX auditorium in the world. The new theatre seats 932 people, and hosts the third largest commercial movie screen in North America.
•Day 5 Beverly Hillbillies
As usual I woke up with the birds around 6:30 and decided to take a 2nd walk along the boulevard. This time it would be a bit different since I would be daylight and without the kids for a less stressful stroll. Just me, my coffee and my camera. Just as I did a few years earlier in NYC, I couldn't help but capture the people of of the city in their candid natural surroundings.
Here are two of the iconic stars I was probably most excited to see. My walk wouldn't be complete if I didn't find my girlfriend's star, Reba.
After locating and photographing her star and getting lots of people pictures, I started my 1.5 mile walk back to the hotel. By now my family would finally be awake and stirring around.
•To The Sign
After packing our truck up once again, we drove high up to the Griffith Park Observatory. At this location you get a great view looking south at all of LA and the famous Hollywood sign. The view of downtown was very hazy. Not sure if that's because of the pollution or because of the wildfires that broke out 1 hour north of Hollywood near Bakersfield. Nonetheless it was cool to see how massive this city really was from this elevation.
•Head Through Beverly...Hills That Is!
On our way out we drove through Beverly Hills down Sunset Blvd. This is definitely the most wealthy part of LA. Beautiful streets and enormous palm trees, just like the movies. Crossing through Rodeo Dr. we decided to grab some pizza and dine outside in Beverly.
The weather was in the 70's and not much wind as like the previous days ....so so nice. All of our days have been jam packed with driving, unpacking, see the sights, packing, driving, see the sights... So our final destination for our 3 night stay in Torrance was much needed. The evening we arrived we did nothing but relax in the Hotel, swim at the pool and watch movies.
•Day 6 To The Beach
Still without any rushing around, we got up and drove the 6 miles to Hermosa Beach. By 12:30 we had hauled all our beach necessities, ice chest, etc. down to the water. For the next 7 hours we'd enjoy the beauty of the pacific coast. It was drastically different than the gulf of Mexico. It smelled much better, clean soft sand, not nearly as much seaweed and you could see your feet (although not as clearly as Florida beaches). The biggest difference was the temperature. It wouldn't get out of the mid 70's and with the wind it would get chilly at times. The water was also pretty cold. You definitely would have to ease into it slowly. The waves were huge and perfect for boogie boards and traditional surfing. In fact, June 20 was national surfing day. Hurley had a large tent set up and were giving free surfing lessons to kids in honor of the day. Of course by the time our kids warmed up to the idea, it was almost over.
As the west coast sun began to set we rented bikes and rode along Hermosa and Manhattan beaches. We cruised past the small condos that are practically built a few feet apart. They were all very unique and cozy looking, perfect weekend get-a-way homes. The one hour bike rental went by so fast. It was the most amazing way to spend the evening at Cali's sunset with the 3 people I love most. Loving life! What.A.Day.
•Day 7 Last Day
By the time Cari and the kids woke up I had the weeks worth of clothes washed and folded. I figured I might as well take advantage of the early morning downtime. The day wasn't much different as the previous. We had a bit harder time finding a place to park this time. We had to drive further down to Manhattan Beach. It was really no different, still beautiful. We didn't spend quite as long at the beach today although Chase and I did catch more waves. They were so strong it made me worried about the current and force with my little guy. Three times while body surfing I was pulled under and scrapped my head underneath the wave. It was scary to see so many unsupervised children in such dangerous waters.
One week after we returned home, we saw on the news that a man fishing off the Manhattan Pier caught a great white shark. While he was reeling in the shark a group of long distance swimmers swam directly through the path and the shark attacked one of them. Luckily the man escaped and was taken to the hospital. All this happened in a very close vicinity to where we were. Scary for sure.
•Day 8 Goodbye Sunny California
We've enjoyed our 4 day stay in Cali but we have a long drive back home. We'll take the same route back home with the exception of the detour up to Vegas. The drive was beautiful through the Mojave Desert and high elevations of east California and Arizona. Most of the Route 66 areas seem to be east bound. I must admit I've become fascinated with the history of "The Mother Road" and couldn't resist pulling over to photograph the landmarks.
We arrived back in Williams, AZ late in the evening on our 8th day. We took a walk along Route 66 on the Williams strip. There were tons of people walking around the streets. We grabbed some pizza at one of the recommended eatery's in town.
Of course we couldn't drive through Amarillo, TX without first stopping to see the famous Cadillac Ranch
. Just days prior to our visit, one of the architects of this landmark, Stanley Marsh had passed away. For many days it had been raining in the area, so the ground was very muddy. It's a bit of a walk from the interstate to the location of the buried cars.
Back to reality... This is how we felt about our Summer vacation coming to an end. What.A.Blast.
So, it's now been 7 months since we returned from our road-trip. Now looking back, I will say that it's been my favorite family vacation to date. Don't get me wrong, I have always thoroughly enjoyed our usual beach getaways. I won't lie and say that every moment was magical. Yes, there was horrible traffic, long miles of nothing but sand & times that I wanted to leave the kids in the middle of the desert. haha This particular trip was a kind of a bucket list deal for me. I've always been intrigued by the thought of seeing the Hollywood sign, the walk of fame and all that. I doubt I'll ever get a chance to see any of that again, so I'm glad we decided to take the 2,800, 10 day journey with my awesome family. It will be a trip that they hopefully will never forget. I know I sure won't....
Thanks for taking it with us!