Tag: Southern California

10 observations from waiting out winter in Southern California

1.  There is damn good beer here.

Since arriving in Southern California last September, a whole new world of west coast beer opened up to me, mainly in the form of IPAs. Our neighborhood bar in San Diego, Thorn Street Brewery, was an awesome watering hole. I discovered Stone brewery, based out of San Diego as well, and all of their delicious suds. Not to mention, up in Temecula, Sorrel Bistro is one of 2 accounts in town who tap Russian River’s Pliny the Younger once a year. I didn’t get to try it, but you know I stood in line for an hour and got turned away, so that goes to show you how bad people want good beer around here. The beer culture is alive and well.

Love you, too.
Love you, too.

2. It’s expensive.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so broke, and that includes times in my life where I lived on Maui. I paid $1400 for an apartment in San Diego’s trendy North Park neighborhood that had a furnace from 1950 (the smoke alarm went off when we turned it on one night) and didn’t have a washer/dyer. Not only that, 2 months later, our house was robbed of almost every possession we had, including clothes. Fast forward a few months to Temecula, a quiet, wine-country valley town of about 100,000 people and we are still paying an arm and a leg for rent, groceries, gas and good times. Good weather doesn’t come quietly.

3. Restaurant jobs don’t pay as well as bigger cities or the east coast.

Most server jobs pay $4-5 per hour. In California you get paid minimum wage, $8 per hour, and people know it. Gone are the $100-$200 nights of some restaurants on the east coast and in Chicago. Welcome to $60 and 10% tips. Slinging coffee and omelets or grating Parmesan cheese over your pasta is hardly a way to pay bills anymore. Maybe it’s time for a new career path…

4. It’s…well, HOT!

Is it normal for it to be 93 degrees in February? If that’s how hot it is now, I have to blow this Popsicle stand come July.  This desert ain’t for me.


5. The gap between rich and poor has never been more evident.

I often get the feeling that in order to live a fun and fulfilling life here in Southern California, it’d be wise to be pulling in at least $100,000 a year annually in your household. Anything lower than that and you’re practically standing in line at the food stamp office. Another common theme I’ve noticed is that a LOT of rich people flock here and have jobs, seemingly, for a hobby. The effect is two-fold: Fun because your boss essentially doesn’t give a shit; really frustrating because you’re boss doesn’t give a shit and you’re working for a living.

6. My dog loves to chase after lizards.

Forget going outside to go to the bathroom. All day he dreams about lizards. And chasing them.

There is no question. He is thinking about chasing lizards.
There is no question. He is thinking about chasing lizards.

7. All-you-can-eat-sushi is a real thing. A real GOOD thing.

For $18 a person at lunch you can eat as much fresh, delicious nigiri as your little heart desires. The good news is that sushi and sashimi on the West Coast is so good, so fresh. You are robbing the joint when you arrive and down nigiri for a flat rate. And our favorite place keeps it coming and coming. This is one of life’s joys.

8. There are tons of day trips you can take.

Getting out of town has never been easier. San Diego is about an hour south, L.A. two hours. Joshua Tree National Park is a 2 hour haul and Las Vegas a short 4 hour drive. Hell, even Phoenix is only five hours by car. Not to mention, southern California is peppered with a million fun little lakes, hikes, mountain ranges and ample opportunity for outdoor recreation and exploration. I must say, being landlocked on the mainland has its perks.

Day trip to Lake Skinner
Day trip to Lake Skinner

9. Hip hippies, everywhere.

Everyone is so cool it hurts. Can you recall those Hollister ads where everyone walks around in neon sunglasses, cutoff tanks, high top shoes, and midrift-baring off-the-shoulder fringed shirts? Those mannequins are real. You know the typical stoner dude apparent in every movie, t.v. show and pop culture reference, man? Those are real people. Most kids’ mode of transport to school is by skateboard. People ARE chilled out here, almost to their own detriment, but more often than not, at the cost of a good laugh.

10. Maybe the highest concentration of cool cars I’ve ever seen are here in Southern Cali.

And why shouldn’t there be? The weather here is perfect for hot rods, vintage rides, cool motorcycles, awesome RVs…you name it, it’s here and in pristine condition. California truly gives new definition to Sunday driving.


A day trip to Big Bear Lake

Currently Jonathan, Pono and I reside in southern California. Temecula is a cute 100,000 person or so town about 1 hour north of San Diego and is home to “wine country” and a burgeoning foodie scene. As we have gotten settled here and have gotten jobs, are days off have been few and far between.

Our most recent stretch of days off demanded that we explore the beautiful terrain of California. We drove up to Big Bear Lake, the California ski town, for a day of walking around, lunch and overall unwinding.

Just a two hour drive from Temecula, the scenery along the way was magnificent. Our route had us follow many different highways until we started snaking up the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest.

The elevation of this stretch of national forest ranges but tops out around 11,000. It’s been quite a while since I have been up in the mountains, and the winding roads left me a little car sick, but not sick enough to pose for a photo op with my pup:

Roadtrip selfies
Roadtrip selfies

A few beautiful vistas along the way included:



What a range!
What a range!

Once we arrived in Bear Lake, we cruised around the sleepy, resorty town in search of some grub. We passed a few parks that still had snow on the hills, the residual winter sports fanatics taking one last run down the slope.  The lake was beautiful and expansive and is no doubt an oasis and playground in the summer months.

We parked in the downtown village area of Big Bear and enjoyed walking hand in hand past Indian trading posts, souvenir shops, antique boutiques, ice cream parlors, an arcade, home made jerky stands and a host of restaurants and bars. As you can imagine with any small town in California, or any ski town for the matter, the usual suspects hung around, strumming guitar for tips and coercing their fluffy dogs to stay out of the street. It was the type of place where dogs ran off leash, only to obey the commands of their owners. It felt nice and free.

We had lunch on the outdoor patio of Saucy Mama’s, clearly a good time to snap an appropriate and opportune photo. The food was good and I would recommend it to anyone. They also have 22 oz. drafts of some great Pale Ales and IPAs. I had to represent Chi-Town with a Goose Island Pale Ale.

My beau and his beer
My beau and his beer
A saucy mama at saucy mama's ;)
A saucy mama at saucy mama’s 😉

After lunch the rain rolled in an it was time to make a swift exit. I wish we could have stayed longer to explore more of the terrain an the lake, but the weather made it nearly impossible. Big Bear is a great escape for any Californian looking for that rustic charm and slower pace of life.

Winding road, take us home.
Winding road, take us home.

A Day at Seal Beach

I left my heart in California. It delivers every time. The day before I left Los Angeles to head north toward San Francisco, my friend Marjie and I spent the day discovering Long Beach, specifically the area of Seal Beach.

The photos are so nice, I’ll let them do most of the story-telling:

Beware of Los Angeles' public transportation system

It took us exactly 2 buses and 3 metro lines to get to Seal Beach from Downtown Hollywood, our total travel time being 2 hours. You might like to take a car instead if possible. We also got lost right outside of Compton when we transferred trains too early, heading to an imposter Long Beach stop.

Finally we made it to Downtown Seal Beach, a cute, hippie-like beach town.

Photo by author

We walked for a bit, encountered some cute little shops, gardens and restaurants, mostly just happy to be off the damn bus!

Photo by author

Hungry, we walked around looking for cheap and affordable Mexican food. Not that that’s hard to find in California. *Sigh* First, though, we found this hippie-lovin’ tree. *Another sigh*

Love in the time of hunger

Lunch was at Taco Surf where the incredible happy hour special (2-6 p.m.!) was $1 tacos and $2 drafts of Pacifico and Dos xx. Lunch for the two of us (fish tacos, carnitas, a few beers) was only $11! Can’t beat that!

The blog post actually ends here because after this I died and went to Heaven

After filling our stomachs and getting a nice little buzz, we walked toward the sea. It was a chilly day, but that didn’t stop us. We also anticipated seeing seals, but no luck.

Seal beach pier

Instead of seals, we did notice some crustaceans and starfish underneath the pier.

Photo by author

Clearly too cold to swim, but still a wonderful and scenic day. Next time, though, we drive.

Photo by author

Ever smelled tar, naturally?

It’s no secret I’m back in Los Angeles, planning my next big adventure. What better way to recover from jet-lag thatn visiting an LA wonder, the La Brea Tar Pits at Hancock Park? After all, it is a National Natural Landmark.

Photo by author

I had this vision in my head that we’d be sinking in like quicksand, fighting for our lives against the relentless gooey stuff, but nothing of the sort happened. The area has been fenced off to keep animals and humans from falling in and getting killed. Damn, no risk of death? Still a fantastic way to spend a day.

Right next to the George C. Page Museum (which studies and displays animals that have died at the pit), the La Brea Tar Pits are comprised of of crude oil that seeps up from the 6th Street Fault from the Salt Lake Oil Field. The oil reaches the surface, bubbling and eventually becoming asphalt, sometimes trapping animals. Observe the trapped Woollymammoth.

This guy isn't going anywhere

Notice the asphalt forming at the top. The smell almost transports you to sitting in traffic while a highway is being paved.

Photo by author

Apparently the asphalt works to preserve animals fossils quite nicely. If you take a walk around and observe the different pits, you’ll notice only Pit 91 is still open for live fossil escavations. Talk about a killer Sunday.