Monday, September 19, 2016

CowParade Launch in SLO

At the CowParade in San Luis Obispo
I was reading the L.A. Times travel section, a couple of weeks ago, when my eye caught a small ad for the launch of the CowParade in San Luis Obispo (SLO), where painted fiberglass cows are being displayed until May. The eight-month-long event will eventually end in an auction, benefiting local charities. Similar "parades," held around the country—and even the worldhave raised over $30 million.

On Saturday, the renowned Madonna Inn resort hosted a free preview of all 101 cows before they move on to various locations around town. I immediately contacted our friends, who live a few miles north of SLO, to see if they wanted to go. I'm sure everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to see a bunch of painted plastic cows. But I remember how wonderful it was—and still is!—to unexpectedly run into one of the hundreds of painted fiberglass angels placed around Los Angeles, 15 years ago, as part of a massive public art display and auction. I knew the cows would be just as amazing. And I was right!

Approaching the Madonna Inn from the north, we could already see the cows—and the crowds looking at them—from the freeway. A few of the sculptures stood on hind legs, catching a frisbee or posing like Marilyn Monroe, but most looked like normal ol' cows. Except, of course, they were gloriously covered in beautiful, and sometimes extremely clever, art. Here are just a few of my favorites (click on image to enlarge):

Mommy and baby cows

"In-cow-dible Hulk"

Celebrating local wineries

One of several "Día de los Moo-ertos" designs

Famous graffiti artist Man One painting a cow 

Whimsical look at local breweries

Celebrating the central coast's mid-state fair

 There were cows covered in foliage

And there were patriotic cows

Cow-boy on one side

And cow-girl on the other

Skeletal cows

And athletic cows

Blue cows

Madonna Inn pink cows

And yellow cows

"Milk and Honey"


Monarch butterflies

Steampunk cow


Van Gogh's "Steery Night"

And finally, the "Cowch Potato"

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The California Incline

Santa Monica beach, Labor Day 2016
Before I was brave enough to drive the freeway, my sister and I would travel to the beach via surface streets from Burbank. We’d take Barham over the hill into Hollywood and then turn right onto Wilshire all the way to Santa Monica. At Ocean Avenue, we’d turn right again for one block and then take the California Incline down to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to our favorite beach, Sorrento, slightly north of the Incline.

When I was a kid, I thought the California Incline was so named because it was the steepest road on the western edge of the continent. It wasn’t till many years later that I figured out it was the “California” Incline because it connected California Street, which ends at Palisades Park above, with PCH below. Regardless, it’s always been scary steep to me. I didn’t mind taking the two-lane road down to PCH, hugging the landside of the Santa Monica bluffs, but rarely took it back up. The ancient concrete wall/fence on the open side never looked secure enough to protect us from certain death below. Still, a reputed 15,000 cars used the California Incline a day.

The Incline was closed for demolition in April 2015. Reconstruction began shortly after. Watching the project take shape as I periodically drove up the coast, I marveled at how the whole thing hadn’t collapsed a long time ago. The new Incline is over 5 feet wider, incorporating a bike and pedestrian lane on the open side. No longer are cars dangling directly above PCH.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new California Incline was Thursday, when we were making our way to Disneyland for the 5K (see below). So instead, we went yesterday. We took the Expo Line to the end and then walked along Palisades Park to California. We then walked down the Incline and back up again. It’s still steep, but a lot less scary. And on a day like yesterday, the views are absolutely beautiful. So glad we live here . . .

Top of the Incline: cars on the right, bikes and peds on the left

Walking down (Tim in black t-shirt and lifeguard hat)

Pedestrian bridge to the beach

The bluffs: looking up at Palisades Park

Looking south onto PCH: the Incline on the left

Walking back up

What a view: this is why we live here

Glad we took the train!

Heading home

P.S. We ate at Danny Trejo's new foodtruck, while strolling along Palisades Park. Way tasty brisket and carnitas tacos.

Tim ordering 

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Disney 5K

The finish line
Labor Day weekend began early with the end-of-summer runDisney 5K, Friday morning, at Disneyland. Start time was at 5:30AM, so we arrived at the park Thursday afternoon, picked-up our race packets and bulked up on carbs at the Naples Ristorante (any excuse to eat pasta and pizza!), before checking into our hotel.

 Carbo-load for dinner (note Tim's 1984 Olympics bicycle cap)

Up at 3:30AM and, after a small snack, walked over to the resort, where we waited for the event to begin. We weren't racing, so were placed in the last "corral," 3/4 of the way back in a crowd of about 5000 walkers and runners. There were so many people that runners from the first corral finished the coarse before we even left the gate.

Selfie while waiting

Everyone anxious to go

Tim warming up
En masse, we started walking south on Disneyland Drive a little before 6AM. We turned into the parks through a gate on the backside of Disney's California Adventure (DCA)—an entirely different route than the Tinker Bell 5K I did in May. 

 Our route, as recorded on Tim's "Map My Walk" app.
With walks from and to our hotel, we ended up doing
more than 5 miles.

Like last time, I was there to see as much behind-the-scenes stuff as I could. Tim, on the other hand, was more interested in tracking our distance and walking time. He was constantly moving ahead, while I stopped to snap photos of unattended rides and fellow walkers in costume. 

Two gals dressed like brooms from the movie Fantasia


 Tower of Terror before it turns into the new Guardians of
the Galaxy ride, early next year
From DCA, we crossed into Disneyland via the underground tunnel most people have never seen. We entered the public part of the park through Tomorrowland, my all-time favorite Disneyland area. We turned a sharp corner and there, quite suddenly, was the Rocket to the Moon—the single most beautiful attraction in the park, made even more gorgeous by the sun, which was just breaking through. Definitely the highlight (for me, at least) of the whole morning.

Entering the underground tunnel

My beloved Rocket

We continued to Fantasyland, through Sleeping Beauty's castle, out of the park via Main Street, on to Downtown Disney and the finish line. With all my photo stops, etc., it took us about an hour to complete the entire coarse. I felt great!

 Exiting the castle

Tim, looking serious

Main Street. nearing the end

Finish line in sight

Tim approaching the finish line
After receiving our medals, we headed back to our off-site hotel. But first, a stop at the PCH Grill, where we had a yummy—and fun—breakfast with several Disney characters. 

 Showing off my medal

Tim with Minnie Mouse

Me with Daisy Duck

Tim and Pluto

Me and Minnie
Back at our hotel, we took a two-hour nap while waiting for rush-hour traffic to abate. The best part: it was still only Friday morning with a long three-day weekend ahead. Yay!

We did it!

Happy Labor Day, y'all!