Wednesday, February 11, 2015

LA to the Fullest

I went to LA a long, long time ago, when I was in elementary or middle school.  I visited San Jose, LA, and San Dieego, but I only have a couple of snapshot memories of the San Fran bridge, playing with toy cars, and watching an elephant poo at the zoo.

I was excited about getting to go back to LA and to explore it with the ability to explore and remember more of it.  With the time zone changes, I would be able to fly out on Saturday morning and still land before 11am. 

I had to get in an 18-miler, so I wanted to find good running routes, allowing me to see something cool while getting in the miles.  At first, I was set on going to Angeles National Forest, but the drawback was that it was an hour's drive each way.  Then, I googled running routes in LA, and found a site that said that Griffith Park, which is right in downtown and home of the HOLLYWOOD sign, was a favorite of marathoners, who could just do as many loops as needed to get in the prescribed distance of the day.  My highly recommended Frommer's Day-by-Day guidebook also had a section just on this park.  Perfect!

I drove out, parked, was so happy to find restrooms, and then set out.  There were no maps, but with the comment about loops in the website, I figured that I'd soon loop back around and get a good idea of the available trails.  The park seemed to be about 2 mi x 2 mi.  I started, and soon discovered how steep these trails would be.  I wondered how the marathoners did loops of this!  This is some serious hiking.  I got my first views of the HOLLYWOOD sign at the peak of the first mountain and was very excited.

I had only gone about 3 miles, though, and it was a slow 3 miles with all of the incline... I had started at the very base of the mountain.  This could potentially be a long 18 miles!  But I figured that whether I did 18 miles or just stopped when I reached 3 hours, it would be a good workout. 

I continued on, and the more of the park I saw, the more I realized that it was an extensive network of trails winding in all sorts of directions.  There were many different paths you could take to various overlooks.  Some were wider than others.  One was really pretty, with palm trees and tropical plants, although it ended at a drop-off to the road that involved some careful climbing down.

At this point, I saw that there was a way to actually get to the sign, so I started following the dirt path next to the road.  It then led me to some trails that ended at great views of the sign.

There were people up on a ridge above the sign, so that was the next goal.  Up another steep road.

It started raining a bit just as I started heading back down.  I was glad that I got to see the views before the rain started.  My next goal was the Griffith Observatory.  On the way down, I ate a Luna Bar, since I was getting hungry.  The observatory had some exhibits that explained how eclipses, seasons, and night-and-day worked.  They also had a pendulum that would knock over batteries along the outer edges of a circle, to show how the earth would subtly rotate and change the orientation of the pendulum swing with respect to the building, or something like that.  There were also exhibits about earthquakes and planets. It's nice that the city has something like that which is free and open to the public.

After this, it was getting a couple of hours away from sunset, and it was still drizzling or at least wet.  I decided to go down to an outdoor cafe with vegan food, which was recommended by the guidebook.  I got an avocado and soy bacon bits sandwhich, to which I added a ton of mustard and hot sauce.  It probably had 1-2 avocados on it.  It was good.

Now, I had to find a way to get back to the car.  I was still about 6 miles off from my target mileage for the run.  I decided to just go back the shortest way, though, as the sun would soon be setting.  The thought of either ascending the steeps again or descending those steeps, which is more treacherous than ascending, wasn't appealing.  I got to the car, with a good run logged.  There was a lot of stop-and-go, with the picture-taking, the Observatory, and the giant avocado sandwich.  Still, it was about 15.2 in 2:55:18, 11:32 estimated average.  With so much stop-and-go and incline, and one case where I forgot to re-start my Garmin, it's only an estimate.

I had hoped to visit some man-made caves in another section of the park, but the sun was setting, and that part of the park was closing.  I therefore just headed to my hotel.  Once at the hotel, I decided to stay in, rather than walking a mile down to the Santa Monica Pier.  I would rest up for the next day, where I'd try to pack in a bunch more sightseeing.  I did stop at a Starbucks to redeem a birthday treat, though.

The next morning, I headed out before sunset to drive on the Pacific Coast Highway and reach some beaches in the Malibu area.  Traffic is notorious in LA, and parking was supposedly limited, so I wanted to get there early.  It's also good to do sight-seeing for stuff that doesn't have opening hours, early in the day, so that you can maximize your time.  There ended up being plenty of roadside parking.

It was a pretty epic morning.  Got in some barefoot running and rock-hopping.

Next, I went back to the motel to check out, and then I walked to the Venice Beach Boardwalk.  It's a place with many interesting characters around. 

Towards the end of the boardwalk was the Venice Canals, which was originally intended to replicate what Europe had, although there is just a handful of canals that remain.  It was very pretty, though.

After that, a vegan Pad Thai where noodles were replaced with sea kelp noodles.  Then, a walk down to the Santa Monica Pier, where Route 66 ends.

After that, I went towards the downtown area, to Hollywood Boulevard, to see the Walk of Fame and then take a tour of Celebrity Houses.  Many of the names on the stars were unfamiliar, but some, I recognized.  There were also random ones like Kermit and Lassie.

(Lady Gaga's house)

After the tour, I went back to the Chinese Theatre, where I found the Harry Potter trio's prints.  They even had wand prints!

Fun day!  Work next day. 

Monday, Feb 9:
6.0 in 48:48, 8:08 average.  Legs felt worn but full of endurance, after the weekend's runs.  I had contemplated doing intervals, but my body wasn't up for it, and even my arms were sore after doing a rope climb and some pullups at the Muscle Beaches in Venice and Santa Monica.

Flight back on Wednesday... awesome few days, though!

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