Monday, May 24, 2010

Train ride to L.A. Union Station and Olvera St.

For as long as I have been here in California I have heard of Olvera St. in Los Angeles. I had mentioned it to the cute fiancee and she said she had been there many times in the past. Not to long ago I thought it would be fun to take the train down. This would cover a few of cute fiancee and I's fetishes of old architecture and historical stuff.
A few weeks ago my daughter and I were driving through the town of Fontana here in So. Cal. on our way to work, and got stuck at the Metrolink train crossing. It spurred me into thinking of the trip and I looked up Olvera St. online that day at lunch time. As usual, the info junkie that I am I jumped into the history of Olvera St. and the beginnings of Los Angeles. You hear this little trivia bit every once in a while, the full name of the City of Los Angeles is, "El Pueblo de la Reyna de Los Angeles" or in English, "The Town of the Queen of Angels". I like the first name ever given the town by the first settlers, It is much easier to say L.A.
Cute fiancee got the next Sunday off from work and I looked up the fares for the train trip from San Bernardino to L.A. , $15 each round trip. Sunday came and we got up early and headed down to the old train station in San Bernardino. We arrived at 6:30AM so we could be early for the 7:10 train.
Normally I like to grab pictures of a place like the Old San Bernardino Station but they had some sort of "to do" going on there. It was National Train Day. Never heard of it but this is what I like about our adventures, something serendipitous seems to happen. The station was blocked off so I couldn't get near it, but I did have a very cool consolation prize.

This old steam locomotive was fired up and was about to be turned around. I'm not a train nut but this was really cool.

I ran across a page on the internet about this Locomotive, a while back, "Santa Fe 3751" It was a cool story how this old work horse was lovingly restored and refitted to running order in Fontana Ca. Follow the link in blue. Here it was all steamed up and ready to go.

I didn't spend much time looking at the old Locomotive because our train was leaving soon.
I had spent to much time taking these pictures while the cute fiancee was waiting on our train.
My phone rang and she requested that I get my butt on the train so I wouldn't miss it.

I boarded and went to the upper part of the car where I had left the cute fiancee. In a few minutes the trains was on it's way. I'm old enough to remember when trains were the way to travel. I traveled on several with my parents when I was very young but I remember a lot of it. The cars with the Plexiglas domes, the dinning cars and most of all the Conductors yelling "ALL ABOARD"
That call was noticeably missing. The Conductor rattled off our destination and some of the stops between here and there, then unceremoniously said "doors are closing".
The first thing the train did was climb up this overpass to cross over the stock yards there in San Bernardino . You could look straight down from up in our seats, Cute fiancee, not being comfortable with heights, looked out and muttered "not cool" as she looked back inside and down at the table we were sitting at.
First stop Rialto Ca. It was hard not to notice as we pulled out of the depot area and into the neighborhoods near by, that a lot of people don't care that other people that ride by can see into the jungle or in most cases, what could have been the back yard set for Sanford and Son.

I'm not sure if many would remember this but there was a famous comedian/actor named Jack Benny He was rather famous when America all sat around the radio in the evening, before TV. One of his most famous comedy bits was about him taking a train to New York to meet with his sponsor, or something. I'm mentioning this here because, I started thinking about it as I heard some of the stops ahead. The bit started when Benny finally reaches Union station and an announcer over the PA says, "Now leaving on Track 5 for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga." The way that Cucamonga was said was usually strung out real long "Cucaaaaa moonnngggaaa". The voice of the announcer was the voice of Mel Blanc, the voice behind Bugs Bunny, and the gag was used repeatedly in many of his shows. It was so funny do to the cities names that Mel Blanc even used it with his Daffy Duck character in a cartoon I remember from childhood. Well the conductor says the stops and Rancho Cucamonga was named and "Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga" started into my head. I just spent almost 30 min. trying to find the recording of that show to play here but couldn't find

So the cute fiancee and I are siting at our table on the top level of our train car, Anaheim, Azusa , and Cucamonga is going steady in my head, and the back yards start going by. We the unseasoned Metrolink train riders thank those humble people who had nice back yards so that we had little surprises along the way to break up the un-kept disasters that whizzed by our window. I would have liked to have photographic evidence of these to show you but we were going too fast to react and take a picture of any noteworthy ugly back yards.

A popular type of yucky back yard was the dried vegetation jungle. Life once blossomed in these yards but all that was left was tall brown, impassible, areas that you could just see through enough, that a glimpse of a back sliding door might appear. Another was what could be best described as the Micro Wrecking Yard. Wall to wall cars in various states of dis-assembly. The funny part of this is that I'm not sure how those cars made it into the back yards at all with no gate to move them through to be seen. One type that I saw several times was another variant of the jungle, except that it was more of a cacophony of potted and gardened plants hanging or shelved in every possible square foot of the back yard. The one I liked best was something I would like to call the artist. Someone has gone to all the trouble to "Make" something. We saw many nice brick and concrete works that were very tasteful, but....umm when you take bags of concrete and mix them by hand and pile them up, patty cake style, in little spires so it looks not too unlike guano in a bat cave you really shouldn't be allowed to buy concrete. Thankfully there was some basic back yards, green grass and a patio, well kept....kudos to those people.

Pools! Anybody who has flown over Southern California has seen the glimmering back yards of whole neighborhoods with pools at every home. No different when viewed from our train.
Except. More often than not we saw these green bodies of water over the back of these fences and it was pretty disgusting. Sea Monkeys came to mind when I saw these, cute fiancee just turned her head and said "eeuw gross". The variants in this category is, the well kept pool/hot tub/BBQ/Volleyball pit, party paradise, the "what creative color can I keep my pool water condition in", the filled in with dirt or even trash pool, the collapsed doughboy or blow up pool, or the Empty dusty bottomed pool.

Cute fiancee and I were chatting in bed before we dosed off, one night while I was writing this installment, and I was trying to impress here with how funny I am by telling her what I had written about all the back yards. With a "yeah right'' in the tone of her voice she reminded me of the back yard she had pointed out with all the children's toys scattered around amidst a large sea of empty beer cans. Either the kids had gotten into the recyclables or there was one heck of a party the night before. Which brings a vision of drunk adults playing on kids toys...grin

Luckily this was not the only thing to watch as we moved on down the tracks. People watching.
When we pulled up to the San Bernardino station there was a gentleman sitting on a bench near the ticket kiosks. I will be delicate here. It looked like that was his spot and he had slept there. The cat that was roaming around there even liked him. He was dressed in sweat shirt and pants, and a ski cap. At first and second glance he looked like a bum. Well he got on the train with us. He sat across from us and to our rear 2 seats.
One of the new trends, at least here in So. Cal., is people with flip phones having them open and the speaker on and holding a LOUD CONVERSATION ON IT. This gentleman settles in and calls some woman and they go on about life and just random conversation. It is hard not to hear what is going on in this conversation. He and his lady friend come to this part where some other woman's name is dropped and he says " they stalk me because of all my money". Cute fiancee and eye both look at each other, kind of googly eyed. What...? Yeah
The guy that got on in Fontana dressed like Huggie Bear from the 70's show "the Rockford Files" was priceless. He was taking his son to LA I guess. You could tell by the look on the boys face this was his first train ride. I had been watching the "lovely" back yards go by, when cute fiancee leans over and say that Huggie was a player and he was playing his boy right there in front of us. She hoped that the boy could see that.

The ride was nice in many ways. Each stop was at a train station that had probably been around since the 20's or earlier. The stations had been updated and modernized in some areas.
Many of them were still in the "Mission" style architecture.

We finally arrived at Union Station in LA. The walk down the ramp and into the tunnel under the tracks is like walking into a time machine. You walk into something you can feel that people from every era of the 20th century have passed through at one time.

The nice thing about this ride to Olvera St was that it is almost directly across the street from Union Station. This area was the original Los Angeles.
First Fire Station.
Fireman's Hat on Flag pole on top of station.
Olvera St. does show a lot of it's history in it's old buildings, but it all boils down to today that Olvera St is a rather large curios shop. If you ever end up south of the border on vacation you will see much of the same stuff. Running down the center of the street is a line of cart like kiosks selling leather bag, flashy painted guitars, large colorful sombreros, Rosary, and all sorts of stuff that say Olvera St. on it.

The place wasn't hopping when we got there. It was Sunday and rather early at that.
Most of these buildings were built before 1900.

This was the original China Town, due south of Olvera St.

The first major hotel in Los Angeles, built by the Territorial Governor of the time Pio Pico.

These two buildings where had the year of completion at the tops, 1880. Still standing after all those years of shaking. Like most towns in Mexico Los Angeles has it's Plaza.

We walked around the area. Over to the original Catholic Church. That day must have been a big day for Christenings or something tons of people all dressed in there best duds. Ladies in the church parking area selling Rosary.
We walk down the out side of Olvera St. with the cute fiancee pointing at places that use to be restaurants that her family use dine at when they came down here. We made it to the other entrance and went into a few shops. Cute fiancee loved a lot of the dresses she saw. I could have decked myself out in a full Mariachi Band member outfit, silver on everything, for a few hundred buck.
I was thinking of getting a cheap sombrero, but chickened out, feeling not goofy enough to wear it on the train ride back. Can't go to Olvera St. with out getting taquitos. Cute fiancee needed a snack so we availed ourselves to the shop advertising their "world famous" taquitos.
Not bad either.
Since we were down in the neighborhood we decided to walk up a few blocks and go to China Town. China Town had moved or maybe migrated up to a different neighborhood. Having been to Mexico plenty of times, and seeing as Mexican culture is all around us her in So. Cal. Olvera St. was just a little more of the same. China Town, that was culture shock.

The shops were unbelievable. Oriental people holding up things to show you, telling you the price. "any hat (the "t'' almost non existent) 2 dolla, 2 hat 5 dolla". If you stopped to look at something they were on you like hawk to tell you how much it was. The people were all friendly but it was such a different We walked into a shop that sold seafood, fresh seafood, still in the tank seafood. Tanks of every size in this small shop, on the ground, on the walls, with every type of thing from the sea imaginable there for you to pick out and look at. Huge fish in some of the huge tanks on the floor.
We peeked inside a poultry shop. People lined up to a basic, chest high window, and a menu of the bird that were offered. We Americans are so minimalist in our diet. Poultry to me is a chicken, or turkey, or maybe a game hen or something. If it was a bird and you could eat it, it was on that Some shops had cookware, we coveted several nice rice steamers. Some shop had clothing. Some of the small shops had tourist trap stuff. What cracked me up the most was the Chinese sales person smiling at you as you looked at the Japanese Samurai swords they were selling. At one little kiosk I watched as two Chinese gentlemen were studying a sword and chatting to one another in their native tongue. One was older like a dad and maybe the other a son. They were crouched down low, looking at the sheathed sword and trying to wonder what the heck you needed with something like this that was wooden. Then the sword clicks out of the wood sheath. The Chinese equivalent of "oh" came out of their mouths. The son was holding it and he opened his palms when he saw the gleaming metal of the sword exposed, almost dropping it. Now the conversation got very animated. They clicked the sword in and out a couple of times, rotating the sheath and sword to look at the design on it, nodding to each other then finally setting it down back in it's display cradle. They stood up still looking at the sword and talking animatedly, making hand gestures. I found it rather funny. I'm sure if I could have understood what they were saying it probably wouldn't have been so
Cute fiancee bought a nice scarf at one of these kiosks, and we started looking for some sort of blue oriental pajama or something for her granddaughter, but nothing she liked or the right size.
Dried things. There were stores full of dried roots and fungi. I walked through some of them not wanting to touch anything. There was also a Chinese Apothecary, with a doctor there to treat you with the dried stuff he had. Amazing. There was some rather flashy Chinese food eateries there. We walked by one that had Valet Parking. The attendants were Hispanic and speaking Spanish to one another, which I could see would cause some comedy with that small parking lot they had and all the Orientals with there expensive Mercedes Benz in those tight spots. Language barrier, expensive cars, could be some comedy.
We stopped in one market and bought some teas and some rice noodles. They had teas for everything, from weight loss to erectile dysfunction. I have to say the stuff we bought was cheap.
It was around noon so we headed back towards Olvera St. More shops had opened by this time so we looked in a few of those too. Hungry again we sat down at nice Mexican food place right there in Olvera St. The food was good and they had a Mariachi Band that played for the guests.

Something interesting happened after the Mariachis were done playing for our side of the restaurant. As you can see we were outside so we could see what was happening at all the shop there. I noticed two guys sitting at a table together. They are in the picture as a mater of fact.
They sat kitty corner from each other. I'm not saying they were gay, but what happened next had them both shaking there heads and looking at each other as if in disapproval. These two gentlemen where both Hispanic. I didn't pay much notice to them until I heard this lady say something in Spanish that was in a rather harsh tone and the word "joto" was in that sentence.
Time for Spanish 101. In Spanish there are many words for "gay" and one of them is Joto, the "J" sounds like an "H'' the the word sounds like "ho toe".
I look over at these two guys to see if they had started doing something over the top that would cause this lady to act up like that. These two guys were riveted on this couple that was looking at something at the kiosks across from us. I didn't see them at first, but the crowd parted and there was two guys doing a "inconspicuous hand holding". This is California, and has they always said on Seinfeld "not that there is anything wrong with that" I have worked with, and still do work with, many gays and have found them of good character and some I call friend.
The thing that seems to have offended was the large age discrepancy of the couple. This skinny gray haired, pony tailed man around say 60 had this young man more than half his age holding on to his pinky. The kid was Hispanic, probably the other half of the problem, and he was interacting with the man. Hushed talk starts, except the loud lady, and the two gentlemen next to us did not approve at all. Cute fiancee was kind of saddened by it too. The kid did look too young. Well the young and old gentlemen shopped on and things settled down.
We paid our tab and headed back to Union Station.

Inside the station is like a Cathedral. With Mission Style flare this place beats Grand Central Station in New York City by a long shot. There was tons of examples of the bygone era of this place.
This was the main hub at one time to get you North or South, or to all parts East.

The old ticket counters are all still there. You can almost look at this picture and see families and travelers, standing in line with there trunks and leather luggage, dressed in 40's or 50's clothing.
We walked back up the tunnel and waited for the train. I had made the mistake of saying that this ride would be fun because ''nobody" rides the Metrolink. When they let us board the train the car we picked was packed. Cute fiancee jumped on this and gave me a hard time for it.
The ride back was uneventful, we rode on the other side of the train and got to see what it was like on the other side of the tracks. More ugly back yards and green pools, sprinkled with the occasional awesome back yard to keep it interesting.
I would recommend the train trip down to LA to all, and everyone should experience Olvera St. once in their lives. It was a fun adventure

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It is adventure just to get to the blogging part

At some point I would like to be doing something that makes me post almost every day, it may be a few years but it will happen. Adventures sometime are just part of life in general, at least in my eyes. For instance, we took a trip by train to L. A. two weekends ago and I had an adventure to post. Life just is very busy sometimes and you can't find time, or sometimes the will power to sit and write at the computer because you are too tired from work. I might not have been at this today except that we came back early from Disneyland today. First that
Last night Cute Fiancee told me she wanted to go to Disneyland on Sunday and that we could go down and get a hotel. We have yearly passes to D-land and go there often. Cute Fiancee is a Disney junkie I think...grin. We have this one hotel down in Anaheim, about a mile from the park, that has nice rates and the beds aren't too bad. I got the room for $55 for one nite, not bad for that area with area average of at least double that for a hotel room.
I must digress here for a bit to tie this into the "life gets in the way of blogging" part. We have been having trouble with the transmission in our little Geo Metro Convertible.
(the snow was on the ground today more on that bit in a minute)
I know, I know, it is a Metro, but it has some features that make it kind of a collectors item.
It can go topless, plus it gets 45 MPG. Ok, so last week I had to take the transmission out of the car to get it rebuilt. I drove it down to my brothers house. The trans was really making noise when I got there. I was there so I could have a little help getting it out of the car. A couple of beers, a few spins of the air tools and we had the trans down in a half hour. These cars are so easy to work on.
I took it to a friend for rebuilding, and it was back to me by Friday. Yesterday, Saturday, my brother came up and got me and the trans and we had breakfast and drove back to his house and reversed the process. Gravity is your friend when taking a transmission out of the car, it will naturally fall out of the car after unbolting everything. Going back into the car is always much more fun, and takes more beer. Lucky for us that trans can't way more than 35lbs. It took us maybe and hour to wrestle it back in. After a test drive all was well so I drove the car up the mountain to go get the cute fiancee from work. Metro drives great no noise from the trans we are good. At this point I would like to thank my brother Eric for his help, he is always helpful when it is car fixing time. This is when cute fiancee figured Disney would be fun and that it would be nice if we took the Metro instead of the truck to save gas.
Saturday night we grab our cloths, some food for lunch at D-land, and made the reservation for our hotel, and drove down to Anaheim. The plan was to check in and go into the park in hopes to catch the fireworks show they have every night, but unfortunately my pass was blocked out for that date. Funny thing about these passes, unless you buy Mondo Superduper Premium Pass, there are block out dates. Up to this point we have never run into this problem, mainly because we look it up before we leave. Instead of going in the park we went through Down Town Disney and looked in the shops Then headed back to the Hotel.
Our 3:30 am wake up call was from some knuckleheads that have no sense that they should keep there voices down that early in the morning, yelling and cackling. I rolled over and went back to sleep and dreamed I had gone "postal" on loud people at some hotel. Woke up at a better time , check out of the hotel and went to breakfast. Then head to the park, at this point I would like to say thank goodness we bought cute fiancee the Mondo Superduper Premium Pass, because it gets us free parking at D-land. We put our lunch in a locker at the picnic area and head into the park. We like going in and seeing the lithographs at the new gallery that is in the old bank building on main street. We found two cool lithos and grabbed them and took them back to the locker. At this point cute fiancee is looking a little uncomfortable about something. She says it is nothing, so I suggest we take a train ride around the park so as not to push her to hard if she isn't feeling well. I could tell she wasn't well. She was trying to tough it out. After the train ride we walked to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, one of our favorites, and she went down hill from there. She was in tears.
I know what was going through her mind. If we went home now the money we spent on everything would be a giant waist, but she was not in any shape to walk the park. I'm glad she was direct in the way she said we need to go home. She worries me when she doesn't tell me that she needs something in times like this. We grab our stuff and head for the car. No stress if you have the passes we just come back at a later date and enjoy ourselves. If this had happened and we had paid for admission we would have been out $200 and parking.
Here is where the snow comes in. It was cool this morning in Anaheim. I knew we had rain coming in but it was just a slight chance, besides Disney is actually kind of fun in the rain or cold, less people. We make it to about Ontario and I can see the mountains. I can see the haze that shrouds the mountain when it is snowing. My little expletive at this point wakes cute fiancee.
I point up towards home to show her it is snowing. Just a reminder we are driving the Metro here and I only really drive it in the summer time. Here in the Southern California Mountains they make you put chains on for traction in icy conditions.
We head up the hill, get halfway up, and we can see that it was snowing a lot lower earlier. Snow on May 23, in So. California, Global Warming my Disney loving Butt. We get almost to the top and hadn't got to a Highway Patrol Chain control point yet. There is a whole bunch of cars all stopped at this one turn though. It was still coming down pretty hard. I turned the car around and was heading back down the hill to go buy some chains for the vehicle I never drive in the winter. We made it two turns back down hill when I saw blue sky to the west. I'll be damned if I'm buying chains for my summer car. We turned around again and I decided to wait to see if the road cleared and the snow would stop. We pulled into a turn out and watched the idiots going about their snowy stupidity. If you have ever lived on the mountain you may have seen some of these people.
We had the down hill lanes people driving at 2 MPH on wet pavement, no snow sticking, and a line of 20 cars behind the leader, like cattle, not wanting to change lanes afraid they will slip off the mountain. Back in the day we use to call them, Flatlanders, those people that drive really slow and don't use turn outs. These are the ones that finally do drive off the mountain because one of our notoriously suicidal squirrels jump in front of them.
Then we had the fly up the friggen mountain, as fast as your vehicle will go, full time people going up hill. In my High School Days I might have fit into this category. We sat there and several of these types came flying around this corner near the turn out we were sitting in and probably crapped their pants when they had to slam on their brakes because of the line of cars that was backed up ahead. IDIOTS!
Traffic was clearing and the sun came out in less than five minutes. So we pulled out and made our way up the hill to the area the cars were all stopped at. Another full timer came up behind us. We are in the center lane waiting in line to get up to what ever is happening ahead. This arrogant idiot doesn't slow down and just crosses the double yellows and pulls up past several vehicles in line going into head on traffic. British Landrover loving, idiot. We make it up to where we can see what is going on. There is several pile-ups on this turn. The turn is the first one on the downhill side when you hit the 4 lane on our mountain. This turn is slopped some so the downhill side is the high side and the uphill is the low side. We can see what happened. People just put on there brakes and spun and helplessly bumped into each other.
Not one CHP around We made it by this tie-up and headed up the hill.
We ran into another place where people with no chains were sliding around. I stopped way back and let them sort themselves out. About this time a line of cars trying to keep up momentum come zipping around this corning, lead by a pickup truck. IDIOTS The pickup gets stopped by on coming traffic and now he is one of the people trying to get traction and slipping all over.
I had backed down the hill some to keep in the clear tracks that traffic had cleared in the snow.
We waited a few minutes and got to a point where we could pass again and pulled up the hill.
This was a very wet snow. Very slushy. We made it to with in100' of the house before we got stopped by more "flatlanders" sideways on the hill by our house. We unloaded right there and got cute fiancee up to the house and in bed. I dug out the steps up to the house and started the 4X4 to make some tracks that I could get the Metro all the way to the house. I had left the Metro down near a place that cars get hit all the time in these conditions. Dug two paths in the snow and drove the little car into our parking spot. Then I came in and started a fire and turned on the computer and BLOGGED...wooo hoo

Monday, May 10, 2010

We Adventured and saw peoples backyards.

I'm working on the adventure we took for Mother's Day. It was also our 2 year anniversary together. It was fun. We took the train from San Bernardino to Los Angeles. We rode in the upper cab of the rail car and were able to look down into a lot of back yards. I will tell more when I get done with the post. Stand by while I type and upload pictures.