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Pilgrimage to the City of the Angels (1/3)

I haven’t updated my blog with any good travel tales for quite some time. However, Kathryn and I managed to pack a lot into our 60-hour road trip to Los Angeles last weekend, so I figured it was time for a new post.

When I sit down to write a new post, I often have the title in my head before the text. The word pilgrimage came to mind right away. Although I was a little hesitant to use it at first, I think it’s appropriate here. The timing of the trip was chosen to allow us to witness one of the friars from our church make his profession of solemn vows into the Franciscan order, as well as to support our choir, which would be singing at the mass. Los Angeles, a city named after Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncula, the place where the Franciscan movement began, seems like a particularly fitting place to celebrate such an event, especially in a church named after St. Francis.

However, in addition to this particular motivation of the trip, we had other plans in mind. Kathryn wanted to see Michael Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as a way of paying final respects to the pop legend. We both also wanted to check out some of L.A.’s iconic dining establishments, the places that make us salivate when we see them on the Travel Channel. Finally, Kathryn requested we see the ocean at least once while we were there. Could we drive to California, accomplish all this, and be home in 60 hours?

You betcha.

We got underway around 8 am Friday, and as is often the case with road trips, we were ready for a break within a couple hours. There aren’t many choices in the Arizona desert, so we stopped in Quartzsite to share a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee at the McDonald’s there. Lo and behold, almost a dozen of our fellow parishioners were also there. We were going to play it off like it was a big coincidence to run into them, but then we just admitted we were also heading to L.A. for same reason they were.

Underway once again, we stopped a couple hours later near Palm Springs for lunch at Carl’s Jr. Here in the Valley for the last several days they’ve been advertising a new sandwich called the Big Carl. Kathryn and I hadn’t been to a Carl’s Jr. in ages, but we’d been drooling every time we see the new commercials. We each got one, and they were indeed big and quite delicious. No one else from the church was at this stop, though. Maybe they pressed on. Maybe they prefer McDonald’s. Maybe they were playing nickel slots at the Agua Caliente casino on the other side of the freeway. We can’t say for sure.

We arrived at our hotel around 3 pm, which conveniently was check-in time. We picked the Comfort Inn City Center because it was inexpensive and centrally located. On the other hand, it was in a seedy neighborhood, a short walk from MacArthur Park, a somewhat notorious landmark. I took some comfort in the fact the parking lot was blanketed with security cameras. The exterior of the hotel looked decent, and our room had been at least superficially remodeled recently. We weren’t planning to spend a lot of time in the room, and with proximity several major freeways, all things considered, it was a decent value.

One thing we noticed right away was, although it was about 20 degrees cooler in L.A. than Phoenix, we were much more uncomfortable there. The humidity was really taking a toll on us. I’ve lived in Phoenix for five years now, and people here keep telling me I’ll get used to the heat. Well, I haven’t, but I’ve definitely gotten used to the dryness. I felt damp the entire time I was in L.A., even at night with the air conditioner cranking away. I’m a very light packer, and I wished I’d brought another shirt or two.

Following a brief rest after arriving, we decided to start crossing items off our list, so we drove over to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Driving around Los Angeles on the surface streets was relatively easy. We found free parking on a side street near La Brea and walked the entire length of the Walk on Hollywood, skipping the parts on Vine. Kathryn got her photo of the Michael Jackson star, which still had a crowd gathered around it. Although we’d both been to the Walk of Fame before, separately, this was the first time either of us noticed that some celebrities, like Harrison Ford, have more than one star. Maybe there’s more than one Harrison Ford.

Next on our list, since we’d already passed it on La Brea, was Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs. We arrived there around 7 pm, and we were delighted to see the line was half as long as when we’d passed by a couple hours earlier. I was less delighted to find out I had to leave the car keys with the parking attendant, although I surprised Kathryn by not going into my usual cold sweat about it. After almost a half-hour in line, we ordered and were served promptly. Kathryn had the chili cheese dog. I went all out and got the bacon chili cheese dog, which also came with diced tomatoes, and we shared an order of onion rings. It was indeed worth the wait. The dogs were excellent, and the onion rings were very good too. Next time we’re in town, we’ll be back, and we’ll go at the same time. When we pulled out of the parking lot, the line was back to where we had seen it earlier. I guess we found the lull.

Kathryn and I are hardly night owls, so after a long day on the road and with a busy day to follow, we headed back to the hotel to retire for the evening. Before we turned in, we walked down the street to get a cold beer at a nearby liquor store. The clerk worked from behind bulletproof glass. Charming.

That wraps up the first day. I’ve decided to split this update into three posts, one for each day. Be looking for the follow-ups over the next 24 hours or so.