I wrote a short entry last evening, but wasn't able to get it uploaded due to some computer problems. It seemed to be on AOL's end, but who knows? Gosh, that's the first time I've missed an entry in ages! I managed to survive somehow!
This is Sheeba's cousin (by friendship) Baxter, Kim and Steve's kitty. Like most cats, Baxter enjoys reading the morning paper with his housemates. He's a very cool cat.
I have to admit that I shed a tear or two when we left their place yesterday morning. (Ken said, "Well, THAT'S a big surprise." Hey, can I help it if I get teary-eyed easily? Very easily?) Like I told Ken, the only thing I regret about our friendship with them is that we live so far away from each other! However, we settled on a date for our Vegas, Baby! trip early next year. Ken and I even booked our hotel room and flights, but Kim and Steve were going to check a couple more options. We'll all be staying in the same hotel, of course. We got a great deal at Bally's, right on the Strip. Woohoo! Ken and I stayed off the Strip last time, and agreed it would be more fun to be on the Strip. We also decided on the show we all want to see: "Love," which is the Cirque du Soleil show with Beatles music. We can't book that yet, so that will be my job in September. Anyhoo, it was a great visit, we had a wonderful time, and we'll look forward to meeting up in Vegas, Baby!
So it was back on the road, heading for San Diego. We took 101 south, which takes us back through Santa Barbara and Montecito. That's one of my favorite places to drive through in California! Beautiful flowers are everywhere, including mounds of them in the median. The trees are close to the road, and you can only see glimpses of the city once in a while. It's so lush and green, and absolutely gorgeous. I was telling Kim and Steve that if I were to live in California, I'd want to live in Santa Barbara...but then again, I'm not rich! Steve laughed and said, "Yeah, I was gonna say...that's pretty high-end!" I know that it's one of the "rich people" places, but it sure is pretty. One year we stayed in Montecito, at the Montecito Inn. I may have written about this before, but it's a restored mansion that used to be one of Charlie Chaplin's homes. Apparently, in the 20's, a bunch of his friends from Hollywood would visit and hang out there. It's beautifully restored, and keeps most of its 20's charm. The hallways are sort of narrow and dark, and it's one of the coolest places we've ever stayed!
Okay, back to the present. Once we got away from the coast, it started getting very warm, so we were able to put the top down on the rental. This time we used sunscreen! It's amazing, but once you head inland, it gets SO incredibly hot. Once we got past L.A., it was getting to be around lunchtime, so we decided to find a place. Ken saw a sign for Pepperdine University, and figured there would be places to eat around there, so we took a side trip. This is one of the many fun things about road trips: the unexpected side trip! And this one was a beaut.
We ended up going through the Santa Monica mountains, a national recreation area. I don't think it's a full-fledged national park, but there was plenty of land for hiking and enjoying nature. We were on Malibu Canyon Road, and oh my God, it was so cool! The mountains were fairly high here, and it was a true canyon, with the road running towards the bottom and the craggy mountains rising around us. I kept going, "Oh WOW!" As we got deeper into the canyon, the air temperature dropped--the heat we felt on the highway around L.A. was gone, and it felt very pleasant. Since we were on Malibu Canyon Road, guess where we ended up? That's right, Malibu! On the way there, we were trying to remember if we'd been there, but when we got into the town, we realized that we hadn't. What a gorgeous place! We didn't go down to the beach, because we were there for a brief stop, but agreed that it might be a place we want to come back to and spend more time.
We stopped at a place called the Malibu Inn and split a sandwich and had a cool beverage or two. The picture is looking up the hill from our table. Ken got some pictures of the town, which he will put up at some point. While we were waiting for our food, we started looking at the map to see if we had to go back the way we came, or if we could pick up the highway from Malibu. A guy overheard us and came over to help. He gave us some good advice, and we chatted a bit with him and his lunch companion. They live in Malibu, but a little further north. He said that it's nice and quiet up there, and this is a crazy time in town, when all the tourists come in. They asked where we were from, and turns out that the guy is originally from Michigan, and his uncle owned a hardware store for many years in the town where Ken works! We had also chatted briefly with another guy when we first got there, and he's from Detroit and has been in Malibu since 1980. THEN, our waiter asked where we were from, and we talked about Notre Dame. Turns out the guy is a family friend of the Clausens, and Jimmy Clausen is Notre Dame's wunderkind quarterback. Ken and I were laughing about what an incredibly small world it really is. Amazing!
We were also marveling over how friendly everyone has been. I know that wait staff and clerks, etc., get paid to be that way, but it always seems completely genuine. The guy that helped us with directions was probably richer than all get out, but he was as friendly and helpful as could be! We wondered if part of it is us. Do we look really friendly or something? Or just helpless? Ha ha! I think we probably do come across as a couple of happy and nice people, so as we often write about, that tends to generate the same behavior in others. Whatever the reason--no need to over-analyze it--it's been so pleasant to talk to people and see how nice they are. Oddly enough, Ken's Ron Jon (the surf shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida) shirt has generated several comments. "Hey, I've been there!" Of course, considering we're in prime surfing country, I guess it's not surprising!
So the guy told us how to proceed, and we headed a little further down Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. Oh my God, some of the houses on the hills overlooking the ocean were just incredible! Millions of dollars, no doubt about it. What amazed me even more were the homes sitting right on top of the ocean. No joke--they were built up on pillars and the ocean came in under them. I have to wonder how long they'll last! But can you imagine looking out your living room or bedroom window, and the Pacific Ocean is right there?! WOW! Ken and I were so glad we took that side trip, because it was a great and fun experience, even though it was short. We went past the Santa Monica Pier, which is where Route 66 ends...we'll be experiencing that in full before too long!
We headed into San Diego, and I was reminded what a beautiful city it is. The bay is full of ships of all types, and bristles with masts. Our hotel is on Shelter Island in the bay, and when we open the door, we look out onto a marina. Ships everywhere! I'll be taking a walk soon and will get some pictures. On our way to the hotel, we spotted an oyster bar, so guess who will be having some fresh oysters tonight?!
We had arranged to meet my nieces for dinner at a place called Ponce's. We were going to cab it over, but got a call from Ken's brother, Mike, who drives a limo in town. He was in the area and offered to come and get us and take us over there, then pick us up when we were done. How cool is that? He looked great and seems to be doing very well. We really appreciated the ride!
Ponce's is my niece Jen's favorite Mexican restaurant in the city, so we knew it was going to be good. It sure was, and apparently quite authentic. Their guacamole was probably the best I've ever tasted--just avocados and whatever spices they used, nothing extra. Yum!
We had a great time, and it was wonderful to see them. From left to right, that's Rey, who is Heather's husband, Heather holding their son, Liam, and Jennifer. Liam is the cutest little guy, and there are more pictures to come. Jen's roommate, another Jen, was also there, and she was really sweet and nice. All are doing well, and Heather and Rey may be coming to Indiana for a visit later this year. Yay!
Heather and Rey headed home with Liam, and Jen stayed for a little more talk and another margarita. (I forgot to mention how yummy THOSE were, too!) We ended up having kind of a serious talk, about how she felt after her parents got divorced, and how it took her a while to understand things a little more...but when she did, she felt like her eyes were really opened. It was interesting to get her perspective on it. I love her dad, my brother-in-law Tom, like my own brother, and I'm so glad that she figured out several years ago just what a wonderful guy he really is.
So Mike came and got us, and he and Ken agreed on a tee time for this morning. Poor Ken had to get up around 7--ouch! I stayed in bed, but was serenaded by the groundskeepers as they revved up the weedwhacker and trimmed the landscaping outside our room. And when I say "serenaded," I mean that literally, as one of the guys sang a Spanish song as he worked. It was fairly pleasant, but I would have rather slept longer! Ken and Mike should be gone a little while longer, so I think I'll take a walk over by the pool and get some pictures of the marina. I had a 20-ounce Diet Pepsi for breakfast, and I'm almost shaking from the caffeine. When you don't drink it often, it really packs a punch, and WOW, I'm rarin' to go!
I'll leave you with another picture, and I'll make this one bigger. The restaurant we were at last night was in a neighborhood called Kensington, and this is the theater across the street. How could we NOT get a picture like this? What's even funnier is the title of the movie that's playing. The word that is blocked out is "last."