Southwest Chief: Chicago to Los Angeles - October 2017

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May 8, 2011
I thought I posted this trip report two years ago. Better late than never, I suppose, and I doubt much has changed.

I had some points to use and hadn't been on the SWC in three years. Those who've known me a long time know that I traveled to ABQ with my ex-boyfriend every year to visit his family.

We broke up in 2015, and one of the things I missed most was our yearly trip to ABQ. I eventually realized that just because I wasn't with him anymore didn't mean I couldn't travel on the SWC again, and I had always wanted to see the scenery beyond Albuquerque.

I decided to take it all the way to L.A, visit with @trainman74 and some other friends in the area, and then fly home on Southwest.

Since I was flying back to Chicago, that meant I had to either drive to Chicago and leave my car somewhere all week or drive to Indiana and take the South Shore Line to Chicago. I know lots of places to park in Chicago for free, but they're all on the north side, and Midway is on the south side. It would have taken just as long to ride CTA from Midway back to my car as it would to take the South Shore back to Indiana, so I opted to take the South Shore. (This was a mistake. More on that later.)

It takes around an hour and a half to drive to the Dune Park South Shore station. I prefer to use that station rather than Michigan City since they have a huge parking lot. Plus, it's a beautiful setting. It was a nice, autumn day, if not a bit overcast. The ride on the South Shore was uneventful. We left Dune Park around 9:50 a.m. and arrived at Millennium Station around 11:10.


The weather wasn't nearly as nice in Chicago. The rain fell like a blanket, and the streets were flooded. I had a rain jacket with hood but opted to grab an Uber to Union Station rather than walking a mile or waiting for a bus. In the time it took me to dash from the doorway at the Chicago Cultural Center to the open door of the Uber, I was absolutely drenched. Luckily, I had a couple hours to dry out before boarding the SWC.

Normally, I would have grabbed lunch on the way to Union Station, but I decided to leave my bags in the lounge and eat dinner in the station. I had a carry-on, my small backpack, and my purse. The baggage room was filled to capacity. Even the floor was blocked with luggage. I managed to find some space near the back after carefully climbing over a few bags.

The state of Wisconsin had purchased ad space at Union Station and featured a brilliant autumn display. This is the area near the Metra Ticket counter and the doors to the Great Hall:



I ended up eating lunch at Kelly's Cajun Grill, which is no longer open. It was actually a Chinese restaurant, so I have no idea where the Cajun name came from. They had this amazing lemon chicken, which didn't even taste like lemon. It was more like sesame chicken, but that's what they called it. The entire place was kind of an "in" joke with some people who went to the Chicago Gathering in 2013. We started calling it "Gathering Chicken" since we ate it for lunch nearly every day.

The food court is always pretty crowded, so people practice communal seating. I sat with a nice older gentleman who was traveling to St. Louis to visit his daughter. We talked for a bit, and then he had to leave to catch the Texas Eagle.

I didn't take any pictures of the Great Hall since I've been there a million times. Honestly, I didn't take any pictures until we were underway.

In fact, I took this picture, and then we stopped. Those familiar with the south tracks will realize we hadn't moved very far at this point:


In fact, I'm fairly positive the rear of the consist was still in the tunnel when we stopped. I figured it was just something random, like Metra traffic, but five minutes turned into fifteen... then thirty... Eventually, my car attendant came by to let us know the engineer had seen a warning light and they were checking the brake system. (Fine by me.)

After an hour, we were on our way again. It was still overcast and dreary, perfectly October. I had never taken this trip during autumn, so the scenery, while familiar, looked much different in the October gloom:




I was in a lower level roomette, which was a first for me. I was in room #14, next to the Family Room. Much to my relief, it was not occupied by a loud family, but it WAS occupied by a loud woman who refused to use headphones to watch her programs and used the screechiest Midwestern voice possible while talking on her phone. (Later, the car attendant told her that if she did not start using her headphones, she would be asked to leave the train at Kansas City.)

Across the hall from me was another woman who started complaining before we left the station. She must have thought I worked for Amtrak, because she asked me a thousand questions before we reached Galesburg. I am a kind person and truly enjoy helping others, but when I'm on vacation, I have my limits. The entire point of going on vacation is to get away from people who need me, as I am intellectually and emotionally "touched out" by the end of each day. This woman glommed onto me as much as possible, so I ended up keeping my door shut for the entire trip. (It did not help. More on that later.)

When we reached Mendota, I took a couple pictures of the old locomotive parked by the station:



It's part of the railroad museum - - which I have not taken the time to visit yet. During the holidays, the locomotive is lined with strings of white lights and looks quite pretty in the snow.

My car attendant had come around for dining reservations beforehand. The woman across the hall heard when I was going to dinner and decided to accompany me. Despite having been on three trains so far (she was on a round-the-U.S. trip), she did not know how to locate the dining car. I told her it was upstairs, and she said, "I'll just follow you." So, she walked to the dining car with me, and we were seated together.

I ordered the steak with Bearnaise sauce, which was delicious. It was accompanied by a salad, green beans, a baked potato, and roll. Everything was delicious, but the roll was a bit stale. I particularly loved the Bearnaise sauce and dipped my potato and beans in it before each bite. Unfortunately, the photo is a bit dark and makes it look unappetizing. My steak was cooked "medium", not "charcoal" as the photo suggests:


During dinner, my "companion" spent the entire dinner complaining that she had to eat green beans again. She was so sick of green beans. I half-joked that if she didn't eat her vegetables, she couldn't have dessert, which earned a laugh from the other two people at the table but not her. She then complained that her travel agent didn't inform her that the dining car was on the upper level and then pointed to me and said, "She knows everything about this train. She's going to be my travel agent for the rest of the trip."

(Photo limit reached - to be continued in the next post)


AU Supporter
Aug 27, 2002
Keep it coming. I enjoyed the first part. The lady across the hall sounds like a pain. Hope it did not ruin your trip.


May 8, 2011
As dinner wrapped up, I decided to escape and asked if I could get my cheesecake to go. I took my dessert and wine back to my room and noticed my car attendant had already put the bed down, so I settled in with my drink and a book.


Despite not having been on a long distance train in three years, the feel of the bedding and mattress were familiar to me. In fact, I can still feel and smell them if I think about it for a moment.

We were running a couple hours behind at this point, and I was getting tired, but I didn't want to miss one of my favorite "markers". I know we're getting close to Kansas City when I see the giant power plant in Sibley, along the Missouri River. If you're on the right side of the train, you can't miss it.


I like to prop up a pillow along the window rail, tuck my arm under it, and lay on it while looking out the window at night. In all of my trips, I have yet to miss my favorite nighttime "markers". Shortly after passing the power plant, the train travels along the streets of Kansas City. The yellow lights remind me of Chicago, giving an eerie feel to the streets. This adds atmosphere while passing this house near Sheffield Cemetery. I have yet to get a good picture of it, due to the low lighting and speed of the train. Here is a daytime shot from Google Maps:

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 8.45.48 PM.png

Once we pass that house, I start looking for the Western Auto sign. It's an old-style, animated neon sign:

We arrived at Kansas City Union Station around three hours late. They didn't make any announcements, as it was close to 1:00 a.m. Normally, it's a busy fresh air stop from 10:00 - 10:30 p.m, but I was one of only a couple people who got off the train. I was ready for sleep at that point, but I also didn't know when I'd get to ride the SWC again and didn't want to miss anything familiar to me. It was also fairly cold and wet, though, so I snapped a picture and returned to my warm bed:


As we crossed Kansas, I woke up at every stop. Between the sound of the door opening and people boarding or detraining, it was impossible to stay asleep. The loud lady in the Family Room was eventually joined by someone in Newton, judging by the time they woke me up. When her companion boarded, they stood in the hallway chatting away and fussing with baggage, despite the car attendant's attempts to shush them and hurry them along. I could hear them over my earplugs. Eventually, they went into her room and settled down.

I hoped we'd make up time through Kansas. I knew I'd miss seeing the gigantic wind farm while sleeping, but my wish was granted when we failed to make up time and actually lost time during the night. I woke up in Spearville and managed to catch the beginning of the wind farm. It's not nearly as cool during the day, though. (At night, all of the blinking red lights and giant white blades have an "X-Files" quality to them.)


I realized I'd get to see Dodge City during the day, which was pretty exciting. Normally, I wake up at that stop, catch a glimpse of it in the snow, and then fall back asleep. This time, I'd get to see all of the buildings during breakfast. I wanted to take some pictures of the storefronts and street names, so I made sure to have my camera ready.

Unfortunately, while I was seated in the lounge car ready to snap pictures, they called my name for breakfast and sat me on the opposite side of the train. This is the only picture I could get. :( (In retrospect, I could have asked the LSA to move my name to the bottom of the list and gone back to the lounge car. Oh well.)


Breakfast was a cheese omelet, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and tea. The bacon was crispy and not too salty, just the way I like it.


Some shots of Kansas in the early morning sun:




When I returned to my room, the lady across the hall asked where the shower room was located and then asked if I had any extra towels. I pointed her toward the shower room and told her there are usually extra towels either in the shower room itself or in her closet. She snapped that she knew she had towels in her closet but needed more. (I did not give her my towels.)

(to be continued)


May 8, 2011
When you pull into Garden City, there is little doubt you are in Garden City. Just in case, though, here are three signs confirming it:


I will let these photos tell their own story. These are some of my favorite things to watch for while crossing eastern Colorado, not to mention a few things that remind me I'm approaching the Wild West, so to speak.







John Martin Reservoir (Hasty, CO):





May 8, 2011
In Las Animas, CO, you can see the prison, the Bent County Courthouse (built in 1899), and what looks like old horse stables or an old horse auction site. I'm sure I looked it up at some point but can't recall:





We stopped in La Junta, which is another fresh air break stop. Since we were still running three hours behind, they told everyone to stay near the train. I usually run around and take pictures of the area near the station, but I decided to take advantage of the longer stop and take a shower while the train wasn't moving. I snapped this picture for those following my journey on Facebook and got back on the train:


After my shower, I made lunch reservations. I timed it so I'd get to enjoy the Raton Pass while eating. Once you leave La Junta, you can see the mountains in the distance, growing ever larger as the train winds its way west.




The approach to Trinidad, CO, the last stop before the Raton Pass:



May 8, 2011
After we left Trinidad, they called my lunch reservation. I was seated alone, on the left side of the train. I knew this meant I'd miss seeing the signs for the Raton Tunnel, Old Santa Fe Trail, and Dick Wootton's Ranch, but the left side has the best scenery overall.

My server asked where I was traveling from. When I started to say my usual, "Kalamazoo. It's a town in southwest Michigan," he interrupted me and said, "I know where it is! I grew up in Comstock!" (Comstock is a little township just east of Kalamazoo, about ten minutes away.) He added that he moved to L.A. to get away from the weather but was happy he got to work the SWC because it meant he could still see snow around Christmastime. I was one of only three people in the dining car, so he stopped by every so often to chat about our favorite places in Chicago.

I ordered the Black Bean Burger, a first for me. I added cheese and then mentioned some people on this forum like to add bacon and call it the "Hypocrite Burger". He found that amusing. (He may have heard it before, but if he did, he didn't let on.)

I loved the burger. It was filling and tasted like a burrito in burger form. The seasoning was perfect.


As promised, the scenery out the left side is gorgeous. For a good portion of the trip through the pass, you can see cars on I-25 as they travel between Colorado and New Mexico:









May 8, 2011
More pictures of the pass and the approach to the Raton Tunnel. The tunnel sits on the Colorado/New Mexico state line.






After passing through the tunnel, we stopped in Raton for our fresh air break:





The station looks different from how I remember it. There's a new parking area next to the museum, along with an art museum. I didn't wander too far, as we were still running low on time.

A gentleman DID cause a bit of a delay, though. Apparently, he had ordered a pizza, and it hadn't shown up yet. The conductor said he didn't care if the passenger didn't have his pizza, as we were not going to hold up a train for his lunch. At that point, a few passengers started yelling, "I see him! Over here!!!" and waved their arms at the pizza guy. The conductor yelled, "YOU HAVE TWO MINUTES AND THEN WE'RE LEAVING YOU!!!" as the passenger ran to get his food. (He made it.)

The south end of Raton, after leaving the station. Some day, during a longer trip to New Mexico, I'd like to head up there and check out these little shops.



May 8, 2011
After Raton, New Mexico flattens out a bit around Las Vegas. This is another good point to either relax with a book or take a shower. The scenery is nice, and highly recommended if you've never been out west, but it's simply a precursor to the beauty of the Glorieta Pass.

The flat portions go on for about an hour or so, and then you start to see more rocks and canyons as you approach the pass. That's your cue to put the book down.











May 8, 2011
We were still running nearly four hours behind, so I was a bit worried we would lose light as we traveled through the Glorieta Pass. We did, but I was still able to see nearly everything.







Approaching Lamy, there is a small "neighborhood" of old train cars converted into homes. Every time I see these, I think of "The Boxcar Children", one of my favorite children's book series.





At this point, I started to feel extremely sad. While Brent and I had broken up two years prior and I no longer had feelings for him, I did still miss portions of the life we'd built together over the course of six years, which included time with his family.

Every time we left Lamy, he would call his father to let him know we had just left Lamy and would be in Albuquerque at whichever time they currently predicted. His father would bring Niko (their huge dog) and either Brent's brother or sister (who would also bring her little dog along). When we arrived, his father would be waiting on the platform, one of many men wearing a denim jacket and cowboy hat. He would greet me with a huge hug and carry my bag for me while asking if we had a good trip. Then we'd all pile into his truck with a random sibling and 1-2 dogs and head to his parents' house.

So, even though I knew I was traveling onto L.A. and my memories of time with his family in Albuquerque were just that - memories - there was a small part of me that wanted to call his father and ask if he'd like to meet me at the station and catch up during the fresh air break.

At this point, @trainman74 kindly reminded me that "nostalgia" comes from the Greek words "nostos" (return home) and "algos" (pain).


AU Supporter
Aug 8, 2015
You have a good eye for photos, and a great description of traveling incidents. I'm enjoying your trip.​


May 8, 2011
I took a few pictures on the way to Albuquerque, but as you can see, it was dark by the time we reached the outskirts. I couldn't see Sandia Peak at all (opposite side of the train, and one of the "markers" that tells me how close we are).

I did manage to catch some of the mesas, one of the neon buildings in Albuquerque, and the main street near the train station. Normally, this would all be in daylight.

Los Cerillos, NM:





Traveling along I-25 again, near the Santa Ana Pueblo:


Downtown Albuquerque:


Vendors setting up at the Albuquerque station:


Once they were set up, I purchased a pair of earrings. They were quite pretty and only $10. I had never had a chance to browse the vendors, as I always boarded or detrained in Albuquerque, so it was nice to be able to look at everything.


As with breakfast, I was seated for dinner at a most inopportune time. I had chosen my reservation based on when I thought we would be past Albuquerque, but we sat for much longer than anticipated. As such, they called my dinner reservation shortly before we departed. I had planned on sitting in my dark room, crying and watching the city go by so I could drown in my nostalgia and work through it, but I was in a brightly-lit diner and couldn't see anything outside due to the reflections.

To add insult to injury, they seated a loud couple with me. They had just finished showing their balloon in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and were extremely hyper and drunk. To be fair, I have nothing against people who are drinking and having a good time. They were excited about their balloon and the wonderful time they'd had, and I did not hold that against them. I realized I was simply overcome with my own emotions and it was no fault of theirs that I felt like someone had shoved me through a strainer.

So, I smiled and listened to their stories. I asked questions and remained interested all while shoving my emotions down, down, down. They gave me one of their cards, which was similar to a baseball card and had a picture of their balloon and their contact information on it. They treated me like one of their best friends and drank with me. Even though I was irritated at their interruption of and intrusion upon my sadness, part of me realized that maybe that was exactly what I needed to remind me that Albuquerque was not a magical, liminal threshold to memories and experiences I could never live again but a living, breathing entity that I could return to whenever time and money allowed.

Perhaps my subconscious realized this, because I tucked their card in my wallet. It's still there to this day:



AU Supporter
Aug 27, 2002
This trip report is helping me get my mojo back. I’m planning a ride on the chief. I feel you on the break up with your boyfriend. I have the same issues with St. Louis after breaking up with my gf.


May 8, 2011
Throughout the second day, the woman across the hall had knocked on my door any time she needed something. Apparently, she would push the button for the car attendant, and if she didn't respond within a few minutes, it was my job to attend to her needs. Eventually, I kept the curtain closed and stopped answering her knocks. I reasoned that if my curtain and door were closed, she had no way of knowing I was in the room. A chicken move, for sure, but I couldn't think of a reasonably polite way to tell her to stop bothering me. (An earlier suggestion to use her call button is what led to her informing me that it "didn't work".)

When I returned from dinner, feeling talked-out and exhausted, she managed to catch me before I could close my door. She snippily informed me that she could not find our car attendant anywhere and that she needed to wake up at a certain time. I simply looked at her, not catching her meaning, so then she added, "If you see her, could you please ask her to wake me up at 6:00 so I don't miss my stop? I'm getting off at Fullerton."

What I Wanted to Say: "First of all, lady, I am not the damn concierge. Second, we are running four hours behind. There is no way on God's Green Earth we are pulling into Fullerton at 7:00 a.m."

What I Actually Said: "I'm going to bed now, so I won't see her. Goodnight."

At that point, she stopped my door with her hand and asked, "What time are you getting up? Could you wake me up?"

I replied, "I'm getting off in L.A. I won't be up that early. Does your phone have an alarm?"

Rather than answering me, she huffed and turned toward her room. I used that opportunity to close my door and curtains and turn off the light. Thankfully, she did not bother me again. All I wanted was to put on my pajamas, drink some wine, and try to catch glimpses of western New Mexico and perhaps some of eastern Arizona. I was a bit unhappy about missing that scenery, due to it being pitch black outside, but @trainman74 cheered me with the news that I would get to see the Cajon Pass during daylight. I had never even heard of it before, but a quick Google search showed me that it was both historic and beautiful, so I looked forward to it.

I propped my pillow up on the window rail again and looked outside for a while. I couldn't see much of anything, so I listened to music, drank wine, and thought about all of the fun things I would do in L.A. I was fairly relaxed by the time we reached Arizona.

I knew we had crossed into Arizona when we passed this truck stop. I had only seen pictures of it before, having never made the trip along I-40 into Arizona. It was fairly bright, and there was no way to miss that teepee.

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Shortly afterward, I fell asleep. I woke up briefly in Flagstaff and then slept the rest of the night. When I woke up, we were pulling into Barstow, CA:



At this point, it was nearly 6:00 a.m, so we'd made up a bit of time and were only 2.5 hours late. (No, I did not wake her up.) I showered, ate breakfast, and returned to my room to catch some of the scenery along Route 66.

A peek at the airplane graveyard at the Southern California Logistics Airport:


Traveling along Route 66:




Just outside Victorville:



Joshua tree near the Mojave Narrows Regional Park. (I'd never seen one before.)



May 8, 2011
The Cajon Pass travels between the San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains. The pass was created by the movements of the San Andreas fault; the result of this movement is visible in the position of the rock formations.

My breakfast companion informed me that the pass is traversed by tracks owned by BNSF and UP and is a popular area for rail photographers. As I traveled through, it was easy to see why. There are portions where the various elevations and train tracks reminded me of a model railroad.

In 1851, a group of Mormon settlers traveled through the pass on their way from Salt Lake City to southern California. "Mormon Rocks" is a large rock formation located where the railway and "Mormon Trail" merge.









Once we reached San Bernardino, we had a bit of time to get off the train and take pictures. I stress a BIT of time. They told us we had around ten minutes, but three minutes later, the conductor yelled, "All aboard!" I was at the complete opposite end of the train at that point. I was near a young man who gave me an equally panicked look and then said, "There's a door open in Coach! Come on!" I haven't run that fast since high school. We made it just in time. The car attendant closed the door behind us, laughed, and said, "Close call!"

From there, it was onward to Fullerton, where the lady across the hall departed and (hopefully) found her way home.




May 8, 2011
Los Angeles Union Station features a gorgeous juxtaposition of Art Deco, Mission, and Streamline Moderne architecture. I was extremely lucky to have access to the old ticketing area, as they were displaying a formerly-censored mural by a local artist. This area is normally roped off; you can still see it while visiting, but you can't physically enter the room.


Here is a link to a story about the mural:


Ceiling in the ticketing area:


Ticket counters:


It's simply breathtaking in person.






Ceiling in the waiting room:



May 8, 2011
After wandering around the station for a while, I decided to pick up my rental car and drive around. I had oodles of time before I could check into my Airbnb, so I figured I'd explore a bit and then grab lunch.

Locating the rental counter was fairly easy. It's tucked away in a somewhat random area of the station, but the signs were easy to follow. I had to wait a bit, as there was a mix-up with Hertz. I had called to warn them the train would be 2-3 hours late so they wouldn't cancel my reservation, but this somehow created two reservations in the system. The desk clerk spent close to 20 minutes on the phone trying to iron it out. He apologized a couple of times, at which point I waved him off and said, "It happens. I'm not in a hurry." No one was in line behind me, thankfully. If they had been, I would have told them to go ahead.

Eventually, everything was kosher and my contract was signed. He asked if I knew where the rental cars were located (no) and then gave me some vague, hand-waving directions. Then he said, "You know what? I need to take my break anyway. I'll walk you over there." So I got a nice, friendly escort to the rental cars. I probably would have found them on my own, but I was glad to have him with me. The path isn't marked, and you have to walk out a door, across a courtyard, through an unmarked door, down two flights of stairs, over the river, and through the woods.

When we walked outside, I was greeted with this gorgeous day:


My rental car had a push-button ignition, which I had never used before. It took some getting used to, but I eventually got the hang of it.

L.A. traffic was exactly as I remembered, so by the time I had been on the road for a bit, I was ready for lunch. I used Waze to find my way to the nearest In-N-Out and had a double-double, fries (well done), and a Neapolitan shake. I normally love In-N-Out and can't wait to eat it when traveling to California, but for some reason, it didn't wow me this time. I suppose it can't always be good, especially since it's fast food. It was good, just not as amazing as I remembered.


I got a hold of @trainman74 and asked if he wanted to go for a drive with me since I still had time to kill. I had never been on the Pacific Coast Highway, so he suggested driving up to Santa Barbara along the PCH and then coming back on the 101 (I think - correct me if I remembered that wrong).

Unfortunately, I was driving, so I couldn't take any pictures along the ocean. It was a gorgeous drive, though, and I still remember it quite clearly. I especially loved all the little fish shops and souvenir stands.

Santa Barbara was pretty calm. It was the middle of a weekday, so few people were out. We walked along a boardwalk and then sat at the end of the pier, watching people fish. I could see some ships on the water, and everything had a briny, ocean smell, so different from the Great Lakes. Even though the smells and scenery were different, I still felt completely at home walking along the pier, hearing the waves pound against the shore.









Unfortunately, I followed some other people's lead and sat on a large log-type bench near the end of the pier. I didn't think anything of it until a couple days later, when I couldn't figure out why I smelled fish every time I got in the car.

I did laundry that night, and I noticed the back of the pants I'd worn that day had been smeared with something. Apparently, some idiot had used the bench to clean their fish when it is clearly not an approved place to clean fish. I knew it would come out of my pants in the wash, but I was really worried about the car.

I was able to clean the seat of the car with some washcloths and a bit of detergent and then sprinkled some baking soda on the seat. After a day in the sun with the windows open, I cleaned off the baking soda, and it smelled fine (thank goodness).

Tony in Ann Arbor

Train Attendant
Dec 14, 2013

Glad to see your trip report - brought back memories of the many trips we have taken on the SW Chief (our son used to live in Albuquerque). I enjoyed both the pictures and the narrative. The pictures of LA Union Station were really nice.

Interestingly, I wasn't logged in when I first read your report and when I did log in and read the report again, the pictures were now larger - do guests get smaller pictures?

Nice to see you posting again.



May 8, 2011
Later that day, I checked into my Airbnb. The host was NOT joking when he warned me it would be nearly impossible to find parking. I drove around for close to an hour before I found a spot that was both a tolerable walking distance (half-mile) and legal. Two years later, I know the streets in that neighborhood like the back of my hand, considering I went up and down every block at least six times.

The house had a view of the Hollywood sign. It's just above the fence, under the leaves of the large tree:


I booked this Airbnb because it was super cheap ($28/night) and really cute. They had set up these little cabanas of sorts in their backyard, so it was a cross between camping and a hostel. Everyone had a small, private cabana with a mattress on a platform bed, with lots of blankets in case it got cold at night. The cabanas had full access to the kitchen, bathroom, and living room, so it sounded perfect.

Unfortunately, once I got there, I noticed a moving van out front. I saw a couple of guys loading all of the cabana material and mattresses, so I asked them what was going on. It turned out they'd been busted by the city, as the cabanas weren't legal lodging. They had moved all of their cabana guests to their other properties in the city. I was able to stay in one of the bedrooms in the house, thankfully, so they hadn't called me to warn me. Another young man was sleeping in the living room (his choice), since he was flying out early the next morning and it would have been more of a pain to relocate him.

This young man was flying to Chicago, where he planned to study for the next year. He was originally from China and spoke a bit of English, so we talked about what to expect in Chicago, filling in the unfamiliar words with hand gestures and me pointing at maps and pictures on my laptop. Eventually, it was pretty late, and I was still adjusting to Pacific time, so I went to bed.

The room was quite warm and did not have air conditioning or a fan, so it took a long time to fall asleep. (80 degrees is not an acceptable indoor temperature when you're basically a polar bear.) Additionally, the men were working on the house until nearly dawn, as they were on a deadline to bring everything up to code. Despite how exhausted I was, I kept waking up to voices and hammering.

The next morning, I had planned to go to Santa Monica Pier, but the traffic was so awful and parking so non-existent that I finally gave up and stopped for breakfast. In retrospect, I should have booked an Uber and brought a book to read while letting them worry about the traffic jam. :) It also would have prevented me from having to worry about parking. During breakfast, I figured I would just take the day off and relax with my book. I went back to my Airbnb, where they were still working on the house.

After a while, I realized I did not want to suffer another sleepless night. It also became increasingly obvious that I was the only guest and they were barely tolerating my existence while trying to renovate the house. So, I hopped online and checked the cancellation policy for my property. Luckily, it was "Flexible", which meant I would be refunded for any nights I did not use. I grabbed my stuff, walked to my car, and then cancelled my stay.

I was able to find a hotel within my price range near LAX. I wasn't thrilled about spending more money than planned, but between the refund from Airbnb and the rate code I used for the hotel, it wasn't too bad. I figured it was a decent compromise, given that I now had air conditioning and a nice place to relax.

I love palm trees and light strings, so the driveway in front of the hotel made me really happy. Two of my favorite things together:


Once I was settled, I decided to drive to Venice Beach. This is the second time I've been there, but I have yet to see it in daylight. The first time, it was 58 degrees and my friend didn't want to stick around long. We were there long enough for me to walk ankle-deep into the Pacific, as I'd never touched it before, and then we left. This time, I wanted to hang out and see the murals.

Despite everyone's warnings, I was neither hassled nor mugged. I ran into a bunch of skater kids, who were friendly and waved as I passed by. One asked if I wanted to come smoke with them (no, but thanks for the offer), to which he replied, "Cool, mama. Have a good evening," and made kind of a tipping motion with his beanie.

I'm glad I saw the murals at night. I feel like this is the perfect lighting for them.

"Luminaries of Pantheism":


"Morning Shot" - Jim Morrison, on the building where he used to live. Unfortunately, the security light washed out his face:


"Venice Reconstituted" - If you've seen "L.A. Story", this mural is featured when Harris drops SanDeE* off at her apartment.


The beautiful metal marquee at the intersection of Pacific and Windward:


Venice Beach Hostel, with the metal marquee above me:


After leaving Venice Beach, I drove up the 405 to Mulholland Drive. Mulholland is a dark, winding road along the crest of the Hollywood Hills and has one of the best views of the city and valley. There are many places to pull off and admire the view. Most of the parking areas were full, so I did not pull off and take any pictures. I simply enjoyed the magic of the palm trees silhouetted against the city lights. While up there, there's a strange feeling of being completely remote, even though you're surrounded by millions and millions of people. It's a really cool energy and is impossible to describe.

Eventually, I drove down from the hills into Hollywood and headed back to my hotel.


May 8, 2011
Interestingly, I wasn't logged in when I first read your report and when I did log in and read the report again, the pictures were now larger - do guests get smaller pictures?
I'm not sure. I have them set to "full size" so you don't have to click the thumbnails. Perhaps guests see thumbnails by default?


May 8, 2011
@trainman74 and I had plans to hang out the next day. We decided to meet for breakfast and then head downtown.

L.A. traffic is hard to describe if you've never been there. Yes, everyone has dealt with traffic jams, but these are so far beyond that. Chicago traffic has NOTHING on Los Angeles. It's ridiculous.

Despite leaving the hotel an hour earlier than necessary, I was still 45 minutes late. Thank goodness we didn't have to be somewhere at a certain time.

After breakfast, he drove us downtown, which was such a nice break for me. (Seriously. I'm using Uber/Lyft next time.) I had just graduated with my Masters in Library Stuff, so he took me to the Los Angeles Public Library (Central Library):






The elevator walls are lined with old card catalog entries:


Then we checked out The Last Bookstore. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures inside, as I wasn't feeling well and decided to sit while he browsed. There are some great pictures on their website, though. They're popular for a reason.

Once we wrapped up at the bookstore, we walked over to Angel's Flight. It's a funicular that was out of operation for a while.






May 8, 2011
The next day, I had plans to hang out with a friend in Torrance (K). She's married to a good friend of mine from high school (M), but he met her while living in California, and I had never had a chance to meet her. We had been Facebook friends and had loads in common, though, so meeting in person didn't feel awkward at all.

M had to work that day, so K and I made some child-friendly plans, as they have three kids (at the time, the kids were 5, 3, and 1). We had originally planned to go to Travel Town Museum to ride trains, but neither of us felt like driving. We decided to take it easy with coffee drinks and let the kids run around at their favorite park.

First, we stopped along the coast for some gorgeous views:


K explained that it was incredibly foggy that day, as you can normally see the Catalina Islands from that path.

The park we went to was quite nice. The design was almost naturally occurring, with very little nature disturbed to make room for the playsets and sand boxes. I didn't even know it had a playground until we got to the end of the path. K and I sat on a bench and ate sandwiches while the kids played. We talked for a couple of hours, something that doesn't always come easy for me with new people. She's wonderfully gregarious, though, and made me feel at ease. The kids were little angels too. Given their ages, I thought it would be like herding cats, but they stayed close, used their manners, and watched out for each other on the equipment.

That said, they were quite young, so after a few hours, I was pretty tired. Do you have any idea how many questions a five-year old and three-year old ask every hour? ;) Luckily, it was nap time for everybody, including K, so I hugged everyone goodbye (the kids told me they loved me!) and went back to the hotel to rest and read for a while.

That night, I went to Hollywood to buy souvenirs for my coworkers and check out the Walk of Fame. I learned that you can search for the various locations of stars you want to see, so I quickly scribbled a short list of "must haves" and then figured I'd just catch some of the others as I wandered.


Since it was late, traffic was light, and parking was easy. I hit up the souvenir shop first and bought a keychain shaped like a Hollywood Star with my boss' name on it and some "Best Person" Academy Awards for a couple coworkers.

I wanted to see the footprints and handprints at the Chinese Theater, but the area in front was PACKED. I'm not sure what was going on, but I couldn't even get near it. The area with the footprints and handprints was open (you can see people standing on them), but there was a rope blocking access.


I started walking and quickly learned that the area near the theater and souvenir shops is rife with hustlers trying to get you to spend money. If you stop for a couple seconds to take a picture of a star, they pounce. One started to chat me up, asking where I was from, etc, all with a Sharpie poised over a CD. I hadn't answered any of his questions, but he still wrote something on the CD and said, "There. I've personalized my autograph for you. That will be $10. It's a fresh mix. I'm going to be famous, and this will be worth millions."

(I did not give him $10.)


I am so amused Godzilla has a star. :)






I love this apartment building:

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