Touristy Tuesday: Claremont, CA Edition

This week we reluctantly left Monterey and headed back to the LA area! The drive down had it’s highs and lows, as in – low on gas and high on stress.

After the six hour drive, Abe and I checked into the hotel. As Mitch Hedberg would say, “I can’t tell you what hotel I’m staying at… but there are two trees involved.” I booked the hotel in Claremont, CA which is where my friend Aaron from my Mizzou days lives. I knew it was a cute area with a lot to do, and as an added bonus it turned out Aaron only lived about a mile away from the hotel!

Our first night in town Abe and I met up with Aaron for dinner. We went downtown to Claremont Village to a local place called Eureka Burger. They both tried the beer samplers, but I went with a local white wine. We all had early bedtimes that night though (Aaron being in med school and all) so we called it a night after dinner.

On our first day off Abe and I were determined to have a Ferris-Bueller style day, only the LA version. The La Brea Tar Pits, Hollywood, Sunset Blvd., the sign, were all on our to-do list. To start the day we met up with Kevin, another friend of Abe’s from the military. Kevin was also playing tourist for the day and was seeing a lot of the sights for the first time as well.

After picking up Kevin in the company car we took off to the La Brea Tar Pits. I felt like I had done my homework, having watched the movie Volcano at least somewhat recently!

I was a little disappointed when neither Tommy Lee Jones nor Don Cheadle were there to greet us with news of an impending geological disaster, but it was still very cool!

The geology nerd in me loved it! The tar pits are actually asphalt and on cool days they’re not even viscous! Our tour guide Jesse was an absolute doll and I wish I had time to ask him where he went to school and what he studied that led him to the Tar Pits. He was outshined though by these two middle school boys who knew an impressive amount about geology and spent the entire tour WOWing all of the adults!

From the La Brea Tar Pits we moved on to your more traditional LA experience – Hollywood Boulevard! Having already been to Hollywood several times, consistently pretty disappointed, my hopes weren’t too high. Well let me tell you, when you’re driving a 27′ long hot dog it’s a lot more fun!

At the Walk of Fame in Hollywood – Foreshadowing of things to come this week!

We also grabbed some equally enormous slices of pizza while on the strip.

This pizza this came from is 28″ in diameter!

With the promise of a shiny dime to whoever saw the Hollywood sign first, we set off to find it. What’s weird is that it’s surprisingly difficult to see around Hollywood! We looked up the best place to take pictures of the sign at, and sure enough, we ended up getting some good ones!

That night Kevin and Abe hit the town, while I hit the sack. I had hopes for a big run in the morning and felt I had already had my fill of dates with celebrities for the year! You would think exercising such good judgment would have scored me some good karma points, but that next day was when the company car spent the morning parked along the freeway.

Thursday we were off to Torrance, California for the town’s 100th Birthday and classic car show. With the company car still in the shop we joked that she also had a birthday this week – her 76th birthday, and at that age everyone needs a little TLC. However, Penske called us at the event and we were able to pick up the Wienermobile and surprise everyone at the event.

Even with the company car in attendance, she still may have been one-upped by some even cooler cars and drivers.

Friday night I headed back down to Claremont Village with Aaron. Before we went out for the night, I stopped by his house and formally met Mr. Bittles, his cat. While the cat was a new addition to the Chambers’ household, I recognized a few familiar items from his college days. Including some scandalous coasters I may have jokingly made one Friday Crafternoon and the infamous OPEN sign.

It was a high class evening with drinks at the Hip Kitty Jazz and Fondue Bar. The Band – Big Papa and the TCB – was incredible! You might actually recognize some of their work – they do the song in the Papa John’s commercial.

I stuck with white wine for the fondue, but switched to my new favorite – Black Russians – later in the night. I meant to be in bed by 10:00, but between the music and the good conversation that just wasn’t going to happen. I love catching up with Aaron when I’m in LA because we always have so much fun together and pretty much have an identical sense of quirky and sarcastic humor.

On our final night in Claremont I convinced Abe to do something I had been wanting to do since we arrived – go see the Music Man at the Claremont Dinner Theater, which was next door to our hotel.

I absolutely adore musicals. I mean, one summer in Kansas City I saw the entire summer lineup of broadway shows at the Starlight Theater. If that’s not enough, my iTunes is pretty much a show choir soundtrack. Being an Iowa girl, I especially love The Music Man! It’s so whimsical and charming, with such good tunes, that it will never get old. After talking Abe into going, he convinced his friend Duane to come with us – I guess misery loves company!

We all had a blast though! The dinner portion was, admittedly, just alright – your typical banquet chicken/beef/veggie + starch options. The drinks and cast were phenomenal! We caught the show on its very last evening performance and you could tell the cast was really putting their all into it. Everyone from Music Man Harold Hill to little Winthrop was outstanding!

I had one more stop in the area before I could call the week a success though. My friend Michelle from Mizzou, who I have known since the first day of freshman year, had moved back home to China my senior year and I hadn’t seen her in about 15 months. She since has returned but transferred to Cal State – San Bernadino – right in the area! Monday we managed to get together for lunch and catch up!

This last week in Claremont has been really great – the perfect mix of adventure and playing tourist, but also getting together with college friends.

Up next: Simi Valley, California. It’s just the first day of the new week and I already know the next edition of Touristy Tuesday is going to be awesome! But as always – any recommendations for what to do, where to eat, or people to meet in Simi Valley?

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Shit Happens – Just Run with It

This week I am in Claremont, California – the far West side of LA. Each week when I get to a new city one of the first challenges is finding good local running trails. Let’s talk about this: there are simply NO good websites out there for finding jogging paths. I don’t know if my Google skills are just that rusty or what, but I am always struggling to find decent nearby paths.

Can anyone recommend a good site or app for locating the best trails? I really like running on bike paths – why are these not easy to find?! I know some sites, like Map My Run show user-submitted runs, but often times those are through their neighborhood – no straight shot runs like I’m partial to.

But I digress.

Today I woke up bright and early at 5:00 a.m. all set to get my 13 mile run in for the week. Having struggled to find a long enough path in the area, I decided to head out to Venice Beach for an oceanfront jog. I was looking forward to a relatively flat and mindless long run today because I had a loft goal I was hoping to achieve – breaking the 9:00 minute pace for the half marathon distance! I’ve been doing plenty of sub 9:00 paces, up to 9 miles, and thought today just might be my day!

So off I go – I hopped in the company car and hit the highway. While slowing down in that awful LA traffic though I noticed I forgot my Garmin watch – just like last week! Ever the data-junkie, I decided to head back to the hotel to grab it since I was just a few miles away. I wasn’t going to skip the run like last week, but I wanted that watch to keep me on pace for the run!

Now, it’s crazy to think of how if I hadn’t been so reliant on my Garmin how my day may have panned out quite a bit differently. Nevertheless, I turned around, grabbed it, and started back on the drive to the beach.

Then – BOOM. As they say, shit happens.

I can’t really go into too many details, but 10 hours later I’m now driving a rental and the company car is getting some TLC. If only I didn’t need that stupid watch! Grr! As you can probably imagine, I didn’t quite make it to the beach for my long run.

Once all the details from this morning were sorted out I was craving a run even more, wanting to burn off some steam. With ample amounts of fro-yo fuel from lunch, I was ready to go. The waiter at lunch had recommended the Pacific Electric Inland Empire Trail, nearby bike path (where were you Google?) and I decided to check that out.

Even on the map you can tell how boring this run was!

Let me tell you something: if you’re trying to run seven miles, 2:30 p.m. in LA is not the time to do it. ICK was it hot out!

Perhaps because it was my first time running on a relatively flat path in awhile, or because of the stress from the morning, but I started out WAY too fast. I’m talking way too fast, clocking my first mile in at 8:20. When my second mile was only marginally slower, I knew I had started out too fast for seven miles to feel good and, combined with the heat, I decided to cut the run down to four miles.

This is as flat as I was in middle school!

Anytime I go for a shorter distance I try to push myself a little harder in the speed department. Feeling like a rockstar with those sub 8:30 miles, I started into the second half. Oh, hello there sun right in my face and a crazy strong headwind! (Now I know why I was going so fast on the first half!) That second half was brutal, but somehow I was still pulling a pretty swift pace.

All said and done, I ended the run – gasping – with four miles at an 8:29 pace! I think that was one of the fastest four mile runs I’ve done yet! End time 33:45.

Tomorrow I’m going to try again to get this half marathon knocked out for the week. We’ll see how it goes. This bike path, while flat, rivaled the Santa Ana River Trail for lackluster scenery. I was running past abandoned buildings and padlocked storage units for most of the run. Claremont – plant some trees, will ya?

The rest of this week, in addition to the 13 mile run tomorrow, will be one more 4-miler and two 7-milers, for a total of 35 miles this week. Whoo! Marine Corps Marathon, here I come!