Road Trip California to Utah – Day 1 Ep. 1

Neek sez:

It’s bad enough trying to get some sleep before a big road trip but when someone starts gunning their motorcycle outside your home at 2:00 in the morning, you start saying some very bad words. Oh well, we had to get up at 4:00 AM anyways. After our epic road trip last year to Oregon, Washington, The Canadian Icefields, Yellowstone, and Las Vegas, we decided that we would take another one to Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, and Northern California to have some more amazing journeys in fun.

We left at 5:00AM and would be traveling over 10 hours to get to our motel in Utah. First, we decided to visit Whiskey Pete’s in Primm, Nevada so we could make a pit stop and visit some pretty intense relics of the past.

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100th Anniversary in downtown Los Angeles – San Antonio Winery

Lex sez:

This is definitely the oldest operating winery in Los Angeles – and now it is celebrating its 100th anniversary!  Neek and I went to visit their beautiful location in downtown L.A. – they also have locations in Ontario and Paso Robles – to check out the tour that they offer the San Antonio Winery.  We had tasted many of their wines before, including their famous line with the Stella Rosa label, and we wanted to learn more about their illustrious history and see their operations up close and personal.

The San Antonio Winery was founded in 1917 on Lamar Street in downtown Los Angeles by Italian immigrant Santo Cambianica.  A devout Catholic, Cambianica named the winery after his Patron Saint Anthony.  Continue reading

One of the World’s Largest Artists’ Colony – The Brewery Complex in Downtown Los Angeles

Neek sez:

I always had a fantasy of living the artist’s lifestyle in a garret somewhere cold;  living and working passionately in a tiny studio, loving my soul mate and dying of a disease.  Oh wait!  That’s La Boheme isn’t it? or if you’re into the contemporary version, Rent.  Actually, artist colonies do exist in Los Angeles although being a bit more livable, healthier, and much warmer.

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A Preserved California Historic Site – Campo de Cahuenga

Right down the hill from Universal Studios, Hollywood is a preserved historic site that is probably one of the most important sites for California and the United States. Campo de Cahuenga was an adobe ranch house where the Treaty of Cahuenga (also known as “The Capitulation of Cahuenga”) was signed between Lieutenant Colonel John C. Fremont and General Andrés Pico on January 13, 1847, ending the fighting in the Mexican American War.

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One of the Longest Murals in the World – The Great Wall of Los Angeles

Lex sez:

Walking along the Tujunga Wash concrete basin in the San Fernando Valley community of Valley Glen, Neek and I were impressed with the enormity of the mural painted on the 13 feet high concrete sides.   This is The Great Wall of Los Angeles, one of the longest murals in the world at 2,754 feet (839.42 meters) in length, stretching over six city blocks!  Officially titled The History of California, this amazing work of art reminded me thematically of the book A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

For those of you who have not read it, A People’s History of the United States is not just a history book; it is a rich tapestry of stories spotlighting groups of people often neglected in ‘official’ history books.  Continue reading

Inglewood, California – Home of The Forum, a Loving Memorial, and a Giant Donut!

Neek sez:

If you are a basketball fan, you might recognize The Forum in Inglewood, California.  It opened on December 30, 1967 and was an unusual and groundbreaking structure in that it had no major support pillars.  It was created by Architect Charles Luckman and engineers Carl Johnson and Svend Nielsen and was famous for being the home of The Los Angeles Lakers before moving to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.  Now the venue is rented out for special events and concerts.

Across the street from The Forum is the Inglewood Park Cemetery.  The cemetery was built in 1905 and has a number of notable entertainment and sports figures such as Ray Charles, Betty Grable, Ella Fitzgerald, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Ray Corrigan (the actor who owned Corriganville where we had previously visited the remains of his western amusement park).

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Lex,Sar and I have visited here many times to pay our respects to a relative of mine who is interred here.  The grounds are beautiful with rolling hills and memorials to those who have passed on. A Canadian goose was having a great time on the warm sunny day.

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One memorial has always caught our attention while on our visits and it is a sculpture of an angel lifting a woman to heaven.  The faces are quite detailed and the base is carved with two rings in which one is broken.  We did some research and found who they were.

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The models are of Alfredo Codona as the angel carrying his wife, Lillian Leitzel in an embrace.  They were circus performers.  Lillian Leitzel was only 4 ft 9 in (144.78 cm) but  incredibly strong and could do one armed flips over her shoulder repeatedly while the audience counted and cheered.  She performed for the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus and was posthumously inducted into the International Circus Hall of Fame.

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Lillian Leitzel had quite a temper and was famous for throwing things and slapping people who didn’t work to her expectations.  In contrast, she was also known for her kindness toward the circus performer’s children who called her “Aunt Lillian”.  A little mental maybe?

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In 1928, Lillian married Alfredo Codona who was a trapeze artist, famous for doing the often dangerous triple somersaults.  Their relationship was quite tempestuous and their diva-like personalities were well-matched.

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While performing in Copenhagen in 1931, one of the hand rings broke and Lillian fell to the hard floor.  She died a few days later at 39 years old.  Even though they had such a troubled marriage, Alfredo Codona’s love for Lillian Leitzel was quite evident by creating this beautiful memorial to his wife.

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One of the last surviving Southern California mimic architecture is Randy’s Big Donut.  Mimic architecture started in the 1920’s creating a trend in designing structures in the shape of the product that was sold there.  By the 1950’s building such structures were out of style and too costly.  Randy’s Donut was built in 1953 and was the second location of a number of donut shops owned by Russell C. Wendell, a donut machine salesman.  The giant donuts are constructed of steel bars and a dry type of concrete called gunite usually used in swimming pools.

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Originally, there were 10 Big Donut Drive-Ins but only 4 have survived.  In the 1970’s Wendell sold off the donut shops to concentrate on his “Pup in Taco” chain (Lex is wearing one of the old shirts) which was then sold to Taco Bell in 1984.

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If the Randy’s Donuts looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in various TV, movies, talk shows and music videos.    My favorite is the big donut in Randy Newman’s 80’s hit “I Love LA”.

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Lex, Sar and I stood in a line to get a bag of apple fritters and a buttermilk donut.  I almost dropped a dollar bill and lost it to the wind but a kind man in a beige hat fetched it for me.  The donuts tasted great but when I was a kid, I really wanted to take a bite out of the big one.  Good thing I never did because it’s got bird poo all over the top of it!

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Universal Studios Hollywood Part 2 – Fire Stunts and Harajuku Girls

Lex sez:

Neek, Sar and I decided to enjoy some of the sit-down shows they have at Universal Studios after finishing our fantastic lunch.  The Special Effects show was both visually astounding and humorously done.  There were a number of times they did a great job of incorporating volunteers from the audience into their demonstrations, like having someone dress in an astronaut outfit to show how they simulate space walking in movies.  But they did not use a volunteer to demonstrate the fire walking; that was a highly trained professional and boy, is it scary to watch live!

Slightly less scary but just as much fun was the Animal Actors show.  Continue reading