Route 66 Day 2: LA Gets a Proper Introduction

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After yesterday’s haphazard introduction to the City of Angels, today was the first real day of the trip. This time around I got to see a more nuanced version of the city and my initial disappointment turned into a deeper appreciation of what LA has to offer.

We woke up at around 6 o’clock and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, where I was introduced to the concept of a “pancake printer”. I’m not exactly sure how this device works, but all I had to do was press a button at one end of the machine and pancakes came out of the other. Thank God for technology.

After breakfast we made our way to Paramount Studios for a tour of the facilities. Our guide was a page from the South, so obviously the first thing that came into my mind was Kenneth Parcell from 30 Rock. Like Kenneth, our page was extremely personable and genuinely enthralled by show business. He told us about the history of the studios and showed us where the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Lucile Ball worked back in the day. Then he gave us a golf cart tour of the various sound stages, where shows like Glee and Community were being filmed. And though we drove by the trailers of the various stars, I did not see any famous faces during the tour.

The studio tour finished up around lunch time and it was then that we made the obligatory visit to In-N-Out Burger. I found the name itself kind of ironic considering the fact that the wait time was significantly longer than that of other fast food joints like McDonalds or Burger King. However, I’m quite happy to report that the burgers were well worth the wait. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of the fries. Supposedly “fresh,” they tasted more like Trader Joe’s Veggie Sticks than good old American french fries. I blame the fact that they fry them in vegetable oil rather than good old animal fat. Shame on you, In-N-Out.

After lunch we visited the La Brea Tar Pits, which is one of the most fascinating paleontological sites that is open to the public. We took a tour of the museum, where we saw the various fossils that had been excavated over the past 100 years. They even had a fishbowl laboratory where we could watch the researchers working on identifying and cleaning even the smallest of fossils. Afterwards we got to see the tar pits themselves, which were not so much tar lakes but rather places in the ground where the black stuff bubbled up from below. I felt like I was in the title sequence from Beverly Hillbillies.

We finished the day at Venice Beach, where we walked along the boardwalk and enjoyed some drinks and fish tacos. The boardwalk was lined with shops selling cheap trinkets and t-shirts aimed at tourists and 15-year-olds. There were also a plethora of “medical” marijuana clinics, complete with doctors dressed in neon green scrubs and sunglasses. And it just so happened that there always a smoke shop next door selling “tobacco” pipes and bongs.

Then we walked out to the shoreline and got our feet wet in the great Pacific Ocean. The water was freezing, but it felt great to be at beach for the first time in a couple years. As I watched the waves roll in, I noticed that there were several black objects in the sand. They looked like rocks at first, but as I picked them up I noticed that they were as soft as silly putty. They were tar balls! These form when oil leaks into the ocean from oil spills or other man-made or natural processes.

I picked up a bunch of them and rolled them up into one larger mass about the size of a ping pong ball. I thought I had myself a nice little souvenir, but as I walked back towards the boardwalk I noticed that the tar ball was starting to melt in my hand. By the time we reached the edge of the sand my hand was covered in a black sticky mess. And no matter how hard I scrubbed I couldn’t for the life of me get the tar off. We had to go to a nearby bike shop to get some Goo Gone, which is a solvent for things like oil and tar. A few dabs of that stuff and like magic the tar was easily wiped away. Lesson learned: don’t touch the tar.

As a side note, as I was googling tarballs I saw an article that says that they carry an increased risk for a flesh-eating bacteria. Yikes! Granted, this study was done in the Gulf of Mexico, where the bacteria is present in higher concentrations. And it’s mostly people with weakened immune systems that get infected and that overall it’s a pretty rare occurrence. Still, it’s not the best thing to think about on a vacation.

After a day like today I am utterly exhausted, but I am eagerly anticipating the start of my long journey tomorrow. My next update will be from the Happiest Place on Earth: Las Vegas, Nevada.

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