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Four States, 2013: Day 1

Fri. Oct. 4, 2013:

Almost getting killed by a cab that took forever to even arrive is never a good way to start off a vacation, especially if you had to wake up at 4am and had been unable to sleep (complete with a midnight dinner of McDonald’s). He had started to pull away as I was getting in, not realizing that you are supposed to wait for the passenger to get in before driving away.

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I was so tired and grumpy at the airport, it was after all only 5am by that point. I could barely handle my iced coffee in a can from Starbucks (mocha, too much for that early), I ended up having to toss it before going through security. Once inside I found myself in line at Starbucks, not making the same mistake twice I opted for a strawberry lemonade refresher. It was too early in the morning for hot coffee, let alone food.

Yet again I encountered another sexist border customs agent. We went in together, when Brent was done answering questions it was my turn only I was asked if I had any food, he said it implying that of course I would be the one to pack food for the trip.

It was all worth it to watch the sunrise from above the clouds, so beautiful. Once that was over, I turned my attention to the TV in the seatback, but not for long. As it turns out the TV programming was not free, you had to pay once the preview ended. But not before seeing a sexist ad for GoGo wireless internet, available on the flight. It showed a woman shopping online for shoes and accessories and then a guy checking sports scores. I alternated napping and reading, and ended up sleeping through the drink service.

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We had a connection in Dallas and despite how large the airport is, we were determined not to get stuck riding the tram all around the airport again. In total, we walked by 3 McDonald’s and no Dunkin’ Donuts. I had to settle for coffee from Au Bon Pain, it was really bad. I wandered around while we waiting for our flight to board, there were some mannequins with cow heads. On the second flight we found a map of the US in the back of one of the in-flight magazines and after much debate, counting and recounting we finally determined that New Mexico would be state #28 for me, fair enough, I am still in the lead.

At first glance New Mexico looked really dry. The airport was gorgeous with desert-inspired decorations and little paper hot air balloons as far as the eye could see. I was starving at this point; thankfully our first stop after getting the rental car was Twisters. We were going there because it had been used as the set for Los Pollos Hermanos in the TV show Breaking Bad, the first stop of many on our Breaking Bad tour of Albuquerque (half the reason we were there). We ended up driving along the pre-1937 Route 66 which was a nice surprise. There were a lot of car crash memorials, either no one ever takes those down or that is one dangerous stretch of road we were on. As we drove we passed a lot of signs for home-grown green chile peppers, they appeared to be rather popular. We also drove by Gun Club Rd., much to our amusement.

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Twister was indeed the setting for Los Pollos Hermanos, and in case you were not sure, there were posters all around telling you so as well as a Los Pollos Hermanos logo on the wall by the entrance. I ordered a chicken taco bowl which seemed like a good idea at the time, until it arrived at the table. It was massive and a fun mess to eat. I gave up on trying to rip off pieces of the bowl and resorted to using a fork. The bottom had gotten really soggy and gross; I ate around it- and the tomatoes. I was fine with eating beans, but one (accidental) bite of tomato and I had to draw the line.

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Up next in our Breaking Bad tour was Jesse’s house. There were other tourists there as well, so it did not feel as awkward to be taking pictures of someone’s house. It was easily recognizable from the corner as we walked up to it. Unbeknownst to us, we drove by another Breaking Bad location (the Dog House) on our way to the next stop: Jesse and Jane’s duplex.

We ended up driving through downtown Albuquerque on the way, which just so happened to be Route 66. Right downtown there was a Route 66 clock tower that had the distance to Chicago and Los Angeles. We drove by a famous Route 66 landmark: the Kimo theatre. I was antsy to get out of the car and photograph it all but we had planned that for later. I kept myself amused by staring out the window, laughing at the place called Lord of the Onion Rings, bemused by the Chicago Dog next door to New York Pizza… in Albuquerque no less.

The streetlamps along Route 66 were all adorned with Route 66 metal cutouts, and the bus running along it was of course bus #66. Jesse and Jane’s duplex had been re-painted and did not look the same as in the show, plus there was a guy leaving right as we pulled up, making it too awkward to take a picture.

On the way to Walt’s house (Breaking Bad stop #4) I demanded that we stop at a Route 66 collage wall we had passed earlier, I needed a photograph of it. As we turned to leave, I noticed that the wall was next door to the Route 66 diner, how nice. Again it was awkward at our Breaking Bad stop, there were residents driving by and staring at us. There was a sign on the fence that said Private Property (I assume people kept sneaking in to see the backyard and pool).

Our next stop (#5) proved to be the most disappointing, what should have been Saul Goodman’s office located in a crappy strip mall was just a crappy strip mall. In retrospect I am not quite sure what I had expected, I wish they had left the inflatable Statue of Liberty on the rooftop. When we got to Hank & Marie’s house (stop #6) we had read the address wrong and I had photographed the wrong house. We pulled into a parking lot to turn around but decided to stop and get out. We ended up going on a walk through a park. We saw some cactuses and we may have heard a rattlesnake, one that was too smart to think that the rock I threw was food. We drove by the house again and this time I photographed the correct house. The neighbourhood was gorgeous, set in a hillside, looking down over Albuquerque, with hiking trails in the back. These people were rich.

The address we had gotten for stop #7, the car wash was wrong. We arrived in a residential area; the GPS saying “you have arrived at your destination” was rather anti-climactic. Brent was about to give up and move on (we still had one more day in Albuquerque when we could backtrack and see it). I found it in the GPS search menu. We stopped at the CVS across the street both so I could get a good shot of it and so we could stock up on hiking supplies for the week. Sadly the CVS did not have the coconut Oreos I was determined to find on this trip. We did find Chips Ahoy made with Reese’s chips so all was not lost. I also bought postcards, this time I would actually make an effort to mail postcards to people.

We drove by a Chili’s that had a sign below the restaurant sign saying: full body waxing. There is no explanation I can think of for that. As we tried to check-in to our hotel there was a creepy old hippie who was amused with Brent’s left-handedness. He wanted to see if Brent could write with his pen. Then he joked about why the hotel clerk covered up our room number so he could not see. We bolted for the elevator, desperate to get away from him.

Having successfully gotten away from the creep, we dropped our stuff in the hotel room and headed back out. We were off to see Breaking Bad stop #8: the plaza where Walt is to meet Jesse (if I say any more that would be a spoiler). They had rearranged the benches in the plaza to film the scene but it was still recognizable. It was also one of the few spots where we were the only Breaking Bad tourists, meaning we were the only hardcore fans there of course.

We walked along Route 66, and even Route 66 is not safe from the plague of condos. We gawked at the price tag: 100k for a condo in downtown Albuquerque! On Route 66!! I contemplated (briefly) the idea of living on Route 66. We had dinner at The Grill (formerly Grandpa’s Grill on Route 66). I had found out about the place when a scene of Breaking Bad was filmed with a brick wall that had a Route 66 logo on it, I Googled it and found out about the original location and the new one. Seeing as we were in New Mexico, there was no getting around it: I had to try green chiles. Add in some pepper jack cheese and you have got yourself a good burger. The owner was out and about talking to customers and he explained that he grills the burgers over a mesquite wood fire- and you can definitely taste it. This was easily one of the best burgers I have ever had. Ever. One bite and I was in love with green chiles. I was already in love with The Grill, the décor had lots of Route 66 memorabilia and they were tuned to an awesome rock music station. Throw in the self-serve toppings bar and nachos on the side and that’s my idea of heaven.

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I was however; left with a very strong craving for frozen custard (the dessert of Route 66) and none was to be found. Thankfully I was too tired to really care, I had been awake since 4am and we had another 4am wake-up the next day.

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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!


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Los Angeles 2013- Day 2

Sat. Mar. 16, 2013:

I failed to wake up at my usual ungodly early time; I blame it on the lack o f sun. That is right, in California the sun was failing to creep through the blinds awaking me as it had last year in Arizona. Our second day in California was a cloudy day! Insert shocked face here. We walked half an hour to catch a bus, for a ride that would last 20 minutes. It was well worth the irony as we were heading to the La Brea Tar Pits and the Los Angeles County Art Museum (heretofore referred to as LACMA).

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The tar pits were awesome, they actually bubbled! It did not look or smell as I had imagined. The pits really just look like a lake, at first we thought it was a lake- until we saw a giant black bubble pop- and then the faint smell hit us. As a child I had been terrified of tar pits- I was a huge fan of The Land Before Time. It was only recently that I became intrigued by the tar pits, after listening to a podcast about the fact that they have the largest collection of dire wolf skulls. I wanted to see just how many of these skulls they had (clearly I did not pay enough attention to the podcast). It was just as I had imagined! Rows and rows of skulls! It did not make dire wolves look too smart though, especially relative to other skeletons found in the tar pits. You can’t blame them though, the tar pits look like a lake and seeing a mammoth struggling to get out is just too much temptation. How bad could it be? Mammoths simply can’t swim. Have you seen how big a mammoth actually is? They are giant, epically giant.

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Behind the Page Museum (that is what the place is actually called) they have a c urrent excavation site set up so that you can gaze in and see it in progress. It is not at all what I had pictured, they dig through solid layers. There is no mucking around in the tar pit itself, with all the bubbling and the slowly-sucking-you-down-to-your-demise-ness.

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The LACMA was conveniently right next door. More importantly, they had a café- yet again I was in desperate need of my daily caffeine fix.  At first the museum seemed giant, we wondered if we would get through it all in time. Those fears quickly dissipated, the west wing was closed for renovations and most of the size of the museum was due to it being spread out over a few buildings. We started off with the exhibit we were most excited about: the Stanley Kubrick display. It ranks near the top as one of the best exhibits I have ever been to and it further reaffirmed my love of his films. It was amazing; I got to see props from The Shining, including the typewriter and axe. It also provided more insight however, beside the display of the twin girls’ dresses, there was an explanation that he had been inspired by one of Diane Arbus’s photographs of creepy twins- I was now doubly freaked out by the twins. The exhibit also consisted of copies of the scripts with Kubrick’s notes. One of the pages from a notebook was just filled with variations of the title for what was in the end: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It was all the same words just rearranged. Easily one of the greatest items on display was the tiny bible and suicide pills from Dr. Strangelo  ve. The tiny bible was just so cute. It was quite alarming to walk into an orange room and be face to face with the suit from A Clockwork Orange. Equally alarming was to see the star child from 2001: Space Odyssey just laying there on its side in a display case.

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From there we took our usual route through the galleries, starting with the oldest stuff and working our way towards the contemporary galleries. There were lots more Jesus paintings to be seen, because we still have not seen enough paintings of the Madonna and Child. We did realize that you hardly ever see paintings of the Last Supper (as opposed to Jesus’ birth and death). This could not have all been because of Leonardo da Vinci painting it so beautifully and thus no one else even wanted to compete. Somewhere out there is an enormous collection of Last Supper paintings. I am sure of it.

In the contemporary gallery we encountered our favourite art piece: the polymer plank leaning against a wall by John McCracken. This wasn’t even the first time we had seen it that day. There was one in the Kubrick exhibit as well, which put it into context as possibly having inspired the obelisk in 2001: Space Odyssey. The version of it in the contemporary gallery was a bright pink, so at least the colour was new to us.  As we went to the third floor in the contemporary gallery we could see the Hollywood sign off in the distance. Well, barely see, it was very smoggy then. Brent had read that there was an observation deck so we got in the elevator to go there. I pushed the button above 3, logically the roof button- it was the call button. We ran away. I was now even with Brent. I had laughed at him earlier when he set off an alarm, by going behind a wall to a darkened space. He thought there was a movie playing. No trip to an art gallery is complete without: Jesus paintings, the plank and much confusion about what is going on in the art world (a lot of: how can this be art?!). The last exhibit we saw was 2000 pieces of wood all over the floor. We had met all the requirements; we were done with the gallery.

We used the free wi-fi in the gallery to get directions to In N Out Burger. As it turns out, we had passed right by it on the next street over. I was hell-bent on ordering off the secret menu, nothing regular. I paired my burger with my fries, asking for both of them done animal style. For the fries this entails topping them with cheese, thousand islands dressing and fried chopped onions. As per the burger: extra sauce, pickles, chopped fried onions, and a mustard grilled bun. I was so embarrassed about asking for stickers that I forgot to say no tomatoes and no lettuce. I was stuck having to pick them out of my burger, my sad one patty burger. I do not know what I was thinking ordering a single. The only downside to the animal fries is that the toppings sit on top, so once you get about halfway down they are just regular fries. While at In N Out I saw some cheerleaders and it just reminded me of Bring It On, making me crave the movie for the rest of the day. Waiting for Brent on the patio I witnessed the cutest (and smartest) dog ever. His owner was eating a burger and he kept whining and begging. She ignored him. He put his paws on her lap and whined some more. She gave in and let him have a piece, just a piece, of an In N Out burger. That is just mean. The dog knew this, he begged a few times but to no avail, so he instead took to barking. When he saw that it was not working, he started going over to the next table. A smart dog with good taste.

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We walked back to our hotel through the UCLA campus. It is a very nice campus, though they have a lot of fraternities and sororities. I lost count. There was on that had a spanking paddle holding the window open.

Back at the hotel I found out that there is a Starbucks not too far, I was saved from having to wait for my morning coffee! No more caffeine-crashes for me. The Starbucks just so happened to be located near a pharmacy called Brent-Air which I spent way too much time giggling about.

We took the free hotel shuttle to the Bel-Air hotel where we were having dinner at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. I was more excited about getting to see the fancy hotel (where celebrities stay when they are in town) than the restaurant. I can’t help it; Wolfgang Puck has so many restaurants (including one I saw in the airport when we flew in). We had been anticipating traffic so we left early for the hotel. Of course when we leave an extra buffer of time, there is no traffic at all. We slowly wandered around the hotel grounds gawking at all the fanciness. I was less than thrilled as I was in heels and a sleeveless shirt- it was surprisingly cold out. There was a pool shaped like an egg, seemingly just for the sake of it. In the small lake there was a swan and we wondered if it had clipped wings but we decided against running up and scaring it to see of it would fly away. During our second round through the hotel (we had a lot of time to kill) we encountered drunken newly-weds. I knew they were newly-weds because: they were intoxicated at 5 in the afternoon, they were all over each other, it was pretty clear that they had splurged on the hotel and were more than enjoying the time spent there. If they weren’t in gag-inducing country-club wear (think khakis and sweater wrapped around shoulders, knotted at base of neck) it would have been cute.

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The restaurant was outdoors but with a tent-like covering and fancy heaters. I called dibs on sitting beside the heater. I would soon come to regret this decision as it got insanely warm. I went from being too cold to too hot without any of the good middle part. The amuse-bouche (or as they called it: amuse from the chef) was beets and pomegranates. I stared at it for a while, stared at the beets, the gross beets. As it turns out beets (at least when prepared with pomegranates and served in tiny quantities) are not all that bad. To start we split a bluefin tuna tartar wrapped in cucumbers. It was delicious, very light and not that heavy on the fish taste. As usual we swapped our main courses when we were halfway through. I traded in my enormous- really, it was bigger than my head- schnitzel for Brent’s braised beef short ribs. It was hilarious when our plates arrived. I was presented an enormous (but thin) slab of meat and Brent was given a small plate of potatoes and a pot of ribs in sauce, which the waiter poured over the potatoes. My giant plate of meat versus Brent’s small fancy dish, and somehow Brent won. Hands-down the ribs were much better than the schnitzel. This is not to say that it was awful, it was really good but no better than schnitzels I have had before. The ribs were saucy and succulent and they just fell off the bone. It is debatable if we had made a mistake in ordering an appetizer; we were too full for dessert. The appetizer was delicious and we did get a small mini-dessert with the bill (little puff pastries with cream).

Brent asked the concierge if he could call our hotel for the shuttle. She seemed a bit thrown off for a second; she had assumed we were staying there. We were told it would be about a 30 minute wait until the bellhop would arrive. We set off wandering around the hotel yet again. This time we found the swan nestled all cozy and snug by the lake- with another swan. Driving back we passed a few more mansions. All in all I thought I would see more and bigger mansions in Bel-Air, I also did not expect to see so many mansions being constructed. I was exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel- and it was barely even 9pm. I tried to decorate my notebook with my In N Out stickers… and I somehow managed to fail. It turns out that the back of the sticker sheet serves as a background to stick the characters on.

Day 2 celebrity sightings: zero, again.

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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel


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