Ventura to Escondido
07.03.2010 - 07.03.2010 70 °F
as day two winds to a close, i find myself wearier than i have been in quite a while. this is especially surprising considering how few miles (a mere 200) i clocked behind the wheel today. of course, if you look at travel time instead of distance, i did put in another eight hour day nearly all of which was behind the wheel. maybe i need to take more breaks that involve physical activity other than relieving myself. speaking of which, my bladder discovered the BEST garlic bread ever at this little cafe in Newport called Mezzaluna. i had been ignoring it for nigh on 90 minutes and it started to make threats, so i pulled over at the next coffee shop i saw. what i failed to notice was the fact that they were closing. fortunately for me (and my bladder) the cafe next door was still doing business. as i was planning on eating dinner at Stone in Escondido i ordered some garlic bread to go and by the gods was it fantastic! there must have been 4 cloves of fresh garlic and half a pound of butter slathered on the freshest of french breads which was crusty on the outside and flaky in the middle. in other words, perfection.
but i should get back to the beginning... i slept in and got a bit of a late start (surprise, surprise). first order of the day was tracking down a decent cup of coffee which was harder than one would imagine. i suppose its my fault for not finding lodging in the Starbucks District. i eventually tracked down a little cafe in Ventura Harbor which afforded me a breathtaking view of the mountains i drove through in the dark the night before. caffeine in hand and stars in my eyes, i took to the road following the pacific coast highway south towards L.A.
if you've never driven the coastal highway, you need to add it to the bucket list; it is an amazing experience. winding along the shoreline caught between rugged cliffs and deep blue seas, hugging each curve as if it were a loved one and never knowing what you'll find on the other side is an experience that really is beyond the grasp of words. as i travel along, i am humbled by the contrast between the bluffs looming to my left and the relatively puny cars speeding happily along ahead of me. dwarfed by nature's grandeur, my problems seem tiny and insignificant, my worries fall by the wayside and are swept away by the cleansing sea.
slowly but surely, the uninhabitable foothills give way to a friendlier landscape and houses start cropping up along the shore. speeding through malibu, i round a bend and Los Angeles appears in the distance. my heartbeat picks up as i dream of the Santa Monica pier, the trendy but friendly West Hollywood and a visit to Mann's Chinese Theater to re-visit one of my earliest memories and see if my hands still fit inside of Shirley Temple's imprint. dodging through traffic, i begin to understand why the area is often subject to effusive epithets. this is a city that seems to pre-date the invention of the automobile and was laid-out along the grazing paths of some sort of drunken mountain goat.
i spend a pleasant hour winding along the varied streets, avenues and boulevards completely lost but enjoying the ride despite the occasional car horn or shrieking idiot who can't figure out the basic theory behind lane changes. somehow i manage to find sunset blvd and happily speed along, rejoicing in my good fortune. my joy soon turns to dismay as traffic slows to a crawl but i forge ahead, undaunted. as i nearly miss running over a hapless chauffeur, it dawns on me that i just saw a bit of red carpet. could it be The Red Carpet? it is awards show day... soon after, i yank the steering wheel over and pull into the parking lot of Carney's where it is said to reside the best chili dog on the planet.
after a couple of failed maneuvers, i manage to squeeze the el camino into one of the miniature parking spots without blocking too much of the lot. as i ensure that i am not going to cause a parking disaster for another, i realize that those car horns /were/ directed at me after all. somewhere along the way between the 45 degree inclines and the idiot-dodging, my tailgate came undone. that's right, the back of the el camino is hanging wide open. the only thing that saved me from trailing my things all over Hollywood was the fact that Sassie and i are packing GENIUSES who artfully arranged every piece to its best advantage and placed the hauling straps /just so/ which enabled the dress form to keep everything else in place thus averting disaster. whew.
the rest of my time in the los angeles area was pretty uneventful, as the neighborhood i most wanted to see was completely cordoned off for the next two days to accommodate the academy awards presentation. somewhat deflated, i went in search of the HOLLYWOOD sign hoping to salvage at least one of my goals for this little venture. it took a surprisingly long time and a considerable amount of patience to find a decent vantage point. of course, i'm sure it didn't help that i spent most of my time crossing the streets directly underneath the dang thing completely unaware of its actual location. i didn't earn the title Queen of the Poptarts for nothing...
tired of being tied up in traffic and craving fresh air, i hopped on the 101 and headed south leaving the city behind and setting my sights on Escondido and the legendary Stone Brewing Co. for those of you who aren't complete nerds when it comes to beer, Stone is one of the pre-eminent craft breweries in the country, if not the world. they take the art of brewing to a new level and manage to do so on a very large scale with one of the most impressive distribution areas of the craft brew universe. many of us hop-heads cut our teeth on Stone's IPA, a well-balanced beer that has body, character and attitude without being too harsh for newbies.
upon arriving in Escondido, i secured lodging at the Hacienda Motel on Mission St and began preparations for my long-anticipated visit. i hopped in the shower and scrubbed away the smell of L.A., checked my directions and headed out the door. dismayed at the late hour, i wound my way through the oddly circuitous route hoping and praying the brewery would have the good sense to not close early this lonely Sunday night. deep in the heart of the industrial district of the city, the location was less than easy to find, but find it i did. lacking any sort of signage, i operated on instinct alone to find the entrance to the bistro itself. relieved to find that they were still in operation despite the fact that there were only two other patrons in the establishment, i sauntered up to the bar and joyously took my seat.
i was presented with an impressive draft list which surprisingly consisted of only seven Stone brews. after a short exchange with the bartender, i was presented with an array of samples to choose from. the first was Green Flash's Palate Wrecker which definitely lived up to its name. feeling like i just bit into the bud of a Cascade hop, i struggled to pick out the subtler characteristics of the other beers that Matt brought for me to sample. eventually, the effect died down a bit and i was able to pick a favorite. Stone's aptly named Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale was my beverage of choice, a double black IPA featuring an aggressive hop profile with a nice caramel malt character to smooth out the finish.
realizing that i had neglected to eat dinner in my eagerness, i put in an order for their Tilapia Ceviche. ever since discovering the dish in Mexico two years ago, i order ceviche wherever i find it for this is truly one of the best things to happen to seafood in the history of seafood. Stone did not let me down, offering up a beautiful blend of tilapia, tomatoes, onions and jalapenos in a bath of citrus juice. Tangy, spicy and delicious, it hit all of the perfect notes.
little did i know, spicy dishes are not just complemented by hoppy beers, they are enhanced by them. meaning, the hoppier the beer it is paired with, the spicier a dish will become. holy ceviche, batman! my mouth was soon tingling from the combination of spice and hop, but wow was it fantastic! to round out my meal, i tucked into the copy of Epictetus' Discourses i found at the second hand bookstore, a perfectly pretentious compliment to a complex taste-stravaganza. with my belly full and my intellectual appetite satiated, i headed back to the motel with a serene smile knowing that i shall return tomorrow to pick up a few goodies before heading onto San Diego and the beaches of So-Cal.