94th Aero Squadron Restaurant, Van Nuys, California
Smaller airports are not often noticed or thought about by the general public since most of us can’t afford charter flights or our own planes. But one small airport in Van Nuys offers a very unique restaurant experience next to the runway.
Named after a United States Army Air Service squadron in World War I, this restaurant has replicas of old war vehicles and paraphernalia. The outside of the building is made to look old, as though it was actually around for the war. When you walk inside, you are treated to views of planes taking off on the runway.
My family and I went for lunch and a cocktail. Well, some of us had a cocktail. Ok. My Mom and I had cocktails. I tried the Aviation, which is amazing! The menu has fish, poultry, and red meat, but not a huge selection for vegetarians. There are sandwiches, salads. Their lunch menu is on the pricey side, so be prepared. But everyone was very happy with everything that was ordered, so well worth the price. Dinner menu includes a filet mignon option, with prices ranging from $20-$44 for an entrée.
You can also sit at the bar to watch the planes. The bar does offer appetizers and has a happy hour on weekdays from 4pm-7pm. They have specialty cocktails that are perfect for the atmosphere.
My Dad on the lookout!
94th Aero Squadron Restaurant, 16320 Raymer Street, Van Nuys, CA 91406
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend, Brian, and I went to the Chowder Barge in Wilmington, CA. It is a barge that was used as a support vessel (whatever that means) for “Mutiny on the Bounty” that was repurposed to be a restaurant on the water in the Leeward Bay Marina, surrounded by boats. I am glad we made the trip to try it, but it wasn’t my favorite bowl of clam chowder. The option of “bread” doesn’t mean a bread bowl, as we are familiar with in San Francisco. It was a piece of bread (not sure what kind) in the middle of the thick soup. We also ordered double clams. What that means is that fried clams are added. I didn’t even notice the clearly written fried part on the menu, but ate them anyway, so had to double exercise the next day. Our waiter was very nice and the restaurant itself is a pretty cool idea, but do not go with any gourmet expectations. Definitely a great place to visit during the daytime, when you can see the view.
While we were eating our clam chowder, I looked at one of my history books of California and found out there is a Civil War museum nearby. We were unable to get to the museum that day, but did return a few weeks later.
Before we ate, we stopped at Urban Americana. It is a really cool vintage store. It has furniture, old signs, toys, books, clothes, art and vinyl records.
Well, this doll is creepy.
This little buddy hangs around the albums.
Very unique and kitschy stuff. No matter where we go, Brian finds a place that sells records. Sometimes, I luck out and they have other things for me to look at. This place is huge and has a lot of cool things, an outdoor area with a nice bench, and they have bathrooms.
Last year, I read a book entitled, “The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War” by Leonard Richards. There were a few stories that had me on the edge of my seat from excitement. I had a feeling how they would end, but they ended way more spectacularly than I imagined. The gold rush is certainly a big part of what we learn in history class. The gold miners did more of a gentlemen’s agreement on mining claims. They were none too happy when rich Southern slave owners came over, using slaves to do all the work, being able to mine more ground faster and make more money. The disagreement over California being admitted as free state is what some believe was the final nail in the coffin and what officially started the Civil War. Being a free state meant anti-slavery states had a majority of representatives in the government.
Drum Barracks was built to be the Union headquarters for California, Arizona and New Mexico. It was also protecting the harbor. Supplies were based there. Camels were shipped there also, with hopes that they would be more efficient than horses. (Nope.) Most of the buildings are now gone. The Museum was formerly housing for Junior Officers.
There is another building about two blocks away (Eubank Ave and Opp Street) that was the powder magazine, where gunpowder & ammunition were stored. That building has a fence around it, but I didn’t see any signage. Very easy to find, though.
The only way to see the inside of the museum is if you take a guided tour. This is both good and bad. Good, because I certainly got more out of the visit with a human being there to answer questions and explain things. The only bad part was that there are many printed things on the walls that I didn’t read because I didn’t want to hold up the tour. There were only 4 of us. However, no one would have actually cared if I stalled to take anything in longer. That is all on me.
They have 1st edition Ulysses S. Grant books on display, which was absolutely amazing to me. Most of the furniture is that of the era, but not what was actually in the home. Soldiers lived more compactly. The original artifacts are mostly in glass cases, with replicas available to pass around.
The front of the building.
An original well.
There is also a room with different weapons that were used during the Civil War. A man that was on the tour with us was familiar with the weapons of that time. He asked my boyfriend if he had ever shot a gun, being fascinated with the size of the bullets. Kind of thought it was funny because I am the one that has tried shooting. Even tried a machine gun. Anyway, what I loved about that guy was how excited he was to finally be in the museum. He said he had heard about it and seen ads, but never went despite living nearby. That morning, he finally did it!
As you tour the building, you will get to the medical display. I knew about how surgeries were done long ago, but it was nice to have a refresher, gross as it was. Really gross. I think it was the re-using the surgical tools without sterilizing them and just wiping off the blood and moving on to the next surgery that really brought it home for me. Can’t help but wonder what things we now believe to be medical marvels will be thought as horrifying years from now.
Finally, Drum Barracks has a great gift shop, filled with Civil War books to help you further your knowledge.
**Drum Barracks is closed on Monday and Friday. Two tours are available per day. You do not need to make reservations for the tours unless you have a bigger group. Be sure to check their website before you go.
I work on the production side of commercials. Sometimes, the shoots are on stages that have been used in famous and beloved television shows and movies, often with commemorative plaques hung on the wall outside the door. Sometimes, the location is a beach, a house, or a museum. Sometimes, the location is a piece of history.
Though I am not religious, I lose my mind over Christmas and Santa. A few years ago, I even started a tradition of getting my photo with Santa. I have stood in line with children at malls, Union Station in Los Angeles and Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The adults don’t always get that I am actually in line to get a photo with Santa and ME and have walked in front of me to get photos of their kids. Last December, I worked on a shoot with Santa Claus in an industrial area in Glendale, California.
As soon as I arrived at work, I was tasked with wrapping gifts for kids, which I gladly did while donning my personal Santa hat. The art department built and created an amazing and festive room with crafts, snacks and decorations. When I finally needed a bathroom break, I walked to another part of the building and discovered that I was in an air travel museum! Grand Central Air Terminal was a major airport long ago, attracting the rich and famous. It was the premier airport around Los Angeles before that title was bestowed upon LAX.
Air travel was starting to catch on in the late 1920s in the United States. In 1926, the Feds started to regulate air travel to ensure safety, which would then encourage people to take seriously the idea of flying in lieu of slower modes of transportation. Moving forward into the future of transportation was actually inspired by delivering mail. It had been decided that private businesses should get into mail delivery via plane. Combined with the enthusiasm created by Charles Lindbergh and his solo Atlantic flight, the US got excited about this newer form of getting around.
An airline called Transcontinental Air Transport had a Los Angeles – New York route that began at Grand Central. Lindbergh was hired by the airline and even flew the first leg of the first flight to New York (along with some celebrities.) Without night travel capability, the trips still included connections using trains and took nearly two days. When the DC-3 was introduced, the flights times were reduced, with a few stops for fuel. (The ads for the DC-3 included women so everyone would know that even WE can handle flying.)
When the USA joined World War II, the use of Grand Central was no longer for private citizens. It was used by the US Government to train pilots. Though the runway was extended during wartime, it was reduced when the airport was returned to use by civilians. The airport was unable to survive with said smaller runway due to the larger commercial airplanes that had emerged. The air terminal closed in 1959.
Eventually, Disney took over the building. It was restored and is open for free tours but you must make a reservation here.
I decided to partake in the free Museum Day in Los Angeles, CA last week. I have been spending far too much time indoors and was glad for an excuse to get outside. There were a lot of places taking part, but I chose Descanso Gardens because I had never been. It was a lovely day out, with the temperature in the 80s, despite it being ”winter.”
It seemed as though many people parked in the residential area, but there was ample parking in the actual lot. My boyfriend, Brian, and I got our tickets online, which helped us avoid standing in an extra line. We stopped by the café first, which is right before the entrance. My lunch was good and the perfect amount of food. A woman in the line mentioned that she likes to take advantage of free museum days. Last year, she went to MOCA in Downtown LA, but said it was so crowded that she doubts she would ever go again on the free day. Descansco was definitely busy, but there were moments of complete quiet and peace, which were much needed. We got to enjoy a bench by the lake for a fair amount of time without interruption.
The grounds are enormous, with much to see. Each season has it’s own group of blooming flowers, with spring having the most. I really enjoy how it is set up, allowing you to walk through different sections. The Oak Forest and Ancient Forest were my favorites and Japanese Gardens are always beautiful and calming.
There are a few trails and places that are a bit of an uphill hike. We walked up a bit of a steep hill to find that it was an even steeper walk down, walking next to a fence. Most of the grounds are even and accessible for everyone, though. They do offer wheelchairs at the Visitor Center. Also, there are benches and bathrooms throughout the grounds.
The Boddy House, former home of E. Manchester Boddy, who founded the gardens, was an unexpected hike uphill, at least on the route we chose to take. If you have difficulty with something like that, please make sure to plan ahead and look into other routes/options so that you can enjoy this attraction. Restored in 2007 and opened as a museum in 2008, the Boddy house is considered a “must-see.” There are informational signs within the house and the rooms are, rightly, roped off. There is a functional sink with a sign that asks everyone to please not touch or use it, but, clearly, someone turned the handles because there was splattered water within the basin. (That both annoyed me and made me laugh.) The rooms and furniture are a “re-interpretation” of its appearance. Since the house and furnishings are contemporary, it didn’t have the same historical feel as many other places I have been, making it feel like more like going to a house party at a very nice house. There are docents available, but due to the crowd, it didn’t even occur to me to find one to gain any insight. Again: Free Museum Day. Brian couldn’t help himself as we left the building, telling random people where the keg was. Everyone enjoyed his joke, I think.
We also went to the Sturt Haaga Gallery, which is next to the Boddy House. It has nature-themed art, of course.
On our way out, we did stop in the gift store, where they sell many garden-related items as well as food items, like jellies and bread mix.
I am glad to have visited Descanso Gardens, regardless of the crowd. It did take Free Museum Day to get me to finally visit, but it will only take a change of season to get me to go again. I am looking forward to the lilacs in the Spring.
* Wear comfortable shoes.
**Make sure to bring water in your recyclable bottle.
Day 1 of our epic cross country adventure- This trip we left from LA, heading East as I would eventually drop off Jenn in Chicago for a visit with her fam before I headed on to friends in Massachusetts. With previous trips that started out as a 4 day excursion but wound up with us still on the road 2 weeks later roaming and discovering where we might end up next, we were well prepped for these travels.
First up, the world’s tallest thermometer located in Baker, the Gateway to Death Valley, because if you can’t find a ball of string big enough in these parts a thermometer embodying all that is grand about Americana culture will do.
Next stop, Las Vegas. Leave it to us to treat Sin City as a pit stop and a place to “do lunch”, but we needed to refuel, which we did at The PBR Rockbar on the strip.
We didn’t need to dance ‘til dawn this time around- been there, done that a dozen times – although we did miss our usual poolside service with cocktails topped off with toasted coconut at The Cosmopolitan, but this day we dined outdoors, beneath its looming exterior, remembering its glistening chandeliers, at the appropriately named The Chandelier bar and morning-after recovery brunches at Wicked Spoon, which we were wickedly tempted to try again, but were more than satisfied by our bold bar food selections and our sidewalk patio setting, watching the variety of people Vegas has to offer on display passing by. We skipped drinking PBR’s and stuck with root beers as it was back on the road for us following our meal.
The next test for us was to pass through the Valley of Fire without being burned. No problem for these two pros as we safely entered Utah, but only temporarily were we secure, for next up was an unexpected encounter with dinosaurs!
The Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm in St. George. Containing some of the best preserved tracks and fossils, which were discovered during a real estate project to level some land, and dating back more than 195 million years, this gem is a true Jurassic Park to treasure, and just as much fun for us to be let loose in.
Beaver would be where we would settle that first night, but not before we let off a little restless energy at Renegade Lounge.
This one stoplight town, and one bar, thanks to some sort of grandfather clause, as told to us the last time we were there by the guy whose grandfather owned the place, is the local hot spot. That’s right, this wasn’t our first time in these parts and served as a familiar go-to drinking hole, as it did for the other patrons passing through or seasonal workers stationed there. As soon as we arrived, Toto, we realized we weren’t in Los Angeles anymore. A group of friendly guys chatted us up, invited us to join them, bought us drinks and even offered up the delivery pizza they had at their table. (Those looking for a light bite can help themselves to the popcorn machine on the bar top.) Not one asked us if we were in the biz, or even what biz for that matter. There was simply actual human interaction and conversation taking place. And they were ever so much more interesting than any A-list celebs I’ve met. These guys weren’t just delightfully social, turns out they were death defying. I’ve had my share of crappy day jobs, from working for a pent up office manager who wanted me to decorate all of her binders with pretty patterns of wallpaper cover sheets and stylish font styles when labeling them to a high powered portfolio manager with unmanaged anger, who couldn’t make eye contact but could scream at you from down the hall and an office away. His former assistant quit in tears. I stuck it out amused by his issues. But unlike our new acquaintances, I had never risked my life by going below ground, surrounded by deadly gas at a geothermal plant drilling for hot water. Cade, who had tempted us to their table with cheesy bread and dipping sauce accompanying the pizza, (yeah, we’re very high-end and hard-to-get when we’re on the road) showed us video of them on his camera phone suiting up in tactical gear and gas masks as they prepped for their next shift. And I thought my ill-fitting tuxedo pants I got at a thrift store for my uniform during my catering days were bad. I just had to make sure I had my comfortable shoes and a wine opener on hand versus hoping I didn’t inhale anything toxic in order to make it through a shift.
We shared tales of cheating death and our taste for adventure. The crew was as colorful as their job description. Hector and AJ restocked the rounds as I was introduced to their boss man they affectionately called “The Old Buzzard”. He in turn nicknamed me “Funny Shit” as I made him laugh. He then tried to make me dance. Boys on the road, especially in the West, sure do like and look for any opportunity to two-step. We both soon learned I do not, and really can’t. The Old Buzzard who had suffered his share of challenges as a former bronco rider on the rodeo circuit, including a broken hip that caused him to limp, soon gave up on me declaring after a turn on the dance floor, “You keep leading. You don’t know how to follow!” Such is the curse, or benefit, depending on your dance partner, of being an independent woman. We returned to our stools and swapped stories of adrenaline rushing activities we enjoyed. I told him how I had jumped out of an airplane, he told me to top that I needed to ride a bull.
He then took Jenn for a spin and got her to two-stepping after she had wrapped up a freestyle session blowing it out with Cade in a dance-off below the pulsating disco lights.
Tired from the day’s long drive we took our bows for the night and trekked back to our hotel, the Best Western Butch Cassidy Inn, where we had comfortable beds waiting and a complimentary breakfast the next day before hitting the road, well rested and refreshed for the journey ahead.
I read about a baseball exhibit and was very excited. Then saw it was at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. I automatically assumed it was going to be some hippie weird hemp rope odd something not very baseball-like exhibit.
THANK GOD! I was wrong! Not one to pass up trying something new, I drove over to the museum to check it out. The museum entrance fee is already dirt cheap, but is even cheaper with a KCRW card. ($5!) Yay!
Up to the 3rd floor I ran. No. I am lying. I totally took the elevator. ZOOM to the 3rd floor. So, it’s dead silent up there. I am the only visitor. No weirdo museum people analyzing anything next to me! I could stare at things as long as I wanted and NO one was there to pressure me into moving on. It was a Thursday in the early afternoon. Good time to go, folks. Good time. A security guard appeared exactly when I realized I didn’t bring my regular camera with the timer. I got this awesome picture.
The exhibit are all items owned by a collector named Gary Cypres. His sports memorabilia collection is one of the largest in the world. There were quilts, cigar boxes, drawings (from the 1800s, yo!), a roulette wheel table (sweet!), old bats (no, not your mother-in-law) and
lots of other cool items. I really dug the art made of unraveled sock and shoelace threads. A man named Ray Materson was imprisoned (drug-related thing) and decided to get all artsy by making these little squares of baseball players. I am only putting up one here.
This exhibit runs through September 9, 2012.
New Oak Ranch is a lavender farm in Ojai, California. They also have walnuts, olives and tangerines. During the summer, their ranch is open to the public. Since I adore lavender, it made sense to take the hour drive for the experience. I fantasized about running through the lavender fields and rolling around with the wind blowing through my hair. Maybe Gene Kelly, Olivia Newton John and the Muses rollerskate with me. . .
You are given clippers and a twisty tie and are set free into the fields to cut your own batch. You can cut some for cooking (Provence) or go for the aromatic lavender (Grosso!) There are bees all over. I am not a fan of being around stingy things so was a bit concerned. They have a sign up stating that the bees won’t bother you and I decided to just believe them and waltz through. One with the bees. . . one with the bees. .
Won’t even lie. The bees were so into their pollinating that I felt a bit bad cutting down their fine work, but did it anyway. They did not bother me once. Err.. okay. One seemed to yell at me until I moved a little bit.
After gallivanting about in the fields, it was time to check out the products. One of the owners, Karen Evenden, was standing by to help me decide what to buy. Lavender everything. Lotion, spritzer, body wash, sea salts, jams, scones, honey. Karen let me try the jams and honey. I grabbed as much as I could. I am really looking forward to making the scones. The lavender buds for cooking and tea are fantastic. Been throwing them in my vegetable saute´ and loving it! Make sure to check out the above video. A really cool woman named Brooke explained everything about the ranch to me and Karen describes some of the products. Great people!
Again, the lavender fields are only open in the summertime, but their products are available through their website all year ’round.
The Gentle Barn is an animal rescue sanctuary for farm animals. They rehabilitate animals. Poor things were abused, neglected or meant for butchering. A few people posted about it on Facebook so I looked into it and found out it is very near Los Angeles. Just a 25 minute drive. There are cows, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, donkeys, cats, dogs, turkeys, and llamas. And you can pet every one of them. Okay, not the llamas. So I just stared at the pretty eyelashes on one of them. It is a $10 donation to get in and well worth it! The animals are adorable (duh) and very mild mannered. Some of the animals were bred to be food and were genetically modified. Poor things. There is a cow (their therapy cow) that has bow legs and arthritis. She can’t stand up for very long. She’s the one I pet the most.
When you feed the carrots to the horses, make sure to visit the ones a little further back.
One was making a lot of noise to make sure I stayed put and gave her attention. Definitely pet the turkeys. Was pretty cute to have one look at me like I was the best thing ever for doing that!
Gentle Barn is definitely a family-oriented place. Great to teach your children to be kind to animals.
Ellen and Portia DeRossi are big fans of this place. It was even on Ellen’s show. I visited with the turkey named after Portia. So, I guess that means I sorta met a famous turkey. If you can’t get there, you can donate through their website. They would sure appreciate that!
I finally got to feed Ostriches and Emus in Solvang at Ostrich Land.
I seem to go to Solvang an awful lot these days (sssh!) and have always wanted to visit this place but never did for some reason (wine.) It is $4 per bowl of food. The birds are all behind fences and reach their heads over to eat. They all had the best expressions on their faces and walked like Big Bird. Fine. Maybe they aren’t really “expressions” but, whatever. Hit this place up before you make it to the wineries. That would be my advice. Very silly fun.