I was in southern California four months ago but decided to return. I chose December 16-21 because:
- My son Nick's Kalamazoo College basketball scheduled two games in Thousand Oaks, CA this week
- LA Rams and LA Kings had home games this week, allowing me to make progress toward my bucket list of attending a home game for every team in the four major North American professional leagues
During my August trip, I stayed in Anaheim and San Diego - south of Los Angeles. For this trip, I mostly stayed in Thousand Oaks - north of LA - because this is where Nick's team played their games.
I drove straight from the airport to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, CA. History would remember Nixon for his significant foreign policy initiatives (ending the Vietnam War and establishing trade with Communist China), but his role in the Watergate scandal overshadows almost everything else during his administration and taints his memory. The museum is in the backyard of the house in which Nixon was born. The graves of He and his wife Pat are between the two buildings. His entire life, from birth to death, is captured on a couple of acres.
I stayed in Thousand Oaks, and my cousin Bob lives in nearby Ventura, so we planned to spend Sunday together. Bob met me at my hotel, and we drove together to the Inglewood neighborhood of Los Angeles to see the LA Rams defeat the Washington Commanders. The game featured three turnovers and excellent LA defense. Washington made a game of it when their backup quarterback led a late touchdown drive to close to within eight points. But a blocked extra point and some timely first downs sealed the victory for the Rams.
My friend Sara drove down to meet me. We had not seen each other in a few years, so we spent much of the day catching up before attending my son's basketball game. Redwoods College defeated them handily, but I got to have a beer with Nick after the game.
On Tuesday morning, I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA. The museum sits atop a mountain with beautiful panoramic views of the unspoiled area surrounding the buildings. The most interesting part of this museum was a temporary exhibit on the Jewish Holocaust, which featured artifacts from Nazi concentration camps and video recordings of eyewitness accounts. This museum is the home of the Air Force 1 plane and the Marine 1 helicopter that transported Mr. Reagan during his presidency. Guests are permitted to board these vehicles, but not to take them out for a spin.
In the afternoon, I watched Kalamazoo lose to a very good Cal Lutheran University team.
Nick and I spent his last evening in the state tasting beers at a local dive and eating In-N-Out burgers unavailable where we live.
I woke up early Wednesday morning to drive Nick and one of his players to the LA Airport for a morning flight. Fortunately, I could check into my hotel early and enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the hotel's 35th floor as I watched a gentle rain fall outside the window.
With a free afternoon and a steady rain falling, I decided to spend a few hours at the Grammy Museum. It was a worthwhile experience. Special exhibits on hip-hop music, the famous Roxy nightclub's 50th anniversary, and Latina singer Shakira made it extra enjoyable. The special exhibits seemed to take up more than half the museum, which was fine with me.
In the evening, I bought a ticket to see the LA Kings take on the Seattle Kraken in ice hockey at Crypto.com Arena. The home team dominated the first period but could not solve Seattle goaltender Joey Daccord, who stopped forty-two shots. Seattle's offense came to life after 20 minutes, taking a 2-0 lead before Blake Lizotte cut the lead with a shorthanded goal late in the third period to make the final score 2-1.
On my final day, I found a quiet place for breakfast and an outdoor cafe to sip a latte (the rain continued, but the temperature was warm enough to sit under an awning) before heading to the airport. LAX maintains its reign as the worst airport in America. A poorly designed rental car experience caused this trip's headache. The rental car facility sits about three miles from the airport, and the shuttle bus must navigate LA traffic and the gridlock of the airport terminal driveway. I dropped off my car 2.5 hours before my flight, yet my luggage and I almost missed the plane due to a long ride on the shuttle.
But I made it, and so did my luggage.
Southern California is known for its great weather, but it rained steadily during most of my visit. The rain did not diminish my enjoyment of this vacation. I got to spend time with my son, visit an old friend, watch Nick's team play (even though the results were disappointing), and check two more home stadiums off my bucket list. I even finished reading a book*.
This was an excellent way to close out 2023!
* "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan, which I highly recommend.