Southwest 2018 Part 3 // Scottsdale to Los Angeles
After a noisy night sleeping by the entertainment district in Scottsdale, we were up early the next morning to squeeze in a run before hitting the road for our next destination. Before our arrival, Wiehan had used Strava Route Builder and discovered that there is a canal trail just a few feet from our hotel, with smooth pavement perfect for road bikes and strollers, and a dirt trail for a softer running experience. It was stunning! If you have a full day to explore in the Phoenix / Scottsdale area, I'd highly suggest renting a bike and going for a cruise. I found differing information about the length of the Arizona Canal Trail, but according to the Strava Routes heat map, there is at least a 16-mi / 25-km stretch. I was so curious to see as much as possible that I felt like I could have run for miles. But rain was fast approaching and the road was calling, so we turned around after just two miles and went back to the hotel to eat a lovely complimentary breakfast and pack up for our next adventure, stopping first for a latte at the nearby mall. But don't worry, Scottsdale, we came back for more fun and exploration before heading back to the east coast. Stay tuned for that post!
We had a six-hour drive ahead of us, mostly through barren desert and mountain terrains. It was a tumultuous start with an intensely heavy thunderstorm, which Wiehan navigated like a champ. Just after getting through the worst of it past Phoenix, we both jumped with a fright when all at once our cellphones and the radio simultaneously blasted alerts of a flash flood warning. The rain began to lighten up gradually and was soon replaced by blue skies and bright sunshine. There aren't many places to stop along the drive through the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, but I used Yelp to look for restaurant recommendations in the few towns that we passed. We ended up in Quartzite, Arizona at the Mountain Quail Cafe. I had the grilled chicken salad and Wiehan had a burger with sweet potato fries. It was a really nice meal with a pleasant homestyle atmosphere. On our way back to the 10 freeway from the cafe, we filled up, not knowing when we'd have another chance.
Also memorable from the road trip were the signs warning drivers not to pick up hitch hikers, as a state prison was nearby. I was completely taken by surprise that California has an agricultural border patrol, entering from Arizona, to check for pests. It felt like we were crossing into another country. Approaching Palm Springs, we saw the monumental masses of wind turbines, some of which date back to the 1980's. We also drove through Joshua Tree National Park, and I really wished we could have taken some time to explore the area. We stopped in Indio for a Starbucks run / bathroom break. And as we approached Los Angeles, driving through San Bernardino, we were greeted for a second time that day with rain.
Finally, we made it to L.A., staying in Echo Park with a family member. We’ve found that whenever we’re traveling, we enjoy a city way more when we know someone locally who can show us all the sites and take us to all the best spots. Plus, we get to catch up with someone we love! We dined that night at the bustling Mohawk Bend. I had the Very Green Salad, with chicken. It was fresh, but I'd suggest getting the dressing on the side, as the garlic is strong! Wiehan enjoyed the fennel sausage pizza. Exhausted after a very long day of driving, we headed back to our accommodation for a good night's sleep. The next morning, we ran a few laps around Echo Park Lake and then walked to Ostrich Farm for brunch. I had the Shredded Chicken w/ garden herbs, celery, fennel, avocado, and mayonnaise on red mustard frills, vinaigrette - which was basically the same thing I’d had for dinner the previous night, with just as much garlic. But as someone who eats dinner leftovers in the morning rather than the expected grainy meal, I won't complain, whenever I'm traveling and have the option for a fresh salad full of protein to start off my day! Wiehan had a latte, of course, as well as the Chef’s breakfast, which included scrambled eggs, bacon, roasted vegetables, mashed avocado and grilled toast. It was a pricey, but delicious meal!
Next we went on a drive to get a better sense of the city. I spotted the Beverly Hills Farmers Market and we stopped to check it out. The highlight was the kids zone, featuring a petting zoo and pony rides. Too cute! We drove through the iconic Rodeo Drive and then climbed up Beverly Hills, unintentionally stumbling on a popular tour bus route, featuring scenic overlooks and views of Universal City / Studio City, home to studios like Disney, Warner Bros. and CBS. For lunch we went to Habit Burger. Lettuce wrapped burgers were my favorite go-to meal during this trip. At Habit Burger, I ordered the Santa Barbara Char in a lettuce wrap. It has a double patty, for more substance, as well as cheese & avocado. Afterward, we went for a hike through Elysian Park.
The next day, we took a drive up Rt. 1, out to Malibu. The brown landscapes along the drive revealed an area that has been facing ongoing drought. The wind was so wild that the city turned off the electricity, to avoid sparking any fires. Sadly, less than a month later, in early November the area was hit by two devastating tragedies, first with the shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, a 25-minute drive from the shore, and then the deadly Woolsey Fire burned through nearly 97,000 acres. We were fortunate to enjoy the beauty of Malibu that day in mid-October, walking up and down the shoreline at Sycamore Cove. For lunch, we went to John's Garden Fresh Health Store. Wiehan had a sandwich and smoothie, while I had the Cape Cod, a green salad topped with chicken salad, dried cranberries and candied walnuts. The portions are generous and the ingredients are fresh. I would highly recommend this spot for those traveling through. Back in L.A. that evening, we went for a sunset hike up to Griffith Observatory. A popular tourist spot, the views were incredible, with the Hollywood sign off in the distance.
L.A. surprised us in a good way. We're not city people. We'd much rather head into the countryside than toward bright lights and big cities. But L.A. has so much natural beauty to offer, as well as creative energy. Walk into any boutique coffee shop, and the tables are sure to be filled with script writers and influencers clicking away on their MacBooks. Stroll through a park and stumble on the taping of a scene for something looking like NCIS. Go watch a movie, and you just might be in the presence of the director. All these things happened during our trip, anyway. The most surprising thing about L.A. was how much it reminded us of the dry and hilly Johannesburg landscape, with sprawling sub-cities and heavy traffic, adorned with palm trees in view from every direction, under glorious blue skies and bright sunshine. Particularly reminded of Northcliff, Rosebank and Emmarantia Park, I can imagine that Joburger expats living in LA must feel very much at home. We sure did during this incredible visit!
Tell us! Have you been to L.A.? If so, what’s your favorite part about the city of angels?