Day 1 – Los Angeles, December 1, 2003

The limo showed up precisely at four in the morning. I think this was only my second time riding in a limousine. The trip to the airport was flawless. I think most of the holiday traffic had left on Sunday and we were on the road too early for the Monday morning commute to congest the interstate.

After a short delay due to the cold Chicago weather wreaking havoc on the sanitation systems on the airport (I don’t want to think what froze in those pipes) we were in the air and on our way to the great city of Los Angeles. We flew a bit over four hours and got to watch “Seabiscuit” on the way. Aside from the cramped seats it was a comfortable flight.

The single smartest thing we did in Los Angeles was rent a car. I’d never rented a car before but Dena convinced me it would be a good idea. We had made a reservation with Enterprise and when we got there they offered us an upgrade to an SUV for five bucks. How can you pass that up? Plus, since I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee now I wanted something I’d be comfortable driving around unfamiliar streets.

Armed with the inadequate freebie map from Enterprise we headed out on to the mean streets of LA. We headed north, originally intending to go to Santa Monica and the beach but we sidetracked a bit and ended up in Beverly Hills. We kept heading north and west, through the sexually diverse streets of West Hollywood and the bright lights of Hollywood. While driving through tinsel town we spotted the landmark “HOLLYWOOD” sign through a brief break in the fog/smog. We veered north to Griffin Park and parked near the Griffin Observatory. From there we trekked on foot up the mountain a bit and took some pictures. By that time we it was about two in the afternoon and we were getting tired after the little sleep the night before. Back to the car we went, but not without a vow that we’d have to come back to Los Angeles again when we had more time and hike all the way up to the top.

Our strategy through the entire stay in LA was to take as many city streets as possible. We wanted to see as much as we could and driving via freeway wasn’t the way to do it. We were making our way south towards the hotel when we ran into the La Brea Tar Pits. Well, not literally run into them. That would have been a sticky situation. Ha-ha. We stopped and took a short walk around one of the tar pits. It was neat to see the bubbling eruptions of methane gas on the surface of the gooey surface.

From there we headed due south until we found the Ramada Plaza Hotel I booked online. After some of the dives we passed in LA I was glad to see that this was a pleasant surprise. We rolled in and registered. When I asked the clerk at the desk if they had internet access in-room, she replied affirmative in a cheerful voice. Apparently to them, internet access means either plunking down twelve bucks for webtv-like access or use a phone line for the low, low price of fifty cents a minute. I could care less. I just wanted to freshen up.

After a bit we decided to grab a bite to eat. None of us felt like going to the bar and grill attached to the hotel so we ventured back out. We managed to hunt down an In-and-Out Burger near the airport and showed Annie what a proper milkshake is supposed to taste like. The only other In-and-Out Burger we’d been to was in Las Vegas and once is enough to hook you.

We dragged our full bellies back to the hotel and at the late hour of eight (six local time) we passed out. Despite the hard mattress we managed a solid eleven hours of blissful sleep.

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