Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Showing the out-of-towners around.


Showing the out-of-towners around.

I had an interesting situation a couple weeks ago, as by chance I ended up playing the role of last-minute tour guide to two visitors: a friend visiting from the Midwest on business and a soccer coach from England who was staying in the house for the week and had just been reassigned to the Pacific Northwest, leaving the following day.

This mini-adventure started with me picking up my first friend from a hotel adjacent to LAX, taking her the longer way on Pacific Coast Highway into Torrance and to one of my favorite places to eat, Kula Sushi. I haven't done a food review of this place (I'm too busy nomming the sushi to care), but I hope to get the chance to do that, just as I try to drag a friend to this place any opportunity I get. It was easy for her to scarf down on the sushi - living in a land-locked state like Missouri can make it difficult to acquire (and trust) the "fresh" fish that's served there. So I don't blame her for having her fill.

It wasn't the first time that I've played the role of tour guide; in fact I look forward to it every chance I get. However, it had been years since I had acted as one out here in Southern California. My time in Ohio relegated me to a passive (and occasionally torturous) role of online adviser and e-mail buddy to those visiting my home and looking for things to do. Now, one thing I do take pride in is my knowledge of the random facts and details about my part of town. Maybe I could make this a gig! You know, throw a tip jar in the back of the car, serve drinks, and a wear a boom mike to be all official like that.

After dinner, I picked up the soccer coach and started with a cruise in the car onto Palos Verdes Drive East, stopping at one of the vista points overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A few minutes of photo ops, and then it was a jaunt through San Pedro and across the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Lucky for us, the World's Largest Rubber Duck was docked in the Port of Los Angeles for the 2014 Tall Ships Festival so my guests had a chance to see it as well as I cruised along toward the 710 freeway.

I dropped my Missouri friend off at her hotel by LAX and headed (on request) with the soccer coach to Hollywood to see "what the place is all about." So about an hour later I was walking around the touristy portion of Hollywood Blvd. with a Brit on one side and a coffee in my hand (it was a long evening as I had substitute taught a filmmaking class earlier that day). We spent the next hour and a half admiring the cement prints left by stars of the past and present in the TCL Chinese Theater, walking into souvenir shops full of chotskies, and taking pictures for out-of-towners with their phones and cameras. Occasionally, I would simply look down and admire the ground. I was on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, after all.

Here was the reason for the request to go to Hollywood, a chance to pay tribute to the great Robin Williams.
After a little sightseeing, we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe on Hollywood Blvd. for a couple drinks and conversation. It had been a while since I was able to sit down for a break and just be social again. No deadlines. No rush. Sometimes, all it takes is an opportunity to revisit a familiar place to bring a new magic to something that has been long-standing. As a Southern California native, I had often thought of Hollywood as "the place to avoid." It's probably the traffic and the annoyance of trying to drive a car through there. Anytime of the night on any part of the week, when I'm on my motorcycle courier shift, the area is filled with people looking up at the lights or looking down to try to find an actor, singer, or famous somebody immortalized on the ground below them.

People watching from the top of the bar...the ginger ales seem to taste better from up here.
On the way back home, a request for a small bite to eat meant a stop at Pink's Hot Dogs (I'd be a lame tour guide if I didn't do that). Somewhere in between bites of my chili dog, I was watching my visitor smiling and taking photos of the various autographs and details of the hole-in-the-wall store that's been a fixture here in LA for the last 75 years. Looks like my mission was a success.

What a night. I gotta meet more people from out-of-town and do this more often!