December 28-31, 2014
With an overnight stop in San Clemente to visit long time friends Jan and Evan, we arrived back at Joanna’s Mom’s house for two more nights before heading up to Oakland for five nights at Jessica’s and to ring in the New Year. I get to see Evan a few times a year but the chance for the four of us to gather occurs much less frequently. Time spent with good friends is a treasure, one made more valuable as the years pass by and the close contact we used to take for granted is diminished; one more reason to make time to enjoy each others company whenever you can.
Our two nights in Los Angeles were uneventful, continuing to connect with old friends, cooking a couple of meals at the house, low key days that gave us some down time in between the busy nature of the Christmas we’d experienced and the New Year’s celebration to come. I connected with one of my former neighbor’s Steve as I usually do each time I visit L.A. and we did our customary walk down to one of the more pleasant additions to my old neighborhood, the Venice Grind Coffee House.
While growing up the stretch of Venice Boulevard it sits on didn’t have much going for it; this has changed in recent years with the addition of more retail shops, restaurants, and cafes bringing a more compelling urban vibe to this corner of the city. Indeed, in a town where a car is almost always necessary, Mar Vista has almost become a walk able neighborhood.
I got in a nice ride on Tuesday, heading down towards Palos Verdes. My intended destination was the fountain at Malaga Cove Plaza in Palos Verdes but time and the prospect of rain convinced me to turn around in Redondo Beach and head back home. I did stop in at Catalina Coffee for a quick jolt, this place a regular stop for my old bike club, Marina del Rey Cycle Club (MDRCC) any time we did a southern based route.
We left prior to 9am on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve morning to make the seven-hour drive up to Oakland via Highway 101. We’d decided to take that route, about an hour longer than taking I-5, for a couple of reasons. The first was the potential for snow or ice heading over Tejon Pass and the second was that with a little bit of extra time that day, it would make for a more scenic journey than the flat dullness of the I-5.
We arrived in Oakland a little after 3pm, parked downstairs in the parking garage and unloaded the car before heading back out to try and find street parking. Jessica and Kris live in downtown Oakland where lots of restrictions make finding a spot a challenge. The first one we found, conveniently located across the street, would need to be abandoned later that evening due to late night street cleaning, a contingency we’d have to deal with later.
We relaxed upstairs in their apartment for an hour or so, enjoying a celebratory bottle of New Year’s Eve champagne, then made our way to Rivoli on Solano in Berkeley to meet Lydia and Walter for our annual dinner. This ritual, one we’ve enjoyed for over twenty years without fail, is an event we look forward to each year. One true pleasure of aging is when your children also embrace traditions you find valuable and so it’s a joy to share this one with Jessica. Then again, no sensible person would turn down a meal at Rivoli.
After dinner we returned to the apartment for a quiet New Year’s Eve, watching a movie and waiting for midnight and the end of a year of great change and adventure for our family. Joanna and I had completed our dream trip and used it to make the transition from full time workers to folks with some time on our hands. Jessica and Kris had relocated to the Bay Area, a region we all enjoy and look forward to visiting. Who can say what the New Year will bring? Let’s hope it is as much fun as the one we’ve just completed.
Venice Grind: http://www.venicegrind.com/
Catalina Coffee: http://www.catalinacoffee.com/