December 2020 – January 2021
We parked the car in the dirt lot outside of the gift shop and hiking poles in hand, hit the trail for what would turn out to be an easy four-mile hike through various types of landscape. The first part of the walk took us past a couple of abandoned vehicles and an old miner’s shack and after some time we ascended a small rise to a signpost for a split in the trail that afforded us a nice view up and down the valley.
For us, this was the turnaround point as we could have extended the hike by quite a few miles but wanted to keep this one short. The second half took us down along the creek bank through a mixture of hardpack and soft sand before we finally crossed the water in a shallow channel surrounded by reeds and other water seeking plants before returning to the parking lot and the car.
We dropped off our equipment and walked over to the gift shop and snack bar where we ordered a round of date shakes, enjoying them in the shade as other visitors queued up for their own treats. We made the 90-minute drive back to Henderson and back at the house spent a lazy Sunday reading and watching football, returning home on Monday, the drive effortless as Covid has dramatically lessened the traffic to and from Las Vegas.
A couple of days later Joanna and I rode our bikes up to Trancas, a well-known shopping center on Pacific Coast Highway halfway between Pepperdine University and County Line, roughly 51 miles round trip. We’d had a rainstorm just prior which left the skies clear with amazing visibility.
Two days later we set out with our friend Heather to climb up Nichols Canyon to Mulholland Drive with the intent to head to the valley from there and return over Sepulveda Pass. Incredibly high winds put the kibosh on that idea and so we opted instead to reroute to the Hollywood Reservoir and its stunning views of the Hollywood sign.
I’d end up riding a total of 6,000 miles in 2020, the most ever for me, all thanks to the lack of travel we endured because of Covid. While rewarding, I began to feel burned out and not as motivated to ride with my body also complaining as well. It made me ponder how competitive athletes maintain the energy and desire to constantly train. Fortunately, no one will ever confuse me with a pro cyclist.
To change things up a couple of weeks into the new year, we took a half day road trip based on a post from Atlas Obscura, Rogue Routes: The Road to Sky’s the Limit. We would just do the first part of the route as far as Riverside, as the second half involved a much longer drive out to the Palm Springs area. Our first stop was The Donut Hole in La Puente, built in 1968 and in continuous operation as a donut shop ever since.
It is one of the best examples of Programmatic architecture, this wood-and-stucco one-story commercial building split is two halves with a driveway in the middle, bracketed at each end by an enormous fiberglass donut. You drive through the shop to order and receive your food and pay with cash only. This store was the second of five Donut Hole locations, but the only one that actually had donuts as part of its architecture.
We got a couple of donuts and parked behind the structure, rapidly consuming the goodies and washing them down with coffee (with Kahlua, our favorite driving beverage) we’d brought from home. These were really good, although the cream filled strawberry product was challenging to eat. Fortuitously, we used our homemade in car dining kits to limit damage to the interior.
Back on the road it was a straight shot out to Riverside and our final stop for the day, Tio’s Tacos. In 1984 Martin Sanchez came to the United States from Michoacán, Mexico and settled in East L.A. He started selling oranges by freeway exits, which turned into selling hot dogs, which turned into selling tacos. Only five years after arriving in Southern California, he and his wife, Concepcion, opened Tio’s Tacos in Riverside.
For Sanchez, his love of art began long before he knew what that word meant. He had been turning reusable items into works of art while still a kid. A few years after Tio’s opened, Martin’s creativity was reignited and using some of his daughters old Barbie dolls, 99-Cent Store finds and plastic Happy Meal toys he started creating pieces of art.
That first statue, a woman made from bunches of small toys wired together and wearing rows of Barbies as a dress, still stands on the outskirts of the restaurant’s patio. Fast forward to today of the more than one hundred artworks, just steps away from the Barbie statue are two life-sized figures of Star Wars droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, made from boom boxes, old remote controls and aluminum cans.
It’s an amazing place, one that would take a couple of hours to fully take in and we had access to just one part of the property. Unfortunately, having just scarfed down donuts, we weren’t hungry enough to try out the food, which from all accounts is pretty decent Mexican chow. Perhaps the next time we come this way?
The Donut Hole: https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-donut-hole-la-puente
Programmatic Architecture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novelty_architecture
Tio’s Tacos: http://www.tiostacos1.com/