Pre-trip stuff: Spot Negative One

Miles flown: 2465 (JFK-LGB)
Miles driven: 50 (cargo van) + 28 (Long Beach - Pasadena)
Steps taken: about 3000 before our pedometer reset itself

Leaving New York

When we left the apartment on 12th Street for the last time, I cried and cried. It was my first apartment nice enough that I was actually sad to leave. Mike tried to cheer me up by saying things like "Don't be sad — our next apartment will have modern luxuries like a thermostat and a garbage disposal!" and "Hey, remember that time when that cockroach ran under the bed before we could kill it, and we had to sleep all night knowing it was under there?"

Guess which one of us had breakfast.
Approaching the starting line

The trip will officially kick off on Thanksgiving in San Diego, and a few days prior, we flew across the country to the greater Los Angeles area. Hilary's sister Stacey lives in Pasadena with her husband Ben (and their two cats) but we ended up flying into Long Beach airport since that's the only way we could use a pair of jetBlue vouchers that were about to expire.

Here we are on the flight. As you can see, Hilary isn't thrilled that I'm taking pictures on an airplane, but I wanted to commemorate the first flight of the (pre-)trip, and besides, we're going to have to develop a thick skin about that sort of thing or we're going to miss a lot of good photos.

You might not be able to notice, but we have the whole row to ourselves. This brings us to...

Spothopping Tip #1

When booking airline tickets for two, don't take adjacent seats. Grab a window and an aisle, near the back. For example, on a 25-row plane with six seats per row, you want 23A and 23C. Here's why:

  • You're well behind the wing, so you have an unobstructed view out the window and a little distance from the noisy engines.
  • Sometimes the seats have more legroom back there.
  • Sometimes you can board early. ("Rows 20 and higher...")
  • Sometimes they open a door in the back and you get to be one of the first off the plane too.
  • Most importantly, if the plane is even one passenger below capacity, where's that empty seat going to be — what's the last seat to sell? 23B, that's what.

In other words, about half the time, you get the row to yourselves. This makes an especially big difference on an overnight flight.

If someone does show up to take the seat, you can offer to let them take the aisle instead of the middle. They always do, and are thrilled that they don't have to take the center seat. So best case, the two of you spread across three seats. Worst-case, you sit next to each other.

Unless you're my parents, in which case neither of you is willing to take the middle seat. They make the poor stranger sit in the middle. And, yes, that means they have to spend the entire flight pretending that they don't know each other. It's especially weird down by the baggage claim.

I had never seen an outdoor baggage claim before. We don't have those in New York.
Long Beach Airport

You might not have known that there was an airport in Long Beach, and that's the way the locals like it. Per Wikipedia, this tiny airport is subject to some of the strictest ordinances in the United States on both noise and the number of commercial flights. JetBlue pretty much put them on the map — before that, their only claim to fame was Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan. In 1938, he tried to fly here from Brooklyn. He ended up in Dublin.

Dry creekbed with large boulders
Eaton Canyon

Pasadena lies right next to the San Gabriel Mountains, so while Stacey and Ben were at work, Mike and I decided we'd go over to the Eaton Canyon Natural Area for an afternoon hike.

I'd wanted to walk the historic Mt. Wilson Toll Road and to see if Eaton Falls were running despite the lack of rain this year. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the entrance all we found was a locked gate. Turns out it's been closed since early 2005 due to landslide. The Pasadena Visitors & Convention Bureau needs to update their website.

Luckily, the nearby Eaton Canyon Nature Center was still open so we headed out from there. We crossed a dry creekbed, then wandered around the foot trails and horse trails. I think we could have snuck over to the toll road from there, but it was too late in the day to make it back before sunset.

Blending in with the cacti

Nonetheless, I was glad we went in the early evening, because there were very few trees for shade. The ground was sandy, and the plant life was mainly chaparral and scrub. We did find a few nice cacti, though.

We wandered pretty far up Coyote Canyon, but turned back once we spotted poison oak. By the time we got back to the car the sun had set.

Who says they don't have changing seasons here?

I'm just posting this photo as proof that the people of Southern California do indeed get to experience autumn. You won't exactly mistake it for Vermont, but those are definitely red leaves on the ground. Q.E.D.

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