Grabbing our truck from my son’s friends in Long Beach and settling in for a long nap to reacclimate to the Pacific Time Zone was our goal on landing back at LAX. We grabbed an Uber after making our way through customs and were headed to Long Beach in no time. Our place of rest for the next couple days was Best Western Airport Long Beach. Nothing to write home about. Simple, clean and covering the basics with no charge for parking which made it the best deal. Sticker shock all the same after the well appointed hotels at cheap prices we’d become accustomed to in Thailand. It truly is more expensive to travel the US. We were hungry for a juicy burger so we wound up at our tried and true reliable Red Robin. Sticker shock again. Amazing how much we pay in the US for more processed foods then we had as our regular fare (seafood, rice noodles and fruit) in Southeast Asia. We were still happy to be “home”. Sleep came easily although for the next few days we remained a bit off kilter (for us) waking at 4am or so and then fighting our way through no naps and staying up to our usual 1 or 2am to get past the jet lag. The need for an adjustment period is real.
Wednesday found us eating late lunch at a Mexican place, Taco Beach Cantina, on the edge of downtown Long Beach satisfying another missing staple from our diet these past weeks. Returning the truck to the hotel parking lot we jumped on the LA Metro light rail to downtown LA and the Staples Center to begin our sporting event run that was the goal for this portion of the trip. Staples Center is a frontrunner on my list of favorite venues for a game. Home to both the Clippers and the Lakers and in a thriving, growing downtown metropolis. This evening was a match up between the LA Clippers and Washington Wizards. Although we are not true fans of any specific team in any sport, the Clippers rank right up there as among our favorites to view live. With the likes of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, JJ Redick and DeAndre Jordan, there is never a dull moment on the court. As favorite players go, Griffin is one of my personal favorites. This guy is a sh** talker on the court and with our seats this game we could easily catch the chatter and interaction of the players. We sat in Section 117 Row 1, just over the tunnel entry from the Clippers locker room. We’ve had similar seats a couple times in this “under the basket” zone. The ticket price is always great for the experience. Again, leave it to the booking agent in the family and he very rarely disappoints. More often then not he does not purchase through the box office and finds Stub Hub the go to source. He definitely does his shopping homework and is good at picking the timing for prices being at the optimal level. At all sporting events, second only to the true game, is the entertainment offered by team mascots. Chuck the Condor entertained on surfboard, 4 wheeler and hover board on this evening. Like a little kid, mascot antics make me giggle with glee! Clippers played better this night then they had in a few and pulled off a 133-124 win. The ride home was painless, reliable transportation that dropped us nearly back at our doorstep. It does travel by stops on the way such as Compton and Watts…I might not easily go it alone by this mode.
Thursday our truck sitters joined us so we could treat them to lunch at a place they picked but had never been. It was quite good. Burgers, creative sandwiches, nice entree salads and a great selection of microbrews..what every good hipster neighborhood should have ;-). The Social List for lunch or afternoon beers on the sidewalk patio should be a part of your list when in this Long Beach neighborhood. The Freeway Series was our sports fill for this evening. LA Dodgers at Anaheim Angels for exhibition baseball. A beautiful, mild spring evening at a great stadium. Angels pulled it off 3-2. We had a great view in Section 236 Row 1 in right field. The fans were even a bit frisky with some heckling for added entertainment since no mascot appeared here. I read it is unofficially the rally monkey but am uncertain he makes actual appearances. As disappointing as that was, the game and the crowd antics via the big board made for a fun night.
The infamous “bucket list” check marks hit the page on Saturday when we arrived at University of Phoenix Stadium to attend the 2017 Final Four!! These games were nearly beyond explanation. The electricity of championship sought and fan pride was pure exhilaration. The stadium was ridiculous. A basketball floor built and placed upon the football field. 77,612 Bulldogs, Ducks, Game Cocks and Tarheels were our companions for these final rounds. Spike and Cocky were our leaders in the rally up of the first game between Gonzaga and South Carolina. The final score of 77-73 carried the Bulldogs to the Final. Game 2 saw the Tarheels with their mascot Rameses beat the Ducks 77-76. The first time ever for the two winning teams to have the same score at game end. 113 was our section for these games. All tickets are sold as a package for both games on Saturday, with 40 minutes separating the two. Being on the first level still put you a great distance from the floor. Honestly, we saw nothing in the entire venue that could be considered the premium spot. It’s all a heck of a long ways away! We all agreed we felt lucky enough to be in this location that our broker (yes, my husband) landed the same vicinity with just a few more rows of pitch in elevation to get us to what we considered near perfect for the Final…at least with what price tag we were willing to part with. We traveled to and from the venue on this day by Uber. Holy traffic jams. Our tentative plan had been that after the games we would dine at one of the many options in Westgate adjacent to the stadium. Ha. So had at least 1/2 of those other 77000 attendees! We caught the most expensive Uber ever back to our side of town and closed out the night at PF Chang’s.
Sunday being a day of rest, we decided to sit back and relax in Section 109 where our right field seats gave us a birds eye view of Opening Day, Arizona Diamondbacks (4) vs the San Francisco Giants (3). The Giants club ranks right up there as another of my top teams to watch perform. The pitching matchup of Grienke vs Bumgarner promised some decent entertainment, we were not disappointed. Bumgarner actually received the designation of the only pitcher to ever score two home runs in the opening game at this event. It was a great day of baseball with Blake Harmon’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the USAF pregame flyover and Grant Hill’s first pitch as some of the highlights of this production with a mere 49,016 bodies in attendance. Baxter, the D-backs mascot as well as the big head Legends provided good laughs during game breaks. PotBelly Sandwich Shop pregame sandwiches were awesome by the way and easily accessed adjacent to this great ballpark, Chase Field, whose retractable roof was open on this crystal clear, desert, sunshiney sky day. A quick postgame jaunt across a couple blocks and we entered Talking Sticks Resort Arena for another day of back to back. The Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets, who came away with the win 123-116. The Suns Gorilla provided some fun added entertainment for this game.
Heading out the I-10 to Glendale in the early afternoon to beat the traffic jam of fans converging on the NCAA Final game we all agreed was a smart decision. We dined at Kabuki Japanese for late lunch and then headed over to the venue to watch Gonzaga vs North Carolina. Rooting for Gonzaga since they are from our territory ended up disappointing with the 71-65 final that made the Tarheels the 2017 champs. The fans all went crazy in the last 4 minutes or so with everyone on their feet in anticipation of their team clinching it. This truly was a slam dunk of a sports run that packed excitement at every turn.
Waffle House breakfast Tuesday and we were on the 202 east headed up through the desert. We took SR87 on to climb up 260 east to the 60 through a pinion pines forest and on to 5000 foot levels with Ponderosa Pines and traces of snow on the ground. On the 77 North, while gazing out the window I saw what felt like a scene out of a movie. Two highway patrol cars with a beat up old Honda pulled over and in front of the car sat an Indian woman on the ground, knees bent arms resting on knees with the red rocks of this high desert territory as the backdrop. I wondered at whether she had been ordered to sit or if she had assumed the position in protest? We reached our destination of Albuquerque, New Mexico and began the business segment of this travel. We had a great dinner at Pappadeux Seafood with an old friend we pitched on some ideas my honey as in the works. Today, Wednesday, we are on the I-25 headed to Denver for business meetings. Not long now and we will gather with children and grandchildren to play in the sun of Tortuga Beach in the villa stay we gifted them with at Christmas…Can’t wait to be with our peeps! #travelwithme