Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

TAKOTOR 2016: Inaugural Takotor by the Numbers

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Our inaugural “Takotor” ride in February found a group of us cycling thirty miles around Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, sampling local taco joints. Thanks to visiting friends Hyunoo and Tif for inspiring us to show you a bit of California living.

Hungry riders: 8
And we’re already thinking of the second mouthwatering Takotor, so keep your ears to the ground for the next round.

Taco (and burrito) purveyors: 5

  • Stacky’s Seaside in Summerland (now closed, I hear) for breakfast burritos
  • Taqueria Rincon Alteno, a gas station taqueria in Carpinteria with loaded up veggie tacos
  • Tacos Don Roge, close to Carpinteria beach
  • Taqueria La Colmena in Santa Barbara, a near-unanimous fave by the group
  • Taqueria El Bajio in Santa Barbara

Ratings collected through TakoScore: 34
At our second stop, Sheldon came up with a quick and easy taco rating system so we could collect our comparisons of all the taquerias visited throughout the day. And thus TakoScore was born! It evolved throughout the day to include previously-overlooked metrics. In the end, we landed on measuring the following aspects of each taco purveyor: taste, mouthfeel, ingredients, ambiance, salsas, and the open-to-interpretation sexiness.

Venue Taste Mouthfeel Ingredients Ambiance Salsas Sexiness
STACKYS 4.2 4.3 3.3 4.3 3.0 3.8
RINCON ALTENO 3.3 2.7 3.6 2.7 3.0 2.7
DON ROGE 2.1 2.7 2.4 5.0 3.3 2.7
LA COLMENA 4.9 4.9 4.6 4.6 4.9 4.7
EL BAJIO 3.5 4.6 3.6 3.4 3.3 3.0

takotor 2016: "The horizon is an endless taco."

Brewery stops: 2
Stopped for pints at Island Brewing and BrewLAB in Carpinteria.

Cafe breaks: 1
Just the one stop at one of our favorite Carp joints, Lucky Llama!

Churros: 0
To the dismay of our ridership, once we finally located the mystical churro shop, they had run out of churros for the day. Next TakoTor must return.

Written by Crystal Bae

April 29th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Reflections on 2015

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Here’s my year 2015, recapped in approximate order. I’ve been doing very little blogging despite much happening in my life, but the new year is a nice time to reflect on how things have been developing.

Walking to Knapp's Castle

Read onto the recap!

Written by Crystal Bae

January 6th, 2016 at 7:55 am

Thanksgiving Bike Tour: Palmdale to Santa Barbara, California

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Thankful for the families that we’re born into and the families that we find. Thanksgiving is a favorite time for me, a festive holiday centered around food and family. The past couple years have been tough in that I haven’t been able to spend Thanksgiving with my family, missing out on the mornings catching up with cousins and the hours spent cooking up a feast of Korean and American comforts. But we’ve been fortunate on the west coast, too, welcomed by friends to their dinner tables and making a little community of our own out here. This year we were invited by friends to join in on their new tradition of taking a Thanksgiving bike tour, and I can’t imagine a better way to have spent the long weekend.

Read on about the tour

Written by Crystal Bae

November 30th, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Chicago’s neighborhoods and skyscrapers

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We took a little break from work and spent a few days in Chicago this past Labor Day weekend. My second time in the city was a new look at the skyscraper-filled Midwestern city on Lake Michigan.

My first visit, in 2007 for Pitchfork Music Fest, was a short roadtrip from DC. I stayed in a downtown Chicago hostel in a room with ten (!) people, listened to Sonic Youth, GZA, and others play great sets in the park, took a very informative walking tour of the city, and tried deep dish pizza for the first time at Pizzeria Uno.

Chicago skyline at brunch

This visit, 7 years later, I tried an AirBnB rental for the first time and loved it, attended the incredible blowout wedding of two good friends, explored the “finally up-and-coming” Logan Square neighborhood, took an equally informative river boat tour of Chicago architecture, and had deep dish at Lou Malnati’s.

And the first time I was in Chicago I had no idea that in the 19th century, the city (buildings and all!) had been raised and that the original flow of the river had been reversed, both for water sanitation reasons. Knowing this gave me renewed respect for Chicago’s history and its incredible feats of engineering, not to mention its architectural heritage.

Chicago river boat tour of architecture

We were sad to leave Chicago and city life behind, but glad to leave the humidity. Southern California living makes you soft.

Written by Crystal Bae

September 3rd, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Sequoia National Forest

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Peaceful camping in Sequoia National Forest last weekend, tucked away under the majestic trees while Fourth of July crowds gathered along the banks of the Kern River.

On the Trail of 100 Giants

Trees as far as the eye can see

Written by Crystal Bae

July 12th, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Posted in camping,travel

Los Angeles, First Take

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Reached Los Angeles on the day after Thanksgiving – a rainy one – after two days of riding from Santa Barbara. Adam and I had decided on a short Thanksgiving weekend bike tour since we finally had a chunk of free time off from work and school. Despite the rain, which left us thoroughly drenched by the time we reached LA, we enjoyed being back in the saddle and exploring new places on the California coast.

Day 1, clouds

Trail along the beach in LA

Entering Los Angeles via the Strand trail from Will Rogers Beach past Santa Monica was as relaxing as any weekend bike ride. We rode along a mixed-use path that cut right through the beach – no need to deal with traffic other than the occasional brave jogger. The path itself continues further south for a total of 22 miles in length, but we headed in towards downtown once we got to Venice. The mix of rain and sand led to lots of accumulated grime on our bikes, but the wet day also meant very light traffic once we got back to on-street riding.

It was neat wandering around Koreatown in the afternoon (eventually the rain did lighten up), as it was my first time visiting LA and because I’d been missing easy access to good Korean restaurants. We also enjoyed trying a selection of pastries from the local panaderias. It’s true that LA’s Koreatown is home to about as many Mexican immigrants as Koreans, and apparent when you walk around the neighborhood. Some streets have more Spanish-language signage while others are dominated by hangul. A vibrant neighborhood overall, with lively street life and families with young children walking around in the evening. We did also see a little bit of downtown in the early morning, though I’m sure we’ll be back to see more soon.

Entering Koreatown LA

Written by Crystal Bae

December 9th, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Road Trip to Big Sur

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A great weekend trip up north to Big Sur, a scenic part of the central California coast where I had last been on the bike trip with Adam. It was definite change to see things from inside a car, with the tight curves of the Pacific Coast Highway passing in a blur. I was both pleased to see other cyclists enjoying this beautiful stretch of coastline and anxious about how little space they really had on the road, with a constant stream of fast-moving cars and motorcyclists enjoying the drive. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d ride the PCH again on a bicycle, at least not on a busy weekend.

Big Sur Panorama

Big Sur is an interesting area. The first time we passed through we couldn’t figure out when we were actually in Big Sur. The signage seems to disagree on what bounds the region. There’s a little community that calls itself “Big Sur” toward the northern reach of Big Sur, but the region continues quite a bit further south along the PCH. The shift in landscape is very apparent as you leave Big Sur, however.

We hiked through stands of coastal redwoods and set up a miniature tent city at our site. With the decreasing daylight, we donned headlamps and finished cooking dinner into the darkness. We consumed close to twenty heads of garlic in one meal (almost 2 heads of garlic per person). An early start that morning, a good uphill hike, and 10 o’clock quiet hours meant we were all in our tents with plenty of time to sleep off the long day.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a great choice if you’re looking to camp in the area. It’s popular but large enough to accommodate hundreds of people, and offers hiking trails in walking distance of your site.

Big Sur Redwoods

Valley Trail Hike in Big Sur

Big Sur Waterfall

In the evening, we took time out to admire the stars. You can see so many out there.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 6th, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Sunnier Days

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It’s a bittersweet feeling as our trip comes to a close. We’re trying our best to savor every moment, while looking forward with anticipation to our next stage in life. We tell everyone we meet we’re almost there, and each new day brings us nearer to Santa Barbara. Now we look at our destination on a map and it doesn’t seem so far, especially compared to how far we’ve come already.

Watching seals play

Over the past few days, the colder coastal weather has been slowly warming up, with more hours of sunlight with each passing day. We stop often, to watch seals play or have a roadside snack or talk to other travelers. Bike paths are becoming more common, and we appreciate each one. Yesterday we passed huge strawberry farms with busloads of migrant workers listening to the radio as they worked in the heat of the day. Dusty roads greeted us with the aroma of strawberries. I saw my first field of artichokes – never imagined the plants looked the way they do. It’s nice to be out learning about the world first-hand.

Nice CA bike path

Big vista

We’ve had several big climbs that reward us with big vistas. Big Sur was a nice climb. A passing road cyclist cheered our effort. A morning climb today between Gorda and Ragged Point was a perfect start to the day, which is warming up quickly. The first half of the day is usually still blanketed by the marine layer, though. We have to run our headlights and taillights to be seen while riding, as we can barely see the road ahead of us ourselves.

Morning marine layer

Written by Crystal Bae

August 17th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Blue Skies in San Francisco

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The sun actually came out today in San Francisco, making it an easy decision to walk over for the park to picnic away the afternoon, soak up vitamin D, and wander through the de Young Museum. We spent time catching up with friends who are both former DC residents and new residents to SF, having lived here less than a year each. I love discussing differences in lifestyle from east coast city living versus west coast city living. There’s much more homelessness here, some of it voluntary.

The Lawn Bowling Club was out, playing what looked to me like bocce. The signs, however, forbade playing bocce on the lawn bowling greens – so there must be some major difference. They invited us to come learn how to play during their free lesson tomorrow, but we’re back on the road then.

San Francisco Lawn Bowling

The view from the observation deck of the de Young Museum was improved by the lack of fog that is quintessential San Francisco. We could see all the populated streets fanning out on the hillsides.

View from the de Young observation deck

The museum was designed by the prominent architects Herzog & de Meuron and I felt that the building was as much on display as the collections of art. In the cafe courtyard, people were out soaking up the sun.

De Young Museum Cafe Courtyard

We made sure, of course, to eat enough Mexican food to fuel us for the last few days of our trip. Continuing south tomorrow, hopefully with fresh legs!

Written by Crystal Bae

August 14th, 2013 at 2:05 am

Cycling the Avenue of the Giants

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Avenue of the Giants, a 30-mile stretch of scenic road that parallels 101, redeemed what had otherwise been a tiresome stretch of riding. Our morale was wearing thin after days of riding a shoulder alongside inattentive (or inexperienced?) RV drivers, and even the pleasure of riding through the northern part of Redwood National Park was dampened by the cold, wet weather.

When we turned off 101 to ride onto Avenue of the Giants, however, the skies opened up to let some sunlight in and the coast redwoods made their majesty clear. We meandered along the various paths, taking our time along the redwood groves and reading the signposts. The ranger station even offered free coffee. It’s always the little things you really appreciate on a big trip.

Cycling through Avenue of the Giants

Written by Crystal Bae

August 11th, 2013 at 9:27 pm