Trip Report: LA to Attend Michael & Honey’s Wedding

This past weekend Y and I drove down to Los Angeles to attend his younger son Michael’s wedding. (Thus the absence of daily posts here for five days.) It was our first trip out of town in 3 1/2 years, since December 2019, the last time we drove to LA. (Y has been on a couple business trips over the past couple years, but I haven’t left the Bay Area in that time.)

We left Thursday morning about 9:30am and drove the most direct way possible, down Interstate 5. We stopped at Harris Ranch ( for lunch, from about noon to 1pm. Along the interstate the hillsides were as green as I’ve ever seen them, many covered with blushes of yellow wildflowers. On the highway, every tenth truck, it seemed, was an Amazon truck. It was sunny but we drove beneath an endless series of little puffy white clouds, with increasingly dark undersides.

The rain began at Castaic, north of LA; it’s as if the storm that had gone through the Bay Area a couple nights before was just reaching LA. By Santa Clarita it was raining steadily, and as we headed down across the San Fernando Valley it was raining so hard traffic had slowed to a lumbering 40mph. Still raining when we reached the hotel. But half an hour later, by the time we checked in and reached our room, the storm had passed and the sun was out.

We stayed at the Luxe Sunset Hotel (, mostly because it was conveniently located — on Sunset just off the 405. I’d been there during the day for a Nebula Conference back in 2009. It was a decent-enough hotel but with a couple drawbacks. It’s separated in two levels, and main one near street level, the second one (perhaps built later?) farther up the hill (with the Getty Museum at the top of that hill), but with no connection between them. So to visit the hotel restaurant, for example, you had to walk down the driveway that cars use to valet at the second level, a fairly steep driveway. Also, the hotel had no gift shop, didn’t sell any newspapers, had no soda machines, and if they had ice machines they were well-hidden; all the result of the pandemic, the desk clerk explained. And our room was suspiciously bare and empty, as if a couple chairs that had once been there had been removed. The ‘refreshment bar’ was empty. Another drawback is that you can’t walk to anyplace from the hotel; it’s hemmed in by the freeway and Sunset Blvd, a busy street with no sidewalks. On the other hand, from the second level, we had a view, if narrow, looking out over the city, all the way from downtown to Century City to the Santa Monica Bay.

We met my sister and her husband for dinner that evening at a Black Angus out in Northridge. Driving there took an hour, in average traffic.

What struck me especially as we drove across the San Fernando Valley, on Nordhoff going west from the 405, was how vast Los Angeles is, including the San Fernando Valley. We drove about 4 miles to get to the restaurant; the entire city of Berkeley is only about 3 miles square. Only about half again as big as Northridge — one neighborhood of the city of Los Angeles just in the San Fernando Valley, which has some 34 neighborhoods (says, some defined simply by zip codes. You could plop the entire city of San Francisco, twice, inside the San Fernando Valley. And the Valley is just the upper northwest corner of the city of Los Angeles, which itself just the hub of the vast LA basin, containing the city of LA and all the surrounding cities — some 88 cities, per Google. (This impression was reinforced when we drove an hour out to Claremont to visit Gary Westfahl…)

Friday we met my old Rocketdyne friend Alan P for lunch at Poquito Mas, on Ventura Blvd in Woodland Hills ( He’s doing well, still there a decade after I was laid off. I was surprised to hear how many people I knew there, are still there. Alan is planning to retire in a couple years maybe, and contemplating moving away from LA, though still exploring where. After lunch we drove around the neighborhood, and past our old house, now painted white. The lot where Rocketdyne stood on Canoga Avenue is now completely razed, as if that famous rocket factory never existed. (The former Litton plant on Canoga by the freeway is also gone.)

At 4pm we met the wedding party and other participants for the rehearsal. The site was the MountainGate Country Club (, located in the hills above the 405, just north of the Getty Museum. You reach it by driving up a long gently curvy road from Sepulveda Blvd, halfway through the Sepulveda Pass; that road is clearly visible to everyone driving south on the 405, and has been for decades. I’d always heard that cyclists use it to practice their climbing. The wedding itself was held on one of the greens of the golf course; the practice rehearsal was on the patio of the main banquet hall.

The rehearsal took less than an hour — who to stand where, which of us to walk forward on cue, where to sit, and so on. We ran through it twice. As partner of the groom’s father, I was seated in the front row with the parents (the groom’s mother has remarried and also has a new partner).

Then most of us adjourned, for the rehearsal dinner, to a small restaurant in Santa Monica, right on Ocean Avenue, called Blue Plate Oysterette ( There were about 30 of us, and we took over the entire restaurant. The set menu for the evening included raw starters, which I can’t [not supposed to] eat; cooked starters, like grilled oysters; then a choice of entree, mine being black cod. All quite good.

Saturday was the wedding itself, and ‘parents’ were instructed to arrive at least a couple hours before the event, for photos. Y and I had rented tuxedos via an online outfit called The Black Tux ( that took our measurements on its website and shipped the clothes to our door. Shiny shoes, white shirt, pants and tux and jacket, pre-tied bow tie; the works. The first time I’ve ever worn a ‘tux,’ and perhaps the last.

Photos were taken along one of the golf cart paths, against a backdrop of shrubs and trees, as in this example.

Plastic chairs were set up on the green, with an informal archway for the officiant, Angela, who is one of ‘the cousins’ of Michael’s and his brother’s who live in the Bay Area. (Angela is a fun person who is very active in progressive San Francisco politics.) The ceremony was typically brief, with remarks acknowledging, as I didn’t realize everyone knew, that this was technically Michael and Honey’s *third* wedding. (Long story: they’d gotten engaged in 2019, and planned a wedding in mid 2020, at this same venue. Pandemic happened; event cancelled. They got married anyway, in a civil ceremony, for reasons, but didn’t publicize it. Once the 2023 wedding was scheduled, they went to the Philippines, where Honey’s extended family is from, and had an event there in late 2022, the second. Now this one in 2023, for family and friends in the US.)

The reception was elaborate and lively. Eight or ten tables with eight or ten people each; a buffet dinner with salads, prime rib, and sides; speeches by the parents and siblings; cutting of the cake; then a DJ and dancing. Open if limited bar. I didn’t have a chance to take many pictures myself. There were at least three professional photographers wandering around the event and through the room endlessly (a full day’s work for them). In one corner of the banquet hall was a backdrop with another set of photographers taking pictures of anyone who wanted to pose. All of their photos became available on their site (, though only in black and white. I experimented with my iPhone taking videos, which I’d never done before, and got a couple decent ones, including one of Michael dancing that I posted on Facebook. Y and I departed around 10:30, as the hold-outs were getting ready to abscond to a bar in Marina del Rey. Apparently they were there until the wee hours….

The last family event was a dim sum luncheon at a huge restaurant, NBC Seafood (, in Monterey Park, Sunday morning. Most of the same extended family and friends. I like some dim sum, if not all (e.g. the chicken feet), and this one was amplified with lobster, lettuce wraps, and Peking duck ( It stretched on until 2pm.

After that Y and I had a urgent matter to attend to. When we’d gotten the car (we drove Y’s car) from the valet that morning, I’d seen a bubble, or dimple, in the sidewall of the front right tire, and I thought, and his sons concurred as we left the dim sum place, we should get the tire replaced before driving home on Monday. (I had such a dimple on one of my tires, perhaps a decade ago, the result of hitting a deep pothole. The tire didn’t go flat, so I kept driving on it. Until one day it, abruptly, went flat. I wanted to avoid the possibility this time of a blow-out half-way up the I5, or the 101, in the middle of nowhere.)

We headed to nearest Costco, which didn’t have the size tire we needed. The next place we checked, Firestone, did! So we sat for two hours while they replaced the two front tires.

Our final scheduled event for the weekend was to visit Gary Westfahl and his wife out in Claremont. We were there in 2019 for lunch. We had planned to be there by 5 but were an hour late. Gary fixed enchiladas and rice and beans, and we talked about our health, his projects, my projects, and Locus.

Monday morning we checked out to head home, though we got a later start than I’d hoped. We decided to drive the 101, a prettier though longer drive than along the I5, even though it would take at least an hour longer. Also, with rush-hour beginning around 4pm, the stretch of 880 from San Jose up to Oakland would be clogged if we didn’t get there before then; and so it was. We left the hotel at 8:30, got home at 5:45pm, with an hour layover in Solvang for lunch.

The weather was as beautiful as the first part of the drive to LA the previous Thursday. Sunny, crystal clear, air as transparent as it could be. Emerging from Ventura, as the highway hugs the coastline, the view all the way up to Santa Barbara was as sharp as I’ve ever seen it; you could count structures on the peninsula west of downtown. From Ventura.

(The ideal fastest trip from Oakland to LA or back is 5 hours, with no stops. From Oakland, an hour east on 580 to the 5; three solid hours south to the Grapevine; another hour through the hills to the San Fernando Valley. Add an hour for lunch and/or gas stops. Six hours. Taking the 101 is at least an hour longer because the route is longer, driving along the coast and winding through various hills. Perhaps six hours with no stops; seven with a lunch stop. We added another almost hour by taking Route 1 through Malibu, instead of jumping on the 101 in the Valley. And then we hit the predictable traffic on the 880 between San Jose and Oakland. So the trip took about nine hours.

Solvang (,_California) is a charming California tourist attraction, the kind of place most states have I suspect, locally popular if not well-known outside the state. Solving began as a Danish settlement dating back to 1911, or even 1804, says Wikipedia. The central few blocks are full of gift shops and restaurants and bakeries. And also a bookstore. The first time I was ever there, in 1972, was on a family trip when I was 16, and I bought a copy of the HPL paperback edition of Arthur C. Clarke’s THE CITY AND THE STARS in a small multi-floor bookshop along the town’s main drag. Though having passed through, or even stayed over (in 1984, when I participated in the Solvang Century, a 100-mile bicycle ride) in the city over the years, I’d never been back to that bookstore. Was it even still there? It is. The Book Loft ( Nice second floor of used and collectible books. On the main floor, from the corner of Danish and other Scandinavian books, I bought a copy of the first volume of Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell’s Norse Mythology.

We got home and reassured our cats. For the first time, I’d hired a professional service, The Comforted Kitty (, to visit the house each day to take care of the cats. They did well; Danlin, our representative, came every day and took photos of the cats and everything else she had to do (bring in the papers, etc.). But the cats were naturally shy around her. But now we’re home, and the cats are comfortable again.

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