The primary lesson learned from this past weekends whirlwind trip to Auto Books – Aero Books in Burbank, California, was don’t be afraid to ask for directions and don’t expect those you ask to know more than you do. Hence the title for today’s post. This particular adventure started with a full day at the office and a short stop by the Beale Street Gallery to check on Chris, his wife, and Angela, the gallery owner. They had been working against the clock to prepare the Bob Waldmire exhibit for the opening that evening that would coincide with the start of the Route 66 Fun Run.After a few hours of sleep we rolled west crossing the Colorado River into California at 4:00 AM. We were deep into the Mojave Desert when the eastern sky turned pink and dawn began chasing the mountain shadows across the stark desert valleys. We focused on the task at hand and fought the urge to find a track across the desert where we could bask in the morning solitude. This became even more of a difficulty after reaching Barstow and the joining the flood of traffic that flows south, over the Cajon Pass, and into the LA basin. By LA standards the traffic inbound was relatively light. Still, for us small town folks six lanes of high speed driving in a veritable sea of motor vehicles is a rather exhilarating adventure to say the very least.
Our destination, Auto Books – Aero Books on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank is more than a time capsule mom and pop book store, especially on Saturday mornings. In addition to an inventory that is staggering in its diversity, the Saturday morning activities include a never ending parade of automotive history, an endless ebb and flow of bibliophiles and gear heads, fresh pastries from the historic bakery at the end of the block, and lots of coffee. I was not taking artistic license when noting the inventory was staggering in its scope. I challenge anyone remotely interested in books to visit and see if they can get in and out in 15 minutes.
In our recent visit, I looked at an original three volume set of Studebaker parts books from 1929, an encyclopedic work on vintage automotive wrecks, several biographies on German World War II pilots, another biography on Walter Marr, and a definitive work on the Stanley brothers and the Packard automobile company. My wife found a biography on Jimmy Stewart, the actor and a decorated World War II pilot, a detailed repair manual for the Model A Ford, and an original book on the 1909 around the world race.
While I signed books she took pictures as cars came and went, and the crowds ebbed and flowed. There were new Jags, an original black plate Buick Wildcat, a few sports cars of various makes, convertibles, and even antiques. It was just another typical Saturday at Auto Books – Aero Books.To find lodging in the greater Los Angeles area that doesn’t break the bank but that is also in a safe, central location is a challenge. On this adventure we discovered the Good Nite Inn, a chain with a motel in Calabasas, about thirty miles west on Burbank off U.S. 101.Old, clean, surprisingly quiet, nice location, and a price of $86, including tax, were the positive. The flip side were odd things like a door that was tweaked to the point the gap at the frame toward the bottom could be filled with a towel. Saturday evening, with exhaustion looming, we discovered a delightful little restaurant a few miles to the west on Agoura Road in Agoura Hills. I find it a bit odd to eat at a very authentic Italian restaurant where it was obvious everyone spoke Spanish as a primary language. The food was excellent. The price at the upper end of moderate. The service excellent. In my book Isabella’s Italian Kitchen rates quite high and will be visited again as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Sunday morning dawned clear and cool with the faintest hint of a sea breeze in the air (as the crow flies Malibu is about 20 miles to the south). So, we set out for the Marmalade Cafe in Calabasas with their sidewalk seating. Here the setting, service, and food rate very high. The price leaned toward expensive. Still, I can honestly say it was a delightful breakfast enhanced by the company of my dearest friend and colorful song birds at arms length.
After an informal signing at the Barnes & Nobel we set sail for the homeward journey via a detour through beautiful Topanga Canyon to Malibu, up the coast to Oxnard and then inland into the deserts at Lancaster and Mojave. My wife and I are desert folks through and through. Still, we enjoy the coast and will take a stroll along the beach any time an opportunity is presented. On this visit our timing was perfect as a large farmers market with all manner of fresh produce was taking place in Malibu. In addition to the delightful fruits and vegetables there were vendors sell, and providing samples, of all manner of foods including authentic Greek and Afghan treats.
With afternoon fast approaching, and a drive of more than 400 miles ahead of us, we reluctantly saddled up and set home in earnest. What a delightful final chapter – a cruise along the coast, a basket of fresh strawberries, dried papaya chunks, odd Afgahn treats, and, as we neared the deserts, vast fields of brilliant orange California poppies. Initially we had planned a return on Route 66, at least from Ludlow to Essex, but exhaustion was on our heels as the sun sank toward the western horizon and so we chose the shortest distance, set the cruise control, and rolled east on I-40 after a short stop to refuel in Barstow. In spite of the long drive that still awaited us with shadows lenghtening across the desert floor and a Technicolor sunset on the far horizon we just couldn’t resist a few stops to savor our beloved deserts. The urge to stop corresponded directly with the deepening dusk. This photo, and the new one at the top of the page, were taken just south of I-40 on the road to Amboy. So ends another delightful adventure of 833 miles with my dearest friend, an adventure that has led to greater respect for the all around prowess of the Jeep Cherokee and renewed appreciation for Kingman, my adopted hometown. Now, as a final note, an explanation for the title. Calabasas seems to be broken into two distinct sections and as a result I initially had difficulty finding our motel. So, I asked directions.The first person I asked was a bank security officer who informed me that he was new to the area but assumed it was to the west off U.S. 101. My second stop was to a UPS store, where not one, but two clerks gave me different directions with the final explanation being they weren’t sure. One went so far as to say, “I think that if you go to the second or third light, to the corner where the Canyon Bar used to be, you turn left.”