Malibu Mission

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What to do when you’re in Malibu?  I’ve had a lot of followers asking about where and how I met Stanley the Giraffe. The answer is a trip to Saddlerock Ranch and signing up for a Malibu Wine Hike. The suggestion for this activity came from my good friend Jordan, and I’m so glad she suggested it.  I knew my boyfriend was coming to visit and we were looking for some ideas on unique things to do in the area. Malibu Wine Hikes was the perfect solution and I think we would all continue to recommend this adventure.

First off, the word “hike” is being used pretty loosely (we both did the entire hike in Sperrys). It’s more of a nice walk through a beautiful vineyard that’s rested among the Malibu Canyons. Along your walk you’ll get to explore beautiful scenic views, rows of grape vines, a unique garden, and romantic event and venue spaces (you may even spot the Bachelor mansion). The highlight of this trip though, is of course all of the friends you’ll meet along the way.

There was about 10 of us in our group all of different ages and backgrounds, but most were all from the surrounding Los Angeles area. Now the hikes we did were group hikes, but if you have a big enough group, you can book a private hike as well.

The other friends I was talking about though, are the main attractions- an eclectic family of exotic animals. On your hike you’ll make plenty of new friends when you stop and feed goats, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, zebras, and even Stanley the Giraffe. On the hike you’ll spend quite a bit of time interacting with the animals and you’ll get to learn more about them as well as the history behind the ranch’s owners, the ranch, and the vineyard.

Be sure to have your cameras ready and fully charged because there are tons of photo ops along that way that you won’t want to miss. It’s truly an experience you’ll never forget and is definitely worth it.  Once you’re done with the hike you’ll get to go up to the wine tasting area and sample 5 of the most popular Saddlerock wines (a $20 value included!)

Tips & Tricks of the Day:

Whether you’re from LA, just here visiting, or have a special celebration coming up, Malibu Wine Hikes is the perfect way to celebrate and enjoy the area. Our hike was $65/person for about 4 hours of fun.  I booked our hike about 3 weeks in advance. Just be aware that the spots can fill up fast since it’s such small groups. The hike itself took about two hours then we spent about two hours in the wine tasting area.

***things we didn’t know but wish we did***

You can stay after in the wine tasting area as long as you’d like. On the weekends they often have live music playing and it’s a very hip and trendy spot to spend a day or afternoon. They also sometimes have a food truck, BUT you can also bring in as much food and non-alcoholic beverages as you like. Tons of people had gourmet picnics set up and one group even had pizzas delivered.  You and a group of friends could easily make a day out of it (plus if you’re worried about driving so far and drinking, it’s not as expensive or uncommon as you’d think to just take an Uber especially from the valley.) Regardless of doing the hike or not though, the only way to get to the wine tasting area is by trolley or shuttle from the main parking lot.  The main parking lot address is associated with Saddle Rock Ranch and the same parking lot for the Wine Hikes and safaris.

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Other things to keep in mind:

Check the weather before you go.  Since it’s deeper in the canyons and at a higher elevation than the beach it tends to be warmer and sunnier.  In the event it rains, or the weather is horrible (extremely unlikely) they do have a rescheduling policy that might work for you. You’re definitely going to want to make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen.  There’s very little shade along the path and bringing sunglasses is also a smart idea. You’ll also want to bring a water bottle with you.  They do have filling stations along the way, but they don’t have any bottles or cups available at the time we went.

As far as what to wear, I wore jean capris, a light weight sweater, and Sperrys (you have to wear close toed shoes for the hike). I was waaaaay too hot in my outfit, but I managed just fine. If you’re most comfortable in workout gear, I would suggest you wear that.  If you want to dress up a little more and be more fashionable for photos, you’ll be fine just make sure you can move freely and be prepared for about a  two-mile walk.  The reason why people would want to look cute for the hike besides photos, is because the wine tasting area is extremely trendy and very LA. To me, going can even feel like being part of a fashion show. There’s always a very diverse group of people there though, and of course other people will be in casual hiking clothes as well so just wear whatever you will be the most comfortable in.

When you look to book your trip, you might also come across the Wine Safaris. They’re at the same location and you’ll see many of the same things, but you’ll miss out on the exercise and won’t get to interact with the animals quite as much.  But for larger groups, it still looked like an extremely fun experience.

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Extend your Day:

If you drove (or even if you didn’t) you can always extend your day before or after your hike and go to one of Malibu’s beautiful beaches.  We went to El Matador before our hike (one of my favorite beaches in the area.) I love El Matador because it’s very scenic due to its stunning rock outcroppings.  Again, it also makes for great photo opportunities.  Don’t worry though the sand is still perfectly soft and not rocky at all.

When visiting El Matador beach, you can pay to park for pretty reasonable fees in the lot, but if the spots are all full you can park a little farther away along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for free.  (I haven’t got a ticket yet for doing that and everyone else does it, so I think it’s fine!) 

It is a bit of a journey to get down from the parking area.  You’ll have to trek down a pretty steep slope and then make your way down a few flights of stairs, so I’d think twice before you bring too much stuff to carry. The view is amazing, and you never know what you might see, perhaps a pod of dolphins swimming in the distance, a few surfers catching waves, or you may just find the lost swing.

Malibu Wine Hikes and beaches were great suggestions and I am more than happy to recommend!  Please let me know if you sign up for a Malibu Wine Hike and feel free to ask any more questions.  I’m always taking recommendations and suggestions of what to do next for my Things To-Do List at dayofjae@gmail.com!

Taking on Traffic

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(While this picture wasn’t taken in LA and it isn’t me driving…. It is still my car and I took it!)

Well… I’m not an Iowa any morethat’s for sure. When you come to visit or move to LA if the palm trees and sunshine aren’t enough to immediately tell you you’re in a new place then it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself stuck in traffic on the 101 freeway and the message reads loud and clear.  Traffic here really does suck.

There are a lot of rumors that surround Los Angeles and transportation (but there are a lot of truths about them too).  In just a short time of living in LA spread out over a few years, I’ve experienced it all from using public transportation, trying out all the rideshare services, and even driving!

Everyone says that the public transportation systems suck in LA and well if you’re someone whose use to living in New York or Chicago then you’d agree. Los Angeles is a different kind of city because it’s so spread out compared to cities that have skyscrapers and believe in building up into the sky.  When I first lived in Los Angeles for a summer internship, I was testing it all out.  I lucked out rented an apartment that happened to be less than a block away from a metro stop. For me to get from my apartment in North Hollywood/Studio City all the way to Universal City for work, I walked one block, got on a metro bus for one stop, transferred to a metro subway for one stop then got off and walked across the street to work. Easy Peasy! All this took about 45 mins each way and cost about $5 round trip.  Sounds great, right? Well since moving back it’s my understanding that that was a pretty rare and unique experience that I’ll probably never find again.

Unless you find yourself in a similar situation where you live in close proximity to a stop, it can be very challenging.  There’s not very much parking at the metro stops and stations so you have to walk or Uber to catch a metro ride. The metro lines aren’t as well connected as in other cities either. You could find yourself in a situation where you have to go all the way downtown to make your connection train and then back track on a different line to get to the neighborhood you work in! But none the less public transportation does exist if you’re willing to make it work.  I also think that most of us are too stuck in our ways and tailored to this idea that “we have to drive” to even find a route or see if there’s a public transportation option available to us. Not as many people are willing to trade in their road rage for sitting next to strangers, but if you’re the kind of person that can actually get your morning started by either answering emails, reading a book, or even taking a little snooze in public—then it could definitely be worth checking out! Yes, it might take you a little longer, but you have more of an opportunity to make that time worth it and be productive.

One morning during my internship, I woke up a little later than usual and knew I wasn’t going to make it on time if I took the subway.  I decided to Uber instead and actually learned that going to work in the mornings was cheaper and quicker by Ubering rather than public transportation. The Uber ride would take 15 minutes and cost about $1.75… purely amazing and life changing (I now had an extra 15 minutes to get ready every morning or get to work even that much earlier which for me is a big deal!)

 

When I lived in LA the first time Uber and Lyft were still pretty new concepts to me, but before long they became my life line.  When my mom and I arrived at LAX we had plans to immediately rent a car for the weekend, but that idea quickly turned into a nightmare. Long story short, I’m just going to let you know that I will never try renting a car from a rental place close to LAX ever again.  If you’re here for a short period of time, trust me it’s not worth the stress, waiting, and money!  Just download a rideshare app instead- I swear! I convinced my mom right then and there we were going to just Uber all weekend and 12 minutes later our driver was coming to pick us up and saved us from all the struggles.

Uber has been a life saver in many different moments. It made getting around in Los Angeles easy, “quicker,” and was pretty affordable considering the alternatives. My mom and I both loved getting to meet different drivers and hearing their advice and life stories while we also got to sit back, relax, and not worry about directions, parking, or which exit to take. People often get in the discussion of whether Uber or Lyft is better, and everyone has a different response. Some drivers drive for both services and will tell you different things. For me, they’re both about equal. I’ve had great luck with both and some frustrating moments with both. Most importantly I’ve always felt safe on both and when there were times I ran into issues both customer services responded quickly and were very helpful! If I have time and am not in a hurry I usually check the rate with both and then pick which ever one will be cheaper. Usually though, they’re pretty close so I pick whichever one can have a driver there the quickest.

My favorite thing to do in LA (in terms of traveling and traffic that is) is to take Uber pool. Uber pools or Lyft Lines are ride options offered in the app (they’re usually only offered in your major metropolitan areas though). They allow parties of 1-2 riders to share their ride with another rider usually for ½ the price of the original ride. Generally speaking it only adds an additional 15-30 mins onto your trip.  I’ve seen some of the neatest areas and neighborhoods and met some amazing people all because of Uber pool. For example, one Saturday I was going to Manhattan Beach and we stopped and picked up another girl in her mid-twenties who was also headed to that beach. Neither of us were meeting anyone until later that afternoon so we decided we’d just go to the beach together and hangout. We spent the entire afternoon discussing our lives back and forth with a complete stranger and then at the end of the day we both went our separate ways- but it was a really great time.

While that was an amazing experience, you do have to be careful and smart about it. Although I haven’t had any bad experiences, I do choose not to pool later in the evening or when I’m closer to certain areas of town. Also, as often as you meet some neat people you’ll also get passengers who do not want talk or even look at you (we all have those days). If you’re in a hurry and crunched for time, don’t rely on pool just because it’s cheaper.  It’s not always a guarantee that they’ll get you there on time especially with traffic. Do everyone a favor and pay the few dollars more just to take your own ride in those situations.

When I moved back to LA a month ago I had decided not to bring my car and planned on ridesharing everywhere. I wanted to get reacquainted with the area once again and I wanted to see if I really needed truly needed a car… Almost immediately I regretted that decision. Uber prices had definitely gone up and I was living in a less central area compared to North Hollywood (now I’m in the San Fernando Valley). My expenses were rapidly adding up and it took too much time to plan ahead to rideshare.  So, I needed my car but now that I had a new job and I couldn’t go back to Iowa to get it. I had looked into shipping it and that was going to cost about $2,000 which did not seem worth it.  On to plan b… My boyfriend, being as great as he is, agreed to drive it out to me. I’ve had a car now for two weeks, which I know doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s made all the difference. I was beyond nervous to drive at first… I had no idea of how to really get anywhere and I had never drove in traffic like this before. But now, I’m thinking to myself, what was I so nervous for. Right now, I live and work in the valley which is no different than driving in town in places like Iowa City or Ankeny, Iowa. Yes, the freeways are a little different though especially during rush-hour. I’ll tell you what though, I’d rather drive in LA than Chicago because at least people here are lucky to be moving 10 miles an hour where in Chicago everyone’s flying down the interstate at 85 miles per hour. The biggest thing you have to pay attention for is people cutting you off and swerving in and out of lanes usually without using turn signals. Motorcycles are also terrifying because they can weave in and out of traffic going 60 miles an hour even if you’re stopped. If you stay alert and pay attention though, you’ll be fine! Just stay focused on your lane and the lanes next to you, be greedy when you need to be, don’t be a jerk, and take turns when you can!

 

There’s another key difference when driving in LA (typically the guys you’re with will notice it first). If you’re anything like my boyfriend, Dad, or Uncle the first thing you realize is that you’re always surrounded by fancy cars. The people here drive a lot of different cars than you might be used to. My dream Mercedes G-Wagons are everywhere, and Tesla’s might as well be the new Prius in LA County (even cars like a Rolls-Royce aren’t that uncommon). Make sure to keep your eyes on the road though so that you don’t accidently fender-bender a Lamborghini.

(And then there’s cars in Cali like these…good thing though, people would see me coming from a mile away.)

 

If you’ve ever lived in Iowa City, you know parking there sucks so naturally I was worried what it’d be like in LA but honestly, it’s not that bad in most neighborhoods. There’s a lot more street parking then you’d think (but you better be ready to parallel park), parking garages are actually pretty cheap especially with store validation, and you can valet at almost every restaurant for like $8-10 plus tip if you’re really in a hurry to meet someone.

Overall the rumors are pretty accurate. While living in LA without a car isn’t impossible, it certainly makes life more difficult if you’re living here long term or commuting to work every day. I’ll leave you with a few more tips to take into consideration if you’re planning to visit or make a move. Don’t pay attention to how many miles something is away. That number means nothing here and will actually make you more frustrated. When plugging an address or location into Google Maps just look at the time of how long it’s going to take you to get there. Next tip is to then plan accordingly. Always give yourself at least 15-30 minutes more than it says you need to get there whether you’re driving or ridesharing. Accidents do happen frequently which is usually why the freeways can get backed up at any time of the day. Most importantly just keep an open mind. Expect traffic so then when you hit a rare patch of no traffic it’ll feel like a winning situation. Last but not least, if you do find yourself getting behind the wheel use your GPS, stay focused, keep a spare phone charger in your car, and just go for it. If I can find my way around and maneuver the traffic being the most defensive Midwest driver there is, you’ll be fine!