Following the Pirates to Southern California…or not

Earlier this summer, when the Pirates were just two and a half games out of first place in their division, Rick and I had the bright idea to go watch them play in a couple of cities we wanted to visit.  Then we sat down one night with our calendars and the laptop to book flights and find AirBnBs in Santa Monica, CA and Denver, CO.  If you follow the Pirates at all, you know that their competitive streak came to its inevitable end almost immediately.  But, what the heck, we have family in southern California and neither of us have ever been to Denver, so off we went.

Originally, we had non-stop flights to and from Los Angeles, but that turned into a layover in Phoenix on our way out and Chicago on the way home since the airlines had to remove all of the 727s from service.  Fine by me. I’d rather have a layover than fly on a faulty plane.

Once we arrived at LAX we picked up our rental car and ventured out onto the crazy busy highways.  Let me just say that if you have ever complained about traffic in Pittsburgh, fifteen minutes on Southern California’s eight-lane bumper-to-bumper roads will have you nostalgic for the Burgh’s hills, bridges and tunnel back ups.  

Our Santa Monica AirBnB was in a great location, just half a block to the beach and walking distance to shops and restaurants. It was a cute little place that included a kitchen stocked with snacks, a comfortable bed, fluffy towels and nice bath amenities. Unfortunately, there were some unwanted visitors on the roof.  Picture the movie Caddy Shack with squirrels instead of groundhogs and me as Bill Murray.  After the third night of them doing God-knows-what in the ceiling, our host kindly refunded our remaining two days rent and we finished the trip at a Hampton Inn.

Now, about that Pirates game.  We’d planned to watch them play the Angels in Anaheim, but we wanted to stay closer to the beach and our California family members.  Looking at the map before we left, it didn’t look so bad -just 42 miles from our AirBnB to the stadium. Then reality hit. The game was scheduled for 5:07 p.m., which would put us on the road at the peak of rush hour and turn the 42 mile drive into a two and a half hour nightmare.  With the Buccos hovering around the bottom of major league standings, we decided to skip it. (There’s a reason my fantasy football name is “Fair Weather Fan.”) 

So what did we do out in sunny California? As pictured above, Rick became an overnight beach volleyball pro. I’m still not sure how it all went down. He was supposed to be meeting me for a walk on the beach and called my cellphone to ask if I could wait until he finished a volleyball game. I walked back to find him and three 20-somethings in a death-match on the sand. Despite never having played beach volleyball, Rick and his partner Pascal (pictured above) managed to beat Trash-talking Ted (pictured with the ball) and his partner. (Unlike the Pirates, Rick is nothing if not competitive.)

We also had a wonderful time visiting with all of our beautiful west coast family (who we don’t get to see nearly often enough) and we visited the fabulous Getty Center, a $1.3 billion museum complex nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the city of Los Angeles.

 Getty Center
Getty Center

The Getty Center’s permanent collection includes pre-20th century European paintings, drawings, sculpture and decorative arts, as well as 19th and 20th century photographs, and contemporary and modern sculpture. Our favorites, of course, were the Impressionists. Especially, Van Gogh’s Irises and Monet’s Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light, pictured below.

As impressive as the art was, the setting and architecture of the museum itself rivals its contents.  Undulating walls of travertine stone soar above the hilltop and strategically placed balconies allow you to view for miles in every direction. Also from the balconies, you get a bird’s eye view of the Central Garden, a formal design of water features, over 500 plant varieties, and a floating maze of azaleas.  A thoughtful touch – the Getty Center provides umbrellas for strolling around the grounds, not for the threat of rain (It Never Rains in Southern California – there’s even a song about it:)), but to protect you from the ever-present sun.

 The Central Garden
The Central Garden

If you ever find yourself in LA with a few hours to fill, you should definitely check this place out.  The art is amazing, the setting is beautiful, the price is right – parking in the garage is $20, but museum entrance is free, there’s a pleasant little scenic tram ride from the parking garage up the hill to the museum, even lunch at the cafe was impressive.

For more information about the Getty Center, visit

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