Food & Cold Draft Craft Beers In A Beautiful Setting Sets The Table For A Fun Weekend
If there’s one thing you need to know about driving in Los Angeles, it’s that you need to treat it as if you’re going sailing. Especially for a weekend road trip.
That’s because you never know what might happen; the difference is that instead of weather situations that can suddenly change while you’re on a sailboat, here it’s the driving situations. You need to have provisions, a plan and a backup plan. It also really helps if you’ve got a dreamy destination so when you finally get to it, those frustrating freeway moments are mere memories fading into the mental distance.
Such was the case for me and my PubClub.com associate Chris recently.
We were headed to cover the Temecula Balloon & Wine Festival, which included swinging by the Pechanga Resort & Casino for lunch and a couple of beers at its Kelsey’s bar and restaurant. It turned out that with its cold beer in a beautiful setting and enough juicy food per order to feed an army, Kelsey’s was our road trip oasis in the desert.
The plan was simple enough – leave from Hermosa Beach by about 11:30, make the hour and a half drive to Pechanga, have a couple of beers with lunch and head to the festival. But, as things can happen so easily when making road trips from Los Angeles, things quickly unraveled for us.
First of all, I learned that Temecula is two hours from Hermosa, not an hour and a half as I had presumed.
Secondly, after Chris made a pit stop for a couple supplies because we were camping at the festival, he noticed the hatch on his Audi SUV would not completely close. It would catch the latch but not lock down and we both had visions of bounding down I-15 while our bags, tents and even – gasp! – cooler went bouncing down the freeway.
So we stopped at his local repair shop hoping for a quick fix.
We were due at Pechanga – pronounced Pe-chong-a, by the way – at 1 o’clock but at 2 we were still at the shop. The mechanics first tried to reposition the lock, then made a series of other adjustments before eventually discovering the culprit was a faulty motor that provided an extra “ooomph” to fully clamp the lock. (I’ll not go into my frustrations of why Audi put in a useless secondary mechanism, with a motor no less, on something as simple as trunk lock.)
Fortunately, the lid locked securely enough without it so that our belongings would not fly out all over the Southern California roadway, and we were on our way. But it was 2:30 by now, we had yet to leave the South Bay and we were starving.
We had to go some distance on the 91 freeway – past Fullerton, Anaheim and even Corona. Plus, because of bizarre carpool lanes, the 91 is a fly-along-at-75-and-then-dead-stop freeway.
My friend has the carpool pass – hey Caltrans, it’s called freeway for a reason! – but the sign indicated it would cost a whopping 15 bucks to take it the 15 miles to I-15. As a result, everyone was in the regular lanes (fully defeating the purpose of toll lanes to begin with; nice move Caltrans!) and traffic was at a standstill.
Eventually we crawled our way to I-15 only to find it backed up for miles. Naturally, we went the wrong way – north instead of south – and had to turn around but Chris turned on his navigation app and wound us through the town of Corona. It was an unplanned but not unpleasant diversion.
By this time it was 4 o’clock and we were STARVING. It seemed we would never get to Pechanga. I kept telling Chris that “in one hour you’ll have a cold beer in your hand,” and I must say the thought of a big, cold beer kept my spirits soaring, even as we inched our way past an accident on the 15.
Finally, we broke into the clear, like a running back in football who’s held up at the line of scrimmage and then blasts through a sudden hole. We kept on running all the way to our end zone, which was the bar at Pechanga.
And oh man, was it great! Kelsey’s has a couple dozen craft beers on tap (and get this, they were only $4 because it was Happy Hour until 6!) and they brought us the BBQ brisket and tri-tip. We also decided to try the pizza and appetizer pork rinds – what the heck, right!? – and left with full bellies, full to-go boxes and full satisfaction.
Half an hour later we were at the balloon festival, Chris enjoying the 80s bands and me having beers at the campsite trying to figure out how to put up my tent. Had it not been for our oasis at Kelsey’s, I dare say we would not have arrived in such a great mood. Frustration would have been more like it.
Instead, we had our “ahhh” moment and it lasted the entire weekend.