The Road to Johnny's

Los Angeles Travel Blog

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Venice Beach
 

While in Vietnam last February I read a review on TravBuddy that Liz (Quest) had written about a bar in Huntington Beach called Johnny's. Around midnight each Thursday, the granite bar-top is set ablaze while 'Ring of Fire' by Johnny Cash blares on the juke box. Liz happened to still be visiting from Norway after TravBuddy meet-ups in Tucson and in Monrovia so we decided to visit the bar on Thursday night. I picked her up in Monrovia and we spent the day getting there exploring the Los Angeles coastline.  

 

Late morning traffic moved smoothly through Pasadena, downtown Los Angeles, and finally west toward Santa Monica.

Liz at Venice
Our first stop was Venice Beach which continues to thrive as a major cultural center since the Beatniks of the 1940s and 50s, Hippies of the 60s, and every generation since. From all over the world, the weird, bazaar, gifted, and talented of those generations swirl together in a rainbow of artistic creativity and colorful activity. Street entertainers, artists, soap-box speakers, and rollerblading musicians are but a few that liven the strand - lined with international food venders, gift shops, bike rentals, boutiques, ice cream parlors, and bistros. Colorful graffiti-style adverts decorate many of its buildings.

 

We strolled the mile or so strand which was rather quiet compared to weekends but Liz didn't mind the lesser crowd. She took far more pictures than I, and being from Norway, had me curious as to what she photographed - often subjects that I had overlooked.

Foggy Marina del Rey
She browsed a few shops and venders trying on an assortment of hats and sunglasses, shifting between the cowboy look and that of a blues musician. That is the magic of Venice  - anyone can be anyone that they want to be. We walked back along the beach. The late-November Santa Monica Bay was cold on the feet and only one surfer braved its chilly waters.

 

Marina del Ray was shrouded in fog and appeared deserted when we arrived to explore its Fisherman's Village waterfront. The many charter fishing boats, tour boats, and smaller rental crafts sat idle. Only one sailboat glided in from the channel while a small power boat idled toward the Pacific. We wondered if the lack of activity was due to the time of year or the crippled economy and reckoned probably both.

Sun down at Redondo
We took a few photos, enjoyed ice cream from an indoor vender, then motored on as the sun began to break through the gray cloud cover.

 

While freeways bogged in rush-hour traffic, we cruised Highway 1 through Playa del Rey and breezed the lesser-traveled shoreline past LAX, and on through Manhattan and Hermosa Beaches. Brief stops at those two beaches, and their piers, were intended but they still lacked the California sun by fog. Local traffic on the narrow beach-town streets moved along nicely. Our next stop was Redondo Beach where we had a bite to eat and did a little more shopping on the Wharf. The air cooled dramatically, though the sun had finally reappeared - shortly before setting below the horizon.

 

From Redondo, we climbed onto the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Liz in Long Beach
The winding road skirted high-dollar homes above us on our left and followed steep cliffs dropping sharply off to our right. We stopped at a turn-out near a giant eucalyptus tree to photograph city lights lining the South Bay beaches. On nights more clear, the view sweeps all the way to Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains. For a moment I thought Liz had wandered off the cliff in the very dark area. As panic was about to set in, I spotted her lying down to support her camera on a low rock, photographing the far-off lights. Her pictures came out much sharper than mine.

 

We followed Palos Verdes Drive to finally descend those coastal hills into San Pedro, crossed the Vincent Thomas Bridge into Long Beach, then missed a turn - which placed us in the Queen Mary parking lot.

The Queen Mary
That small blunder turned out to be a pleasant one. We studied the massive cruise-ship-turned-hotel from on-shore and enjoyed spectacular views of the clean and colorful Long Beach skyline reflecting on the harbor. After half an hour or so, we went over to the Long Beach side and browsed Shoreline Village.

 

Shoreline Village is an awesome place day or night. It has the look and feel of a 19th Century fishing village. A wooden boardwalk encircles Victorian style novelty shops, coffee stands, boutiques, and sea food restaurants. The well-designed attraction looks out across rows of docked sailboats toward the Long Beach skyline on one side and across Long Beach Harbor toward the Queen Mary on the other. At its end, Parker's Lighthouse dominates the wharf - a massive lighthouse structure that is actually a fine restaurant specializing in sea food.

Rainbow Harbor Light

 

Beyond Parker's, across a narrow channel, a more traditional-looking lighthouse tower stands on a shallow palm-lined hill - the Rainbow Harbor Light. Though not for actual navigation, each time its light rotates - sweeping around the base of the hill - its tower changes color; red, blue, green, brown. That light was built by the Long Beach Lions Club as a symbol of their fundraising for the visually impaired.

 

We picked up Pacific Coast Highway and followed it down to Huntington Beach and walked out onto its pier. Colorful city lights reflected on sets of waves rolling toward the beach from much further out than along the South Bay beaches. Surf City. A Ruby's Restaurant at the outer end of the pier had a nostalgic diner styling with a local surfing décor and looked like a perfect place for a coffee or snack but had just closed as we approached.

Tribute at Johnny's

 

Finally, around 10:00 p.m., we entered Johnny's Bar on Beach Boulevard. The place was dimly lit in a red tint. Even the two television sets were draped in a black mesh to dampen their bright glow on the eye. Its décor paid tribute to not only Johnny Cash but other past music legends. People trickled in as midnight neared - what looked like a full spectrum of California night- clubbers from rockers to punk. I wanted to buy a T-shirt from there - 'Johnny's Punk and Boogie' - but they were sold out. Not enough patrons filled the place to set the bar on fire unfortunately but that's okay - the character of the place, and the characters in it, made for a most memorable visit along the California coast. I hope to get to Johnny's again sometime to see the bar ablaze - sometime when Liz is back in town.

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Venice Beach
Venice Beach
Liz at Venice
Liz at Venice
Foggy Marina del Rey
Foggy Marina del Rey
Sun down at Redondo
Sun down at Redondo
Liz in Long Beach
Liz in Long Beach
The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary
Rainbow Harbor Light
Rainbow Harbor Light
Tribute at Johnnys
Tribute at Johnny's
Liz at the beach
Liz at the beach
Cold waters
Cold waters
Santa Monica from Venice
Santa Monica from Venice
Gulls at Venice
Gulls at Venice
Liz shoots the lone surfer
Liz shoots the lone surfer
Kevin balancing rocks
Kevin balancing rocks
Rocks balanced on the beach
Rocks balanced on the beach
Venice advert
Venice advert
Venice bird
Venice bird
Rainbow Harbor Light
Rainbow Harbor Light
Venice strand
Venice strand
Mural at Venice
Mural at Venice
Gulls flying the beach
Gulls flying the beach
Manned Life Guard station in Novem…
Manned Life Guard station in Nove…
Ice Cream
Ice Cream
Marina del Rey boardwalk
Marina del Rey boardwalk
Ice cream stop
Ice cream stop
Marina gull
Marina gull
Shanghai Reds
Shanghai Red's
Redondo wharf
Redondo wharf
Fishing pier at Redondo
Fishing pier at Redondo
Redondo
Redondo
Queen Mary & Russian sub
Queen Mary & Russian sub
Long Beach skyline
Long Beach skyline
Pirates Cove shop in Long Beach
Pirate's Cove shop in Long Beach
Homeland Security poster
Homeland Security poster
Wooden indian
Wooden indian
Shoreline Village
Shoreline Village
Rainbow Harbor green light
Rainbow Harbor green light
Parkers Lighthouse
Parker's Lighthouse
Rubys
Ruby's
Huntington Beach - Surf City
Huntington Beach - Surf City
Rubys Diner
Ruby's Diner
Johnnys Bar
Johnny's Bar
Johnnys
Johnny's
Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash