The Road to Johnny's
Los Angeles Travel Blog› entry 31 of 94 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.