“Buy Tuscany” Event at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood, CA

Earlier tonight I attended the “Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood, CA.  After a quiet January, it’s time to get out and network again!

It was overcast and foggy, with intermitten rain, in the San Fernando Valley today.  So after a nice drive over Mulholland Drive, Sepulveda Boulevard and then on the 405 to Wilshire…

First, a few pics from the drive over the hill through the billion dollar clusterf*ck that is the construction on the 405 freeway through the Sepulveda Pass:

New Mulholland Bridge over the 405 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

New Mulholland Bridge over the 405 (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Remember “Carmaggeddon”?  Well here is the finished Mulholland Bridge that was widened and retrofitted! NOTE HOW TWO LANES BECOME ONE LANE BEFORE THE BRIDGE AND THEN WIDEN TO TWO LANES AGAIN ON THE BRIDGE…it totally defeats the purpose of widening the bridge, and you can’t turn right on a red light at the light.

Sepulveda Blvd (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Sepulveda Blvd south (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Sepulveda Boulevard at 2:30pm on a Thursday, once you get past the closed right lane at the top of the hill (where two lanes turn left and then have to merge into one lane again) and the new freeway onramp (where the cars in the right lane have to get in the left turn lane) is still a great drive.  Note the huge retaining walls along the freeway….will they hold?

Sepulveda Blvd (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Sepulveda Blvd (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Traffic Tip: Get on the 405 south at Getty Center, because you never know what traffic will be like on Sepulveda at Moraga, Church and Montana! Again note the retaining wall….

Getty Center 405 Freeway Onramp (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Getty Center 405 Freeway Onramp (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

405 Freeway (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

405 Freeway and the Getty Center (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Thursday 2:40pm on the 405 Freeway south approaching Sunset, just wait until rush hour.  Note the massive Getty Center on the top of the hill.

405 Freeway and the Getty Center (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

405 Freeway and the Getty Center (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Exit the 405 at Wilshire on the brand new ramp that is exactly the same as the old ramp, only longer and now one lane again.  NOTE THAT THEY DIDN’T CHANGE THE EXIT AT WILSHIRE SO TRAFFIC STILL BACKS UP ONTO THE FREEWAY AT PEAK HOURS.

405 Freeway New Wilshire Blvd Offramp (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

405 Freeway New Wilshire Blvd Offramp (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

AND THEY DIDN’T FIX THE INTERSECTION AT SEPULVEDA AND WILSHIRE (the busiest intersection in the western United States) and the construction continues….

Under the 405 on Wilshire east at Sepulveda (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Under the 405 on Wilshire Blvd east at Sepulveda (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

So, I made it to Westwood in good time and arrived early enough to navigate traffic on Wilshire and in Westwood.  I parked in the parking structure next to the Italian Cultural Institute for FREE! The parking guys let me park my own car because I told them I didn’t want to leave the key (I also didn’t want anyone “stack” parking or moving my car). Parking was complimentary for a limited number of guests, so thank you Tourism Italia!

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

It began to drizzle a little after 3pm, so I checked in and sat inside on the red ultra moderne designer couch with a few other early arrivees in the reception area until they opened the Trade Show at 3:30pm.  Note the beautiful Italian marble patio!  It’s a great event space, but unfortunately it rained just enough to make it wet and slippery and they had to change the setup at the last minute.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

The first order of business was the Trade Show.  Meeting with Vendors and Suppliers from Tuscany, the format was sort of a “one-on-one” format for more than one person.  Most of the Vendors were represented by two people and even early on, it was more than two people on my side of the table.  I paired up with one of my co-workers for the presentations at the beginning, but eventually had to go it alone, because of the format. There was a lot of room noise and some of the suppliers had thick Italian accents, so it was very hard to hear the presentations.  I managed to meet everyone, see what they had to offer, exchange business cards and collected a big bag of collateral material from the hotels, tour operators, wineries and other exhibitors.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Finished with the circle tour of the trade show, I had some coffee, dropped the bag of information in my car, and found a chair in the library to sit in while I waited for cocktail hour to begin.  There was limited seating to begin with, and because of the weather everyone who finished also was waiting inside, so having a seat was “groovy”.

Cocktail hour at last! Prosecco, Tuscan red wine and tray passed appetizers: shrimp, rare beef on toast, and tomato pomodoro soup in little square plastic cups.  I did some networking, drank some Prosecco and ate some hor d’ourves.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Cocktail hour in the Library

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

The next order of business was a very nice presentation in the theatre.  There were introductions, informative speeches, videos of beautiful Tuscany, expressions of thanks and gratitude, a musical performance and a drawing for some very nice prizes.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

Then the Dinner Buffet was served.  On the menu: sausage and peppers, polenta with mushrooms and cheese, pasta with red sauce, fava, bruschetta, toasted bread and breadsticks.  More Prosecco and Tuscan wine was served, but instead I had still bottled water with my food.

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

And following the food, there was coffee and mini tiramisu for dessert (not pictured)

"Buy Tuscany" event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

“Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute (copyright 2014 JoshWillTravel)

It was a long event 3:30-8:30pm (5 hours plus travel time), but it was well managed (even with the weather adjustments) and informative.  The food was good and the presentation was entertaining.  Overall, it was a pretty nice event and now I want to visit Tuscany!

I thanked my hosts, said goodbye to my friends and co-workers, and drove my car out of the parking lot back to the 405.  There was traffic on Wilshire, traffic getting on the 405 at Wilshire, traffic on the 405 freeway and the Skirball exit was closed.  Nevertheless, I made back to the valley in about a half hour, posted on facebook, and wrote this blog.  Hope you enjoyed my afternoon and evening.  Thanks for reading!!!  Grazie!  Tutte bene!

 

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Field Quarter in the Sierras 1984 – Part 1 Big Sur, Big Creek and Cone Peak

I backpacked for college credit Spring Quarter of 1984, when I chose a Field Quarter in the Sierras during my Freshman year in college at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC extension and the Sierra Institute).  It was a great program!

UCSC logo

After a particularly gray winter in Santa Cruz, I needed to get out of town.  So I signed up for a Field Quarter in the Sierras.  “BACKPACKING FOR COLLEGE CREDIT” for three Upper Division Course Credits: Natural History of the Sierras, Natural History Wilderness Studies, and an Environmental Studies advanced course.  The curriculum included backpacking trips of varying length in amazing natural locations: Monterey, Big Sur, Yosemite Valley, Hetch-Hetchy Resevoir, the Tiltill Valley above Yosemite, the Southfork of the Tuolumne River in the Sierra National Forest, El Dorado-Toiyabe National Forest, Desolation Wilderness in Plumas National Forest and Lake Tahoe.

Sierra-Institute-Emblem--225x300

We all met as strangers in Monterey and drove to a local campground for an overnight stay, where we were introduced to our instructors and each other and given the orientation for the next thirteen weeks (ten weeks of course work, a week of travel time plus a timeout for spring break).  There were thirteen students and two instructors on the first night as we made camp together for the first time.

UCSC Field Quarter in the Sierras - Monterey, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

UCSC Field Quarter in the Sierras – Big Sur, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

PLEASE NOTE: These events took place in Spring of 1984, so trying to recall all the details is a little difficult now.

THE FIRST TRIP – BIG SUR, UCSC BIG CREEK RESERVE AND CONE PEAK

Big Creek Bridge and Cove - Big Sur, California

Big Creek Bridge and Cove – Big Sur, California

At dawn the next morning we had breakfast and broke camp, packed up and drove to the UCSC Reserve in Big Sur.  Protected by the Santa Lucia Mountains and rocky cliffs, the Big Sur coast includes the largest and most pristine coastal wildlands in central and southern California. In the center of this area, the University of California Natural Reserve System and the University of California at Santa Cruz operate the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve.  Big Creek Reserve Homepage: http://bigcreek.ucnrs.org

Big Creek Reserve Trailmap - Big Sur, California

Big Creek Reserve Trailmap – Big Sur, California

We strapped on our backpacks and hiked 9 miles to the base camp near Cone Peak.  Cone Peak in Big Sur is the highest coastal mountain in the contiguous 48 states, ascending nearly a mile (5155 feet) above sea level, only three miles from the ocean.  The hike begins at almost sea level and takes you up through the climate zones, lush forest, oak scrub and into high chaparral.

Copy and paste the following links into a new window for some great images:

VR Panorama of Big Creek: http://bigcreek.ucnrs.org/panoramas/bigcreek.html

Photo Gallery: http://nrs.ucop.edu/reserves/big_creek/gallery/index.html

Our first trek was an uphill killer! When we finally reached the base camp we set up our tents and prepared the evening meal.  (Nevermind the part about Jen trying to set the camp and forest on fire with her propane stove and the rest of us helping to put it out before it spread…)

Boronda Base Camp - Big Sur, California

Boronda Base Camp – Big Sur, California

We camped there for a week.  The program included daily class in the wilderness, field studies, day hikes and “homework” assignments.  There was also time allotted for camping duties, cooking, and personal (free) time.  And every evening we gathered around the fire, talked about the day and got to know each other a little bit more.

Trail snack and lunch recipes for wilderness hiking: Flour tortillas, add cheddar cheese and salsa.  Flour tortillas, add peanut butter and honey.  Bread may be substituted for tortillas (but tortillas travel better in a foodsack).  Easy to prepare, no cooking required.

Cone Peak

Cone Peak (Altitude 5,155 feet) – Big Sur, California

One day we hiked to the top of Cone Peak from our base camp and were buzzed by F-14 jet fighters from Moffett Feld and then we watched from high above as Blue Whales swam by during their Spring migration!

View from Cone Peak

View from Cone Peak – Big Sur, California

View from Cone Peak

View from Cone Peak – Big Sur, California

Going downhill is a lot easier than going uphill with a backpack!  The hike out was pretty easy, again passing through the different climate zones, and returning to our cars for the drive to our next destination.

COMING SOON: Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley, Hetch-Hetchy and Tiltill Valley, Southfork of the Tuolumne River, Sierra National Forest, El-Dorado-Toiyabe National Forest, Desolation Wilderness, Plumas National Forest, and Lake Tahoe.

NOTE: I have to admit that this is by no means a complete blog at this point.  I started this story unprepared and the details are coming back slowly.  Except for the people, these are not my pictures.  I’m inspired to find my journal, workbook and photos from this time and may revise this blog for next week.  Thanks for reading!  Your feedback is welcome.