Medlin 2013 Family Trip to San Diego travel blog

Models of a Columbian mammoth trapped in the tar pit

A Sabre-tooth cat

An American mastodon

404 Dire wolf skulls represent only a portion of the over 1600...

The 'Fishbowl' labratory

An animated model of a Sabre-tooth cat attacking a Giant Sloth

One of the residents who hasn't been caught in the tar-pit yet.

Site of the old Ambassador Hotel.


Now I start my part of the trip & can decide what I want to see & do although I’ve been quite happy going along with the flow for the last couple of weeks. My first stop before I left Los Angeles was a visit to the La Brea Tar Pits which is an amazing place right in the middle of the city on Wilshire Blvd.

For thousands of years on what used to be Rancho La Brea, asphalt has seeped to the earth’s surface from an underlying oil field. These seeps became unique death traps for countless Ice Age mammals & birds making this area the world’s richest deposit of Ice Age fossils. Over 100 tons of fossil bones have been recovered & work is still ongoing.

I think the last time I was here would have been in the early 1970s so I expected some major changes with a huge new Museum & Discovery Centre. The scale of the fossil discoveries is amazing. They’ve found 150 Antique Bison skeletons, American Mastodons, Sabre tooth cats, Columbian mammoths, more than 1600 Dire Wolf skeletons, Giant Sloths & all kinds of horses, large cats & birds.

There’s a very good introductory video which describes how the larger animals would get stuck in the asphalt because it was usually covered with rain water, then the smaller predatory animals would be attracted to the easy prey & during the feeding frenzy some of them would also be trapped. Then the birds come along to clean up & some of them would also fall in. The asphalt impregnates the bones & preserves them so the archaeologists are digging up huge almost solid blocks of bones which they have to untangle & sort out.

There’s also a ‘fishbowl’ laboratory where visitors can watch professionals & volunteers working on the bones & watch another video showing how the bones are sorted & catalogued. There was a huge line of school buses in the parking lot & the kids were all fascinated.

I can’t get into my time-share exchange lodge until Friday night so I had another motel booked at West Covina, on the eastern side of Los Angeles towards the San Bernadino mountains. My route took me for miles along Wilshire Blvd which is one of the main arteries of Los Angeles so has lots of history.

I couldn’t stop everywhere but I happened to park next to a sign marking the location of the old Ambassador Hotel which was one of the first elegant hotels in early Los Angeles built in 1921. The Academy Awards were presented here 6 times & at least 7 Presidents slept here. Hollywood celebrities streamed to the Ambassador largely for the Cocoanut Grove, a legendary nightclub located in the lobby. Regulars included Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, Howard Hughes & John Barrymore. Joan Crawford’s career exploded when she won a Charleston competition here & Bing Crosby was discovered singing with a band called the Rhythm Boys.

Tragedy sadly spelled the end for the Ambassador’s image as a playground on June 5th 1968 when Robert Kennedy was gunned down in a hotel pantry minutes after winning the California primary election which would have guaranteed his nomination for President.

The hotel was demolished in 2005 & has been replaced by the Robert F Kennedy Community School & a Robert Kennedy memorial garden.

I continued along Wilshire Blvd but couldn’t spot any other markers where I could park. I found my motel which was very nice & surprisingly quiet even though it was adjacent to the freeway. There was a shopping centre close by so I looked around the Walmart then got a take-away dinner from Marie Callendar’s of my favourite Chicken Pot Pie, a Caesar salad & a slice of Apple Pie which I had in my room, watching the Baseball playoffs on TV.



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