April 24, 2022

Photo Essay: The Only Museum Devoted to President Abraham Lincoln West of the Mississippi

Every year in February around the commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, I've wanted to visit the only museum west of the Mississippi dedicated to him for its annual open house. And every year, I've had something else to do (or just haven't wanted to make the 72-mile drive to Redlands, California). 

Somehow it hadn't occurred to me that the Lincoln Memorial Shrine would be open the rest of the year—or that I could visit anytime I wanted. 

April 20, 2022

Photo Essay: The Fraternal Origins of Hollywood Forever's Masonic Lodge

At the Santa Monica Boulevard entrance of Hollywood Forever (formerly known as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery when it was first established in 1899) stands what today serves as the cemetery's administration complex.

 circa 2020

But it has far more esoteric origins. 

April 19, 2022

Photo Essay: Santa Barbara's Lil' Toot, the Little Tugboat That Could

[Last updated 9/7/23 11:20 AM PT—video embed player added at bottom]

I hadn't been to Santa Barbara since February 2019—and upon my return visit last week, at the top of my list of things to do in the area was to ride Lil' Toot

It's a little boat with a big personality—one that serves as a water taxi between Stearns Wharf and Santa Barbara Harbor. 

April 18, 2022

Photo Essay: An Alpaca Visit Worth Waiting For

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to spend nearly four hours driving from Los Angeles to the East County San Diego backcountry to visit an "Alpaca Haven in the Hills"—Hazard Alpacas in Jamul, California.


April 17, 2022

Video: Avoiding Regret on TV Talking About Surfridge Ghost Town, Next to LAX

I always really enjoy the opportunity to share my discoveries with a wider audience—and sometimes beyond the written word, like at speaking engagements or via television appearances.

It feels like an opportunity to connect on a more personal level. 

And it gives me an excuse sometimes to return to a favorite spot—like Surfridge

Screenshot: Fox 11 Los Angeles

April 16, 2022

Photo Essay: San Diego's Steel Bridge Was Closed to Traffic 35 Years Ago, Still Open For Exploration

In East San Diego County, where the community of Spring Valley meets Rancho San Diego just southeast of Jamacha Junction, Campo Road runs along an old stagecoach road that was the primary east-west route between San Diego and Yuma, Arizona

April 08, 2022

Photo Essay: A Privately-Funded Public Library Built On Borrowed Money, In the 'Jewel of the Inland Empire'

What is a library—besides its collection? In the case of the A.K. Smiley Library in Redlands, California, it's the nationally-landmarked building itself (added to the National Register in 1976 and the California state register in 1990) as well as a significant chapter in the founding of a California citrus town, the "Jewel of the Inland Empire."

Known as the "Patron Saints of Redlands," East Coasters—and identical twin brothers—Alfred Homans and Albert Keith Smiley arrived there in 1889, just after the city had been incorporated. More and more people were relocating to Redlands for its citrus estates and other developments—so, in response to the growing need for a library, "A.K." donated 16 acres of land and the building in 1898. 

Photo: circa 1900 (Public Domain, via California Historical Society Collection, USC Digital Libraries)

April 05, 2022

Photo Essay: Farewell to Oceanic Arts, The Emporium of Exotica That's Closing After 65 Years

The first time I visited Oceanic Arts in Whittier, California, I wasn't in the market to buy any tropical or Polynesian decor. But since it's the world's leading supplier of it—and the longest continually operating manufacturer of such products—it felt like a pilgrimage I needed to make.