The Quinquagenarian Traveler: A Whirlwind L.A. Sports Marathon

Thirty-six hours. Two NHL games. A college football rivalry battle. Two boys dressed in   shorts. One convertible.

Thanksgiving weekend was a sports feast for the males in our family (excluding the dogs). The three of us flew in from Chicago to watch the Blackhawks prevail in Anaheim before falling by a goal in Los Angeles. In between, my alma mater USC and stalwart Adoree’ Jackson dismantled Notre Dame before our eyes.

Standout memories include:

— Watching the Blackhawks pre-game practice from the second row in the Honda Center, surrounded by hundreds of like-minded fans. Ducks backers were as hard to spot as the team’s retired jerseys (grand total: one).

Blackhawks fans (two fresh out of a convertible) swarmed the plexiglass at Honda Center.

— Sitting not only in a section but a row that actually won a prize announced at a major sports event (chocolate popcorn at the Staples Center).

— Why it’s important to be prepared for potentially bad weather (see: ignore L.A. rain forecasts for events at the uncovered Coliseum at your peril).

When the sun shone, we splashed around the pentagon-shaped pool filled to the brim at the Marina Del Rey Hotel. The three-story white structure, renovated to perfection a year ago, featured patios connecting to artificial grass where the boys played shinny. At the restaurant Salt, kid-friendly menus included awesome hamburgers for dinner, and sitting outside let us watch sailboats rock nearby while the stars danced above. .

On the flight home, live NFL games appeared on our Virgin America TV. We didn’t need the NFL in L.A. (and the NFL didn’t need L.A. for decades), but it was the perfect way to end a whirlwind sports marathon.

The Quinquagenarian Traveler: Horse Sense in Charleston

For years I had torn out magazine articles and filed a collection about why I should visit Charleston, S.C. If there were a linchpin among the myriad pieces, it would consist of one word: charm.

Unfortunately I found little during the first viewing of the decidedly Southern city (South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, and the Civil War began at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor). But that changed the second day of my visit as I took that most touristy of choices: a horse-drawn carriage ride.

It is the only way to efficiently see Charleston and to learn about it. For an hour, one passes antebellum houses, some with welcoming double staircases and many of which double as museums. Churchyards are dotted with gravestones, some from the 17th century. The Four Corners of Law is a special intersection, featuring a church, U.S. Post Office, city hall and county building — otherwise known as hail, mail, jail, and bail.


The elegant U.S. Post Office at the Four Corners of Law.

Lest one think the historic streets must be lined with horse manure, be heartened that drivers are required to drop a marker wherever a horse goes to the bathroom for a worker to clean up.

My magazine articles perhaps got me too excited about the charming attractions of a surprisingly large city (population near 100,000), but at least a slow-paced carriage ride opened my eyes to some of the beauty in town.



The Quinquagenarian Traveler: The Hall Has It All

The original cup proffered by Lord Stanley.
The original cup proffered by Lord Stanley.

Befitting its setting – an entrance facing a bustling, futuristic mall and an elegant trophy room featuring stained glass on the ceiling – the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto mixes the new and the old with aplomb.

Prefer the modern age? Enjoy a creative 3-D look at a Stanley Cup Game 7, with pucks and snow from hockey stops flying toward you.

Prefer history? Check out the days when players literally wore sweaters (now moth-eaten with puck-sized holes) and when fedoras graced the noggins of coaches like Toe Blake. Cases are also groaning with gloves, goalie masks and other mementoes from bygone eras.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has it all, from the short-lived (Cleveland Barons jersey) to the kitschy (a lunch box graced with Wayne Gretzky’s image). No one does trophies better than hockey, and there are some beauties — gorgeous silver bowls and even the oversized AVCO World Trophy of the defunct WHA

The Great One even had his own lunchbox.
The Great One even had his own lunchbox.

Of course, the coup de grace is the original bowl given by Lord Stanley. It rests in a vault near bands stripped from the Stanley Cup with names of former champions, done to create space for new winners. You almost feel guilty talking in such a sacred space.

The flow of the museum is a little unorthodox – you’re never sure which way you’re supposed to go – but if you find yourself in Toronto, a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame is worth the time.