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Trip Report: Train Cars and Tiki Bars, August 4-12, 2017

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Hamo posted on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 9:19 PM

Two weeks from today I'll board the California Zephyr in Denver for a vacation that combines some of my various interests.

Following 33 hours on the train, my first stop Saturday evening will be Trader Vic's, then I'll see how feasible it is to get into Forbidden Island.

Sunday I'll head across the Bay to San Francisco and take in a museum or two before visiting Smuggler's Cove. Unfortunately Pagan Idol is closed Sundays.

Monday it's back on the train south along the Pacific coast to LA. Tuesday and Wednesday I'll explore Hollywood. I'll be at Tiki-Ti when it opens Wednesday and also plan to get to Oceanic Arts, but not sure when exactly.

Wednesday evening I'm headed to Anaheim for two days at Disneyland to experience the Enchanted Tiki Room and Trader Sam's (and everything else). Then flying back to Denver that Saturday.

Anybody have suggestions for things not too be missed? Cool stuff a local would recommend? Or things like a thrift store where tiki finds are likely?

Anyone be at the Tiki on August 9 (in addition to Swanky)? I'm also pondering the Coconut Club that Tuesday at Clifton's. I realize people might be prepping for Tiki Oasis, but if anyone wants to meet in person, we can see if something works.

[ Edited by: Hamo 2017-09-21 07:06 ]

How was your trip on the train to California?

Hamo posted on Tue, Aug 22, 2017 10:43 PM

Great, thanks. Now that I'm settled back home, I'm planning to post about it later in the week.

I love me some trains and I love me some Tiki, so I'm interested to see your report :D

Hamo posted on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 11:27 PM

It’s been more than a month since I returned from this trip, and you’ve all been waiting patiently, so it’s about time I reported on my train ride to California tiki places.


My sister and her fiancé drove me down the night before the train left, and we checked out Denver’s newest tiki bar, The Hidden Idol at Beetle Bar, which I highly recommend. The place could use some more tikis, thatch, a little less light and more mystery, etc., but the drinks and service are great. Hopefully, they’re successful enough to move to another space where they can really do everything right (which I know they want).

DAY 1: 8/4

Next morning, I walked from my airbnb to Union Station to board Amtrak’s California Zephyr. We left about 30 minutes behind schedule, which wasn’t too bad considering the large number of passengers boarding.

The train spent the day going through some breathtaking parts of the state, including Gore and Glenwood Canyons, past the Colorado River and Grand Mesa, and then as evening settled in, we crossed into rugged Eastern Utah. We got into Salt Lake City about 11 PM, and I reclined my coach seat, donned my sleep mask, and tried to get some shut-eye.

DAY 2: 8/5

Even considering the crying child in the row behind, I slept better on the train than I had the night before in a bed. I also enjoyed breakfast in the diner car with three other travelers.

As we went through Sparks, we passed The Nugget, former home of Trader Dick’s.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent traversing the Sierra Madres and descending into urban California. We picked up time toward the end of the trip and arrived in Emeryville (the end of the line) about 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

After freshening up at the station, I walked 20 minutes west to the marina and Trader Vic’s.

I was early for my dinner reservation, so I went straight for the bar, where the bartenders were pre-batching Mai Tais in preparation for a busy Saturday night, and ordered a 1944 Mai Tai, which was a thing of beauty.

I enjoyed dinner, a Navy Grog and another Mai Tai, and soaked in the atmosphere. The whole experience was wonderful. It felt like I was transported to the location’s heyday in the 1970s—just what I had hoped it would be.

I ended the day by checking into my hotel in downtown Oakland and getting ready for my Sunday across the Bay.

[ Edited by: Hamo 2017-09-21 07:04 ]

Hamo posted on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 6:50 PM

I hope nobody was holding their breath waiting for me to continue (but also I hope someone's still interested in hearing about the rest of my trip...).

DAY 3: 8/6

Got on BART, crossed the Bay and headed to the de Young Museum, primarily to see the Oceanic art exhibit. The authentic
Papua New Guinea and Maori shields and tikis were very interesting.

I made a quick swing through a few other galleries before leaving and walking to Star of the Sea Church for Latin Mass. Afterward I headed to Lincoln Park to see the Legion of Honor, since same-day admission there was included with de Young admission. Enjoyed the classical art and Rodin sculpture in the museum, views of Golden Gate Bridge and the hills of the city, and a surprise—the western terminus of the Lincoln Highway.

After a bite to eat, I jumped on an eastbound bus and got to Smuggler’s Cove just after it opened at 5. It’s much smaller than I expected, but it certainly was dark and atmospheric; it took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust, and even then I couldn’t see and take in everything. Sorry; I guess I was so immersed that I forgot to take any pictures. Besides, you'll have to go to there yourself to really appreciate it anyway.

It was a Sunday afternoon and still early, so things were pretty subdued. I went downstairs (below deck?) and sat at the bar, where Steven was tending, and struck up conversation with Deborah, a local who considers the Cove her neighborhood bar. We talked tiki and Disneyland, mostly. I had the Rum Barrel (and took home the mug), Three Dots and a Dash, Demerara Dry Float (on Deborah’s suggestion), and Steven listened to my flavor preferences and made a Port au Prince. I enjoyed all the drinks, the company, the whole experience.

I spent much longer at the Cove than I’d expected, so by the time I left it was too late to get back to Oakland and then Alameda to Forbidden Island. Couldn’t make it to Pagan Idol, since it’s closed Sundays. I also forgot a pilgrimage to see Tiki Bob. So I guess I have good reasons to go back.

DAY 4: 8/7

The train ride from Jack London Square in Oakland to LA’s Union Station occupied most of the day. I really enjoyed the stretch of track along the coastline, but honestly, I preferred my overall experience on the California Zephyr to the Coast Starlight trip.

From Union Station I took the Metro to Hollywood and checked in to the hotel for the night.

Sounds like an awesome trip! Thanks for the pics, too (well those you took....ha).


I didn't know the Amtrak station was 20 min walk to Trader Vic's. Thanks for all the pictures and info, and looking forward for more.

Hamo posted on Thu, Dec 14, 2017 8:48 PM

DAY 5: 8/8

This day was mostly focused on Classic Hollywood, without much tiki. I started by visiting Hollywood Forever Cemetery and the graves of celebrities, including Mel Blanc, Mickey Rooney, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr., and Cecil B. DeMille. Yma Sumac is entombed there, too, but I couldn’t find her (I did see her star on the Walk of Fame, though).

Hollywood Forever is directly north of Paramount Studios. I didn’t take a tour, but I did walk around the parameter and saw the original studio gates (through the current studio gates). The old RKO building is now part of Paramount, too.

A bus ride north got me within walking distance of the Hollywood Bowl. Then it was off to Glendale for lunch at the Tam O’Shanter.

I sat in a little alcove at a table with wing chairs and enjoyed a quiet sandwich bar lunch and cider.

Forest Lawn Cemetery is a 10-15 walk from the Tam O’Shanter, but I didn’t realize how much more walking i would do to visit different sections. Still, it’s a very picturesque, park-like final resting place for the likes of Nat King Cole, Alan Ladd, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and Walt Disney.

Then it was back on the bus to Griffith Observatory. It’s a magnificent building with interesting exhibits (including a 80+ year old Tesla coil), but also lots of people, and the view from the roof really showed how smoggy LA still is.

Tired from all the walking, I headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

DAY 6: 8/9

Wednesday afternoon and evening made up for Tuesday’s dearth of tiki, but first a little more Classic Hollywood.

I walked around Hollywood to see some famous landmarks, like the Crossroads of the World, and the Cinerama, the Egyptian, and Chinese Theaters.

After lunch at In-n-Out, I spent an hour exploring the Hollywood Museum in the old Max Factor Building and all the interesting memorabilia. Then I took Uber out to Whittier.

Oceanic Arts is magnificent. If you’ve never been, go. My visit happened to coincide with Swanky’s Mai Kai book signing, and I’d packed my copy. It was great to chat with him about the site of the next tiki pilgrimage I need to make. I was also fortunate to meet and talk with Sven, who enlightened me on the change of the cannibal tikis’ eyes due to carver misinterpretations of menu artwork.

Trader Vic’s had been out of Mai Tai glasses when I visited, so I was very happy to find some at OA, and I also picked up a copy of Tiki Magazine. If only I’d had more room in my luggage (and at home) for more. I stayed until just before closing, which meant I got to my next destination a little later than originally planned.

You must go here, too, and I wish I’d arrived at opening for a seat at the bar. Lots of tiki royalty here, too: Beachbum Berry was at the bar; I was able to meet Adrian (PolynesianPop) and thank him for his “Inside the Desert Oasis Room” podcast; and Mike Sr. chatted with me about the place and my train trip.

This is an accidental "creeper" shot, with Mike Sr. and the back of the Bum's head.

Speaking of the train, after about an hour and a half, and two Ray’s Mistakes and one Blood and Sand, I needed to make my way back to Union Station for the 45 minute Amtrak to Anaheim.

After checking into the hotel, I walked west through Disneyland’s esplanade to Trader Sam’s.

There was an open seat at the end of the bar, and when I sat down the bartender asked me if I was on my way to Tiki Oasis (he must have assumed I was, since I think I was the only one in the joint wearing an aloha shirt). I tried the Mai Tai, and when asked about my flavor preferences, was made a Navy Grog, too.

The bro in the red ball cap asked for vodka, which is probably why his stool sank to the floor.

I enjoyed it here, though having recently come from Tiki-Ti, the vide was quite different. I was probably there for an hour and a half, and after drinking all night, I was ready for bed.

Hamo posted on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 7:50 PM

I guess I should wrap up this report. I'll keep it short, since there wasn't a lot of tiki (and it was so long ago, I can barely remember anything...).

DAY 7: 8/10

Got here a little after the park opened. After a stop at City Hall and a ride on the omnibus, I headed to Tomorrowland for the subs and Space Mountain. Afterwards, it was Big Thunder Mountain, then Indiana Jones. This was really stupid because as you remember, the night before I was at both Tiki-Ti and Trader Sam's, plus I didn't have anything to eat for breakfast.

To recover, I rode the Columbia, the Mark Twain, and then explored Tom Sawyer Island for a little while.

It was about 90 degrees, so places like the Golden Horseshoe and Pirates of the Caribbean felt great. So did "it's a small world" which I enjoyed more than I expected (I rode twice). And of course, the Enchanted Tiki Room was a delight.

I never left the park, so by the fireworks, I was bushed. I found a bench in Tomorrowland and sat for a while. The fireworks were called off due to winds so I ended up not missing much.

After my second wind, I walked on to the Haunted Mansion, and then watched the later Main Street Electrical Parade from near the hub, which was a joy. Then it was time for bed.

DAY 8: 8/11

I spent the morning in California Adventure. Mike Sr. had really talked up Radiator Springs Racers, and it ended up being my favorite thing there.

I went back to Disneyland for a few hours for things like Peter Pan, the Matterhorn and the train, then a back to the hotel for a break.

I returned just in time for the flag retreat, and then since that had put me in a patriotic mood, I went straight for Mr. Lincoln.

That night I stayed until the park closed, and then lingered on Main Street for almost an hour, enjoying the lights and atmosphere. I hesitate to say it, but it really felt magical. Then I made it back to Trader Sam’s in time for last call.

I enjoyed the Tiki Room three times (but just one Dole Whip). I didn’t love Pirates as much as I expected, and the Haunted Mansion was a surprise hit; I went four times. All in all, it was a great two days.

DAY 9: 8/12

Took Lyft to (fellow Iowan) John Wayne Airport and flew back to Denver.

The train ride west was something I’d definitely do again, and I’m already trying to decide when I can get back to the Bay Area, Tiki-Ti, and Disneyland.

Thanks for finishing up the report. We are headed to SoCal in Sept. and will be hitting a lot of the same spots. This helps our anticipation. Looks like you had a great time.

Hamo posted on Fri, Mar 16, 2018 6:51 PM

It was a great time, and I hope you have more fun than I did. Let me know if I can provide more specifics about anything to help your planning, and please post your own trip report when you’ve returned.

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