The $20 Project: Daytrip To The Arboretum

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Let me get my budgetary shame out of the way up front: I went over. Ended up in the red. By 17%. My $20 Project wound up being The $23.40 Project. But in my defense my daytrip from Silver Lake to the L.A. County Arboretum in Arcadia then back to Pasadena for the exquisite chili verde plate at Tonny’s was made with my bike and the MTA, and would’ve been even more costly had I burned the 1.25 gallons of gas required to drive the 35-mile roundtrip. Just sayin’.

So there I was with my trusty two-wheeler, a couple MTA tokens, a wallet loaded up with four Lincolns (plus one just-in-case spare), and a sense of adventure as I set the TiVo to record the Patriots/Colts game and embarked this past Sunday afternoon on a course plotted for the vast tracts of land that is the Valley of Saint Gabriel and its Kingdom of Arcadia whose famed botanical park is a place I’ve wanted to visit since first learning about it in the mid ’80s. I just never got around to it because it’s, well… waaaaaay the hell out in Arcadia.

With Union Station in my sights I briefly toyed with the idea of detouring to Philippe’s for a 9-cent cuppa joe, but the first non-Daylight Savings Time daylight was burning quick and I was trying (and ultimately failing) to make every penny count so instead I headed on into the historic transit hub and after depositing my $1.25-valued token for a one-way ticket aboard the Gold Line, I was soon on my way north heading to the train’s East Pasadena terminus at the Sierra Madre Villa depot.

Back in the bike saddle from there it was three easy miles (of an overall 10.7-mile route) east on Foothill Boulevard to a right on Baldwin Avenue under the 210 Freeway to the arboretum, where unfortunately bikes aren’t allowed inside so I locked up at the entrance next to some grazing guinea hens and forked over the $7 needed for an adult admission. From there I spent the next 2.5 hours to closing time wandering around the 127 acres being blown away by the flora display and vowing to come back soon for a much longer stay. Outlay so far: $8.25. So good.

After the jump the best laid budgets of mice and men gang aft aglee.


Exiting south on Baldwin I pedaled to Huntington and west back over to Rosemead, then north to Colorado and westward with darkness falling to a right on Lake up to Orange Grove Boulevard where the much-talked-about Tonny’s came into view. I grabbed an outdoor table and the friendly server brought me a menu then some chips ‘n salsa. It was during these first few moments gazing at the dinner selections that I knew I was going over budget. Not because things were over-priced — hell no. Sure, I could’ve gotten a trio of 99-cent soft tacos and just drank the water out of my bike bottle and stayed well in the black. But the chili verde ($8.99) that Pulitzer Prize-winning L.A. Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold called his favorite was calling to me and so was a large lemonade ($2). And damn if the food wasn’t as good as it was a lot — served up with scrumptious homemade tortillas, too. With tax the total came to $11.90 and with that already putting me past a Jackson by 15 cents I didn’t even dare think about being cheap and not leaving a couple bucks for a tip.

I did think briefly about biking all the way back to Silver Lake and saving the cost of the MTA ticket back to Union Station. Perhaps if I’d still been under the limit I might’ve done it just because I can be a bastard inside-the-lines stickler like that. But I was stuffed and it was dark and getting chilly and the sooner I got back to the ranch the sooner I could feed the dogs and cats and sadly find out that the Colts weren’t able to open a righteous can of whuppin’ cream upon the dastardly Pats. So I opted to ride the rails another $1.25 further over the top.

Shall we recap? Lets:

Outbound MTA Gold Line fare: $1.25
L.A. County Arboretum adult admission: $7
Tonny’s chili verde dinner, large drink (including tax & tip): $13.90
Inbound MTA Gold Line fare: $1.25
Total: $23.40

Emissions-free travel aside, negating the $3.40 overage was certainly doable had I exercised a little gustatorial restraint (or just gotten to Tonny’s in time for their cheaper lunch menu). Hell, if I’d gone survivalist I could’ve biked all the way out there and all the way back on found fruit and tap water and boasted about having $13 to splurge on a blue ribbon mess o’ Pabstsessess. But the goal was to have a good time, not self-deprivate. Goal achieved.

Pix: Flickr photoset of all the action — with snaps of the receipts! — here. Notes: L.A. County Arboretum (301 N. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia) is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m; Tonny’s (843 Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena) is no longer open 24 hours. Their current hours are 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.

3 Replies to “The $20 Project: Daytrip To The Arboretum”

  1. Nice post. Arcadia is a bit closer than outer monrovia. I have to admire your efforts to get to so many places on bicycles.

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