Pinners Conference California Trip: Sightseeing in San Bernadino County

Rather than spend a second day at Pinners Conference, Jennifer and I played tourist in Ontario and nearby San Bernadino. Jennifer's high school friend, Sandy, joined us for an epic day. I'd never met Sandy before, but we hit it off right away. We both have house rabbits! Check out her awesome sweater. I need one with grey bunnies.

You might think from the photo that we started our morning with Egg McMuffins. Absolutely not! Breakfast was included at the hotel, but even if it hadn't been, we wouldn't have gone to McDonald's. I could do that at home. When I travel, I want something I can't eat at home. So while I had no interest in visiting McDonald's for food, I was all about going to the museum at the site of the first McDonald's restaurant, located in nearby San Bernadino.

As I mentioned in Friday's post, our local friends warned us that San Bernadino has a reputation for crime. A bit of googling reveals that San Bernadino is ranked the most dangerous city in California. Alarming at first glance, but take it with a grain of salt. Vallejo is listed as the #4 most dangerous city in California. I taught there for 11 years and felt perfectly safe (and was perfectly safe) every single day. Most cities have neighborhoods that are better or worse than the others. Oakland and San Francisco (ranked #1 and #7 for crime respectively) are both examples of cities with extreme differences between the best and worst parts of town. And even in the poorer parts of town, common sense goes a long way. Visit during the daytime, travel with others, avoid displaying expensive stuff, and remain aware of your surroundings. Don't buy or sell drugs, don't hang out with gang members, and stay indoors at 2:00 am and you'll significantly reduce your chances of being a victim of a crime in the "most dangerous" cities. 

The neighborhood around the McDonald's museum has definitely seen better days (as is true of most areas along Route 66). There are some boarded up buildings and vacant lots and it looks rundown. It's not a place I would walk around alone at night, but it felt perfectly safe during the day. The museum itself is fenced and very well-maintained. Definitely go!

I am not exaggerating when I say that we spent 20 minutes walking around the building before we ever went in. Not only are there a bunch of retro McDonald's rides throughout the grounds, but the building is covered in the most amazing mural I have ever seen. We took a ton of photos and kept spotting things to point out to each other. 

A sign declared it, "The World's Most Detailed Mural." It definitely is. I wish I'd put my hand up against the mural to give you a sense of scale. The level of detail was amazing.

Jennifer and I were excited to find Vince's Spaghetti in the mural, where we'd eaten two days earlier. I didn't realize it at the time, but the yellow building pictured to the right of Vince's would be our next stop after the McDonald's Museum!

Sandy and I spent all day long calling out, "Bunny!" whenever we saw one. This one, located on the opposite wall from "The World's Most Detailed Mural," was easy to spot.

Time to pose in the Golden Arches before heading indoors.

The building was jam-packed with everything you can imagine having to do with McDonald's. 

We saw menus, food wrappers, advertising posters, restaurant rides, Happy Meal toys, promotional items, and so much more. 

There was a section dedicated to The Founder (affiliate link), which Jennifer had coincidentally just watched. I was fascinated and will be watching the movie this week. There was another area about now-famous people who once worked at McDonald's. There were souvenirs from the Olympics that McDonald's sponsored.

I loved it all, but my absolute favorite were the displays about McDonald's restaurants outside the US. There were shelves dedicated to dozens of countries, showing their food wrappers, promotional items, and not-found-here menu items. There was a whole shelf of pie wrappers from around the world. I only ever remember seeing apple pie, but apparently there are places where you can get taro pie, pineapple pie, and corn pie, among many others. (It made me think of the McDonald's burrito in Albuquerque!) 

In the same building as the McDonald's Museum, there is a small room dedicated to the history of Juan Pollo, which is a Mexican-style rotisserie chicken restaurant chain. The owner of Juan Pollo, Albert Okura, also owns the McDonald's Museum. Mr. Okura is a very interesting man, a third-generation Japanese American who is very active in restoring and revitalizing Route 66.

We left the McDonald's Museum and drove to another location along Route 66, the beautifully restored Cucamonga Service Station

I remember when gas cost under a dollar, but I definitely don't remember when it was 17 cents! 

Alas, there is no gas for sale here anymore! The museum is very small, but there is lots to see inside. I got a kick out of these Route 66 soda bottles.  

Our next stop was at Ontario's oldest business, Graber Olive House. They've been selling olives continually since 1894. 

We browsed the grounds and the gift shop while waiting for the guided tour. 

The tour took us to see the machinery the seasonal workers use to grade, cure, and can the olives.

During harvest season (October through December), visitors get to watch the process. If you visit in March like we did, the equipment is empty and the machinery is quiet. 

After the tour ended, we poked around in Graber's small museum. 

By this point, it was after 2:00 pm and we were starving. Where to eat? Juan Pollo, of course! Jennifer and I had never heard of it before visiting the McDonald's Museum and Sandy had seen it but never eaten there. 

I ordered "Juan's Bowl" which was absolutely delicious, but enough food for at least three meals. Seriously, if I'd had Steve and Trevor with me, the three of us would have been satisfied!

Sandy had nachos, which I did not photograph, and Jennifer had rotisserie chicken. I had a bite and it was fantastic. Everything was fresh and delicious and very affordable. 

We arrived at the Ontario Museum of History and Art at 3:00 pm, aware that we only had one hour until they closed. 

The museum is housed inside the former City Hall building. It has two wings connected by a center portion. One wing has two large galleries for temporary exhibits. We saw "Jerry Weems: Visual Histories" and "Danny Lyon: Memories of Southern Civil Rights." Both were so impactful and well worth a visit. 

The other wing has a permanent exhibit about the history of Ontario. They are renovating it, so about half was closed. While I would have loved to have seen it, we were short on time so it might have been a blessing in disguise. The part that was open was very well done and I learned a lot about the area. Note the Graber's Olives in the lower right!

Here's a display about Vince's Spaghetti! It's clearly an institution and I'm so glad we ate there. 

 When the museum closed, we crossed the street and walked a block to this interesting structure.

"What is it?" you ask. A monument to the Mule Car.

From 1888 to 1895, the Mule Car provided public transportation up and down Euclid Avenue. The mule pulled the car up a 1000 foot incline (which took an hour) then rode on a platform behind the car for the gravity-powered return ride (which took 20 minutes). In 1895, when electricity powered the cars, the mules were sold to a farmer. He soon complained that the mules would only pull the plow one direction before expecting a ride back the other way! 

Our final stop in our epic tour was just a block away. Logan's Candies has been making candy by hand since 1933. 

They host very popular candy making demonstrations in November and December. But there's still plenty to see during the other months. The highlight for me was the "World's Largest Homemade Candy Cane," which is six feet long. That and tasting their ribbon candy. Delicious! 

After Logan's, we headed back to the hotel room and collapsed, thrilled with everything we got to see and do. I'm so glad we had a free day to explore the area. It would have been sad to travel there and only see the inside of the Convention Center. 

You might have noticed that I didn't mention the admission fees we paid for the three museums or the factory tour. That's because there aren't any admission fees. The McDonald's Museum, the Cucamonga Service Station, the Ontario Museum of History and Art, and the tour at Graber's are all free. It's amazing to me that such high-quality, interesting, and informative places don't charge admission. What a treasure! Definitely visit if you can.


Pinners Conference California Trip: Day 2

On Friday 3/8, Jennifer and I woke up to a beautiful day in Ontario, California. After breakfast at the hotel, we walked across the street to the convention center where Pinners Conference was held. 

Checking in was quick and easy.

The VIPs (including presenters) had early access to the shopping floor before general admission started. I really appreciated the chance to see everything before it got crowded.

The floor had around 160 booths selling a wide variety of items, including She Sheds...

 ... kitchen supplies...

 ... jewelry and trinkets...

... and LOTS of painted, chalked, and/or decorated wood signs. 

There were booths selling makeup, hair accessories, clothing, protein powder, marshmallows, shoe insoles, massage pillows, totes, books, and more. We saw a lot of bunnies, which was awesome. I think that is because of the time of year more than anything. 

Some of the booths were offering make-and-takes in addition to selling product. Most of the make-and-takes were either jewelry-related or stenciling on wood. Most cost $10. Many were similar to, or the same as, the projects we'd made the night before at the VIP Party.

It took about 90 minutes for Jennifer and me to see everything on the show floor, which was perfect timing. We headed to our first class: "How to Create Unique Cookies." It was demonstration-style (rather than hands-on) with two large screens that allowed us to see what the instructor was doing. 

There is a 30 minute break between classes, which is supposed to allow 15 minutes for the previous instructor to clean up and 15 minutes for the next instructor to set up. In my case, it took 29 minutes for the previous instructors to clear out, leaving me just a minute to get myself ready to present. Fortunately, I didn't have materials to set up and was not selling class kits, so it wasn't a major issue. My class, "Destination Discovery: Family-Friendly Educational Travel," went well. I didn't have very many attendees, but those that I did have seemed to enjoy it and asked fantastic questions. 

Jennifer and I made a quick trip back to the hotel to drop off my laptop and other supplies from my class, then headed to our next class. We'd hoped to take a sewing class together, but it was full. We split up. I went to another lecture-style class, "Lifestyle Photography for Branded Content Creation." It was excellent. Jennifer went to a hands-on class to make a "Let Love Grow Chalkboard Sign." She learned a lot and had a good time.  

We went back to the shopping floor to look around and noticed there was another cookie class in progress. The room was 90% empty, so we went in and sat down. During the last five minutes of the class, the instructor let us come up and try our hand at decorating. So much fun! 

I've never piped with flooding glaze before. As you can see, I need to practice! I had a hard time keeping my initial barrier line straight, as I'm used to piping with thick icing that holds its shape. The instructor made it look easy!

After class, we walked a short distance to Spires Restaurant to meet up with 6 of our Southern California friends from back in our Fiskateer days. One of them had suggested Spires for its hearty, inexpensive, tasty diner food. 

The food was just as promised - hearty, classic comfort food like you'd expect to find in a diner. The eight of us had a wonderful time eating and chatting and catching up. 

Over dinner, Jennifer and I mentioned our plans for the following day. We'd be playing tourist, visiting a bunch of locations in the area, including San Bernadino. We had no idea, but apparently San Bernadino has a bit of a bad reputation. We promised our friends that we'd go during daylight and let them know that we made it back safely. Spoiler alert: We made it back safely! In fact, we had no problems whatsoever, and I'm going to do my convince you to add a specific San Bernadino location to your Southern California travel plans. I'll tell you all about it on Monday.


Pinners Conference California Trip: Day 1

A week ago today, I left home at 8:30 am to meet up with my friend Jennifer, who went with me to Pinners Conference in Ontario, California. (We were supposed to have a third friend with us, but Sheena had to cancel following an injury. Fortunately, she is improving every day.) The drive is around 430 miles and obviously took us the better part of Thursday. 

The drive was easy (says the person who wasn't driving - thanks, Jennifer!) and we made great time. We didn't stop for food, so we were both famished by the time we were approaching our hotel. We decided to head directly to Vince's Spaghetti, which has been at the same location since 1945. I'd seen great reviews, then when I contacted the Convention and Visitors Bureau and they recommended it, I knew we'd have a great meal. 

We arrived right at 4:00 pm when they open and there was already a sizable line to get in. Vince's did not disappoint. If you go, know that portion sizes are huge. Jennifer and I split a half-order of mostaccioli in their famous tomato sauce. (Yes, we split a HALF order. That's my portion below.) It came with two large slices of cheesy garlic bread, salad, and soup, all delicious. There was barely room for us to try their desserts, but we somehow managed to find the space. Yum!

Our next stop was our home for the next three nights, the Residence Inn

We'd chosen it when we thought there would be three of us, so it was more than ample for Jennifer and me. She and I had planned to share a room, but we each ended up with our own bedroom and bathroom!

The Residence Inn is right across the street from the Ontario Convention Center, where Pinners Conference was taking place. 

We got unpacked, then walked to a different hotel where the VIP Party was taking place. I was invited to attend since I was a presenter. Instructors at Pinners Conference are not paid; the only money we make is from selling class kits (which I did not do), successfully promoting a coupon code, and referring other presenters. In addition to attending the VIP Party, there are a few others perks for instructors, including passes to attend as many classes as you want.

When we got to the VIP check-in, we waited in a huge line to get our swag bags and t-shirts. 

Then we headed into the party. It was held in a large ballroom with tables along the walls for make-and-takes. There was a stage with chairs at one end. Near that was a bar and food. 

Jennifer and I jumped into doing make-and-takes. I believe there were eight total. Two were jewelry making...

... four involved using stencils and paint...

... and the other two were an embroidery hoop project and a succulent in a mini jar. They were all fun, most designed to be very fast beginner-level projects, which worked well considering the crowds.  

Speaking of crowds, we learned the hard way that the first thing to do when you arrive is to stake out a chair. There were fewer than half the number of chairs as there were people. The chairs that didn't have people in them had jackets and totes reserving the spots. We had to carry around our wet painted projects and sat on the floor with our food and drinks.

The last portion of the evening was a raffle. There were a lot of prizes (maybe 30?), but neither of us won. That's OK though. Look at all the goodies that were in the swag bag!

The VIP Party was a lot of fun, but after the long day we'd had, we were both ready to collapse and hopefully get a good night's sleep before my presentation the next day.  

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!