Panda Express as it stands today. (Literally, today, 20 minutes before posting this.)

When I lived in Lake Forest during the year 2000, I used to frequent a place called Panda Panda. It was your basic steam table Chinese restaurant, but it was good. I remember the occasional evening on which I’d think, “Do I go to the store, buy ingredients, come home, then spend time cooking just for one person, or do I go out and grab some fast-ish food?” Panda Panda was a frequent winner of these decisions.

It was located at the corner of El Toro and Raymond, near the library. Panda Panda shared a building with a Quizno’s sandwich place and was one driveway away from a Wendy’s.

I don’t know if they were a small chain or a solo restaurant, but they were eventually bought out or otherwise assimilated by Panda Express, which I’ve never particularly liked. (Though Panda Inn, a table-service restaurant owned by the same company, has been consistently good.) Naturally they homogenized the menu as well.

That was the end of that.

A few years later, as part of the big project to renovate the area, both buildings were bulldozed to make way for a new strip mall segment. Panda Express got the prime spot in the new building, but all traces of Panda Panda are lost.

For the record: I’m currently sitting in a Wahoo’s taco place roughly where the driveway used to be.

There’s a park just past the corner of Elrond and Ridge Route, and as I left that intersection I spotted a flock of about ten rather large ducks (Edit: it has been pointed out to me that most of these are actually Canada geese) walking across the park. I pulled over to start taking pictures, and realized that there were actually dozens of them, wandering around near the small (presumably artificial) lake that gives the park its name, Village Pond Park.

A line of geese.
Trekking across the park. Continue reading

A few years ago I lived in the city of Lake Forest (formerly El Toro) for a bit. One of the interesting things about Lake Forest is its collection of streets named after characters and places in Lord of the Rings. (And yes, these were around long before the movies were made.)

I still drive past Gondor Drive on my way back from the comic store, and I’ve been meaning to get a picture of the street sign for a while. It turned out to be too hard to shoot without actually aiming, so I turned onto a smaller street where I knew I could catch Elrond Lane:

Corner of Elrond and Ridge Route

Other Tolkien-inspired streets include: Buckland Lane, Bywater Road (and it is at least near water), Rivendell Drive, Shadowfax Drive and Brandywine Lane.

While checking the Thomas Guide for some of the ones I missed, I just discovered a neighborhood with Sesame Street, Muppet Lane, Big Bird, Oscar, Grover, and Cookie Monster. And Kurmit [sic], though I suppose that could be a typo.

And then there’s Dana Point, which has the Street of the Green Lantern. Of course, it has about 20 named Street of the fill-in-the-blank Lantern — Blue, Amber, Golden, Silver, Violet, etc. [Update: Here are some Green Lantern Street photos.]

Update Sep. 24: Here’s a blurry picture of the Gondor street sign:
Gondor Street Sign