Vacationing in Southern California

Background

The timing for this vacation was centered around Jordan's 8th Grade Graduation... her last day of school was actually Friday, June 15, but ceremonies were scheduled for Wednesday evening, June 13.   It was also designed from the get-go that one of her friends would accompany her on this trip, mainly so the teenagers would have a peer to hang around with for the week.  As I was planning in early January I noticed that the Carnival Ecstasy was now doing 3-and-4 day excursions to Catalina Island & Ensenada Mexico (you'll see it in the photos below when were were in Avalon); however, after checking prices for a few months, prime-time resulted in prime-time costs, so the following land-trip was concocted.
 

Wednesday, June 13, 2001 - En Route to Buellton, California;
Attend my Daughter's 8th Grade Graduation

It was an EARLY start to the day (about 2am California time) in order to make my 8am departure on America West.  It was my first time flying them and - despite reading and hearing things to the contrary - I was very impressed with both their operation and professionalism.  We arrived exactly on time at LAX just before noon local time (I connected through Phoenix, their home base)... but if I DO have one complaint with them, their baggage handling is pretty slow (in both directions it was nearly 45min before my small suitcase and golf clubs arrived on the turnstile).  I started getting a hint that this was going to be a good trip when I arrived at Budget to pickup my rent car - I had reserved an Altima-class mid-size, but upon arrival they were all out... so they substituted a fully-loaded Nissan Maxima!  Yeah (the teens LOVED having an in-dash CD-player)!!!  Running now only slightly behind, I departed LAX and cruised by theLos Angeles Adventurer All Suites Motel (just down Century Blvd from the airport) - which was going to be our home base for the majority of our vacation (no, it was NOT a 4-star facility, but the price was great for a three-bedroom suite).  I then headed up the 405 to the 101, arriving in Buellton just after 4pm (local time) for check-in to the palatial Motel 6 (a word of explanation: on my vacations, you spend precious little time in motel rooms... so my theory is that as long as they are clean and safe, the cheaper the better).  After taking a quick shower, I headed just down the road to the Rancho Santa Barbara Marriott, where Jordan's Graduation ceremonies were to be held.

I was surprised how few people were there at 5:15pm, until I discovered that the start time was 7pm (not 6pm as I'd originally been told).  But it did afford me the opportunity to see the teens, parents, and teachers that make up such a significant part of my daughter's life.  Jordan finally strolled-in a bit after 6pm... after several obligatory hugs to her friends she looked up, saw me, and let out this blood-curdling scream.  All of her friends turned quickly, with saucer-shaped eyes wondering if some rapist or attacker had wandered in.  After a split second of mild terror, Jordan allayed their fears by running over and giving me a big bear-hug, proclaiming "It's my Dad!".  With that green light, about a half dozen girls descended on me, introducing themselves by shaking hands.  I was stunned how mature some of them looked - an example is seen in the center photo below, showing Jordan with one of her best buds, Cara.  Beautiful girl, but she did NOT look 14 (then again, with all the girls in makeup and evening gowns, and the boys in black tuxes, none of them really looked their true ages)!!!  But it was plainly obvious that Jordan has a LOT of good friends who love her, and that she is very happy in her rural world.

Jordan's 8th Grade Graduation at the Rancho Santa Barbara Marriott in Buellton, CA

Jordan & Cara just after the conclusion of the Graduation ceremonies

David and Jordan just after the conclusion of the Graduation ceremonies

The actual ceremonies got under way just after 7pm and ran nearly two hours.  As I video'd the highlights I beamed as Jordan sang(solo) the class song (although it was pretty-much botched by a pianist that apparently had never practiced that song - or any of the other songs she played - prior to arrival... I joked afterwards that if Jordan's heart could have taken it, it would have been kewl for me to have received the music a week earlier, then announced as she walked-up that she would be accompanied by her Father from Georgia... but Natalie informed me that this particular teacher would have fought that idea tooth-and-nail), received a special award for excellence in "Language Arts", received a commendation for maintaining her GPA above 3.75, and finally received her diploma.  It was SOOOOOO kewl (and makes me feel SO old)!  You can see my vantage of the entire group in their gowns in the photo above left; the pic above right is Jordan and I in the hotel lobby just after the conclusion of the ceremony and prior to their formal dance (then needed time to clear the chairs in order to have a dance in the same room).  A few minutes later, Craig, Natalie & I left to have a wonderful Italian dinner at Massimi's Ristorante in Los Olivos.  Then, fast running out of steam (damn jet lag!), we left the restaurant shortly after 10pm and I crashed-and-burned at the motel by 10:30.  

 

Thursday, June 14, 2001 - Golf til you Puke ;)

I mentioned the jet lag... I (unfortunately) awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at about 4am.  Wandering out to a cola machine around the corner, I was stunned at how cold it was for mid-June (turning on the TV I quickly discovered that temps were in the low 40s that morning)... I had forgotten this little fact from my visit the prior year (as Jordan effectively describes it, "what do you expect, Dad - we live in the desert!").  So I got caught up on the news of the day, took a long shower, then walked next-door to McDonalds for a 630ish breakfast.  Jordan was spending the day at a class-outing to Six Flag's Hurricane Harbor (adjacent to Magic Mountain down in Valencia), so my day was free to golf to my heart's content.  My first tee time was scheduled for 8:30am at the LaPurisima Golf Course... because I awoke so early, I headed over there a bit after 7am and was able to tee-off with a twosome just after 8am.  But maybe I wasn't as awake as I thought - I left my camera at the motel, so the only pictures I can show come from their website:

The LaPurisima Golf Course - a view of the 2nd and 3rd holes

The LaPurisima Golf Course - a view of the 7th hole

The LaPurisima Golf Course - a view of the 12th green

The LaPurisima Golf Course - a view of the 13th hole

In a word, this is one difficult golf course!  Thankfully, the two gentlemen I played with were coaching me with targets on the tougher, less-obvious, holes.  It's one of those tracks where an errant shot will cost you two strokes, period.  I played pretty well, but had three "disaster" holes that resulted in an 88 (the last disaster happened on the last hole, where I took a triple-bogey - otherwise, I'd have had a very nice 85 on the day... oh well!).  One thing that fascinated me was having pointed-out the Vandenberg AFB launch platforms on the tops of the mountains surrounding the course... my playing partners told of one day when a Titan IV was launched, bringing play to a grinding halt as everyone watched and listened to the unexpected spectacle.  Just my luck, tho, that nothing launched the day I visited! :-(

We finished a little before 1pm; I had my second time scheduled for the Ranch Course at Alisal, but on advice of my playing partners I cancelled that time and drove down the 154 to the Robert Trent Jones course at Rancho San Marcos.  They didn't steer me wrong - while it wasn't as tough a course as LaPurisima, it was just as scenic (and, according to them was about $50 cheaper too).  Ended-up shooting an 86 there; altho the score was better than on the morning round, I think I was getting tired towards the end of this round because I was getting away with some pretty errant shots.  Again, odd for me that my camera wasn't in tow, so I'm relying on a couple of photos I scrounged from the net for posting to my site (see below).  I got back to the Buellton area about 7pm, stopped-in at a local Chinese restaurant, and was back at the motel by a little after 8pm - not too long after which I crashed-and-burned again.

The Rancho San Marcos Golf Course

The Rancho San Marcos Golf Course

 

Friday, June 15, 2001 - Winery Tours & Tasting; En Route to Los Angeles

Friday was the last day of school for Jordan - or, more accurately, the last half-day - so I was again on my own for the morning.  I awoke about 445 (getting a little better, but still too damn early!) and headed over to Ellen's Danish Pancake House for breakfast at about 7am (Danish pancakes are very thin and about 12" in diameter - I also included an order of Danish sausage too).  Taking it easy, I checked-out of the motel around 930 and drove up to the Firestone Vineyard & Winery for a tour of their facilities (the front entrance can be seen in the photo below left, with a view of their main reisling vineyard below right).  It was quite interesting... they are one of the bigger ones in the area, and one of the few we can actually buy in GA (an aside: our powerful liquor lobby got legislation passed a few years back prohibiting the purchase of ANY quantity of alcohol that didn't come through them, effectively shutting off remote access to the small wineries around the world).  From there, I headed down to Los Olivos to both the Longoria Wine Tasting Room and the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium (where I snapped the photo of the lovely wine attendant shown center below).  This gave me the opportunity to sample nine different local varieties (I bought four different reds, three of which I gave to my Dad on return to Atlanta).

The Firestone Vineyard & Winery

The Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium

The Firestone Vineyard & Winery

By this time, noon was fast approaching and I needed to get to the Elementary School to pickup Jordan and her friend Katie.  When I arrived, I found them giving tearful goodbyes to their favorite teacher, Joseph Carnahan ("Carnie" as he's called by everyone, this was his last year as he goes on to other opportunities).  They piled-into my car and we headed into town to The Burger Barn, both for lunch and so I could meet Katie's Mom, Diana (probably a good idea to at least meet the man that's going to take your kid to Los Angeles for the week, right?).  After this we headed to Jordan's house to grab her packed duffel (and so I could see her newly remodeled bedroom, which included wood flooring, new wall paint (purple-sponge), and new furniture... it definitely looks more like a young woman than a young kid who lives there).  From there we headed over to Katie's house to grab her bag, after which we hit the road down to La-La-Land.  All was fine until we got to about Sherman Oaks when Friday afternoon traffic came to a screeching halt - what should have been only an almost three-hour trip took nearly five.  But, we made it safe-and-sound to the hotel ("The Dump" as we affectionately began calling it, altho it wasn't THAT bad!), and went to a nearby grocery store for drinks & munchies for the week (which comprised Friday evening's dinner too).  We spent the rest of the evening talking and vegging-out to the boob tube.

 

Saturday, June 16, 2001 - Six Flags Magic Mountain

Well, I made it all the way to 6am this morning (!), despite an extremely uncomfortable hide-a-bed at the motel.  Ahem.  At least they do provide fresh-baked blueberry muffins and hot coffee as a complementary breakfast, so I chowed-down on those when the restaurant opened for business at 7am.  I got the kids up - not without some effort - a bit after 900, and we were off to Six Flags Magic Mountain.  Arriving in the park just after 1130, I quickly discovered that Katie (because of easily-onset motion sickness) does NOT have a penchant for most roller coaster rides... so Jordan and I began the first of the day with the looping "Revolution".  It was quite hot and being a Saturday the lines were quite long... so we really didn't ride any of the "name rides" more than once, and I still had to ride some of them all by my lonesome (including all of the ones shown below).

Goliath

Batman

Riddler's Revenge

The Viper

By the way - Goliath is the coaster where the woman rider died of an aneurysm a few weeks earlier.  That said, there was a 90+min wait for the 3min ride, but it was worth it!  Goliath is singularly the best coaster I've ever been on.  With a 255' drop at 85mph, followed by the highest g-loading I've felt on a coaster (going through two-and-a-half tight turns near the end), it is worth the total cost of admission and the 90min wait!  Ride it if you're ever in the area!!  The afternoon heat started taking a toll on the teens - they were wilting before my eyes, but I didn't think the temps were all that bad (it's a humidity thing, I suppose... I was guessing it was mid-to-upper 80s, when, in fact, the high that day in Valencia was 97).  At 9:45pm the Park was lit by fireworks, and we closed the place down with a last ride on Ninja before departing.  We stopped at a nearby Ralph's Supermarket so the girls could get their favorite pre-packaged cookie dough for munching, then headed back south to the hotel.  I have no idea when they actually fell asleep, because I beat them to the punch by about midnight.

 

Sunday, June 17, 2001 - My Brother's Family in Pasadena, California

Given the frenetic pace of the vacation so far, Sunday was scheduled to be our day of rest.  I awoke about 7:30, and I let the girls sleep until about 10.  After everybody got cleaned-up, we headed up towards Pasadena to tour the Old Town area (so I could take some photos); we also went over to the Rose Bowl (shown below center) before heading to a nearby Subway Sandwich Shop (Katie's favorite haunt) for lunch.  Shortly after 1pm we arrived at my brother's home for Jordan's long-anticipated reunion with her Uncle and Cousins.  The proverbial good time was had by all (you can kind of tell that from the photos below, can't you?).

Jordan, pictured with her cousins Hilary & Courtney

Jordan carrying her cousin Courtney

Jordan, pictured with her cousins Hilary & Courtney

Jordan clowning around with her cousin Courtney

Katie & Jordan visiting the Rose Bowl

Courtney, Hilary, and my brother Robert

We toured Robert & Susan's lovely home, watched Hilary & Courtney give a boxing demonstration on Playstation 2 (Courtney remains undefeated as her alter ego "Mama Tua", a 400-lb Polynesian woman), and watched DVD snippets of some of the films Robert has recently shot (including "What Lies Beneath" and "Castaway").  About 5pm we headed over to El Cholo, a local Mexican chain that I'd been wanting to try (and very deserving of all the accolades I read about on Zagat's and other web review sites... I had a spinach & goat cheese enchilada dish that was out of this world!).  Returning to their home, the girls played on the swings and jungle gym in the back yard until dusk, when we retired inside to watch "The Weakest Link" while the girls assembled jewelry.  But, with youngish kids in the fold, we called it a night just before 10 so they could get to bed, and so we could get back to "The Dump".  As Jordan intends (at least at this time) to come back to Atlanta next summer, unless Robert & his family visit again it'll be at least two years before I see them again. :-(

 

Monday, June 18, 2001 - Touring Paramount Studios & Rodeo Drive;
Shopping at the Beverly Center

After the now obligatory blueberry muffin and coffee, we left the motel and headed up to 5555 Melrose for a tour of the Paramount Studios (you can see the front entrance in the center photo below along with the side entrance - which operated as our exit - below right).  I enjoyed it, but the kids seemed a little lukewarm.  Part of that reaction may well have been because they were pretty much on hiatus, and (other than filming for the new Star Trek Series: Enterprise) not much was happening on the lot.  I enjoyed getting to go into behind-the-scenes places such as the Orchestral Scoring Studio, the Prop Department, etc., but I think it was a bit dry for the teens (plus, they seemed not at all happy that it was a 100% walking tour).  So be it... it was my vacation too!  Lasting just a bit more than two hours, from there we headed over to the world-famous Pink's Hot Dog Stand for lunch (shown below left)... while the girls had less than adventuresome plain hot dogs with ketchup, I opted for their millennium dog: a 12" jalapeno dog piled-high with lettuce, sauerkraut, tomatoes, onions, and peppers... it was SOOOOOO good!

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The heat was again stifling.  I had planned to shop Rodeo Drive, but the ladies asked if we could just drive it (which isn't exactly tough given it's only three blocks long).  I'm not sure they weren't even sleeping during that visit.  Thankfully, my friend Julie had suggested we spend more time over at the Beverly Center than Rodeo Drive, and it was a good call.  Arriving there around 2pm, we stayed until dark.  The fact that it was air conditioned was probably a big draw, but the girls seemed to really enjoy the selection of clothing shops... Jordan even let me buy her a few outfits, and Katie treated herself to some new clothes as well.  With a theatre on site, we went to see the movie "Shrek" - and I understand why it's the top-grossing movie of the summer (because it's the best movie showing right now).  Afterwards, we walked down the street to a couple of music stores, then returned to get the car for our return back to "The Dump" to pack for tomorrow's early morning departure for Catalina Island.  On the way back to the motel it was fast food again... with teens in tow, you won't see me commenting on too many fine dining experiences - the week mainly consisted of visits to Wendy's, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Subway, Carl's Jr., etc.  I'm frankly amazed that I didn't gain 10lbs over the course of the week!

 

Tuesday, June 19, 2001 - En Route to Santa Catalina Island;
Shopping in Avalon; The Sundowner Isthmus Cruise

With a scheduled 8:45am departure for Santa Catalina Island, we hit the road at an unconscionable 7:15 (I don't think the girls really awoke until we were onboard the Catalina Express).  With Katie's propensity to motion sickness, she was a little uptight about the crossing... but conditions were good and the catamaran design of the jetboat made for an exceptionally smooth ride.  We arrived about 9:45 and took a cab up to the LaPaloma Cottages, where we dropped our bags (as we couldn't check-in until later that afternoon).  After that we headed into Avalon first to eat - where else but Coney Island West for hot dogs? (shown below left).  Next, we shopped all the shops - Katie wanted a new bathing suit (which she never found), and I bought the girls each an airbrushed "tattoo" above their right ankles.  We also wandered over to Descanso Beach then back by the Casino (pictured below right), then hung-out near the Avalon Dive Park and jetty (shown center below).  We even played 18 holes of miniature golf (for the record, on this round Katie bested Jordan by two strokes).  By this time it was late enough to check-into our room - Unit #14 - and as I walked back to town for the girl's requested lunch of Taco Bell, they cat napped to regain their heat-sapped strength (altho the heat over on the island never exceeded 80 degrees).

Jordan & Katie just before chowing-down at Coney Island West in Avalon David wishing he could have gone diving this trip... Jordan & Katie outside of The Casino in Avalon

We had scheduled a 4:30pm departure on the Blanche W for "The Sundowner Isthmus Cruise", and arrived a bit after 4pm to queue up.  It was a lot of fun - we cruised about 1/4mi off the northern coastline from Avalon over to Two Harbors.  Stopping there for dinner, we toured the Isthmus (about 1/2mi wide at that point) that also doubles as the Island's emergency aircraft landing strip, before heading back to the Blanche W for our 8pm return trip.  On the return, with the sunlight giving way to darkness, the crew turned-on a 40 million candlepower spotlight so that we could see the flying fish jump along the way.  And the return at dark to the illuminated Avalon was truly beautiful.  I'd LOVE to sail there one of these days for a long weekend in the harbor.  With everyone beat from the long day, we walked back to La Paloma and called it a night by about 10:30.

 

Wednesday, June 20, 2001 - The Catalina Island Motor Tour; En Route back to Los Angeles

What?  No blueberry muffins for free this morning?  So be it... we stored our bags at the hotel's front desk and headed for an 8am breakfast at "The Pancake Cottage".  It was then just a short walk over to the tour bus loading for the Catalina Inland Motor Tour.  I had done this one a few years back when Debbie & I visited Catalina, but always said I'd bring Jordan back both for the beauty as well as a visit to the Wrigley's Arabian Horse Farm (El Rancho Escondido).  Both Katie & Jordan seemed to enjoy themselves (at least they were smiling when I snapped the photo below left).  The first stop is at the Airport in the Sky, where there are magnificent views of both the north and south sides of the island (plus a potty break too).  From there you head over to the south central coastline for impressive views of the rocky cliffs.  Then it's over to the Horse Farm for a brief demonstration, refreshments, and tour of the facilities.  Finally, we headed back to Avalon (a view of the harbor on our return is shown below right), concluding our three-and-a-half hour sojourn.

Katie & Jordan during the Inland Motor Tour, Catalina Island I go snorkeling and just look what happens to me !?!?! A view of Avalon Harbor as we returned from the Inland Motor Tour

After a bite of lunch, more shopping, and another round of miniature golf (Jordan took Katie this time), we retrieved our bags from the hotel and made way back to the dock for our 6:30pm return to Long Beach.  With all three of us quite tired from the past two days, we skipped going out to dinner, opting to munch on the remaining groceries we had in the motel room.  The girls had grand designs of going swimming on our return, but instead got on the phone(s) with their friends back in Santa Ynez... talking well past the time I called it a night (but, I'm not so old that I don't remember how much fun that was when I was a teenager).

 

Thursday, June 21, 2001 - Touring Warner Bros Studios;
Touring NBC Studios; Visiting the Santa Monica Promenade

In retrospect, this day may well have been the girl's favorite... which is good, as it was also Katie's last day with us (she found out late that her Summer School session actually began on Friday the 22nd instead of Monday the 25th - how dumb is that? - so Craig came down mid-afternoon to drive her back to Santa Ynez).  We drove up to Burbank for a 9:30am tour of the Warner Brothers Studios, but arrived early enough that we were able to get with the 9am group.  Which was good, because our tour guide Brandon was a movie buff and clearly did a job that he loved.  First stop on the tour was a 25min visit to their on-site memorabilia museum, containing the Oscars they've won for Best Picture along with the actual costumes and props used in those and many other movies.  Of particular interest to me was all of the handwritten correspondence that was available but not enough time was allowed to read.  They also have all of the Batman movie costumes, the original Maltese Falcon, the piano and chandelier from Rick's Cafe in "Casablanca", Dorothy from "Twister", and countless other stuff too numerous to mention.

From there we headed to the soundstages.  Here's where the trip shined for the teens: since everything was on hiatus, Brendan got us into the "Friends" soundstage for about 15min of time.  Since this is Jordan's all-time favorite TV show she was simply in heaven!  From there we wandered through other soundstages where they had shot "The Maltese Falcon" and "Casablanca", plus countless other more recent TV shows.  We drove by a mystery set that turned out to be where the new "Time Machine" movie is being filmed (you could see a few props through the open doors that were obviously high-tech scientific equipment-looking stuff (BTW, I wish I could offer photos of this, but they confiscate both your still and video camera prior to this part of the tour, so all we have are our memories).  Next we headed over to the back lot, where some still photos were permitted.  There were so many set you could recognize from various film and TV programs, but the one most worth of note are seen in the two center photos below: the exterior areas where "ER" is still filmed (you can see the two entrances to "County General" below).  In fact, just outside this area is "Magoo's", the diner you frequently see the doctors visit, which it turns out is where they actually shoot (no soundstage for the interiors, they actually do it in the trailer).  We concluded the tour back where it began, just underneath the famous WB water tower (shown below right).  After a drive through Burbank to get some gas, we lunched at In-N-Out Burger... god, how I wish we had those in Georgia - it was the best burger and fries I've had in quite some time.

Jordan standing just outside the NBC Studios, Burbank CA

On the Warner Bros backlot, this is where the exteriors to "ER" are taped for TV

The famous Warner Brothers Water Tower in Burbank, CA

David at the Johnny Carson Park, adjacent to the NBC Studios, Burbank CA

Jordan standing in front of the entrance to the ER, on the Warner Bros back lot

The Front Gate Entrance to The Walt Disney Studios, Burbank CA

The Santa Monica Promenade at night

That afternoon, we headed over to NBC Studios (where Jordan is pictured above left, and I'm shown above standing across the street from NBC at the Johnny Carson Park), but tickets were nearly gone for the day and we could only get the last tour starting at 3pm.  Problem was that this was the time Craig was supposed to get Katie, and he even arrived about 30min early - so she wasn't able to do this part of the day.  So, after she split about 2:45, Jordan and I headed back inside for a behind-the-scenes look at the studios where "Access Hollywood" and "The Weakest Link" are shot (you'd normally tour "The Tonight Show" studio, but they were extensively rehearsing for that evening's show which was to be done entirely by either flashlights or candlelight - a parody on California's current electricity woes).  Oh, well, you have to save something for the next visit, right?  We also saw their costume shop, makeup shop, talent area (including one of Jay Lenos' cars in that parking area), special effects area, and prop department.  I enjoyed it, but then again I'm a vidiot... Jordan later said she'd probably skip it were she to do it over again.  So be it.  From there we drove by Forest Lawn Cemetery, then by the Disney Studios entrance (shown above right), then headed over to Santa Monica's Promenade (shown bottom center above after dark).  We stopped by a local bookseller to get Jordan a DVD and a CD, then went to a local theatre to see "Evolution".  When we got out, she said she still wasn't really hungry, so we bypassed dinner and headed back down the PCH towards Marina del Rey, before heading back to "The Dump".  A very full, very fun day.  If you're in the Los Angeles area, the Warner Bros tour is an absolute don't miss - especially if you are a film buff!

 

Friday, June 22, 2001 - Touring The Hollywood Walk of Fame & Mann's Theatre;
Attend a Game Show Taping; Tour Griffith Park & Observatory

Knowing that we were to lose Katie on Thursday, I had jammed most of the really fun stuff into the first part of the trip.  Or so I thought.  Jordan and I left for Hollywood about 10am (after I had my now usual blueberry muffin and coffee!) and strolled the Hollywood Walk of Fame for a little more than an hour (it was particularly poignant seeing Carroll O'Connor's star, as he died the day before).  Parking down near Hollywood & Vine, we walked towards Mann's Theatre (shown below left); while studying the various hand & foot prints there we were approached about seeing a TV show - I told the guy Jordan was too young (most shows have a minimum age of 16, most are 18), but he suggested Louie Anderson's "Family Feud".  I looked at her, she seemed interested (as she was clearly getting tired of seeing all the stars and names that she didn't recognize), so we got two tickets and were told to be back at NBC no later than 1pm (it was starting to feel like a second home by now).  On the way there, we swung-by a Wendy's for lunch, then queued up for the show in Burbank.  It was great to get inside, because this was the hottest day of the week!

Mann's Chinese Theatre, on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood, CA Jordan standing outside the Griffith Observatory in the Hollywood Hills The Hollywood Sign, shot nearby from one of the many beautiful subdivisions underneath

After seeing all of the inactive soundstages, it was odd to be led inside to see all the colored lights and working crew, milling about making things happen.  After we'd been seated about 5min they brought in the first two families (they were going to tape two different shows that day).  While they were rehearsing the proper ways to shake hands with their opponents, operate the button, cheer each other, and play for the big money at the end, we (the audience) were being instructed by a stand-up comic how to cheer and sigh properly, and generally to get livened-up.  Then, with very, VERY little warning, the music started, the announcer called the family names as we applauded, then Louis Anderson appeared and things got underway.  I was surprised how smoothly both shows went, only requiring three restarts (whereas Jordan was amazed they "messed up" that much... guess it's just a matter of perspective).  Recognizing how stupid most games shows are, it was fun nonetheless (I heard afterwards that Katie was SERIOUSLY jealous that we got to do this... hey, what can I say, it was NOT planned!).  We got out about 3:30pm - too late for the planetarium show I'd planned to attend, but we went ahead and drove to Griffith Park to visit the Observatory (pictured above center)... which has simply stellar views of the city!  After that we drove through various subdivisions in the Hollywood Hills, mainly underneath the Hollywood sign (shown above right).  By the time we got done it was getting late; and still having more munchies than I could hope to cart home we headed back to the motel for a snacking dinner (guess I'm not that good of a Daddy letting my kid eat so much junk food, but it's vacation for her too, right?).  We spent a quiet evening together talking and watching some TV shows (since she doesn't have broadcast TV at home that's a treat she always enjoys), turning in by about 10pm.

 

Saturday, June 23, 2001 - Touring the March ARB Aviation Museum & Riverside, California;
Jordan returns home; Dinner with Julie Gardner & her roommates

Sadness... my time with Jordan was drawing to a close.  That morning, after she took a long shower she packed her bag as her Mom was supposed to pick her up 5ish.  We headed out towards Riverside - that's a part of California I'd never seen, and I also had heard good things about the March ARB Aviation Museum there (the good comments were warranted - if you're either a WWII or aviation buff you'll have a very good time).  At the same time, I wasn't going to spend more than about 75-80min touring as I didn't want to bore Jordan senseless (I recall the day we spent at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum which she recalls as one of the low points in her life!).  But, as she gets older, she does complain far less... tho I could she she was just enduring this for me.  Some of the notable things we saw: the B-24 Liberator shown below left above; me pictured at the nose of a C-47 (the military equivalent of the DC-3) shown below right above; Jordan pictured behind a B-52 below right; and our workhorse of a rent car pictured as we were exiting the facility below a P-40 fighter.  Inside, they had various memorabilia from WWI forward to the Space Shuttle.  Were I to go back, I would allow three-to-four hours to adequately see things... this would also afford an opportunity to sit and chat with some of the veteran volunteers they have on hand (e.g., they have two refurbished P-38s on hand, and the day we went one was staffed by a P-38 pilot willing to answer any questions or just reminisce... but we elected to take a pass due to the time constraints).

The B-24 Liberator at March Air Reserve Base, Riverside CA The C-47 at March Air Reserve Base, Riverside CA
The P-40 (and our rental car) at March Air Reserve Base, Riverside CA Jordan, pictured with the B-52 at March Air Reserve Base, Riverside CA

From there, we headed into downtown Riverside just to drive around a bit.  Lots of beautiful architecture, especially the older churches.  From there we drove by their municipal airport, then over to another In-N-Out  so I could get one more fix before returning home.

We took a leisurely drive back to "The Dump", where Jordan - again exhausted from the heat - asked if I'd mind if she took a nap while waiting for her Mom to arrive (no problem... while I might have preferred spending every minute with her - since our time together is so limited - she can also be pretty grouchy when she's wiped out... besides, we'd had a very busy and very great week together).  Natalie arrived shortly after 5pm and snapped the three pictures seen below in the top row... interesting to again note my own expressions, which are discernibly more sad than earlier in the week.  To be expected, I suppose.  I gave her a big hug and kiss goodbye, then had my usual tears commence as they drove out of the security gate and made their left turn to go get up on the freeway for the ride home.  Next time I see the kid will be mid-December, when she flies to Atlanta for her usual Christmas break.  But it was no time to wallow in self-pity... I needed to get myself packed for a very early morning check-out, then cleaned-up for my long-anticipated dinner "date" with my cyber-buddy Julie (shown below left on the bottom row).

David & Jordan just prior to the kid's return to Santa Ynez David & Jordan just before saying goodbye to one another Is she putting on a brave face or genuinely happy to be going back to her friends?  Inquiring minds want to know!
Julie & David over Dinner in West Hollywood 'bye, Goose! Julie's roommates Deanna & Susie

Julie lives with her two roommates in an upstairs apartment about one block from the beach (sorry, folks, that's as precise a description of her location as you're going to get).  We originally "met" about one year ago when I became a regular visitor to her (now defunct)website.  On it, she would post pictures of parties she'd been to, places she'd gone, things she'd done.  It was odd driving into her area actually recognizing many of the surroundings from her photos.  At any rate, I arrived a bit after 7 (I'd have been more prompt if parking hadn't been at such a premium nearby), met everybody (including Julie's brand-new Shih Tzu "Willie"), and we all headed out for a wonderful dinner in West Hollywood at Yabu (at last! No kid food!!).  In retrospect, I wonder if I mildly unnerved her roommates when we met, as I easily recognized them and called them by name.  It also might not have helped that I have a pretty good memory, and all of them - especially Julie - seemed a little taken aback at how much I remembered about their lives, their friends, etc. (sorry, I'm just peculiar that way).  You may be wondering why Dee & Susie came along... well, think about it: you "meet" someone over the net, and you're going to go climb into a rented car with them and venture out by yourself?  I don't think so.  I knew Julie was both prudent and level-headed, and this just verified things for me.

So, how did it go?  Well, I can speak only for myself, but I enjoyed our time together immensely... it's just twinged with some sadness that in a best case scenario we'll only be able to visit in person every couple of years.  But I do consider her a "real" friend now and hope that we'll continue to talk... and, occasionally if she's in my part of the world or when I'm in hers, get together for dinner and drinks.  We called it a night not long after 10, which was fine by me as I had a seriously early wake-up call Sunday morning...

 

Sunday, June 24, 2001 - Contesting The Presley Cup; En Route home to Duluth, Georgia

Daylight dawns very early in SoCal and so do the golf tee times.  A very highly-rated course near Robert is the Eisenhower course at the Sheraton Resort in City of Industry.  Unfortunately for me, it was a 45-50min drive, and I also had to check-out of "The Dump" that morning as well.  But when you combine-in that I also had a 3:30pm plane to catch, I couldn't wait too late either.  So, I booked a 7am tee time, and (coincidentally) drove the last several miles up the highway and into the main entrance behind my brother.  This was another anticipated event... a golf rematch from our last get together in September 2000 in Atlanta (which I won).  Paired with a nice guy from Redondo Beach named Ed it began great for Rob and iffy for me - we both made Pars on the first hole, but his was textbook where mine was scrambling.  But not too long after that things turned and Rob had a bad case of alternating shanks and pull hooks(that's what happened to Rob as soon as he hit the tee ball shown in the photo center below... scenic hole with a blown tee shot!).  The long and short of it was that I won again; or, more precisely, he lost... he had one of those days on the links you'd just as soon forget, which also took some of the satisfaction of victory away as I really didn't "beat him".  Ahem.  Guess we'll just have to wait for Round 3 for another rematch.  

The Eisenhower Course at the Sheraton City of Industry Robert Teeing-Off on the 4th Hole at the Eisenhower Course at the Sheraton City of Industry Resort The Eisenhower Course at the Sheraton City of Industry

Although I had been told to budget five hours for our round, we finished in about four-and-a-half.  Which afforded plenty of time for an on-site lunch.  By about 12:45 Rob needed to get back home (his wife's sister and her family had been visiting all week and this Sunday was their last full day), plus I needed to change and get down to LAX.  I returned the rent car very quickly (after sweating a traffic jam on the freeway for a little while), made my (on-time) 3:30pm America West flight through Phoenix and landed in Atlanta at about 12:45am local time.  This put me to my house about 2:20am Atlanta time, and I was in bed for sleep by 3am.  Granted a late night, but not that bad considering my body was on Pacific Daylight Time... where it hurt bad, though, was waking up at 7am the next day to go to work... and I faded really fast that afternoon.  But I seemed to spring back pretty quickly into my own time zone over the next couple of days, leaving very fond memories and (no doubt) big upcoming credit card bills.  And a touch of sadness that my big vacation for 2001 is now history... thanks for reading my recap, though!

   
 

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