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Photo TR: Jason's California Adventure


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So I'm just back from the TPR West Coast Tour and already missing the adventure (not to mention the bad news that my car wouldn't start upon my return--it's going to be fun explaining why I'll be late to work tomorrow following a two-week vacation...). Unfortunately, I'm also still on California time, meaning it will be another hour or two before I'm tired enough to sleep, so I figured why not start my TR (since it's going to take awhile to finish anyway... 13 days to cover!)?

 

I had already planned a mini-sightseeing day on my own on arrival day, but I ran into Speeddeamon128 (Matt) at the airport and he decided to join me. What you'll see next is a true account of what happened the rest of that day. No coasters yet, but there'll be plenty of them later. For now, just enjoy the California culture!

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The excitement was just too much for Jen! It was just as well; most of us had to be up the next morning for Day 0: Sightseeing Day!

 

Much, much more to come!

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Oh.

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Could this be another fireworks run like the one on the Deep South Trip?

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It was a nice night, so I decided to eat outside and watch the planes pass (sometimes a little too closely) during their descent to LAX. I got a double-double with fries, animal-style all the way. The burger was good. The fries, on the other hand, were incredible! I dreamt of them often throughout the rest of the trip.

 

Eventually I, too, made my way back to the hotel, joining the rest of the TPR group for some quality lobby time. I had been there only about 20 minutes when Robb came in and announced a special field trip.

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Seriously, there are only about eight things on the entire menu (all burger- and fry-related), and these people were cranking them out like there was no tomorrow! Even then it was about a 15-minute wait for my order, which just goes to show how popular this place is.

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Matt decided to go back to the hotel for awhile, while I caught a free shuttle from the airport to one of the best fast food restaurants in the world.

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...and famous Los Angeles Farmers Market.

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The shuttle back to the airport provided an unintentional (though difficult to photograph) mini-tour of its own that included the CBS television studio...

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"7-inch beef wieners"

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I couldn't eat all my onion rings, and we had about an hour before my pre-arranged shuttle came to pick us up at the restaurant and take us back to LAX, so we killed some time playing ring toss....

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From left: Pink's famous onion rings, a Brooklyn pastrami Swiss cheese dog and a classic Pink's chili dog. The rings were pretty good, the pastrami dog was OK (but not as good as it seemed like it should be), and the chili dog was absolutely amazing!

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And hot dogs must be healthy: Even Richard Simmons eats here! (That, however, does not fully explain why he's covered in chains in his publicity photo. As if that needed to be pointed out.)

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Lots of celebrities and "celebrities" enjoy Pink's.

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So does this mean Pink's has the Neil seal of approval?

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Today the stand offers a huge variety of "novelty" dogs to tie into films, Hollywood personalities, local landmarks and whatever else might entice a tourist to "upgrade" his or her dog.

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This is how Pink's looked when it opened in 1939, selling inexpensive food to employees and wannabe actors and actresses hanging around the nearby movie studios.

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Let's get in line, shall we? We were pretty fortunate in that it took us only a half hour to order. I had been warned to expect a one-hour wait, minimum.

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Next stop: Pink's Hot Dogs!

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Yep, we're in Hollywood all right!

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...and this old thing (much better photo coming during the "Day 0: Sightseeing Day" report).

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...the former Darkroom camera shop (famous enough to be recreated at Disney-Pixar Studios and Universal Studios Orlando)...

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Along the way we encountered a few other famous Hollywood sights including the historic El Rey Theatre...

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After about an hour at the tar pits, we made our way down historic Wilshire Boulevard and on to La Brea Boulevard for our second big stop of the day.

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Blub!

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A little exhibit out back showed how they continue to excavate the site.

 

Random tourist to us on our way out of the building: "What's in here?"

 

Matt: "Tar."

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Lots of ribs to see here! I call the big one "Mary Kate."

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And this would be where they scrape the tar off stuff (or something like that).

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This is what he looks like fully dressed.

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...and mammoth.

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...camel...

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...bison...

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Lots of skeletons in here recovered from the tar, including a sloth...

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Hey, we caught the museum on one of its 12 free admission days per year! Let's have a look inside, shall we?

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Jason and the mammoth (the mammoth is on the right).

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...like that one!

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Oh, I hope that poor mammoth doesn't get stuck...

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There's the tar!

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After some confusion at the hotel regarding whether we could officially check in before Robb and Elissa arrived, Matt and I returned to LAX to catch a shuttle to the world famous La Brea Tar Pits. We had been in L.A. for about 40 minutes by that point, which I think was about twice as long as our shuttle driver (who, of course, spoke very limited English).

 

After telling him where we wanted to go, writing it down for him, giving him the street address and assuring him for the 20th time that we were indeed saying "tar pits" and not "carpet," we finally gave up, had him drop us off in a semi-safe neighborhood and just took a cab from there. Eventually we arrived.

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First stop: LAX! How could I fly all the way across country and not get a photo of the iconic Encounter restaurant... even if it was undergoing renovations?

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YAY Jason!! Awww... I miss it all!

 

Great pics of In N Out!! I had mine in Orange County!!

Also thanks for the Tar Pit Pics, that was something I didn't have a chance to see.

 

Love your Pics and reports. Can't wait for the rest!!

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This is great! I was thinking of starting a LA Non-Coaster PTR in the Random Forum, It's fun to see the city through other peoples eyes. Maybe I'll start it once I find my camera. I checked out Pinks, once, and I thought it was 'meh.' Taking the line into account, I will probably never be back. In-N-Out, though, is awesome, and I love it!

 

Chris.

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Wow, thanks for all the happy thoughts! I've got to say that I fully expected Day 0, our Los Angeles sightseeing day, to be the biggest highlight of the trip. It didn't even come close--not that it wasn't incredibly awesome; it's just that so much great, unexpected stuff happened in the days that followed, the sightseeing tour kind of got buried beneath it all in the end.

 

Robb had to go to his "real" job that day (he later told us he worked until 3 the next morning), so Elissa, despite her displeasure with L.A. in general, served as our gracious hostess. It was definitely a day I'll never forget.

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But no matter. We all managed to enjoy our two hours there safely. Off in the distance was our final destination of the day: the famed Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park!

 

More to come in Day Zero: Part Two.

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Elissa had told us that Venice could get a little rough sometimes. Picturesque beach scenery aside, there appeared to be some truth behind that warning.

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Same.

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A little walk in the opposite direction took us directly to the famed Muscle Beach.

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Now I live just 30 minutes from one of the Mid-Atlantic's most popular beaches... but our beach certainly doesn't have mountains behind it!

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After awhile the beach just segued into a perfect picture postcard backdrop.

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All pedophiles please keep to the right!

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No lounging around here! Venice is much more well known for its active citizenry than its sunbathers.

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...and there's absolutely no doubt that whomever came up with the ice cream pimp was high on a lot more than life!

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I suspect all that medicinal marijuana may have contributed to some of the more "unique" signs we saw along the beach...

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On the other side of the boardwalk, these places were pretty much everywhere, and they kind of took most of us by surprise. In Maryland, drug dealers have rap sheets. In California, they have business cards (I kept one as a souvenir).

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Tourists and locals mingled while artisans (and a lot of hippies and quite possibly some homeless people) hawked their wares along a makeshift boardwalk arts district.

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...but soon enough it opened up into a gorgeous public area.

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At first it was an entanglement of cheesy tourist shops...

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After our all-too-short time in the Hollywood district, we bussed our way over to Venice Beach.

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OK, so this was cool! They had a section of the street blocked off to film a real movie! I had no clue who was behind all those camera people at the time, but it turned out to be Jamie Foxx! According to IMDB, the movie, due for release in 2010, is called "Valentine's Day," is being directed by Garry Marshall and also stars (takes a deep breath) Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, Taylor Swift, Topher Grace, Patrick Dempsey, Queen Latifah, Shirley MacLaine and George Lopez... and those are only the people I've actually heard of!

 

On a side note, I also happened to be on Beale Street in Memphis a couple years ago and got photos of Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac on location filming "Soul Men"... which turned out to be Mac's last movie before he died. Hopefully I won't bring such bad luck to any of these fine actors and actresses!

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OK, here's a sad, sad fact: Kids today probably recognize Jack Black in this display more so than King Kong.

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On the way back I passed the Hollywood Wax Museum. Though I don't really like wax museums enough to pay to get in, I do enjoy their lobby displays from the street. For instance, Tom was just hanging around....

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Check out the historic Musso and Frank's!

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This, however, was the real reason I hiked all the way from Grauman's Chinese to Hollywood and Vine. I couldn't come this close and not see the Capitol Records building in person. I could almost see the Beatles and the Beach Boys strolling out of its doors, lucrative contracts in hand.

 

The historic Broadway Hotel was also in this area, but I would have had to have walked several more blocks on my bad foot to get a decent photo, and for the first time I started to get the sense that the neighborhood I was entering was a little sketchy, so I turned around and headed back down Hollywood Boulevard toward the bus pickup area.

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After the Chinese Theatre, the Pantages is probably the best theater in Hollywood for my money. Why? Well, not only was it the long time home to both the Oscars and the Emmys, but it also hosted the premiere of one of my favorite movies, "Pride of the Yankees," and was once owned by one of my personal heroes (though, yeah, he was pretty much insane later on), Howard Hughes. Today it hosts live theatre productions.

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After a lot of painful walking, I finally made it to Hollywood and Vine.

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Told you we'd be seeing this again....

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Also in the neighborhood: the famous Pig 'n' Whistle restaurant. The place opened with the Chinese Theatre in 1927, closed in the '50s and re-opened during the Hollywood Renaissance of the early 21st century.

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Though Grauman's Egyptian Theatre is less well known than the Chinese Theatre it later inspired, this 1922 theatre is a hugh part of Hollywood history, having hosted the world's first movie premiere ("Robin Hood," starring Douglas Fairbanks, who later became a partner in the Chinese Theatre and the Roosevelt Hotel).

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Anyone want to go inside and see "Jimmy Kimmel Live"? Yeah, didn't think so.

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These elephants are the crown jewels of the Hollywood and Highland center, a shopping plaza that includes both the Chinese and Kodak theatres. Pay particular attention because you'll be seeing facsimilies of them in another section of this TR a long time from now (minus the obnoxious Pepsi billboard).

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Mickey says hey, y'all!

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I was going to get some ice cream here, but the line was long, the tables were full, and I didn't want to miss the bus, so I just got some pressed pennies instead. I also would have loved to have seen an actual movie in the Chinese Theatre, but I knew from the beginning I wouldn't have enough time for that.

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Next door is Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store.

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This is what the ticket booth looks like, for those who were wondering (you know who you are).

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Across the street: Disney's El Capitan Theatre.

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Today the Academy Awards are held right across the street at the less historic Kodak Theatre. Also, when Randy Jackson tells the American Idol contestants they're "going to Hollywood," this is where they end up.

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Mary Pickford also co-owned the historic Roosevelt Hotel, which opened across the street from the Chinese Theatre in 1927. They held the first Academy Awards ceremony there in 1929. Marilyn Monroe lived there for two years (and allegedly haunts the place now), and the 1950s TV show "This Is Your Life" was filmed there.

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Which star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the only one depicting a castle? Now if that ever comes up during bar trivia, you'll know the answer!

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I loved their work with Gilligan and Scooby Doo!

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Every time a bell rings, someone gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Not bad considering she only ever played one role.

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It may be a small world after all, but you'd think they could have spaced it out enough to have given them each their own star.

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Well, if it was good enough for Walt....

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I photographed the ones of the folks I admired most and/or found most amusing. Again, I really wish the light had been better for this one.

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Situated immediately outside the theater, this was the star getting the most attention.

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Speaking of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it went right past the theater. Isn't that convenient?

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My dad asked me if I could find John Wayne's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I couldn't, but this was the next best thing, I suppose.

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Bet you didn't know Cary Grant was British. Bet you didn't care, either.

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I wish the light had been a little more favorable here. Jimmy Steward is just about my favorite actor of all time.

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I wonder if he swept the chimneys while he was there.

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Same goes for the Ritz Brothers.

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I can't think of Sonja Henie without thinking of the 1939 Donald Duck cartoon "The Autograph Hound."

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Jimmy Durante cast his nose!

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Cecil B. DeMille's "The King of Kings" was the first film to be screened here.

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Ah, but the outside courtyard houses the theater's most famous holdings: the stars' hand and footprints in cement. Part-owner Mary Pickford was the first to cast hers upon the theater's opening in 1927.

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The interior entrance.

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And then it was on to our next off-the-bus stop: Grauman's Chinese Theatre! I can't even explain how exciting this place was to see in person.

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...and the Hollywood La Brea Gateway, featuring Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Anna Mae Wong and Dolores Del Rio (not Lucille Ball, as our tour guide/bus driver claimed).

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...Mel's Drive-In (which I was later saddened to discover wasn't the one used in "American Graffiti" (that one, part of the larger Mel's chain, was in San Francisco))...

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...Laugh Factory...

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...Comedy Store...

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...Whisky a Go Go...

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Back on the bus we zoomed by such famous Hollywood landmarks as the Key Club...

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It just looked like more expensive junk I couldn't care less about to me.

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Back near our meeting area for the bus was Via Rodeo, a shopping sub-district lightly themed as an Italian marketplace.

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And of course I visited the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. Just because it was called the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills.

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My original plan was to make the mile-long walk to visit the Rocky and Bullwinkle statue near the Beverly Hills Hotel. Unfortunately, between my hike between the La Brea Tar Pits and Pinks the day before and our hotel and Randy's Donuts that morning, I had pulled a muscle in my foot, and it hurt like the dickens every time I tried to walk any good distance. I thought about taking a cab, but it would have cost around $16, and I didn't think that was really worth it for a cartoon statue.

 

While trying to figure out how to spend the next 75 minutes in Beverly Hills, I walked into a toy store and found that they sold this, one of my favorite candy bars ever (and one that's not available in my part of the U.S.). So being the big spender I am, this was my lone non-lunch purchase in Beverly Hills: a Chase's Cherry Mash!

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I had read that the waitresses here could be kind of nasty, but mine was exceedingly nice, checking on me while they prepared my order, reminding me to drink lots of liquids because it was hot out, giving me walking directions to some local points of interest and even insisting that I take a to-go cup of lemonade with me as I exited the restaurant. Oh, and this? This is the absolute best pastrami sandwich I've ever had in the history of my life!

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My research prior to the trip led me to Nate 'n' Al's, a Beverly Hills landmark deli. No frou frou food here.

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The Beverly Hills portion of the trip was also our lunch stop. Breakfast at Tiffany's ended at 11, so I had to find someplace else to eat.

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You know times are tough when even the rich folks are taking public transportation.

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Ah, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. This is where Richard Gere takes his prostitutes. (Mr. Gere's attorneys should note that this is a "Pretty Woman" reference and not a personal slander of the actor himself. Please don't sue.)

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WTF?

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Rodeo Drive--isn't that where they sell saddles and lassos and cowboy hats?

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First off-the-bus stop: Beverly Hills!

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This is the building they blew up in "Die Hard."

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The tour commenced at 10 a.m., and it was a wild ride. I quickly figured out that everything worth seeing in Los Angeles was on the left-hand side of the bus. I switched seats from the right just in time to get this picture of 20th Century Fox Studios. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure a left-hand seat during our return, when we passed the Jim Henson Co.

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OK, so prior to the trip I did a lot of research and even posted a question or two on the boards about how safe the area of our hotel was for walking. I pretty much got an emphatic "not very" from just about every source. Now, I've spent some time in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and in those cities, a "bad neighborhood" is one in which you'll likely find used crack pipes and hypodermic needles (among other things) littering the ground every morning. The closest thing I found to that during my mile walk to and from Randy's was this pile of empty Snapple bottles.

 

Everywhere else in the world: "bad neighborhood"=drugs. In southern California: "bad neighborhood"=they don't recycle.

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I passed Hollywood Park on my way to and from Randy's. Didn't Fred Mertz used to make jokes about this place on "I Love Lucy"?

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Sorry, fellow foodies, no doughnut photos; I was too busy holding the bag of hot, fresh doughnuts in one hand and stuffing them into my mouth with the other during the walk back to the hotel. However, here's what Randy's had to offer.

 

I had a jelly, an apple fritter and a buttermilk. The jelly was average. The fritter was so greasy, I nearly threw half of it away (fortunately, calmer heads prevailed). The buttermilk, however, came in the form of a Long John and was one of the very best doughnuts I've ever tasted. Ever.

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Prior to the 10 a.m. sightseeing bus departure, I had one more L.A. landmark on my list to see on my own. Perhaps you recognize it.

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I'm glad you went on this trip. That means that at least three of my trip report all-stars (off the top of my head) were there to cover it. Lovin' the touristy stuff. I've been to L.A. twice, and never bothered to see any of it yet, although I did visit Venice Beach last time with Shan. As a basketball fan, you can't pass up VB, or "The Cage" in New York.

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Again, thanks for all the kind words. And speaking of Santa Monica....

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And farewell to you, too, Pacific Park. Thank you for being a gateway into the magical 11 days that followed.

 

Next up: travel day!

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Goodbye, Santa Monica Pier.

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More than 6,000 individual lights put on a free show that few can top (including the silver and gold rappin' "robots" performing nearby).

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It may be the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel, but nighttime is when this gem really shines.

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But the real star of this nighttime spectacular is the Ferris wheel.

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...and Pacific Park becomes a whole different setting.

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...as palm trees sway in the cool, gentle breeze...

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The sun sets over the Pacific Ocean...

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At the other end of the pier sat a huge Mexican restaurant, bathrooms and a quaint little display of photos illustrating the pier's history.

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Santa Monica in all its sandy, high-rise glory.

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OK, so I can't find it listed on the Pacific Park website to see what it was officially called, but this awesome thing that just randomly flipped two riders at a time into oblivion!

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Crazy Submarine!

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Let's see... that's two votes in favor of giddy, three in favor of "Oh s***!"

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Giddy to be on a TPR trip? You bet!

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Unfortunately, the marathon Ferris wheel ride meant I also just barely missed the TPR Scrambler takeover. It was also a marathon, lasting about three minutes... which is a long time to be on a Scrambler!

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Lots of people chose to eschew Pacific Park in favor of some free beach entertainment (not TPR, though).

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While stuck at the top of the Ferris wheel, I got to witness the awesome TPR takeover and contest to see which side could scream loudest on the Sea Dragon.

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"Do it light, takin' me through the night... shadow dancin'!"

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The park's Ferris wheel operations were a little strange. No single riders whatsoever, so I got lumped in with the only other people in line, a nice German family that was spending two days in the L.A. area before flying to Boston the next morning. Then, because there was no one else in line, the ride op cranked us up to the top and left us there for like 10 minutes until someone else finally got in line and loaded into the bottom gondola. Then we went around... and around... and around.... The ride lasted about 20 minutes from boarding to departure.

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Nonetheless, these 21st century bumper cars were pretty fun. They kind of seemed like a next-generation version of the old Flying Saucers at Disneyland. I wonder if this is what the new "Luigi's Tires" ride will be like at the DCA Carsland expansion. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

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No clue what this ride name means. Or why no one bothered to wash the bird poop off the sign.

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I spy Josh and Matt in the front seat! Totally had no clue they were there when I was taking the photo.

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Work it, ladies!

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Wild and crazy helix! I mean, I've been on Tin Lizzie car rides that were wilder than this coaster... but still!

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This is a very patriotic coaster!

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And finally... first credit of the trip!

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First wristband of the trip!

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I wasn't going to include this photo I took of the ticket booth, but then I thought, "You know, the world could always use more Piers."

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First park of the trip!

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Time for trapeze school ERT! Or not.

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The Santa Monica Pier also happens to be the end (or beginning, depending on which direction you're heading) of Route 66! OK, so actually the termination point is technically one block over... but close enough.

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From Venice, we took a short drive over to Santa Monica. Time to check this off of the "Landmarks I've Always Wanted to See" list! I'll admit that as we walked past the sign, I caught myself inadvertently humming the "Three's Company" theme song.

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So awesome to come home and see PTRs already getting posted. It seems like we were sightseeing a month ago! I look forward to more. Hopefully Ice Bat will show up at some point.

 

I have to disagree with the In & Out love. We stopped there on the way back from Vegas, and the burger I had was so bad, it made me wish I had just walked across the street to Burger King. Seriously, I can make a better burger in my microwave. It's just another poor chain place to me now.

 

dt

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Sigalert is SoCal speak for "bad traffic ahead." (The "sig" part is short for Sigmond, the last name of the guy who came up with the warning system.)

 

And EV stand for "electric vehicle."

 

Nice TR, by the way.

 

/The more you know.

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^Thanks, Erik! Because knowing is half the battle. (The other half involves guns.)

 

And now for the moment you've all been waiting for... Day One of the West Coast Trip! Unfortunately, Day One was predominately a travel day, so not much happened (except Robb's Earth-shattering decision to eventually abandon TPR and devote the rest of his life to creating a life-sized working papier mache volcano)... but still, here are a few photos to tide you over until Day Two: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Enjoy!

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No matter. Let's make some TPR soup!

 

Next up: Day Two: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

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Dear God, what happened to the green button!?

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"Aww, KidTums, don't cry. Daddy's just getting a 'legitimate' massage from the nice lady while Mommy's in the bathroom getting her hair done...."

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Nooooooo!

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"Bring us some of Natalie's white chocolate Oreo truffles or we will multiply and destroy your planet."

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"Pecans are rubbish. And Tastykakes are rubbish. And Mini Cheddars are rubbish. And Berger's Cookies are rubbish. And winegums are rubbish. And See's Candies are rubbish. And candy sushi is rubbish. And...."

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Of course, one table wasn't enough for TPR. We also filled several chaise lounges with snacks from around the world.

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Time for the TPR snack exchange! Thing likes Roxy's pecans.

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Hey, my e-mail lives there!

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"Oh, how I wish Tyler would come play with me."

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...and of course, the "Snack Song"! (Fellow WCTers, admit it: You're singing the song in your head right now.)

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..."Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus"...

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Beyond the rules for Elissa Bingo, Dave TV entertained us on the long drive to and from the Santa Clara area with such amazing films as "Shark Attack 3" (of which I failed at getting a good photo, unfortunately)...

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Do not adjust your television. Ice Bat is now in control.

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