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Lindsay and Baolu
Southern California Trip 2011
"In Search Of Tiger"
gngoat@gngoat.org

Standard Disclaimer:  Nope, no GN stuff here.  Just another trip report.  Enjoy!

 

Saturday, June 25

The Del in slow motion

It's a quick taxi ride to Sea-Tac. Out to the Alaska counter. Check one of our bags for $20 (those cheap bastards) and wheel the other through the clowns at TSA. I waltz through without setting off all the alarms for a change while Baolu was called over for the X-ray-you-naked thing (they only pick cute girls, it seems). Plane boarded and left the gate a bit early and an uneventful flight to San Diego. Very oochie approach to the SAN airport as you swoop down on Balboa Park with downtown buildings ABOVE you on both sides...just clearing I-5 and dropping (hard) onto the runway "WHUMP!!!!".

We're here! We make our way over to the Shuttle Bus area. Our standing joke is we always see two of every bus except Hertz. This time the joke is on us as there are TWO Hertz shuttles waiting. As we get closer, one pulls out. The SECOND one starts to pull out. Baolu starts screaming at him, waving her arms and banging on the side of the shuttle. It works. The driver stops and lets us on. We are the only two riders on the shuttle. It's a 10 minute ride over to the Hertz counter - which is NOT air-conditioned. It is downright unlivable until Baolu props the doors open. A cool breeze!

We pick up our 2010 Grand Marquis (I turned down a free upgrade to a new Cadillac - BAH! Government Motors, no thanks...) and roared across the Coronado Bridge and into a traffic jam. What's going on? The main drag is all jammed up. We stop at a grocery store and buy a flat of bottled water for the week. We come out and the backup is still there. Apparently some nimrod in a delivery truck has decided to double park and block one of the two lanes which effectively gums up everything for 10 blocks.

Check in to the Hotel Del Coronado (The Del) is agonizingly slow. We cool our heels for a good 15 minutes whilst they check in ONE customer. My theory is the computers are down, but it turns out they are training a couple of new gals. Finally we get the key and they steer us over to the Ocean View towers. Our room is on the 3rd floor with a sweeping vista of the ocean. Very nice!



We head off to dinner at the "Sheerwater", an on-site restaurant. The Maitre D takes us out to the table, then stops with a confused look as the table we're assigned is dirty and sort of behind a wall. "Wait here", he says and disappears back to the front desk. We stand, somewhat bemused, and watch the other waiters come and go. One waiter stops and ask if he can help us. "No, the uh, Maitre D told us to wait here. Some sort of table problem." "Oh, OK, says the waiter and scurries off. We wait some more. After a good 10 minutes, when I'm about ready to just take Baolu and head to the bar, the Maitre D returns. Full of contriteness, he seats us at a much nicer table with a good view of the ocean and beach. We order a bottle of wine, some salad and our dinners. The wine, some bread and salads come trickling in and there's a good 30 minute wait for our entree's, but the food and wine are good and the view (mostly people watching) is grand. It's been a long day, so we head back to the room balcony to watch the sun go down.




Sunday, June 26

Brunch and Zoo!

We are up early as usual and walk around the Del a bit in the fog taking some pictures. Then off to the famous Del brunch for some chow. Awesome spread. "The best brunch I've ever had", proclaims Baolu. Handmade omelets, osso bucco, bailey's and a strawberry in a shot glass, lobster pasta, fresh oysters, roast beast, chocolate desert fountain, etc., etc., etc.

Off to Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. I find a parking spot RIGHT OUT FRONT. It's my only real talent, but it's quite handy in crowded places. As we walk in, there is this neat little miniature railroad just outside the entrance. I snap some pictures and we take a ride. The train is all done up in the classic Southern Pacific "Daylight" red/orange scheme with matching diesel locomotives. Well done!



Make no mistake, the zoo was crowded. Most of San Diego turned out. We headed straight down to the Lost Forest (where they keep their tiger) and there was Mr. T., sitting up at the top so you could only see his little ear flicking away a fly from time to time. After about 15 minutes he stood up, butt towards us. Ooooo.....Tiger!!! said the crowd in unison (really, they did). I took pictures. We waited a while longer (he was pacing now and then). Finally, he came down near us and we watched the zookeeper feed him little meatballs through the fence. Too much of an angle for my little camera to handle, but still tiger photos (albeit blurry tiger photos) nonetheless.



We walked completely around the zoo (Gosh, it's hot!) We are going through bottle after bottle of water, refilling them at fountains around the park. We watched a polar bear take a nice dump in our direction which got a tremendous roar from the crowd. (I think the ani-mules point their butts at us on purpose, then take a healthy bowel movement). Baolu picks up her new water bottle, with a tiger theme, of course, as well as a tiger snow globe.



Back to the Del for dinner at the Babcock and Story Bar (yes, the B & S -- named after the two founders of the Del in 1888) for some drinks and appetizers. Then a very nice walk along the beach in our flip flops.



 

Monday, June 27

Sea World!

It's an early start today. I have scoped out a McDonalds near the entrance to the park, so that's where we go. We're way too early. They let us in the park a bit before 8am, then at the entrance, Baolu wisely buys me a floppy hat that becomes a lifesaver in the sunny days ahead. They hold us back from the dolphin pool (Rocky Point Preserve) until 8am. THEN, they play the National Anthem. Once they let us in, we head straight to the line for the "dolphin-feeding". It doesn't start for another 70 minutes, so I send Baolu over to the other section to watch the dolphins swim around. Baolu comes back about 20 minutes before the feeding. B's been looking forward to feeding a dolphin since we last visited here in 1999 and is all excited). I take some snaps as the creatures swim by. They seem to know that feeding is imminent. Baolu and I are first in line.



About 10 minutes before the feeding starts, this weird guy wanders up. I DO seem to attract strange people in public places. My 6 foot, 275 pounds are blocking the way. (I vaguely remember him in line before, but he left with his wife and kids to go do something else.) You can just TELL he's going to try and pull a fast one.

"Say, buddy!" he says all chummy-like. "You KNOW I was at the head of the line before, can I just get back in there?" I say nothing and just stare at him. He processes that a bit. His tone gets sharper. "So...you're not gonna let me back in line, are ya?" "No." I say. He's a shrimpy little guy from L.A. (according to his polo shirt) with a major Napoleon syndrome. "Yeah, well, thanks a lot buddy, have a really rotten day!" and he stomps off indignantly. Whatta Jerk. Ha-ha, he goes to the back of the line and we never see him again. Cali dickhead.

Finally, the big moment arrives. Baolu is the first one in to feed the dolphins. I hand the gal $12 for the two of us and the trainer takes us over to meet "Deek" the dolphin. Deek obligingly comes out of the water at the trainer's behest to get fed and petted. Baolu gets to sling some little fishies in the creatures' mouth whilst I take pictures. I let Baolu feed her with MY fishes too, because this is really all for her. It is over in 5 minutes, but was a zesty high point for Baolu who loves her some dolphins!



Next we stumble (purely by accident) onto the Dolphin Stadium just as the show is starting. We climb to the top for an excellent vantage point (some day, we'll come and sit in the "splash zone" down front). We see an an excellently-choreographed show with dolphins and a high wire act on cables. We watched the dolphins give the crowd in the splash zone a good dousing including a disgruntled-looking gentleman who walked up past our seats with his very nice photo equipment completely drenched by Mr. Charlie Tuna.



A very entertaining moment came about 3/4's of the way through the show when the father in front of us stood up and announced to his brood: "Come ON kids, we've got to go NOW, or we'll miss the next show!" The kids looked stunned as they were enjoying THIS show. Obediently, they got up and were hustled off to see Shamu or something in another stadium.

Next for us was a visit to the very well done Turtle Reef exhibit. This one just opened, I think because it doesn't even show up on their website's interactive map. Neat place to watch turtles swimming along, though, with light shining down and scuba divers bubbling about with the terrapins.



After this, we tried the Journey to Atlantis water ride, but it had "technical difficulties", so we headed off to the "Wildlife Arctic/Beluga Whale Interaction" exhibit. Nice - introductory motion/video ride simulating a helicopter ride with a not-too-capable pilot. In fact, almost IDENTICAL concept to the Star Tours ride we would stand in line for at Disneyland later on.



Next stop was for a look at the penguins (penguins is PRACTICALLY chickens...). EVERY single shot I took of the flightless birds was blurred to a fair-thee-well as you go through on a moving sidewalk, so I won't bother you with photos.

Once more, we take a gander over at the Journey to Atlantis ride. It's open! It's also cursed by a pair of teenage boys (with hormones running amok) loudly talking nonsense behind us who manage to get behind us on the ride. The ride itself is very refreshing with all the water splashing about, this being a very hot day.

Last stop of the day was on to the Sky Tower ride which rotates giving you a nice 360 degree view of San Diego Land.

All SeaWorlded out, we head back to the hotel. Self-parked and then walked over to this absolutely wonderful pizza and pasta place (http://islandpastacoronado.com/) about two blocks from the Del on the main drag. Sat there and watched the world go by. Spaghetti and meatballs for me and clams and fettuccini and AWESOME garlic bread. Back to the room for a night cap of a bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay. We steal ONE item from the room, now gracing the downstairs bathroom:



Tuesday, June 28

Legoland and The Block At Orange!

Checking out of the Del goes much smoother than check in as it only takes a couple of remote clicks on the TV. We drive over near Sea World to this little Mexican dive that sells breakfast burritos. We buy B a sleeping-Pooh-in-a-crayon from a vending machine as we order our breakfast burritos. This is Baolu's favorite trinket on the trip, so far. Good mexi food. Nothing like the local dives.



We head off up I-5 to Carlsbad and Legoland. We first visit the incredible city and building displays in the center of the park, made entirely of Lego. It is impressive.



Next, we ride the Lego Technic Coaster (little yellow lego carts set up like a wild mouse type roller coaster -- some of those curves it feels like you're gonna come right off the track) Next stop is up to the castle to ride The Dragon (whoa, Dragon, whoa!) yet another mini-roller coaster.

We start downhill from the castle and encounter the Wild Woods Golf mini-golf course. I've always been a sucker for mini golf, so we sign right up and go through the 18 holes, lying about the actual stokes we made on each hole.

After the golf, it's starting to get hot, so we head over to the gift shop where I pick myself up a Tow Mater Lego truck to put together. Git 'er done!



Soon we are done and off up the 5 to Orange County. Northbound, we come to a screeching halt. The Border Patrol has set up a permanent blockade over the entire freeway and is glancing at cars. This strikes me as odd since we are a good 60 miles from the border.

Check into our hotel, the Doubletree Hilton right next to The Block at Orange - they charge for wireless - no pillows! Or bed spread! Mass confusion at front desk. Housekeeping sorts it out and B tips her a fiver for her trouble (we made the mistake of requesting foam pillows when we made the online reservation which management interpreted as NO pillows. Nor a bed spread).

Drive over to The Block At Orange (tm) and have dinner at Alcatraz Brewing Company - good "Weiss Guy Beer"! I have sliders and onion rings and ribs - B has bacon burger and it is a total pig out.

After supper, we go shopping. I pick me up a new pair of Vans and Baolu gets some kid's Nike's at the outlet store.  Neat, huh? I have no idea what, "Yo Gabba Gabba" means, but B assures me they are cool shoes. It's never too late to have a second childhood. Oh wait. There's a website about my shoes here:

http://yogabbagabba.com/

It looks to have stop animation a la Gumby. OK, back to the room for an early bedtime. Big day tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 29

Disneyland!

Hustle downstairs at 7am for the hotel buffet, then it's off to Disneyland on the hotel's free shuttle - Ahh...this is the way to go - I don't have to drive and/or pay the $15 parking fee in their gianormous parking garage. They have set up a huge shuttle area drop off zone, right at the front gate.

D-land opens the gates early. Right at the turnstile, we convert our pre-bought City Pass into a 3 day park hopper ticket - will use this henceforth.

We walk down "Main Street" with a big crowd being held back near the castle. We will do the park clockwise today starting with the Indiana Jones ride. They drop the rope promptly at 9am and we hustle over to Adventureland. The I.J. ride has a very nice indoor entrance: cool water dripping and shaded. The outside weather is still cloudy so it is bearable today (morning fog). I.J. is a well done - sort of like a jeep ride over a very rough road. Next, we hit the Jungle Cruise for a nice water ride through the jungle. Our guide has a very droll sense of humor and we groan at his really corny jokes.



Still in Adventureland, we do the classic "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride - boats floating along indoors with a lot of "Yo ho ho" and "A Pirate's Life for Me" and "Aye, Mateys!!!". Disney's concession to the recent movies is a video farewell greeting by Johnny Depp clad in pirate garb.

Over to New Orleans Square, we do the Haunted Mansion and take a cheesy Lindsay and Baolu picture:



Next stop is "Critter Country" for the wet and wild "Splash Mountain" log plume ride. "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip-a-dee-ay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day". The ride is themed after the 1946 Technicolor Disney movie, "Song of the South" which for, politically-correct reasons has never been released on DVD in its entirety. Too bad. Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Uncle Remus from the story by Joel Chandler Harris are part of our American culture and heritage. It's a great movie and a great ride with a 50' drop into a water pool. The gal in front of us was just screaming her head off, as she got the wettest of all of us.

Second stop in Critter Country is Pooh Corner, the shopping store featuring Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. We check it out:



Baolu had one goal for Disneyland: Buy as much Tigger and Pooh stuff as possible. After scoping out the store, we head off to the next ride. Shopping will be our last stop so we don't have to carry the merchandise all day.

Next is the Winnie the Pooh kids ride (of course) which is very colorful:



From Critter Country, we wind around over to Frontierland and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, an engineer-less train rocketing down a mountainside. The lines are starting to get long and the sun is coming out as we approach noon. My floppy hat is really a life saver. Over to Mickey's Toontown where the roller coaster is a bit too kid-sized, so we bag it and ride the little steam train (Disneyland Railroad) completely around the park.



We loop entirely around the park and finally get off over at Tomorrowland. The lines at Space Mountain and Star Tours are way too long, so we decide to try the Michael Jackson "Captain E-O" ride. You get a goofy pair of yellow 3-D glasses for the show and unlike our last visit to the park, there is plenty of room in the auditorium to stretch out.



Next, we hop on the Matterhorn, another log plume ride in Fantasyland. There is a family of 14 (I counted) Mexicans who keep cutting in front of us, one by one, babbling excitedly in Spanish. we finally get up to the ride and they manage to put B and I on completely separate rides. Bastards.

Looking for a break in the heat, we ride the monorail. It has only two stops: at Tomorrowland, where we board; and at "Downtown Disney" where all the hotels and restaurants are. It doesn't even take you over to the California Adventure area, so Baolu dubs it the "useless monorail". I take some pictures to send to Reinhard my monorail guru in Germany (his dad worked on the Seattle monorail). Two trains running (announcer refers to them as seventh generation?), one orange and one dark blue.



Both Star Tours (new ride) and Space Mountain still have long lines (85 minute wait) so we ride the Disneyland Railroad back to New Orleans rather than walking in the hot sun. The train is packed - they come every 5 minutes and we get the 3rd one. Over to New Orleans and walk to gift shop. I get a t-
shirt for me and B buys stuff for the gals back home. Just as we are leaving, Baolu spots a Tigger watch! (well hidden back behind the counter). She is in seventh heaven as pickings had been pretty slim in the Tigger category, thus far. As we leave the park for the day, we see Pooh and Tigger! We are back to the hotel on the 3:15pm shuttle. Disneyland is just JAM packed with people.



One of the problems with the lines is this screwy "Fast Pass" system they have set up. There are two lines -- one for fast pass holders (you come BACK and ride at the time indicated) and one for the general public. In effect, all it does is shift the crowd from line to the other as the crowd gets bigger. If they just had one line, things would probably work better...and be less confusing.

We walk over to The Block at Orange in the sun - HOT HOT HOT! - try to stay in the shade as much as possible. Baolu craves pasta, so we sup at "L.A. Italian Kitchen" and feast on spaghetti & meatballs, bowtie pasta & watermelon. Not bad.

Back to the hotel we plod for a rest. Soon, we're trundling to Disney on the 7pm shuttle. As we enter the turnstile at Disneyland, the ticket taker chides us for not getting our hand stamped. Huh? Apparently this is in very small print on the ticket, but the little Caeser finally lets us in. Yes Sir, have a nice day. Go climb a tree, douche. Anyway, I thought we would ride Star Tours and/or Space Mtn. now, but the park is as crowded as ever. Long lines everywhere. In desperation, we duck into the Toy Story 2 ride across from Star Wars. Surprise! Only a 20 minute line and you shoot frikken laser beams at targets and the score tallies on your car display. How cool is that??? I buy a bucket of little green men as hand outs for the guys at work. For myself, I pick up a seriously-cool Buzz Lightyear blaster.

The next step is to go over and ride "It's a Small World" because Baolu says she wants to torture me (with the song). Here, the line is much shorter than before and the sun isn't so beastly. I'd read that this ride is recently restored and it looks much more visually appealing from our 1999 visit. Of course, there's the same, mind-numbing song repeated ad nauseum in 12 different languages, but it really is just a warm and cuddly ride for the kids.



That accomplished, we head over and ride the Mad Hatter's tea cup kiddie ride which you always see on TV shots of Disneyland. I get our Tiffany-blue (Baolu's request) tea cup spinning around about 100 mph and it has tickled B's funny bone. She is laughing and screaming hysterically as we twirl around faster and faster.

This is a look of PURE JOY. Mad Hatter's rule!!!!

Next, it's almost 9:30pm fireworks time, so we head over to in front of the castle. The place is already packed. We are over on the left hand side, but we have a full view of the castle. Now a reasonable assumption is that the fireworks would be over the top of the castle, right? Like in all the TV shows and movie trailers? Nope. The big bursts are waaaay off to the LEFT of the castle with only a few token skyrockets arching over. Obstructed view seats, damn! Cut down that frikken tree! Oh well, the pyrotechnics still elicit a few oohs and aahs. Back we go with the crowd to the shuttle park. As we
arrive at our designated location, there is an Asian woman with a little girl just REAMING someone on her cell phone because, well, she missed the last bus back and now she has to wait another 30 minutes and it's got to be SOMEONE ELSE'S fault, I mean, REALLY.... We have no such problem, our shuttle shows up and we board and are back to the hotel in grand style. We stay up until midnight, even though we will be out and about around 5:30am again tomorrow.




Thursday, June 30

California Adventure (under construction and out of order)

It is going to be BEASTLY hot today, according to our shuttle driver. There is no morning fog, so her prediction is spot on. 88 degrees today, baby.

For some strange reason, California Adventure doesn't open until 10am. No matter. I'm still P.O'ed about missing those two rides in Disneyland yesterday -- so that's where we head first at 8am.

It turns out, early morning (first thing) is the ONLY time you can ride the new Star Tours ride without waiting over an hour. We head there straightaway and STILL have to wait 30 minutes to ride it. It's over-rated. It is pretty much like the motion-video ride we did over at Sea World on Tuesday.



Space Mountain, however, is indeed worth the wait. It is a full roller coaster COMPLETELY in the dark! Let me tell you, that is really oochie. We are jostled to and fro and you never know what's going to happen. The ride seems longer because of the darkness. I am screaming the whole way. This IS the life!

OK, we have Disneyland KNOCKED. (Hi Carl S. and Don G.!) Time to head over to Cali Adventure (C.A.).

C.A. is, well, under construction. The main entrance is plywood-ed off -- you kind of enter from the side -- in a long line, natch. Half the park is boarded up and being "renovated".  There is one neat thing for my fellow train goobers, however, this nifty replica of Western Pacific's, "California Zephyr" now used as an ice cream parlor/bakery shop:



There are some Things-They-Don't-Tell-You-About. For starters, California Screaming (simulated wood roller coaster -- their star attraction) on the far reaches of the park is NOT running. There is NO sign posted at the entrance. So we stand in another line and charge over there when the rope drops, only to find there's an elderly gentleman shooing everyone away. "It's temporarily under repair" he says. SO...everyone who came for the coaster now jams into the new Toy Story 3 ride. This, however, is a long 45 minute wait in the hot sun. It's 3-D, so you get a pair of those retarded-looking yellow glasses (see Captain E-O ride above). You board these rotating carts with impressive-looking air guns attached. You pull a ball on a string rapidly, and it's like a shooting gallery -- pop pop pop pop -- metal targets, plates, with appropriate crashes and wonderful glass-breaking sound. Meh, I liked the Toy Story 2 ride, better. It had frikken LASER beams!

Next, we hustle back to the Grizzly Flats river ride which guarantees you will get wet and provides lockers for your stuff - we see people on it riding along the river as we walk up, but the line is deceptively short. Another old gentleman blocking the entrance informs us the ride is "temporarily closed for maintenance".  I am really starting to get tired of major, featured rides breaking down at this place.

In desperation, we hoof over to the Hollywood Hotel ride which is nicely themed -- cast members are dressed as bell hops. It has the appearance of an old luxury hotel in Hollywood zapped by lightning and suddenly abandoned in 1939 - cobwebs everywhere and flickering lights, quite eerie - you take the
rickety "service elevator" to the top of hotel which then drops us in the dark, unexpectedly. It is a good ride - a real screamer. And it bounces, almost like a bungee cord ride.

We scan the dwindling list of functioning rides at this joint on our map. A-ha, it is over to Mike and Sully, the Monster's Inc. themed ride. It is a very tame ride, but there is no line and it is nice to get out of the broiling sun.

Now a little after noon, we take a break under a screened dance pavilion. We sit in the nice bit of shade and have a couple of iced "smoothies" (mango for Baolu and and berry/banana for me). With two of its main rides offline here at Construction Adventure, there's really not much reason to stick around. C.A. gets two thumbs down from the Korst household. We call the hotel and verify the shuttle will be there at 1:15 pm. Sometimes you just have to punt. we ride back to the hotel and drive over to The Block and watch Cars 2 at the local multplex. There are a surprising number of people at our screening. Cars 2 is pretty good -- I like Mater with his rocket-assisted acceleration and his baffled attempt to go to the bathroom in Japan (see the movie for an explanation).

After Cars 2, we have dinner at Market Broiler, a sort of "we have EVERYTHING on the menu" place. Supper is quite good, actually, as they have some good sushi-related items on their appetizer menu whilst dinner for me is catfish and hush puppies and B opts for pasta. Back to the room and we are asleep at 8 pm. This "vacation" of which you speak is tiring! ;p


Friday, July 1

Yippie! Good, old Palm Springs!

We're trying something different today. A little road trip in our land yacht to snoop around in the desert. Breakfast at Starbucks. No fog again this morning and it is HOT already. Baolu orders her drink and the barista gives her an odd look and says, "Not iced?" as that's the way everyone is getting theirs. I have OJ and a breakfast egg/bacon/gouda contraption and B has her a blueberry muffin. Good roughage all around.

Now it is a fast run out to Palm Springs on the 22, the 55, the 91, the 215, the 60 and the 10 freeways (got that?). We watch the car outside temp count up through the eighties, nineties and over 100 degrees just outside Riverside. It stays above 100 degrees for most of the day. As we pass through Cabazon, I point out to Baolu the huge (and I mean HUGE) outlet mall with names like Fendi and Saks and Gucci. B is very impressed and I tell her we are stopping there on the way back to Orange.

I LOVE the way people in Cali move OUT of the way and keep the left lane clear. I wish we could get our local Subaru-driving denizens (driving 3 abreast down I-405 at 55 mph) to do the same. We are making 75+ all the way to the turn off for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It goes from about 2000 feet elevation up to 8500 feet. I didn't realize Southern Cali had such tall mountains out here.

Unfortunately, we are sharing the ride up with a horde of ill-smelling Frenchman who are practically shouting at each other as if holding a frenetic, Gallic auction. I thought only Americans abroad conducted conversations at this volume. In fact we heard lots of Euro-talk everywhere on this trip. Methinks they're taking advantage of the strong Euro/weak dollar situation.

The tramway car actually ROTATES as we go up the mountainside, so everyone can get a 360 degree view. This has the unintended side effect of the handrails turning too. Thus, this smelly old lady, who is holding on to the rotating handrail for dear life, keeps leaning into me. I finally remember my street hockey days and give her a mild hip check to bump her off me. Baolu says someone was leaning on her, too. Ewww.....

Mercifully, it's a short 15 minutes to the top and the froggie tour group (all 50-something men) hustles off somewhere. Silence! Much better. It is quite nice up at the top with a surprising amount of pine trees. Look! There are lizards and critters at this altitude! And Mark...look, Baolu is POINTING again!



It is much cooler up here...but not much. About 75 degrees and a very hot sun. We take a few snaps for posterity and head down in a much more enjoyable crowd of 5 (including the operator). They don't even bother to have the car rotate on the way down, since we can all see and I get some decent pictures



Back on the desert floor, it's time for a visit to the john. Mounted on the wall in the bathroom, is one of those really cool bacon machines. Mmmm....bacon.....



Off we go for a tour of the Palm Springs area. The temperature has climbed to 110 and we watch the car thermometer tick up and up. 112, 113, 114.....



It hit 117 a few times during the day and despite it being a "dry heat", it hits you like a sledgehammer when you step outside the car.

Palm Springs was much smaller and less vibrant than I expected. The real population centers are further east in the Coachella Valley like Cathedral City, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage. But no visit to Palm Springs is complete without a stop to see Frank Sinatra's house.



Having taken care of my pilgrimage, we set off for California Highway 74, the Palms to Pines highway. First, a stop for gas and a grocery store visit for a quick, light bite of lunch. What's so special about Highway 74? Just above Palm Desert, CA 74 winds up into the rocky high desert -- it is where
they filmed the opening scenes from "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World". I was doing the Smiler Grogan bit driving around the curves and honking my horn...just like the Smiler.  Fortunately, we didn't go "sailing right out there", like the Smiler.  We're pretty sure we saw the spot where he "went sailing right out there...". The place hasn't changed one bit since they filmed in 1962.

Awesome website showing location shots along Highway 74 above Palm Desert used in Mad Mad World

It was early afternoon and time to head back to Orange County. As promised, we stopped at the fabulous Cabazon Outlook Mall just off the 10 where Baolu hooked a nice one:



After about 75 minutes of shopping (I stayed in the car with the a/c on) with a very happy Baolu on board, we set off back to the hotel. What's for dinner tonight? How about TGI Friday? OK, let's do.  Hmmm...there's a 30 minute wait. Oh look, 3 parties of 4 in a row don't answer the call so we get seated in 15 minutes. I have the ribs and B has shrimp and pasta. Ehhh.... TGIF is OK if you like bland food. It filled the belly, but not the soul.

Back to the room. Time to pre-check in and pack! I take care of the former whilst B handles the latter. We are all ready to go home at 8am. Hello, Mister Sandman...


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

Our flight from John Wayne Airport doesn't leave until 11:30, so we have lots of time to putz. First, however, we have to go through the frikken TSA "Touching, Squeezing, Arresting" cavalcade. We undress and run all our carry-on stuff through the x-ray machine. Buzzers! Lights! The goon comes over all excited, explaining to Baolu that he MUST search her shopping bag (hmmmm...maybe that Gucci bag is a threat to national security....)

After taking everything out of the carefully-packed bag, his eyes gleam as he discovered.....a tiger snow globe. Yes, the TSA has declared a war on snow globes because it is a liquid and therefore highly dangerous and must be smited at once! Try googling "TSA Snow Globes".

http://boingboing.net/2009/11/14/tsa-bans-snowglobes.html

(short article - but the comments are hilarious)

Our options are to go back to the counter and check the snow globe in our carry on bag for another $20 or let them take it away. Oh, just steal it, I'm thinking. I bite my tongue and tell them to throw it out. There it goes....into that bomb-proof plastic garbage can. Thieving dumb f--- government bastards....

Sitting at the gate waiting for the flight home, I am still steaming. I am not going to let them take away Baolu's tiger. I whip out my iPhone, visit the San Diego Zoo online store, and order another which arrived in 2 days. Shipped on an airplane. For much LESS than the $20 check bag price.

It's another uneventful flight back home to Seattle. It's a long weekend (4th of July), so we have time to relax a bit. We did a LOT on this trip and despite the occasional hiccup, had a great time. Next year, the Big Island of Hawaii. Thanks for reading.



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