California, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017 – YYZ to LAX to San Diego

My family and I visited California last year, but we found a week wasn’t long enough to see everything we wanted to see, so we decided to go again this year. My brother skipped the trip this year because he’s not crazy about airplanes or vacations really, so it was just me and my parents. My brother ended up getting really sick while he was home, so we worried quite a bit about him, but he’s doing fine now. It’s kind of a tradition now that whenever only some of the family goes on vacation, someone at home gets really sick, because last time my parents went on vacation alone, we had to take our dog Rocky to the hospital.

Last year, our flights left early in the morning, but this time, our flight left at 7 PM, which turned out to be pretty terrible. First off, we felt anxious all morning before the flight; you know the feeling: constantly checking the time, not wanting to start anything because you know you’re just going to have to drop it and leave soon. I’ll get to the other reason why a late flight sucks in a minute.

At the airport, they had tables with iPads at each seat. You could use the iPads to order food or play blackjack or slots or sign into your Facebook account, because that’s smart. We ordered some dinner and then watched as everyone around us got their food. Eventually, my dad called over one of the servers, and she said they didn’t get our order, but they would get it started for us. Luckily, our plane was late arriving, and the food got there pretty quick after that, so everything worked out. Afterwards, we sat around, and I watched all the people sitting at the tables, playing on the iPads, listening to their headphones, and I thought just how spot-on Pete Townshend’s vision of The Grid was.

Unlike last year, our flight didn’t have any stopovers, which was nice, because we didn’t have to run through the airport to catch a connecting flight, and we only had to go through takeoff and landing once. On the other hand, no stopovers does mean sitting in the same spot for four to five hours, but I find that isn’t a big deal if you have something to keep you occupied, like season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I was disappointed that the plane didn’t have power outlets at the seats, but my Chromebook has pretty good battery life (it only used about 8% charge per episode, and I watched about five and a half episodes during the flight), so it was fine. While I was watching “The Ensigns of Command”, I sensed someone standing in the aisle behind me. It was the flight attendant, who said, “I’ve been watching, but I can’t remember which episode this is”. I told him it was season three, episode two, but I’ve never seen it before, so I couldn’t really explain what the episode was about (but really, I couldn’t explain because I wasn’t paying much attention to that episode since it was kind of boring). He said I would probably see him come around a bunch more times while he tried to jog his memory, but he didn’t come back again during that episode. He did drop by during “Who Watches the Watchers” and said “now this one, I remember” and I said “yep, yep” because I’m a great conversationalist (and I was actually paying attention to that episode because it was a pretty good one so I agreed that it was more memorable).

We arrived at LAX around 10 PM Pacific time (though it felt like 1 AM our time). We picked up our luggage, and then caught a shuttle to the rental car place. When we got there, there was a big line-up because all of the self-serve kiosks were out of service. Apparently, earlier that day, their computers were supposed to be down for maintenance for an hour, but they never came back up, so they’d been doing everything by hand all day. My dad ended up talking to a young woman with a baby who was standing near him in line. I watched her being totally cool and awake and thought to myself, as my eyes were closing and head was slumping, that I could never have kids. Then I thought, well, maybe she’s just from Hawaii or something, so it actually feels like it’s only 5 PM for her, and it turns out, she was from Hawaii.

We were at the rental place for around two hours before we got our car, and then we had another two hour drive until we arrived at our hotel in San Diego, so I guess we finally got in around 2 or 3 AM, which felt like 5 or 6 AM our time. Not fun at all. No more late flights for us.

Sunday, March 26, 2017 – San Diego

The next morning, we somehow managed to wake up and get to a Denny’s for breakfast. There was a chatty old man there who asked my dad if he was army, navy, or marines, where were we from, where were we going (“don’t go to Mexico”), and what church we belong to (“well, we don’t really do church” “but what were you raised as?” “Catholic” “well, that’s why you don’t go to church!”)

We bought a two-day Go San Diego Card a few days earlier. It’s basically a card that allows you to pay one price and get access to about forty different attractions. It actually ended up costing us more money than if we had bought the tickets separately, because we didn’t go to enough attractions in those two days.

We decided to do a harbour cruise first so we could wake up a little more before we had to walk around. So, off we went to the Flagship Harbor Cruise, which cost five dollars extra per person with the Go Card to be able to do both the north and south bay tours. It’s always a little hard to hear the tour guide’s narration on boat cruises when it’s windy, but I kept hearing him say “Coronado”, so I was keeping my eyes peeled for the Hotel Del Coronado, which appeared in a Monkees episode. I saw a group of red roofs, but they didn’t look as impressive as the pictures I saw online. The tour guide said something about the island’s second biggest hotel, and I thought surely the Hotel Del Coronado must be the biggest, so that can’t be it. Eventually, he pointed out some of the Del’s red roofs peaking out off in the distance, which I figured out meant we wouldn’t actually get to see them up close. That was a little disappointing, but it’s not like you could see the outside of the hotel in the Monkees episode, at least as far as I know; I don’t know where Davy’s sulking beach was, but presumably it was somewhere in San Diego, so it very well may have been outside the Del.

I had some barbecue chips on the ship–because Americans don’t understand chip flavours–and that woke me up a bit. What I learned from the tour is that San Diego is a big navy town. There are a ton of navy boats there. There’s also a very large statue inspired by the photo V-J Day in Times Square. I thought that was a little odd, because that photo was taken in New York, but I get the navy connection. I was going to complain about it being squicky, because I’ve always heard the guy didn’t know the girl and just grabbed her and kissed her, but apparently, we don’t know for sure who the people were, so maybe they did know each other, which makes it possibly okay. Either way, it’s still a great picture, but it will probably always bother me a bit. It’s kind of like “Blurred Lines”; the photo is great, the song is catchy, but they’re both kinda not cool.

When we started the cruise, it was cloudy and looked like it might rain, but by the time we got back, it was nice and sunny, the skies were clear and blue, and it stayed that way the rest of the week. It was around 15-20ºC, so it was quite nice, but I still wore a sweater most of the time, especially near the water.

I couldn’t believe how beautiful and sandy all the beaches looked, but I suppose that’s because a lot of the beachfront is owned by the government and has no trespassing signs, so no one actually uses those beaches.

The tour guide pointed out one boat and told us–he kids us not–that the captain’s name is James Kirk.

After the cruise, we stopped at a street vendor, and I had a hot dog.

Our next stop was the USS Midway, which I thought was going to be a carnival thing, but it’s actually a really big boat. The tour guide on the cruise said if you stood the Midway up vertically, it would be taller than any two buildings in the San Diego skyline stacked on top of each other. I’m a little skeptical of that claim, but it was indeed a big ship. There was an audio tour available on the ship, but we didn’t actually listen to any of it, and we just ended up exploring the ship on our own.

We watched a movie about the Battle of Midway, and I came away from it a little confused. Like, what is the purpose of that kind of battle? All these kids die on both sides, and for what? I’ve never really thought much about it before, but I just can’t wrap my head around war.

There were a bunch of planes on top of the ship. One was called the USS Enterprise, so obviously I had my picture taken with it; I don’t think my mom realized I was doing a Spock pose with my hands behind my back. The planes all had painted on the side the names of the guys who flew it, and the Enterprise had some guy whose nickname was Spook. So close.

For dinner, we went to Olive Garden. I’ve had this dilemma lately where we can’t seem to find the Prego sauce that I love, so we’ve been trying out new spaghetti sauces. I think I’ve figured out that I don’t actually like meat sauce; I like tomato sauce. So, I tried the traditional marinara sauce instead of the meat sauce that I usually order on my dad’s recommendation, and it was a lot better than I remember the last spaghetti I had at Olive Garden being. Note to self: Olive Garden’s raspberry lemonade is good, but Denny’s strawberry lemonade is always too strong. There were what I assumed were two moms and their tween (teen?) daughters there talking about going to a concert that night, and I’m trying to figure out what concert that might have been. Panic at the Disco was playing that night not far from the restaurant, but like, that’s a band that was popular when I was their age. I have no idea what kids listen to now that One Direction isn’t together.

We also did a bit of shopping, at Walmart to get some snacks and sunscreen, and then at Ross for clothes. We stopped by a Skechers around 7:15 PM, but they had just closed.

Monday, March 27, 2017 – San Diego to Palm Springs

We went back to the same Denny’s we went to the previous day for breakfast, and then we headed to Skechers to buy new shoes. My sneakers were falling apart, and I wanted to get some new ones before we went hiking later in the week. It turns out Skechers doesn’t open very early, so we stopped at Kohl’s first and found out our 30% off coupon had expired the day before, and there weren’t any new sales until Wednesday. They told us we could buy the stuff and then return it on Wednesday and they’d sell it back to us with the discount, but we didn’t remember to do that, and it seemed like a kind of crappy thing to do. Back at the Skechers, I gave up after a while because I hate shoe shopping and have no idea what size shoes I should actually be wearing. Whenever I buy expensive shoes, they wear out just as quickly as cheap ones, and I’d rather just buy crappy shoes at home.

We spent most of the rest of the day at the San Diego Zoo. In the last few years, we’ve visited the Central Park Zoo, the Nashville Zoo, the Toronto Zoo, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. I’ve come to the conclusion zoos are basically all the same; the zoos we’ve visisted all have nearly the same roster of animals, and it really depends on the time of day and year whether the animals are active or just laying around.

The best animals usually tend to be the otters, meerkats, monkeys, and bears. There were some cute baby monkeys who were playing/fighting with each other, but the bears were asleep in their cave, and all we saw of them were their feet in the air. We didn’t see any goat type animals, which also tend to be entertaining, and they didn’t have a butterfly enclosure, which was too bad because butterflies make for good photos.

The big animals–lions, tigers, polar bears, cheetahs, gorillas, elephants–were all kind of difficult to see because of the crowds, so we didn’t get as many good pictures of them.

I’ve never really understood how some people are obsessed with horses, but I found the zebra I saw to have this calmness about it, which I imagine is what people like about horses.

The flamingos were very loud, and at one point, some ducks flew very close to the crowd, and the flamingos seemed to be laughing at us. A few of them also spread their wings at the same time, and it looked like they were doing a synchronized dance routine.

I’m not a huge fan of reptiles, but I love taking the underwater cross-section type pictures of turtles and other animals through the glass. There were a few places where they had statues of reptiles and things that were a little annoying because we kept mistaking them for real animals.

We ate at Sydney’s in the zoo for lunch and accidentally bought some expensive souvenir cups that we didn’t want.

We wanted to check out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which was another attraction on the Go Card, but it was about an hour away from the zoo proper, and we still had to drive to Palm Springs that night, so we skipped it. Instead, we went to La Jolla Cove to take some pictures on the beach.

There were a bunch of birds on some of the rocks. A guy with an Australian sounding accent asked me if I knew what type of birds they were, but I said I wasn’t sure. They looked like they might be cormorants and perhaps some kind of pelican. On one of the cliffs, there were a bunch of the cormorant-type birds’ nests with babies in them. There was one group of three or so birds who seemed to be trying to push another one off the cliff. The rocks were all streaked with white bird poop, but it actually looked kind of pretty.

There were a few sea lions lying on the rocks, and there were a couple more in the water that came surprisingly close to the beach and made lots of noise. There were also some people swimming way out in the ocean. An old man on the beach pointed out one swimmer and asked us if we could see him with our zoom lenses. When the swimmer got to the beach, I think I saw the old guy shaking his hand and taking photos of him. There were some kids on the beach playing Pokemon Go and catching a Dunsparce.

I don’t remember dinner that day, but I guess we stopped at Denny’s. Their chicken strips are so much spicier than I remembered.

We drove out to Palm Springs in the dark. It was a pretty freaky ride through an Indian reservation and down a very long and winding (and winding and winding) mountain road. We were also listening to “The House on Loon Lake” episode of This American Life, so that added a bit to the creepiness.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Palm Springs

I checked the temperature before we left in the morning and saw it was going to be a high of about 30ºC around noon, which I figured was when we would be done our hike at Painted Canyon, but I didn’t take into account that we were going to Denny’s again for breakfast, and then my dad wanted to buy shoes, and then we needed to stop at a bathroom before we got out there, so we had to pretend to shop at Ross for a little bit, so we didn’t actually start our hike until 11 AM.

Palm Springs / Palm Desert is absolutely gorgeous. We had a really nice view from our hotel room of the mountains. When we were looking for the Denny’s, the GPS first took us to a former Denny’s location; we could tell by the faded silhouette of the sign. The second try took us to a country club. The third try was successful. Many of the major streets in Palm Springs are named after celebrities; we happened upon Dinah Shore Drive, Frank Sinatra Drive, Bob Hope Drive, and Gerald Ford Drive. Almost all of the houses were in gated communities, and everything was immaculate. The commercial signs were understated, and there weren’t very many unnecessary and ugly things like garbage cans and street lights.

Painted Canyon was a place I really wanted to visit last year when we came to California, but I nixed it during trip planning because Palm Springs was so far from the rest of the places we wanted to visit. I did a lot of research on this place because some of the reviews make it sound pretty scary. It’s not like a national park or anything, so there are no trail markers, no parking or entrance fees, no bathrooms or food for miles, and it’s not on the GPS. It’s just a canyon in the middle of the desert, and some of these reviews literally warn that you could die if you go there (that is if your car doesn’t get stuck in the long, bumpy road you have to take to get there–and if you do somehow make it, your car will probably get stolen while you hike).

It took about ten minutes to drive the long, bumpy road. We were really hoping to see some other cars on the road, because my dad observed it looked like one of those places in Breaking Bad where they take someone to kill them. We did eventually end up seeing a few cars going down the same road. We stopped at a clearing, wondering if it was the parking lot, but we decided to keep going. We came across a tour trolley and asked them where the parking lot was, and they told us to keep going. Well, when you find the parking lot, you’ll know it; there were well over twenty other cars there, even at noon on a weekday. There’s also a yellow sign that says END. From the parking lot, there are two ways you can go: to the left or the right. I started going to the right, because it looked like an entrance, but my dad thought we should go to the left because he saw a pile of rocks that way, and we knew from our research we should be looking for arrows made out of rocks. He said he would go my way if I had a reason for going that way, and I didn’t think he would like my reason of me having a good sense of direction, so we went to the left. The pile of rocks turned out to be left over from a campfire. We kept walking, but that path didn’t seem to lead anywhere interesting, though we did find some little lizards. We went back to the parking lot and ran into some other people. They asked us which way to go, and we said we weren’t sure and hoped that they knew. We went to the right, which turned out to be right.

After a while, I remembered we needed to be looking for the entrance to the ladder trail, which I had read was pretty well hidden. We found a small cave, but I didn’t want to go in because it was pitch black inside, so my dad got his flashlight and soon discovered the cave ended after a few feet. I took off my sunglasses and realized there was no need for a flashlight. While we were exploring the “cave”, my mom found the rocks on the ground that formed an arrow pointing towards the ladder trail entrance. While we were putting our cameras away, a young girl came by and started climbing into the ladder trail, which I was glad for, because I didn’t really know which was the best way in. There was something the girl said or did later on that made it seem like this was her first time there, and she was all alone, which is nuts. I wish I was as badass as her.

We came to the first ladder, and I went up first with my backpack still on my back, which made it a very tight squeeze, so I advised everyone else to take their backpacks off before climbing up. All the other ladders were in much bigger spaces, and none of them were really rickety or anything. After the last ladder, my dad got mad at my mom for walking too near a ledge and he walked the rest of the trail without us, which was pretty dumb and scary. Despite there only being one trail he could have taken and no way for us to have passed by him without noticing, we still worried. At one point, I thought maybe we should turn back, because I didn’t believe he would have gone that far ahead of us. We started asking people walking in the opposite direction if they saw him, but no one recalled having seen him. After the ladders, it’s a pretty long trek to the top with almost no shade. We eventually spotted him standing at the top while we were still on the trail below.

When I finally got to the top and looked out, I couldn’t help but say, “Wow!” It was pretty crazy to see how far we had hiked, and the view was great. We had some snacks before heading back. My mom and I had ran into a fellow earlier who told us that at the top, we can either go back the way we came or take one of the two trails. He said the trail to the left leads to the rope trail and the trail to the right is the easy way back, and my dad said someone had told him the same thing (we later figured this was probably the same guy). We decided to take the easy trail. After a while, we saw some rocks on the ground that spelled out DEAD END. I thought we should turn back, but my mom and dad said this was the right way and they figured it was just someone trying to mess with people. Eventually, we came to another DEAD END message. I said this is like in those horror movies where there are all these signs that something bad is about to happen, but they just ignore it and end up getting killed, so we turned back. We hoped we would see some other people back at the top, and then we could just follow them, but there wasn’t anybody left, so we just went back the way we came. We didn’t see anyone hiking in either direction the entire time we hiked back either, which was a little disconcerting.

One really good piece of advice I read was to take more water than you think you’ll need. I heeded that advice and added a second water bottle to my backpack at the last minute, and I ended up drinking almost all of it; I surely would have drank three bottles if I had brought three, but after emptying the first, I tried to ration the second as best I could. The long non-shady part of the hike after the ladders is a lot longer coming back than it was coming in.

As we approached the parking lot, I noticed a group of four or so twentysomething kids walking up ahead. I don’t know what prompted it, because I hadn’t been paying attention to them up until then, but suddenly, I noticed two of them had their arms around each other’s shoulders and were walking in step, and I thought to myself, “Ha ha, they’re doing the Monkeewalk!” Then I listened and heard them singing “Hey, hey, we’re The Monkees” and I turned around to my parents like do you believe this?! but they weren’t paying attention. Part of me wanted to run up to the kids and be all ohmygodyouguyslikethemonkeesilikethemonkeesdoyouwanttobefriends?!? but I stopped myself because I thought that might freak them out. I heard them say something about old TV shows and The Brady Bunch, so I’m guessing they weren’t actually big Monkees fans, but I still I found it amazing that these kids who were probably younger than me knew The Monkees. And not just one of them! Maybe it’s a California thing? (When I once told a roommate I was updating my Monkees website, I was met with a blank stare as if I had just said something in Klingon.)

The time between the first picture I took and the last (both in the parking lot) was almost exactly three hours, and that time includes lots of stopping for water breaks and photos and twice going down the wrong trail. I was worried we might have trouble with the ladders and hike, since my parents are in their fifties and none of us have any real hiking experience, but we didn’t have any issues. I also wore my crappy old falling apart sneakers, which I’ve seen people advise against, but I was fine, though I’m sure hiking shoes would have helped on the steep downward slopes. And our car didn’t get broken into, which is nice; we purposely arranged our hotels so we wouldn’t have to leave our suitcases in the car while we were at Painted Canyon.

We made a quick stop at McDonald’s for lunch and then drove back to the hotel in Palm Desert. We stopped at a record store that turned out to be in a mall (that’s a thing?!), but they didn’t have any Monkees stuff.

After that, it was about a one hour drive in the opposite direction to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. As we drove out there, we passed by a big field of windmills with the mountains behind them, and the low sunlight made the mountains all appear in different shades, and it looked just absolutely gorgeous.

The tram goes up every hour on the hour, so we rushed out hoping to catch the 6 PM tram up so we’d be there at 7 PM for sunset, and we managed to make it just in time. Unfortunately, we didn’t take into account that the sun would actually set quite a bit earlier due to all the mountains around us, so the sun was basically setting right as we got off the tram at the top. There was a trail leading down the mountain, but it was basically like the trails we have at home in Canada–snow included. I think the website said it was about 8ºC at the top of the mountain that evening, so not terrible, but the people who weren’t prepared and wore shorts weren’t very happy.

The views were very nice, but we only stayed at the top for about an hour, since it was already getting dark. The crowd we shared the tram with on the way down were quite lively, whoaing every time the tram got bumpy, as if we were on a roller coaster. I didn’t realize that the tram was going to rotate while you rode it, which was nice, because everyone got to see all the different views the tram had to offer.

For dinner, we went to the Old Spaghetti Factory, and I got the meat sauce, because the menu said the marinara sauce had carrots, and the meat sauce had celery, and I figured celery would be easier to pick out and avoid. Yeah, I don’t like meat sauce.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 – Long Beach

We went to IHOP for breakfast for a change, and I tried the sweet cream cheese crepes with raspberry topping. It was a bit too heavy on the raspberry for me and not very filling, but otherwise, it was good.

We hemmed and hawed about what we would do that day. We had planned to spend the day in Long Beach, near our hotel in San Pedro, but the only thing we found to do there was the Queen Mary. My dad thought I had wanted to go there, and I thought he had wanted to go there, but none of us actually wanted to go there. We couldn’t figure out anything else to do, so we went anyway.

As we drove over a bridge into Long Beach, the name Gerald Desmond Bridge suddenly popped into my head, and I remembered that Long Beach was where they filmed the opening and closing scenes in Head. “Is this a suspended arch bridge?” I asked my parents. “Is it one of the longest in the world?” After we crossed over the bridge, I turned around to look at the highway signs on the road going in the other direction and found we had just gone over the Vincent Thomas Bridge. I remembered reading that the Gerald Desmond Bridge was closed and about to be torn down, so I thought we were too late. After we went to the hotel, I looked up the bridge and found that it was still open, and they were building the new bridge alongside it, and the second bridge we had driven over was likely the Gerald Desmond Bridge. It was a lot shorter than I imagined, but it was still pretty cool to have been there. We went over it again two or three more times going out to Long Beach and Los Angeles, but I never had my camera handy to get a good picture. I remember having this bridge on my list of places to visit on our trip last year, but in the end, I decided against it, because I figured my family would be none to pleased to drive that far out of our way for a dumb old bridge, so I’m happy it all worked out and I got to see it anyway before it was torn down.

In the Queen Mary parking lot, we saw some trailers that said Quixote on the side; I remembered seeing similar ones last year at the Warner Brothers lot, so it looked like they might be filming something.

There are two Queen Mary tours you can choose from: the Glory Days tour and the Haunted Encounters tour. We were hoping to do the Haunted Encounters tour, but when we arrived around 12:30, we were told the next available tour was the Glory Days tour at 1:15, and there wouldn’t be a Haunted Encounters tour until 4:00, so we went on the Glory Days tour instead. There’s a Princess Diana exhibit that I thought my mom might be interested in, but it’s only open on weekends. There was also supposed to be a self-guided audio tour, but once we were inside, there were signs posted saying that the audio tour was unavailable. Not off to a great start so far.

We had some time before the tour started, so we took a bathroom break. It’s a big ship, and already we were getting lost, because the men’s and women’s bathrooms were located very far apart from each other. As I waited for my dad near the men’s bathroom, I saw a man with slicked back hair walk by. He was wearing dark pants and a white tank top, and he looked like a greaser, so I guessed maybe they had historical re-enactors on the ship, though I couldn’t figure out why they would need a greaser. I didn’t connect this to the movie trailers until my mom pointed out she saw a sign saying “Deadly Sins”, which is presumably what they were filming. It’s a TV show on the Investigation Discovery channel, one of those shows where they re-enact real murders, and I’ve probably seen it once or twice in the past. There were a bunch of other actors and costumes and props nearby, and I guess they were filming a scene of people arriving on the boat. I didn’t watch them filming at all because I’m too cool for that (or maybe I was just hoping they might catch me in the background and I’d look natural enough that they’d keep me in the shot). It would have been great if they were instead filming an episode of Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda (also on Investigation Discovery), because we had just been listening to the “Incredible Case of the P.I. Moms” episode of This American Life, which featured a fellow named Carl Marino, who plays Joe Kenda on that show (but, hey: “No Coincidence, No Story”).

While we waited in line for the tour guide, we noticed a couple signs saying things like “caution: uneven floors” and “caution: historic steps”. I didn’t heed the uneven floors signs and ended up tripping a bit after getting too close to a window. My dad didn’t heed the historic steps sign and bravely went up the stairs.

Our tour guide, James, appeared soon after, and after he started speaking, I remember thinking that I liked him because he had a nice loud voice. He had this very distinct, serious, almost authoritarian way of speaking that I can’t really describe, but after he finished his first spiel, he abruptly and jarringly squeaked “THIS way, my faaaamily”. As we followed him down the hall, I smirked at someone in the crowd imitating him. In the next room, he started telling us in great detail about the different types of wood that were used throughout the ship, and I started to get the impression that this guy was kind of a Roy from Corrie for wood instead of trains, but every once in a while, he’d throw it a flourish or a high-pitched word that makes it hard to sum up his demeanour so succinctly. As I suspected there would be, there are a bunch of videos of him on YouTube that demonstrate his character much better than I could explain it. Skip to the end for his catch phrase.

I was riveted. The entire time, I was trying to figure out exactly what his motivation was. Is he for real? Is he hoping to be discovered by a Hollywood agent? Is he bored by his job so he invented a character to play for his own amusement? Has he tried on lots of different characters and found that this one is the one that gets the most tips?

Unfortunately, he never really broke character, and there wasn’t any kind of great revelation at the end of the tour (except that he never asked for tips, so I guess that rules that theory out), but man, he definitely saved the day from being a total bust. One of my favourite parts was when he started describing the size of the ship and put on an almost robotesque voice. Something like: “The Queen Mary is: one thousand and nineteen feet long, one hundred and eighty one feet high, and one hundred and eighteen feet wide.” He also spoke about the movie The Poseidon Adventure, which was filmed on the Queen Mary, and he explained that unlike the ship Poseidon, the Queen Mary neverrr went up. side. down!

When we were on the harbour cruise in San Diego, I asked my dad why the ships were all painted the same shade of grey. I thought the shade almost camouflaged with the water, but not quite. My dad figured it was because grey was the cheapest colour paint. When we were at the Midway, my dad asked some guys at an information booth about the grey, and they didn’t seem to know the answer, but they too guessed it was the cheapest colour. Our tour guide on the Queen Mary mentioned battleship grey and said it was for camouflage, so I’ll trust him because he seemed like a smart dude.

After our tour ended, we explored the ship on our own for a bit, and we passed by a different tour group. Their guide was not at all entertaining. Every once in a while during our tour, there would be other visitors walking by, and I liked to watch their faces to see if they realized just what they were witnessing.

There was one very cute little girl who was walking in front of me down the hotel hall during the tour, and I heard her say to her mom, “I like when he says ‘THIS way, my faaamily'”. Later, we passed by a door with a sign that read “Queen Elizabeth Suite”, and she asked her mom, “Is she still in there?” My mom looked at me like her heart just melted.

After the tour, we went and checked into our last hotel. We could reach two Pokestops from our hotel room, so we got all stocked up on Pokeballs while we were there. There were no spawn points within reach though, so we had to put a few lures out. I don’t think we really got many new Pokemon, but there are definitely differences in the types of common Pokemon you see.

We decided to skip a full lunch and just have some snacks, since we ate dinner at 9 PM the previous night and were hoping we could start eating dinner at a more reasonable time.

Next, we went into Long Beach to some record stores, but I didn’t find any Monkees stuff that I needed. There was a “Daydream Believer” single on the wall at one place, but I didn’t see a price on it, and I figured if it was on the wall, it had to be expensive, so I didn’t bother looking, and I’m probably going to regret not buying it, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ’60s Monkees single with a sleeve. As we were shopping, I reviewed my list of records I needed to buy and saw it was full of things like Live 1967 and Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart that I’ll probably never get my hands on. At one place, I did see a Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity album though, which was kind of neat, and also a bunch of Frank Zappa records, which I don’t usually see very often, but then again, I don’t usually go looking in sections labelled “Weird Stuff”. They also had a section just for surf music, which is something you don’t see in Canada.

We went to a Denny’s for dinner. I went to go to the bathroom and found that there was a coin slot asking me for a quarter and a sign telling me that vandalism is expensive. We didn’t have any American change on us, so we skipped the bathroom at that one. It was a little surreal, and it reminded me of playing Roller Coaster Tycoon and charging people to use the bathroom.

Thursday, March 30, 2017 – Los Angeles

We went to Denny’s again for breakfast, and then off to Mulholland Drive. While we were on the highway stuck in traffic, we heard the car make a ding noise, and I asked what it was. My dad said it was the car’s collision warning system telling you you were getting too close to another car or another car was getting too close to you. After a while, he realized what the noise actually meant: we were almost out of gas. We made it to a gas station, fortunately, after a long time stuck in traffic, and then making a wrong turn before the gas station, and then figuring it’d be okay to just continue in the same direction because that had to take us to a gas station eventually… which it did, but only after a very long time, while we meanwhile noticed there was a huge line of cars just to get back to the highway. So that was fun.

We had originally planned to go from the Hollywood Bowl to San Vicente Mountain Park, but that didn’t happen. We drove Mulholland Drive from Woodrow Wilson Drive until we reached Coldwater Canyon Avenue and made a wrong turn at a strange intersection. We tried to turn back but were faced with a seemingly unending stream of traffic. We continued on Coldwater Canyon until we finally found a break in traffic and then headed back the way we came.

We stopped at Amoeba Music, where I found Good Times! Plus!, Live 1967, and David Jones. I didn’t realize until I got home that Live 1967 and David Jones were re-releases from 2016, which was a little disappointing because I thought they were originals, but then I thought I shouldn’t be disappointed, because the most my records will ever do is hang on a wall one day, and I’m probably better off getting nicer newer ones. There were also some Nez CDs that I contemplated getting since I don’t have most of his actual CDs; the ones I have are all double album compilations. There was also Micky’s Remember, which I couldn’t remember if I had or if I had King for a Day. I figured I probably had Remember, because it’s my less favourite of the two, and it’s newer, so my logic was reasonable, but in the end, I was wrong, and I should have bought it because it was $8.99 and all Amazon has right now are used ones for $100+. Sigh. There were also two dividers labeled for Michael Nesmith records, but no actual records, so someone else must have cleaned them out. I always have trouble looking for Monkees and Nez stuff at record stores, because I never know what genre to look under. Rock? They usually don’t have a pop section, so oldies? And for Mike, country? Heaven forbid some place has a Peter Tork record–where would that go, folk? Amoeba apparently puts Monkees under oldies and Nez under rock, and Micky and Davy are included with The Monkees.

Next up was the Griffith Observatory. We were pretty lucky and got a relatively clear day and a nice view of the Hollywood sign. We went to the planetarium show, because I had read really good reviews of it online, but in the end, I wasn’t as impressed as most people seemed to be. I had already learned most of what they talked about in my university astronomy class, but the one part that really stuck with me was the fact that Galileo’s discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun challenged a 1,500 year old belief that the sun revolved around the Earth. It’s a rather inspiring thought. Sure, you could look at it as depressing that we were wrong for so long, but I looked at it optimistically and in a way I can’t explain at all eloquently. Like, it may seem like everyone’s against you, the odds are insurmountable, but you can still change the world, you know?

We stopped at a Ross for some more shopping, and then went to Subway for supper. I’ve only had Subway once before, at which time I had the meatball sub, because I figured it was bread and meat, and it would be just like a meat pie. It wasn’t. I decided to try the ham and cheese sub with just ham and cheese, and it was much better. It would have been better toasted methinks, so I’ll try that next time, and maybe add some tomatoes or sauce, because it was kind of blah.

After that, we started driving, unbeknownst to me at the time, way out of our way to Record Surplus, where I picked up Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart and a Nez compilation album, so I was quite pleased. Record Surplus was way more reasonably priced: I basically got two records for the price of one at Amoeba.

Friday, March 31, 2017 – Malibu

We had breakfast at Denny’s again. It was a holiday in California, Cesar Chavez Day, so the place was pretty busy, and it was a long wait to even get seated, so we asked to sit at the bar, and that sped things up a little. There was a guy wearing what looked like a security guard uniform waiting to pay, and it was a little weird seeing this guy standing around with a gun in his holster. There was also a guy waiting in line who was wearing a really nice Bruins jersey.

Our first stop of the day was Corral Canyon Park. Parking was five dollars, and you were supposed to put some cash in an envelope and drop it in a slot. We didn’t have any change, so we bought a drink at the seafood place the next lot over, and then we started our hike.

It was a nice and breezy day, and the view was quite nice. You could see Point Dume off in the distance. The hill was very steep at some parts, and it seemed like the top of the hill was always just out of reach.

I think there was a sign at the entrance warning about rattlesnakes and other things. We saw a lots of the little fast lizards again. At one point, my dad stopped and asked if we heard that rattling noise. I said, yes, I heard the same thing earlier, just keep going!

After we reached the top, we weren’t sure which trail would take us back to the parking lot. It was supposed to be a loop, just like Painted Canyon, but apparently loops are too difficult for us to understand. We’ll be bringing a map next time we go hiking, methinks. We followed one path, but it seemed to keep going up when it logically should have been going down. We backtracked and followed a different path, which led to a dirt road and a trail marker for a Zev Yaroslavsky Coastal Slope Trail. We gave up and went back the way we came.

Next up was El Matador State Beach. The parking lot was full, and we only just managed to squeeze in at the end of the non-no-parking zone along the highway. As we were sitting in our car, a young guy walked by and started trying to break into cars.

We thought we were done with walking for the day, but I hadn’t realized we need to walk down another hill and set of stairs to get to the beach. The beach was nice, but the water was very cold. When we got down the stairs, there were some people taking pictures of purses posed on the rocks, and when we left, they were taking pictures of a model standing on the stairs. They had something with a Make Up For Ever logo on it, so I guess that’s what they were taking pictures of.

We had McDonald’s for dinner and then headed back to the hotel. We cleaned out our rental car so we’d be good to go in the morning for our 8 AM departure time. At our hotel, you need a room key to get in the parking lot and to access the elevator. One of our keys wasn’t working at either place, nor did it work when we got to our room on the ninth floor, so my dad had to go back down to the lobby to get them fixed. We worried for a minute we’d been kicked out and our stuff gone, but I guess this is a regular occurrence.

Saturday, April 1, 2017 – LAX to YYZ

When we got into our car in the morning, we noticed the overhead visors and sunglasses holder were all open. We realized someone had broken into the car overnight. It was rather good timing; anything we had missed cleaning out the night before, they must have taken, so thanks for the help, I guess? Seriously though, we were lucky they didn’t break the windows or anything.

We got to Denny’s for a very early breakfast around 5:30 AM. I thought we should have gone to McDonald’s, because I figured Denny’s’d be pretty slow that early in the morning with no one there, which they were, but we still managed to get out on time. Traffic was already starting to form before 6 AM.

I watched some more Star Trek during the flight: “The Enemy” and “The Price”, and then I started falling asleep during “The Vengeance Factor”, so I took a break for a while, then finished the episode, and then watched “The Defector”, by which time there wasn’t enough time left to watch another full episode. I don’t know how I managed five episodes on a four hour flight but only four episodes on a five hour flight. It didn’t seem like I was sleeping for that long. It got pretty turbulent at times, probably the most it’s ever been on the few flights I’ve been on. I kind of feel like I want it to get really turbulent one time, just so I know how bad it can get, you know? And then it will seem like every other time is not that bad. The turbulence doesn’t really bother me, but I suppose if it did get really bad, it might. I was kind of hoping there would be turbulence at the same time the Enterprise got hit by the Romulans or something and everyone was falling around the bridge; that would’ve been amusing.

Even though there have been all these things in the news about people having trouble crossing the border, we didn’t have any problems; of course, we’re pretty white, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. On the way into the US, the only kind of out-of-the-ordinary thing they asked was if anyone asked us to carry their bags for them; otherwise, it was pretty standard questions. On the way back, the Canadian border guard looked at our passports and just waved us through, didn’t say a word.

So, overall, it was a pretty good vacation. Great weather, and we kept pretty busy. There were a couple of pretty terrible bits, but those make for a better story, don’t ya think?