California trip, Part 1
Ironically enough, it was while we were actually WATCHING Wheel of Fortune that I got “the call”. I almost didn’t answer it, because it was an unknown area code and usually those end up being spam or wrong numbers. But for some reason, I answered it and it was Gary from Wheel of Fortune. I had gotten my letter in the mail a few months prior, but all the letter says is that you will be a contestant some time in the next 18 months. The call came on a Wednesday night, and in a continued show of poor timing (just like when the WoF audition was scheduled on the same day we were leaving for vacation), the call came the night as I was trying to leave for my Great Lakes trip.
Since I had been planning on staying with my aunt and uncle, the only really pressing need was booking my plane tickets. I was actually pleasantly surprised given that I only had about 2 weeks notice before the tape date – I was able to get a non-stop round-trip ticket to LAX, flying out of Cincinnati for only $330. This is a really good deal as normally those tickets are over $500. I guess it must have been close enough to the actual dates of the trip that they were discounting the tickets to try and get them sold. I also had to talk it over with Carolyn and we decided that there really was no way that she or any of the family could come along. With the baby being so young, it just wouldn’t work out. Had she been a little older, or had she not been born yet, we probably would have tried to figure out a way to have somebody watch the other kids so she could have come, but alas, it was just not in the cards.
After I got back from the Great Lakes, I continued my planning. Firmed up the car rental, the lodging with my aunt and uncle, got my county route planning, as well as some touristy things to do while I was in California. In talking with my sister Kerry, who lives in Sacramento, she decided that she would be able to make it down to watch. And in addition to my aunt, my friend PJ was off work on my taping day, so I’d have 3 folks in the audience.
I flew out on Thursday August 23rd. I had arranged with a local hotel to park there and take the shuttle over to the airport. I always get nervous about how long getting through security and such at the airport might take, so I like to have buffer time. My flight left CVG at 9:24, and so I was trying to make the 7:30 hotel shuttle (they run every 30 minutes), but apparently I just missed it, so I had to wait around till 8. It ended up not being an issue at all – I got to the gate in plenty of time. I even was able to talk to the gate agent and swap my middle seat over to a window seat (bonus!).
Flight was uneventful and it always seems weird with the time difference – it was a 4 hour flight, but I left at 9:24 and arrived at 10:55. I went through the airport and got on the shuttle over to Avis. Kerry’s flight was arriving about an hour after mine, so I figured that I could have the car rental all secured, so that when she got in, that we could just leave. The shuttle had 2 stops in Avis – the first one was for “Avis Preferred” customers. I was not quite sure what that meant so I didn’t get off there and instead just went on to the “normal” counter. As it turned out, I was a “Preferred” customer, which apparently consists solely of signing up for free on their website. Then I got the standard car rental line “Oh we’re out of what you reserved so were going to ‘upgrade’ you”. I can not tell you how much this annoys me. I had reserved a compact car due to the good gas mileage, since I was going to be doing a fair amount of driving. Ooh but of course they did not have one of those so I got a “QUADRUPLE UPGRADE!” to a full-size car.
Then the guy at the counter suggested that I could go back to the “preferred” section and apparently one of the features that they have is that if you don’t like the car you got, you can just pick another one from a section of cars. You can also pay a bit more per day to upgrade to a car. While I was slightly tempted by the Ford Mustang, I did not go for that . I ended up with a Ford Fusion and then I just had to wait for Kerry to arrive. Apparently there were some problems with the shuttle – she was saying that she was waiting out front of the airport but no shuttles arrived. Meanwhile I was sitting in the car, just waiting and waiting…. Eventually she arrived and we were off!
The first order of business was a stop to Randy’s Donuts, an iconic LA eatery. We went to the walk-up window and each ordered 2 donuts.
Then the next stop was over to Hollywood. Traffic on the 405 was slow even though it was the middle of the day, and similarly on Santa Monica Boulevard. Welcome to LA!!! Meanwhile, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to sing Sheryl Crow or Weezer . We also passed by the Los Angeles temple which I had not realized was actually on Santa Monica Blvd. We got to Hollywood and parked at the Hollywood and Highland center, because we were only going to be there a short time. First stop was to take some pictures of the Hollywood sign. I had read that the H&H center was one of the easiest places to get a picture of it. We got ourselves turned around trying to find the overlook but eventually we did. It was…. exciting (okay not really but when you’re in LA, you gotta do it, right?).
Afterwards we went out front and took some pictures of the stars on the Walk of Fame.
At this point, we realized that it would actually be cheaper to just pay for the 1 hour of parking than to buy something and get the validated parking, so we did that and headed out. It had gotten to be quite a bit later than we were hoping – the original plan was to meet up with PJ down by USC (where he works) and grab a late lunch. But it was so late that we decided that given LA traffic (a constant), it was not going to happen. So we audibled and headed up to the Griffith Observatory. That was a pretty cool place and offered some great views of the LA skyline.
After that, we got ourselves a bit lost but managed to successfully navigate traffic over to my aunt and uncle’s house, in Calabasas.
My cousin Pam and her kids came over for a bit of a family dinner, which was nice. The rest of the evening was just spent relaxing. We did watch Wheel of Fortune (of course!), and then my aunt graciously ironed my clothes for me. What happened next…. stay tuned!
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