Wheel of Fortune report

So after my adventures in California the day before, the morning of the actual taping, I was supposed to be there around 7:30 a.m. and when I had talked to Gary the Wheel guy, he had me all freaked out about Los Angeles traffic, so I ended up leaving the house around 5:30. Traffic was no problem, and I got there super early. So super early in fact that I was by far the first person there. I pulled into the parking garage and then… waited. It was somewhat awkward since I was not entirely sure I was in the right place. I mean I knew that I was at Sony Studios, and I could see the Wheel of Fortune mural painted on the side of one of the buildings, but I didn’t know if I needed to be in any particular place or not. I called the 2 phone numbers for the Wheel staff that I had been given, but nobody answered. There were some “regular folk” walking by, but it was one of those things where nobody wanted to make eye contact with me because they could tell I didn’t know what I was doing so everyone wanted to avoid eye contact so they wouldn’t feel obligated to help me :-) . While I was waiting, I of course checked the vending machines in the parking garage – no coins (foreboding omen?!?!? )

Eventually 2 other contestants showed up. One of them was a “local”, so he probably wasn’t getting on. The way that Wheel does it for contestants that live in Southern California is that you have to come one time as an “alternate”. That way they’re covered if an actual contestant doesn’t show up or is not able to go on. So since there were 6 shows scheduled to be taped on Friday, there were 18 contestants plus 2 alternates. Eventually the Wheel cast folks showed up and they took those of us that had arrived inside the building.

Once inside, they made sure that everyone was there and then they started with all the paperwork. We had to show ID, sign papers, review the rules of the show, get talked to about “Game Show Scandals” to make sure that nobody tried to cheat, and then they took us all out to the set. At the set they did a few things. First of all, they had us all stand back on the contestant platforms and practice spinning the wheel. It apparently weighs about 4,000 lbs (!). While I was waiting for my turn, I tried to analyze where the bankrupts and lose a turns were, and where I might want to focus. For instance, I was assuming that a “regular” spin would go around maybe a bit shorter than 1 full revolution around. So I figured out if I looked maybe a quarter-revolution to my left, then that would be close to where my spin would end up. So my thinking was that if there were “bad” things there, then I’d need to adjust (spin harder or softer than normal). While we were out there, they also adjusted the heights of the platforms, so depending on each of our height, they’d know to make it taller or shorter, as well as show as what to do with the various wedges if you landed on them.

The other thing that they did was take a picture of us on the set to send in the press releases that they send out to the local newspapers, and also film what they call the “Hometown Howdy”. This is a 10-15 second video that they send to the local affiliate to air the day before or day of the broadcast. The idea is to let the masses know that there’s a local contestant appearing, on the idea that it would make folks more likely to watch (which seems reasonable). So I got up there and read “Hi, I’m Dan from Madeira. Watch me play Wheel of Fortune right here on FOX19″. It took me two takes – guess I’m not cut out for acting…. :-) . The format is the same for everyone – but everyone has different hometown channels of course, and they each have different taglines. So it might be “Eyewitness 2 – on your side” or “Your Hometown station, ABC7″ or whatever. It was here that I first found out that Wheel was switching stations in Cincinnati. I was expecting to read a tagline for WCPO Channel 9, but the Wheel staff told me that it was switching to Fox19 in September (before my show aired).

While we were all on the set, Vanna White stopped by! She appeared to be just arriving for the day (it was maybe about 9:00 or 9:30). So if you’re wondering how Vanna looks with no makeup and not in fancy clothes…. I gotta say she still looked pretty good. Remember, she is 55(!) years old after all! She was also very nice – we didn’t get to talk to her at all individually but she did throw out some tips / suggestions to the group. After she left to get ready and we were all done, they took us back into the “holding pen”. While there it was my turn to get my “makeup” on – it wasn’t much – just some basic foundation stuff. I guess? I gotta say I’m not very used to wearing makeup :-D

It was then that they decided who was going to be on which show. Up until then, all I knew was that there were going to be 6 shows taped during the day. At this point, the staff came out and announced the 6 pairings. I’m not sure quite how they decided who was going to be grouped with who. It may have been random, or they may have specifically chosen people based on geography / gender? In any case, they didn’t say anything – just announced it. I had actually been “scoping out” the competition (of course!) and there were definitely a few people that I did not want to be up against. I was in the first grouping that they announced, with two women – Bonnie and Tala.

After they announced the groupings, then they had one person from each group come up to the front and randomly select one of six balls from a jar. This was to determine which taping of the day the group was on. For some reason, the staff was really trying to play up the suspense of this – making everyone wait to look at their ball until everyone had one, and then doing them one at a time. I’m not really sure why that was, since it wasn’t really a big deal. Bonnie was the picker for my group, and she picked the 1 ball – we were the first show! After everyone had their show order, then each show was brought up and we picked a 1-2-3 to determine which spot we’d be in on the show. I picked a 2, so I was going in the middle in the yellow spot, or “Mister Amarillo” as my kids like to call it!

I gotta say – once I knew that I was going to be on the first show, the whole thing got a LOT more real for me. Knowing that I wasn’t going to have the luxury of watching any of the other tapings meant that I was definitely going to have to do things on the fly. On the other hand, going first meant that I would be done for the day much earlier, so I wouldn’t have to be stuck in the studio all day. Once everyone was all ready, the staff again took us out to the set, where they ran us through some simulated games. Since we were the first show, they started off with Bonnie, Tala and I behind the wheel. One of the staff members, Gary, simulated the role of Pat and we started off with the first tossup question – just like on the show. Bonnie buzzed in first but got it wrong, and I was right behind her with the correct answer!

Then “Pat” went through our contact details, just like on the show, and we had a 2nd tossup. Bing! Nailed it again! Then they had a puzzle put up and we went through it. The details are a bit hazy, but I believe I also solved a regular puzzle and then at some point after we had had a chance to all get used to the wheel and the setup, they rotated us out so that all 18 of us could have a turn. As we were out there, some of the audience started filtering in. The actual studio did not have a very large spot for an audience – almost all of it was filled up with the 20 of us plus all of our guests. I’m not sure how random people get into a taping – when we asked the staff who they were, they said they were “bigwigs”.

After everyone had their turn, we all went back to the “holding pen”. They were in the process of ordering some lunch for the contestants, but I didn’t want to eat anything so soon to when I was first up for my game, so I just hung out. After a little bit, they took the 20 of us up into the audience, off to one side. There was quite a bit of separation between us and our friends and family, and they said that this was intentional. They also gave us specific instructions that we were not even supposed to really look at the audience – the reason being that some people might not have people in the audience so it wasn’t “fair” that someone with a helper in the audience might gain an advantage.

I didn’t spend much time up in the audience before Bonnie, Tala and I were called down to the main set floor. We got ourselves ready and prepared, and then as they were going through the pre-show checks, there was apparently some problem with the actual wheel. I never really got to hear what exactly was wrong – I think that someone heard the wheel making a particular sound. In any case, they took the 3 of us back away from the wheel while they worked on it. Again, the 2 staff members were specifically blocking us from looking around at what they were doing or in the audience, though later my sister told me that at one point someone had actually climbed out from INSIDE the wheel (woah!) It actually took a good 20-30 minutes before they finally had things figured out, and then we got into place and we were off!!

Music came on, Pat and Vanna came out and we were starting the first toss-up question. As the letters popped in, I was waiting for it to come to me, but Tala buzzed in when the puzzle was only

H _ _ _ – _ O O _ _ D
_ _ _ _

and correctly solved it (Home Cooked Meal). At this point I still didn’t know it. Later on after the game when we were talking, Bonnie mentioned to me that she and her family had brainstormed possible puzzles based on the “theme” of our show (Home Sweet Home). Home Cooked Meal was actually one of the ones that they had come up with, and she was bummed that she hadn’t gotten it. After the toss-up puzzle, Pat went around and “introduced” us. When he got to me, I talked a little bit about my world records (Fastest time to visit Every County in Ohio and Fastest time to Jump in All 5 Great Lakes). I also name-dropped my “wonderful” wife and “amazing” kids. I had been worried that I might stumble over the names of my kids (there’s too many of them!!) but didn’t have a problem. Then it was time for the second tossup. For this one, Bonnie and I got it right at the same time

_ NE _F
_H_ _ANG

but she was a hair faster on the buzzer (One of the Gang). I was definitely bummed that I hadn’t gotten either of the first two tossups, especially given how well I did against Tala and Bonnie when we were rehearsing. Why couldn’t we have had THOSE puzzles!!! :-)

First actual puzzle came up, and Bonnie started. She guessed a few letters, but then landed on a Bankrupt, so it was my turn. During some of my pre-show spins on the wheel, I had come up with what I felt was a pretty “average” spin that made it almost exactly a full turn around the wheel, so I used that now. My very first spins landed on the 1/2 Car wedge. I was expecting a 1/2 Kia, since that was what it was for all the episodes that I had been watching, but apparently for this season they had it changed to just 1/2 of different cars (for different shows). For my show it was 1/2 a “Smart Car”. I picked “H” correctly and picked up the 1/2 car sticker, and was on the lookout for the other half! Then I bought an O and a U, using up my money and then spun again. I got an N and then bought the last vowel, an I. I got a G and then 3 R’s. At this point the puzzle was

RO_ _ ING OUT THE RE_ _AR_ET

So I had the puzzle solved (in my head) with $1800 in the bank. I knew there were still 2 Ls left, and I was feeling good about being able to avoid Bankrupts, so I spun one more time. Success!! $500 wedge, I guessed my Ls and then solved the puzzle for $2800, putting me into the lead!!

Then we broke for “commercial”, which for us just consisted of the two staffers leading us away from the wheel while folks messed around with the wedges (changing the highest value, or putting on stickers or the “Mystery” wedge, etc.) Once they were done, we again took our spots and it was my turn to start the round. The puzzle category was “Same Name”, so my first consonant was “N” (since usually these puzzles are something like “Tom and Caribbean Cruise”.

Then I bought the A (2 of them) and my next spin landed on the “Maxwell House Coffee” wedge, which for my show was just $7500 cash, but only if you solve that puzzle. The irony of a Mormon landing on the coffee wedge was not lost on me :-) . I picked a D (2 of them too), and picked up the wedge. 2 Es and 2 Os left me with

_A_DEN AND

_ _ _ _ O _ _

_ O _ E

I had some more money so I decided to go for one more vowel. I could tell that the third word had a vowel still missing in it, and since I is much more common (4th vs. 12th – nearly 2.5 times more popular), I went with an I. Later on I actually looked it up, and there are only 195 seven letter words in the English language with an O in the 5th position and no A or E. 121 of them have I and only 89 of them have U. Unfortunately, in this case, the word was “Support”, so I lost my turn, and Tala managed to go through it and solve the puzzle. (Garden and Support Hose)

Next round was the Prize Puzzle and Tala started. She guessed a few letters but then lost her turn by guessing R, which was not in the puzzle. Over to Bonnie, who filled in a few more letters and then went Bankrupt. I made a face like I was disappointed but of course inside I was going “Cha-Ching!!” :-) . Unfortunately, on my very next spin I hit a bankrupt myself. I don’t know what happened with the wheel – whether I just wasn’t concentrating on my “average” spin, or whether they adjust the resistance on the wheel between rounds (I wouldn’t put it past them). After looking at the recording, the Bankrupt was 2 wedges past a full revolution, so I must have just spun it slightly too hard. Given new life, on Tala’s first spin, she missed the Bankrupt herself by only one tick. She got 2 Ls, an E, U and a B, and then 2 C’s With $3900 plus a trip (it turned out to be to India!), she was ahead by quite a bit at this point and I knew I was in trouble.

After another “commercial”, we went to a 3rd tossup, which was a living thing _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _. Nobody was getting this puzzle – it went all the way to

_AIN_
B_R_ARD

before I buzzed in with “Saint Bernard” for a cool 3K :-D ! I still knew that I was quite a bit behind, and my only chance was for Pat pulling one of his “infamous” $5,000 final spins. I had been decrying those beforehand as unfair, but now it was my only chance! Pat disappointed though – going for only $800. The category was “Things” so I started and went with an S, of which there was one. Tala guessed T and Bonnie guessed R – neither of which were in the puzzle, so it got back around to me and I went N (2 of em). Tala got 3 Ds and at this point I knew the last word was “Diamonds”, but I was still trying to figure out the first word. But Bonnie apparently had it solved, because she went with Z (2 of them) and then she solved it – “Dazzling Diamonds”. I gotta say that even at this point I did not know what it was, so even had it come back to me, I don’t think I’d have solved it.

Pat came by to shake hands and say goodbye, and Bonnie and I were ushered backstage and up to the “processing” room, where I signed my paperwork for the $5800. While Bonnie and I were up there, we could see Tala in the bonus round. It was “Thing” and the default letters came up

_ _ _ L _ _ / S _ E _ _ _ N _

She was guessing her letters, and I was urging an H, but she went with D, C, M and O. She only got one extra letter (a C at the end of the first word) and appeared to not really have any idea. I certainly had no idea so it was even more dramatic when with literally 1 second to go she pulled “PUBLIC SPEAKING” out of nowhere to collect 30 Grand!!

After my show was done, I went back into the audience to sit down with Kerry, Anne and PJ. I asked if we could stay for one more taping, just so that I could see what it was like from the other side, and they agreed. The taping wasn’t anything spectacular. One of the guys that I was trying to avoid (back when we were picking out teams) was on this episode and he did not do well. It wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with him – he had some bad wheel luck. There was one egregious misstep (IMO) – during the 2nd puzzle he had $2900 in the bank and a good chunk of the puzzle revealed. He landed on the “Mystery Wedge” (which is either a Bankrupt or $10,000). My plan was to almost never flip this over, since a 50/50 shot at $10K is not worth a ton, especially since if you’re wrong, not only do you lose all your money, but you give up (essentially) your shot at winning this puzzle AND let your opponent get the money for doing so. But when he called his letter and got 3 of them, which are worth $1,000 each, he was risking $5900 total on that flip, so to me this was the exact scenario NOT to do this. He flipped it over, and got Bankrupt :( . Later in the game, he landed on the $5,000 wedge but his letter wasn’t in the puzzle. After the taping as I was walking back to my car, I saw him consoling his girlfriend in the parking garage – she was really quite broken up about it…
After that 2nd episode was over, I decided I had had enough, so we made our way out of the studio. We met up with Tala and Bonnie and took a few pictures together.

Then it was on to the rest of the California trip

California trip, Part 2

After my earlier wanderings in California, and my adventures at Wheel of Fortune, we tried to figure out a good spot to eat lunch. We decided on the Stinking Rose, a “garlic-themed” Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills. We made our way over there (through traffic, of course!) and it took awhile to find somewhere to park, but then I realized that there was free on-site parking (score!) Lunch was good. I had the ravioli which was not overly garlic-y, though I did have a bit of PJs garlic pizza which was quite garlic-y. When lunch was over, and the waiter came back offering dessert, we asked him if there was anything with garlic. We thought we were so clever, but in the voice of someone who has probably heard that 1000 times, he did mention there was garlic ice cream (eww?).

By the time that we were done with lunch, it was around 3pm, and Anne and PJ decided to head back home. After some consultation, Kerry and I decided to head down to Santa Monica. So after we changed out of our WoF clothes and into something a bit more casual, we headed out. Traffic actually wasn’t TOO much of a pain but it took us a bit of time once we were down there to find somewhere to park. We ended up in an $8 public lot right by the Santa Monica Pier. I had brought a swimsuit to potentially go ocean diving but I had failed to get a towel. I remember intentionally not packing one figuring I could pick one up from my aunt and uncle. And while I’m sure I could have, I had forgotten to actually DO that :-D .

We walked up and down the pier for a bit, checking out the sights. Kerry rode one of the carvinal-style rides, and we checked out the markers denoting the end of the famous Route 66 highway.

We got an ice cream which was decent yet over-priced, and I found a penny (one of only 2 coins found during my whole trip!) While we were walking back on the pier we saw a crowd forming and looked over and it appeared that someone was shooting a movie there! Nobody I recognized and judging from the looks of it, probably a minor / indie project but it was still cool.

After that, I swung by the bathroom there and changed into my swimsuit and we headed off the pier down to the beach. Having had quite the experience in jumping in large bodies of water, it was fun, and I even got in a sweet wave jump. After a bit of playing around, we headed back to the car and back to Calabasas. Rather than going back via the interstates, we decided to drive back via the Pacific Coast Highway and Topanga Canyon which was nice.

We had dinner with Larry and Anne and I turned in pretty early in the evening. The time zone differential, coupled with knowing I’d have an early start the next morning made me feel awful tired. Got up about 3:45 the next morning to take Kerry back to Sacramento. Well, to take Kerry back AND FOR COUNTIES!!!! I had a route planned out which would let me pick up 25 new counties in California. When I explained to my aunt about how I was going to drive to Sacramento and back to LA in one day, she totally thought I was crazy. And frankly, who’s to say she was wrong? :-)

First problem was when we were trying to get onto I-405 north from US 101. You know how lots of times when you’re driving on Interstates, and you see electronic signs alerting you to lane or exit closures at some crazy early time and you kind of ignore them because who drives in the middle of the night? Well, alas, that happened to us. The exit ramps to NB 405 were closed until 5 a.m., and it was only about 4:25. So we had to detour around which thankfully didn’t take too much time or effort. After that, it was a pretty straight shot from I-405 to I-5 to CA-99. Thanks to the time change, even though it was awful early, I was still able to call home and talk to Carolyn for a bit. I did feel a bit sleepy while it was still dark, but once the sun came up, I didn’t have much of a problem. Kerry slept most of the early morning, until a slight detour off of CA 99 to get Kings County. While we were there, we stopped to get gas and some snacks, and I regaled the attendant with my amazing celebrityhood. We took a wrong turn to get back to the highway and drove down the main street of Kingsburg, which is apparently famous for its “Swedish Festival“.

Continuing on Route 99 through Fresno (the most populous US city without an Interstate in its borders), we got Kerry back home to Sacramento a little before noon. I spent an hour or two hanging out with her and her family, which was nice, as I hadn’t even met my youngest niece and nephew and hadn’t seen the other one in many years.

I had brought them each a little present so I could try and cement my status as “the cool uncle” :-) , and it was good to see everyone. But I couldn’t stay too long, as I still had about 10 hours before I’d be back to my bed, so after some directions to a grocery store (to pick up the obligatory “Dan travel snack” of lemon cookies), I was on my way.

There was some bad construction / traffic on I-80 westbound just west of Sacramento, but it cleared up before too long. I was listening to an Orson Scott Card book called Pastwatch, which I found quite enjoyable. I had read the book a few years ago but it was definitely a good listen also. I did one out and back on my way to San Francisco (to pick up Contra Costa County) and then approached San Francisco from the north. I got off of 101 right before the Golden Gate bridge and went up into the foothills to take a few pictures.

It was hard finding somewhere to park but I managed okay. It was here that a wave of sadness hit me in that I was getting to see all these cool sights and I had to do it all alone :( . It just wouldn’t work out that Carolyn and/or the kids could come with me, and there was nothing that could be done about it, but it still made me sad.

After crossing the Golden Gate into San Francisco, I made my way over to Lombard Street, billed as the “most crooked street in the world”. Traffic was moderately heavy in-town, but it got worse as I got going up the hill to the top of Lombard. The hill was pretty steep (of course) and I had to resort to driving with two feet – left one on the brakes and right one to push the gas. There was a lot of peeling out from cars, both from myself and from other cars. As I got closer to the top of the hill, I decided to pull an audible and instead of driving down the street, I parked off to the side and just walked the block and a half to the top and then walked down the crooked part.

With not a ton of time to spare, I figured that would work. I’ll have to remember next time if I’m in the area that it’s probably best to approach Lombard from a side street near the top of the hill. At the bottom, I decided to use my iPad to record a video of me trying to set a record for the fastest time to run up the steps. I didn’t get a great time (too many people in the way!) but it was fun.

Then it was back in my car and I drove down to Fisherman’s Wharf. I had some directions printed out about where to park but while driving, I decided to pull an audible and parked underneath Ghirardelli Square. I had planned on buying some chocolate there so I thought I could get some validated parking. But first, I hoofed it over to Fisherman’s Wharf. I took in the sights and stopped by the Musee Mecanique, which was pretty cool. Then I ordered a crab sammich (seemed like the thing to do) and by then it was time for me to head back to my car. I stopped into the Ghirardelli store and bought some chocolate, but not nearly enough to get my parking validated. It worked out okay though because I had only been there a little bit so the parking charge was not egregious. There was one guy painted all silver who was “posing” as a statue

Then I drove along the bay on the Embarcadero. Passed one homeless guy begging that I thought had a funny line – he would tell passersby “I’m looking for a down payment on a hamburger”. A little bit later, I passed AT&T Park and apparently there was a Giants home game – even though it was only about 5pm local time, there were a lot of folks dressed in orange and black. I was wearing my orange Browns shirt, so at least I was fitting in color-wise :-) . A little south of that, I got back onto the highway and then it was a long drive back to Los Angeles. For the most part (350+ miles) I was on US101, with only a few detours around (for counties!) A little north of Los Angeles, my route had me cut over on CA134, which saved a few minutes versus just staying on 101. Tragically, a few miles in, I was pulled over by the cops. The officer said I didn’t have my lights on, as well as that I was “following too closely” to the car in front of me. It turned out that I just had the running lights on, even though I had had no problem seeing things. He only cited me for the following though, which turned out to be a $247 ticket (!)

I got back to my aunt and uncle’s house around 10:30 p.m. and headed off to bed. I had another early morning – had to be up on the road by 530 or 6 in order to make it to the airport for an 8:15 flight. No real problems there – I had a bit of trouble finding the Avis dropoff but no big deal. Flight was normal and got back home around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. All in all, a very fun trip!

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!