2017

All posts tagged 2017

Technically we visited them the other way around, but we found the Joe Davies Airpark accidentally when we were looking for the Blackbird Airpark, so Blackbird gets the priority.

This trip was an object lesson in something that Thomas and I discovered when a friend came to visit us in the mid-90s. And it was in the mid-90s, both chronologically and meteorologically. We took her to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and were dragging her around showing her all of the cool things we’d noticed about the buildings and the grounds during our own visits. She was more interested in the air conditioned parts, like the bookstore. The next day we took her to the botanic gardens and she was enthralled with the plants and the gardening techniques. She had a long conversation that I was completely unable to follow with one of the workers about something horticultural. Meanwhile, Thomas and I were about to keel over from the heat.

While she was talking to the worker, Thomas turned to me and pointed out that when we were at the missions, we didn’t notice the heat so much because what we were talking about was interesting to us but she was miserable. The next day, she didn’t notice the heat but we sure did!

And our trip to Palmdale definitely was an experience along those lines. I mostly noticed the heat. There was a little picnic shelter that was the only shade around and so I hung around there as long as I could before I returned to the rental car and sat with the engine and air conditioner running. Going out into that southern California desert sun made me feel even more like Gollum than usual. And the summer sun does a pretty good job of that regardless of where I am.

Alex, on the other hand, had a blast. Which was my intent. Alex is an airplane buff, so this side trip was for him specifically.

The reason why there are two open-air airplane museums in such close proximity is Plant 42, which 20-ish miles southwest of Edwards Air Force Base. Near as I can figure, Plant 42, which manufactures top-secret aircraft, is actually part of Edwards Air Force Base, despite the distance. The space shuttle Enterprise (which Alex and I saw at the Intrepid museum in New York City) was assembled at Plant 42.

Enterprise at Plant 42

NOT MY PHOTO (I was 10 years old and in a completely different state when this photo was taken). This is the Enterprise at the Edwards Air Force Base end of its trip in 1977. The photo is labeled on NASA’s website as “NASA Photo,” which my understanding of copyright law leads me to the conclusion that it is in the public domain.

The claim to fame of the Blackbird Airpark is that they have not just the SR-71 Blackbird but its predecessor, the A-12. At first Alex was disappointed that the place we ended up didn’t have even one Blackbird, let alone two, but I got onto Google and found that we were next door to where we wanted to be. So I ventured out into the summer sun to see if there was an easy way to get from one to the other. And there is. There is a gate in the fence between the two parks.

b52 with better saturation than last time

I’ve already posted this picture of the B-52 once before, but I goosed up the saturation a bit before I resized it this time.

So Alex got to explore both airparks while I hid in the air conditioning, first in the car, then in the minimuseum/gift shop once we got to the Blackbird Airpark side of the fence. As we returned to our car, I made a quick detour because I’d been seized with a desire to take a picture of the B-52 at the Joe Davies Airpark, even though The B-52s were named for a beehive hairstyle, and not the airplane.

Since I didn’t really explore much, I may ask Alex if he’d like to do a guest post.

Now, this is a post that would lend itself to overdoing on the Amazon Associates links. I will try to restrain myself to only maybe two or three.

Warner Brothers was founded by, well, four brothers with the surname of Warner — Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack. I’m not 100% certain why Jack has always been the only one whose name I know off the top of my head. I’ll have to ponder that one. The Warner family originated in Poland (though Jack was born in Canada) and began in the movie business by owning theaters. Somehow they parlayed that into actually making movies and moved from Ohio (how’d they get from Canada to Ohio? I’ll have to look into that) to California.

The Warner Brothers’ first studio was on Sunset and Bronson (and has the scintillating name of the Sunset Bronson Studios today).* The studio had the money to move to nicer digs in Burbank after the release of The Jazz Singer, the first ever “talking picture” — a movie with sound. The Warners accomplished this when they purchased a company that owned movie theaters and which had a one-third stake in First National Pictures, a different movie studio. They purchased the other two-thirds of First National later that year and First National owned the land in Burbank where Warner Brothers is today.

Over time, Warner Brothers continued making movies and also diversified into animation, television, music, and publishing (with their purchase of DC Comics). Looking at the official company history page, I kind of both would love and hate looking at their corporate structure chart. “Warner Horizon Scripted Television”?

Anyway, so the tour. As I think I’ve mentioned before, Thomas and I went on the tour back in the mid-90s and I wanted to see how the property has changed and also to give Alex a chance to check it out. As you might expect, a lot was the same (if you lowered me gently from a helicopter into the middle of the backlot, it might not have taken me a dreadfully long time to figure out where I was, and I certainly would’ve known by the time I found Stage 16, which is the tall one with the WB logo on it that figures prominently in the company logo that runs before movies these days). Quite a bit has changed as well.

The tour starts out on a tram where the guide takes you around the backlot. This is where the outdoor scenes for a bunch of movies and television shows have been filmed. There’s a generic midwestern town and a generic city street, for example. There’s a generic little corner of a Paris street there as well, which was used in Casablanca, but I think I missed the photo of that one.

branch with extra leaves attached, 2017

I got a kick out of this. It’s a for-real tree with extra clumps of leaves tied onto the branches. Why would they do this? Because maybe the director’s vision has the trees fluffier than in real life? To change the apparent season? Anything like that, probably.

There also used to be a generic western town, but that area has been replaced by a generic suburban street, the buildings of which double as offices. That area may have been in use when we were there because I don’t remember that area, though maybe the tour guide just didn’t point out that they were also offices.

One of the other things that must have been in use that day was the jungle set with a water tank that has been any number of ponds, lakes, lagoons, and ocean shorelines. When Thomas and I took the tour, the guide gave a list of just some of the things that were filmed there. I’m sure the list would be even longer today.

Let’s see if I can stick an Amazon Associates link into a picture caption:

Daily Planet Building from Lois & Clark, 2017

Generic City Street — this in particular was used as the Daily Planet building in Lois and Clark (and, in fact, was in use in just that way when Thomas and I were there). As you can see, there are stairs down to the “subway,” though they just stop at the bottom.

Hey! It looks like it worked!

*And here I took a break of something like 20 minutes to figure out if we ever got there in the 24 Hours of Happy thing and looking at the studio on Google Street View, it sure looks familiar. And, no, I don’t think we ever get this far down Sunset. It looks like we only go as far as Gower.

We got to Los Angeles International without an incident and I had my first experience of disorientation. I swear I used to be able to find my way out of that airport back in the 1990s. I was our navigator on all four of our previous California trips, for crying out loud.

Alex and I made it to our first stop, Seal Beach, successfully. Thomas and I watched the old soap opera Sunset Beach (which is not available on DVD or even for streaming, dammit) faithfully for its entire three-year run and, so of course, on our final three visits to California, we had to visit Seal Beach, which is where many of the outdoor scenes were filmed. I took Alex to the Richards family’s first house, and to the Pier, of course, and then we looked at the buildings they used for the Waffle Shop, the Deep, and the Java Web. Then Alex went to a coffee shop (not the Java Web) to get something to eat and I hiked down to the buildings they used for Ben’s and Annie’s houses. We never got to a bunch of the buildings, because Alex was starting to drag already and we still had several stops to go.

Our next stop was the Sweet Cup in Garden Grove. I’m learning Vietnamese and would have loved to have had more time to explore Little Saigon while we were in Orange County, but we had places to go. I would have linked to Sweet Cup’s web page if they had one. But check them out if you’re in the area. And, no, I didn’t get comped or anything for this. I almost never talk about food or anything, but I’ll make an exception in this case. The viral video was pretty much spot-on.

Then we undertook an hour drive to Parkers’ Lighthouse in Long Beach. Normally, it’s about a half-hour drive, but I wanted to drive along the ocean for a while. We ended up going back into Seal Beach and soon discovered that Pacific Coast Highway goes entirely too far inland there (as we discovered to our chagrin after following it for a few miles) So we had to turn around and head back We then overshot the turn for the restaurant and had to go back around again.  So it ended up taking about an hour. We also took some pictures of the Queen Mary while we were out there.

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, 2017

The Queen Mary in Long Beach. When we were planning this trip, i suggested staying on the Queen Mary, but we ended up moving to a more traditional hotel to be closer to some friends we were hoping to meet. We never met those friends. After seeing the ship, Alex has requested that we follow through on staying on the Queen Mary next time.

Thomas and I went to Parkers’ Lighthouse when I was pregnant with Alex. We’d been whale watching with a friend and spending time on or near the water always makes me crave seafood. So when we saw Parkers’ Lighthouse, we bet they’d have seafood, and they did. I always had fond memories of our visit there, so of course I wanted to go back with Alex now that he’s old enough to build a memory of the place. I was kind of worried because we weren’t dressed up, but the people there were very gracious. And the food was just as good as I remembered.

By then, Alex was falling asleep and having a hard time navigating, so we headed to the hotel. Once we’d gotten some rest, I realized that I’d left some of my over-the-counter medication at home and we headed out to a Walmart to replace it. Then we attempted to visit Santa Monica Pier at night. That was a failure; we could *not* find anywhere to park (note to self: check out parking ahead of time next trip). So we drove back up Santa Monica Boulevard until we passed the Latter-Day Saints Temple, and then went back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Little did we know how much of an adventure our second day would end up being. . . .

I think I’ve updated y’all on the plans. At first we planned to go to Europe this year. We planned to fly into Amsterdam, then visit Rotterdam, then into Germany, where we would go to Berlin, Munich, and Heidelberg (stopping at Neuschwanstein just because). After that I had hoped to visit Brussels before going back to Amsterdam for the flight home. In my dream version of this trip, I hoped to stop off at Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau, the two towns of Belgium and the Netherlands, respectively, that are sort of intertwined with one another.

Late in 2016, we scaled that trip down to a trip to Canada. The plan was to fly into Toronto, then drive a rental car to Quebec City, where there is going to be a tall ship regatta this summer. But Alex made a friend in California and really wanted to visit there, so early this year, we scaled it further back to a week in Southern California.

I just realized this last week that one of our traditional July trip destinations is a national park. In 2011, we went to the National Mall; in 2012, it was Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; in 2013, we had Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, *and* Cape Hatteras National Seashore; in 2014, it was Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio; in 2015, it was Statue of Liberty National Monument; and in 2016, it was Golden Spike National Historic Site and, of course Yellowstone.

But what to do in Southern California? I was hoping to get to Catalina Island while I am in California, since I’ve never been to Catalina before, but it’s expensive. Channel Islands National Park is less expensive so it was tempting, but apparently you have to pick one island, and the closest island is still an hour away by boat, and the boats leave from Ventura, which is an hour from our hotel. So that’s a four-hour round trip. And apparently there’s not really anything to do on the islands unless you like to kayak, which doesn’t seem like my sort of thing. There’s not even a place to take shelter from the rain on Anacapa, which is the one that’s only an hour-long trip.

If the boats traveled more like the ones at Statue of Liberty National Monument, where you could take one boat to Anacapa, then another in an hour or two to Santa Cruz, and so on, it might be worth it. Take a boat to one island and be stuck there for the rest of the day is less exciting for me (oh, and apparently the seagulls are nesting on the island in July, so it’s apparently noisy and smells like seagull poop). This means, of course, that if I want to go to an island, I’m back to considering Catalina.

In contrast, our hotel is about two hours away from Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve been looking at pictures and doing some reading, and you can see the San Andreas Fault from there, and there are a couple of oases in the park.  So if I’m going to spend four hours in a rental car to get to and from a national park, Joshua Tree gets my vote.