Angeles Crest Highway and Mt. Wilson Observatory

People have been telling us to explore the area outside of the city, so now that it has stopped raining we decided to head up into the Angeles National Forest. This is a surprisingly huge wilderness area outside of LA that goes all the way up to 7400 feet. What’s really cool is with a couple hour drive you can get from city to snowy mountains and since we love scenic drives we wanted to try it out.

To be honest I wasn’t crazy about the landscape until we got above the cloud cover and were in a beautiful pine forest. What was particularly cool was being above the cloud cover, I don’t think I have ever seen that before.

We were headed to the Mt. Wilson Observatory which turned out to be pretty cool. There are multiple telescopes in the compound and it has fulltime staff who live there. There is also a trailhead at the observatory, but we walked around and saw the buildings that were open. It’s really pretty and dog friendly which I appreciated. A couple of the staff even had a couple of dogs which they were letting run loose in the fenced in water tank area.

There was a museum that was open that explained all the history. It was founded in 1904 as part of Carnegie University and in 1919 it housed the largest telescope in the world (the 100 inch). Now over 100 years old this telescope is still there!!

One thing that was weird was despite tons of huge antennas there was no cell signal up there. Lee and I were actually separated at one point and had a heck of a time finding each other.

My favorite part was the large observatory had a glass in viewing platform where you can see the huge telescope. VERY cool.

After seeing the observatory, we went back on the skyway and headed further up into the mountains. We knew going in that the the road was closed at some point but we got pretty far up. There is a ski lift (family owned) on the mountain, but some skiers we talked to said they rarely run it. Instead they hike up and ski down which is some serious dedication if you ask me. We also saw lots of families with little kids playing in the snow and everyone seemed to be having a nice time. The unfortunate thing was we had to drive back the way we came and going down that twisty turny road was less fun for me. Lee loved it though.

To be honest the drive was just ok, but the Observatory was nice. And even though it was hazy there were some nice vistas.

Next up we are finally getting to visit Universal but it may be awhile before I post. I have two back to back work trips (one in OKC and another in Milwaukee) and wont have a ton of personal time. We are also still working on the budget, hopefully Lee will have the base data ready for me when I come back from my trips.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
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Greystone Manor

As we were exploring the Beverly Hills area, Lee wanted to stop at Greystone manor because MANY TV shows and films have used this location. Turns out this estate was built for the son of an oil baron Ned Doheny and his wife and was completed in 1928. In February of 1929 there was a tragic murder/suicide involving Ned and his assistant Hugh Plunkett but no one knows for sure who killed who. Lucy continued to live in the home until 1955 and then sold it to Henry Crown who rented it out to movie studios. Eventually the city of Beverly Hills purchased the property and it was dedicated as a city park in 1971. In true Beverly Hills style this is some park with beautiful gardens and a gorgeous home.

When I saw the list of TV shows and movies I got particularly excited by General Hospital. My Mom grew up watching that show and so did I and the famous Luck and Laura wedding scenes were shot there. The gardens were really beautiful.

There are tons of rules (no pets etc) for the property but it is totally free and definitely worth the visit. It has multiple levels of stairs, great views of the city, and nice clean restrooms.

The house itself was beautiful but not open normally to the public. We were lucky though and when we went the first time saw they were offering open tours of the first floor for $10 on another day and Lee bought tickets and we returned to take the store. The inside was really great and despite not being furnished had tons of interesting features original features to look at.

Aside from the bathrooms, my absolute favorite was the three kitchens. They had a Butlers pantry, main kitchen, and a baking room. You don’t usually get to see kitchens like this when visiting old houses and I always find them fascinating. This house had 55 rooms so that’s a lot of guests to feed when it’s full.

The last thing we saw was the theater/bowling alley which was right below the kids rooms. They had a movie playing which talked about the history of the manor and it was pretty well done.

It’s a beautiful place to spend some time, although I will caution you there are lots of stairs! Still highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Sorry about the click bait title but I never know what to call these posts. When things are moving quickly and there is lots going on there are always lots of little things we did that don’t fit in anywhere but I want to post them. So I often gather them all together and do one post. First and foremost one day while I was sick Lee went down to Hollywood and ate at Mel’s Diner and got a cool picture of himself with a star. One of the locals had letters you could temporarily put on and Lee thought it was a genius idea. Most importantly though Lee was in a store and out of the corner of his eye he saw Henry Winkler. Yes folks Fonzie was buying bobble head dolls and although he wouldn’t do a picture with Lee (didn’t want to start a mob) Lee got to chat with him for a moment and The Fonz gave him a hug. I think it was that moment that Lee fell in love with Hollywood and seriously it was a cool moment.

Another day we went to The Original Farmer’s Market. Basically this area has lots of permanent vendor all specializing in food and although it was cold and raining it was pretty cool. Be aware this is a big tourist area and pretty cramped for space, so highly recommend going early and on a weekday day if you can.

Next we visited Chateau Marmont which was a HUGE deal for Lee. This is old school Hollywood and lots of historical events have happened here including this is the place John Belushi died. The hotel is known for its absolute complete discretion and it was a place for people to stay if they were up to no good (Lindsay Lohan lived here for a year.) When we pulled up it said no outside guests allowed, but Lee being Lee went in and charmed the front desk manager and he said we could have lunch. The lunch (in my opinion) was medicore but Lee was absolutely giddy about being there and that was a lot of fun to watch. The hotel really does have an amazing history, just google it and read some of the articles.

After we went to Chateau Marmont we stopped at the Beverly Hills Hotel. This iconic hotel has been in tons of movies and we both really wanted to see it. We were thrown however when we were told valet parking ($15) was required. This always annoys us because we have the dually and they always pull the truck forward less than 20 feet when they park it. Our original plan was to get a bite in the cafe but it was packed so instead we took a quick look around and then left. Although no one said anything I felt super uncomfortable. Lee is great with feeling at home in and owning any space he is in but that’s not something I am always good at. To be clear no one did anything to make me feel uncomfortable I just felt like I was in a place I shouldn’t be.

After seeing the Beverly Hills Hotel Lee drove by this really funky place, the Spadena House, which is another Hollywood/Burbank/Beverly Hills historic location. It’s also been in several movies and have to say the structure was like nothing I have ever seen before. You really should take a moment to read about it and this article also gives you a look at the interior.

What else? Well we finally got to see Nokatomi plaza (The Fox News building used in Die Hard) and I am not sure what I was expecting but that was a bit of a bust. We’re going to go back to see the inside soon, Lee has a friend who works there, maybe seeing the interiors will be more fun. We also ate at a famous old school restaurant in Burbank called The Smokehouse and that was pretty fun. The prices (for LA) were reasonable and the old school vibe was great. Lee said his Caesar was one of the best he has ever had and since he used to make them from scratch tableside in a fancy restaurant that’s saying something. My prime rib was really good too.

Finally a friend of Lee’s that he used to work with took us on a personal tour of Disney Studios backlot and the ABC building. She works for them and seeing where she worked and meeting people was really cool. We didn’t have access to all the places but the visit to the Company Store was awesome!! There is so much history here and we really appreciated her taking the time to walk us around. Lee was completely floored when he saw that they had an original multi-plane camera that the Disney company invented in the early 1930’s to make animation. Without this none of the animated films we all know and love would ever have been possible. Again, take a moment to read about it, it’s pretty amazing.

That’s all the extras…next up Graystone Manor, an iconic location of many TV shows and films.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Watching a TV Show Taping

I don’t have any pictures for this post, because they wouldn’t let us bring our phones, but I wanted to walk you through how to see a TV show taping if that is something you are interested in. The first thing I should mention is most shows are no longer taped “in front of a live studio audience”. Game shows and late night shows would be the main exceptions, but very few comedies and no dramas have a live audience. I mention this because you really have to plan ahead to see a show and from what we learned most shows audiences actually fill up about 8 days in advance.

This was a priority for Lee though so he watched the websites well in advance of the tapings. One of the websites he used was On Camera Audiences which is a third party company that specializes in filling and wrangling the audience. I say wrangling because getting 140 people to do anything consistently does take some work so the studios subcontract the audience filling to them. And there are rules (lots of them) if you want to be an audience member. The tickets are free but the things you have to do are very specific including showing proof of COVID vaccine, wearing a mask, wearing certain colored clothing, etc. Each show is different so definitely read the fine print because they will turn you away if you don’t fit the criteria. They overbook the audience by about 20% so there are always people willing to take those seats if you don’t.

Lee has done several of these but to be honest I was pretty intimidated by the process, but eventually I agreed to try a taping of The Connors. This spinoff of Roseanne has some great actors so I thought it would be worth it to see. The taping for this show is on Fridays and doesn’t actually start until 4:00pm but we had to be there by 2:30pm. When we arrived at 2:15pm there was already a line and the parking garage would not let us in until 2:30pm on the dot. See? Rules.

Once we parked (and left our phones in the truck) we walked to a table and had to show our drivers licenses (twice) and proof of vaccination. We were handed a mask and then we had to walk through security. Anything they didn’t like (my vape pen wasn’t allowed) had to be put in lockers and then we were handed a turkey and cheese sandwich, a small bottle of water and told to wait in line. We ended up waiting until 3:15 when they finally started moving us into the studio. Once inside we found our seats and in this case could largely sit where we wanted. In other tapings they decided where you will sit and if you don’t fit what they are looking for you will end up in a dark corner. Lee didn’t look quite right for the Kimmel show so he was put in a remote dark corner, but still had a great view. That being said all the seats were pretty decent they just decide who will be on camera. (ie: game shows, talk shows, etc)

In this case we were just the studio audience and as they explained it we were there to do a job. The writers and actors would listen to our reactions and based on those rewrites and scene reshoots would happen on the spot. We saw this happen frequently that night but I would say for me this was the hardest part of the “job”. Laughing on the second and third takes with equal enthusiasm was tough for me and the masks didn’t make it any easier. We did have a comic and a DJ to keep us entertained between takes, but for me at least it was tougher the second and third times around usually. I say usually because sometimes the second take was much funnier and then of course it was easy.

I think that’s what bugged me about the whole thing the most was the audience response felt somewhat scripted. If we all went ahhhh for example after one take they might ask us to laugh during the next one. If they really wanted to get an honest audience reaction I am not sure telling us how to react was the best way to go about that. Still it was really neat to be on the Connors set and seeing the iconic couch and the cast introductions in the beginning were almost worth it. I say almost because the taping really drug on and ultimately it took 3 hours to film 22 minutes of TV. It wasn’t even 22 minutes because three of the scenes were pre-recorded and as interesting as it was to watch folks work their craft towards the end I did get pretty tired.

Actually the sections between filming were pretty interesting because the crowd was a mixed group of people from all over the country and the warm up person got people to talk about themselves. One guy was a Washington D.C. lawyer and had come out to LA with the dream of being a screenwriter. He asked how to get started and the warm up guy said in all seriousness that 80% of the people who come out with a dream leave after 2 months because in Hollywood it’s all about who you know. If you don’t know anyone then you have to work in an adjacent field and hope you meet enough people in the actual industry to get a break. It was pretty interesting and really matches up with everything we have heard from the people Lee knows who live out here. Only 5% of the people who come out here last beyond a year and most of the people we have seen trying to break in have been pretty young.

Anyway, although it was a five hour investment of time I am really glad I did it. Seeing John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf in person was great and I absolutely loved when the actors would mess up their lines and look up at us and say something funny. They also had a couple of guest stars (Jamie Pressley and Kenneth Parcell) which was a wonderful bonus. That’s just me though, Lee loves doing this. He has already seen Jimmy Kimmell, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune. We also have tickets to Whose Line Is It Anyway and The Masked Singer so I will be going back again a couple more times. If you decide to do this just remember: plan in advance and they make the rules during this stretch of time.

Oh one last thing. If anyone is wondering what is going on with our schedule, well at this point things are up in the air. It’s been raining pretty much non stop here in California and it’s even worse in the north than it is here. Our original plan was to move up along the coast but between the flooding and there being so much more to do in LA than I expected for right now we are going to stay in place. We will need to relocate from the Elks to a regular RV Park but we found a place we can stay at a decent (for here) monthly rate. Lee is having an amazing time and I just started the new job so staying around for a little longer only makes sense.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Peterson Automotive Museum

After visiting the Academy Museum we still have several hours and decided to see the Peterson Automotive Museum, which is right across the street. In our travels we have been to several car museums and they are always fun and interesting. First I should start with the fact that this museum is housed in hands down one of the coolest buildings I have ever seen. It really grabs your attention and definitely evokes a racing feel. It is also very popular and when we went in it was pretty crowded, but it was laid out in such a way that you could see the cars.

I was pretty hungry when we went in but there was a wait for the cafe so we started with the Tesla Special Exhibit. This was a combination of actual Tesla’s and prototype’s and personally I found the prototypes pretty interesting.

After a really nice lunch in the cafe, we took the advice of the staff and started on the third floor and worked our way down. By far the best section in the entire museum was on the third floor and it was a group of cars that were in different movies. This was fantastic and Lee and I spent lots of time looking at them. The DeLorean, Mystery Machine, and Eleanor were our favorites!!

As great as the movie section was the history section as just so-so. They do have another 100 cars you can see but a private tour is required for that. The highlight for us was seeing a Tucker Torpedo which we had never seen.

They also had collections of electric cars and electric bikes which was kind of interesting but the big draw was definitely the race cars. Lee and I aren’t into racing so for us this section wasn’t a big deal but there were tons of families who loved it.

One nice thing about this museum is it is super kid friendly and they had a whole section on the second floor that allowed kids to build racetracks and design cars. I also think the tour would be a lot of fun but we didn’t have enough time that day. One last special section they had was a group of Andy Warhol pictures and the cars that inspired them. I thought it would be really cool but honestly it wasn’t really it was just a partially finished project Andy Warhol started but didn’t finish. The gift shop was really great though and offered some really cool things including license plates from cars from movies which was super cool.

It isn’t the best car museum we have ever been to ( That is Harrah’s Automobile Collection in Reno) but it was definitely in the Top Five and well worth the trip if you are in town.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Academy Museum

When we put our initial LA list together in the top 5 was the Academy of Motion Pictures museum. I have watched the Oscars every year of my adult life and have followed closely the Academy itself has it has tried to diversify and remain relevant in today’s world. A few years ago they started talking about a museum and I was very excited because the history of motion pictures is very interesting to me.

The museum itself was a little difficult to find actually and doesn’t have it’s own parking garage. We ended up parking across the street at the Peterson Automobile Museum which is across the street and walked over. We found the right building but had some difficulty finding the right door but eventually made it in. The museum took over a large department store and they stripped it so inside it has a warehouse feel. The lobby itself is huge and has restaurant, bar, and gift shop.

I am going to say right up front that I was pretty disappointed. The good news is the museum is only 14 months old and is still figuring out what it wants to be. There were large sections of space that had TV screens with movie clips and then other sections where a big topic was jammed into a small section. I get it, the Academy covers a lot of topics but almost all of them in my opinion were done somewhat poorly. There were a couple of stand outs though and the $25 ticket was reasonable enough that I was still glad I went.

There are basically 4 floors and each floor has sections but they didn’t really follow a pattern as far as I could see. I will just show you the sections as we saw them but don’t expect any kind of an historical flow. Actually I would have been fine with each group of awards having its own section, but it didn’t seem grouped that way either. If it was again didn’t make much sense to me and I follow the Oscars pretty closely.

The first section really bothered me because it was a collection of movies showing diversity. Since I am very aware of how much of a struggle diversity has been in the nominees and winners I truly though this was somewhat disingenuous. That being said I saw the look on an Asian person’s face in the Bruce Lee section and they seemed deeply moved by it.

The next section was actors and actresses accepting their awards and again diversity was stressed. They had a display with VERY small print showing year by year but it was too much to read. I did enjoy some of the acceptance outfits in this section in particular the dress Halle Berry wore. I vividly remember how emotional her speech was so that was nice to see.

Then they had a special exhibit on The Godfather which was actually one of the coolest things we saw. It had costumes, scripts, a mockup of the horse’s head, and the desk The Godfather sat at. If more of the museum was like this section it would have been terrrific.

Next was the costume area and this was one of my top two favorite. Actually they called it the Identity Area and it included costumes, makeup, prosthetics, and wigs. Very well done. I don’t know if they let the costume people design this section but really they should let every area be designed by the experts in that area.

Like I said some section were good others were not. The stories area for example just had some TV screens with clips.

The animation section was ok but again I think this could have been much better. I did like that Merry Melodies was included.

The special effects area was really disappointing. It was very small and really insufficient in my opinion.

That being said the next section was around world building and science fiction and it was fantastic. They had R2D2 and C3P0 along with lots of other models for created characters. For me this was worth the price of the ticket and I particularly loved how it was dark but the lighting made it easy to take really good pictures. Extremely well done!!

The most disappointing thing was that we spent an extra $15 on the “Oscar experience”. Basically you get to hold an Oscar and they film you accepting. The clip (which is less than 15 seconds) is then emailed to you. And there is no sound. The whole thing was somewhat cheesy and not worth an extra $15 in my opinion.

Another really good section was about the history of black cinema. This was extremely well done and I saw several people of color deeply impacted by what they saw. I was shocked that when some of the early vaudeville people of color were filmed they had to wear blackface. Insanity. They also had quite a bit about Josephine Baker who made movies in France because she didn’t want to deal with the discrimination in Hollywood. My absolute favorite exhibit was the tap shoes from the famous Nicholas brother from Stormy Weather. I actually almost got in trouble because I got too close when I tried to take a picture. That piece of history was very special.

As wonderful as that exhibit was the next exhibit was the impact of women on Cinema and it was dismal. Really so bad it made me angry. All there was was one small picture for all of these ground breaking women. Really upsetting.

Finally there is an open air area where you can see the city. This is used as a venue area and I appreciated the view.

Finally I went to the gift store and I was super disappointed. All I wanted was a miniature gold statue I could get my grandkids but they didn’t have them despite the clerk telling me there was a ton of demand for them. I know I have been really tough in this review but only because I think this museum has so much potential. I really hope the academy doesn’t let politics get in the way of this museum reaching its full potential.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

New Job, Still Sick, and Striking A Balance

Let me back up a little bit. After Thanksgiving an old boss of mine reached out and said he knew of a job I might be perfect for. It was the same company, but in the Global Products division working on supply chain processes. I have wanted for years to work in international supply chain, but it’s tough to break in if you don’t have specific supply chain experience, but in this case the recommendation of my old boss and three really good interviews won me the job.

The position is a huge step up for me both financially and in responsibility, but I had been restless for a while and Lee encouraged me throughout the process. The new job was starting Dec 27th, right when I got back from vacation, and we both knew I would need to focus on it for awhile. To be clear I don’t ever want to go back to the job always taking precedence over life, but I was clear about the fact I would need a little time to get my feet under me. I have a lot to learn in this new environment.

And everything would have been totally fine because we had the bulk of things we wanted to do scheduled during the 10 day vacation. Then I got sick and everything went to Hell. A surprising amount of the things on our list actually can’t be done on the weekends (studio tours for example are only Mon – Friday) and Lee has several friends in the area we had to cancel plans to meet with again all during the work week. It was frustrating for both of us and although I strongly encouraged him to just go ahead and go without me, he didn’t want to. So time is slipping away and things are getting pushed off the list.

We drove down to the Los Angeles Rams football stadium and then because it was a really clear day we went to see the Hollywood sign. Both things mattered to me and we got to check a couple things off the list.

I have to guess it was so clear (ie: no smog) because less holiday traffic, but these were the first days we got clear views of the LA skyline.

Lastly because of the clear views we wanted to see the Hollywood Sign. There is a park where you can see the sign but Lee had done his research and wanted to drive up to the end of the residential street where you could get the closest to it. We weren’t the only ones with the idea, but we drove up the twisty turny road and somehow found a parking space and then had to walk roughly 1/4 mile up hill to the views. We were so close (and with Lee’s word in my head) I got my ass out of the truck and started walking, which turned out to be ok just took me a while. The view did give me goosebumps though and we got some great pictures.

We didn’t expect the road to the viewing point to be blocked up but as I said we got lucky and found a place to park. I will say there are no bathrooms or facilities of any kind up there and I feel really bad for the people who live there because it is a steady stream of traffic. I wonder how many of these homes have been turned into rentals because frankly it can’t be pleasant.

Finally we got our pictures and I did feel better than I looked in them. I was definitely done for the day though so afterwards we headed home.

Like I said it was very cool being that close but I needed a break for the day. The next few days I started my new job but thankfully my new boss was mostly out on vacation and I could take my time and pace myself. It took the full three days until I felt even remotely in good shape but the last day we went to the doctor and I am infection free!!! Thankfully I had the next four days off for New Years (holidays fell weird this year but it definitely worked to my benefit) and we will be trying to do something every day. The key is I need to pace myself and not over do it and we are in the process of trying to reschedule as much as we can for evenings and weekends. Some things (like the Warner Bros Studio Tour) Lee is just going to have to do alone but at least one of us gets to do it.

I have days off I could take but am not comfortable taking them until I get a handle on this new job and show my boss a little of what I have got. I’ll do the best I can to find some balance and hopefully we can salvage some of this trip for both of us. The one good piece of news is we don’t have anywhere we absolutely have to be until end of April. If we can find a place to stay here (no small feat) we could theoretically stay indefinitely. Just have to see how it goes.

Oh and one last thing. For those of you waiting on the annual budget it will absolutely get done, but at this point I have no idea when. For obvious reasons that is falling to the bottom of the list, but I promise eventually I will get it done.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Super Sick (and the details) But I Think You Should Read

As wonderful as the Paramount Tour was the next day I knew I was getting sick, really sick. I was 95% sure that I passed a kidney stone and hope I would just need a couple of days to get me back on my feet. At this point it was Dec 16th and I was on vacation until Dec 27th so although it wasn’t ideal, a couple of days wouldn’t be the end of the world, as long as I felt better by Dec 20th (for our big Disneyland day) I would be fine,

If you are wondering why I was sure I was passing a kidney stone, a couple months before I had my first ever one and the November CT scan I took showed there was a second one in the left kidney. Everything felt similar so it was just a matter of waiting it out. One big difference between this time and that time though was I didn’t take an antibiotic. People talked about the pain but we didn’t talk about an antibiotic and last time the doctors just gave me one.

This time after the stone passed I just got sicker and sicker. The back pain was intense, but worse I had abdominal pain, severe lack of appetite, I was sleeping 14-16 hours a day. Since we had a huge list of stuff we wanted to do I tried to rally a couple of times and see some sites, but I could only stand to be in the car a few hours at a time because all the road bumps hurt. Sorry the pictures are terrible but that was the best I could do.

Finally Lee had enough and said I had to go to the doctor and get checked out and since I was terrified of going to an ER, and I mean seriously terrified, we compromised on an Urgent Care just around the corner. It was very nice and by Monday morning I had added these wracking uncontrollable chills to the mix. Those freaked me out but unfortunately they also look like drug seeking behaviors. Basically I looked like a drug addict who needed a fix. Drug use is everywhere but they are particularly vigilant here and they didn’t know me. Thank heavens I managed to get through to one doctor. I think the fact we had cancelled Disneyland (my dream since I was eight) got through to him and he gave me a antibiotic shot on the spot. He also gave me a 10 day prescription for CIPRO (which is some heavy duty stuff).

Lastly he was concerned about possible appendicitis since I was having so much pain in the abdomen and wanted me to get another CT scan to check on stones and appendicitis. I said absolutely and they got me an afternoon appt at North Hollywood. I went back to the RV and laid down and a couple hours later got a call the North Hollywood machine was broken. At this point I felt I might have appendicitis so we had to find another one in their group. I picked Beverly Hills simply because I felt it would be in a safe neighborhood and got an appt at 1pm .

I should probably say here that during our driving on Sunday we went to downtown LA and I was really turned off by it. We have been to many cities with a homeless problem but this all felt bleak and scary. Plus there is graffiti everywhere (and not the community uplifting kind) and the trash is really bad. I know I was sick and that colored everything but it was pretty scary, even on a Sunday morning. The new Mayor of Los Angeles is calling a state of emergency because of the homelessness issues and I have to say I would agree. As a side note someone asked me if there were lots of illegal aliens in a comments and this may not be popular but I don’t know or care. For me people are either contributing members of society or tearing a society down and their legal status doesn’t necessarily determine that. Mental Health however definitely does, and what makes (for me) the tent cities so scary are the obviously unstable people. Not their fault, and yes those folks are everywhere, but here they are on the streets. Anyways those are my thoughts. YMMV.

Lee drove me to the CT scan in Beverly Hills and the contrast between it and LA was bizarre. In particular the city hall and police station were the nicest I have ever seen and I was also interested in the fact there were some section of town with tiny houses which I though might be where some city employees live. Not sure.

City Hall

The MRI spot was very small so I told Lee to go ahead and wait outside which was a huge mistake. They got me in pretty quick and then I had to change in a very small dressing room. By this time I was freezing and felt terrible and had trouble following even simple instructions. They treated me OK until the CT scan was over and then they sent me back out to the waiting room. As I was sitting there a woman walked in who was obviously from Beverly Hills. No mask, no ID, dressed like she was going to a fancy dinner, and no doctors orders came in and expected to get a CT Scan done because her Doctor was taking care of it. It gave me some comfort when they told her they couldn’t help her. Finally my results were done and the technician (who was a pretty big guy) came out and stood between me and the door. He said the tests were all negative and “he couldn’t help me”. I was like what? OK the tests are negative, that’s good, now what? I looked at the guy and again he said I can’t help you. Not go home and your doctor will call you just that. So I asked for a copy of the write up and then I left and went home.

It took me a few hours laying in bed to make sense of what happened and I realized he thought I was drug seeking. Wow…OK. Thankfully my doctor from the Urgent Care called and said it was good news and just take the CIPRO for the next 10 days and come back in if I needed to. Ok. So I went home and got worse and worse. I was originally diagnosed with a kidney infection which can be extremely serious if it turns into sepsis. After I got the bactrim shot the uncontrollable shaking stopped, but I was extremely nauseous and could barely eat. I drank lots of fluids (mostly SMART Water which I tried because my Mom likes it) and it was a lifesaver everything tasted terrible but I could keep that down. I also ate lots of bananas. I am not a huge banana fan but they tasted good and I also drank as much orange juice as I could handle. To give you an idea of how messed up this was, I didn’t have a regular bowel movement for 12 days. When Christmas morning I finally did it seriously felt like a Christmas miracle.

Speaking of Christmas I was too sick to talk to anyone and too sick to watch Oliver open his presents. That had to wait until a few days later. I was a mess. The absolute worst though was how altered I was mentally. I knew things were bad when one morning I went into the shower and couldn’t remember what the shampoo was for. I would forget to brush my hair, forget to brush my teeth, my words were slurring, and I couldn’t complete sentences. At this point Lee was getting freaked out (rightly so) but I was still adamant I didn’t want to go to a hospital so we got my brother on the phone (he’s my primary care physician) and he gave Lee a list of things I would absolutely have to go to the hospital for (ie: high fever, constant slurring of words, passing out, etc) and I agreed. I knew at this point I wasn’t in my right mind and would have to rely on Lee to be the watchdog. Lee also wanted to get me some pain meds, which I finally agreed to. I don’t like taking pain meds but at this point I was up for anything. Unfortunately we learned that California does not allow out of state doctors to call Class II or above meds into their pharmacies so I was out of luck.

Let me give you a quick explanation on why I didn’t want to go to the ER. All of my immediate family is in the medical industry and I have been listening to their horror stories my entire life. Yes there are good, young doctors in ER’s but they are also overworked, underpaid, and ill supervised. The busier the hospital the worse things can be and either overtreating or undertreating are very common. The key in an ER is to have health advocacy with you all the way through. I love Lee but this is not his area of expertise. I came close to flying somewhere but my Mother was on an Amazon cruise, my Dad was with my sister and my brother was going on vacation with his family to Disney World. Plus the winter storms had screwed up flights all over the country and I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse. So we hunkered down.

One other thing I wanted to mention about hunkering down is we needed special permission to stay longer at the Elks Lodge. Lee eventually got it but it wasn’t easy and we were acutely aware that we didn’t want to overstay our welcome. To make matters worse all the local dump stations were charging $35 – $50 a dump and our Blue Boy sprung a leak. Thankfully Lee bought another one for only $200 at Camping World (half what we spent on the original) and not only is it better designed but Lee learned that Camping World has a free dump station for Lifetime Good Sam members which we are. Between all the extra peeing from staying hydrated and the longish showers (the only thing that gave me relief some days) he was driving 25 minutes to dump every other day but he was happy to do it. He also had to wash the sheets because they were drenched in sweat which was another load. I asked the president of the Elks if they had a washer I could use because I had been sick but he seemed annoyed and said they didn’t have one. So Lee did it in our washing machine instead. My point is I guess the logistics of our lifestyle never go away…even if we are really sick, which can be a bummer sometimes when you just want to focus on getting well.

Thankfully though despite all the craziness the pain was the one thing getting better, It was good enough that one day I asked if we could take a drive to the coast since the weather was beautiful here. Turns out that with the crazy winter storms we were in the one little pocket of the US where the temperatures were really nice. Sun is good for infection so I put a heating pad in the car and we took a drive. We drove through some orange groves, down to Malibu, and then back home. The drive was mostly pain free although I only got out of the car to go to this famous little Malibu seafood shack and only ate a bit of clam chowder which was so-so. Lee liked his fish though and the the sunshine was nice.

One weird thing about Malibu is there are beautiful larger estates across the highway from the ocean and then smaller but also elaborate homes ocean side. I checked one of the For Sale houses on the oceanside side and it was a cool $55M in case anyone is interested. As good as it was to get out the day took a lot out of me so most of the time I just slept 16 hours a day and tried to stay hydrated. I was feeling a little bit better everyday at this point and since I was starting my new job on Dec 27th I had a lot riding on getting better and soon. But more on that in the next post.

Not to leave you hanging though the CIPRO did its job and on the last day I went in and had my urine checked and it was clear, although I did ask them to do a culture just in case. I don’t want to take any risks with this. The Urgent Care doc who I had seen before seemed relieved I was better and then said it’s good you didn’t have any reaction to the CIPRO. He mentioned a couple of symptoms I did actually have but it was clear he wasn’t really listening so I just said thank you and left. Later I looked it up and the CIPRO side effects are :

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • heartburn
  • diarrhea
  • pale skin
  • unusual tiredness

I had all of these but if it killed the infection it was worth it. The whole thing was really scary.

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Paramount VIP Studio Tour

Let me start by saying this is absolutely the best tour I have ever been on in my life. Yes, Paramount Studios is iconic and everywhere we turned we saw something from an iconic TV show or film, but it was more than that. The tour itself was several hours long, we never felt rushed, our tour guide was so amazing I gave her a $50 tip. Most importantly, “backstage” meant exactly that. Let me walk you through it!

First, we arrived at Paramount and parked across from the gate in visitor Lot A. Just seeing the gates was pretty special, and we had a short walk down to the tours building.

Right when we walked in the tour it was very exciting. We got VERY nice tour laminates and they had some memorabilia, including Oscars, the Maverick helmet, and my favorite: Star Trek. Paramount has been around for a really long time (since 1912!) and in the past it merged with Desilu studios, acquiring the Star Trek franchise. Walking in and seeing the uniforms gave me tingles. Oh, and did I mention we got to hold a real Oscar? Well, we did, and weighing 8 lbs it is heavier than you expect it to be, just like everyone says.

After the Oscar pics, we walked outside in our small group (there were 5 of us along with a guide) and went to our golf cart. It was a nice one and there was plenty of room. The VIP tour came with complimentary drinks and I will caution you to avoid coffee. Everyone who got the coffee struggled with it on the cart, but I got iced tea and it was perfect. Then we started off on our tour. I don’t really know what their pattern was (but there definitely was one, so I am just going to show you what we saw in the chunks we saw them. Our guide kept us away from the “Hot” or actively shooting areas, but we were close enough that it was possible we would see someone famous. The day we were there they were shooting the Rookie, but unfortunately no Nathan Fillion sightings. That would have been awesome! The deal is by the way if they approach you…great, otherwise just watch and don’t be a nuisance.

This one of the Forest Gump bench she was prepared for with the box of chocolates prop

One of the other things I really liked about the tour was as we walked around the tour guide showed us iPad clips from shows filmed in these places. One interesting one was an added scene to Top Gun (the original). The preview showing had a lack of chemistry between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis so they had this scene on her “porch.” It actually was filmed in a tiny corner behind a snack area. Crazy but as soon as she showed the clip you could see it. Here’s the clip, and you can see the actual location below.

What struck me the most is how much of a community this lot is and how much history. Each Stage had a list of major shows and films that had filmed on it and the crew (who was actively working that day) knew each other and the tour guides. Mainly we tried to get as close to the action as possible without getting in the way and it was fun zipping around. I will say the VIP Tour has quite a bit of walking (which is a good thing!!!), just be prepared for it.

The one set we got to visit was Dr. Phil’s. This is the longest running show on the Paramount Lot and he’s got quite the setup. I wasn’t supposed to take pictures but grabbed a couple, but honestly all I could think about was how Lee made Public Access Television with a 20th (a 50th) of what Dr. Phil has. And in my opinion most of it was much better television.

One of the coolest things we did was visit the sign shop. There is a union sign shop on the property (all departments are different unions) and they make signs for both this studio and others. The person who spoke to us for a long time grew up in the trade and his father was one of the last people who hand paints signs. Today most signs are computer printed but there is still a calling for the old fashioned painting on occasion. He explained how they are required to follow up the 20% difference rule for any product they are using that isn’t licensed. The brain tricks you usually when you are just glancing at something. Let me show this as an example. Just glance at the picture below and then really look at again.

Sure if you really looked at the sign you would get it but filmmakers controls that. They decide how long a shot is or how blurry so its not like they are going to stay on the picture too long. The whole thing was super interesting and they spent a ton of time talking to us which we really appreciated.

Its not all signs sometimes its printed backdrop like this faux marble from the TV comedy Loot. We love that show and the next time we watched it we easily picked out this backdrop. Really neat.

Around this time I was getting pretty hungry but they were prepared for that. We had a nice sit down lunch in the executive dining room that had wedge salad, chicken piccata, desert, and vegetables. Seriously it was REALLY good and I had seconds. We spent some time getting to know the others in our group and the tour guide and then we headed back out. The main reason we bought the VIP tour was it included some of the props area and we headed to the backlot. First we stopped and saw all the places they shoot scenes and I have to say I was blown away. Lee could explain this better, but the buildings are designed to support all kinds of camera angles and tricks (ie: forced perspective) and every part could be used in multiple ways. I’m going to have to show you but it was pretty great, especially with Lee there to explain everything. The tour guide was good but Lee knows a lot and even the tour guide seemed impressed. When I explained to the other guys in the party Lee watched movies like they watched sports they seemed to get it. He wasn’t showing off he was just really excited to be in his element.