USA Travel Diary 23/4/18

Ok, I’ve been home for a few days, but better late than never, right?

Day 33


Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Proud to say I managed to not cry all day, though it got pretty close towards the beginning, between lack of sleep and the pure emotion of having finally made it somewhere I’ve wanted to go since I was a kid.

Disneyland is magical. There’s no other way to describe it. Even as a grown man who is almost thirty, who doesn’t have kids, or like roller coasters.

To make my time here even better, because we just came off Spring Break, the park wasn’t too crowded at all. There were still lines, but not the monsters that the park is famous for. Of course, I didn’t go into the Space Mountain or Matterhorn lines, which I’m sure were still over half an hour wait. I had purchased Fast Pass, but never felt the need to use it, since it would have just been inconvenient.

Even if you don’t like the fast rides, there’s plenty to do. I’m a little disappointed that Dumbo the Flying Elephant was closed for maintenance, since that’s one of the few big name rides I wanted to ride. Splash Mountain was closed too, but there was only a fifty/fifty chance I was going to ride that one. But there’s still all the kid’s rides in Fantasyland, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and of course, the iconic Pirates of the Carribean and Haunted Mansion.

I finished the day watching the amazing light, sound and fireworks show that is “Remember… Dreams Come True”, over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, before heading down to the Rivers of America to watch “Fantasmic”. Both shows were amazing, and definitely highlights of the trip.

Day 34

Today I spent most of the day at Disney’s other Anaheim park, California Adventure. It’s a much smaller park, but that’s not to say it’s not just as much fun.

“Storytellers”, which I might like more than the more famous “Partners, which is across the way at Disneyland.

While not as iconic as its sister across the plaza, the spirit of the Disney Parks is still alive. Where Main Street USA is a quintessential turn of the century small-town main street, Buena Vista Street is firmly set in 1920s Los Angeles, with art deco inspired buildings and a streetcar.

California Adventure is known for its thrill rides, so while I had some fun on the kids’ rides, and meeting the various characters (most of the Pixar characters live over this side, as well as the sisters from Frozen, and cool, 1920s versions of Mickey and his friends), I couldn’t really spend a whole day here.

So I spent the afternoon back at Disneyland, before heading back to see the sound and light show at California Adventure, which is titled “Carousel of Color”. It might have been more spectacular than the shows I saw at Disneyland the night before, but it didn’t quite have the magic.

Day 35

All good things must come to an end. Fortunately, it was a perfect way to end it. I practically walked onto the Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion (twice!), with almost no wait time. I got to meet a bunch of cool characters (even as an adult, this is the best part, Disney cast members are outstanding folks). I caught up on a couple of rides I missed, including Peter Pan’s Flight, which is probably the highest I got off the ground in the whole park.

The highlight of the day was that night’s show. Just a few days out from the beginning of ‘Pixar Fest’, we got to see a preview of the new “Pixar Nighttime Spectacular”. Now, I’ll always be more of a Disney Animated Studios guy than a Pixar guy, but I still cheered when Buzz Lightyear flew past the castle.

After that show I went and saw Fantasmic again. I should point out that all these night time shows are up on YouTube.

As the night was coming to an end, I finally got to do something I’ve been dying to do for two years. I went shopping. No more worrying about having to cart everything across a continent. No more leaving cool mugs behind because I don’t want it to break. No more trying to find the lightest thing in the store, because I just had to have something.

I stayed in the park until close. I found a bench at the top of Main Street, near Walt Disney’s firehouse office, facing down towards the castle. It was a good time to reflect on everything, while taking in somewhere I’ve dreamed of for so long, one last time.

Walt’s office light is still on.

Day 36

And after all that is a travel day. What should have been a short one, but I wanted to sleep in, so booked an afternoon ticket to LA, which was then delayed.

Day 37

My hostel was on the same Metro Line as Hollywood, so that seemed like a good place to start. And boy is Hollywood Boulevard kind of dirty. It was cool seeing the Walk of Fame, but I didn’t really want to stop anywhere. I went and took the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, which was pretty cool. I’m not sure what we missed out on, due to filming schedules, but I can’t imagine we missed much. If you only take one studio tour in LA, pick this one. Unless you’re already going to Universal, which I’ll cover later.

Day 38

The Sony Pictures Studio Tour isn’t quite as good as the Warner Brothers Tour. However, the Sony Pictures lot is the old MGM lot, so assuming they’re not using it, you can stand on the same soundstage that The Wizard of Oz was filmed on. Which was 99% of the reason I was there. They also show you some cool effects stuff, which you miss out on at Warner Brothers.

Day 39

I’d had enough of tours, and decided to head down to Santa Monica. Unfortunately, this was my first time at a beach since Sicily, and I don’t have a pair of board shorts that actually fits me, so I couldn’t go in the water. I did check out the pier, which was pretty cool, and the endpoint of Route 66.

Day 40

I’m not going to lie, I spent a good chunk of today playing Pokemon Go. But I also checked out the La Brea Tar Pits while I did. The number of fossils they pull out of the pits in a day is unbelievable. Saber-toothed cats, mammoths, dire wolves, right down to tiny little insects. It’s really interesting to learn about.

Day 41

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my day, so I wandered around Downtown LA and did a little shopping. I spent the afternoon in the hills above Sunset Boulevard, finally ending at the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, for the best view of Los Angeles. The Observatory was the main thing I wanted to see in Los Angeles, so naturally I picked the one day a week it’s closed. But that’s ok, because it’s all about that view. I waited for the sun to go down so I could see the lights stretch on forever, before I headed back down to my hostel.

The view was worth the hike. I caught the bus back down though.

Day 42

My last day in the States. I had planned on having to lay low, either at the hostel, or the airport, and catching up on some Hulu. But instead I went and made a friend at the hostel and headed to Universal Studios. Unlike the other studios, Universal has a full-sized theme park. Nothing on the scale of Disneyland, but still very popular.

Their studio tour is included, and is pretty cool. It’s a ride in itself, with many intact special effects. Jurassic Park dinosaurs, the shark from Jaws (though I doubt they’re original) and so on.

And so ends my travel. I got on the 23.55 flight from LAX to Tullamarine, and now I’m home until further notice.

USA Travel Diary 7/4/18

Of course, when I said I’d get better about posting these, I actually meant worse.

Day 23
Turns out Bourbon Street isn’t so bad at night, after a full afternoon of drinking with new friends. It’s definitely an experience everyone should have at least once, but that heavy partying scene isn’t really for me.

Day 24
Travel day. Early bus out of New Orleans to Austin, with a connection in Houston. Got in pretty late.

Austin Street Art
Everywhere you turn in Austin is some cool street art.

Day 25

Austin is wonderful. It’s just a chill, laid back kind of place. The weather is nice, it’s clean, there are parks, galleries and trendy bars. I’m kind of glad I missed SXSW, because I think I’m too old for festivals (but ask me again after I go to GTM Bendigo next month).

I checked out the Mexic-arte Museum, which celebrates art by Lantinx artists. It’s a cool little place, well worth price of entry.

Day 26
Today I made the trek to Castle Hill Graffiti Park, which was pretty cool. A lot of it is just kind of a mess of people tagging on top of each other, but there was some seriously cool art. Apparently it’s scheduled to be demolished and relocated soon, so I’m glad I saw the original.

Also, Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. So just after sunset you can see them emerge from under the Congress Bridge. There’s a viewing area set up and everything.

Day 27

Travel day. And it was a doozy. All through the night until…

Day 28
The reason we’re all here. Because to get where we’re going, there’s one place we’ve got to go past. And you can’t go the wrong way, because who knows where you’ll end up?
I am of course referring to this blog’s namesake, That Left Turn At Albuquerque. Bane of the early trans-continental traveller’s existence, and subject of one of Bugs Bunny’s lesser known catchphrases.
Albuquerque is a pretty cool little city, and their zoo is impressive for the size of the place. I can see why Weird Al wrote that one song about it.

Day 29
Travel day. This time I traded in the slow, quiet atmosphere in Albuquerque for the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Grand Canyon
If I could have just one thing for this blog, besides an unlimited travel budget of course, it would be a professional photographer. Because I can’t do this justice.

Day 30
But the Strip was going to have to wait, because I had a bucket list item to tick off.
I’ll admit, until now, I’d looked at pictures of the Grand Canyon, and just shrugged. It’s a hole in the ground. It looks pretty cool, but is it really a ‘Wonder’?
Well, I’m here to say, no pictures do it justice. No picture can really depict the sheer scale of the canyon. Can’t capture the array of colours in the rock. Can’t convey the awe-inspiring feeling of just how small we really are compared to the world.
Go to the Grand Canyon y’all. If you only ever go to one of the places I’ve told you about, make it this one.

Day 31
I’m not a gambler. The entire sex industry really creeps me out (but hey, do whatever you want with your own body). And I’m not into drinking on my own. So really, Las Vegas didn’t have much to offer me.
I hit the buffet at the MGM Grand in the morning, and couldn’t really move again until the sun went down. I walked the Sunset Strip, and watched the Bellagio Fountain for hours (and got pretty close to the actual Stanley Cup while they were shooting promo videos for the upcoming NHL Playoffs).
Las Vegas is definitely a spectacle, but if I was to come back, it would have to be with other people.

Day 32
Which brings us to today, which was another travel day. I left Vegas in the morning, and despite my bus being in a minor accident somewhere near San Bernardino, I am now in Anaheim, within walking distance of the Happiest Place On Earth, Disneyland.

Depending on how tight my LA hostel is with letting me use their facilities after I check out, my last diary might actually be written after I get home. Unless I shock everyone and write one that’s just about Disney. Which is probably the only thing that could improve my post rate.