Westward Bound

In late 2004, when some of the other Guys Next Door fans suggested that we get together, I told them to count me in. I had wanted to visit Los Angeles for several years, and suddenly I had the perfect excuse. After months of planning, it was time. I admit, I had a few second thoughts, but I knew that I didn't want to miss it - particularly when the Guys agreed to meet with us! Of course, I arrived several days early to see a few sights . . .

May 6, 2005

I was at the airport way too early, so I had to wait about two hours. Finally it was time for my (first) flight; it just took a little over an hour to arrive in Dallas. I was a bit queasy so I stopped at McDonald's for a Coke and the cashier cheated me out of $3. *glares in the direction of that McDonald's* Lesson learned: take some change when traveling. The second part of my flight, the one to the Burbank airport, took longer, and on the way to land the plane dipped several times in a most nauseating way. Happily, I avoided a full-fledged case of airsickness, although I'm truly not sure how.

After collecting my suitcase, I stood in line to pick up the rental car that I had reserved. It was supposed to be an economy car - a "Ford Focus or similar" - but I wound up with a four-door white Grand Am. The rental car place gave me a map and rattled off directions to my hotel, but I followed the directions that I had printed off of the Internet.

At the hotel, the desk clerk tried to give me grief about the room rate; he wanted to see my travel agent card. I explained that the girl who made the reservations is the travel agent, and the desk clerk insisted that my fellow traveler would have to come show her travel agent card before 5:00 or I would be charged the full rate. I proceeded to my room on the 15th floor. Since the desk clerk told me to enjoy the view, of course that was the first thing I checked out: it was gorgeous! It overlooked Universal Studios and the CityWalk.

Cheryl, the travel agent and fellow GND fan, arrived and straightened out the confusion with the room rate. We went to walk around the CityWalk. Her friend joined us, and we ate at a lovely Mexican restaurant whose name escapes me. (For those familiar with the area, it was the one at the CityWalk with the mosaic angel statue and the patio by a fountain.)

May 7, 2005

I took my time getting up, trying to decide what activity I wanted to attempt. I finally decided to brave one of the infamous California freeways and go to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. I ventured onto Highway 101, and yeah, there was quite a bit of traffic, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. I've sat in traffic plenty of times in Huntsville where it takes 30 minutes to go less than a mile; at least cars on the freeway were moving. Even merging wasn't that bad.

At the Aquarium, I was thrilled to see that they have a jellyfish display, because I have repeatedly missed the one that the Tennessee Aquarium has had. The other exhibits were fascinating as well, but I didn't take too many pictures because I didn't think I could avoid the glare from the flash. After the Aquarium, I walked around Long Beach (well, the part near the Aquarium anyway) and took some pictures. I stopped at Chili's and enjoyed their veggie burger for lunch.

On the way back to the hotel, I decided to cruise up the Pacific Coast Highway and try to catch my first glimpse(s) of the ocean. I also noted stores whose names I recognized and some that I didn't.

May 8, 2005

I called Mom before she went to work to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. (Yeah, when we started to set up the California get-together, none of us was thinking that it was Mother's Day weekend.)

I went to the Getty Center and made it there as they were opening. I missed the opening of a photography exhibit by two days, so that was disappointing, but the views were lovely. Plus they had a Jackson Pollack painting: I love that guy! Plus, I found twenty bucks in the garden.

From the Getty Center, I proceeded to Santa Monica, because I wanted to see that amusement park that's on a pier over the ocean. I parked in a lot where I had to walk quite a way but I made it to Pacific Park. Unfortunately I ran out of film and had foolishly forgot to bring another roll, so I didn't get nearly all of the pictures that I wanted. I almost bought a roll from a bait shop, but it was $9, and I didn't want the pictures *that* badly. I sat on the pier for quite a while listening to the waves.

Back at the hotel I discovered that I had a sunburn on the top of my forehead. (D'oh! I thought my makeup was protecting me: clearly I missed a spot.) I didn't have time to dwell on it, so I got ready and went to Los Feliz to look for Fred 62. I missed it the first time, but circling around to look again gave me a chance to stop at Rite Aid and get some hairspray. (Because the pump that I brought - one that I've had for a long time - does not work. D'oh, again!)

On my second trip past Fred 62, Cheryl flagged me down; she sent me over to the valet for parking. She and JC were able to witness my first time ever having a valet park my car, although I didn't mention that to them. (What can I say: I'm not sure that any places in Huntsville even have valet service!)

At Fred 62, we met Kelly, another GND fan. We sat and tried to think up questions for the Guys as we ate. JC also presented us with goody bags: thank you, JC!

It was after dark when we left the restaurant, and I somehow missed my exit to the Freeway. In an effort to return to Highway 101, I found myself cruising on Hollywood Blvd, past the famous theatre with the Walk of Fame. The thing that surprised me about that place is that it's smack in the middle of a row of buildings, not sitting out by itself, as one might imagine from the pictures of it.

May 9, 2005

It was sprinkling rain, so I decided to drive around the downtown area and look at the tall buildings. I was hoping the rain would stop so I could walk around and take a few pictures. I also wanted to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art but I made the mistake of not parking close to it, then I didn't want to turn around. I wound up at the dead end in front(?) of the Central Library, so I decided to park at the garage next to it and go inside. I looked around a bit, bought a coffee, took a few pictures and returned to collect my car. I *totally* chose the wrong parking garage: I was there less than an hour and I paid $17.50 for parking. :chokes:

I drove on, still smarting from that parking fee, and I found the parking lot for the LA County Museum. I paid $5 to park, and I walked over to the library, but I decided that I didn't want to go in. I cruised back up to Hollywood Blvd, but I didn't stop because I feared I'd pick another expensive lot.

After a bit of wandering I found the entrance to Griffith Park. I knew that the observatory is closed for remodeling, but I decided to visit it anyway and try to get a picture. I found it pretty easily, and I parked (for free: YES!) and walked up to it, getting a few shots of the city and of the Hollywood sign along the way. I started to hike along the trail near the observatory, but I soon found a sign warning of wildlife such as mountain lions and rattlesnakes. I continued on the trail, but I couldn't get the idea that a mountain lion was watching me out of my head, so I turned around. At that point, I saw a coyote move not too far away, and I ran speedily back to the trail entrance and the safety of my car.

May 9, 2005 - Meeting the Guys

Back at the hotel, I started getting ready for the GND get-together. Then I walked over to Gladstone's (at the CityWalk).

Most of the other fans (well, four fans and a guy who was coerced into coming :) were already there, in the private room at the back. Then Kelly arrived and we waited, since the Guys had said they would be there later. Patrick and his brother Carl arrived first. For only a moment it was almost unreal to me, being in the same room with someone that I've seen on television. That moment quickly passed because both of them were very nice; they introduced themselves and - despite earlier being a bit giddy, wondering what on earth we would say - all of the fans did the same. Carl sat next to me; he observed from my accent that I was from "somewhere down South." I made a concerted effort not to say "Alabama" the way I usually do, in a VERY Southern way.

According to my off-line journal, Chris arrived next, then Damon, then Eddie. Damon brought gift bags for us that contained a GND tee-shirt, some buttons, a single of "I Was Made For You," and a fan mailing from back in the day. All of the Guys were so nice - and real, if that makes sense. They went from being merely celebrities that I admire to being people that I actually know, people that I've spent time with.

After everyone had arrived, the waitress came to take our order. This brings me to my first regret of the evening; I truly wasn't hungry, and I had agreed with another fan that I would just get something light. That fan ordered first, but as the waitress was working her way back around to me, Carl mentioned that he was having the angel hair pasta. I had said that I was just going to get fries, but I suddenly had a flashback of my days in the church youth group when the others felt compelled to comment on my choice of food. So I ordered the angel hair pasta as well; I realized later that the other fan might have thought I lied to her. I hope that's not true. I certainly wasn't trying to lie to her, I just changed my mind. Looking back, I wish I had just ordered the fries.

Anyway, we all ate and chatted. True to form, I mostly listened, but I would speak when spoken to. The Guys were kind enough to start answering our (five page) list of quesions when we realized that Gladstone's was about to close. At Eddie's suggestion, we all walked over to the Saddle Ranch Chop House and Patrick - and maybe Damon, I'm not sure - treated us to drinks. I ordered hot tea because it was a cold night. The guys continued to answer our questions. At one point, Patrick turned the tables, wanting to know who our favorite Guy is. I was sitting next to him, so he started with me. I somewhat shyly admitted that Bobby was mine, and that is my second regret of the evening. One of the other fans said that each of the guys had been her favorite at some point: that's true for me as well! Trying to get to sleep later, I felt rude for saying that my favorite was the only one of the Guys who wasn't nice enough to come out to meet us.

The Guys were also kind enough to autograph some things for us. Then we took some pics right before it was time to part ways. They each hugged us, and I felt I just didn't know how to tell them how much I appreciated them coming out to visit us.

May 10, 2005

I was still pretty excited about meeting the Guys, but I carried on with my sight-seeing. I walked over to Universal Studios, and I was thrilled that they accepted my $10 off coupon. I was at the park for about seven hours. On the way out, one of their people interviewed me about my experience at the park. I said that they could use some more vegetarian-friendly food, but I would definitely recommend it. For the record, I am recommending it!

I wanted to drive out to the beach again, but it was after five when I returned to the hotel, so I figured that traffic would start to worsen on the freeways. Plus, I needed to start packing.

May 11, 2005

After a bit of debate - and staring at my gorgeous view for a while - I checked out of the hotel. I was concerned about the time, since I still had to find my way back to the Burbank airport, but I decided to travel down Sunset Blvd and swing by the Santa Monica Pier again. (I wouldn't have time to stop, but I wanted to see the ocean one more time.)

I took a few pictures during the drive to finish the roll, then I headed for the airport. Fortunately traffic cooperated, and the signs led me to the right place. I returned the rental car; later I fretted, "Did I return the car??" Then I'd think, "Of course I did! What else would I have done: just got out and left it somewhere?"

The flights back went well, overall. The first pilot was kind enough to point out a few points of interest as we passed over them. The second flight was delayed by about 45 minutes, but I was pretty patient. (Hey, what choice did I have?)

Finally I was home, reflecting on what a good time I had and looking forward to the chance to do it all again. :)

See Also

For pictures and a few more comments:
GND Pictures
Downtown LA
Getty Center
Universal Studios
the CityWalk

For even more adventures, explore the journal archive.