Both Tonya and Lisa had sons who had just gone off to college, and their homes were also a little more empty the way I had. So we were all talking some about the changes in our lives, which helped me a lot.
The Southwest flight to LA was uneventful, and easy with two other seasoned travelers. Once there, they took me under their wing and got an Uber to the Hollywood Hotel. It was the only one that Raymond would let us stay at, and he had good taste. The room we got was spacious, had an enormous bathroom, and was handicap accessible. Tired, thirsty, and a little punch drunk from getting out, we headed to the corner liquor store for beverages, and right on the corner was a taco stand with very authentic LA Street Tacos.
There were meats swimming in the pan that weren't easily identifiable. *laughs* But the al pastor was really tasty, and the pickles and salsas lining the second table were beautiful, fresh, and hot enough to make me sweat. Both Tonya and I had one and it was wonderful.
After our beverages, we were all tired enough to just go to sleep. We were all up early, showered, and breakfasted at the awesome breakfast buffet; and we asked about our second night's stay at 9 am, which was lucky, as it turned out we had to move rooms. They were good and only moved us down the hall. So when Raymond arrived, we were ready to go...
Tonya had decided she wanted to do the VIP Paramount Studio Tour, and we were curious and happy enough to oblige. Raymond was really into studio tours and knew more than even our handsome and knowledgeable page/tour director, Noah.
Paramount's history was fascinating to me, and when I was a kid living in LA, I'd been on a few of the other studio tours, Universal and Warner Bros. and the non-VIP version of the Paramount tour, so I knew what to expect; but the VIP experience was so much more detailed and with only five of us to one tour guide it was really easy to not just listen to him, but ask him good questions. He also made sure we went to the places with very talkative people who loved their jobs, and that was amazingly cool. The VIP tour was different from the regular one in a lot of ways: we get lunch, it's more than twice as long, we got driven around in a golf cart, and what I loved the most was that there were ear piece recievers for each of us so we could always hear Noah.
Like with all the studios he took us to various spots that were used in multiple movies. Places like the sunken parking lot used for all the water scenes; Luci's Park that was used for schools, parks, and other places; a building used for all kinds of offices; the front gate used as a gate for docks and as a studio's front gate; and all the stages used for dozens of movies and TV shows.
And at each of them he showed us little video clips of everything that was shot there. Usually there were half a dozen movies that were done everywhere. It was fun watching them, as there were actually two tour groups going around in the same areas, so when the other guide was busy with an area, we watched our movie and then Noah would take us in and show us things. Above was the old front gate and just to the right of it is the bench that Tom Hanks sat on and talked about the chocolates. This was where the guys who wanted a job for a particular movie would gather around and the producers would be on the upper floors looking htem all over. The funny thing is that the street right there is called Bronson Ave., and it turns out that Charles Bronson named himself after the street, not the other way around.
Noah was full of those wonderful tidbits; and when he didn't know the subject as well as the person working there, he would ask them to fill in. This shot is in the film archives, and we talked with one of the archivists, who loved doing his work, surrounded by all the film cannisters from all the movies made by the studio.
He did the same in the sign shop, where they made nearly every visible flattish item in a movie. They had a printer that could print anything on anything less than a 2 inch thickness. But the real craft of the sign guys had to do with knowing when to use it and when their own art would work a lot better.
So much of the tour was about how the studio could sell the story given the images they were able to get, and it was as fascinating as ever to watch how they did the magic of bringing an image to the screen that would sell the Story the director wanted to tell.
It was a great tour, and I'd highly recommend it. From there we ran out to where Lisa's daughter lived, which sadly took over three hours to get to, but when we managed to get there, we had a lovely dinner with her. We then headed to Raymond's house, left him safely at home, and took an Uber back to the hotel and fell asleep nearly instantly.
We were up early enough in the morning for showers, breakfast, and checking out before we walked a block down the street and got on the underground Metro train to Union Station. I was impressed by the Metro, and it was full of people. Smooth, easy to understand how to get where we wanted to go, and even simpler to get there.
So we were there early enough for our 10:10 am train. Yay! The Coastal train goes all the way up to Seattle, and I know it goes all the way south to San Diego, as I'd ridden between SD and LA lots of times. And Tonya had really wanted to ride it, so the three of us got on and had a really good time. We managed to get a reservation for lunch with a lady who was traveling by herself, and had a good time talking with her.
It was fun to watch the ocean go by, talk about everything, and enjoy things together. It was a ten hour trip, and our seats were at the very end of the train, so we spent some time in our seats, but mostly wandered up and down the train as far up as the dining car, but no further. The sleeping cars were further up; but the dining car wouldn't let anyone go all the way through it.
The observation car had the snack bar in the bottom of it, so we spent a good amount of time in there, especially since we didn't get anything more than snacks for dinner. I got a Hebrew National hot dog for my lunch, as that's one of those things I don't eat all that often when Jet is around. He dislikes hot dogs. *laughs* So I'm probably healthier with him than without him, but the hot dog was tasty and warm. Our train car had been AC'ed to the point we were freezing...
Eventually we heard the warning for San Jose, and so we got all our stuff together, went down to the luggage area and when the train pulled in, we were all ready to go, and popped off the train quickly and out to the station. Tonya needed to use the restroom, and while she was there, Lisa's ride arrived, illegally parked, so she got whisked away.
When Tonya came out, John was already there, so we loaded up into our Eurovan, feeling a little sad, and then a car came by very very slowly. It was Lisa's ride!! She stopped so that we could say good-bye to each other. Tonya, John, and I headed to Santa Rosa, stayed a night there, and then headed north to the Avenue of the Giants.
And there we found Giants. Tonya had never seen the redwoods, so we put her in the front seat, and we went around the groves. The Rockefeller Forest offered us a lovely little hike around the giant trees, and a good place for a picnic lunch that John had packed in a cooler.
It was really fun to see the big guys again, and a new area than we'd done the last time we were here with Jet. They were so huge it was wonderful to just really enjoy them, and their 2500 year old selves. As Tonya said, "Anyone who says 'they'll just grow back' totally doesn't get it..."
From there we headed north to Grant's Pass where we stayed with some of Tonya's friends and ate dinner in town at the Laughing Clam. They'd just gotten their oldest son to move out the week before... so more empty nesters. The seafood there was wonderful, and since we were on this coast, we thought we'd indulge. They sent us off in style with bags of Gala apples from their own yard, and we dropped Tonya off at yet another of her friend's house and then headed home. *laughs*
One funny thing is that while we were headed north, we heard from Walt and Cathie, they exchanged mile posts with John so we had advanced warning and were able to wave at them while we crossed, while they were heading South and we were heading North on I-5.
Home. Our old home. Redmond. Emerald Heights. We're now here, enjoying Isabel's hospitality and company. Getting here was amazing fun, and this should be good in another way. The weather has been sunny and beautiful here.