Saturday, February 15, 2014

Erik's Vacation - Day Seven: Space Shuttle & Goodbye

It's Erik's final day for his SoCal vacation and the final day we get to hang out. Today we are heading down to the Los Angeles Science Center to view the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I have been wanting to do this since the shuttle was flown to Los Angeles a few years ago.

We got up early, headed out to get breakfast at the NoHo Diner before walking to the Red line subway station in North Hollywood. We took the Red line to the Metro Center in downtown Los Angeles and then got on the light blue/Expo line and went a few more stops before getting off a few blocks from the Science Center. Once we orientated where we were we made our way to the Science Center. We got there around 10:15am and the place was pretty busy. We found out that you have to get a reservation ticket for see Endeavour and my heart sank as I thought we might not be able to see it today and I know both Erik and I were really looking forward to it. But when we got to the box office we found out that the next available viewing was 10:45am, so we didn't have to wait very long.

We made our way up to the entrance of the Endeavour exhibit. The first thing you see are some Shuttle wheels that been to space and back. There are mission logs all around the room covering every mission that Endeavour embarked on. There were several simulators and then there was a video on how they got Endeavour from Florida to California. Once the video was over we were lead down stairs and across a small courtyard to a hanger were Endeavour is stored.

As soon as you walk through the doors you see this beautiful ship feet from you and your breath is taken away. I don't think I've ever experience anything quite like it. Erik and I literally just stop and took it in, we then turned to each other with huge smiles on our faces and said WOW!!

We immediately took out our phones and cameras and started taking pictures. What is really crazy is that the public can walk right up to and under Endeavour. It's sitting on a lift about ten feet above the ground. I never expect that they would allow us to get that close to this space shuttle.

We spent a good half hour walking around the hanger checking out all the cool things they had on Endeavour. We then went to the gift shop as we both had to buy something to commemorate this amazing experience. Erik got a great hoodie and I got a t-shirt and little snow globe.

We had come to the Science Center solely to see the space shuttle but decided to walk around the center and check out the other exhibits for a few hours before heading back to my place.

Walking back from the NoHo Station we passed through my cities weekly Farmer's Market and I remembered that I wanted to try some home made tamales that I saw at one of the booths last time I was here. So we stopped by the booth and picked some up for lunch.

Back at my place we only had a few more hours before I had to drop him off at the airport. So we watched Wreck it Ralph as it was another movie that Erik had never seen and I felt was a must see for everyone.

After the movie we gathered up all his things and took them down to the car. It was now 5pm and we were going to grab an early dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Unfortunately we had some really bad service and his steak was not cooked properly and it wasn't how I wanted his last moments here in SoCal to be but he took it all in stride.

We stopped by a local BevMo as Erik wanted to find me a sour beer to try as I've been wanting to try one for a while now. He got a bottle for me, which I will save for a later date to drink and I'm sure I'll blog about it.

We drove over to the Burbank Airport, I parked and we walked to his terminal. We had to say goodbye at security. It took every ounce of energy I had to not cry (as I promised Erik I wouldn't). We had spent every waking moment the last seven days hanging out, enjoying each other's company and having a blast. I didn't want it to end.

I manged to hold the tears back just long enough to give him a big hug and exit the airport. Once outside all bets were off and the tears started to flow. I didn't try and hide them from passerby's as my heart was hurting. I have mentioned in previous blog posts Erik and I have a special bond that doesn't happen very often. Though I know we will see each other via Skype and talk on the phone... I don't know the next time will see each other in person and that makes me sad.

Of course all I have to do to lift my spirits is think about all the fun adventures we had this past week and all the adventures yet to come... who know what the future holds. I do know that Erik is very special to me and I'm so thankful that he is part of my life, now and forever.

If you'd like to see more pictures of Erik's Vacation please follow this LINK.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Erik's Vacation - Day Six: The Beach

Today was all about the beach.. we got up early, made breakfast and left for Santa Monica. My goal was to show him Santa Monica and Venice Beaches. First thing we did was walk down some of Third Street Promenade. We crossed over the 1 highway and made our way to the Santa Monica Pier. It was a beautiful day outside.. perfect weather for the beach.

We walked to the end of the pier and around the amusement park before heading down to the sand. My plan was for us to walk in the water's edge towards Venice Beach and after an hour or so I realized that we were still a while away and we made plans to visit with some of Erik's hometown friends who now live here in LA. So we got about halfway to Venice Beach before turning around and heading back to the car.. which took a while .

I then drove from Santa Monica to Hermosa Beach. What should have taken us about 40 minutes turned into a 2 hours traffic filled crazy mess. Of course we were late meeting up with his friends but they were cool with it. We had lunch/dinner at a local restaurant in Hermosa and chatted with his buddy Cameron, his wife Chrissie and their daughter Cayleigh. They were all very sweet and so happy to see Erik as it was something like six years since they saw each other last. 

Afterwards we headed home and spent the remainder of the night watching episodes of Wil Wheaton's Table Top.  The heat and the traffic just drained us.. we crashed a bit earlier then previous nights.

Over all it was another fun filled day. Tomorrow we are heading out to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour.. I'm super excited for this. But it is also Erik's last day as he flies out in the evening... which makes me very sad.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Erik's Vacation - Day Five: Relaxation, Movies & Friends

Today was a day of rest. When we finally got up, Erik made home made biscuits and gravy for breakfast, which was very tasty and I'm normally not a fan of home made gravy. We then put the pork shoulder in the crock pot and prepared it for pulled pork sandwiches later tonight during the Game night.

We planned to just stay in and watch TV, Erik had not seen several key geeky movies/programs... like Doctor Horrible Sing Along Blog. Erik is a huge fan of all three of the main actors (Nathan, Neil and Felicia) but for whatever reason he never got around to watching it. So I was going to change that... Of course he enjoyed it.. was there every any doubt.

We then headed out to Chipotle for some lunch and then stopped by BevMo as I knew Erik was really into beers and BevMo has a very wide selection of hard to find beers. Erik was kind of in heaven at BevMo and we picked up a few beers to try. He still trying to find beers that I can enjoy.

Once we were back home we watched Toy Story 3, again for whatever reason Erik had never seen it and it's one of my favorite Pixar movies so I had to show it to him. We then watched a bunch of the very cool behind the scene featurettes. Around 6:30pm my friends Robert and Tamar arrived. We also turned off the crock pot so the pork could cool down before we started to pull it apart.

At 7, Erik and I started burning our fingers as we attempted to sherd the pork. Soon other friends started to arrive. Dallas, Jes, Doug, Cait and finally Will. We enjoyed the very tasty pulled pork sandwiches on the Hawaiian rolls and I popped in Frozen to play in the background while we played games. That may have been a mistake as everyone started watching the movie and we didn't really start playing Cards Against Humanity until a few hours later.

But it was a blast playing CAH. Erik really hit it off with my friends... as I expected he would. I have awesome friends. We ended the night around 10:30pm and Erik and I hung out a bit longer chatting before calling it a night and going to bed.

It was a great day of relaxation, friends and fun.. couldn't have asked for anything better.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Erik's Vacation - Day Four: Disney California Adventure

Up early once again, had some breakfast and headed out to Disney California Adventures. We had a blast yesterday at Disneyland and I expect it to be another awesome day at DCA. Once again like yesterday we got to the parks around 9:15am and took the tram to the main entrance. Once again they were letting folks into the park but only allowing us to go so far into it as the park officially opened at 10am.

Erik and I talked about what ride we wanted to go on first. I suggested Toy Story Midway Mania as there is no fast pass and it's always an hour or so wait for it. So as they officially opened up Erik and I made our way though the crowds to Toy Story Midway Mania and only had to wait about ten minutes to get on. Erik kicked my butt on points on that ride. I feel behind after the first round and was never able to catch back up.

After Midway Mania we went next door to Screamin'. Erik is a huge roller coaster fan so I knew he was looking forward to this ride and I don't think it disappointed.

We made our way around the lake in the middle of the park and did Silly Symphony Swings next. I don't think Erik was a fan of these and to be honest I'm not the biggest fan as I always feel like one of the chains will break and I'll go flying off.

I wanted to do Goofy's Sky School next but it was down and we were told to check back later. So we did the Golden Zephyr, which I had never done before and after riding it I know why.. it's good for kids but really isn't that exciting.

Next in our path was The Little Mermaid ride which I totally adore but Erik isn't a fan of as they have this same ride at Disney World. But Erik's a sweetheart and went on the ride with me even though he doesn't like it.

We then took a break and grabbed a hot dog and some chips for a snack.

Next up was Tower of Terror, which Erik has done at Disney World but the one here at DCA is a bit different. Erik warned me that he likes the ride but will freak out a bit when he's on it. All I know is I think I have a permanent hand mark on my right leg as he clutched to it to tightly as we fell over and over again... It had a blast!!

After Tower of Terror we headed over to the Monster's Inc ride. This was a new ride for Erik as they don't have it at Disney World. We then watched the Muppet's 3D show which is always fun and just to note.. both Erik and I were wearing Muppet shirts.

We decided to grab some lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria, which is a very tasty Italian place. We also picked up a hat for Erik as it was extremely sunny and he didn't want to get burned.. besides he wanted to get a souvenir.

After lunch we headed over to Cars Land. First up was Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, that doesn't look like much of a ride but man did we have a blast. We then did Luigi's Flying Tires and normally I don't bother when this one as it really isn't that much fun but come to find out it really depends on the person you are with as Erik and I had so much fun trying to get that stupid floating tire to move as we leaned. We had moving backwards pretty good but left and right we kept going in the opposite direction of where we leaned. But like I said.. we laughed the entire time.

I think this is the most popular ride at DCA and that would be Radiator Springs Racers. Again they don't have this as Disney World but do have a similar Crash Test ride. We did the single rider line and neither of us wanted to want over and hour in the regular line. Unfortunately luck wasn't on our side and we got put in different cars. Still a great ride and Erik really enjoyed it.

After the Racers and with a little convincing I got Erik to go on Mickey's Fun Wheel with me.. not only did I talk him into getting on it but I talked him in to the swinging gondolas. We had a young couple join us and the female was not happy that she was dragged onto it. That's one of the best parts of riding this ride.. the other people that you ride with. Once we did the first initial swing Erik was great and actually really enjoyed with ride.. but this lady was having nothing of it... and that made the ride even funnier.

We took a break to get some soft serve ice cream. Though I'm lactose intolerant I'll sacrifice the stomach pain for some good soft serve and DCA has some tasty ice cream.

Next was Soarin' Over California. I have to be honest this isn't one of my favorite rides and the line for it is always crazy long..  but Erik wanted to ride it so we got in line and as expected it took about and hour to get on the ride.

We then rode at Radiator Springs Racers for a second time. I really wanted to do the regular line so I could sit with Erik but the wait was too long for our taste so we did the single rider again, but fortunately this time we were put into the same car.. Erik in the front and I was in back but when the lady next to us saw that we knew each other she said she we could sit together and she'd move her daughter up front with her husband and son. So in the end we got to sit together and it was a blast... love that ride.

When we got off Radiator Springs Racers I noticed that Goofy's Sky School was running again so we quickly got in line. It only took a few minutes to get on and we laughing our heads off as we were almost tossed from the car over and over again.

The final thing we did at DCA was watch World of Color. We had gotten a fast pass earlier today for the show. So we lined up at 7pm for the 8pm show. We were pretty close to the front of the line so when they let us in we got an amazing spot to watch the show from. Erik had never seen this as they don't have this at Disney World and I've only seen it one other time so I was really looking forward to seeing it again.

As the show started I could see the sparkle in Erik's eyes that I had when I first saw it and I think I can safely say he was blown away by it.. as was I. This show was different then the last show I saw.. they added a few different elements and movies. I'm so glad we ended our Disneyland/DCA adventure with this show.. a perfect ending to two amazing days at the happiest place on Earth.

We headed to a local Denny's to grab some dinner before heading home and calling it a night. We walked about 11 miles today for a grand total of 36.5 miles the past three days. Tomorrow we plan on doing nothing but hanging out, watching TV, enjoying each others company and having a few friends over for a game night in the evening... should be relaxing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Erik's Vacation - Day Three: Disneyland!!!

Erik and I got up early as we were going to Disneyland today. Erik is a big time Disney fan but since he's never been to Southern California he's never been to Disneyland and I know this was one of the big things he wanted to do while down here.

So after a pancake breakfast we made our way to Disneyland. We got there around 9:15am, made our way to the tram and was at the entrance and in line for Disneyland at 9:30. They were letting folks in but only into main street. The park didn't officially open until 10am so we went over to Guest Services to get Erik a "First Time" to Disneyland button. And I guess the lady didn't want me to feel left out so she gave me a Honorary Citizen of Disneyland button to wear. :)

We then got in line with everyone else and waited for the park to open. Since this was Erik's first time I wanted to make sure he rode rides that they didn't have a Disney World. So up first was one of my favorites.. The Indiana Jones Adventure Ride, Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Like me Erik is a big Indiana Jones fan so I knew he would like this ride and I was right. It was so much fun going on this ride with him as he really got into it and even better we were in the front row and Erik got to sit behind the steering wheel.

After Indiana Jones we headed over to The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, though there is a Pirates at Disney World this one is a bit different. I enjoyed hearing Erik's commentary on the difference between the two.

Next we went to The Haunted Mansion. Again they have one of these at Disney World but like with Pirates it's similar but different. Erik mentioned that the Disney World Haunted Mansion doesn't have the extending room at the beginning and that the overall ride here at Disneyland is darker.

Splash Mountain is closed and being refurbished and the only other ride over in that area is The Winnie the Pooh ride. I have done that once but thought it was extremely trippy with all the crazy neon colors. Erik wanted to give it a go and I'm happy to say that he felt the same way as me. Pooh's honey induced trip is crazy.

We then walked through Frontierland but with Big Thunder Mountain closed there wasn't much to do. So we continued on and walked through Fairytale land next. And I know Fairytale land at Disney World is much larger then it is here at Disneyland.

We took our picture in front of the magic castle before walking through it into Fantasyland. All the rides here are for kids but the lines are crazy long so we opted to just walk through it and come back to it later. We made our way to The Matterhorn Bobsleds as this ride doesn't exist at Disney World. This was our longest wait.. just over 45 minutes. After the ride Erik said that this ride felt like Space Mountain at Disney World.

Hunger set in and we went over to the Little Red Wagon to get a Corn Dog. Erik has never had a Disney World corn dog and it's a must when you come to Disneyland. He seemed to like it as it was devoured within a few minutes.

After lunch we headed to one of my favorite rides Star Tours. Now they have the exact same ride at Disney World but the cues are a bit different. Once we were done with Star Tours we made our way to Space Mountain. As I mentioned they do have a Space Mountain at Disney World but from thesound of it, it's completely different. We waited in line for about 20 minutes, which wasn't bad. I could tell that Erik was loving this ride and he's very audible with his screams and laughs... it was some good times.

The next ride we got on was Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters and then we rode Autopia. They don't have this at Disney World. Erik got a slower car as I kept having to stop and wait for him to catch up. It was fun as we did the longer track which I haven't done in a while.

We were  tired of being on our feet so we got on the Train and rode it all the way around the park back to Tomorrowland. We picked up a fast pass for Space Mountain before checking out Innovations.

On our way to Toon Town we grabbed some corn on the cob to snack on. We got to Toon Town and the line for Roger Rabbit ride was super long as it normally is so we got a fast pass for it. We walked around Toon Town for a bit and then headed back to Space Mountain as it as time to use our fast pass. We had fun with the picture this time around.

We went back to Toon Town to use our Roger Rabbit fast pass before heading back to Fantasyland to try and do a few rides there. First up was Mister Toad's Wild Ride, they don't have this at Disney World and it's been a few years since I had ridden it.

Next we did the Pinocchio and Snow White rides which honestly I don't know if I have ever done them before. I may have done them as a kid but I didn't even know these rides existed.

We finished up our night back in Adventureland as we rode The Jungle Cruise at night and then for our final ride of the night Erik wanted to do the Indiana Jones Ride for a second time and this time we got to sit in the very back of the car and wow what a difference it makes. The ride is alot more crazy bumpy in the back.. so much fun.

We grabbed some dinner at a Mexican Restaurant in Downtown Disney before calling it a night.

I had an fantastic time getting to share the experience of Disneyland with Erik. From his reactions I'd have to say he had an amazing time. And what is even better is the Disney magic is not over yet.. tomorrow we do DCA (Disney California Adventures)... woohoo!!!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Lego Movie - My Review

Tonight after a fun filled day of sight seeing with my buddy Erik we met up with Dallas, Doug and Jes to watch The Lego Movie up at Universal City Walk. Here's a brief synopsis: The LEGO Movie is an animated film which follows lead character, Emmet a completely ordinary LEGO mini-figure who is mistakenly identified as the most "extraordinary person" and the key to saving the Lego universe. Emmet and his friends go on an epic journey to stop the evil tyrant, Lord Business, who is bent on destroying their LEGO universe by gluing it all together.

I really enjoyed this movie. It had a slow start but really picked up some steam and had a very cool twist at the end, even brought me to tears... Lots of laughs and some very cool action scenes. They had a very catchy song "Everything is Awesome" you can't help but sing along and when you leave the theater it will be stuck in your head for hours. There were some funny gags and tag lines.. like SPACESHIP!!!SPACESHIP!!!SPACESHIP!!! Batman was especially hilarious. I will defiantly be buying this movie when it comes out on bluray.. might even see it again in the theater. I have The Lego Movie a solid B+

Erik's Vacation - Day Two: Hollywood & Los Angeles

Today started early.. both Erik and I were excited to start the day so we were up early. I made food for us and we enjoyed a nice breakfast before heading out to Hollywood.

Our first stop was the Walk of Fame, we started at La Brea and made our way down to the Grauman's Chinese Theater. Once at the theater we looked at all the hand and foot prints. Most of my friends aren't really interested in doing this but to find someone who's excited to stop and check out every single one of the hand prints was fun. After the hand print we walked over to the Hollywood and Highland shopping area. We took a picture of the Hollywood sign and visited Hot Topic were I found this fun Gandalf hat and beard combo. I showed him where the Oscars are held every year at the Dolby Theater and then we continued our walk down the Walk of Fame.

We made our way to Hollywood and Vine and of course had to take a picture. We stopped by a CVS as we needed to get something to drink and some sunscreen as we forgot to put some one before we left the car and it was getting hot.

Erik and I made our way to the Hollywood and Vine subway station which was a few blocks away. We took the subway to downtown Los Angeles so I could show him around. We exited the subway in the middle of LA and made our way to LA Live/Staple Center which was a few miles away. It's interesting walking around downtown as I don't do it very often. We stopped by a KFC to grab some lunch before finally making to the LA Live. We spent the next half hour trying to find a bathroom through the maze of buildings.

After we found the bathroom we headed to a different subway station and went through a sketchy part of town, but it was daytime so I wasn't really worried and Erik got to experience some different parts of LA.

We made it back to the Hollywood and Highland subway and as we were walking by the Chiense theater they were setting up a red carpet event for the premiere of Robocop. I was happy that Erik was able to see this.. it's not everyday they have red carpet movie premieres events in Hollywood, okay it probably happens more often then not.. but still it was cool. 

Made it back to the car and I drove us to Whimsic Alley. Erik, like me, is a huge Harry Potter fan and it's a must see store if you visit LA. It was fun experiencing this store through someone else's eyes.. every time I go they always have something new.. this time they have an entire section devoted to Doctor Who.

We left Whimsic Alley and made our way a few blocks south to the La Brea Tar pits. This is an active tar pit location that spews methane gas and tar everyday. I haven't been there in over 20 years so it was fun to re-visit this place again and share the experience with my buddy.

After the Tar Pits we made our way through Hollywood heading to Universal City Walk. While in Hollywood we came across the Jim Henson Studio's.. I have driven that road so many times but never noticed it. Luckily traffic stopped us right out front and we got to take some pictures.

Up at Citywalk we were meeting up with some of my friends to see the new Lego Movie. We got there a few hours early so we walked around Citywalk and grabbed some dinner at Hard Rock Cafe.

We met up with friends at 8pm, got tickets and headed into the theater. The Lego Movie was totally awesome... I'll blog a separate review for it after this blog.

Now at home... we were exhausted from all the walking but Erik wanted to open up his mystery grab bag that he had purchased from Whimsic Alley. It had a ton of things it but it was more likely meant for a teen age girl.

It was a fun filled day. I got to share with Erik some great parts of Hollywood and Los Angeles as well as some not so great parts of LA. I love being a tour guide and sharing some of my favorite parts of living in the Los Angeles area.

We walked just over 13 miles but that's just the beginning as tomorrow and the next day we will be doing Disneyland and Disney California Adventures.. so our walking adventure has just begun.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Erik's Vacation - Day One: The Arrival

Was up early as I couldn't sleep because I was excited that my friend Erik was flying down from Portland today to begin his week long vacation here in SoCal with me. This would be his first time in Southern California and I have so many awesome things planned for him.

I finished cleaning up the guest room and making it as presentable as I could with tons of bins and boxes in it. I also finished cleaning the house. My injured right calf was doing better, still sore and if I stepped on it wrong it's painful but I think by tomorrow it should be good enough to begin our tour around SoCal.

I got to the Burbank Airport around 2:15pm and his plane was delayed a bit and touched down about 2:45pm so I waited anxiously for him. He texted me when he was here and about to get off the plane. He also told me which gate he was going to and I was at the wrong one so I quickly (or as quickly as I could) walked over to the other gate on the other side of the airport.. luckily it isn't a very large airport. I waited at the gate and about five minutes later I saw his smiling face coming through the door.

If you read my blog on a regular bases then you all know who he is. If not here's a brief backstory about Erik. This incredibly fantastic guy popped into my life one month and five days ago and we have been chatting everyday since via phone, online, skype and google hangout. We've really gotten to know each other and formed this amazing friendship.

You go through life and you meet people all the time but there are those rare moments when you meet someone and you just click, call it fate, call it destiny, all I know is Erik is a kindred spirit. From the moment we started chatting online I knew Erik was meant to be part of my life, now are we just friends or is he my knight in shining armor... who knows but it's going to be a fun adventure finding out. 

Soon as we hugged hello the chemistry that we felt online was there in person and it was AWESOME!!

First thing we did was head to Islands for some lunch. He told me about his adventures of getting from his place to the airport as there was a freak snow storm attacking Portland the past few days. Transportation has been hit hard but luckily perseverance paid off and he made it to the airport in time for his flight.

After lunch we headed back to my place to crash. I didn't plan any activities today as I knew he would be tired from his travels so we watched Frozen. He had not seen it and being a big Disney fan I knew he would love it... and I was right.

Once the movie was over we headed to a grocery store to pick up some food for the week. On our way back we picked up some Wienerschnitzel (he's never had it) for dinner. Once home we watched the latest three episodes of Faceoff. It's a series that we've been watching together. We also shared a beer that Erik brought with him. Erik is really into home brewery and beers and since I haven't really found a beer that I like he has taken on the challenge to introducing me to various beers in hopes that he'll find one that I might enjoy.

Around 11pm we called it a night.. as I have planned a fun filled week.. starting tomorrow with Hollywood and Los Angeles.