Trip Report LA February 2001
2/18/01 Met Don at the Airport in Indy. Our flight was to LA via Atlanta. The leg to Atlanta went well, but the flight from Atlanta to LA was delayed. The incoming plane was slowed due to weather. As a result we were better than an hour late getting out of Atlanta. I had what was probably the worst possible seating in the airplane—the center seat down the middle of the plane. Either aisle would have been better.
Eventually, we arrived in LA and went down to get our baggage. Don sent me to pick up the rental car while he waited for the bags. This was my first introduction to LA traffic—Sunday night at 9:00 PM so it was “relatively” mild. Still, getting back to the baggage claim area to pick up Don was a frustrating experience.
After loading up the car, we drove to our hotel—the Best Western, Dragon Gate Inn in Chinatown. It was a somewhat nerve-wracking drive. I was driving an unfamiliar car that was larger than I was used to (Toyota Camry, whereas my wife’s corolla is usually as big as I drive), on unfamiliar roads, surrounded by drivers of uncertain ability. Despite my nerves, we got to the hotel okay. The route to this hotel from the airport is actually quite simple. Getting checked in didn’t take long and we got our rooms.
My room was more modest than many other places I have stayed. There was a refrigerator, a TV that doesn’t work well, and a king sized bed. The bathroom had a blow dryer and a shower (no tub). There was enough room that I could do a modified form of my daily workout.
After a long flight and my body telling me it was after 1:00 AM, I decided to try out that bed.
2/19/01 Woke up and went out for breakfast. The hotel provides a “continental” breakfast via tickets to a shop just outside the hotel. This breakfast consists of a single pastry combined with one small glass of orange juice and/or coffee or tea. Neither Don nor I found this adequate, so we went looking for someplace to get something additional to eat. We found that in a bakery across the street. The bakery was similar to breakfast “dim sum” or a panya in Japan—there were rolls with stuff inside them and some things I’ve seen in dim sum in hong kong. The prices were good. For about $1.50 I had two large rolls, one with sausage and the other with curry beef inside. Don had a different mix.
After breakfast, we loaded the car with things we needed for the booth at Replitech and set out. First we did a little exploring, driving around Little Tokyo (not much to look at from the street, but maybe better once you get inside things), the textile district and the toy district. We eventually worked our way over to the convention center and then had a merry few minutes driving around looking for where to unload. Finally, Don had me just pull over while he ran inside to ask. When he came back he found that we were supposed to park in the parking garage and unload from there.
We set up for the show and then went back to the hotel. On the way back we stopped at a Grand Market on Broadway. It was a large, open warehouse with many individual small dealers of produce, meat and fish, and so on. There were also many small cooked food sellers, like the food court at a mall. We bought some fruit to eat in the Booth. Truth to tell, the fruit was pretty mediocre, but I suppose that may be related to the season as much as anything else. It was soon time for an early dinner and I went down to the front desk to ask suggestions for where would be good places to eat. The clerk at the desk suggested the Plum Tree Inn—“Best Chinese food in Chinatown” he said. We tried that. The food was very good. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest a bit before going to my Judo class. I had found the Tenri LA dojo and that was where I would be training on Monday and Friday.
The trip to the Judo class was a bit of a problem. The final turn was onto a small street and we missed it. The result was that we went too far, but that had a good effect. We found a supermarket where we would (after class) stop to get some provisions for the show.
Despite the inadvertent detour, we made it to the Judo class in good time. The students here were practicing for upcoming state championships so class was almost entirely randori. A little uchikomi work, but the rest randori. There was newaza randori and standing randori. During newaza randori, I got the “turn” a couple of times (turning an opponent who is face down to a position face up) but I couldn’t get a good pin. Well, once I got a nice Yoko Shiho Gatame, and held it for long enough for a minor point, but not a conclusive win. In the standing work, I found myself being thrown far more than I found myself throwing. In fact, I got only one good throw, an uranage counter to some kind of forward throw (Probably ippon seioi nage—things happen fast in Judo). I blocked the throw by sinking at my waist and thrusting forward my stomach—something Park sensei had just recently taught—and then I was in good position for the uranage. Pretty little ippon, and against a yodan (?). Of course, I then got to spend a good bit of time on my own back. ;) All in all, the workout was one of the hardest I had ever had. At some point I did something to my left shoulder. My left shoulder has a chronic problem. My doctor has diagnosed it as an “impingement,” meaning that the muscles of the rotator cuff rub against bone causing pain in the shoulder. He said that it would probably gradually get worse over the next few years until I finally decide it’s bad enough to warrant surgery. Anyway, I think I just overdid it with that shoulder. (Pictures to come.)
After Judo we went to that supermarket and got some things like pop, bottled water, and so on as provisions for the trade show. From there, we returned to our hotel and I crashed quickly.
2/20/01 First day of the show. I got up when Don called and we went out for breakfast. As before, we made breakfast a two-stop process, first eating the “free” food provided by the hotel, then moving across the street to fill up at the Chinese bakery. I set up the booth at the show while Don went to some technical conferences.
We had a reasonably good first day at the show and returned to our hotel. Truth is, we were both pretty tired so we relaxed and had dinner at the second best Chinese food in Chinatown (or so said the clerk at the hotel) and returned to the hotel to rest and go to bed.
2/21/01 Second day of the show. The show itself went pretty much as had the first day. Afterwards, however, we had other plans. In this case, we went to visit a friend of Don’s who also owns a 64 ½ Ford Mustang. As folk can see from my website, I am something of a Mustang fan. This particular car was burgundy in color, with the low compression 289 engine and a 4 speed manual transmission. It was definitely the 64 ½. The car had a generator rather than an alternator, which is, probably, the most telling identification feature of the 64 ½ vs the 65.
Don’s friend had a restaurant planned for us to visit, but it turned out to be closed. As a result, we went elsewhere and had a rather normal dinner of typical “American” fare. I had pork chops, mashed potatoes and soup.
After dinner we returned to Don’s friends house for cake and tea. This was also a birthday celebration. Don and his friend had both recently celebrated their birthdays so the cake was actually a birthday cake. We chatted for a while and then Don and I returned to our hotel. It was very late and I only read a little bit before going to bed.
2/22/01 Last day of the show. Breakfast as usual, but a little later. Both Don and I were tired from the late day before so slept in a bit. Instead of the usual lunch tickets for the show, they were having a “power breakfast” but Don and I didn’t want to get up that early. So we went and did the show. As usual, the show was slow on its last day but we still got some good results. At lunch, I went to one of the venders in the convention hall. $13 for a cheeseburger, fries, orange juice, and water.
Thursday was the day my wife was supposed to join me in LA. Because of the schedule of her flight Don and I went to meet her directly after the show. Her flight was only a few minutes late and we got her bags and drove back to the hotel. The trip, both directions, was a little “glitchy” because of not getting over far enough to the left soon enough. On the way down, I didn’t get over far enough to stay on I110 so that I ended up exiting onto another freeway. However, a quick exit from the second freeway and a little driving to get me back onto 110 cured that problem. Coming up, I ended up exiting near downtown LA. While I could have gotten back onto the freeway, we decided to just run up Broadway and do a little sightseeing. Don and I had seen it, but we could show it to Sumie.
We got back to the hotel and unloaded, then, after a short rest, piled back into the car to drive down to Little Tokyo where Sumie had picked a restaurant to have dinner. As you might have guessed, it was a Japanese restaurant. It was a style called “Izakaya” which is sort of a Japanese dim sum or a la carte. You order a number of small dishes of various items and share them. Our selections included sashimi, yakitori, and other items. Quite good.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel.
2/23/01 Don took a cab back to the airport in the
morning so Sumie and I could sleep in. Once
we got up, Sumie and I went to Little Tokyo after breakfast. We started at a place called Yaohan, which is a kind of
shopping mall specializing in Japanese shops.
There was a supermarket and an Asahiya book store.
We visited several gift shops and Kinokuniya books, all of which were
nearby. Sumie wanted to pick up a
couple of Women’s magazines. I picked up a couple of manga (two more volumes of Inuyashya)
and a book in Japanese on Judo for Sumie. Since
I do Judo, I thought she should understand what I’m doing so I can talk to her
about it when I make an accomplishment. We had tempura and udon and sushi at
little toyko before going to litte Tokyo we had Kyoto stye ramen and kakigori(crushed
ice with strawberry syrup)
We also stopped at the Japanese American Museum. At about 4:00 we returned to Yaohan and had a light dinner of Ramen. I especially wanted to eat light, and eat early, because I would be going to Judo again that night. After this early dinner we returned to the hotel and I helped Sumie with some of her math homework. This brought us up to time to leave for Judo.
Again, Judo was at the LA Tenri Dojo. The group was smaller this time. It was me and several black belts. No newaza randori this time, a few rounds of uchikomis which I used to work Tai Otoshi and the reverse Ippon Seioi Nage (“reverse” in that you turn in the direction of the lapel grip rather than the arm grip) that I like, and then randori. My big success this time was in staying upright more than on my back. No good throws on my part. Basically, I just couldn’t get it together in coordinating my attacks. I’d get a good kuzushi, but then not be able to get in for completing the throw. But the main problem was I just couldn’t get in against defensive blocking. One thing that was particularly frustrating was that one of my usually more successful throws—sasae tsurikomi ashi—was a complete failure here. I’d try it only to get taken down by a leg pick. Still, I made them work for the throws they got against me, and that’s a big step right there when you consider the difference in experience. The other big “good thing” was that my ukemi was much improved. I took several serious falls but didn’t get hurt in the fall. Did have one minor accident. My opponent was doing ippon seioi nage on me and I was blocking by sinking at the hips. I almost avoided it, then he sank a little lower and makikomied it (did a complete wraparound/windup of his body and mine). I went over and he came over on top of me. Not too bad in itself—that had happened several times in the course of the evening—but his head hit mine. No injury (except a somewhat painful spot that I still had a few days later), but neither of us were ready to continue for several minutes while the ringing faded. As the class ended, I was so tired that I could barely hold my arms up to reach for a grab or defend against an opponent’s grab. My gi and hair were soaked. A really hard workout, but a lot of fun. (Pictures to come.)
After Judo, my wife and I returned to the hotel and then found a local place to have a second dinner. No we had a ramen house, koraku at little Tokyo to have ramen and gyoza
02/24/01 Slept in a bit this morning then breakfast. This was to be the big “tourist day.” My wife and I had planned to go to Universal Studios Hollywood. I checked the route with Microsoft Mappoint. It seemed easy enough and, once we actually got on the road, proved to be so. We found the exit we needed off of 101, but the signs pointing to the park itself were a little weak or maybe we missed a key one. We ended up driving around for a bit but, in a relatively short time, we found the park.
Entrance to the park, from the "Jurassic Park" parking area, was via a shopping mall. That lead to the ticket concession where the entry tickets to the park are available. Tickets for adults, one day, were $43, but with AAA membership there was a $3 discount, not a lot but with my wife and I it just about paid for parking.
My wife tells me that the California park is smaller than the Florida one. Our first stop was the Animal Actors area. The dog who plays Lassie was there and available for photo ops. This was in a shopping area dedicated to animal type stuff. There, I saw a T-shirt that I just had to have: "Lord, let me be just half the person my dog thinks I am." There was also an animal actors show which included a trained bird, a dog (a big, floppy-eared, mutt type), and an orangutan.
After Animal Actors we went to the Back to the Future ride. This is a "motion simulator" where a "vehicle" is tilted and bumped in time with a movie. The movie looks for "shock" value, with collisions being highly featured. Not really my favorite thing.
After the Back to the Future ride, we went down a long series of escalators to the lower lot where the Jurassic Park and ET rides were to be found. The JP ride was a water ride and since things were a bit chilly and rainy, we passed on that, but took the ET ride. In the ET ride, the wait outside wasn't too long. As you enter, you give your name to a person at a desk who associates it with a little plastic card with a bar code on it.
After passing that "reception desk" you enter the area of the ride proper. First you pass along a twisty path through a "forest." In the forest are animatronics of the "scientists" who were chasing ET in the movie and of one of ET's people. Eventually, you get to the ride itself. It's a nine seat "cart" hanging from an overhead rail. Each seat has a lap bar connected to a pair of "handlebars" and there is a wheel in front of you so you simulate a group riding in close formation. There is a basket on the front of the ride with a towel covered object--roughly shaped like ET's head--sticking up. You hand the plastic card to the guy guiding you into the ride and mount up.
In the first part of the ride you are going through the forest being chased by the government men. Jeeps lunge out at you and you veer away from them. Then there's a simply stunning effect where you come out of the woods and they make effective use of models and lights to simulate flying high over the city at night.
After the flight over the city, there is another effect using fog and light to make the "warp transit" (they don't name it that) to ET's homeworld. You start seeing a dying planet (why you were taking ET there in the first place) but soon things perk up. Finally, just before exit, an animatronic ET type critter thanks the people in that particular group by name. (Remember those cards that got associated with names? That's what they were for.) If one likes thrills and spills and action, this would be a very mild ride. But for a taste of "feel good" adventure and some nice illusions this one is recommended.
After the ET ride my wife and I went back up the escalators to find lunch in the upper area. We hoped to find a basic "sit down" restaurant, but there didn't seem to be any in the park itself. We ended up eating cafeteria style and having to find someplace we could sit out of the light sprinkle.
After lunch we did the Terminator 2 3D show. That one was a lot of fun, with a mix of live action and the 3D projection. The use of fog to hide entrances and exits helped create the illusion of people going in and out of the screen. And real people rappelling down from the ceiling added to the excitement. They did a pretty good job, IMO, of putting the audience into the action. Recommended.
After the T2 3D show, we spend the rest of the afternoon walking around, doing a little gift shopping, and eating one final snack, something called "funnel cake" with boysenberry topping. Quite good, but expensive (but then, everything in a theme park is expensive).
About 5:00 or so, we left the park and returned to our hotel. We rested up for a bit then went out for dinner. This time we went to a cheaper Chinese place near the hotel We had Kung Pao chicken, splitting an order between us. Sumie ordered something with squid in it but she didn't like it. After that, we had to finish packing up for Sumie to go to the airport. Since she couldn't use my frequent flyer miles to take the same flight as me for the return trip (too booked up), she was taking an overnight flight. By this time I actually knew how to get to the airport without any difficulty. Since we had time, we tried to get Sumie changed to an earlier flight. We could have done it, but the connecting flight for the new one had been canceled due to weather. The result was that she was better off taking the original flight, which connected out of a different city. I stayed with her as long as I could to keep her company while waiting for the flight, but the only parking spot I could find was in a 2 hour space so I had to leave and return to the hotel.
2/25/01 got up about 8:30 and went to the Chinese bakery for breakfast. Got a couple of extra rolls while I was there to have on the airplanes. Finished packing and loaded up the car, then checked out of the hotel. The drive to the airport was no problem and I got there in good time. The plane out of Los Angeles was about 10 minutes late, which concerned me because my connection in Cincinnati was tight. Still, I got into Cincinnati okay and made it to the connecting gate in good time—to find that the connection was delayed, and delayed some more. Weather was okay. The plane was in good shape. What they were missing was a pilot. I was extraordinarily unhappy about that. Weather delays don’t bother me much. After all, there’s not a lot you can do about the weather. Mechanical delays bother me some more, but again, I’d rather they wait and fix the problem. However, not having a pilot for the plane, or not having the pilot show up, is in a whole different class. Eventually, however, they found someone to fly the plane—a pilot who was on what he thought was a five hour break and who was having dinner. Still, at long last we were in the air.
The return to Indianapolis was uneventful. My wife was waiting for me at the airport, and our dogs were waiting for me out in the car. She’d brought all of them. Home and tired, but home.
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