Warning: Long post ahead.
Jonah and I took a trip to California this past week. It was so much fun. It was especially fun because we went to several places we had not been together before as a couple or, in several cases, at all.
We left on Monday at 6:00 AM, which is quite an early hour for me personally, but we wanted to get to our destination at a reasonable time. I was impressed we actually left in time. Jonah is not always known for getting out of the house when we say we’re leaving, but we got out on time this time.
Our first destination was Cambria, where we would be staying for the next two nights. I used to work as an actor in Bakersfield, California and in Oceano, California many years ago, and some friends and I went to Cambria, and I found it charming and thought Jonah would enjoy it. I drove most of the way. We actually passed through Bakersfield on the way, and the drive was fun because it was a route I hadn’t been on in years. Jonah indulged me, and we stopped in Bakersfield to check out the theater where I used to work as well as the nearby house I lived in.
It was fun to visit my old stomping grounds after such a long time away, but it also made me feel sad and nostalgic. The theater where I used to work closed years ago and has housed several businesses since, including a carpet store and a convention house, which is what it is today. So it was sad to see this once vibrant theater no longer in existence. And all my friends who used to work with me are spread across the country now in such places as Florida, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, New York, California, and even the Philippines, and we may never work together or even see each other again. The lady who I rented from has long since died, and someone else lives in the house now. This place was filled with such lovely times and memories, and going back again felt weird because I knew it was a part of my past that was just that: in the past.
Still, it was fun to visit, and I got Jonah to take a photo of me in front of what used to be the theater.
About six hours into the trip, I was getting tired, so I had Jonah drive, which he did. Ironically, it had been pretty straight driving the whole way, and Jonah's leg of the trip was a very curvy road, so I was kind of glad I managed to avoid that.
Our inn in Cambria was quite quaint and charming,
although the guy who checked us in seemed a little odd. Harmless, but odd. Our room was quite spacious, although the heater didn’t work, so it was a bit chilly…for Jonah. I thought it was nice.
Jonah and I looked at a few of the shops. Jonah likes to antique shop, so it was a nice chance for him to do that while I tagged along. After a bit of window shopping in the town’s charming shops, we ate at a nearby restaurant. We were both pretty tired, so we went back to the hotel to relax. We ended up watching Betty White’s 90th birthday celebration on NBC.
The next day we headed to Hearst Castle. Neither of had ever been, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Hearst Castle is an estate where William Randolph Hearst had built a retreat that he loved on a mountainside overlooking the coast.
When we got to the visitor center, we looked around in the gift shop a bit and the caught a bus which took us up the mountain to the estate. I will say this: one job I never want is the bus driver at Hearst Castle. The drive is on a very, very curvy road (deliberately curvy), and it goes very high up. One false move, and you could send a bus tumbling down the mountain. The drivers were very good going both up and down, but the ride still made me a bit nervous. Luckily, the pre-recorded voice of Alex Trebek was giving us a tour, so that kept my mind off the fact that if the bus driver slipped up, we could all die. I can’t imagine what the drive must have been like during the estate’s heyday in the 20s and 30s. I don’t even think the road was paved then.
The estate itself was absolutely gorgeous. The estate was nicknamed "La Cuesta Encantada" ("The Enchanted Hill"), and it really was. It took 28 years to build and was never completed. There’s a main house and three smaller houses each with a different view as their focus. There’s also a massive swimming pool as well as a tennis court and underground pool. There are gardens and statues, an airstrip, and a movie theater. There used to be animals roaming the estate. I think it has 56 bedrooms. Cary Grant, who holds the record as Hearst Castle’s most frequent visitor, asked to be put in a different bedroom each time he visited, and he never did end up staying in enough of them to see them all.
In its heyday Hearst Castle was host to such celebrities as Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes, Winston Churchill, and George Bernard Shaw, among others. Hearst would sit in the middle of the dining room table, and guests would be seated near him. The further away you were from him indicated his interest (or lack thereof) in conversing with you, and if you were at the end of the table, you had probably overstayed your welcome.
The view from the estate was absolutely amazing. The ocean on one side, mountains on another. The gardens were so beautiful. All sorts of flowers and trees. Fruit trees, cypress trees, palm trees, oak trees, rose bushes, hyacinths, tulips, marigolds, lilies, and so many others. Statues everywhere.
The architecture was really interesting, too. Spanish, Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic, and Roman influences can be found. Huge fireplaces, antique furniture, tapestries, fine art, carved ceilings and walls, luxurious settings. It was so beautiful and extravagant. I was really glad we went.
We took a tour of the main house. The tour guide seemed a little condescending to me, but the tour was still interesting. After the tour, we were free to roam the grounds at our leisure.
After we finished walking around the grounds, we headed back on another possibly treacherous bus ride down the mountain back to the visitor center. We checked out some exhibits and then watched a movie about William Randolph Hearst and Hearst Castle. It was pretty interesting.
Next, we took a ride up the coast. Our original plan was to check out a nearby lighthouse, but it was closed, so we only caught a glimpse of it. Instead, we continued up the coast. As we continued to drive, the voyage became more curvy and uphill and a little scary. It was fine on this sunny day with my little car, but I can’t imagine trying to drive it in the rain or fog or with a bigger vehicle. We could have driven farther, but ended up turning around and stopping in a scenic area called Ragged Point.
There was a trail going down to a beach, but it was way too steep for Jonah's and my liking, plus hiking back up would have been awful, so we didn’t go down (although we saw a middle-aged couple attempting it, one of whom almost fell twice. We thought they were crazy.
Jonah and I drove back to Cambria. On the way we stopped at a vista point to look at the hundreds of elephant seals on the beach. I’d never seen one before. There were a whole bunch of them, and it was birthing season, too, so there were all these baby elephant seals as well. The adult ones were huge and made such interesting noises. As an actor, I thought it would be an interesting character study to base on character on their movements and sounds.
When we got to Cambria, we ate at a Mexican restaurant and then browsed a shop or two. We took a brief rest and then headed to San Luis Opisbo. On the way, we passed Morro Bay, which I visited many years ago and quite liked. It was fun to see it again. The coastal drive was so beautiful, and we saw a gorgeous sunset over the ocean.
In San Luis Opisbo, we went to Barnes and Noble and browsed for a bit and bought some games that were on clearance. Then we went to the movie theater and watched The Iron Lady. We both felt that the script meandered and didn’t really shed any new light on Margaret Thatcher, but that Meryl Streep’s performance was incredible. I didn’t feel the movie enlightened me on who Margaret Thatcher was, and so in that respect, I was disappointed.
We also drove to Oceano, another town where I had worked as an actor many years ago. We stopped by the theater where I used to work. At that late hour, I didn’t expect to find anyone there, but when we got there, I could hear them rehearsing. The sad part was that a couple of friends of mine still work there, but the doors were locked, and I didn’t want to disturb the rehearsal, so I never got a chance to see them. Oh, well.
I drove us back to Cambria, and we went to sleep pretty quickly. It was actually colder in Cambria than I had expected. I even had to scrape frost off my windows in the morning.
The next day we drove to Long Beach, again taking a route I had never driven. It was quite a beautiful drive, some of it coastal, providing ocean views, and other parts took us through a forested, mountain area. It was quite lovely, although I think I need to get my brakes checked. The car was kind of shaking when I was braking going down hills. It’s probably my rotors.
I was happy we didn’t encounter too much heavy traffic during our entire trip, although the LA freeway system is always an adventure. In Long Beach, we slept aboard the Queen Mary, a ship originally commissioned in 1936, but is now a hotel. The ship has a rich history. It was built is Scotland and was considered the ultimate in luxury in its heyday. It sailed from 1936 to 1967. During World War II, she was used by servicemen as a troop ship, and Winston Churchill was a frequent guest aboard the ship. It’s quite large.
Our cabin was what used to be a second-class passenger cabin. It was a little small for Jonah's taste. He’s a bit claustrophobic. But I liked it very much. The portholes opened, so that was kind of cool. The bathroom was teeny and the toilet made a gurgling noise when it flushed. I found it kind of charming.
We rested a bit and then headed to Hollywood to try and get tickets in the lottery for Wicked. We got there a bit early (traffic was not as bad as we thought it would be), so we headed down the Walk of Fame over to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Kodak Theater. We explored some of the shops and took some pictures. Jonah bought some things at Hot Topic.
I found it funny that as we were walking back to the Pantages Theater, where Wicked was playing, I was thinking to myself, “I wouldn’t mind living here.” At that very moment, Jonah exclaimed, “I don’t think I could live here. This life is too crazy, everybody’s hustling for something.” He’s right, and I probably wouldn’t be happy there long term. I know Jonah wouldn’t be.
We didn’t win the lottery for Wicked tickets, but we were able to buy normally expensive tickets for only $45 each, so it was still a nice deal.
The Pantages Theater was really interesting. I’d never been inside. It’s all done in Art Deco style, which I have always liked. I thought it was really quite fascinating. I wish I could have taken pictures in the theater itself, but they didn’t allow that.
I thought the performances in Wicked were quite terrific. The actresses playing Glinda and Elphaba were really great, both singing and acting-wise. The actor playing Fiyero was quite a good dancer. I thought the actress playing Glinda, Katie Clarke (who also was terrific as Clara in the “Live from Lincoln Center” of The Light in the Piazza), had really sharp comic timing and of course, a fabulous voice. The actress playing Elphaba was amazing. Really great cast.
I had never seen Wicked and only knew a bit about the story. I found Stephen Schwartz’s score to be uneven. Some of the songs were quite good, but some, I felt, were lacking. It was a well-done production, but I’m not sure the show itself lives up to its hype. There were some really great effects, and much of the script was good, but other parts felt weak to me. The second act, in particular, was a bit problematic in my opinion.
The script was more humorous than I had expected, and the show’s ending was unexpected. In short, it was a fun show performed by a really great cast, but it’s not my favorite musical. Certainly not my least favorite, either. We had a good time. It was worth seeing.
Jonah drove us back to the Queen Mary. Neither of us see that great at night nor are we particularly familiar with the freeway system in LA, so the ride home was a bit tense and scary at times. Still, we got back to the hotel safely.
Jonah didn’t like all the creaky sounds of the old ship, but I kind of enjoyed it. I felt it gave it character.
The next day we ate a breakfast buffet aboard the Queen Mary and then we explored the ship a bit. We also took a tour that dealt with the supposedly haunted areas of the ship. It was interesting, but I was expecting more. Still, it was fun to see the ship’s propeller and the engine room.
After the tour, Jonah went back to the room to rest while I explored the ship on my own. It’s a large ship, but it was fun to just wander around, not even knowing where I was going. Lots to explore, and I imagined what it was like to be a passenger aboard it during its heyday. I was glad they were pumping old-time music from the period. It made it feel more authentic.
I returned to the room, and I fell asleep. After I woke up, Jonah and I went to a nearby restaurant area called The Pike, where we saw a movie. Jonah chose Joyful Noise, which I was skeptical about. It looked cheesy to me. There was some fun music, but the movie itself was mess. Terrible script, undeveloped characters, and the movie didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be. Even Jonah admitted the movie wasn’t very good.
After the movie, we went to Famous Dave’s for some dinner. I had some really good salmon.
We went back to the Queen Mary and went to bed. The next day, we drove to Buena Park to go to Knott’s Berry Farm, where I had not been for probably 20 or so years. It had changed a bit since I had last been there. I again felt nostalgic because it reminded me of when my family went there when I was little or when I last attended the park on a high school trip.
The first roller coaster we rode was called the GhostRider. It was a wooden coaster and looked fun, but was quite jerky. It was fun, but really tweaked both of our bodies a bit.
We also rode the Silver Bullet, which was crazy, but a lot of fun; Montezuma’s Revenge, which made me a little nauseous when it went backwards; the Jaguar, which was a very bland coaster; the Pony Express, which was fun – I think it was Jonah's favorite; the Boomerang, which also made me a bit sick because it went backwards; and the Xcelerator, which was my favorite coaster. It was so fast and went directly up and down, it seemed. I thought it was a blast. Jonah wouldn’t go on it. His chest was hurting, and he thought the speed of the coaster would hurt it more. He was probably right, but I was sad he missed it.
I also rode the Supreme Scream, which takes you 254 feet in the air and then drops you. It was a little scary, but thrilling. I wanted to ride the Windseeker, which takes you 300 feet up, but it spins while you’re up there, and spinning rides make me nauseous. It was more the spinning than the height that made me not go on it.
We rode the bumper cars, the Sky Cabin (which I remembered from when I was a child), and the train, too. I didn’t go on any twisting or spinning rides, although there were several we could have gone on. We didn’t go on any water rides, either. Two were closed, and it was too cold to ride the other.
We watched a show called the Mystery Lodge. It was focused on Native American culture and had some really cool special effects and kind of a cool message. I was a bit skeptical when it started, but I really enjoyed it. We also saw the Stunt Show, which was a bit cheesy, but had some fun stunts.
We had lunch at the Ghost Town Grill. It was pretty good. We explored some of the shops as well. I was amazed at how few people were in the park. We got on all the rides quite easily and quickly. It was a great time to go.
We actually left the park fairly early. We had done everything we wanted to do and decided to call it a day as far as the amusement park was concerned.
We rested for a bit and then went to Downtown Disney to window shop a bit and then had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and then went back to our hotel.
The next day we went to Orange to an area where there are a lot of antique shops, including a really high-end one with beautiful furniture. Antique shopping is more Jonah's thing, so after a while everything started to blend together and I got a little bored, but it is fun to look at various things. I also found a record I have been looking for for a long time in a local record store, so that was nice.
After we ate lunch and explored a few more shops, Jonah drove us out of the LA area while I slept, and then we switched places in Barstow, and I drove us back home. It was a splendid vacation. We had a great time. We spent a bit more money than I would have liked, but it was worth spending some really quality time together.
Our cats missed us a lot. Trooper, the one who likes me best was being a bit of a pill, but it didn’t take her long to forgive us for being gone so long.
Now we’re home, and it’s back to reality. I have a job interview on Tuesday. I’m hoping something will come out of it. I guess we’ll see.