LA-LA Land

I said goodbye to Hawaii and headed to LA for more races and fun with friends. My friend Erin was in LA at the same time as me so we decided to spend time being tourists and started our mini adventure with a trip to Hollywood.

I picked up Erin and took her to In-N-Out for lunch and her first In-N-Out experience. For those of you who don’t know much about In-N-Out, it’s all about the secret menu. I’m slowly getting more familiar with it and I order off it every time. I went with a seasoned expert on my first visit and Erin got to experience it the same way.

Following our tasty lunch, we headed to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Like other tourists we got excited seeing several stars (hello Backstreet Boys!) but unlike other tourists we would move to the side of the footpath before stopping abruptly. I almost walked straight into the back of several people after they stopped in the middle of the footpath to take photos without realising someone was behind them.

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I made sure to stop for photos at the stars of Chuck Norris, Journey, Ellen and some lady named Vanessa Brown. We eventually found Donald Trump’s star but unfortunately someone had removed the wall that was built around it.

We did see someone dressed as Chewbacca from Star Wars with a sign that read “Chewbacca for President”. After stopping by the Chinese Theatre to take some more photos we said goodbye and I headed back home for the night.

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That weekend was a race free weekend so I joined some friends in Long Beach as we prepared to pull a plane. Yes, you did read that correctly. We were there to pull a FedEx plane in a fundraising event for the SoCal Special Olympics. A few friends knew that I was going to be in town so they all greeted me with a smile and hug when they saw me, but one friend did something a bit different.

I’d been talking to Veronica from Epic Series when my friend Amanda went up to her to say hello. She’d not yet seen me and so I stood there and said “Oh, I see how it is” and made a pouty face. Amanda turned around and after realising it was me she screamed and wrapped her arms around me in a huge bear hug, only to then pull away and call me a sneaky little shit. I just laughed and gave her a second hug before settling down for a few hours before the plane pull.

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The Weeples were the last team to participate in the plane pull. We gathered the 25 people needed, we each grabbed a pair of gloves and got in line and were ready to pull. The aim was to move the plane 10 feet in the fastest time (about 5.2 seconds). It seemed easy enough until we heard actually started and initially struggled to get the plane moving. We all heaved and eventually got the plane moving, but our time was nowhere near the fastest. We then had a second attempt and only just managed to beat out first time, but were still in the middle of the pack in regards to times. So we accepted defeat, said goodbye to the everyone and headed off.

Following the plane pull Erin and I headed to The Abbey in West Hollywood for a quiet drink and to people watch for a few hours. It reminded us both of The Court back in Perth, except with a great daytime vibe and go-go dancers. We were amused by one of the dancers as he started doing push-ups during his dancing time and we joked that he was multitasking. Why not get your workout in when working? After a few hours and some great food, we said goodbye and prepared to head to Disneyland the next day.

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I don’t care what people say, you’re never too old to appreciate Disneyland! I’ve been twice before – once as a kid and again as an adult, and I was excited to return for a third time.

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I successfully navigated through the LA traffic to get us to Anaheim just after 10am. We bought our tickets, headed inside and made a beeline to the Indiana Jones ride to get our Fastpass tickets. We had an hour before it was our time to ride so the first ride of the day was the Jungle Cruise.

The Jungle Cruise was my brother’s favourite ride at Disneyland and rates highly on my list of rides. The Jungle Cruise Cast Members are friendly and witty and have an abundance of great puns up their sleeve.

There’s one line that still sticks out in my head from when I visited in 2009. As the cruise went past some ‘men’ trying to escape a Rhino the Crew Member said “That’s not something you see every day. I do. Every seven minutes.” Some of the gems we heard on the three cruises we did on the day included:

“Anaconda sitting in a tree. H-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes an overly restrictive relationship”

“Did anyone pick up an extra spear? Britney?”

“There’s a famous headhunter. He has a great deal on today – you give him your head and he’ll give you two in return. No matter what, you’ll come out ahead.”

After Adventureland we headed to New Orleans Square to go on what used to be my favourite ride when I was 10 – the Pirates of the Caribbean. Following that we headed into the Haunted Mansion and then to Critter Country.

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The wait time for Splash Mountain was over an hour so we just grabbed a FastPass ticket and went to Frontierland and Fantasyland to pass the time. We made ourselves dizzy on the Mad Hatter’s Teacups, were thrown around on Big Thunder Railroad, and let out a few screams on the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

It was then time to return to Splash Mountain. It was a warm and sunny day so we weren’t fussed at the prospect of getting our clothes wet on the ride. Some people were leaving the ride bone dry, whilst others were soaked. We fell victims to a wave of water that landed in our laps, resulting in soaking wet pants.

Our last stop of the day was the one ride I’ve never been on before – Space Mountain. We waited patiently in line for over 45 minutes before it was our time to ride. We sat down, got strapped in and were ready to go. The ride was definitely worth the wait! It was a fast roller-coaster in near darkness meaning you couldn’t prepare for twists and turns because you couldn’t see them. Everyone was screaming in excitement and when we finished Erin and I just looked at each other with stupid grins on our faces and agreed that it was the best ride to finish on.

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As we said farewell to Disneyland for the night I felt so grateful to have been able to experience the magic of Disney for a third time. It’s definitely one of the most magical places on earth.

The rest of my time in LA was very chilled. Many hours were spent planning the next two months of my trip in the US. Never underestimate the time it takes to plan something that appears so simple.

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I went on a few hikes including an easy hike with my friends Joe and Staci to the Hollywood sign. Along the way we met an English couple and we chatted about all things hiking as we headed up the service road to the back of the sign. It was a fairly easy hike but I was told that there’s a challenging way that involves some rock climbing and very steep hills. At the end of the hike the couple asked about food places and we told them about In-N-Out. I wrote down what they needed to order and said farewell as they went to enjoy the perks of now knowing the secret menu.

My last weekend in LA was spent hiking up Mount Baldy with some friends. You can read more about the hike here. Following the hike I was driven to San Diego to stay with my friend Mayra for a night and say hello to my San Diego based friends. That night we enjoyed a BBQ and sat in the spa whilst I educated my friends on the wonders that is Eurovision. The next morning Mayra and I headed out for a short walk along a beach before having lunch with Luis at an awesome Mexican restaurant. I said farewell to Mayra and headed back to LA on the Greyhound and got back in time for a map reading class at REI.

Whilst in LA I did overcome one previous fear – driving. For an Australian, Los Angeles drivers are some of the craziest I’ve ever seen. In LA an orange light means keep going, a Stop sign is just a ‘Give Way’ sign, indicators are just things that cars come equipped with and aren’t actually used, the speed limit is actually a speed minimum, and braking at the last second is perfectly acceptable. Once again my good driving habits seemed to go out the window at times, but seasoned LA drivers probably realised I was from out of town thanks to my use of indicators and the fact that I actually stopped at stop signs.

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On my last day in LA I hiked up to the Griffith Observatory with Joe. My brother had been talking about it for months and so I decided I better go before leaving LA. We went up at lunchtime and spent just over an hour looking at the free exhibits and the views from the observatory before heading back down the trail. It was a great place to visit and I’ll have to spend more time seeing the shows next time I’m in town.

It was great to see my friends and discover new places in LA, but now it’s time for racing in Texas.

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