Tuesday, 13 January 2015

DAY 34 - Skirting The Smog And Seeing Sal In San Fernando

Hi all, welcome to day two of our stay in Los Angeles, California the traffic chaos capital of the world.

Today started off with a well-deserved sleep-in following yesterday's busy day. There was only real plan for today, and that was for us to visit our good friend Sal in beautiful San Fernando.

Meet my good friend Sal

The drive over to Sal's home really highlighted how much smog sits around LA and as we crossed the hills around Bel Air into the San Fernando Valley, it was amazing to see what clear air actually looks like. However, Sal did tell me that the San Fernando does get pretty smoggy also from time-to-time.

Looking back towards LA you can see the smog

Getting a little closer makes it even more evident

Whereas downtown San Fernando is nice and clear

This was our fourth visit to Sal over the last five or so years and I never tire of seeing his aircraft model, figurine, tank (and just about anything else) collection. I asked how many pieces Sal has, but honestly, you could never count the amount of items he has. Between Sal's collection and listening to stories of the amazing life he has led, we always find ourselves captivated by him. But we couldn't stay there forever. The good news is that we will be seeing him again on 21 Jan and will also be seeing his lovely wife Carmen. Also, Sal kindly allowed us to leave some of our excess luggage at his home so we can travel a little lighter for the next leg of out journey in a few days.

After visiting Sal, we had plans to head out to a few Museums at Chino Airport to the south west of LA, but decided that we should focus on closer to home as Maureen and Kyle had to get to a Basketball game at night at the Staples Centre in the city of LA. Instead we headed to the Glendale Galleria for lunch and some shopping, before heading back to our Hotel to allow Maureen and Kyle to get ready for the game.

On a side note, I must say that nothing can ever prepare you for the traffic in LA. When you are stuck in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on a 14 lane highway, you know you are screwed. Even Bob (our GPS) sounds a little sheepish when announcing which Freeway connect to which Freeway.

After dropping Maureen and Kyle at the game, Schuyler, Joshua and I headed for one of the most famous spotting locations in the World, the In-N-Out Burger at LAX. I decided to try my hand at night aircraft spotting, but the results were pretty average given the ISO level I needed to set the camera to. Here's some shots:

With regard to the NBA match between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, let's just say that Kyle has been waiting to see a Laker's match since as long as I can remember. The fact that his hero, Kobe Bryant played today was just the icing on the cake. Although the Lakers lost the match, the match was inconsequential in Kyle's eyes.

Kyle, wearing his custom Laker's Team T-Shirt
Maureen and Kyle standing beside their second row seats

The Lakers pre-game practice

The most popular NBA player, Kobe Bryant

Well that's it for another day. It was so great to catch up with Sal and to have a generally relaxed day. Tomorrow, we are heading south west to Chino and perhaps even March Air Force Base which has an awesome Museum.

DAY 33 - (Phase 2) Movin' Over To The West Coast

Hi y'all, and welcome to the Day 33 Blog coming to you from Los Angeles, California or as we refer to it; 'just down the road from Sal's place'.

This morning we woke up very early at around 0530h, packed the car and headed off for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The drive to the airport was pretty uneventful, except for the bit where I managed to turn the wrong way down a street on the wrong side of the median strip, completely frightening the entire family; but, apart from that, no dramas.

The car is packed...literally!

We arrived at the airport Rental Car facility to hand back our car and the guy there was amazed at the number of miles we had clocked up on the odometer. Right to the very end, that car didn't miss a beat. Checking into the airport was also pretty smooth, although there was some confusion as to which terminal at Dallas-Fort Worth we needed to be at. Our original paperwork from our Qantas booking said Terminal D, but the electronic Flight Board said Terminal A. The confusion was also compounded by the fact that our Qantas paperwork, didn't actually state the American Airlines flight number. In the end we went with Terminal A, and thankfully were correct.

Our flight was with American Airlines on an Airbus A321S (Flight Number AA2419) and took around three hours. The flight was pretty uneventful, except that my in-flight entertainment system wasn't working. We were all pretty tired after the early wake up, so the lack of a functioning IFE, din't really phase me. The next three shots are of the aircraft on which we travelled.

Our aircraft, an Airbus A321S

DFW-LAX on AA2419
Action stations on Flight AA2419
Arrival into LAX was pretty seamless, with the exception of a hire car issue. We were issued an Infinity FX-50 which whilst incredibly awesome, could never have fit both us or our gear. I did think about ditching the family, or the gear, but decided against. So I settled on a Chrysler Town and Country van which was easily large enough for us.

I can't believe I actually rejected this car

Our second Rental, a Chrysler Town and Country
As we had arrived too early to check into our hotel, we decided to have lunch then head to the California Science Centre to tick off another of my bucket-list items; a real-live, went-into-space, Space Shuttle. Being Australian, the fact that it was OV-105 Space Shuttle Endeavour (named after CAPT James Cook's ship) made it even more poignant. Whilst at the California Science Centre, we checked out many of the other attractions contained within. Given that this is our third time to Los Angeles, I can't believe we haven't visited this treasure earlier. Firstly, here's some shots of some of the other aeronautical things at the museum:

A McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet

The Northrop F-20 Tigershark was an impressive aircraft that couldn't attract any buyers. From all of my readings, it was a very impressive aircraft in terms of cost and performance. It was based on the Northrop F-5.

Northrop F-20 Tigershark

Northrop F-20 Tigershark alongside a Northrop F-5

McDonnel Douglas F/A-18 Hornet

One of the more fun activities to do involved riding a bicycle on a high-wire...yes, you heard correctly. Both Maureen and Kyle, each had a go.

Kyle should join the Circus

Maureen up to high-jinx on the high-wire
But, the main event was OV-105 Space Shuttle Endeavour.

These are the actual tyres from Space Shuttle Endeavour on its last mission

One of the Space Shuttle Main Engines

Close up of one of the Space Shuttle's tiles up-close

There were a number of other exhibits including actual space capsules from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The Mercury-Redstone 2 capsule as displayed was used to carry Ham the Chimp into orbit. The capsule from Gemini 11 and the Capsule for the Apollo-Soyuz mission are also on display.

Mercury-Redstone 2's capsule

Gemini 11' capsule

The Apollo-Soyuz capsule

A Lockheed A-12 Blackbird (two-seater)

An ex-United Airlines DC-8

We then headed to the hotel before heading out to Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Amoeba Music is the largest independent record store in the world. Needless to say, Schuyler spent up big.

Well that's it for Day 33...Whew!