Hanging In Hollywood

Hanging In Hollywood

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Hollywood. Where do I begin? Should I start with the fact that I didn’t see anyone famous that I would have liked to? Or something a bit less unfortunate like the fact that we got a tour of the Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers studios? Or that I got a gold top Epiphone Les Paul at a store on Sunset Boulevard? Or, maybe I should just start at the beginning.
    I don’t think many people expect to see a truck with a Maine license plate pulling a thirty foot fifth wheel through the middle of Hollywood. We were going to stay with some friends who manage an apartment building in the Hollywood Hills. They said that they had a space next to the building where we could park the R.V. It took a little while but we eventually managed to get it backed into the said space.

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    One of the first things we did when we stayed there was get a tour of the Paramount Pictures studios. Now our friend knew someone who worked there and we were able to get a free, private tour. I don’t know about you, but in my book that fits under the “awesome” column. Now we don’t watch that much television, so I didn’t recognize many of the sets we got to go on. I did recognize the set for the Dr. Phil show. I have never seen the show but I have heard of it before. We saw Jane Lynch, but I don’t really know who she is because I don’t watch Glee. Mercy recognized her from a movie she likes. At the end we saw the bench where some of Forrest Gump was filmed.

Paramount (2)Paramount (19)
  

 A few days later we got a tour of Warner Brothers Studios. It wasn’t a private tour like the one at Paramount but was great nonetheless. We saw the set of Two and a Half Men. I’ve only seen the show once but I recognized it immediately. During another part of the tour there was a room with vehicles from a bunch of movies. Every Batmobile, the flying car from Harry Potter, and some others that I didn’t recognize. There was also a whole warehouse full of props that are still used. One that I recognized was One-Eyed Willie’s skeleton from The Goonies. We saw a prop that was used on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. It was a lamp that was on the Black Pearl. We actually found out that our tour guide was an extra in the movie. Towards the end of the tour we stopped at a museum with the original costumes from countless movies and television shows. There were the costumes worn by actors from the Batman movies, the Harry Potter movies and many others. We also saw two of the cast members from The Big Bang Theory. But again, I don’t watch the show so I didn’t recognize them at all. My parents were excited to be on the set of Friends, another show that I have never seen.

Warner Bros (8)

Warner Bros (27)Warner Bros (28)
    One night when we were walking down Hollywood Boulevard, we saw… drumroll please, Emma Stone and Russell Brand. Unfortunately it was only from a distance. I would have liked to see them up close… especially Emma Stone. They were at the premiere of Gangster Squad, but I’m not sure if Russell brand was in that movie so I don’t exactly know why he was there. Not that it really matters though. There was a guy standing behind us who kept trying to get Russell to wave to him, and when Russell didn’t, the guy yelled: “You sucked in Arthur!”

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    One of the last things we did while we were there was go to the Hollywood Wax Museum. They had wax figures of so many movie characters and celebrities. There was one of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Michael Jackson, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones from Men in Black, Davy Jones, Darth Vader, Yoda, even the aliens from Aliens Versus Predator. That’s just to name a few.

Hollywood Wax Museum (4)Hollywood Wax Museum (13)Hollywood Wax Museum (18)
    Later that night, we went to a music store and I bought a gold top Epiphone Les Paul. It was in great condition for a used guitar, and the price was $399. I was told that if it was brand new it would be have been $699. Apparently the store wanted to get rid of it so they lowered the price to $340 and offered a free case! Sold! I can even brag that I bought it on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.

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    Well I can definitely say that it was one of my favorite places to stay. I would also like to thank our friends for letting us stay next to their apartment building and driving us around. I don’t say names in any of my blog posts but you guys know who you are. Don’t tell my parents, but I’m giving you bragging rights.  

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Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Have you ever experienced the majesty of Glacier National Park in Montana? I have, but my plan for the first day we were there did NOT include throwing up outside the visitor center, the Ranger telling me to move into the grass, and spending the whole day sprawled across the back seat reminding my family every 5 minutes that I didn’t feel good. Besides all that, Glacier was amazing! The second day there we planned to do a hike, but the one we wanted to do was along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which we already went on, so it would be the same view. (Not to mention it was really windy!) The Going-to-the-Sun Road is the most famous road in Glacier. It runs from the west to the east entrances. On that road we saw 2 mountain goats and 2 bighorn sheep.They were so cute!!!

Big Horns
Big Horns

So that day we just drove around the park and stopped to take pictures and admire the views. Scientists predict that all the glaciers will be gone by the year 2030. They are all melting faster than they normally would, because of Global Warming. One of the glaciers we saw was called Jackson Glacier, it was absolutely breathtaking!

Jackson Glacier
Jackson Glacier

There were also unbelievably clear lakes. My favorite was called Lake McDonald, which is the largest lake in Glacier. It was formed during the last ice age ten thousand years ago. Huge glaciers slowly pushed down the mountain taking rock, dirt and other debris with it, when the ice melted it became Lake McDonald.

Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald

The last day we were there we finally did a hike. It was called Avalanche trail because it leads to Avalanche Lake. The hike was 4.8 miles round trip and it was very cool. When we come off the trail we saw a big lake surrounded by mountains and one of the mountains had a massive waterfall flowing off of it. On our way back down, the people in front of us said there was a bear that had just crossed the trail 4 minutes ago. I guess we were too late because we didn’t see it.

Avalanche
Avalanche

On all 3 days we were there we went on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  The weather there was nice, but I would’ve liked it a lot better if it wasn’t so windy. 

Going to the Sun
Going to the Sun
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

   

We spent the past week in Yellowstone National Park. It is one of the places that I have been looking forward to for the whole trip. Combining its breathtaking landscape and all the wildlife including bears, wolves, elk and bison, it is one of my favorite places we have been to.

Yellowstone

The first few nights we stayed in a campground by a river. The only campsite that we liked was on a slight hill and we had to extend the front landing gears on the RV almost as far as they would go to make it level. But aside from this (and the flies) it was a nice campground.

Pebble Creek Campground

After we got settled in we decided to drive up to one of the many visitor centers. Along the way, we saw countless bison in the fields and even on the road. We even saw one of the last animals I was expecting to see on our first day: a grizzly bear. On the way back we also saw a black bear. Here are some of the differences between the two types of bears. Unlike the black bear, the grizzly has a hump on it’s shoulder. The grizzly has smaller ears and its face appears more “dished-in.”
    A few hours later, we learned of an area near our campground where people often saw wolves. When we got there we saw a very large crowd. looking through binoculars and telescopes. We met a woman who monitors wildlife activity in the park who let us look through the telescope she set up (which is much stronger than our binoculars). She even took a short video through the lens with Mercy’s Ipod. There were two wolves there from the Lamar Canyon Pack. One was the 06 Alpha Female (called 06 because she was born in 2006). and the other was the brother of the alpha male. The female was chomping on the carcass of a dead elk which we learned was killed the night before. While she was eating, the male appeared to be keeping watch. When I looked at him through the telescope he seemed to be staring right at me. The female, we learned was one of the strongest of the pack and she could have killed the elk by herself! Most of the elk had already been eaten and you could see most of its bones, and some skin.
    The next day as we were driving out of the campground to explore more of the park, we saw another black bear. It was noticeably close to our campsite! We had to wait until the bear left before we were able to leave. That same night my mom found a pair of elk antlers near our campsite. During our stay in the park we saw a total of four bears! Three black and one grizzly. and three wolves.

Look what I foundOld FaithfulThe next day we left the campground and stayed at another one just outside of the park. While we stayed there, we went to watch a geyser called “Old Faithful” erupt.  There ware a lot of geysers and hot springs in that area of the park. This is because the park is on a volcano.  Almost everywhere in that area I saw signs that said the ground is unsafe to walk on because it could crack and release extreme heat, which is why they had put up wooden walkways instead. Hot SpringWhenever we walked by a hot spring, the steam smelled like spaghetti in a pot of boiling water. One of my favorite hydrothermal features we saw were mud pots. It was basically a pit of boiling mud.Mud Pots

Okay, here is the most frustrating parts of our visit to Yellowstone.  On Wednesday we went to see Grand Teton National Park, which is very close to Yellowstone. We were only planning on doing a day trip there so we left the RV at the campground. We arrive at one of the visitor centers, watch the presentation in the amphitheater do everything else we do at visitor centers. We are about to drive somewhere else in the park when the truck won’t start! This was very surprising due to the fact that we had just gotten a new battery. We figured we would just need a jump start but not even that would work. We had to call a towing company and wait five hours for a truck to arrive. We left Daisy in the truck while we all crammed into the cab. It was a good thing we brought the dog because we realized we would need to spend the night. We were able to get a room at Motel 6. The next morning we found out what the problem with the truck was and had to get the starter replaced. Aside from that “slight” inconvenience, Yellowstone was one of my favorite places so far.


No More Deserts

No More Deserts

   

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

I remember before we left on our trip that I was looking forward to seeing the Southwest. One of the main reasons was the Grand Canyon. Now, I think I’ve seen enough. I was looking forward to spending a few WEEKS out here. NOT a few MONTHS. We stayed in the hot, dry desert since the beginning of April! I get the fact that I’m lucky to be doing this but I honestly couldn’t stay out there any longer. Sure there were really cool places. I loved the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks.

Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Zion
Zion

The rock formations were amazing, but eventually everything seemed the same. Deserts, rocks, and canyons. I hadn’t seen rain for months. I’d been out there so long that nothing was special anymore. I remember one day when it was around 115 degrees!
But now we are finally out of the dry, dusty desert. I never could have imagined how glad I was to see something green besides a cactus. Don’t get me wrong, the national parks we stayed at were great, but I could never live in Arizona, New Mexico, or Utah. When we got out of the desert and I saw trees and bodies of water, I was so relieved. A few days ago we were staying at a state park were there are waterfalls. Now we are in Rocky Mountain National Park. Finally, everywhere I look there is not dust, dirt, and rock. I like it that way. 

A Day in the Life of a True Blue Southerner

A Day in the Life of a True Blue Southerner

I once told my kids that when the genie asks for my 3 wishes, one of the three would include the chance to live a day in the life of everyone.  It certainly wasn’t the answer they expected to hear and definitely made for some interesting conversation.   That was a few years ago. Truth be told, I frequently ponder that wish, most often while traveling.   Passing through cities I may glance upon a high-rise and wonder;  Who lives there?  What do they do?  What have they experienced?  Who do they love?  Are they happy?  Or, it may be while passing by an immaculate country home,  a gated mansion, a working farm, a run-down trailer in a low-income trailer park.  Up until we set out on this trip, I always imagined my wish taking place in the present lives of ordinary and extraordinary people (well, with the exception of maybe Janis Joplin). But now, I am taking my wish back in time.

Traveling through the south has been a very eye-opening experience for me personally. From Indian burial grounds to slave territory, civil war battlegrounds to the civil rights movement, the birthplace of jazz to the heart of  blues, I am constantly envisioning and imagining myself in the skin of those who experienced life during these different eras and events.

Highway 61

The historical road running north and south following the Mississippi River from Louisiana to Minnesota.  Also referred to  as “The Great River Road”  or the more familiar, ” Blues Highway”.  We did travel north along a portion of this road, and unlike Bob Dylan, I don’t feel the need to re-visit. Perhaps my expectations were too high.( After all, I was just coming from New Orleans where I was wishfully in a smoke-filled bar on Bourbon Street witnessing  Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday wow the crowd.) Expecting to see an abundance of jukejoints and the likes, I was disappointed and saddened to bear witness to the undesirable sites along the way. Factories spewing fumes into the air, run down homes and boarded up family businesses made for some depressing scenery.  Not to mention acres and acres of unkept fields, capable of providing enough crops to feed an army.  Through it all though, I found myself sitting on a  front porch,  slapping my knee to the beat of the weathered instruments being played by my neighbors while belting out some melodic bluesy songs about life in the south.

Natchez Trace Parkway

A 444 mile historical path running from Mississippi to Tennessee. First created and used  by Native Americans, later to be the travel route for traders and explorers, the parkway is now a scenic drive devoid of modern-day necessities and conveniences.  The fact that the campgrounds along the Trace are all free made it even more enticing and we spent a few days exploring the trails and the surrounding towns.  One historical landmark that the kids particularly enjoyed was an old Inn, built in the late 1700s, much of it still preserved.   Run by a woman widowed twice with 10 kids, travelers were charged 25 cents for a place to sleep and a hot meal.  I  immediately removed myself from that scenario once the number of children she bore was mentioned!

A short distance off The Trace we encountered an incredible site seemingly very out-of-place today, yet still a reminder of  the changes our country has gone through. The ruins of an Antebellum Home, constructed by slave labor, Gothic in structure and set back in the woods was breathtaking. How fun to host and entertain  in my own mansion. I’m guessing I wouldn’t really have to break a sweat as I am the wife of a wealthy landowner, in Mississippi, during the slave years.

Montgomery

The capital of Alabama and a  major site of events in The Civil Rights Movement, we spent a day there so River could complete a project for English class.  The museums, along with a self guided tour through the city provided us with more than enough education about the struggles for equality in the 1960s.  MLK spent his time there during the bus boycott and The Freedom Riders encountered a violent mob scene upon their arrival. Try as I may, I can’t fathom being consumed with that much hatred.  Likewise, I may be second guessing my decision to stand up for what is right as my life is in great danger.  

Nashville

Not being much of  country music fans, and having been to Nashville before, our stay was short. Apparantly, there are two sites for The Grande Ole Opry.  We happened to be camped by the “out of season” one.  In addition, due to major flooding in 2010, many areas were still closed or being re-built. Nonetheless, I was gracing the stage as Lorretta Lynn singing” Coal Miners Daughter” while Mercy was hoping to bump into Miley Cyrus somewhere outside the Gaylord Opreyland Hotel.

Just north of Nashville is where Mercy and I went hunting for Civil War relics.  Although the finds were absolutely amazing, I was holding out for some more personal belongings. Like the wedding band of my young husband or the family keepsake I gave to my son barely old enough to fight in the war between the states.

Memphis

The music, the legends, the food, the fun!  Sometimes I think that it’s a good thing  that we’ve experienced places like New Orleans and Memphis in the off-season, for the kids’ sake. As fun as it would be for Bri and I, I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t enjoy the nightlife when the streets are lined with young tourists taking advantage of the fact that you can order ‘ to go’ beverages in the bars. Furthermore, I don’t know how proud they’d be of their Mom….the gin-soaked bar room queen in Memphis.  You know, the one that tried to take Mick Jagger upstairs for….something!

Good Times in Texas

Good Times in Texas

We are currently at a state park in Texas and a few weeks ago we spent the night in a town called Stockyard Stations in Fort Worth. It is a real historic cowboy town with a lot of stores that sell western clothing and items. I bought a $40 hat at one of them and saw some hats that cost $900! There was also a maze that was featured on The Amazing Race. It was a lot harder than I thought and it took me 15 minutes to complete it, but it took Mercy 28.

I could easily picture what it looked like back then; everyone walking around carrying revolvers.

Twice a day they herd cattle called Longhorns down the street. Their horn span is about six feet, I’m not even that tall! There was also a famous gunfight that was going to be reenacted in a few days but we couldn’t stay that long. I was really disappointed about that, but the live rodeo we saw the night before the Superbowl made up for it. It was at the Cowtown Coliseum, site of  the world’s first indoor rodeo. Let me just tell you, I would go to a rodeo over a football game any day. I think they are much more entertaining. They did things like bull riding, cattle roping, and barrel racing. The rodeo clowns were funny, but I don’t think I would want their job, which is trying to get the bull to go after them. The bull riding was my favorite part. It’s hard to believe how they actually hang on, I don’t think I could. Some of the people in the rodeo are only older than me by a few years. There was even someone there who was younger than me.

That night we stayed at a parking lot that allowed overnight parking. There were a lot of people who were part of the rodeo also staying there. It was different, but fun, and I hope to see some more places like that.

Treasures in Tennessee

Treasures in Tennessee

A week ago we went to Tennessee. It was so much fun! We stayed with some friends who live just outside of Nashville. They live on a hill so we had to back the R.V. up the hill. While my dad was driving and my mom and River were directing him, I got to sit inside watching.

We wound up sleeping inside their house (for four nights) because it was freezing outside in the R.V. The majority of the things we did in Tennessee was at their house. First we went panning for gold in the creek they have in the back woods, and found a lot!

Then we went metal detecting with our friend who goes a lot. We got someone’s permission to go on their property but only my mom and I went. We found lots of Civil War relics! We found two bullets one was fired and one was not (I was the first person to touch them in 150 years!!), a square bolt from a wagon wheel or a cannon wheel, a lead poker chip which is just a melted and flattened bullet, a nail, a wire hook (it was used to hold the wire on a fence in place on the so the livestock wouldn’t escape), a clip to hold a soldiers sleeping bag in place, and a piece of a camp tool. We also saw rocks that were arranged in a circle and we were told that they used to be camp fires. They were all from the Civil War!!

The next day we went in the back woods to explore. We saw three caves and I went in two of them. One of them was a coyote den! We knew because there was coyote scat everywhere! In that one there was also stalactites in it! I was a little bit scared to go in it and I kept saying can we get out now? Our friend told us that the caves were used for the early settlers to hide from the Indians. 

I liked Tennessee a lot. It sort of reminded me of Maine in the Fall.