(MOVIE VIEWING PLANNING: GREASE, DIE HARD, LIVE AND DIE IN LA, AMERICAN GRAFFITI)
Chapter 1: No One Takes Public Transport in LA!
Discovering that Six Flags Magic Mountain was way on the other side of Los Angeles to Anaheim, we decided to stay our last few nights in Hollywood to be closer to the ‘action’ but of course public transport was never going to get us anywhere at any time! So against my better judgement we decided to hire a car for a couple of days to get us around town. First of all, we met up with P, K and B – G had driven back to San Diego the night before so he could get their car unpacked after their camping trip – and headed to IHOP for pancakes! After breakfast, we played a few games of air hockey and P found her inner 80’s child again as she flogged us on Miss Pacman! Then it was time for the DeMoors to head home and we headed off to Downtown Disney for some last minute souvenirs and sight seeing and find the car rental place. We had certainly come a long way from Big Red to Boring Beige but it had four wheels, airconditioning and a full tank of gas. So J and I checked out of the hotel in Anaheim, located the closest Outlet Shopping Centre that was open (the closest was closed on Tuesdays which was today, 22 June), programmed Simon and took a deep breath and merged into the streams of traffic on the Los Angeles freeways. What was I worried about in relation to driving in LA? I was made for this type of driving – aggressive, fast, quick lane changes – I even mastered an exit from two lanes across just like Cameron Diaz does in ‘My Best Friends Wedding’! Woo hoo! Big Red would have loved it! At the outlet mall, J and I tried to find the last shopping items that we wanted but the centre was so new that only half the shops were open! At least we bought a few things even if joggers for both of us were nowhere to be found. Oh well, time to head to our hotel in Hollywood which turned out to be across the road from the Hollywood Bowl. Unfortunately we missed the next show on there which was a Grease Sing-A-Long! J would have loved that!
After checking in, we decided to explore the area and a few blocks down from where we were staying was Hollywood Boulevard and the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame. With no agenda, we wandered for a few blocks reading the various names and sharing memories and movies and songs that related to that person. And taking a few photos. We passed Michael Jackson’s star and it had coins, photos, letters and cards scattered around it – turns out that it was coming up to the anniversary of his death at the end of the week (and what we saw was nothing compared to the avalanche of messages and flowers that would appear by then!). A few MJ impersonators also passed us – quite tragic in their appearance with red jackets, sequined glove, hat, eyeliner and lipstick – but we were in Hollywood so anything goes I guess! J did want to go to Amoeba Records which has over 250,000 titles covering all genres of music making it one of the largest independents in the world. Located on Sunset Boulevard, J was immediately overwhelmed by the size and spectrum of albums available and he wandered a little lost for a while. Determined to buy a few titles, we perused the rows for about half an hour before J decided that he needed to leave with the selection he had in his hand or we would be there for hours more! By now it was past 9pm and our tummies were grumbling – IHOP was a very long time ago! And we found ourselves at Mel’s Diner which was the location for the film ‘American Graffiti’, on the Sunset Strip just off Hollywood Boulevard. We both had hamburgers which were their speciality, but for dessert, I finally had my cherry pie! Dee-licious! Weary after walking around Hollywood, we made our way back to the hotel for a well deserved sleep!
Chapter 2: Six Flags Magic Mountain + Four Rides = All 40 Rollercoasters Ridden!
In our car, ‘The Boring Beige’, we set off relatively early for the 30 minute drive north of LA towards Valencia where Six Flags Magic Mountain. So many roads and exits in LA, poor Simon was on repeat telling us to “keep left”! Finally we saw the rollercoasters reaching for the sky and it was with bittersweet relief that we pulled into the carpark of the last themepark of our expedition that meant I would be riding my 40th coaster, last ride and that our holiday was nearly over! (Awwwww I hear you all say!) J and I were season pass holders and today, Wednesday 23 June was the first day of school holidays for many so we still had to dodge large groups of kids queuing in their one colour / logo / slogan tshirts to find our ‘by-pass the ticket queues’ line – but that didn’t stop delays at security as we had to go through metal detectors and have our bags searched before entering the park. Once inside, we had the mandatory park photo, grabbed a map and headed straight for the Flash-Pass – to queue again! As this was the last themepark, we decided to splash out on a Flash Pass for me to get through as many rides as possible. Using what is eessentially a beeper, the Flash Pass is like a virtual placeholder. They calculate the amount of time you would have waited in line, then vibrate and flash a text message when it's time to report to the ride - while you're off doing other things. We had encountered the Flash Pass and its various forms at all the parks we’d been too and it was always a little disheartening to see people appear to jump to the head of the queue! But apparently it is fair because guests using the device wait the same amount of time as those in the queue; they just don't have to suffer in infernal lines. While the explanation sounds convincing, it still feels as if you are pulling a fast one when you sashay up the special Flash Pass entrance and walk past the huddled masses to the front of the line. Having said that, it was incredibly satisfying to skip a one- or two-hour queue and hop aboard a popular ride! So the pass we ‘hired’ was Platinum which cut the waiting time by 90%, so if the queue was a one hour wait, I only need to wait 6 minutes! And on all rides except the X2 (more about that later), I could ride for a second straight time without queuing again!!! Just stay in my seat and really annoy those in the line who have to wait once more…. Anyways, another reason for splashing out on the Flash Pass was to reserve a seat on the X2 ride which is the craziest rollercoaster and so popular that it normally has 1.5 to 3 hour long lines to ride it. Of course they slug you for an additional amount of money to do that, but I figured I had come too far in my quest to not include the X2 in my tally! So booked in to ride at 12:30pm, I had a bit over an hour to ride a few of the less popular rides. Selecting from the list in my Flash Pass beeper, I queue-jumped a couple of rides before we headed over to X2. Ride number 37 was going to be a doozie! Strict instructions were to be there 10 minutes before ride time so leaving J to his own devices, I waited with the other Flash Passers for our X2 guide to take us up the back entrance. The anticipation was building as we watched the ride go a few times as we edged closer to our launch time. Finally I was at the gate, and next to get on X2 when they emptied the train and sent it out around on its own! Soon 12:30pm turned into 1pm and with the queue getting longer, and dreading that the ride had broken down JUST AS I WAS ABOUT TO RIDE (caps means outrage…) we found out that they had had to reload the soundtrack that plays through the speakers located behind your head on the ride’s seats and we were all systems GO to enter the 4th dimension!
After the 2 + minute ride, and with shaky legs I hopped off the X2 and made my way out to J. I met him at the photo booth for the most hilarious of my coaster photos because I am actually screaming my lungs out for the duration of the ride which is in stark contrast where I normally giggle and chuckle through the inversions and loops! He asked me what I thought of the ride and to be honest, I was so spun out by the ride, I just couldn’t gather my thoughts to describe what I had just been through! The reason is that X2 is a one-of-a-kind roller coaster which is billed as being a 4th dimensional thrill. Unlike traditional coasters where the trains only parallel the track, X2 riders are harnessed into seats that spin independently 360-degree forwards or backwards on a separate axis – creating an unprecedented “don't know what to expect next” sensation. Perched on the edge of a massive 20-foot wide (6 metres) wing-shaped vehicle, riders plummet 200 feet (60 metres) to the ground - head-first, face down - and race at 76 mph (122kph) spinning head-over-heels and performing forward and backward acrobatics through the massive 3,610-foot (over 1km) twisted steel maze. Insane!! I needed a little ride break before hitting the last three coasters of the adventure!
So to the last final rides of my conquest – ride #38 was Tatsu, currently the tallest, fastest and longest flying coaster in the world (I rode this one twice in row to the annoyance of some people!).
A flying coaster means that after you are harnessed, the seat is rotated 90° from the upright to a face-down position. The face-down position is kept for the duration of the ride. This is a big coaster, the track is one km long and passes over four areas of the park and features an elevation change of nearly 100 metres. The ride has a maximum speed of 62 mph (100kph) and broke records with a 124-foot (40 metre) pretzel loop. It too was pretty awesome, but just couldn’t compete with X2 even riding it twice in a row! Ride 39 was the newest wooden coaster in the world – Terminator Salvation which only opened 12 months ago. This ride was fun as it had flames and misted water thrown at you plus you also scream past the station ontop of everyone waiting to get on it, but this ride had the best pre-ride lead up of all that I had been on as it was linked into the movie of the same name and being new, had gadgets and interactive action galore. Finally it was time to ride my 40th coaster. A momentous occasion that I just couldn’t decide on one coaster to be THE 40th, so I rode three! #40A was the Riddlers Revenge which was a standing coaster (and the worst channelling of people to a ride that I’ve ever experienced, very messy, but the ride made up for that!), #40B was the Scream! which is a floorless coaster – almost exactly the same as Bizarro at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey! And #40C was Goliath, which I hoped would give me the same rush as Millenium Force from Cedar Point, not as fast but it was still a great way to end my coaster adventure.
On a side note, Magic Mountain's close proximity to downtown Los Angeles, the hub of the American film and television industry, has resulted in its appearance in several productions, usually representing a park other than itself. The debut of Revolution was the focal point of the 1977 release “Rollercoaster”. In 1982, Magic Mountain became the fictional "Walley World" for “National Lampoon's Vacation”, with scenes featuring Revolution and Colossus (each using fictional names). On television, Magic Mountain doubled as the theme park in the opening credits of the television series “Step by Step”. Other TV productions featuring Magic Mountain have included “Entourage”, “CHiPs”, “Wonder Woman” (TV series), “Knight Rider”, and “The King of Queens”. The Band "KISS" also filmed a 1978 television movie titled "KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park" that featured the band members in the park and near the Colossus Rollercoaster. It was also featured in the movie “Zombieland” in 2009.
Chapter 3: Bringing the Boring Beige to Burbank Before Burgers
It was time to farewell Six Flags Magic Mountain and head back to Hollywood for our last night in America. The Boring Beige was to be returned to the Bob Hope Airport at Burbank so we headed in that direction to drop it off and then head back to our hotel via a shuttle service. That trip reminded us of just how large and influential LA is in our subconscious lives because we saw so many locations and scenery that reminded us of movies, tv shows, ads, etc. Once back to our hotel, we needed to buy a few last minute souvenirs for friends and family and J really wanted to experience the In N Out burger. So we put our walking shoes on and hiked down and across to Sunset Boulevard and then back tracked lugging bags of goodies to the In N Out Burger joint. http://www.in-n-out.com ! Wholesome, simple and delicious, In N Out The In-N-Out consists of three burger varieties: hamburger, cheeseburger, and "Double-Double" (double meat/double cheese) with lettuce, tomato, with or without onions and a sauce. That’s it. You can get french fries and sodas, as well as just three flavors of milkshakes. The queue (again) was worth the wait and the burgers were just awesome, washed down with chocolate shakes – kind-of the perfect meal to end the day and the holiday on