Sunday, July 28, 2013

Los Angeles area, Universal, museum and beach

Los Angeles area, July 2013

What to do with a couple days in the LA area?  Everything!

First up, Universal Studios.  E- and I realized it has probably been 15 years since we visited Universal Studios-What?!?

The best thing we did was get there before opening.  We walked onto the Jurassic Park ride and The Mummy (twice) when later those lines were 40-60 minutes. 

The Simpsons ride is a hoot-though it helps if you are a fan.  The gift shop is pretty awesome as well.  I really really wanted to buy the Homer doughnut but I won't be seeing the folks who would help me eat it for about a week.  Next time!  Near by is a plaza for viewing the valley.

Perhaps the best ride was the Horror House.  This is a good old-fashioned Haunted House.  I didn't really realize that, which is why I thought it sounded fun...luckily for me the five teens in front of us were there to freak out for me.  There are live performers who will not touch you (say the signs) but come awful close.  Holy cow if we did not have the screamers in front of us I would have been the one freaking out-yikes!

E- would say that the best ride of the day was the 'stairs' ride.  So!  Universal is on two levels with the biggest roller coasters on the lower level.  There are 3 loooong escalators to get up and down.  The longest up escalator?  Broken!  So there are the employees, handing you water bottles and cheering you on, like in a race.  I bet the repair guy is feeling the pressure!

Again you get some good views at the top of the stairs.

The Studio Tour is what everyone is there for and it is better than I remember it.  You see actual working studios, sets and the worlds largest green screen.  There are at least four places where the tour turns into a 'ride'.
About to visit King Kong's island

They had to buy a plane ($60K) and ship it ($200K) in order to have it busted up for a disaster set.

My only negative comment is that they are clearly not interested in packing the trolleys completely full and optimizing space.  I get that it would be more work for not much payoff...but we waited 90 minutes and the line was just getting longer.  Even saving folks 10 minutes would be nice!  But that is probably just me and my love of operational efficiency!
Thanks Universal!

Museum of Jurassic Technology

The day after Universal Studios we went to the Museum of Jurassic Technology and they could not be more different.  Photography is not allowed, so you should check out the web site.  I suspect many people who wander in here accidentally hate it or are confused.

I personally loved the exhibits on Athanasius Kircher (operational bell wheel) and the International String Association (instructional cats-cradle video) and the film, The Language of Birds (we were the only ones to see the entire film, 10 other folks came and went throughout the ~20 minutes).  E- particularly enjoyed Lives of Perfect Creatures Dogs of the Soviet Space Program, which I notice has a Viewmaster disk I may need to purchase.

Manhattan Beach

The next day I knew we needed to visit a beach, any beach.  It was still quite gray, so we didn't sit in the sun, but we totally got the beach experience.  We visited Manhattan Beach, home of beach volleyball.  No really!  Later this week is a tournament where they will cram in 50,000 people.  The volleyball nets are always up on the beach and even on this relatively uncrowded day they were busy.

There is a great pier to walk on

Out at sea are a couple of large ships

From the pier you can see the surfers.  Today there was this one standup paddleboarder picking his way among the surfers-pretty interesting.  I wonder if it is easier or harder than regular surfing, seems like it might be easier-you can start in a calm water situation....maybe someday...maybe

We also got to see the beach groomer-the zamboni of the beach

The beach trip ended on a nice note-our parking meter had just run out of time and we were about to get a ticket, but since we had just returned the cop gave us a warning-thanks Manhattan Beach!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Big Fun in Bakersfield CA

Bakersfield CA, July 2013, art museum and natural history museum

We had a little extra time on our trip to SoCal and stopped in Bakersfield-why?  I had never been-what better reason!  Turns out that either the art museum or the natural history museum would be more than worth your investment of a few hours.

We ate our lunch under a tree in Mill Creek Park which had a delightful assortment of families, young couples, retired folks-all enjoying the park.

And we fed the ducks

The park is right next to the Bakersfield Museum of Art.  I like art museums, but usually don't love all the exhibits...this time-I really liked everything!  There are exhibits even in the hallways, so they really get in a lot of art for a not very large building.

One exhibit was still-lives of fruit, like in classic paintings, but with the modern day packaging and stickers left on.  It is a simple change, but effective.  The photography itself was quite good and the exhibit book discussed the lighting set up in depth.

Down one hallway was a progressive story.  The artist had 96 hours to write the first page of a story and paint/draw/create the art to go with it.  Then they hand it off to the next artist who has 96 hours to create the second page.  Neat!  I didn't love the whole, but I like the concept and some of the individual works.

Some past winners of shows were in the hall, like this one that evokes the canyons of the Southwest.  This one totally works for me-I got the feeling before even reading about the concept.

The most surprising gallery for me was on California Impressionism.  Monet was my first love in art class-I still remember going to the MoMA and sitting with the gigantic water lilies.  Turns out, there were Impressionist painters who painted California-who knew!  It is a stunning collection from the Irvine Museum and I was just blown away by how it was a style I think of as French, but with my familiar California landscapes.

Finally, there was a juried competition on display.  This exhibit I loved because it contained such a diversity of styles and interpretations.  Great job curators of the Bakersfield Museum of Art!

Buena Vista Natural History museum
We noticed that the Buena Vista Natural History museum in the middle of downtown and we figured we could get through it in an hour...well, we did, but we could have easily been there for a few more. Again these curators manage to pack a lot into a small space!  Here you can see they found a creative way to display the snake skin by using a ceiling pipe.

On the top floor they have a substantial dinosaur exhibit.  They seem to use every type of presentation available.  In depth notes, dioramas, bones, and full wall paintings...

Don't look up!

Great depiction of the comet

There is a neat exhibit of how the Native American lived-grass hut, basket weaving, clothing and ceremonial singing are all on display.  In between the baskets and the dinos are minerals and geology.  This collection is amazing-so much going on!  I appreciated the collection of state rocks (Wisconsin is in the upper right).

They have a local group for kids interested in geology (couldn't be any cuter!)

And a room dedicated to fluorescent minerals in rocks-the two pictures are the same rocks, just with the UV light off and on. 

The museum sponsors fossil hunting trips-it looked like the next one is to look for shark's teeth...if I lived in the area I would be in it for sure!  If you can't go on the full trip, they let you practice.

In the classic natural history of animals section I was particularly taken with the display of horses hooves.  Back in the day, they were three-toed horses, but they died off and we are left with our single-hooved friends.  There is a nice evolutionary tree diagram and hoof examples!

And finally, you can tell the enthusiasm of these folks by the depth of the collections and the great commentary.

Up in the Sierras

Camp Nelson, July 2013

Part of our summer vacation is time with the family up at Camp Nelson, a small mountain town.  This is really one of those places where you wave at everyone you pass on the road, doesn't matter if you know them or not, you wave!

We had some unusually rainy weather.  This is great because the fire danger is always high in the dry summer, but just so out of character that folks couldn't remember it happening before.  We were trying out the new tent and even though the skies were cloudy, we wanted to take of the fly so that we could let the outdoors in.  It was fine for about 30 minutes and then the big rain started.  We laughed at ourselves for thinking we wouldn't get rained on and E- ran out and struggled the fly back on alone-what a great sport!

A popular drink in Camp Nelson is bubbly lemonade made from the local soda spring.  It has an underlying mineral taste, but mix it with lemonade concentrate and it is the perfect summer refreshment.

The water bubbling up

dip in your container to bring it home.

The sweet peas are in bloom and the bees are into the flowers.

The whole area is in the Sequoia National Forest and there are a couple of spots where you can get to the river.  The only sad thing is there was so much trash!  we packed out as much as we could, but I wish we could have gone another day to get some more-so sad!

You do have to climb down to the river, but at least there are stairs.

And of course we enjoyed the sunsets

There are also a couple of larger animals in the area. 

On the rainy afternoons we hung out inside the cabin, reading and eating all day.  It doesn't get much more vacation-y than that.