As you may have noticed from some of my previous posts, when I have some time off, I'm usually pretty good about cramming as much as possible into the time I have available. The last few days were no exception.The original itinerary called for me to travel down to LA, meet my Dad, go to Mojave and then on to Bakersfield for a Moody Blues concert. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond his control, my Dad was unable to make the trip out to the West Coast. So, some swift schedule changes were required.
I called Mike and asked him if he would be interested in a front row ticket to the Moody Blues concert. He gladly accepted after I explained the situation to him. I tossed in a trip to Mojave and he was sold. But of course, it wasn't that simple. See Mike had been told by his employers that he needed to go to London soon...they just didn't know when. Almost the same hour that I mentioned the concert, they told him it looked like he would be leaving on Tuesday.....the day of the concert. Oh Murphy, your law is deserving of its reputation.
But at the last minute, a reprieve! Mike's trip was delayed until further notice (more on that later.) So with that part of the trip solidifed, I prepared for my journey south.
I left on Sunday, around noon, and pointed my golden stallion south. Five uneventful and dull hours later, I was in Buena Park at the Radisson, my home for the next two nights. The hotel was right next to Knott's Berry Farm, and I could hear the rollercoasters. Coincidentally, it was right down the street from Medieval Times, where Deanne, Mike, Quinn and I had spent an evening almost 5 years ago on our roadtrip. I had a great steak dinner at the hotel restaurant and hit the hay.
I spent Monday morning visiting with Tricia and then went on to my favorite destination in LA: the In 'n' Out Burger at LAX. I'm sure many of you have seen the photos I've taken there before, but everytime I'm anywhere near LA, I make it a point to visit. I find it very relaxing, and believe me, I need to relax after battling the 405 to get there and then back to my hotel. While I was there I was emailing back and forth with Mike to establish a meeting point for tomorrow. I mentioned that I was at the end of the runway, and he replied with "Dick." I think he was jealous. Tricia stopped by that evening and we had a drink in the hotel bar.
The next morning I woke early, checked out, and hit the road. I had to meet Mike at the I5-Hwy58 junction at noon, and I had no idea what traffic would be like. Well it sucked. Forunately, I gave myself way more time than I actually needed (as always) and my trip over the Grapevine was uneventful. We met at the Starbucks, with Mike arriving exactly at noon. We made a quick stop at Starbucks before beginning the next leg of the journey.
Our route took us through the lovely and picturesque town of Bakersfield. If your sarcasm detector is off, let me calibrate it for you: Bakersfield is a f**king shithole. More on that later. We drove along 58 which parallels several major rail junctions. Mike, of course, was in his element, giving me detailed explanations of how they configure the engines and cars for maximum efficiency. It was cool mainly to the fact that around each corner we were given a practical demonstration of what he was talking about.
We arrived in Mojave around an hour later and made our way straight to the Voyager Restaurant. As I've mentioned before, the restaurant overlooks the flightline at Mojave and each table has an ATC radio reciever. I think it was at this point Mike fell under Mojave's spell and he said "Dude, if I had a plane, I'd be flying down here every weekend for lunch." So would I, Mike, so would I. We had a quick lunch before heading out to the ramp to take a look at a Southwest 737 that was slowly being dismantled. We decided it would be neat to take the tour that the airport operates so we headed to the administration office where we were told that we would have to wait forty minutes. So we began walking around the field to kill time. We stumbled across what we think was a DC-10 engine up on a FedEx palette. Strange.
We drove around a bit before heading back to the office. The tour is done by fuelers and we were greeted by an 18 year veteran of the Mojave Airport. The three of us piled into a van and headed out to the field. We weren't entirely sure if we would be allowed to take photos or not, but it soon became clear that it would be ok. We went out along the ramp and right into the storage areas. Incredible. It was fascinating to be so close to all these aircraft that I have only previously seen from afar. We also had the chance to go by the far storage area which I have never been anywhere near. Corrosion Corner, as it's known, contains aircraft that have been in storage for more than 30 years. The tour lasted about 30 minuted and was absolutely rivetting. We took over 100 photos between us. After buying some schwag, we headed over to the northwest side of the field where you can get close to some of the other stored a/c. We messed around on the traintracks for a bit, with Mike taking some neat shots down by placing the camera on the rail. After gassing up, we hit the road, back towards Bakersfield.
We made the hour long drive back to Bakersfield, during which Mike took one of his patented power naps. Now as I mentioned before, Bakersfield is the biggest dump. The concert was due to be held at the Fox Theater in downtown Bakersfield. The city itself seems to be stuck in 1972; it's dingy and unpleasant. We managed to find a parking spot and went off in search of dinner. HA! Yeah, right, try finding anywhere to eat in downtown Bakersfield that's not a shitty bar. We eventually found a disgusting little chinese restaurant that we agreed upon with great reluctance. Once we sat down, Mike suddenly realized they might not take credit cards. We asked the owner, and they didn't! Oh hallelujah, our get out of jail free card. We bolted "in search of an ATM" and agreed never to set foot inside that mysteriously sticky restaurant again. In our search for an ATM we happened to spot a restaurant called Gumbeaux's - we took a look at the specials board outside and it looked promising. But with our previous experience, we were cautious. We poked our head inside and were greeted by the music of the Moody Blues and a chick with blue hair, neither of which I've ever seen in a restaurant.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at this New Orleans style restaurant, and the blue haired waitress explained that whenever there's a concert in town, they always play a CD or DVD of the featured band. Nice touch. As the night went on, the place begin to fill with middle-aged concertgoers. It became clear we were all in Bakersfield for one reason...and it wasn't for the scenery. Mike and I went back to the car briefly to check in with wives and drop off cameras, cellphones, PDAs and the like. We got in line outside the theater about 10 minutes before the doors opened.
The theater itself was gorgeous. There's been a massive restoration program in place for the last several years and it certainly shows. The interior of the theater was spacious and impressive. One might even say "grand." As we took our seats, my first impression was "Holy Crap we're close to the stage."
Front row seats will do that to you. We settled in and waited for the show to begin. Now we assumed that photography and the like would not be allowed and would result in ejection from the concert. But there seemed to be an awful lot of people with cameras sitting around us. Actually, the people sitting around us put my Moody Blues fandom to shame. These people were HARDCORE. Most of them were going to every single show on the tour. One lady even offered us $50 each to switch seats with us so she could have the aisle. I said she had to add an extra zero before I would move anywhere.
The band came out a little after 8pm and the first half was fantastic. It was weird to be so close. Yes, weird. You see all the little nuances and subtleties that you don't notice in normal seats. Like how John Lodge sweats profusely and is getting fat. Or how Justin Hayward completely spaces out (or concentrates intensely) when he's not singing. He also makes faces when he sings, but I noticed that from some of the DVDs I've seen. Their new flautist continues to be a dynamic presence, she really kicks the show up a notch. A kilt-wearing fan was handing out blue glowsticks to everyone for "The Other Side of Life" which always goes down well.
It's been said recently that the first half of Moody Blues concerts can sometimes be a little flat. This concert was no exception. The songs were great and the performances were great, but the bandmembers didn't seem to really get into it. I was prepared for that though, so it didn't really faze me. At the interval Mike and I were determined to join all the people who were blatantly taking photos. I ran to my car and got Mike's camera, PDA and cellphone. He calibrated all three during the intermission and when the band came back on for the second set, we were ready to go. The second half was fantastic, much more energetic, much more lively and the guys were clearly enjoying it. You can't beat hearing "Story in Your Eyes" or "Higher and Higher" live - the latter is even better as Graeme Edge goes completely berserk during the chorus.
As the concert drew to a close, the legions of hardcore fans surged towards the stage for "Question." It was really neat to hear the entire place singing along. They came back on for the encore which, without fail, is "Ride My Seesaw." We gathered up our schwag and headed for the door with the sea of inebriated middle-aged fans. Mike had managed to capture some fantastic photos AND video clips on his array of devices. Back in the car, we made the short trip back to the I5-Hwy58 junction where Mike had left his truck. Of course the Starbucks was closed, so it was gas station coffee that was to be our company on our respective rides home. We said our farewells and Mike headed North, I headed South, to my hotel room at LAX.
Two and a half exhausting hours later I arrived at LAX. Caltrans had decided to shut the ENTIRE freeway down at Santa Clarita, so we all had to get off the freeway and take a detour through downtown Santa Clarita.
I arrived at my hotel absolutely exhausted and asked for a room overlooking the airport. I went up to my room, opened the curtains, went "whatever" and then fell asleep. My room DID look over the airport, but the windows were so filthy that it wasn't really worth it. I had breakfast the next morning at the hotel restaurant, which was swarming with flight deck and cabin crew from various airlines. Of course I couldn't possibly be this close to LAX and not spend an hour or two at the In 'n' Out which was less than a mile down the streeet. So I checked out of my room, piled into my car and made my last call at the end of the runway. After an hour or two I decided to hit the road for my the final jaunt over the grapevine on this trip. After five dull, uninteresting hours, I arrived home, very glad to see Deanne and the cats.
I like Southern California a lot....but next time, I'm going to fly.
Oh and Mike's trip to England? The day after he got back, he received a call from a co-worker at about 11pm at night saying they were leaving for England the following day. He's there right now.
Photos can be found here