Tues. Mar. 19, 2013:
You could tell I was excited about going to Universal Studios; I woke up before the alarm clock went off. Having learned from the past few days, I gave in to temptation and had the one free in-room coffee. It was great, I had the time to just sit there, munching my Pop Tart and reading my book- getting crumbs all over the bed and in my coffee. We set out, right on time, to catch a bus which just so happened to be right around the corner. It was nice to not have to walk half an hour. What was not so nice was that I am pretty sure there was some blood splattered on the floor beside the entrance. Thankfully we were off that bus soon enough, and the bus we had to catch was waiting at the bus stop. We made great time, partly because we had been taking express buses. The LA transit system is good in that it is cheap and there are lots of express buses. What sucks is that you cannot transfer between buses or having to walk really far.
We did not know where to catch the shuttle bus up to the entrance to Universal Studios so we started walking. Then we saw the shuttle bus passing us going south, we knew it was going to turn around head back up- it was now an uphill race. We won! We beat the shuttle bus and thus the hoard of people all clamoring to get tickets. There was no line-up for tickets, there was however a line-up of people all waiting to get into the park. Every line had annoying children in it. Standing there as time seemed to come to a stand-still was infuriating. Worse still, we were in the line up with the world’s slowest ticket scanner, he had to make small talk and jokes with every single person. Once in the park we were faced with another crowd. This time however we snuck around to the front to see what was going on. They were stopping us from going into the actual park so that they could go over some ground rules. I was not having it, this was the third time we had to wait, being given the false hope that we were in. I kept inching forward, squeezing around people. It was easy because we did not have backpacks or children.
As soon as they finally let us in it was a mad dash of people all speed walking towards the Studio Tour. It quickly turned to running. We left everyone behind in our dust, pulling to the front. Running dow n the escalator was less than thrilling, it was downright scary. But it was all worth it to be the very first person in line. That is, until the attendant asked us to move one queue over and the guy behind us decided to just climb over the ropes while his kids climbed under. We were now second in line. They did get yelled at, so that made me feel a bit better. Even being there first meant nothing; we did not pay extra for front of the line access. We had to wait until they boarded. The kid’s in front of us then ran over to the early access line and were declined entry; it seems they learned from their father.
The tour started out a little bit slow, mostly just parking lots and trucks. For some reason there was a ride in the middle of the tour. Basically the bus got tossed around by King Kong and a giant dinosaur, spra ying us in the face with water for extra drama. From there the tour picked up and got really interesting. We saw fake sets for various locations (New York City, Mexico, Europe). There was the fake lake, where Norman Bates dumped the body in Psycho. We drove down Wysteria Lane from Desperate Housewives. Then they showed us some examples of special effects from movies like Fast & Furious which involved rolling some cars and making some explosions. We got to see the shark from Jaws, along with some more explosions. Then we drove into a fake underground, meant to be the San Francisco subway and they faked an earthquake for us- which also ended with some fiery explosions. The Bates motel from Psycho sits on a lot adjacent to the lot for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, so the whole time in the background you can see the candy-coloured snow-topped roofs. Sadly we did not see any celebrities, even though according to the board by the entrance they were filming a few shows that day, including one of my favourites: The Mindy Project.
The line-up for the Simpsons ride was longer than for the tour. In total we waited about half an hour, but it was an awesome half hour. There are screens throughout playing clips of old episodes of The Simpsons. The ride was really fun, but my hands hurt afterwards from gripping the bar so tightly- which is weird given it was not a real roller coaster. It was one of those rides were the seat moves. Next door to the ride they had built a Kwik-E-Mart that featured the greatest joke of all time. They had name key chains and there was one that was sold out and only the tag was there: Bort. We bought and split a giant “Lard Lad” donut, it was surprisingly good for a giant novelty donut from a souvenir shop in an amusement park.
Hopped up on sugar, we went to the lower level of the park. It was smaller and we figured we could finish it off first. Plus we really wanted to see the movie prop exhibit. Unfortunately it was closed for re-installation. The Transformers ride was right next to it and the line did not seem long at all. At first I thought it was spilling outside of the building, but that was a separate line of people who wanted their photo with a guy dressed as the yellow Transformer. The line was hidden deep inside the building in a maze of hallways with buttons and control panels and the occasional screen showing videos that I did not understand, but that is my lack of any knowledge with regards to Transformers. The only thing I know is the theme song, which was missing in all this. The ride was fun, what else can you expect, you get whipped around really fast, crazy 3D things happen on the screen, you “fly” through the air, things explode- and you get sprayed in the face with water. Universal Studios loves spraying you in the face with water.
There was barely a line-up for the Jurassic Park ride. I was really nervous about this ride; I initially was not going go on it. The ride sounded way too scary for the likes of me. An 84 foot drop was too much for me. Somehow I found myself standing in line, I think what made me change my mind was that it was like a log-ride. I insisted on sitting at the very back and in the middle, so as to be as far away as possible from the water. I screamed. I screamed so loud, my throat hurt. The souvenir photo they took shows me with my mouth agape, screaming and smiling at the same time. I should have bought it, it was hilarious.
We tried to go on the Mummy ride however it was down for repairs. It worked out quite well actually because we had just enough time to go to the upper level for the animal show. We got great seats thanks to not being held back by having kids or bags. The animals were unbelievably cute and talented. The show involved a much wider range of animals, including rats running on a rope, pigs and chickens pulling ropes (to change a lunch menu from pork and chicken) and a falcon flew down from behind the audience. A dog attempted to recycle a can, it took three tries. A cat went up in a basket when a dog pulled a rope. Some guinea pigs ran across the stage, a cat was chased by a dog, a chicken ran by. For the grand finale, a flock of pigeons flew at us, to coops behind the audience. It was a terrifying way to end the show; I have no idea why they would do that to us.
Right next door they were doing a special effects show, and it just so happened to be starting soon after the animal show. Again we got good seats, mostly because we were able to get out of the animal show so fast. There was horribly awkward host banter before the show got under way, however the b anter continued throughout the show. It was easily the crappiest thing we went to all day. The only visual effect that I did not know about was the glass screen in front of the camera to create a fake scene. There were no explosions (they left those for the official tour) and no stunts. It was just green screen and a guy awkwardly flying around the stage on a wire. On our way to lunch we passed by the animal stage again and this time they had one of the animal actors outside for a meet & pet . It was Alex the dog, as seen in We Bought A Zoo. He was so cute and soft and I just wanted to steal him and keep forever.
We tried to go to Mel’s Diner for lunch but it was closed, the sign suggested we try Flinstone’s Bedrock BBQ, but we had just walked by and the place was a child-filled zoo. Instead we kept walking to fake Europe and found a fake French café. We sat on the patio eating sandwiches and a chocolate croissant, why it felt like we were in France! We walked around “Europe” some more, and who did we encounter, but none other than Vin Diesel himself, if he were made of wax. It was uncanny how real the sculpture looked; I thought maybe it was an actor who would periodically scare people half to death?
On our way to see Shrek in 4D (the 4th D apparently refers to getting sprayed in the face with water) I saw a woman get scared half to death and add some weight to my above wax figure theory. She sat down on a bench between two statues to pose for a photo. I had seen this bench earlier in the day, there had been only one sculpture. Sure enough, the other one “came to life”- eliciting a hilarious (to us) reaction from this poor woman. It was nice to get to sit down and watch a short Shrek movie. This one was aimed a you nger audience, so there wasn’t as much movement. Instead of sitting in a roller coaster car, the seats were like regular movie theatre seats that could blow air at your ears and move you up and down. Every time the seat went back down my feet would smack the floor, stupid short legs. After the show there was a waffle hut outside that opened and a mechanical Donkey would make small talk (and terrible jokes) with the crowd gathered around. It was awkward because you could tell that there was someone in the shack, doing the voice.
The haunted house was not that scary because there were so many people. It was a constant stream of people walking through at the same pace. I could see all the actors scaring the people ahead of me. The guy in front of me would periodically stop dead in his tracks scared and I would slam into him. He ended up staying behind and walking slower. Not a single “monster” got me. The only thing that did scare me was when they played the score from Psycho. That gave me goosebumps.
On our way back to the lower level we walked through a fake New York neighbourhood, they had audio piping in of neighbours yelling at each other (as it turns out, there were real people above the storefronts leaning out the windows- I had neglected to look up). The prop museum was still not open, but the Mummy ride was finally fixed. The lineup was long, and there was nothing to entertain us. We were tired and the people around us were insufferable. I was also really uneasy because throughout there were signs warning that this w as an actual roller coaster, not a simulation as all the others had been. I am terrified of roller coasters; I do not handle them very well.
The roller coaster was not as scary as I had expected, it went in one direction then it reversed and went backwards. No upside down loops thankfully. That is not to say that I did not scream. I screamed, a lot, the whole time. I almost lost my voice. I also added to the collection of really bad souvenir photos of me amassing out there. It was the same thing, me screaming my head off while smiling. As we left I caught a glimpse of the schedule. We had just enough time to either go see the Waterworld show or the Blues Brothers show. It was an easy choice, Waterworld of course.
They forewarn that you will get splashed, so we sat at the very top. They were not kidding about that. As the actors tried to get the crowd all riled up they would splash them with buckets of water if they did not cheer loudly enough. They also soaked the people who were coming in late. Brent filled me in on what a horrible movie it was and I set my expectations for the show accordingly. The first half was rather quite boring. People jumping into the water, fake gun shots, some leaking water tanks. Things picked up when a helicopter fake crashed through a wall causing an explosion and some people jumped their jet skis. Then there was the grand finale of the show: a giant explosion.
The bus was at the transit terminal, thank goodness because I was exhausted and dehydrated. The problem came when we tried to catch our connecting bus. We had been let off on the corner where the connecting bus would be turning and so we had to go looking for the stop. We back tracked for a few blocks checking our map. After about 20 minutes we finally got there and realized it was the stop we had mistakenly almost gotten off at. That is the one downside to the express bus, if you have to walk in between stops. Thankfully no bus has passed us in that time. I was about to go into the gas station on the corner for some soda but it was a small crappy one and I decided against it. According to the schedule we still had some time so I sat down on the bench- right then the bus pulled up, fine by me!
We stayed on the bus, going past our hotel. We got off on campus and walked to In N Out burger for dinner. We stopped at CVS for some sodas as well. The selection was less than steller, so I ended up with a Sunkist because I still had some Sierra Mist in a can from the day before (little did I know the cleaners had thrown it out while we were gone!). The walk back to the hotel, burgers in hand, felt like the longest 30 minutes ever, I ended up drinking most of my Sunkist on the walk. I was tired and hungry and all I could think about was biting into my 3×3 and being transported to burger heaven.
When we got to our room our keycards didn’t work, we had to walk all the way back down the hill to sort it out. All I wanted was to eat my burger in peace. Once I finally but into that greasy, cheesey, meaty delight, I was in burger heaven. It was so good, it was epically better than a double double. It was not overkill; it was just the right amount of meat and cheese, just enough to grease through the bag. And of course we topped it off with a chocolate bar for dessert and some good TV (New Girl and Mindy Project were on). Brent got a disheartening email saying our reservation at Chez Panisse later in the week had been cancelled; no reason had been given, just cancelled. I spouted a few conspiracies about rich famous people, but then we looked it up. Apparently there had been an electrical fire under the front porch. In my book there are five sad faces drawn after that.
Day 5 celebrity sightings: one, the dog from We Bought A Zoo, unless you count a Vin Diesel wax statute, then two.