So we’ve given our children the choice of a second-hand vehicle or a trip for their respective Grade12 grad gifts. Jessica’s graduating this year and has decided to go on a trip. She was originally thinking of going to Europe, but could not find a travel buddy who could commit to going with her. So after some thought she comes to me with this suggestion…
Category: 2014.07 – Jessica’s Grad Gift
To preface this story…
…I must start with my own interests: I have been a Star Trek fan for roughly 25 years. (I am also a Star Wars fan…let the debates ensue.) I have been trying to gently encourage my children’s interest towards these same stories, with little success; until recently. Last year my daughter suddenly expresses a desire to start watching Star Trek; this of course is after watching J. J. Abrams’ redux, but she decides she wants to watch in order of series release; in other words, starting from the Classic Trek. Okay, I’m down with that – ecstatic, in fact. At time of writing this entry (May) we’ve gotten to season 6 of TNG and season 1 of DS9. Now my ST/SW geekiness is not reserved for the movies/tv series; I have all the novels, too.
My daughter comes to me last fall, well after we’d started watching the series,and says she knows where she’d like to go for her grad gift trip. Las Vegas. I’m a little surprised at this, but okay, and ask why Vegas. She says, “I want to go to the Star Trek Convention.” I’m pretty sure my eyes popped at this; in my head I’m thinking ‘but that’s MY trip!’ But okay, that’s fine; I ask her if she has a travel buddy in mind who would be able to go with her (she’s only 18 so we won’t let her travel alone outside the country just yet). She says yes, I want you to go with me. My response: me?! She says yes. Long pause…Are you sure? This is your grad trip, do you really want your mother with you? She says yes. Now, inside I’m flipping out; my daughter’s grad trip is my dream come true.
It gets better. The tickets come on sale, we go online to choose our package (Gold), and before I hit the confirm purchase button I look at her and ask her one more time, “Are you sure you want me to go with you? It’s okay if you’d rather travel with one of your friends. Because if we agree now that I’m going with you and we buy these tickets there’s no turning back.” She says, “Yes, I want you to come with me!” I ask why? She says, “Because I think we’d have fun together.” I’m telling you, my heart just burst. I have no idea what I did to deserve this beautiful person in my life. She has turned our gift to her into a gift for me. So we’re making it the best we can, in recognition we may not get this chance again for some time to come.
We’re going for the full four days of the convention, plus the early registration the night before the first day. And in costume (Jess at least; for me it depends if I can find suitable costumes for my less than desirable frame). Then we’re going to spend a few more days going horseback riding, visiting antique book stores, going to see a show, etcetera. And, if we can swing tickets, we’re going to drive to LA for a day to see The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson while we still have the chance (he’s supposed to be leaving the show in December).
I honestly don’t know which of us is more excited!
Update: Yes, we’ve scored tickets for Craig! Leaving a couple days earlier than originally planned to accommodate that part of the trip as Craig is on hiatus in August…
Road Trip – Craig-Craig-Craig! Geoff-Geoff-Geoff!
Morning uneventful; good buffet breakfast at the Luxor before leaving. Found water for less than $4.50 a bottle at Walgreen’s before getting on the road. To where, you might ask. I’ll get to that.
Our drive this day takes us southbound on the I15. We saw many things but stopped for none of them, for we were on a tight schedule. Why, you might ask. I’m getting there.
After driving through what I might describe as a sketchy part of Los Angeles — now you know the where — we arrived at our hotel in Pasadena called Farmer’s Daughter on Fairfax Avenue. It’s a rustic little motel-type place, very charming; Jessica and I both liked it as soon as we walked in. No time to actually check in though; we valeted the car, checked our bags at the door, threw some sunscreen on, walked across the street and got in line –wait for it — for The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
Yes, you read me right. Jessica and I took a road trip to L.A. just to see a taping of Craig’s show before he signs off for the last time in December. And we were not disappointed. Not only was Ryan, the audience guy, awesome, and Bob, the warm up comedian, funny, and Craig and Geoff fantastic, but we also got to tape two episodes and see both Simon Pegg and Daniel Radcliffe! And we got to sit in the front row of seats, too! As audience members we had to do a lot of cheering and clapping, so our throats are a little raw now, but as I’ve already said, totally worth it!
In our mad rush to get to L.A. on time we did not stop for lunch, so by the time we got out of the show we were pretty hungry. Choosing to stay at Farmer’s Daughter turned out to be a fantastic choice. They have an on-site restaurant called Tart where we ate supper; the food was wonderful! Jessica had a blue cheese burger with fries and I had pan fried halibut in tomato consommé. Wow! Then we discovered there’s a Farmers Market literally right across the street, so we decided to go for a walk there and see if we could find some dessert. The place is more like an open-air mall. It was huge. We toured around pretty much the entire site before deciding to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dessert, you know, to get our Penny on, but the wait time was too long (half an hour; we’d had a long day already). So instead we went to a couple candy stores and a bakery and, well, truthfully we overdid it in the dessert department.
Now we’re exhausted. Heading back to Vegas tomorrow at a much slower pace so that we can get some photographs and stop for lunch. Later!
Peggy Sue, Star Trek too
Headed back to Vegas today, but first we got to sleep in a little. We had another wonderful meal at Tart, mailed a postcard to Grandma Guigon in a Sponge Bob mailbox, stopped at Target to try and pick something up for Monique (no luck finding it though), and then got on the crazy busy road out of L.A.
Driving the highway is a little ridiculous. They do have signage directing slower traffic to stay in the right lane; very few people actually did. Many ended up passing on the right, which although legal still bothered me. We got a bit of a laugh from the sign that warned the speed limit was enforced by aircraft; we wondered how exactly that worked…
Jessica and I had agreed yesterday that we wanted to stop for lunch at Peggy Sue’s Diner in Yermo, California. So glad we did! Very cool place with authentic memorabilia. The food was decent, the service classic. The servers were dressed in ’50s style dresses. They have a fully stocked gift shop and a lovely little green space with pools and statues of dinosaurs and a giant gorilla (presumably King Kong). This stop was perfect and we highly recommend it.
By the time we got to Las Vegas, dropped the car off, and arrived at the Rio it was 6:00 p.m. and the place was packed. It took a good half hour to check in, after which we stood in line to pre-register for the Star Trek Convention for at least another 15 minutes. We got our lanyards and went through our welcome envelopes before going to check out the Vendors Room.
It did not really sink in where we were, what we were doing, and who we were likely to meet until we went to the vendors room. We walked around in a (predictably) linear pattern, and approached one table about half way through with a picture of Admiral Nechayev and a lady was there minding the table. We started talking to her about Nechayev being a hard-ass Admiral, as she should be, when she piped up, “That’s me.” Both Jessica and I did a double take; this woman had short brown hair and was wearing glasses, but once we actually OPENED our eyes our jaws dropped and we were like, oh, my God, this is Natalija Nogulich! She was wonderful to talk to and very friendly with us, and totally complimented Jessica on her haircut. And Jessica was blown away when she realized Natalija also played Griswald’s boss’s wife in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
After geeking out with Natalija we moved on and then turned a corner, where I did a double take as I recognized another actor, this one from Battlestar Galactica. I think I pretty much started giggling and fan-girling when I recognized Richard Hatch because Jessica just stood there and watched me with this smile on her face while I babbled with him. And then I realized Herbert Jefferson, Jr., — the original Boomer– was in the booth right there too. You KNOW I had to get a picture with both if them! Both Jess and I were still a little dazed when we returned to our room. What a great start to our weekend.
Let the Star Trek Convention 2014 begin! The Gold level pass lets us go straight in, gives us assigned seating in the main room throughout the entire weekend, special ‘gifts’ and discounts from certain vendors, entry into two parties and the Nevada Pops performance, and 13 autographs at no extra charge.
We planned to start our day with a photo op and autograph session with John De Lancie (Q). But first, breakfast. We got up early, went to Hash House a Go Go (yes, weird name) and discovered a really long wait line. We figured it would be cutting it too close to our photo op time if we went there, so Starbucks became our default. We get in line for Starbucks and while waiting chat it up with our neighbours, a couple of photo op room volunteers. What do we learn? That John De Lancie cancelled his appearance at the convention last night. Nooooooooo! Damn it…we hope he’s okay. Then we find out that Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisko) and Scarlett Pomers (Naomi Wildman) also had to back out for medical reasons.
Upon receiving this news it occurred to us that we now had more time for breakfast, so Hash House a Go Go it was. We got in line, noticed all these posted praises of the place by famous people on the walls, got seated, ordered our food and Holy Hell, you’ve got to be kidding me! The food was just fine, but the portion sizes were insane! Now, I don’t know about you, but when I read ‘flapjacks’ I envision smallish, palm-sized cakes; pancakes are the larger, two-hand sized cakes. I ordered the blueberry pecan flapjacks and got a MONSTER-sized pancake! I did not get through more than a quarter of that thing, which actually impressed Jessica because she predicted I wouldn’t get past a sixth of it. I mean, it was so big, they used whole pecans, not chopped pecans. Crazy!
We got out of there and continued our planned day: visit the vendors room, get photo ops, autographs, etcetera. Photo ops of the day were with: Brent Spiner (Data/Lor/Nunien Soong) LeVar Burton (Geordi Laforge), Michael Dorn (Worf), Karl Urban (Leonard McCoy), Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar/Sela), Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher), and Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi). We saw two of The Next Generation panels; for some reason they separated the guys from the girls. Entertaining, nonetheless. The girls were actually more hyper than the guys. We had bought tickets to the Borg Resistance is Futile Bingo, but the TNG girls panel went late, which made their photo op go late, which should have made us late for the bingo, but when we arrived at the bingo the line was only just starting to be let into the room. The bingo room, by the way, was on the other side of the rather extensive hotel. After not winning any of the very cool stuff up for grabs at the bingo (like the Dr. McCoy doll and the Simon Pegg autograph ticket that Jessica desperately wanted), we went to the Gold Dinner party in the Voodoo Lounge where we listened to the The Enterprise Blues Band, which consisted of Steve Rankin, Vaughn Armstrong, and Casey Biggs. We also met a couple of fellow Canucks from Vancouver, Jeff and Gord.
The dinner party was set up with a fantastic buffet supper, but the dessert table wasn’t set up until later in the evening. In my opinion that was a mistake; they should have had the dessert table set up at the same time as the buffet. Why, you may ask. Because there were some people who were there just for the desserts; people started lining up an hour before the desserts even came out. There was one lady who was making a point of ensuring that anyone who came looking by the dessert table knew exactly where the line was. Another lady came up while the desserts were being put out to look at the selection, just so she could let her friends know what was there. The woman already in line leans over to let her know where the line ended and the second woman just laid in on her, “I know, I don’t want to get in line, I’m just looking for my friends!” Really snarky. Jess and I just sort of stood back and watched, trying to assess at what point we should step in to prevent blows. It made for an interesting evening, but the best part (besides the band) was seeing Aron Eisenberg (Nog) having a good time just before we left.
So much for an early night…
Friday consisted of obtaining autographs from and photo ops with Denise Crosby, Karl Urban, Tony Todd (Kurn/older Jake Sisko), Rene Auberjonois (Odo), Suzie Plakson (Khelyr/Lady Q), Hana Hatae (Molly O’Brien), Robin Curtis (Saavik), Gwynyth Walsh (Betor), Hallie Todd (Lal), Colm Meaney (Miles O’Brien), Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys), Terri Farrell (Jadzia Dax), and Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko). All of them were awesome but Rene and Tony were our favourites for the day. Jessica describes Rene as a 70-year-old with the energy of a seven year old; he was fun! And Tony was such a gentleman, a real pleasure to chat with.
Dan came up with the idea to bring a really old picture of Karl for his autograph: as Cupid in Hercules. It’s a great, dorky picture. I loved the idea, just wanting to see Karl’s reaction. I got a great laugh from his assistant, but just a little bit of a narrow-eyed expression from Karl. I think he’d had a late night. I think Jessica got more of a reaction from her photo of Karl in Lord of the Rings.
The DS9 panel had Rene, Nana, Terri, Hana, and Colm. The panel that talked specifically about the DS9 “The Visitor” episode had Cirroc Lofton and Tony Todd; we really enjoyed both panels but the second one was very compelling and it was great to hear how Tony prepared himself to play the older Jake, and how Cirroc was able to spread his wings and really show his range as an actor. Now, however, Cirroc owns and operates a restaurant not too far from LAX called Sara’s. Jess and I wish we had know that before we went to LA…
The last panel of the day was the favourite guests panel with Suzie, Gwyneth, Hana, Hallie, and Jerry Hardin (Mark Twain). Yet another fun panel, with Suzie being very chatty. She told wonderful stories, largely having nothing to do with questions posed to her. I managed to screw up enough courage to ask Hallie a question and not sound like an idiot doing it.
We were looking forward to an early night thinking we might get an episode of DS9 in before bed. Yeah, that didn’t happen. This was the first night for the Gold level autograph session, for which we stayed to get Rene’s, Suzie’s, Gwyneth’s, Hallie’s, Hana’s, and Robin’s autographs. We thought having Gold priority meant the autograph lines would be faster, and they probably were faster than waiting as long as the general admission ticket holders had to, but it still took almost two hours to get all the signatures. That’s bad enough, but can you imagine for the actors who had to stay for everyone? Regardless, it was worth it to get Rene to sign our M.A.S.H. DVD, to get to chat briefly with Suzie and express my appreciation of her portrayal of Mrs. Ericson on HIMYM, and to get Hallie Todd to sign our Lizzie Maguire Movie DVD.
By the time we were done the only place left open for supper was the Sports Deli, but the pizza they made for us was really good! And they warmed up the giant chocolate chip cookie for dessert too 🙂
Today was primarily our Voyager and Enterprise day. We started off going to Hash House again for breakfast, this time going with the basic breakfast. That was absolutely the best choice! Nice, simple, eggs, sausages, and a biscuit, reasonably portioned. There was even a little fruit on the side. Mmmmmm.
Photo op with the Enterprise cast: Scott Bakula (Jonathan Archer), Dominic Keating (Lt. Malcolm Reid), Connor Trinear (Trip Tucker), Anthony Montgomery (Travis Mayweather), and John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox). This may be starting to sound redundant, but these guys were so nice and friendly, they all took time to actually shake our hands before the picture was taken. And as a personal bonus, the photo was ready in time to get all of them to sign it! The wait in line for Scott was really long, but worth it. Dominic, Anthony, and Connor were easy to talk to, and John was part of this evening’s Gold autograph session. The panel with these guys was interesting because John was amusingly self-deprecating, Scott had to playfully remind the other guys to be gentlemen and not talk about the women when they aren’t present, and the other three kept harassing Scott about his personal fame. (sigh…love Scott…)
Second photo op with the Voyager cast: Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway), Garret Wang (Henry Kim), Tim Russ (Tuvok), and Ethan Phillips (Neelix). Yet another great group, very inviting and inclusive. Their panel was interesting because of how powerful Kate is, she’s obviously the leader but never seems to fail at including her ‘crew’. Apparently she and Jeri Ryan (Seven-of-Nine/Annika) did not become friends, but when asked about that relationship and how it was on the set she answered very diplomatically and professionally.
Jessica attended the Rom and Nog panel, which consisted of Aren Eisenberg and Max Grodenchik in costume. She said it was totally worth it because these two were funny! I had to miss it; I think I was in one of my photo op lines…
Jessica also managed to get Cirroc Lofton’s autograph today, which was an unplanned personal bonus for her. My unplanned personal bonus was getting an autograph and photo with Lee Arenberg. For those who don’t know, Lee played two different Ferengi on TNG (Bok and Prak) and an alien on Voyager, but also plays Pintel on Pirates of the Caribbean and Leroy/Grumpy on Once Upon a Time. He was wonderful! Such a sweet guy.
And I got to meet and speak briefly with Ethan Phillips when I asked him to sign my Star Trek cook book (which he co-wrote). He pointed out his favourite dish (baked beans). And he expressed an interest in visiting the North. I encouraged that, but warned him off for a couple years due to the extraordinary number of wildfires we’re experiencing this year.
The last stage visit of the day was with Simon Pegg, whom we had seen earlier in the week at the Craig Ferguson show. He was funny and endearing, and forthcoming with answering the questions posed to him. Great show.
We finally had time to go to the seafood buffet for supper tonight, which was really good; almost worth the exorbitant amount of money we paid for it. Afterwards we went to the Star Trek Concert performed by the Nevada Pops 45-piece orchestra. That was fabulous! It is so much more inspiring to hear an orchestra play live. I can’t even describe it.
The dessert party came next, but Jessica and I failed to completely read the description of this event. We went expecting, you know, a selection of desserts befitting the title of ‘Dessert Party;’ what we got was an ice cream party. By this point we were pooped anyway, so we decided to just turn in after taking a browse through the props collection they had on display.
All Good Things…
The last day of the convention was the slowest, but still entertaining. We saw William Shatner live — who came in on crutches having just fallen off an ornery horse the week before. We saw Martok and Gowron, played by J.G.Hertzger and Robert O’Reilly in costume — with sarongs; another in-costume gem of a performance. And got the last of the Gold level autographs. We watched the final auction while getting autographs; the amounts some people will pay for things is wild!
Supper tonight was at the Carnival Buffet, which was better priced than the seafood buffet yet just as good. We followed this by attending the Star Trek Rat Pack performance. The Rat Pack is comprised of Jeffrey Combs, Casey Biggs, Vaughn Armstrong, and Max Grodenchuk, and usually Armin Shimmerman (Quark) as the fifth member; Armin was unavailable this evening, so James Darren (Vic Fontaine) graciously stepped in. These guys are priceless. It turns out Max started the group and writes all the lyrics, which are Star Trek references based, and they are hilarious! Vaughn is a real showman. Casey’s got a great musical performer side to him. Jeffery is a wonderful acoustic guitarist and composer. And James Darren is, well, an original Rat Packer; his voice is so smooth and classic, dreamy. This was a perfect end to the convention.
Laundry, Rare Books, and MGM
Today we checked out of the Rio and checked into the MGM for our final few days in Vegas. Nothing particularly special planned today, other than doing laundry and visiting a rare book store (Bauman’s). The book store was impressively pretentious and had fascinating collections ranging in price as high as $45,000 or more. If I had been allowed time to read the books I could have been there all day. Spent the rest of the day just wandering back up the Strip to our hotel. Vegas is hot.
Git Along, Li’l Doggie
It’s horseback riding day! But that’s later. We’ve got all day to get through first. Finally we were able to sleep in a little bit, which was so nice! Or at least it would have been. Five o’clock in the morning my cell phone rang, waking me up; it was one of those fraudulent automated calls trying to tell me my debit card had been deactivated for security purposes and to enter the card number if I want to re-activate it. I was still half-asleep, but not that out of it. I was annoyed though. I hung up and called my credit card company directly to let them know about the call. Turns out they had just gotten another call minutes before mine from another card holder about the same thing. They confirmed it was a fraudulent call and after a few appropriate security questions confirmed my bank cards were just fine and I could go back to sleep. Which I did — until another number I didn’t recognize tried to call me again at 7:30; I ignored it that time. Then I got up for an appointment I thought I had at 8:45 a.m. I didn’t realize until after I got there that I forgot to set the time zone in my calendar when I entered the appointment so it didn’t adjust when we changed time zones, so I was an hour early for my appointment. Had a little nap poolside while I waited for that, which actually was kind of nice.
Jessica and I finally managed to go for breakfast and then made our way to Luxor to go see the Titanic Exhibit — which is fantastic! I highly recommend seeing it if you’re ever in town. It is so poignant at the end to see the lists of survivors versus losses divided by classes.
Late lunch before getting ready for our sunset horseback riding adventure. Jeff from Wild West Adventures picked us up about 4:00 that afternoon — exactly when they said they would. We had a group of 13 people representing three commonwealth nations — Great Britain, New Zealand, and Canada –and Wyoming and Florida. A 45-minute drive out of town brought us to the working ranch from whence Caesar and Himey saddled us up and guided us on a hour-and-a-half ride through a dry Nevada valley. For such a desolate place it is remarkably beautiful, and we were not disappointed with the sunset!
We were also not disappointed with our guides, who were very amenable and informative. Himey is Caesar’s dad, and he was the strong, silent type, who chatted just fine when approached but otherwise led the pack. Caesar rode up and down the line talking with each of us, very outgoing. Jeff stayed behind at the ranch cooking supper: steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, baked beans, and Apple pie for dessert…it was wonderful! We ended the night with learning how to rope a metal stationary steer. It took some doing, but most of us did eventually get it a few times before we were driven back to our respective hotels. So glad Jessica found this activity! Nevada is hot.