Road Trip Update: Universal Studios & The Road to Vegas

I'm currently on a 6,000 kilometre road trip from Vancouver, BC down the Pacific Coast, into California, sideways to Nevada, and then up again through Utah, Idaho, and Washington State. I'm joined by my dad as copilot, and we'll be gone for two weeks. The car we've chosen for the adventure is my Speed Yellow 2000 Porsche 911 GT3 Aerokit Cup.

Look closely to see the Hollywoodland sign. Originally erected by a property developer as a marketing tool.

A 21st century man - not afraid to ask for info.
Universal Studios: If you're new to the blog, you may want to circle back and read the previous entry as I'm picking up seconds after where I left off. We left Warner Brother Studios, disappointed, and told our TomTom to guide us to Universal Studios. The promised land. The land of more excitement than Warner Brothers. When we arrived after a short drive through Burbank, we immediately knew Universal Studios was going to be a good time. It just had to be. Because parking cost $18. At that point, you just know.

The first bit of the theme park/studios, before you even enter, was called Universal City - basically a mile long stretch of terrible culinary choices and regrettable souvenir purchases. We eventually reached some gates, and loads of people, eager to spend $300+ for special VIP “skip the line” tickets. What this means, is that you're paying for the privilege to go stand in a shorter line. Some very important person you are. You’ll be frustrated, but since the wait times will be 30 minutes instead of 90, it'll be worth it. Just don't expect the private guided tour with a B-list celebrity in hiatus and a flute of Bollinger. 

Fake brasseries and shops at Universal. Boggled the mind.
Just before we paid to enter the Universal, my dad and I had a quick discussion about whether or not to roll the dice. Should we cut our losses and go hang out by the pool in Beverly Hills - a very viable option - or should we give the Hollywood studios another chance at making right. We took a second to decide, and in we went. But right away, we were greeted by a sign that had listed every single major attraction in the park with a little two digit number beside it. 75, 100, 40, 80,… These were minutes. These were waiting times. What have we done.

Since waiting around isn't our thing (although later in the day we were about to become really very good at it), we decided to go scoop some lunch. This was a good decision, as the wait time at the only lunch spot not featuring triple fried everything, Starbucks, only had a 35 minute wait time. But for the first time in my life I didn’t mind, as Starbucks had air-conditioning, and it was an absolute scorcher out. So I grabbed 4 sandwhiches, four drinks, and some desserts, paid 60 US dollars and found a little spot to dive into our tomato mozzarel. This was a good start, but we had yet to do anything that we couldn't have done half a block away from my apartment in downtown Vancouver. 

Flash flood came out of nowhere. We got wet. 
Legends sitting quite undeservingly out in the Cali sun.
Fast forward to us waiting in line for 75 minutes at the first attraction of the day, the legendary Universal Studios “Studio Tour Bus Ride”, and we were smiling. See the thing about the Universal Studios bus tour, is that it is unlike anything you could expect or even imagine. From a flash flood coming right at you in an old western town to a metro train crashing through the walls at an underground metro station, it was all happening, in real life. No simulators. Straight up stuff coming at you. Other highlights included a drive past Bates Motel with real action going on, a drive past a massive commercial airline crash with motors still spinning and the roof ripped off, and the explosions at the heritage site where Jaws was filmed. You know, the little town. The train was great fun. And actually worth the 75-minute wait. Never thought I’d say that.

 After the train ride we got a beer at an Irish Pub in Little England. Everything going well so far. No complaints. Then we made ourselves nauseous at Krustyland on the Simpsons Ride, then a wild outdoor pirate hijacking show called Waterworld, and then finally a Special Effects tutorial. I missed out on the Minions, Despicable Me ride and the apparently “must see” Transformers ride, but all in all, when we left around 7 PM we were both extremely happy that we visited the Universal Studios. Good show. Time to head back to the hotel, have a rooftop dinner, and get a good night's sleep before we hit the highway to the Mojave airplane graveyard and eventually Nevada and the Las Vegas Strip.
A week after the Ukrainian Airplane Disaster. All of a sudden Universal Studios became very real.
The Long Road to Las Vegas: I was aware that the Porsche most likely had some air pockets in the cooling system that was causing it to run a little hot. But some very rapid overheating on short drives through Beverly Hills and Hollywood had me seriously worried about causing permanent damage to the many plastic components in the very compact engine bay. So I rung up Porsche Weissach in Vancouver and spoke to my advisor about the issue. Of course, overheating could be caused by any number of things including a failing water pump, clogged condensers, rusty fans, faulty thermometer or even a faulty gauge. The list goes on. Luckily I had taken the front off of the Porsche this past winter in order to give the radiators and condensers a clean. I also knew they were working properly, and I recently had the coolant thermostat replaced as part of an eye-watering major service the price of a new Ducati motorcycle. So I knew it had to be air pocket related, in part because I performed the most recent coolant flush myself, with the help of my good friend/mechanic extraordinaire, Ben. Is it possible that we didn't burp the system enough? Sure. It was getting dark, and we had been wrenching on the Porsche for an entire afternoon. All systems were go, but of course, it wasn't 42 degrees out in West Van on a cloudy July afternoon.

And it got worse...
These were the thoughts flying through my head on Tuesday morning at breakfast. Would the yellowbird hold up through the Nevada desert? Would it be wise to stop at the Mojave airplane graveyard? Something my dad and I had been wanting to do for as long as I can remember, at the risk of suffocating the engine by having to stop in one of the hottest places on earth? Should we just flatten the throttle from Beverly Hills to Las Vegas with the hope that the airflow will keep the engine happy? A smile grew from the corner of my mouth as I realized that the latter was the correct answer. We got some premium (but dirt cheap - did I mention fuel in the States is ridiculously cheap?) fuel close to the hotel and pointed the yellowbird East. Escort Passport 8500 X50 radar and laser detector working overtime, we flew through the first few hundred kilometres, against morning rush hour traffic, with all the grace of a yellow bird. Ha! But just as we were in the groovy, trance bit of a Deadmau5 "Strobe" and I was finally setting into a happy zone, we hit a dead stop. Traffic jam. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT. There was nothing around us. Not even a house or let alone a spec of green that indicated any sign of "why yes, you may be stuck here but you won't die since there's a tree with shade and perhaps a little creek." No this was bad. So bad I was afraid my temperature gauge indicator stalk would break off in the red. The flat six was screaming, and she wasn't going to put up with it for much longer. Unsure what was causing the very sudden traffic jam (turned out it was construction - in the world's most treacherous, dusty circumstances, hats off to them), and how long it was going to last, I was forced to do the unthinkable. Lower the windows, let in that piping hot 43.5 degree air, turn off the AC, and crank the heat to max in order to suck as much hot air out of the engine bay in order to cool the engine down from 110 degrees to perhaps a more reasonable 90. 
Welcome to Nevada. Thank to the invention of air condition, now inhabitable! 
Well, miraculously, it helped. But when I looked over at my dad who was trying to stay as still as possible, controlling his breathing, and trying to not think too much about the scalding air blowing at him from the vents and the 43.5 degree outside air beginning to feel cool to the touch, I realized this wasn't a tolerable situation. We had nearly consumed all the (now hot) water the valet had given us in BH, and with one swift motion of my dad's hand, he signalled that enough was enough. Forget about the car. Let's just survive. Stop with the madness, put the AC back on, and start worrying about us first, then the car. Luckily for us, traffic cleared just as the needle started to climb again, and two hours later we saw the Vegas Strip on the horizon. What a surreal experience. More on the three days in the city of sin later, including a session at Dream Racing, a racing school at the Last Vegas Speedway where my dad learned to fine-tune his skills on the track in a Ferrari F430 Scuderia (happy belated birthday, dad!). We also pop over to the Hoover Dam, visit the world's largest collector car showroom and do bit of sight seeing around Fremont and the Strip. Thanks for tuning in!