Friday, June 29, 2012

Avian States of America

Where has LemurKat been all this time, you ask?

Well, I've been to America. On the 26th May, my husband and I departed from our flat in Christchurch, New Zealand and traveled all the way across the Pacific to engage in an Epic Whirlwind of a Road Trip. Over the next 32 days we visited 10 states (California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon - oh, and we drove through Idaho), drove over 5000 miles and visited 5 different National Parks.

To commemerate, I illustrated the State Birds of most of the States we visited, in the same style as my PDX 2012 design. 

For the States that shared birds with those I had already drawn, I drew instead the State Mammal.

Sorry Montana, I shall have yours finished soon!

 Quality varies because I had to take some of these on the road, and of the six, only two came home with me. As you can see, my scanner does a good job of bringing out the darker lines.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day Thirty One: Hollywood and Medieaval Times

We begin our day with a buffet breakfast at Howard Johnsons, and it is a substantial one - given that is is free (and did I mention that there were cookies when we checked in?). Bagels, pastries, toast, cereal... funny that some of the cheaper motels provide more than the expensive ones. Anyhow, after fueling ourselves up, we set out -

Our first full day in the Los Angeles county began with a visit to the home of the celebrity - Hollywood.
Except, that nowadays Hollywood has lost a lot of its glitz and glamour and is, to be honest, downright shabby.
These streets are no longer home to celebrities, now the only folks that walk them are tourists, hounded by hawkers offering tours of the celebrity neighbourhoods and trips to the sign, amongst other things. We wave them all aside. We find a park without a great deal of difficulty, choosing a street about two blocks parallel to the boulevard of the stars. We walk, we dissuade the hawkers. Although it is only early in the morning, it is working its way up into a hot, dry day - reminding us we are once again in the desert.

It is pratically compulsory to walk the Stars, and photograph a few that catch our eye. I don't see one fror Johnny Depp, I presume he has one? Celebrity impersonators - or rather, celebrity character impersonators loiter outside some of the more touristy ventures. I daren't photograph them, in case they ask me for money. I wonder how much money you can make dressing up as Captain Jack Sparrow, or as a Darth Vader - in platform shoes to make you taller than your Stormtrooper companion?

The fountains at the shopping area prove an almost irresistable lure:

After we tire of walking back and forth, and discovering that none of the more tourist-kitsch ventures appear to be open on a monday, we decide to head off in search for lunch.

Chosen venue - Roscoes House of Chicken and Waffles.
Having had them mentioned to me in Portland by NuttyNanner, I had to admit a certain amount of morbid curiosity. We entered the somewhat dark, and nicely cool confines and were seated in a small side alcove. From the menu we both selected the signature dish - chicken and waffles. From this meal I learned two things - one: chicken and maple syrup do not really complement each other well, and two: a quarter chicken and two waffles are too much for one meal! The best way to eat them seemed to be the chicken first, then the waffles, but after struggling through one, I requested the other to be boxed up - and that was breakfast for tomorrow sorted. After all, we were reaching near the end of our budgets and the end of our food stash.

After that rather filling and slightly odd meal, we struck out for the La Brea tarpits. A park in the center of the city region, where excavation of the earth has unearthed a great number of fossils, preserved in tar, and thus providing a real insight into the early mammalian life of California.
It was indeed very fascinating. The skeletons have all been well preserved, the tar soaking into the bones and protecting it somewhat. Or something technical like that. That's why the skeletons look quite black - it is also the reason why there are a decent number of bird skeletons. With their lightly structured bones, birds skeletons do not survive the test of time as well. If you want the technical details, visit their website:

Cleaning the skeletons is an arduous procedure, but well worth it, I would think.

This is a Giant Ground Sloth.
A species of Condor, in front of an artist interpretation.
The wall of Dire Wolf skulls. Dire wolves are the most common creature unearthed from these pits, and this wall holds over 400 skulls of various shape and size.
Here's what the real critter may have looked like.
Possibly a direwolf, maybe some sort of cat, I cannot recall. Going with predator, anyway!
At work in the Fishbowl lab. This is Zed's tusk. Zed is a Columbian mammoth, unearthed far away, and thus not as dark as the tar-preserved fossils.
A trapped mammoth (or mastodon, I forget the distinctions) trumpets in alarm - but his mate and child can do nothing to help him. Liquid tar is not hot, but it is very thick. With his great weight, there's no way he is ever going to get out of this sticky situation.
A tar pit. The tar just below the soil made us wonder - in a major earthquake, would you get tar liquifaction? And how unpleasant that would be!
Continuing in my tendency to hug statues. Well, it's safer than hugger a real Giant Ground Sloth. Isn't he adorable?
As time rolled on, it was time to leave La Brea behind and begin the long trek to Anaheim. It's only across the other side of the city... But it's an awfully long haul. 

Our hotel is one of the many lining the boulevard opposite Disneyland, and they've lost our booking. We've been doing well so far - no hidden hotel costs, no mixed up bookings, and to fall down at the last minute is almost amusing. The poor girl looks stricken as she flicks through, looking up our reservation number, our name, anything and finding nothing. She looks to one of her co-workers, probably a supervisor for help.

"What do you think you do?" He asks, "you find them a room and book them in."

Yeh, this would have been a more dramatic story had the hotel been booked out. It wasn't. Nowhere we stayed was, excepting the National Parks. It did make us a little later than intended though, and I had already received texts from my friends - Jim and Mistie, to say that they were already at Medieval Times, where we were to meet them for dinner. 

We went into our htoel room, dumped our bags, grabbed out "going out" stuff, and left without much in the way of ceremony.

It was only a hop skip and a jump to Buena Park, except for the fact that our GPS let us down. Again. By insisting that we turn right, instead of left. We drive about six blocks looking for the giant castle, before realising the error and then having to make a U-turn, in the LA area, at rush hour. We do find the venue though, and the first thing we see as we get through the doors (with complete lack of hassle despite the fact I had failed to bring either a copy of our booking or the booking #) but Jim and Mistie, sitting at a table by the bar.

Now, Jim and Mistie are my longest online friends. But before today, I had never met them - even though Jim lived in Waihi, then Hamilton, New Zealand. Circumstance had kept us from meeting up on a couple of occasionals. Their story is quite a cute one - they met on a Yahoo groups game I was running, became friends, met each other in real life, and fell in love. Possibly not in that order. Anyhow, like all the online peeps I was meeting in reality for the first time this trip, it was a weird mix of nervousness ("Will they like me?" "Are they who I think they are?" "What will we talk about?") and familiarity. We purchased over-priced cokes (in nifty cups that I brought all the way back to New Zealand with me), admired the horses - well, the horses rear ends since they were all facing outwards, and were then assigned to our seats. Here we were arbitarily assigned a knight to cheer on, based solely on our position.
Ours was the red knight. Well, the red and black knight, which are the colours of our home city/region and had Tim shouting "Can-ter-bry" as though we were at a sporting match. Which I suppose we were, in a way. 

The meals were pretty rudimentary - soup, meat, pastry, but you're not here for the food. Despite the facts that we weren't allowed cutlery for "authenticity", the servers insisted on referring to the food as though we were eating dragon. Dragon tastes a lot like chicken, as it turns out.  And we had diet pepsi. Very medieaval.

We weren't here for the food, however, we were here for the show. And it was pretty dramatic - it started fairly low key - with displays of horsemanship and small challenges like spearing garlands from horseback. The horses were gorgeous, but I felt a little sorry for them. Especially the poor white freisian that was paraded around, displaying various "tricks" and frothing at the mouth. I don't know much about horses, but I would say that was the sign of a stressed animal? Or maybe it's relatively natural when using a bit. Still seems cruel to me. Anyhow, it did end with a dramatic one-on-one battle, pairing off the knights and culminating in a battle between our Red Knight and the dastardly Green Knight.

And here we all are, with our Red Knight. He fought a valiant battle, but tragically lost to the villainous Green knight at the last minute. We were most amused to note that the Green knight was rather short in stature. And also that the Princess spent a long time hanging around the bar.