Ah this is the drama you've been craving ...

Trip Start Jun 29, 1999
Trip End Dec 04, 1999

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, October 29, 1999

Ah, this is the drama you've been craving... but in order to find out how I did on my Jeopardy audition you'll have to wade through all the other crap first (or scroll frantically to the bottom). Since it's been 2 weeks since the last entry I'll dispose of the day by day account for now and just focus on the different places I've been.

Santa Barbara, CA - This city is an urban planner's dream. The whole of downtown along State Street appears to have been developed by the same architectural firm. It is actually quite pleasant but I know somewhere there is probably a million ridiculous municipal laws decreeing that buildings have to look this way. I think my Uncle George and Aunt Helen, the yuppie nazis that they are, would love this town.

Joshua Tree National Park - Unfortunately I missed the big earthquake by one day. I was so disappointed! I got something just as bad my first night though - a windstorm. I didn't sleep much as I was too busy worrying about being blown away. The tent held but everything inside (including the inside of my mouth) was covered in dust. This is not a pleasant taste to wake up to in the morning. This park contains the portions of two different deserts - the Colorado in the south and the Mojave in the north. The difference is apparent as the cooler and higher Mojave supports more life. The must sees in Joshua Tree are the short hike into Hidden Valley and a sunset at Keys' View. From this viewpoint you can watch the shadow of Mount MacGregor slowly slide across the Coachella Valley 5500 feet below you. Then you can watch the lights of Indio and Palm Springs turn on. If you're feeling brave you can try the arduous 9 mile round trip hike from Cottonwood Springs to the Lost Palms Oasis. Take lots of water! Lip balm is also a good idea. That joke from "The Three Amigos" just kept getting funnier and funnier. The first 24 hours in the desert will make you feel like you aged 10 years. You can feel the your skin dry up and tighten around your body.

29 Palms, CA - This city, at the northern entrance to Joshua Tree NP, exists solely because of the Marine Base. This means you are likely to find many tattoo parlours and liquor stores before you ever stumble across a grocery store.

Between 29 Palms and Shoshone - Along the most direct route between these two cities is some of the most desolate landscape I'd seen yet. You might see the towns of Amboy or Kelso on a map but those aren't real cities, just rail depots and corporate mining buildings. The Amboy Crater wins the bleakest geography competition. Near Kelso is a huge area of sand dunes, the tallest reaching over 700 feet high. It's definitely difficult hiking but once you get to the top you feel as if it's all worth the effort.

Shoshone, CA - Population 100 and that's being generous. The campground here was excellent and cheap. I couldn't remember the last time I actually camped on nice lush grass. The reason this town has water is because of a natural warm spring nearby which feeds the campground's pool and keeps the temperature a constant 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The local diner, The Crowbar Cafe, was pretty good too.

Death Valley National Park - The bottom of the valley is a chemical desert. Someone dying in it would never rot. You'd be preserved and mummified by the salt which is six feet think in places like the Devil's Golf Course. At 282 feet below sea level Badwater is the lowest place on the continent and is definitely worth the look. In fact everything in this park should be seen. What really stands out is the colours, not of the vegetation but of the rocks and minerals in the canyon walls. It was awful hot there too. The temperature reached 95 degrees in the shade but that's okay because at 1% humidity it was a dry heat (yeah right, it was still pretty damn hot). Anybody venturing into Death Valley must witness a sunset from Furnace Creek (190 feet below sea level) where I camped. Other great places include Golden Canyon, Zabriskie Point, Mosaic Canyon, and Dante's View which rises 6000 feet above the valley floor. From here you can see the contiguous US's lowest point (Badwater) and highest point, Mount Williams at over 14,000 feet above sea level.

Las Vegas, NV - Kudos go out to Sharmile de Silva and my sister Sue for being brave enough to meet me in Las Vegas for 4 days. Since none of us are high rollers the gambling was kept to a minimum while we enjoyed other things such as the motion rides at Luxor, Excalibur and Caesar's. We also checked out the Coca-Cola museum which is worth the price of admission just to see the old Mean Joe Greene commercial if not for the all you can drink area. Another highlight was the Liberace Museum which was a real hoot. I officially declare that the Harrah's Fresh Market Buffet to be the best buffet on The Strip (I visited it 3 times). Another good place to eat is the WCW Nitro Grill in Excalibur - yes, a wrestling themed restaurant - where the big boys eat! You can be entertained by merely reading the menu. I really wanted a Goldberger but it was a full pound and I had just visited the buffet a couple of hours earlier so I went with the Hogan Burger over the Crippler Crossface Cheesesteak. Sue went with the tasty Chokeslam Cheese Fries and Sharmila enjoyed her Diamond Dallas Burger. Of course there's also the fabulous Fatburger to visit as well. Although we weren't gamblers we still managed to find a way to waste our money. I found out that it costs $90 to get 3 rolls of film developed in an hour a little too late for my liking and the girls both shelled out $100 for tickets to the Tyson fight. I don't think our stupidity ruined our time there though.

Needles, CA - The best thing about Needles is the strip of motels that are cheaper than getting a campsite. Not only to you get an actual bed but you also get the Playboy channel.

Old Route 66 - Now what remains of The Mother Road between Needles and Barstow is called the Old National Trails Highway. I followed it westward to Barstow and along the way I ventured again into the Amboy Crater. There are many interesting abandoned buildings along this deserted stretch of road. Look out for the huge RoadRunner Restaurant sign and building out in the middle of nowhere.

Barstow, CA - This city sits at the junction of I-15 and I-40 which means that the McDonald's on East Main Street in the busiest one in North America. I just missed the lunch rush.

Victorville, CA - Fifteen miles out of Barstow the grease took hold... that's where my Hunter S Thompson tribute ends. I headed into Victorville to see their fine Route 66 museum which supposedly has a lot of the old Hulaville artwork in it. I say supposedly because the museum is not open on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Instead I ventured into Victorville's other museum - The Roy Rogers Museum. This place is actually quite odd as while there is a glut of pictures, memorabilia, artifacts, recordings and film there is no text provided to put anything into context. It's all just there. My favourite single piece in the collection is the autographed photo of Lee Majors but the real highlight is the Animal exhibit. If Will Rogers is the man who never met a man he didn't like then Roy Rogers is the man who never met an animal he didn't shoot and then stuff. It's an animal rights activist's nightmare - stools made out of elephant's feet, an ottoman that uses zebra legs, a monkey rug, and his NRA membership card. He also had Trigger and Bullet The Wonder Dog stuffed as well. I'm surprised Roy himself isn't in there.

Los Angeles - The city of Los Angeles has never really captured my imagination. On my way through town to Joshua Tree I could see the Hollywood sign and the Capitol Records Building from the freeway and that's all the sight-seeing I would have done if not for my Jeopardy audition. I've found a pretty cool hostel in Marina Del Ray. It's only about a mile walk to Venice Beach. It's around the corner from a DelTaco. It has a pool table, the van o' lovin, an internet terminal, and a pop machine stocked with canned beer (I think I'll have one right now). If you're headed this way let me know and I'll give you their phone number and address. Venice Beach was kind of neat. It's a very pretty beach once you get away from all the touristy vendors along the sidewalk. It has Muscle Beach as well as the basketball courts from the opening scene of "White Men Can't Jump." Two of the more interesting places I visited in the area are just up the road in Culver City. First I visited the Museum of Jurassic Technology which is a very interesting place. It's less a museum than a statement about how we receive and perceive knowledge and what might have been considered knowledge in the past and it now declared bunk. Half the time you are laughing but the other half you're kind of debating if the exhibit is serious or not. It's a fascinating place that I think the majority of people just wouldn't get. Check it out for yourself at www.mjt.org. Right next door to the museum is the Center For Land Use Management which had an exhibit about the Nellis Air Force Range in Nevada aka Area 51. This think-tank studies how humans and corporations use land and while it may seem very dry to some there is a very interesting message that one has to really read between the lines to see. I was fascinated. Check out www.clui.org.

Well, I guess I have to tell you about Jeopardy now.

I must say that the audition was tougher than I expected but I did pass. There were 64 people writing the test and only 16 passed. This is considered well higher than normal. Usually only 15% of people pass. The test is 50 questions of the $800 to $1000 calibre from the show. You need a 35 to pass. They don't tell you your exact score. I was a little nervous because there were 8 questions I didn't even have guesses for. I felt very relieved when they announced my name. We found out afterwards that all employees of the show have to pass the test as well. That's a lot tougher screening process than trying to get a job at Teachers'. We then had to fill out all our data. I settled on "Willifully unemployed" for my occupation after dismissing "Bum, "Genius at large," and "Drifter." We then did a mock game where they were mainly rating you on your energy and how well you moved the game along and your personality where I think I really outshined the rest of the group... there was not one of other contestants who passed the test that I wouldn't have beaten up in grade school. So now I wait for a call. There is no guarantee I get on the show. If I haven't heard from them by November 2000 then I have to start from scratch.

Hopefully, I get on so I can win some cash to keep this trip going.
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