TOTAL SAVINGS FOR APRIL 25: $25
Still overwhelmed by the opulence of the Madonna Inn from the night before, we had a quick breakfast and checked out of our hotel, The Avenue Inn (saved $25 using AAA Membership). The hotel was a great value and within walking distance to the main commercial strip of Higuera St. Our longest drive of the trip was due up for today and we wanted to make a few stops along the we, so we took a quick drive through some of the local neighborhoods of SLO before heading to Port San Luis Pier. On our last road trip through California with our four kids, we had discovered that a secondary, lower dock from the main pier was home to a large number of Sea Lions, and this dock was accessible from a set of very indiscreet stairs.
While we successfully found the stairs and the sea lions last year (see above), in the time between our visits, the city had modified the pier and removed the lower dock and stairs. Slightly disappointed, but knowing that better sea lion encounters lay ahead of us in La Jolla, we continued on our journey. Our next planned stop was Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara. From online reviews and personal interactions with others along the PCH, we were told this was a great beach at which to stop. However, upon arriving, we were quite underwhelmed. Additionally (and maybe because of that), lunch options in Santa Barbara were also underwhelming. We continued on, heading instead into nearby Carpinteria. We stumbled upon Tacos Don Rogue for some authentic Mexican food and took our lunch out to Carpinteria State Beach to enjoy.
We drove straight into Los Angeles from here, with a stop at a gas station and Trader Joe’s for some quick food and fill ups. Brooke had scored tickets to the taping of America’s Got Talent at Universal Studios Hollywood and we followed directions to parking garage where we completed a quick costume change from road trip clothes to national television attire. The tickets included detailed dress instructions and we did our best to follow them. We took the elevators down to the bottom floor of the parking garage and walked out into a sea of waiting people.
As we first arrived, the staff checks your tickets, sends you through a security check and then provides you with one of three different colored bracelets. From our observations, one color was for invited guests / VIP, one was for standard audience and one was for the on-camera crowd. They gave the last color out to those who had most closely followed the dress code and fit the look, or demographic, for which the producers were looking. Brooke looked absolutely stunning that night, so the producers handed us the on-camera colored bracelets and we were put into a different line.
After a long wait, we were finally loaded onto a tram and taken to the filming sets. Here, we were placed in another separated line, where we waited for another hour while the crew setup the sound stage and waited for the arrival of the judges.
Finally, we were brought into the sound stage and got to see the set. It was very interesting to watch how the producers then decided where to seat everyone. We were moved from our original seats to the middle, just behind the judges once the producers saw how camera ready Brooke was. While we were unable to take pictures once the taping began, they did allow us to take a few pictures while we waited for it all to start.
Eight acts performed, some music groups, some magicians and one piano playing chicken. The judges gave their initial feedback, but because our group was only watching the first half of the show, we would not get to see their votes. It was quite entertaining to watch the judges interact with the crowd and each other between filming.
The entire process, from arrival to the end of our filming session lasted 5 1/2 hours and we were tired and hungry, but still needed to check into our Homeaway for the night. I had been communicating with the host throughout the night to coordinate our arrival and we were pleasantly surprised by the comfort, quality and nice location of the house. The host was also very welcoming and went over a quick tour of the house and property. The room was very comfortable, but the enclosed outdoor patio was amazing.
After a quick rest at the vacation rental, we started to get ready for dinner. There were a couple of restaurants that were high on Brooke’s list for our stop in LA and Chateau Marmont was at the top. However, getting reservations in advance is very difficult, but our willingness to enjoy dinner at 10 PM PST got us a table for two. We grabbed an Uber and took the short (and cheap) drive over to the hotel. They checked our names against the reservation down on the street and then allowed us to walk up to the hotel. The hotel is a well known celebrity hot spot for many years, so they allow for a high level of privacy for everyone entering.
We had a fantastic meal, even at 10 PM that night. After strolling around the grounds, checking for anyone famous (didn’t see anyone that night), we took an Uber back to our Homeaway and called it a night.
This was Day 4 of our 8 night California Road Trip. Check out the rest of the trip!
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