Sean takes the first shift.
We weren’t exactly driving cross-country like the group in “Fanboys,” but we still had a 7-9 hour trip leaving Las Vegas and heading to San Francisco and the Marin County area.
So, after a few days of N.A.B. we were eager to get to the true journey that would really make our week, month, millennium. After all, we ourselves, filmmakers, were natural “Star Wars” movie geeks too. Sean and I left roughly 10am Thursday, April 14th, and hit the 15 Freeway.
How were we entering the Mecca of Sci-Fi movie geeks? We have a friend, Patrick, who’s working on a hush-hush project at one of the ranches. We were just going for a very short stay of one day and leaving Saturday morning. Sean, a father of two, lives in Los Angeles. I, since July 2010, have been in Vegas. So, on our return we’d be heading back to Vegas.
“Everybody get strapped in. We’re ready to make the jump!”
About a half hour into the drive, Sean says he has a surprise. He breaks out his GPS device and before I knew it, Yoda was telling us to veer left. So, in case we get a little lost or take a wrong turn, Yoda will guide us back on track, using the Force of course. “Veer left, you must.”
In “Fanboys” the group traveled in a cheesy movie detailed van with a homemade R2D2 on the roof. Us older, 40 year-olds were traveling in a Prius so no R2D2 on the roof. We had Yoda’s voice and I added my own surprise by bringing music from “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” (What would movie fans do without John Williams supplying the music themes to our lives and for generations to come?)
Nothing out here, but sand!
Kelcy’s Cafe in Tehachapi, CA
We stopped in Tehachapi, California, for lunch. This small little town café in the middle of nowhere had a great small town feel. After ordering, we walked around the place that had a little museum with all sorts of art and old photos of the town in history when there were devastating earthquakes and floods that wreaked havoc on the town.
I enjoyed this little cabinet full of an old collection of various types of still, Polaroid and 8mm cameras.
Display case of cameras. If you look carefully you can see I took this ‘shot’ with my iPhone.
Big Rock along Lucas Valley Road
Again, we hit the road and finally arrived in the Lucas Valley area. I don’t know the full story, but Lucas Valley is not named after George Lucas. George discovered the land and it was perfect for his world of Ewoks and Rebel forces. I don’t believe Lucas is related at all. (That gives you the reader something to look into further if interested. And hey, report your findings here with a comment.)
We met up with our buddy, Patrick, that night. We grabbed dinner and caught a movie at a local theater.
Friday morning, Sean and I woke up to what would be a surreal-like day. First, we drove toward the Skywalker Ranch to meet Patrick at one of the ranches, the Big Red Rock Ranch as it’s known. We had driven passed that big rock along Lucas Valley Road seen in “Fanboys.”
NOTHING TO SEE HERE
We pulled up to the address which has it’s own inside joke. I’d show you, but Skywalker Ranch is very strict on its photo permissions. Some places you can go and take pictures and post whatever. Some places you can go and take pictures, but not post anywhere. Some places you cannot take any pictures at all.
So, Sean and I parked and waited in the courtyard in front of the Big Red Rock Ranch. In the center stands a statue of Yoda that you cannot take pictures of. There are other statues reminiscent of Franklin Lloyd Wright and some waterfalls. It had a very Japanese theme to it and pretty much everywhere you go there’s that Japanese-influenced theme in the ranch areas.
Patrick found us in the courtyard and then took us inside to give us a tour. There was a lot of art and various classic movie posters lining the walls. It wasn’t wall-to-wall “Star Wars” memorabilia. There were some items like that. It was very classy. The surroundings were so serene and peaceful: a lake, a small stream and a tiny bridge. Not bad considering this is where the visual effects artists do their magic.
TIME TO EAT!
For brunch Patrick lead us as we drove to the commissary at another ranch where George himself eats. George was not present, but the Force was strong in the room.
After brunch, Patrick gave us a tour around the building. It had a lot of interesting rooms and glass cases displaying props from “Star Wars” and “Raiders.” There was a glass case displaying many of George’s awards over the years. I DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE! We couldn’t take pictures here. We took pictures with our minds. CLICK! Ooh! CLICK! Wow! CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!
On our way out we drove by the Skywalker Sound building that we could not go into. There’s a pretty little lake called Ewok Lake and grape vines. George grows his own wine here.
We then went to another building that included another commissary. As soon as we entered we were welcomed by Michael Higgins, a ranch worker who works with the horses and cattle. Michael told us about the Lucas wine vineyard. He was very knowledgeable about the ranch. Patrick showed us the gym downstairs. Then we had a little visit to the gift shop. Patrick was on his lunch break so we didn’t want to take too long, but when are we in a gift shop that screamed everything Lucas, Star Wars, LucasFilm, Skywalker Ranch, light sabers, game boards, clothing, Star Wars Pez. You name it and they pretty much had it. It wasn’t cheap either. I ended up picking up tee-shirts for my parents and I. Additionally, I also got a mug and a thermos. There were toys there. I didn’t get any, but I sure felt like a kid.
That was pretty much our visit to the ranches. We’d be back later in the day to meet up with Patrick again, but not to tour the ranches. What an exciting first half of the day! But wait there’s more!
Nicasio, St. Mary’s Church
Sean and I had a few hours to kill. Sean had known there were redwood forests not too far from the Lucas Valley. In fact, we had discovered that redwoods existed ten minutes from Big Red Rock Ranch. We headed to the small town of Nicasio where stands a little church called St. Mary’s Church a few minutes away and grabbed some coffee at the local bar. The general store beside the bar had some yard sale items in front. Sean found an item that was perfect for one of his art projects. The older man running the store gave Sean the item for free. Then they launched into a whole discussion. The clerk told us about a good nearby spot for redwoods a few minutes down the road.
(Someone who likes to talk more than Sean??? This guy being so close to the Skywalker Ranches must know some of his own Jedi mind tricks.)
After driving by horses and cattle for a few minutes, we found the redwoods forrest and pulled the car over. I’m so glad I had taken my Nikon D-40 with me. Sean had his little point and click that takes high quality photos.
MAY THE FORREST BE WITH YOU
Walking around and then deep inside the forrest, you get a real sense that God is a fantastic artist. Would we find Yoda in this forrest? Ewoks? We did find little forts beside trees where people had stayed over and camped out. The trees were anywhere from 50 to a 100 feet in the air and often 2 to 3 feet wide. We spent hours roaming the forrest, snapping pictures. Towards the end of journey through the redwoods, we came upon a circle of trees. They had simply naturally formed in a big circle. What a beautiful place! We could imagine the many friends and spiritual types gathering and sitting here.
Maybe they were smoking nature. It’s all good.
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS…in San Francisco
Sean and I got to go through the Skywalker Ranch gate again as we were meeting with Patrick for the evening festivities. The workers of the various ranches have a screening get together where they screen various prints of classic films, who knows what. That night they happen to be screening a 1990 pre-release print of “Silence of the Lambs.” I wonder how Dr. Lector would fair opposite Darth Vador. “Now Darth, tell me about your childhood.”
Anyway, the event meant a trip to San Francisco and I haven’t seen it in over a decade. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, got a glimpse of the Alcatraz Prison and a pre-glimpse of The Presidio dome as we drove in. The Presidio is an old military building that Lucas and maybe one or two other parties purchased. It’s a large compound that overlooks the bay area with the most pronounced, visible and enormous dome. It houses LucasFilm, Lucas Arts and ILM or Industrial Light & Magic.
We parked underneath, picked up our badges and Patrick showed us around a little bit. There are offices and a much larger gift shop that was closed at the time. He also showed us the immense cafeteria that overlooks the beautiful bay. I couldn’t imagine working and eating here everyday. Wow!
We ate across the street at a pizza joint. Good pizza! Hard to find if you know what I mean.
Then we headed back across the street to The Presidio and the theater. We took our seats. A representative introduced the film. The lights dimmed. It’s been so many years since I had seen a ‘print’ in any theater of “Silence” that it was hard to contain my own silence.
After the wonderful screening we received these “Silence” souvenirs. Wow, they go all out at these screenings. Now, it was time to pose! That’s right! We had permission to both take pictures and post them wherever we wanted so Whoomp, here it is! Darth Vador, Boba Fett and others.
Ross, Sean, Boba, Patrick
“Ross, you have failed me for the last time.”
After the screening we drove to The Mayflower Pub in San Rafael where many of Patrick’s co-workers gather to let off a little steam and sing some karaoke.
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be careful.”
Patrick, who doesn’t get out much, was letting lose and finally chatting with his co-workers and having a beer chugging good time. Sean and I chatted with some patrons and Patrick’s co-workers. Since I don’t drink anymore, I gladly drove us home. What a wonderful day and night!
In a Prius Far, Far Away…
We got whatever sleep we could. Sean and I had been sleeping on the floor the last 2 nights in Patrick’s bedroom. We’re lucky his land-lady was nice enough to supply us with some pillows. It takes us back to our guerilla filmmaking days, crashing whenever and wherever.
For the most part, our drive home was uneventful. We stopped at Taco Bell for lunch. After purchasing an energy drink from the store, I took the second shift of driving. A good few hours passed. At some point, I saw a sign in the distance reading 58 Freeway. Hey, that’s the freeway I need to turn off next. I thought catching the 58 would take place in Bakersfield, but Yoda wasn’t mentioning to turn off or steer left or nothing. I tried to wake Sean up who wasn’t helping my decision fast enough as the exit was almost in front of us. So, I turn off the exit and enter a more local route. Sean informs me that I didn’t need to get off until the Bakersfield area. I believe I kept up my speed of about 78 as I had just got off the freeway and in some way I wanted to make up for not staying on the freeway.
It didn’t take long on a local route before red and blue lights were flashing. “It’s a trap! It’s a trap!” It’s a SPEED TRAP.
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
Sean, still half asleep, noticed before I did and I’m driving. The cop was driving the opposite way and was behind a bunch of cars. Keep in mind I did not see “Fanboys” until weeks after this trip. Maybe I was channeling the film in a very bad way. If Yoda had spoke up I would still be on the freeway. The cop was very nice. He said he clocked me at 78 in a 55, but wrote the ticket for 75. I’d hate to see what cost the 78 would be. My 75mph cost me a whopping $345! [INSERT WOOKIE YELL HERE]
“It’s not wise to upset a Wookie.”
Needles to say, I followed the speed limit the rest of the way home. Since neither Yoda nor the Force were on my side this day, caffeine was the ticket home. Well, after the speeding ticket. One last stop a few hours before reaching Vegas at Starbucks in Barstow.
Time to make space tracks…following the speed limit of course.
May the 4th be with you!
- Fanboys (2008) – IMDb
Directed by Kyle Newman. With Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell, Sam Huntington.