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PASADENA... part 3
(griffin's 2011 BotCon report)


SUNDAY MAY 29TH

The sleeping was getting longer each day, but getting up at 7.30 meant just 6 1/2 hours though.  I went off to get my free buffet breakfast, while Ian and Co continued sleeping (they didn't want to get up until a little later - I would set my alarm for them, but every morning I seemed to wake up before it went off).

So when we were all ready for our day out, we headed of at about 10am. The day was planned to include toyhunting in the morning together (and find some things Caroline was after), then at around 2pm the family would be dropped off for some family things as a family (without me hanging on like an unwanted uncle) at San Diego's Balboa Park, and I would go off on more toyhunting, then meet back up with them to then drive them 'home'.
We also needed to get to a Walmart to exchange a defective Transformers toy - Leader Bumblebee had a knee joint that was shattered into 3 parts in the packaging. Fortunately I didn't have to go back to the same store for a replacement.  A couple of other Deluxe toys (Sideswipe and Crankcase) had defects as well, but I was able to fix or adjust them to not need replacing... but 3 out of 55 toys isn't a good average for faulty products. I understand that these things can have hundreds of parts, each requiring to be perfect to be able to fulfill its designed conversions, and each being produced hundreds-of-thousands of times in a factory that is chosen for its price/value to Hasbro/TakaraTomy... but that still ends up being a big percentage of faulty products in a line that would already have many parents returning toys for not being able to convert them for their kids. The last thing Hasbro needs is a high proportion of toys that can't be transformed ON TOP OF the proportion of toys that will frustrate parents enough to return it or never buy their kid another one.

Again, the Sat-Nav was a great help finding things, and getting us to places when we started getting lost or took a wrong turn.
We did have a bit of fun with big parking lots (like at a large store), as it would have trouble plotting a route while we weren't on an actual road... and sometimes it would suggest starting from a road that the carpark didn't even exit onto.

And apparently Kmart and Sears are (now?) the same company... as the Sat-Nav directed us to a Kmart, but all we found was a Sears.  We kept thinking that the Kmart must have been hidden behind some other buildings (most stores are stand-alone in America - they don't have shopping centers like we do here), but after going inside the Sears, we found that there were remnants of it recently being a Kmart (they still had Kmart trolleys), but just re-branded. The reason why Sears wasn't on my list of potential stores, was that it didn't used to sell toys (at least, the ones I had checked in previous years... before the merger/buy-out I guess).
Okay, I just looked it up on a wiki page, and Kmart bought/merged with Sears in 2005... and they actually changed some of their Kmart stores then to Sears, but I think this must have been a recently converted one, as it was still being listed as Kmart in some sources. And it also mentions that not all Sears sell toys, so I don't have to feel bad about not including them in my toy hunting maps.

I soon learnt that Kmarts were my new gold-mine of Transformers items that weren't released in Australia... most particularly, non-mainstream items like RPMs, Speed Stars, Roleplay, Remote Control and gimmick stuff like Activators. While the other major chains had already cleared out all their older, non-movie stock, Kmart/Sears were either slow to discount, or slow to sell toys... it payed off big time for me.

Before I go any further, I must comment on the difference between American and Australian Shopping centres.
Driving around toy hunting with Ian, I was able to clearly show what I had noticed in previous years - Most Australian Shopping Centres are a large, single complex, while most American Shopping Centres (or Shopping Malls, as they like to call them) are basically designed like an classic American Fort... the shops are a ring of buildings around a central carpark.  A very antiquated design that makes you walk a lot more to get from one store to another.
We did find a fairly new Westfield Shopping Centre/Mall, and it was like a hybrid or transition model, in that they had all the shops together on one level, surrounded by parking, but it was all open walk-space inside the actual complex, so if it rained, you'd still get wet going from store to store.
Admittedly, there were two enclosed, multi-level Shopping Centres near the Airport, which would make more sense to have a more condensed model closer into a City, but these 'Fort' styled Shopping Centres were just everywhere else we went, and was actually quite amusing in the way it showed the heritage of the 'American frontier' had been kept in the design of these retail properties.

So making our way towards Balboa Park, we stopped at a Walmart first (to exchange my busted Bumblebee for a new one, and found their Legion 3-pack exclusive - it's always a plus to find store exclusives in case they don't come to Australia)), then a Target, and a ToysRUs.

Next was the Kmart, uh, Sears that I mentioned above.  Found a few old goodies in there.

Then we went to a Target, which was located in the Westfield I mentioned above. We decided we should have lunch there as well, before they were to be dropped off to Balboa Park, and it was also a bonus to have a Macy's there (the store Caroline was looking out for)... plus a Giant Pretzel store (finally I found one). At least I finally got myself some of that salty, fatty goodness I had waited a year for... it made up for not finding anything in Target.  The Westfield even had a huge Comic & Collectables store, but had nothing I wanted.

Lunch... which included a pizza place in the foodcourt that had 'Chicago style pizza', which is a favourite of mine. It uses a pie-crust style pastry and (should) fill it with the toppings like cheese, sauce, meat, ect.  This one was a bit light on the toppings, but the one I had in Chicago during BotCon 2003 was nicely filled, giving it that name 'pizza pie', because it was filled like a pie, with a pie style crust.
The three pretzels were a plain one, a pepperoni & cheese, and a jalopeno (which was too hot for me - after the first bite, I had to pick off the rest to eat it). I had a fourth pretzel that was eaten before that photo was taken, which was one of my favourites - a Pretzel-Dog, which is a hotdog sausage wrapped in Pretzel. Very yummy. If you ever go to America, you gotta try those things.

Running short on time to get Ian's family to the Balboa Park (a cultural centre) for a Puppet Show scheduled for 2.30pm, we rushed on over with just minutes to spare... but with it being a public holiday long-weekend the Park was packed with people and some 'Cultural event' thingy.
We pulled over for a minute, to allow them to get out of the car, and for me to get into the driver's seat, and I left for more toy hunting south of the City.

First up was a Walmart (found Topspin, which had alluded Ian and I so far from that 2nd wave of Deluxes), then checked out a Target and a Kmart (found the Roleplay Sword from TF2 - another great 'old item' find, because it wasn't released in Australia).

As that had taken up a bit over an hour by then, and I wasn't sure if Ian's family would have wanted to be picked up straight after the Show (they were going to send me a text message, but if I was off at a store at the time, it could take up to half an hour to get back, making them wait). I didn't want to do that, and I had made a decent score for the day, so headed back to Balboa Park.  The Sat-Nav took me through the heart/CBD of San Diego, which seemed pretty ordinary for a city... almost disappointing really.  And after one wrong turn (not entirely the Sat-Nav's fault), I finally arrived at the Park at 4.30pm as everyone seemed to be leaving.  I found a park and started walking around the Cultural Event (food stalls and displays of different countries around the world), and ended up finding Ian's family before they even needed to call me to pick them up.
They had gone into an Aerospace museum after the Show, and had just started walking around the Park to look at the architecture and displays when I found them. So I walked around with them, taking some photos of the some really old buildings.


The Aerospace Museum with a Jetfire, I mean, Blackbird parked out the front (photo from Ian).
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This one is a giant aborium (house for plants), constructed entirely of wood.  The rusty colour of the wood, done in an odd cage format made it look very post-apocalyptic to me.

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We left at about 6.30, stopping off at a Grocery store and Subway (for them) near the hotel.
I bought a couple things to eat and drink for the next couple days, but saw this huge range of Doritos chips and had to take a photo.  We have like 3 regular flavours of Doritos here in Australia, but I counted 10 different flavours in this photo, and had seen at least 2 other flavours at other stores. Notice that a lot of the flavours are spicy or Mexican themed, and no 'plain' variety (which is one of our regular flavours in Australia).


 

But seeing all these chip varietys that I have may or may not have tried before, I began to realise that this American junk food (chips and confectionary) just wasn't interesting me this year. I wasn't sure if it was just finally being desensitised after all these years, or the fact that most of these chips and candy products can be acquired in Australia if I really wanted them, or the thought of having to consume or waste a whole bag of chips just to sample the flavour (which would amount to a lot of bags of chips being eaten or wasted)... maybe spending the preceeding months losing 15kgs (I always expect to put on weight at BotCon, so need to pre-emptively lose some before I go) had me too self-conscious of putting it all back on.  Whatever it was, this was a first for me, to not gorge myself on dozens of various candy bars or chips packets... I even cut back on the consumption of American sugary breakfast cereals, with just the Cinnamon Toast Crunch being bought.

And being tied to Ian's family for most of the trip, it prevented me from being able to stuff myself on Burgers and other American fast food... which was a good thing, health-wise.
But ultimately, this ended up being one of my healthiest BotCons, consuming things like muesli and bran cereals, and only putting on a couple kilos while away (compared to the 10 I put on last year).

We went back to the hotel around 7-ish, and unwound after another long day.

I took a photo of todays purchases.

RPMs Remote controlled Barricade (bigger than the Optimus and Bumblebee ones released here) (not released in AUS)
RPMs Minivehicle 2-pack Rollbar Vs (brown) Sideways (not released in AUS)
TF3 Voyager Shockwave, Voyager Skyhammer, Deluxe Topspin, Cmdr Powerglide, Cmdr Blackout.
Store Exclusive 3-pack (Bumblebee, Soundwave, Rodimus)
TF2 Roleplay Optimus Sword (not released in AUS)

By this stage I had amassed quite an army of Bumblebees, thanks to Hasbro trying to sell as much product as possible of their leading Movie Character.
Ian put together all the different first-release DotM Bumblebee toys (which was still missing a Legion figure and some Robo Power/gimmick figures)

There aren't too many loose ends left now of Movie toys (that are out in America at this time) for me. I'm was now only looking out for Deluxe Thundercracker, Laserbeak, HA Roadbuster and a couple store exclusives. I still had a week left to find them, and any other new figures released during that time.  Too easy.

It's strange, but there are a lot of Cherry flavoured soft drinks here, and we dont have any... Pepsi Cherry (and diet), Dr Pepper Cherry (and diet), Coke cherry and 7up Cherry (and diet). Tonight I'm drinking Diet Dr Pepper Cherry and Diet 7up Cherry.

Another late night with the computer (on the messageboard and processing photos), getting to sleep around 1am (which is like early evening for those back home on East Coast Australia). I found myself going to sleep as people were starting to log onto the board during peak evening time, and I was waking up (dawn in California) and it was like midnight-2am for most of the board members, and they were already logging off to go to sleep. I was seeing a lot more Perth members logged on than usual though, as it was approaching their midnight while I was on at 6 or 7am waiting for the others to wake up.

Last night in San Diego, already...
 

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***All pictures in this BotCon report are mine unless noted. Any that are borrowed, should have the source credited/noted.  If you want to use/borrow any of my photos, all I ask is for you to please credit the source as well. I try to take as many of my own photos as possible, and usually only resort to using others if I failed to get something, or my photo wasn't clear enough.

OZFORMERS - Australasian Transformers News and Interaction (our 15th year - longer than any other moderated Transfan community)
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BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website (check it out for when and where the next one will be)
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Me --> griffin @ otca.com.au