In the fall of my senior year of college, I decided that I wanted to have a cool, memorable spring break for my final one of all time. And so I spoke to some friends from high school and we decided to go on an old fashioned road trip to Los Angeles, California, located a thousand miles from our hometown.

Me and Doc Brown, Universal Studios Hollywood, March 2001

I had been to L.A. only two times before, short trips with my family, and never in my life had I been on a road trip longer than two hours. My three pals in on this -- Melanie, Kama, and Kimberly -- all had family in the area so we could (theorhetically) stay with them; I had free passes to Disneyland and Cast Member status as a result of my Campus Rep position with Walt Disney World; and we had months to plan. So we did. We paid for the trip with our tax refunds, mostly, and parental loans; all told it was about $500 per person for our eight day journey, which included a stop in San Francisco on the way back. And on Thursday, March 22, 2001, we left Beaverton, Oregon for the open road....

The trip was beyond awesome, surpassing my wildest dreams. We hit the two Disneyland theme parks, and Universal Studios. We saw "The Tonight Show" tape and were in a real honest-to-God film premiere with celebrities. (It was Tomcats.) And on the third full day in L.A., Sunday, March 25th, I spent an afternoon alone with the car, driving around the L.A. area, checking out some of the BTTF film locations. (My pals were visiting Melanie's aunt and uncle on the coast -- I don't like the beach for reasons that are too lengthy to go into here.) The result of my last-minute self-guided tour can be found here. Please, don't use any of these photos on your website or whatever without my permission.

The McFly Home

Marty McFly's home was the first stop in my day of Hill Valley sightseeing, mainly because it was the place I most wanted to go and had the distinction of being furthest north in my trip. (I decided to start north and work my way south, as our Motel 6 was actually about 20 miles south of L.A., in Orange, Calif.) Unfortunately, I had a late start. Because my friends weren't picked up from our motel room until about noon, I didn't leave until about one, after a shower. Then I had to stop at a Kinko's I looked up in the phone book so I could go on the Internet and track down the directions to some of these places. (I'd wanted to visit, especially, the homes of the characters, and then if I had the time the mall or the high school.) Then I had to stop at a Starbucks for a grande-non-fat-decaf-skinny-mocha and a cinammon twistie for "brunch," since I hadn't yet had anything to eat that day. With my blood sugar on the rise, a mixed tape in the deck, and a map of the L.A. area spread out in the passenger seat before me, I then got on Interstate 5 and headed north. By this time, it was about two thirty.

Arleta, California, was the real-life location of the McFly home and it was located north of downtown L.A. and Burbank. I was afraid I missed the exit after a bit -- between traffic and the distance from Orange, the drive took easliy an hour plus. But the high tension power lines that I could see from the highway were encouraging, and I soon found the proper exit sign. After I stopped for gas (the white Ford Taurus station wagon that belonged to Kimberly burned through it like crazy), where I had the semi-traumatic experiance of filling my first tank alone (Oregon has no self-serve), I continued down the road, took one wrong turn, reoriented myself, and after several turns through quiet neighborhood streets I saw.... it.

I felt giddy and breathless at the sight of the house. It looked just like it did in the films, still. And, strangely enough, smaller than on screen. This being a Sunday, it was fairly quiet. No one was outside at the end of the neighborhood where I was, and I was praying that the owners of the house didn't come out. (They didn't.) I worked up the nerve and finally left the car and began snapping photographs.
This photograph shows what the camera doesn't show -- the portion of the street to the left of the house. I find this sort of stuff interesting as research for my fanfic. The McFly house is to the right of the picture, out of sight. On the left you can see part of my friend's car that faithfully took our group about 2,500 miles in a week.
This is a picture I took from the middle of the street facing the direction the camera does. You can sort of see why Marty panics at the idea of hitting eighty eight in that direction -- there's an intersecting street a bit down there and, frankly, with cars parked along the sidewalks there's not a fantastic amount of space to go that fast.
The best shot I got of the house. The day was hazy in L.A. (gotta love smog!) and because it was about three thirty or four in the afternoon, the sun was in just about the worst possible place -- behind the house. I did my best.
Another shot of the home's front.
This is a picture taken that shows part of the garage and back of the house.
Another angle of the house, as it might appear from one coming up the other end of the street. I do wonder, what the heck is that thing on top of the roof? A super large air conditioning unit?
The parting shot of the McFly home, taking from the car as I paused before driving away.
This was a shot I took as I was driving away, of the street through the windshield as it might've appeared to Doc, Marty, and Jennifer at the end of BTTF. (Actually, until I realized this nifty perspective, I was rather bummed with myself for taking a picture from this vantage point.) The McFly driveway is on the far left.

Doc's 1985 Home Location (i.e. The Burger King)

My next stop took me south on I-5 to Burbank, where my directions were very vague. All I knew about the infamous Burger King, seen in the first few minutes of BTTF, was that it was on Victoria or Victory Blvd in the town. I had no map of Burbank that told me where that was. I ended up driving around, lost, for half an hour before I found the road, and then I realized that when I'd gotten off the highway I'd been a stone's throw away. D'oh!

A familiar yet different sight. In the sixteen years since BTTF was filmed, the Burger King got a facelift of sorts that modernized the old look and logo. I was tempted to go in and get something to eat, but I wasn't hungry at the time. And, frankly, the idea of greasy fast food was not appealing to me, even that early in the vacation.
This kind of shows the street the way it looked in 2001 -- the one you can see Marty hook onto the back of a car and skateboard towards school. The roll of the hills/mountains is pretty much the same, and there's still a Toys R Us near the Burger King.
Another what-the-camera-doesn't-show shot. This is the other side of the street, looking away from Burger King in the other direction. I am totally amused by that shop that would've been in Doc's front yart -- Future Glass. Heh heh....
A differently viewed angle into the Burger King parking lot. It's surprisingly small -- I don't know if it's been shrunken since 1985 or if, like all the sites I visited, the real deal just looks smaller in person.
A straight on view into the Burger King parking lot from the sidewalk. Doc's place was probably straight ahead. I've heard they really did build that sucker in this parking lot, and for a time afterwards one could see the marks in the asphalt where they put the foundation or whatever.
This is a closer view on where Doc's 1985 home was probably located -- maybe a few feet behind the area in the pavement that looks circularish. Also, check out his backyard. Crummy.
Check out some of the view and surrounding to Doc's 1985 home. Man, he really was obsessed with the completion of the time machine to ignore all that... although maybe it didn't look quite so industrial and closed in back in '85.
And, finally, this would be about what Doc would see from the front of his home. At least the hills are pretty. One can almost imagine that black truck being Marty's.... ;-)

Doc's 1955 Mansion

In a race against sunset, now, I got back in the car and headed down to Pasadena, a short distance down the freeway, where The Gamble House is located. The home is a museum that you can tour, and was therefore super easy to find with helpful signs and a nice little notation about it on my road map. I got there around five in the evening, and once more had the nasty "pleasure" of the sun being in my way. Curious, actually, that these sites were all facing the east....

The Gamble House I was expecting to find on a quiet residential street surrounded by private, large homes. Lord knows why -- might've been due to seeing that sort of thing with historic Oregon homes that are now open for tours. Might've been my imagination from the films. The reality was that the home was seperated from a main street by a little cement divider and some trees, so it was on a sort of gated private street -- and the "street" was really short, more of a parking lot. Very weird. And, like the other locations I visited before this one, the home seemed smaller in person.

You can see the "mansion" of Doc's on the far left. The building closer (and all dark and in shadows) is Doc's garage, which is actually a gift shop for the site. Pretty place.
This was the best shot I got of Doc's mansion, due to that blasted sun and haze. God bless my little panoramic camera....
A different angle of the garage of the home. Note the palm tree that looks sort of out of place in what was supposed to be Northern California. Maybe this is why they showed the home's outside only at night..... This was interesting to me, though, because it gave one a good feel for how large that building actually is, as well as seeing the placement of a door on the side.
A closer view of the garage. That little framed sign next to the brick was a little blurb about the home and the hours it was open for tours. (I was too late.) You can't see it in this shot, but the front facing is the doors to the garage propped open.
You can see the doors opened at the front in this picture, sort of. I did my best to avoid the sun's glare, with mixed results. You can see part of the estate's backyard to the left, the place where Doc ran away from Marty's words about 1.21 jiggowatts.


I had visited one more film site -- the Puente Hills Mall where the mall scenes were filmed -- but I got so thoroughly lost trying to find it that by the time I arrived at the place it was dark out. Bitchin' for the feeling it gave off; crappy for pictures. All my attempts produced blackness broken up by a couple lights from signs. Sigh..... I did accidentally recreate one scene, though. While standing on the curb and taking pictures from Marty's vantage point when he arrived at the mall (and where the lit sign had been), I tripped on the inch-high sole of my sandles and ended up rolling down the same ivy covered hill that Our Hero did. I, unfortunately, scraped my left leg up nicely and found my face burning with embarassment from my klutzy move, then grateful for the darkness.

Overall, I found it rather interesting that all the places I visited seemed smaller in person than they felt on screen, and I was also extremely impressed that the filmmakers had gone to such great lengths in the L.A.-area to find these seemingly random places. Visiting a few locations in a few hours really leaves you feeling awed with the editing and work done to use pieces of different areas and suburbs to create an entirely fictional one quite seamlessly.