Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Straight to L.A. New York, Vegas to Miami...etc

I have shamefully stolen a Jennifer Lopez lyrics because it fits. This post will deal with the last section of America and a brief summary. They are all cities in America I have been to, most on this trip.

First off LA. Lets make one thing clear, I did VIRTUALLY none of the tourist sites... no Hollywood Sign, no Avenue of the Stars or anything else like that. However LA was a lot more interesting/nicer than I thought it would be... but if I didn't do the tourist thing what did I do?

We were staying in Santa Monica which is a posh area next to the beach, housing a pier which is the end of the famous route 66.
Route 66
Too knackered from heavy nights in SF we crashed the first night and readied ourselves for walking to Venice (repeatedly over the next 3 days).
Venice was about a 45 minute walk from our hostel along the beach. We even ran it one morning for some rare exercise.
Venice is an alternative/hippy central stocked to the brim with street performers/art/skateboards/bums and anything else you can imagine. Despite this it is really cool. On the last day, if I had worn my skate shoes instead of my Flip flops I would have rented a deck and tried (and failed) to fit in with the skaters at the skate park.
Legal medical marijuana


On the second to last night, I took my rum down to the beach in my camel pack to discretely drink while I watched the sun come down and the tide come in. It was exactly what I needed, a few hours alone to get my head set for the next leg, to reminisce about the trip so far, home, the future and anything else all whilst listening to some music. I also got some good snaps of the ferris wheel.

On the last night we went to a bbq at another one of Welshies friends. We ate some awesomely tasty Bratwurst and cooked some steaks. On the way back we came across a rabbit and 3 chickens just hanging out at the end of the road in LA. Quite surreal end to it all really, one more drawn out day of wandering around Venice and we said our goodbyes and I left for Panama.

America over and done with (for another year) It has been rather enjoyable, a change to solo travelling, with lots of highlights and barely any lows. I've found a new love for the whole west coast, not just California and also warmed to the East.
I've seen nearly all the 'glitzy' cities in America, lost money in Vegas, been lectured about the American victories over the British in Boston, seen Bears in Tahoe, eaten BBQ in Texas, rented a boat in Fort Lauderdale/Miami and seen some incredible natural wonders.

We even had smores... I'll finish this blog with one last photo that hopefully encompasses everything and yet nothing of what the American leg has been...

Fireworks in Chicago(used before but its that good)

Friday, 26 August 2011

Californication - Lakes, Fires, Bears and Valleys

Well the first half of the road trip could be categorised as the fun/rowdy half whereas we slowed the pace down for the second half of the trip and focused more on natural beauty.

The first stop now we were back in California was Lake Shasta, named after a 14,000ft mountain nearby where I assume the river originates. This was a nice place, but with red coloured mud dashing the shore. Climbing down to the cove was rather rocky but fun none the less. On the first night some bikers had a domestic in the pitch next to ours, and this got pretty out of hand.... luckily nothing too serious happened and they packed up and left the same night.

Like I said, we quitened down and spent our 3 days in Shasta playing cards, swimming, writing and taking some photographs.

The moon and tree line
Lake Shasta
After Shasta we headed off for a quick trip to Reno, Nevada to show Savage a real american casino. Reno is a funny little city, basically Vegas' poor little brother where proper addicted gamblers go, so bit of a dive. Getting out of Reno almost as quickly as we arrived we headed to the oasis that is Lake Tahoe. Not strictly speaking any kind of Oasis, Lake Tahoe was still surrounded by snow capped mountains. Despite this the water was lovely and we spent a lot of time in this just like Shasta.

The other important thing that happened in Lake Tahoe was I saw a bear in our campsite, which was fun. I woke Welsh up to see it but it had ran away by then, I just left Savage alseep in the tent, figuring ignorance is bliss.

Campsite at Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

On the next leg of the drive we drove past a forest fire, which from the distance looked like a volcano exploding, this in itself was quite epic...

Forest Fire
Being the winging people we are, we left it too late to find a campsite in Yosemite. So we stayed at Tuolumne Falls, still within the park but a bit further out. Yosemite is an awesome valley of huge Granite slabs of rock. El Capitan is the largest free standing granite monolith. We got a freee shuttle around the valley, climbed to the bottom of Yosemite falls for a quick swim underneath a waterfall before bouldering back down to take in a few more sites.

Lake Elizabeth

Yosemite Valley

The Sentinel?

Yosemite Falls

Posing for the view
Continuing the lack of planning, our next stop off was also prevented by campsites being fully booked, but by a weird coincidence of fate, Felix had got in touch to say he was back in California and we could stay with him in Palo Alto. Palo Alto is quite nice, posh and expensive though. Being very close to Silicon Valley everyone seems to be a young professional working for some internet company.
We enjoyed some happy hours and eventually met Felix and went to an English pub where they served proper ale and even had cider! On day two, thoroughly knackered from camping we did absolutely nothing before heading off to San Francisco a few days earlier than planned.

Palo Alto approach
In San Francisco, I ate lots of chowder and did the few tourist things I still hadn't managed to do - Alcatraz, Angel Island and Coit tower. We returned to a life of drinking and this of course once again ended in hilarity. An epic fail of a pub crawl, a 28 dollar breakfast and a lot of headaches to say the least.
San Francisco

Fog rolling in

Am now in LA where I am putting my feet up, doing nothing much at all to recuperate for what should be an interesting leg of the travels in Central/South America. Next stop Panama!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Full Circle

This part of the story starts in San Diego, where we finished off last time. My second trip to San Diego, the first having been a few years back when I was 12. However it did seem familiar. I did the tourist thing again, saw USS Midway, the zoo and had some amazing fish taco's. Our host for this week was Wyn who again is lovely. We also drank Wyns boyfriend's Champagne Cider... Welshie aptly named it 'shagmouth'.

A view from the beach
Last thing we did was have some delicious cup cakes. Fully loaded it was time to head north to San Francisco and collect our beast for the road trip.
After a few names we settled on "Brian the Pioneer" as its big and white. For those who don't know this is a family guy reference. We also collected a mascot, known as Kevin the Great White Shark. Savage being a tool we were to meet him later in Eugene not at the original planned time in San Fran.
We headed out over Golden Gate Bridge signalling the start of the road trip, a classic send off that many have done before (I myself have done it at least twice before, by bike too and also from below). The plan was to head to Nicks Cove for an oyster lunch, a thing I failed to do last year. After a few hiccups (welshie almost flipping the van) we became accustomed to American roads and hit our target, a tasty lunch. We then headed north to Fort Bragg for a bit of roadside camping and an awesome sunset.

Golden Gate Bridge


Fort Bragg Sunset

In the morning we headed off to the Redwoods, huge coastal rainforest trees that grow huge and are 2000 years old in some cases. One tree is so big you can drive cars through it but not our van. We did some walking and headed to Jebidah Smith national park where we had a michelin star sandwich and went on a couple of walks through the huge trees. This ended with a knee deep river crossing and a swim in the deeper part of the river.
Drive thru tree

Climbing a downed Redwood

Crossing the River

Being thwarted by any camping opportunities that werent £££ we headed for Eugene, Oregon where Welshie has more friends. This drive was again spectacular and well worth it. We met Callie, Welshies old friend from camp and her Boyfriend Kyle. We were instantly taken off for drinks deals and a whirlwind tour of Eugene. Eugene is a hippy hang out and this showed from the first instances when we were driving around lost.
Day two we were whisked off to Portland for more shenanigans. We met Callies Mother at a cocktail bar and she picked up the bill, which was awesome. Then we went off to a nice dinner, I had a fantastic slice of Halibut. Callies mum once again picked up the bill, easily dismissing our attempts at paying (probably non-existent attempts)
Another bar stop off and a dull club we headed to a house party where things got interesting. I shan't say anymore so as to not incriminate anyone. Far too hungover to manage much else we returned to Eugene, where I was tasked with collecting Savage while Welshie had a nap.
Savage had arrived at about 8am, so obviously we were still in Portland. Figuring Savage was a big boy we left him instructions on how to find the house. He failed, so found a bar and got drunk. Good work.

Savage sorted, we refreshed ourselves in the river and headed off to Whiteaker Block Party. Everyone was in a world of pain/tired so although fun it fizzled out rather early.

Eugene over, we said our goodbyes and headed off north to Seattle. Seattle was almost an impulse decision to drive all this way as it would almost certainly put us over the mileage. It also led to an amusing series of events. Finding the 'hostel' really a Hotel masquerading as a hostel. Im reliably informed that Mercedes also made this mistake, as did her friends. We dosed up on microwave meals (we had expected a hostel with a kitchen you see) and beer we headed to the local bar called 'The Hurricane Cafe'. This was a bar and cafe with a retro arcade attached to the side... guess what we did... after some Time Crisis 2 the bar guy came over and told us Savage had been accosted by some strippers, intrigued we headed over. The truth wasn't quite as fun. We found a stripper, a lesbian and a 'Dude' (transgender). Welshie tacking on to the stripper we as good wingman let him be and amused ourselves with pool. Welsh in due course invited all three back to our hotel room... the 'dude' passed out on Welsh's bed, Savage also passed out and I distracted the remaining concious person while Welshie continued his charm offensive.

Next day we headed to the EMP, an exhibition place hosting a lot of Jimi Hendrix guitars and memorabilia, A Battelstar Galactac exhibit, a Nirvana history and also an behind the making of Avatar. It was all quite interesting especially the Nirvana and Battlestar (to me anyway). The building is a Frank Gehry montrousity, I get his style, but its boring when everyone instantly goes "oh another Gehry" kind of gets boring after awhile. Anyway this particular one is supposed to look like a Hendrixs smashed guitar from the Space Needle... it does not.

A sunset trip up the Space Needle and we retired to the Hotel to crash still tired from the last weeks antics. Final day in Seattle we saw Pike Place market, the original Starbucks and had a tasty seafood lunch, at a place which is in 'Sleepless in Seattle' before getting ourselves in order. We met some more of Welshs old friends from Camp and returned to our Hurricane bar to meet Welshies stripper again. At some point he (and I have no shame repeating this cheese) used the line "I would freeze the oceans and come find you" in response to something about being lost. It apparently went down a treat.

Space Needle

Lots of Guitars

Sunset from the Space Needle

Seafood place in Sleepless in Seattle

Seattle is so close to Vancouver (relatively 160 miles or so) and thus makes my loop of the North Americas complete, see image below. Hence the title 'Full Circle'

The North American Loop

We left Seattle after an awesome breakfast of Hash Browns covered in Chili. We stayed one more night in Eugene on our way down south and headed to Crater Lake for awesome views. Failing on the camping at this location we headed to a quaint site near Union Creek, where we got absolutely hammerred, Savage vommed mid sentence... it was epic. Savage blames the worlds 'best' wine  - Franzia ($10.99 for 5 litres) Then we headed back to California....

Crater Lake 7000ft

Savage and Welsh at Crater Lake

This is all for now, next time Californication!