Day 14 – It’s a wrap!

Winding down and saying farewell to the US after just over 3000 miles, with a trip round Warner Bros studio. Way better than the Universal tour.

Made it onto the Big Bang sound stage but no sitting in the spot 🙁

Ethan and myself did  manage to chill out at Central Perk though

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Rounded off with a trip to the tar pits, which are indeed pits …  with tar, or asphalt as I believe the locals like to refer to it.

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Another splendid veggie lunch from a food truck opposite the park before heading back to the airport rather too early.

Just 7 hours to wait for the flight and then another 11 or so to Heathrow.

Gonna need a holiday after this…

Day 13 – Waddya mean they get the day off?

Another day in the City of Angels.

Visited Universal Studios today. Slightly deflated by the studio tour when we were told that we were unlikely to spot any movie stars as they do not like to work weekends. Poor effort Hollywood.

Oddly I did spot Gail from Coronation Street…

gail

… and some all American heroes

heroes

The park was crazily busy, but Ethan and myself sailed through with our Front of Line passes. Very un-British and you could feel the waves of resentment from those sweltering in the queues. Still, the warm glow of smugness helped us cope!

Rounded off the day with another attempt at the Griffith for the views

hollywood

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and then a cruise down Hollywood Boulevard for the final photo op.

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Day 12 – L.A. Woe-man

Avila Beach to Los Angeles

Nice “relaxed” drive into and around LA today. Yeah right. I have never seen a better argument for banning cars and putting in some decent public transport.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised during this trip at how patient and relaxed US drivers are compared to their British counterparts. It doesn’t seem to extend to the cities though and particularly not LA where patience seems to be in short supply – although we did arrive on a Friday afternoon which is always a cause for driving madness. That said, still not at the level of British road rage and to be fair, I suspect that LA works quite well if you get the hang of using the freeways and just dropping off near where you need to be.

So, bad traffic day but good food day!

We managed to find Slaw Dogs on the way into LA (this was one of Ethan’s pre-researched food options). The Soy Bomb is a truly exceptional hot dog experience (as I suspect are the meaty options should you be so inclined).  Another happy discovery, was Umami Burger near the hotel, so the taste buds have had a rare old time today.

Made an attempt to get to Griffith Observatory, but there was absolutely no parking to be had either at the Observatory or on the 2 mile road running up to it, unless you happened to time it just right and could outwit the lurkers.

Gave up in the end and headed to Santa Monica in the end. Very much like Skegness  but without the charm 🙂

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But of course as with anywhere on the west coast, the sunsets are spectacular.

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sunset1

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Day 11 – Like Wales? They are whales!

San Francisco to Avila Beach via San Jose & Monterrey (very briefly and abortively)

Started the day with a trip to the  rather entertaining Winchester Mystery House, home to the widow of the Winchester rifle guy. Apparently she was told by a psychic that the only way to appease the spirits of those killed by her husband’s rifles was to move out west, start building and never stop (the spirits were less clear on how this would help).  She went about this with quite some gusto, resulting in a huge, marvellously random house,  designed by herself from her seance room by all accounts. A fine example of what happens when madly wealthy meets mad as a fish.

No photos though. Apparently the spirits won’t allow it. Or something.

From here we made our second attempt to eat at Ike’s. We didn’t make it to the one in San Francisco but apparently he has branched out since being on Man vs Food and now has a place in Monterrey. Or not. It was closed due to power failure. Best sandwich I never had.

Onwards along the very scenic Pacific Coast Highway.

mist

 

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rock

Ethan reckons that it looks like North Wales. Have to admit that there is a certain Angelsey-like quality to lots of it, but the Irish Sea doesn’t have the same impact as the Pacific. And you tend not to get whales swimming just off the coast of Wales.

Finally made it to the Sycamore Springs Spa and our sulphury, volcanic spring fed hot tub. Here’s me and Ethan chilling at the spa…

lounge

Last leg of the trip tomorrow as we head back to LA for some Hollywood madness.

Day 10 – Now you see it…

Ah bliss – all the comforts of home : normal temperature, clouds (yes clouds!), Skegness-like tat stores and, of course sweet,sweet sea-level oxygen! My kinda town.  Not to mention British-style hotel rooms:

cell

Have to say though, it felt a little wrong to eat fish and chips at a british-style chippy, but Ethan was suffering from vinegar withdrawal and we both feared the clam chowder.

Unfortunately being so comfortable, we overslept quite badly this morning, waking up about 30 minutes before we were due at the pier for a trip to Alcatraz. Only woke up then thanks to what I can only assume are a party of sumo wrestlers in the room upstairs.

Have done the requisite hanging off of a cable car, seeing Haight-Ashbury, City Lights bookstore etc.

Whilst on Alcatraz island, we were discussing how much easier it would be if Alcatraz had a bridge going to it, but then figured that this would remove its USP (i.e. of being inescapable). That of course led us to consider that with this being a US Prison, this would be a USP of a USP. Being in a national park that would further make it a USP of a USP in a USNP. Have to amuse yourself somehow.

Some of the other sights have been more elusive – where has San Francisco gone?

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I don’t care what anyone says. You can see a full view of the Golden Gate bridge on postcards or any number of images online. I like to think that the essence is in what you don’t see. It’s a zen thing.

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Ethan has moved on from volcanoes to Earthquakes and other concerns :

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and I may have found a new image for the blog header…

nowhere

Day 9 – Wear some flowers in your hair

Would if I had any. Flowers or hair.

Mammoth Lakes to San Francisco via Yosemite

Ethan spent much of last night scouring the internet for information on the super volcanoes of the Mammoth Lakes area. Apparently some are reasonably active and there are a fair number of earthquakes each day. Mono Lake looks pretty cool with the volcanic cone in the middle :

mono

I suspect that this research and his desire to put as much distance between himself  and the area might have been responsible for the short cut we took this morning – although Ethan swears blind it was the sat nav. I have to say that the CoPilot app on the phone has been £5 very well spent and has got us pretty much everywhere, but it was clearly having a bad day today. The dirt track that it took us down didn’t seem to have any purpose other than as a chipmunk thoroughfare. I swear that they were stopping and laughing at us. To be fair the track got us where we needed to go  but was a little hairy for a while!

Yosemite was as ludicrously scenic as expected, although we seem to have most of it in soft focus due to a greasy smear on the camera lense 🙁   The jury is out on whose fingerprint it is…

yosemite

yosemiteus

A long, slow drive from Yosemite to San Francisco  (via the windiest road I have ever driven down)

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with another sat nav wig out just as we hit the city… of all the places that you don’t need it!

 

 

 

Day 8 – Nice ‘n’ Toastie

Vegas to Mammoth Lakes via Death Valley

Just because Vegas wasn’t uncomfortable or weird enough …

Stopped at possibly the strangest petrol station I have been to

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sign

brothel

Now that’s what I call a service station.

Wandered through Death Valley – a little warmer than Vegas

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dunes

On the long and dramatic climb out of Death Valley I was stuck behind a coach from www.divinecharters.com. I don’t know if the company has any religious slant or not, but in my imagination they were a party of the devout on a day trip to shore up their faith by coming to see what Hell looked like. On the off chance that they had some protection from on high, I slipstreamed them up the mountain road in the hope that I might be covered too.

Seem to have been playing food and petrol roulette again today. Didn’t fill up any tanks before leaving LV and then of course found ourselves starting to panic about when the next opportunity would appear. Thought I would have learned by now.

Another encounter with the dreaded road trip nipple today. There is something about the combination of wearing a seat belt for 7 hours and extreme air conditioning which is not entirely comfortable…

Luckily only one more longish drive to go.

We were both too tired to heard out for food by the time that we got to Mammoth Lakes, so ordered some in. I’m sure burritos aren’t supposed to be as big as your head – think this might actually be harder work than the driving.

burrito

 

Day 7 – Never get out of the car. Absolutely goddamn right!

Definitely stay anywhere air-conditioned. Made the mistake on the first night here of trying to explore Vegas on foot. Anywhere where the temperature doesn’t drop below 90 at night is clearly wrong. There is a strange effect here of being able to walk towards something for 20 minutes without it getting any closer – walking the strip is like Groundhog day. There is a strange vampiric effect which sucks all of the energy out through your legs – maybe that’s how they power the city?

Anyway, a nice air-conditioned bus makes life a lot easier!

Saw the Trevi Fountain & volcano, went up the eiffel tower, mob museum etc., etc. Took in a show which was so cheesy that I could feel my arteries hardening as we watched. The full Vegas experience!

eiffel fountain volcano freemont

Well almost full; Ethan was thoroughly disappointed by my level of gambling and outraged at the requirement to be 21. This is what happened when he tried…

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Undoubted highlight was dinner at the Top of the World restaurant, slowing revolving 800 feet above Vegas. Rather disconcerting to have people jumping past your window during dinner though.

topoftheworldme stratosphere

madride

 

 

Day 6 – Vegas baby!!

Brian Head to Las Vegas and Hoover Dam

Oh…my…god!!

This place is insane. Only had an initial drive down the Strip on the way in so far (well technically twice down the strip as I missed a turning and had to loop round).

From seeing a marvel of modern engineering at the Hoover Dam to Vegas which looks like it has been designed by an 8 year old with a picture atlas of the world.  Vaguely reminds me of the jig maps that I used to do as a kid – map shaped jigsaws with all of the famous attractions on them.

hoover2 hoover vegas

Will explore later and no doubt encounter more madness. Have just checked into Caesar’s Palace. I’m liking the VIP treatment. Ethan has already headed to the whirlpool bath!

Thought things would get a bit more comfortable heading down out of the mountains, but as it is 110F in Vegas, its just a matter of swapping eyeball-popping low pressure for eyeball boiling heat!

Ethan has been amusing himself scoping out entertaining signs from the car. Can’t help but think that one of those is a little insensitive…

gun wreck veteran

Here’s one for the Yorkshire folk back home.

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Right, time to go and show this town how to party – obviously in a very understated British, vegetarian, teetotal sort of way!

Day 5 – Look at that view … meh

Zion to Brian Head via Bryce

Up in the mountains at the moment. Nice to see some greenery for a change. Can feel the altitude though. Have been noticing a certain shortness of breathe on occasions and then realised that most of the places we have been visiting are 7 or 8 thousand feet above sea level. Will have the lung capacity to run marathons by the time I get home. Shame the inclination is not developing in parallel.

Another day of spectacular views…

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Tenacious Tree
Tenacious Tree

The views have now reached the point where anything just ordinarily picturesque  has started to appear like Lincolnshire. I think that Ethan is suffering from nature overload. Luckily we have a break from natural wonders tomorrow and will be heading for the unnatural wonders of Vegas. Bring it.

Have to say that, having given the thumbs up to Arizona, I thoroughly approve of what I have seen of Utah so far and they have certainly ramped up the friendliness factor. Ethan says that he liked Colorado. because although we only ventured 20 feet in he had a seat and a cold drink and  it didn’t involve any effort.

Nevada, your up next – let’s see what you’ve got!

Looking forward to a day in Vegas without driving … the Margheritas beckon…