A Travellerspoint blog

Day 8 - Hello New Mexico....

What did you do with the sunshine??

all seasons in one day 24 °C

Day 8 is an on the road day, but a relatively short one. Only about 420 miles today to a place called Tucumcara in northern New Mexico. Day started off lovely with great sunshine and some wicked tunes playing as we rolled along. Traffic wasn't too bad either (apart from Albuquerqhe... 2 lanes into 7 in the space of about a mile...). However the closer we got to Tucumacara the darker it got... We could see lightning in the distance but it was a bit like Wizard of Oz, it just kept getting closer with the winds building up. With about a mile to go we stopped for food and by the time we finished a friggin huge black cloud was sat right above us with fork lightning going off every few minutes.

And it stayed like that for hours!! Siobhan got some wicked footage which hopefully we'll get up on the blog today.

I'm writing this on the morning of Day 9 and the Beast is rockin.... The wind is raving and its still raining... Glad its another road day....

Posted by Simon Lock 06:28 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Days 5, 6 & 7 - The GRAND Canyon

Oh my God...

sunny 29 °C

Leaving California with a sea mist coming in off the Pacific again, we headed back down Highway 1 towards Los Angeles before heading across the top of LA towards Arizona and the Grand Canyon. Only thing is.... its over 760 miles away...

We decided (foolishly) to bash out most of it on Day 5, have a doss day on Day 6, then the 'short' hop to the Grand Canyon on Day 7.

Day 5 turned out to be a 600 mile trek in 90 odd degree heat across the Mojave desert heading for the campsite in Arizona. The BEAST was its usual self, waddling its way up the hills (and there were plenty of them) then hurtling down them trying its best to wipe us out!!

After that stressful day, we decided that Day 6 would be a 'doss day'. I managed about 1/2 hour by the pool whereas 'golden girl' Siobhan was like a well done piece of toast after all day by the pool... Instead I decided that some route planning was in order instead of cuffing it as we'd done so far. In an air conditioned camper... Bliss..

Day 7 - Grand Canyon. Up early and on the road only to get to the Grand Canyon National Park and it was raining!!

Time to buy some gifts for home and let the storm clouds pass. 1/2 hour later and with the clouds passed, we bought our passes for the park and after being waved through by the cutest Park Ranger you've ever seen (female I might add... (but not a patch on my darling wife... Phew, nearly dropped myself in it there...)) we were through to probably the worlds greatest natural wonder. Its difficult to explain if you haven't ever seen the Canyon. Words such as awesome, fantastic, tremendous do not do it justice. We initially intended to do a bit of hiking down into the canyon, but even after the rain it was too hot, so we wussed out and did the normal tourist bit of taking pictures. We started off at the visitor centre by Mather Point on the South Rim of the Canyon, watching some lunatic people get themselves onto precarious rocks for 'the photo'. We just let Siobhan's new camera take the strain. Hopefully she'll get a lead to upload them onto this site before we get home. Until then its my dismal efforts....

We then decided to head east along the Canyon, stopping at various points along the way to take pics and just gaze in amazement at nature's wonder.

The last stop of the day was Desert Point where you can look along the length of the canyon with the Colorado River raging in the base of the canyon. Siobhan was taken by the Park Ranger on a beautiful horse just by the entrance.... So much so that she wanted me to stop the BEAST in the middle of the road to take a picture.... Not sure the queue of traffic behind would have been impressed.

Heading out of the Canyon on the lesser known eastern trail, we headed for the next campsite about 160 miles away. This route showed us some of the sights not normally seen by the vast majority of Canyon tourists. Native American Indians forced to make a living off roadside 'market stalls' selling 'authentic' Indian crafts for a few dollars. The ramshackle trailer parks where they lived alongside busy highways showed that these stalls weren't exactly gold mines... Still, we found out later that things are being done to make the lot of the Indians better by allowing them to set up Casino's tax free. In doing so, that they can utilise the revenue generated to improve the community facilities on the reservations... Still got some way to go though...

Finally, camp site reached and after some cold pizza, beer and jalapeno peppers for tea for me and a Big Mac for Siobhan, it was nighty night and ready for the next leg... Memphis, Tennessee and the home of the King of Rock and Roll, Mr Elvis Presley.

Posted by Simon Lock 20:33 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Days 3 & 4 - Are you going to San Francisco....

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair (and a fleece for the Golden Gate Bridge trip!!)

sunny 23 °C

OK, so Day 3 and 4 were all about getting up to San Francisco on Day 3, finding the campsite and then spending the next day touring San Francisco. The route was supposed to be the famous Highway 1 from LA to SF along the Californian coast. Which we did, mostly.... But we did drift off a little bit.... Probably a good thing seeing the cliff side roads we encountered later on in the BEAST!!!

Its about 375 miles from LA to San Francisco and our route took us from the campsite in the hills above LA across to the coast and then north along Highway 1. Scenery was great, though not sure that Siobhan appreciated it... I think she just wanted to get in and surf...

I think that Highway 1 is probably one of the nicest coastal drives ever. It would be great in a little open top car... The BEAST waddled its way north.... Then it wanted to take off when it hit the down hill bits!!

We managed to get to the camp site safely though (though we took a little detour via another site from the same company.... ) The guy in reception who pointed us in the right direction was a black version of the gay guy in Mrs Doubtfire... Very funny...

Day 4 found us hitting the outskirts of San Francisco and picking up the metro to get into town. (after some raving mad driving around road works on cliff edges... Siobhan was not happy!!)

I think we both loved SF. Its got a great feel to it. Because its so small in comparison to LA, it seems that you can get around it so much more easily. We walked up and down the hills to Fishermans Wharf, taking lots of piccies of the cable cars and the street life. We had some lunch in a place overlooking the harbour around the Pier 39 and watched the seals chilling out on the boardwalks. (would you believe Siobhan had fish and chips.... Heathen...)

Then it was the boat tour of the harbour. (we wanted to do the Alcatraz trip but found out that it was booked up for 2 weeks in advance!!)

The boat tour was great though. It took us underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, then around Alcatraz and then over to the Oakland Bridge. All the time we had a running commentary telling us all about the guys building the bridge, then the prisoners in Alcatraz (did you know that they finally closed it in the 60's when they worked out that to get everything they needed across to the rock (guards, prisoners, food, etc etc) it would cost them less to have the prisoners put up in the Ritz...). It was really wierd though. It was hot and sunny on the Pier, yet 200 yards out into the harbour, the wind picked up and the fog came in and swirled around bridge. The bridge itself is 350ft high, yet you could hardly see it at times because of the sea mists.

The trip back to the metro was up and down the streets of San Francisco by the street cable cars. Really good experience, particularly listening to the drivers and conductors.

Then it was just a simple drive back down Highway 1, past lots of lovely state beachers with lunatic surfers braving the cold waters and sharks, and then we were home. Ready to tackle the 600 miles plus trip the next day!!

Posted by Simon Lock 12:39 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Day 2 - Hollywood and Universal Studios

Just the coolest day ever....

sunny 29 °C

Day Two, Hollywood:
Woohoo! Been waiting for this day to arrive for what seems like forever. The only real thing i wanted this trip to include... Hollywood! Our first night in the camper was cool, slept like a baby although little did we know he campsite was right next to a train line, Dad pointed this out to me in the morning, after being woken several times during the night. Haha! Unlucky! So brains here decided unlike yesterday’s drama of taking ‘Beastie’ into the city, we’ll find a local transport instead. Luckily, there is such thing here as a ‘park and ride’, so we dumped the camper in the car park and caught a train into the city. First stop, Hollywood Blvd....

We jumped off the train at Hollywood Highland station which brought us right onto Hollywood Blvd itself, just down from the Grauman's Chinese Theatre which is where we started our adventure today. The theatre was built back in 1922 and if you’re a movie geek like me then you’ll know it played a major role in the start of Hollywood and the early stages of the film industry. Above all else it’s known for its ever growing ‘concrete art’, right outside the main doors. There stars from decades gone by have left their mark in the pavement; handprints, footprints and even the markings of the Harry Potter cast’s wands have been left for all to see. We tried to get as many photos as possible, trying not to take photos of other tourist’s feet whilst doing so.

So Hollywood Blvd is essentially a really long street with lots of expensive, overpriced tourist shops, selling fake Oscars labelled ‘Best Granddad’, ‘Best Driver’ and so on. In between the tacky shops you have some pretty cool places too. The plaza allows awesome views of the Hollywood sign itself, although my camera’s zoom wasn’t that great and it pretty much turn out as a white smudge on a hill in the photo. There is also a Planet Hollywood restaurant, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Jimmy Kimmel Show live, one huge Disney store and the famous Kodak theatre, where the actual Oscars ceremony is held every year. We tried to see as much as possible, whilst looking out for our favourite celebrity’s stars on the Walk of Fame. We spent what seemed like forever (in a good way), looking at the ground and taking photos, but pretty much everyone was doing the same thing! Dad seemed made up when we walked practically to the top of the street and found Elvis’s star. It was surrounded by flowers as the date of his death was a week or so ago.

We had breakfast at a very 1950’s style diner called Johhny Rockets, the type that have mini juke boxes on each table. We paid our 5c and got our tunes on whilst tucking into pancakes with loads of syrup and, for me, a huge strawberry milkshake.

Our next stop today was Universal Studios! I could barely contain myself as we passed the spinning globe in the fountain and approached the ticket booth. I think the last time I ever felt like that was Disney World, Florida, back when I was 11. Dad seemed to be pretty mellow; I guess I needed someone to keep me grounded today as it felt like all my dreams were coming true. We kick started our Universal trip with the House of Horrors, Dad’s idea of course. Lots of screaming and classic horror movie characters chasing you through tunnels. What fun. We then took the time out to watch the new Special Effects Show, which demonstrated things like CGI and camera trickery.
We spent some time soaking up the really cool atmosphere. There were characters walking round having photos with visitors. Had my photo with Marilyn (Monroe not Manson) and we both had our pictures with Shrek and Fiona! I was mortified when Dad made me have my picture taken with Donkey (Shrek) he was like the real thing, sitting in the back of cart talking to passersby in the actual voice! Very clever but after he shouted my name and then mocked my English accent for all to hear, I wasn’t best pleased!

We spent most of our trip today stood in queues, but we were expecting it! But nothing could have beaten the length of time we stood in for the Back Lot Tour. Although the queue moved pretty swiftly, everyone seemed to be baking in the Californian heat. The guys at Universal figured that if they spray cool mist onto visitors whilst queuing, it’d make the wait a little more bearable, it did!

The Back Lot tour was well worth the wait and was definitely the highlight of my day. We travelled in trams for about 45 minutes, visiting working sound stages and a huge verity of sets from all different films; The Bates Motel (Psycho), huge street sets used for films such as Bruce Almighty and Back to the Future, the plane crash scene (War of the Worlds) and Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives), to name a few. The tour also included a few unusual attractions as well; King Kong 3D and 360, The Mummy Ride, Jaws, the list is endless. The tram was also thrown into the action with a flash flood, an Earthquake in an underground station and several cars were blown up and thrown towards us, it was crazy, but so much fun.
After the excitement from the Back Lot Tour we filled in the last part of our day with Shrek 4D, and The Simpsons Ride, which turned out to be Dad’s favourite, it was pretty impressive. We finished up with a hot dog and a Simpsons style Squishie before heading back to the train station, not forgetting to stop for some souvenirs from the official Universal store. The sun was just setting over the downtown LA skyline as we made our way back it to the campsite. What a brilliant day!

Posted by Simon Lock 12:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 1 - LA according to Siobhan...

Or how Dad nearly got us killed on Day 1!!

sunny 27 °C

Day One (Officially), LA:
Ok so Dad’s handed me the ropes for the blog today, probably tired of it already, can’t take the pressure from you guys wanting to know so badly of our travels....or not.

Anyway after a much needed sleep for the both of us we enjoyed a Starbucks coffee in our hotel room and then headed onto the streets of LA in search of breakfast! After wandering down the street aimlessly, we decided to ask a local. Some business dude pointed in the direction of a diner across the road called Denny’s. Risking our lives crossing the huge roads we made it to the diner. Dad made me laugh by saying to the girl at the entrance ‘’We’ve never done this before, do we just go and sit at a table?”, haha brilliant! Now we definitely looked like tourists!

So it was pancakes with strawberries and cream with an ice tea for me and Dad chose pancakes with eggs and sausage, greedy git. Can easily get used to this!!! Although my thighs and hips might beg to differ!! So after full bellies we headed back to the hotel to check out and wait for the campervan guys to come and pick us up and take us to the depot. Whilst waiting I introduced dad to a Chuck Norris and the endless internet sites dedicated to him and we also Skyped Jenna and Lacey. We waited a good three hours almost before we came to the conclusion that the depot guys weren’t coming, we rang them and they confirmed that we’d wasted a sunny arvo waiting on them! Tossers! One of the hotel taxi drivers drove us there instead, in a Lincoln. For all of you lot like me, who don’t know cars, apparently it’s a pretty swish motor.

One $40 taxi ride later and we were finally at the depot. I sat outside soaking up the Californian sun whilst Dad dealt with all the boring paper work. Life got a little more interesting when we started the engine...
Ok so driving on the right seemed a little strange at first. Dad assured me that he was cool with it and that he’d driven plenty of times on the right so I relaxed. I don’t know whether it was the near death train line crossing experience that put the shits up me or constant horn action we received within the first hour of driving the beast. And when I say beast I mean beast, its 30ft long and 12ft high and rattles around like I don’t know what! We knew from there on out this campervan lark wasn’t going to be easy!

So this being the ‘Gump’ tour, the idea is that we visit some places where Forrest went running, one of those places being Santa Monica Pier. What better way to start an epic journey like this than to start at the vintage pier that dates back over 100 years! The guys back then must have built the pier well, as it withstands restaurants, shops, a fairground.... oh yeh and our 30ft camper, we’ve now nicknamed ‘beastie’! That’s right! In an attempt to get to the pier car park we ended up taking a (very) wrong turn onto the actual pier itself, driving Beastie right underneath the piers historical sign! Not good. We got a few laughs from surrounding tourists and to top it off drove up and back down a 1.5ft high kerb. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dad swear so much.

After the pier drama we finally settled in the right car park. Parking cost $32 for all day. It was past 8pm. Dad not best pleased. So finally set foot (not tyre) onto the pier and took the time out to take photos and soak up the ‘carnival’ like atmosphere. We had our dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant where we ate, you guessed it, shrimp! Great food and a great atmosphere!

It was late when we finally arrived at our first camp site of the trip. Trust Dad to pick a site right out in the Californian hills, north of LA. Taking on cliff edges in the dark, in a 30ft wagon we were only just adjusting to, was hard going.

Day 1 over....

Posted by Simon Lock 09:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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