West Coast Cruising USA 2011
Wed 03 Aug 2011
West Coast Cruising USA 2011.
Highlight: Visiting Google
Lowlight: Camping at Page
Best recommendation: You still need to carry cash and $10 in quarters
2193 miles = 3529 km
Summmary: A random opportunity came up to travel with a n expert CS friend and take advantage of a rising AU$ and the USA summer time.
A. Redondo Beach, Los Angeles, California
Starting out from CS Mary's place at Redondo Beach, it was great to have an LA base and be able to loan tent, air bed, inverter and sleeping bag.
At new retail prices, a Virginmobile MIFI 2200 had been purchased to provide in car Internet and a MIO Moov R503T GPS car navigator
B. Los Angeles, California
We stopped up to Hollywood with a million other people for the obligatory photo with the sign and walk on Hollywood Blvd. Harry Potter's final ep was starting at midnight so people were getting caught up in this histeria along with street side people in various costumes for MJ, Indiania Jones and Darth. Cheesie, but important
C. Santa Barbara, California
LEaving LA on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) takes you along the coast to name famous places SB via Santa Monica. Afternoon stop over at a famous beach bar restuarant was worth it for a tasting plate, that turned out to be a tasting feast.
Drinking beer with sand under the feet was fantastic, mind the cool breeze and maruading seagulls
D. Lake Cachuma Recreation Area, Santa Barbara
Having laid down a grid of couch requests on this area in the past days revealed nothing, except some belated replies of "should have read your request earlier". The CS community here is very laid back and probably overloaded with requests when they come back from surfing.
Given the lack of CS accomm, campside was lakeside at Cachuma. Air bed had a hole in, so the hard ground was reasonably comfortable come midnight. The showers needed quarters to produce any water at all, and lack of same required basin bird bath effort to last the day.
E. Cambria, CA, United States
Further lack of response from west coast CS community and full camp areas found us in the "Seaside Motel" in Cambria. Caught in the fifties, the owners had styled the rooms for ancient times (50's) with colour palette to match. I got the Pink room somehow... ?
Its a nice town with main st shopping fare, pier, and hot dog stand.
F. Monterey, California
Famous for goodness knows what, this is a relaxed place. Clam Chowder and beers with CS host, Bryan, prepended a comfy night on new air bed and some chilled beers with a language student only too happy to accommodate - which signalled a turn around in CS luck which would run the balance of the trip.
G. Santa Cruz, California
Lunch was at the Crows Nest, Santa Cruz, not before spotting a floating dock completely taken over by Seals. There must have been 200 of em' Funny was the youngsters where, they were jumping into the water and out, climbing over the others and a joyess display of smart mammal behaviour - these guys are really the monkeys of the sea.
Santa Cruz has several memory lanes. Having attended SCO Forum in about 95, back in the dark days of pre-internet and Microsoft's desired domination of the world server market, myself and Scott Morris had created a "rukas" at the Crows Nest a couple of times. Lunch here was yum and opportunity to watch america enjoy their Sunday lunch and get beat in the penalty shoot out in the ladies world cup of soccer by Japan - What can I say - they love their sport.
A confirmed couch awaited, so it was on the road, again to Google headquarters town, Mountain View.
H. Mountain View, California
Arriving into Mountain View seemed a great way to find our way into good and enjoy the fine accomms at Hayes place. Retired semi-conductor hero was full of information about the evolution of the underlying technology that the world now depends. Also in the house was Carole. Her business is to work with Start Ups on their HR needs and coach IT execs and workers through the changes in their career paths - so necessary in a fast moving industry... Set around a pool and garden complex, Hayes' place was just about sold with his intentions to move on to a calmer place.
I. San Francisco, California
Take an extra jumper to San Fran, or so they say. It seemed reasonable advice and sure enough the mist rolle d in after midday, but cold - not really, worthy of sun burn - absolutely. By the end of the day my nose was bright red and still recovering, but in the meantime, I managed to drive the bridge loop and see the bay and city from many angles. North side of the Golden Gate, is a tourist look out stop, complete with NO parking. The stop over here confirmed that a much more peaceful place was available just below at marina, so 10 mins later lunch was consumed with the water lapping at the breakwater, complete with fishermen and locals sunning themselves.
Back in the car, the big loop dropped back into the wharf area, where affordable street parking was found near pier 2-3... and a walk was set upon.
Its a great vibe - street performers, happy tourists snapping every angle, fisherman's wharf is a circus featuring every tourist nation of the world. Really fun to look at.
Smart phone mapping had me at different Lombard St, on the hill side 20 minutes away. Trudging a reasonable hill revealed a single block down hill street where an early traffic calming effort had turned into a tourist attraction. The houses overlooking and the gardens in the curves, quite the spectacle.... perhaps 500 people happened by in the time we were there including drivers, cable car riders and those on foot.
J. Google, Mountain View, California
Busting out of San Fran in time to experience traffic, the Dodge set us easily back to the eventual highway south.
At 6pm, we had a dinner and tour of Google. My Mecca, Google is renowned for free food, a great work environment and people motivated to collaborate and work on the best internet systems about. Artur, our tour guide had worked in security for Google for a year abouts and was only to happy to share his experience of the work place, walk by some cool things, including a Google earth booth - where I obliged to bring up the Whitehaven Beach aerial angle.
Dinner was on the house, and amazing - perhaps the best food that I ate in the USA - I choose Indian food, as did most of the Indians. The place is a cultural melting pot it would seem with all sorts represented. Turns out that the Polish (our host) seem to have a way with security... :) Anyway, dins was noshed up on the sunny lawn with beach volleyball in jump nearby. A google bike ride later and souv'ees in hand it was over and time to plan a next day early depart to Yosemite.
K. Manteca, California
Stopped over for lunch and provisions before a lay about beside a street complete with trout and rafting tour...
L. Yosemite National Park, California
How easy is driving the USA. Seeing no barrier in mountains, valleys, deserts, they have pushed highways, and freeways to criss cross the nation. Yosemite for instance has four entrance roads and you can drive to most of the look outs. Our hosts here, Kelli and Fleetwood are Delaware North (DNC) employees and offer a small piece of floor in their cabin. Outdoors is where you belong anyway, so hiking and front porch consumption of beer was the name of the game.
Turns out that Yosemite was in the most amazing flower, with late Summer most waterfalls were still flowing hard, including the ability to carry off 3 hikers just this day for a 300 foot deadly drop. People do die here regularly apparently.... just by shear weight of numbers. Part of the reason is the easy access by road to everything, that includes letting as many cars in the gates of the park as can arrive in a day. Traffic jams apparently can back up the 30 miles to the gate from the Curry Camp, we stayed at.
The amazing thing about staying here was to step from the cabin in the morning and look up to 300 foot shear way carved by ancient glacier travel. Just amazing.
Other outlooks were stunning and the streams too cold!
M. Death Valley, California
Contrasting the near freezing temps of mountain streams is the expanse that is Death Valley. Breathtaking to drive into, it seems to extend for ever and includes the roads to the next mountain range and up that make it an uterlly surreal experience. At the tourist centre, and the lowest place in the USA (200 feet below sea level) the car thermometer ascends into the 120's, that 40+ degrees C. Despite the dry heat, there is a very salt puddle for tourists to photograph.
From a geological point of view, this valley is very important, as it forms one of the lines in the perforated edge fault line that extends along California, confirming that one day, the majority of the state will tip into the San Fran first. The valley itself is formed from the either side mountain ranges moving apart, resulting in the "fill" at the valley floor settling lower toward the earth centre... and while common knowledge is that CA is constantly experiencing tiny earth quakes, East of this line seismic activity settles tends to null.
The geology put in perspective, and the vista photographed, its times to push onto for 200 more lonely KMs to Las Vegas.
N. Las Vegas, Nevada,
Couchsurfing into Vegas, is the most palatial I have experienced at Brian's place. Super cool dude with a penchant for piratery, his place is a large format 5 bedroom place that consumes $600 in power per month. Feature lit, complete with themed areas and a penis in the back yard, its very Vegas... and why wouldn't this be the norm - Brian has been THE photographer in LV for 28 years, accounting colourful records of shows, personalities, contrustruction and major past events. Recent to Couchsurfing he is enthusiastic about the project and a very very willing and generous host - landing him several lessons from the old hand ... :)
Out and about in LV, there is just too much to see. In a billion dollar game of one up man ship, the "strip" has every spectacle imagineable. Fire breathing volcano's, the famous Bellagio fountain, and casino's themed for Venice, Paris, New York (no Australia?) and other massive monuments to the states leadership on gaming policy. You find it hard to fathom that the city sees 37.4 million visitors each year, made possible when you do the numbers on 250 thousand beds. GFC has impacted the cash flow city. At the north end of the strip hide a couple of 1/2 built 3 and 4 Billion dollar casino developments, stopped dead by the 2009 downturn.
The photo opps continue for a self portrait trip around the world in 4 kms.
O. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Just outside LV is the Red Rock Canyon - barely off the highway, its worth the afternoon trip to see some layed sand dune stuff frozen in time...
P. Las Vegas, Nevada,
37.4 million people can't be wrong. Las Vegas is a monument to gambling and ... people movement, for every day there must be 100,000 or more people arriving or departing from the world centre for luck. That requires 5 lanes for cars at reception, 250,000 beds, countless eateries and bars ... and as much glitch as you can muster into a city.
... and its there. New York, Paris, Egypt, Ceasars, Venice and that is just to name a few.
Believe it by seeing it and bring a camera, as the self portrait crowd won't walk 10 paces with out having to pose for another one, this time in another corner of the world - or at least a facsimilie of the same.
- and living this reality in the burbs seems to the be the way too. Good fortune (appropriate in LV) shone and we were put up in a grand home of Las Vegas with Brian, career photographer with 28 years exp in the night and day city. Mood music in each room, themed bathrooms and back lighting set a base layer of urban lasagne that includes swash buckling and a life size animated pirate skeleton.
What a wonderful way to experience the city.
Q. Page, Arizona
Driving is hardly a chore in the USA, particularly in a car with cruise control. Page looked like a mean 4 hour drive, or so Google maps inferred, but the reality was much easier. Under grey skies, Zion National park had to be skipped due to low cloud and rain. North rim of the Grand Canyon went the same way. A day of rain - I thought it was the desert! Oh well, it was the only one.
Staying overnight in the camp area was ok, never mind the late night commentary from USA girls comparing boy experiences till the wee hours, and back that up with showers demanding 8 quarters for even a drip and you will wish that you had brought cash. A swim in the lake was just the ticket.
Cashless has not come to the reservation either. The VISA did not raise a sweat in attempts to get to the slot canyons called Antelope.
Never mind the afternoon air tour will display enough granduer to fill a memory stick. On the ground at Monument valley after the Grand Canyon fly over, the dusty bounce in the locals truck to key photography points is wow enough to avoid self critisism of being amongst the drive-to-and-snap set.
R. Grand Canyon Village, Arizona
Arriving back to Page airfield mouth agape, introduces the idea to drive to Grand Canyon South Rim. The drive is easy again and produces moments of sunset before easing into the safe confines of staff accomm with another great (new) host for enjoyable dinner and chat.
The morning was early with the opportunity of extended sun up viewing at the edge of the abyss style depths that shows 6 odd billion years of history. Never forget the opportunity to dangle the legs from the ledge over deadly rocks awaiting 200 m below - making for the perfect self portrait.
S. Las Vegas, Nevada,
One night to go and its lazing around Las Vegas, shangri-la-de-Brian, who is still incredibly hospitable beyond the call. Its an early tuck in and sum up the situation, for its LA and home tomorrow.
T. Los Angeles, California
Another highway drive and you are back in LA, the circuit complete - with barely the time to pack away the camping gear and make for the airport - not before one last crazy stop over beer at Santa Monica - with NZ travel buddy back in the day Chris who still doesn't believe in the importance of working - saves the effort of trying to find a job in a failing economy. But hey, who's lookin'