It ain’t half hot mum (or should that be mom)

You know you’re somewhere hot when you see an advert on TV selling a product to cool down your swimming pool! I am currently in Palm Springs with just a short trip back to LA to go.

I have packed in an awful lot over the last two and a bit weeks in Cali and here are some of my highlights.

Las Vegas – The strip was actually smaller than I imagined but very long. Had a great time there and would certainly visit again. Had my one big night out there as well. Surprisingly I have not drunk much beer on this trip.

Joshua Tree Nat Park – I love them trees.

Grand Canyon – Went to the slightly less famous West rim on a tour. West rim is owned by Native Americans and had a some really interesting chats with them about how their lives have changed. A highlight for sure.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park – Nice driving through the snow and loved the sweet alpine air, never smelt air like that! Makes me want to live in the mountains somewhere.

Yosemite Nat Park – Exceeded expectations (which were high anyway). Went along with the BugBus on a group tour with some smashing folk. My jaw dropped so many times I had cuts on my chin.

San Francisco – Went there feeling a little down after leaving the group from Yosemite but a day wandering around Alcatraz soon lifted my spirits!

Big Sur Highway – Not quite as good as the Great Ocean Rd in Australia, but a nice drive all the same.

San Diego – My favourite US city to date. Loved the Ocean Beach area, felt really at home there. The only place I felt I could live in the US. As for the Zoo, wow, the pandas brought a tear to my eye (see below!).

Palm Springs and the drive across the desert – Had a spectacular drive today up to Palm Springs. Temperatures were nearly in the hundreds! Seems like a nice place. Off to the Palm Springs tramway thing tomorrow thats gonna whisk me 2.5 miles up a mountain to the snow!

Some other general observations about travel around California. Despite having $2 to one £1 I have still found some things expensive, particularly eating out and drinks.

The standard of driving is excellent here. Perhaps my opinion is slightly skewed having been in Auckland for eight months!

Travelling alone is ok. Met quite a few other folk doing the same, particularly in the National Parks but found the hostels to be a little disappointing. Some are basically places for down and out locals while others just don’t exist (despite what the guidebook says!).

I have stayed in quite a few motels and they are very cheap. Also avoiding resort type places at the weekend has helped keep things cheap.

In terms of work I have not done anything!

How cute is this!

panda

San Diego Sunset – My kinda place.

surfersandiego

Google, the Big Sur and the hitchiker

GogleSo I left San Francisco today after a memorable three day visit. Certainly a cool place, quite literally at night!

So I headed out in my Korean hire car along US 101 through Silicon Valley and decided to pull off the freeway and visit my old friend Google. It took me 30 minutes to find it and I was slightly disappointed when I spotted their very modest HQ.

I drove on South and picked up State Highway 1, better known as the Big Sur. A short way into the drive I spotted a female hitchhiker looking a little sorry for herself and for some reason I decided to pass her, despite actually wanting some company for the trip.

I pulled in for one of the Vista Points and a mile further on I spotted the girl again, looking even more distraught.

So this time I pulled over. I very straggly looking 30 something bounded up to the passenger door and asked where I was headed. ‘I am going all the way to Santa Barbara’ I said enthusiastically.

So she climbed in and accompanying her was a smell I won’t forget in a hurry (and neither will the passenger seat of my car).

It then dawned on me that she was homeless. She was carrying a small pack, a tent, roll mat and little else.

I now realised how she ended up 5 miles ahead of me.

‘How far are you going?’ I asked with some hesitation. ‘Only a few miles’ she said. She was going to be camping on the beach in some remote spot.

True to her word she got out of the car after 5 miles or so and with some relief on my part as I was gagging to be honest.

I kind of felt guilty in a way as I would have never picked her up if I knew what I knew when she got in the car. One surprising thing for me is the amount of homeless people in California, particularly San Francisco. Such a prosperous state and so many people living like that.

So I am heading further south tomorrow to Surf City USA, aka Huntington Beach then onto San Diego where I am going to gorp at some animals before heading back up to Los Angeles and home!

View on the Big Sur….

bigsur

Don’t worry, they were all alive…

seals

Some of the crew from the Yosemite trip…

yose1

Yosemite really is the Taj Mahal of National Parks…

seals

Getting my kicks on Route 66

Route 66 babyThey let me in! In fact despite what was said by the air stewards on Qantas it was painless and straight forward to get through US immigration and customs.

Qantas by the way continues to slide down my league table of favourite airlines. Their planes inside are now as tired looking as their staff. The meals are a joke. I got more food on a 3hr flight on Emirates (now numero uno for me).

Whinge over anyway. I have now been in the States for almost a week and having a fab time. I drove straight to Las Vegas after some nervous jet lagged driving through the freeways of LA and have now moved on to Sequoia National Park where I am about to embark on a short drive to gorp at the World’s largest living organism.

I know a lot of guys and girls who read this are from the USA so they might be interested in what I have to say generally about your nation.

America is a land of obesity?

Well I honestly don’t think it has much more of a problem than Australia or Britain to be honest. What I would say is that if I continue to eat three meals a day I might be adding to the problem by the time I get back home.

I had a buffet in a casino the other day and started off with a salad. I swear people were looking at me in disbelief.

The Latino influence

I don’t want to get involved in politics but California (and Vegas) would simply come to a grinding halt without the workers from South of the border.

I also hung out with a couple of Latinos for a while one night in Vegas and sadly witnessed some mindless knobs who were making some pretty disparaging comments towards them. Mindless knobs exist everywhere of course.

The girls love an English accent

It’s not often I am invited along with a group of 21 yr olds to celebrate one of their birthdays. Too bad their mum and dad were with them!

Americans are friendly and hospitable

Absolutely. This has been the case everywhere thus far.

The Grand Canyon is a must see.

Absolutely again!

Bears

I have to mention these big fellas. I have not seen one yet and I am not too bothered if I don’t catch a glimpse of the magnificent beasts.

Of course the night before I am heading somewhere where they exist in large numbers (only black bears and they generally don’t attack humans) National Geographic presents me with a program about Bear attacks in the USA! Eeeekkkk!

Just to ease the worry that some of my readers might have I am not going to be walking on my own out there and if I do encounter a hungry bear it will at least get a good feed as there will be a few of us!

So I am going now as a I don’t wanna keep the big General (or 60,000 black bears) waiting!