July 18, 2007

Road Trip

After two months of kayaking and adventuring aboard I was lucky enough to receive a visit from my fantastic girlfriend Margot. Having just returned from a trip north to Washington it was into the shower, unpack, wash and repack the car before I headed into San Francisco to pick her up and catch up...

Margot taking in San Fran and the Bay area from the water

The highlight from our two days in San Fran was heading out to Alcatraz Island (the Rock) to take a look around the maximum prison turned national park.

Alcatraz Island aka. The Rock

Visible from all over the Bay area it started out as a lighthouse way back in the day, then a military fortification and then a military prison used to incarcerate military personal and native American Indian. This was followed by a federal prison until 1963, when it became a national recreation area.

Evening settles over San Francisco

We opted for the twilight tour of the Island which is definitely the way forward. You are given a head set pretty early on and then can take the self-guided tour. We spent a couple of hours checking out the sites before we headed back to town to catch up with a C1 paddling legend and mate Norwood and his wife.

Golden Gate from behind enemy lines

From San Fran we headed inland to Sacramento where we winged or way to Las Vegas to experience all it had to offer. Knowing that I was probably only going to get there once we decided to do it in style so, we opted to stay at a place called the Bellagio. Flash doesn't even begin to describe what it's like staying there.

The Bellagio - over the top in every way, just like Vegas

This could be said of most of the places on the 'Strip'. Everything is completely over the top and designed to leave a lot poorer than when you arrived. Apparently the casino's take over a Billion dollars a month from gambling alone from the 44 million people that visit annually. I reckon they're making way more from the beer and food. The cheapest Heineken I got was US$7 and a snack wouldn't leave you with much out of US$15. We also manged to time our trip with a heat wave leaving temperatures above 43oC during the day and in the low 30oC's at night. $$ was spent and gambled, margaritas and long island ice teas were drunk and very little was eaten.

Its like New York, only smaller and in the desert. New York New York with Paris Las Vegas in the background

Room with a view, Las Vegas from the 24th floor - not like Murchison

After two nights in Vegas I was a very sad looking Kiwi checking out on the final morning.

Margot and I had pretty big night to finish in Vegas which then turned into the worst day's travelling I have ever had. Mum you may want to skip to the next paragraph...

My memory is a little hazy but I recall chundering in the hotel room, in a bin at the airport (I think there was a security guard?), in the airport, on the way to the plane, in the plane, at the new airport and back at the car in Sacramento... I think.

Anyone thinking of drinking with Margot, be warned and make sure you eat before hand.

After recovering from my
mis-adventure we headed for Coloma another hour inland from Sacramento to stay with some friends on the American river.

With a night off it was back into party mode at the infamous 4
th of July party with the Cushman's and the Phillip's. Instead of being on the 4th it was in fact on 07.07.07. With two bands, fire dancing goth chicks, three kegs and a very big bottle of very nice tequila we all had a pretty bloody good night.

Needing to detox and get away from it all Margot and I loaded up the
Suby and headed 4 hours south the Yosemite National Park.

Who needs dirt, they do it differently in the high Sierra's

Yosemite is one of the coolest and most amazing places I have ever been in my life. Everything there is big and amazing. Once you get past the tourists (funny coming from me) and get amongst things a little you'll be left blown away. With towering granite domes, dramatic waterfalls and rich green forests it's definitely to be experienced.

Spot the tourist at El Capitan, towering over 1000m from the valley floor. Awesome

We caught up with some friends who work in the park and then headed up onto
Tioga Pass to camp for the night. Waking and driving the next morning we were treated to more stunning views and landscape as we headed higher on Tioga Pass. At 9943ft or 3031m it's the highest pass in California that can be driven over. Getting out and running around is a little more taxing at this altitude for sure.

Yosemite valley with El Cap on the left. See it to believe it

Down the eastern side of the Sierra's with headed for the south shore of Mono Lake. Settled in the Great Basin it acts as an oasis of sorts. Draining a good part of the western states it's a little different because its doesn't have an outlet and has 2 and a half times more salt than the ocean. Its also home to some unusual formations known as Tofa's. While we were exploring the lake we were treated to a lightening storm 8km west of us and the big bush fire it started.

On the road to Mono Lake

lightening strike = fire and a big problem

As with most things you do in America, it was back in the car for more driving as we headed north to Lake Tahoe to 'rest' and take it easy. Being a tourist is great!

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