Day 21: Going Home

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Our trip has come to its end.

We got up fairly late or at least late for us on this trip at around 9am and walked up Lombard Street to the IHOP again. I had eggs bacon and toast and banana and nutella crepes and CJ had the same but with Pancakes instead of crepes. They were pretty good and set us up nicely for an expected long day.

Our checkout time was 12pm and our flight wasnt until 4.30 so we had some time to kill so we walked back down to Fishermans Wharf to pick up some last minute souveniers

We set off for the airport and despite taking a couple of wrong turns looking for the rental drop off, we arrived in good time and said goodbye to the Jeep which has transported us across the country. I am now sitting in the departure lounge watching the clock tick before we get on the plane for a 10hour flight back home.

Its been a great few weeks and the scenery and people we have met have been amazing. I think CJ and I have done well not to kill each other after we discovered each others annoying habits. I am looking forward to getting home and seeing my family and sleeping in my own bed.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and have felt like you were along on this adventure with us.

Final Mileage: 3711 miles.

Day 20: The Rock

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Today we visited the famous state penitentiary, Alcatraz.

We got up fairly early as we needed to be at Pier 33 by 9:30 and walked down Lombard Street to the IHOP. I can’t remember what we had but im sure it was probably eggs. After breakfast we jumped in the car and drove the short 10 min drive down to the pier. I had prebooked a parking spot in a lot nearby, partly to save a couple of bucks and partly so we were near to the departure pier. We arrived right on time and joined the queue to board the ferry.

The tour we had booked on acutally included a tour of Angel Island which is the largest of the islands in San Francisco bay. The ferry first did a loop round Alcatraz and due to the overcast weather and fog, it looked really moody and grim. The ferry soon arrived at the dock at Angel Island and by this time we were really cold despite putting on trousers and hoodies and I actually put on a second hoodie. The Angel Island tour included an hour long tram tour of the island and an audio track played while the tram drove round explaining the history, flora and fauna of the island. We discovered that it was owned by the military during the war against Mexico and in the civil war and was then used as for immigration and quarentine before it became a state park. It was a really interesting tour.

After the tour we had some time on the island before we departed so we went to the cafe and bought some pulled pork sandwiches and coffee which were not that great and left us both with dodgy guts. The ferry returned and we embarked and set off for Alcatraz. Once we arrived on the island we watched an introduction video which explained how the island was formed and its history both as a prison and before. We headed up the hill and joined a queue to start the cell house audio tour. The audio tour was excellent, the narrator guides you round the attraction showing all the important aspects and stories about escape attempts and life on the rock. I really enjoyed it. After the tour we headed back down to the dock and the ferry took us back to the bay.

Once we returned to the car I was dismayed to find a $74 parking citation for non payment. So much for trying to save a few dollars.

We decided to take a trip in the car and drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, I wanted to cycle it originally but it had been too chilly and a lack of time meant it would be more sensible to drive. Once across the bridge we drove around Sausalito, a wealthy area across the bay, for a bit then drove back across the bridge.

For dinner we went to a pizza place a few blocks from the hotel and got take out. The pizza was expensive and average. We stayed up late watching the olympics because we knew we didnt have much on the following day as we leave the US and fly home.

Total Mileage: 3694 miles

Day 19: Touristy Stuff in San Francisco

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No driving to do today, Horray!

We got up and CJ went outside to call his folks and I went for a stroll down to the bay where I could see the Golden Gate Bridge, it was partly hidden by fog but it still looked cool. I stopped at Starbucks and picked up some coffees as there was no way I was drinking coffee out of the machine in the hotel. We attempted to make tea in it last night and with powdered creamer it was the worst cup of tea I have ever drank. I threw mine away and made a coffee which was pretty disgusting too.

Once I returned and CJ finished his call we walked up Lombard Street and stopped at a tiny cafe called Cafe Golo which I had read some good reviews for. The place was really small with about six tables and we took a window table. I had blueberry pancakes and OJ and CJ had Granola and OJ. I liked the place, it felt a bit quirky but the two stuff were a couple of old ladies who were really friendly.

After breakfast we continued up Lombard Street and then turned towards the bay. We walked through Fishermans Wharf which is a tourist hotspot with lots of souvenir shops, I bought a SF hoodie. We bought some cable car passes and took the cable car to Market Street. The cable cars grip a cable that runs through the center of the road and have seating that faces out to the sidewalk, you can also stand on a ledge on the side of the car.

Market street is a long road that contains various high end shops and also a Mall. This was actually a Mall I wanted to visit as it contained the 49ers Team Shop. Once we found the shop I chatted to an assistant who seemed really pleased to meet me and hear about how I was a fan. I showed him a picture of me in my Wolverines shirt and he seemed really happy, he was a really nice guy and was really passionate about the 49ers. I bought a 2016 season training hoodie and a cap.

From Market Street we walked to Union Square as I had spotted a Cheesecake Factory from the cable car which was a place CJ wanted to visit in Vegas but didnt get an opportunity to. It was at the top of the Macy’s building on the 7th floor so we road the elevator and joined a queue to receive a pager. We stood on the balcony watching Union Square from above until our pager buzzed so we returned to the desk to be told to stand and wait for a server. It was 2pm so probably their busiest time. Eventually we got a table and I ordered cherry cheesecake and a tropical smoothy and CJ ordered keylime cheesecake and a strawberry smoothy. The smoothy was lovely but I was a bit disappointed with the cheesecake, it was ok but not as amazing as I was lead to believe. Ive had better cheesecake.

We walked to the end of Market street and hopped back on the cable car but this time it was on a different line so we intended to get off at Powell street and change lines to ride back to Lombard street. Three full cable cars passed us at Powell street before we decided to just walk back, it didnt look that far on Google maps. It wasnt that far but it involved walking up a hill that was at at least a 45 degree angle and ended in the worlds crookedest street which is the one with the switchbacks.

We picked up our laundry which seems to be all there and was a bargain at $13, showered and then went out to find dinner. We chose a place called Super Duper Burgers and true to their name, they were super duper burgers.

 

Total Mileage: 3677 miles

Day 18: Yosemite National Park

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For the first time since we arrived in the US, this morning was cold and I mean it was ‘you could see your breath’ cold and annoyingly I didnt realise that the window right by the bed was completely open so our cabin was chilly when we woke. I guess that is what happens when you are up so high and shielded from the sun on both sides by mountains. We got up and went to the onsite restaurant for breakfast, niether of us wanted much so CJ got some oatmeal and I had a couple of slices of toast and coffee.

The drive ahead of us today was estimated at 250miles which isnt huge, distance wise but it was through Yosemite National park so I expected it to be a long drive, time wise. We ended up taking a side trip too so it probably ended up being a long distance too. We stopped at a gas station at Lee Vining and got totally ripped off for a full tank of gas (£41) and then headed up to the Tioga Pass. This is a mountain pass that goes through the Sierra Nevada mountain range and is the highest mountain pass in the state of California, over 3000m, and is closed during winter due to snowfall.

The pass begins by climbing up the mountains on windy roads until you arrived at the pay booth where we paid $30 to continue. The pass weaves through the park with spectacular vistas up high and lush meadows and streams lower down. We took a side trip to visit El Capitan which is a huge granite rock face and waterfall, the waterfall was a bit disappointing as barely any water was falling. The pass continued into more forest land and there were quite tall but no Sequoias unfortunately.

We ate a couple of granola bars and left the park and headed west towards San Francisco and the landscape changed to rolling, golden coloured  hills. We had probably been driving for at least 2 hours by now and the satnav said we had another 3 and a half hours to go and I was feeling pretty fed up with driving by now so I was not enjoying it.  After a couple of hours we stopped in a town called Oakdale so I could stretch my legs and although I told CJ I didnt want anything to eat, he got me some ice cream and it gave me a mental boast to keep on trucking.

San Francisco highways are pretty crazy but are nothing compared to Las Vegas or LA so I was merging like a pro and eventually we reached the Bay bridge which we had to pay $6 to cross and then soon after we reached our hotel, the Coventry Motor Inn on Lombard Street. The hotel has a parking lot which was one of the reasons I picked it but its actually pretty nice. The rooms are spacious with two king size beds and even a small table and chairs.

We headed up Lombard Street and dropped off some laundry at a small place a few doors away from the hotel. CJ thinks it will be very expensive, I dont think we will see our clothes again. We decided to finally get something to eat having spent the day surviving on toast and a granola and went into almost the first place we came across which was a 50s themed diner called Mel’s Diner. I had a country fried steak, mashed potato and vegetables, and CJ had a chicken pie with salad. It was really good to have some proper food.

 

Total Mileage: 3677 miles

Day 17: Wild Wild West

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Another long drive ahead of us today, 350 miles, so we got up early and set off. We had some complimentary muffins from the motel and we got some coffee from starbucks which we ate and drank  while we drove. We made a pitstop at Walmart for more bottled water and while CJ used the restroom I chatted to a guy outside and got asked to ‘hook a brother up…’ with spotted dick and custard which was his favourite pudding apparently.

We drove for about an hour and we had finally left LA and found a town nearby that had an IHOP so we pulled in for a proper breakfast. CJ had crepes with banana and nutella and I had crepes stuffed with hammy, cheesey, scrambled egg. Mine were not that nice.

We drove on and soon we were in the desert again with mountains surrounding us in the distance in all directions. We stopped and swapped over regularly today because we knew we had a lot of miles to cover in the heat. As the mountains ahead of us closed in the desert was replaced with green irrigated fields and soon trees and forest. The views again were spectacular and as we neared our destination we drove past a huge blue lake called Mono Lake which looked like an oasis.

The mountains were tight on both sides of the road now and as the road wound through them we located out motel for the night. The place is called Virginia Springs Settlement and is a small cluster of log cabins, chalets and even some covered wagons set in the curve of a bend in the road.  It is a really cool little place that is wild west themed and our cabin has old photos of wild west stuff.

Just back up the road is a side road for a historic ghost town called Bodie so we drove up there which again was a really good drive on some really curvy roads until the tarmac eneded and the last five miles were rough gravel track. Bodie is now a National Park and as we got to the end of the track we reached the gate only to be told that the park would be closing in 15mins and it wouldnt be worth the entry cost. We were allowed to pull forward and take some photos from the gate which we did.

We drove back and past the motel to a small sleepy fisherman town called Bridgeport which is located between the Bridgeport Reservoir and twin lakes. The main and only road that went through the town was as wide as a UK motorway. We stopped at a small burger joint and had some dinner.

Not a hugely interesting day today but we covered a lot of miles and the scenery was stunning.

 

Total Mileage: 3388 miles

 

Day 16: Jon’s Star Tour

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For the first time since we arrived, CJ woke up before me and was out side when I woke. I got up and joined him, as we had a day in LA today, he went back and I went for a stroll round town. I bought some coffees and returned to the hotel. Once we were both sorted, we jumped in the car and headed to Grand Central Market in Downtown LA. Grand Central Market is a large building chocked full of eateries. The place was really busy and the queues were ridiculous, we picked out breakfast mainly due to the length of the queue and had egg, bacon and tomato sandwiches and coffee. After breakfast we wandered around downtown for a while before it began to get hot again so we retreated to the car to cool down.

We decided to just do a tour of LA in the car today so I set up a bunch of waypoints in the satnav and we set off. Our first stop was the Griffith Observatory which provided great views of the city and also a sciencey museum explaining about the sun and planets. From there we headed back down the hill and onto Hollywood Boulevard, which had a lot of traffic both foot and vehicular so as we crawled along, we got to see everything we would have had we been on foot but in lovely A/C. At the end of Hollywood Boulevard we headed back up the hill to drive round the Hollywood Hills and Mulholland Drive which are great windy roads. After we descended we drove along Sunset Boulevard and then onto Beverley Hills and then out of the city towards Malibu. The road to Malibu is called the Pacific Coast Highway and as we were heading north, we had the the mountains on our right and the Pacific Ocean on our left.

We had decided to drive to Malibu and get something to eat but the only main road is the highway so our only option was restaurants on our right as it was impossible to do a U-turn across the highway and as it was a sunny Sunday evening, even pulling off to the right side of the road was extremely difficult. We pulled into an Italian restaurant and looked at the menu and the starters cost the same as our entire meals in places we had eaten so far. We should have realised when we pulled into the car park and parked next to Porsches and Mercs. We carried on looking and it began to dawn on us that the sheer quantity of Lambos and Ferraris we had spotted and the $20 parking costs meant that restaurants in this area was probably a bit more upmarket than what we were looking for.

Eventually we found a small Italian Pizza place called Rocco’s which mainly did takeout but also had a couple of tables inside and outside. We ordered a large pepperoni pizza and I for dessert I ordered a Cannoli (it was called a ‘Holy Cannoli’), mainly because thats what they order in the Sopranos.

Once we had eaten we drove back to LA and our motel.

 

Total Mileage: 2986 miles

 

Day 15: End of the Road

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Today we were woken by the resident rooster at the Airbnb property we stayed in. I got up and went to sit outside while CJ stayed in bed. I met Paul outside and asked him where we could go for a healthy breakfast, he was busy with his morning and said he would return which he did along with a plate of bananas and fresh homegrown figs. Apart from a fig roll I had never tried a fig before and it was pretty nice and gladly there were no wasps inside. Later he brought us out some fresh coffee. Airbnb came good for us again.

We sorted our shit out and left the property. We decided to have our healthy breakfast at a diner called Molly Brown’s and we both had the scrambler combo which was scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns and toast. Healthy tomorrow.

We got gas again and set off for LA taking the scenic route through the Angeles mountains. Soon the desert was replaced with tall pine trees and the road wound its way towards the mountains. We increased our elevation until we were at around 2500m and the roads continued to curve around the mountains for over an hour. It was an amazing drive and the views were breathtaking and we stopped numerous times for photos. As we began our decent we were presented with a view of LA in the distance.

Driving in LA is hell, almost as bad as Vegas. When we hit the city we ran into traffic and there are so many interchanges it is hard to know if we were on the road that the satnav was telling us to be on. We glimpsed the ‘Hollywood’ sign in the distance and after a couple of misturns and some good ‘eyes on swivel’ teamwork we made it to Santa Monica pier which is the end of Route 66. I think we both felt a sense of achievement for completing route 66 and although we didnt drive the entire road we drove a significant portion of it.

I didnt realise how excited I would be to see the ocean again, I was more excited than I have been on any other part of the journey. The beach and pier were really busy it being a sunny Saturday afternoon and we walked to the end of the pier and looked out over the wide expanse of blue sea. We went down onto the beach and strolled along the waters edge for about a mile before we turned round and returned to the car where I changed into my swimming shorts. I went for a swim and CJ walked further up the beach. The water was lovely and cool and I had fun jumping in the waves.

We returned to the car and set off to find the motel, Jerrys Motel. It is situated in downtown LA, its a smallish room but seems decent enough. After getting changed we headed back out to a place called Pershing Square where we had heard that the band Kansas were doing a free gig. After a 15min walk we located the area and heard the band playing. We grabbed some Cali-dogs from a food van which were hotdogs with coleslaw and crisps on top, bit weird but they tasted good. We watched the rest of the gig and then walked back to the motel.

So thats the end of Route 66, but fear not faithful reader, it is not the end of our journey. Tomorrow we stay in LA but then we continue to San Francisco so stay tuned for more posts.

Total Mileage: 2891 miles

Day 14: California

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Not much has happened today and the only photos I took were of my breakfast. After we woke, CJ got up and went to the gym while I stayed in the hotel room and tried to get yesterdays blog post to publish. For some reason I keep having problems accessing the site. Most of the time I can get to the site until I start uploading the photos and then it just times out. Once CJ returned we packed out stuff and checked out.

We drove for about 40mins to get clear of Vegas before we stopped at another casino called Whiskey Pete’s that housed a IHOP which is a massive chain restaurant that specialise in serving breakfast. CJ had French toast with strawberries and banana and I had a combo which consisted of eggs, bacon, sausage and shredded potato and a slightly smaller portion of French toast with strawberries and banana. It was very tasty but we both ate too much and felt very full and sleepy.

We set off and after a while we crossed our final state line into California. The landscape was mostly flat and open through the Mojave desert with cacti and scrub so not very appealing and pretty boring and CJ fell asleep for a bit. Once we got to Barstow we picked up Route 66 again although we did miss a fair chunk of it because we took the quicker I-15. We were not on the route for long before we headed off to a town called Hesperia which seems to be a suburb of Victorville which in itself is not a huge town. Hesperia is the location of our second Airbnb rental and the property is in a location where the land is split up into half acre plots and the property is on one of these plots.

As we arrived Chessee waved us over to out parking space and as we got out we were greeted by Bonnie and Clyde, her two collies. The apartment is pretty nice and has one large bed, CJ is on the Futon tonight a huge closet room and a large bathroom and also a remote controlled fountain. It feels like they are going for a peaceful, zen vibe here as there is the fountain, windchimes and spinny wind things, its nice but the windchimes havent stopped since we got here and are a bit much. Chessee’s husband Mike came over and introduced himself to us and later both CJ and I chatted to Chessee’s father Paul. It was mid afternoon by this time so it was seriously hot out, about 40 degrees, so I sat the room and finished off yesterdays blog post while CJ stood in some shade and called his folks.

Once it cooled down slightly we drove to a nearby mall in Victorville and had a wander round, ive said before that I hate malls but there was nothing else to do that was inside. We ate some nasty food court food and returned back to the apartment. Its 9pm now and about 30 degrees but there is a nice cool breeze and I am sitting outside the room, drinking a blueberry lemonade and writing this post.

We leave in the morning and head to LA. It is not a particularly long drive so we have decided to take a detour through Angeles National Forest to make it a bit more interesting.

Total Mileage: 2752 miles

Day 13: Pinball Lizard

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Image courtesy of CJ

Las Vegas is not my kind of town. It is hot, really busy and I dont really gamble so today we decided to do non Vegas stuff. We slept late this morning and neither of us got up before 10am and when we did we found that it was grey and overcast outside and by the time we got down to the lobby, it was raining but only a light drizzle and it was still over 25 degrees. I wasnt aware that it rained in Las Vegas. Breakfast wasn’t included with our hotel stay so we decided to find a diner somewhere off the strip to eat and I found a place called ‘The Egg and I’. The place was very busy and we had to wait for a bit to be seated but when we did CJ had Eggs Benny and I had Eggs and Bacon.

After breakfast we set off to visit the Pinball Hall of Fame which was located about 10 minutes off the strip. It was a large warehouse building filled with not just pinball machines but old video games such as Space Invaders, Defender, Frogger etc and other games such as air hockey which were all playable for 25c, 50c, or 75c. I saw and played a few pinball machines that I remembered playing years ago and also plenty that i had never played. I even played Apollo 13 which has a 13 ball multiball, which I had only played previously on PinMame. CJ and I had a couple of games of air hockey and he beat me in both games. This place was a lot of fun and I am really glad we visited.

We left the Pinball place and headed away from Las Vegas and into the desert towards a place called The Valley Of Fire. It was just over and hour away and as we approached the area started getting hilly either side of the road until we rounded a bend and were presented with a truely martian landscape. Huge outcroppings of red sandstone dotted the landscape that date back to the time of the dinosaurs. The Valley of Fire is the oldest national park in Nevada and because it is a national park there is a cost of $10 to enter but it meant that paved roads weaved their way through the park which was fortunate because we were wholly unprepared to be walking about because we had forgotten the sun cream and even though it was still slightly cloudy, as soon as the sun pokes through the cloud it doesnt take much to burn. It was now around 30 degrees.

We drove round the park which in itself was brilliant as the road flowed through the rock formations, getting out occaisionally to walk round them. There was one that had petroglyphs drawn by the ancient people who inhabitated the area. The place was stunning, more so, in my opinion, than the Grand Canyon, partly because we were in it and partly because there were far less tourists and in some cases the place was completely silent.

We drove back to Las Vegas and had decided to eat at an Italian restaurant called The Olive Garden which is a chain restaurant like Prezzos. CJ had a bit of a bromance with the server who was named Nathan, he was a very good server and so was the food.

I woke up this morning wishing we hadnt bothered coming to Las Vegas as yesterday was more than enough for me and because I enjoyed the quiet and peacefullness of Flagstaff the previous day but I ended up having a great day partly because it was far cooler and partly because we avoided most of Las Vegas.

Tomorrow we leave for a place called Hesperia which is our second AirBnB property on the way to LA.

Total Mileage: 2504 miles

Day 12: Viva Las Vegas

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The day started off grey and overcast and soon it was raining again and then soon there was another thunderstorm. We had breakfast and after talking with Wendy the owner, we packed the car and left Abineue Lodge.  We had a four hour, 250 mile drive ahead of us to Las Vegas and for the first hour or so it was pretty heavily raining. Once we got out of the rain it gradually got warmer and clearer until we ran into another rain storm. This one was worse than the previous one and the rain was so heavy people were pulling over onto the hard shoulder because visibility was so poor.  We drove through the storm and again it quickly cleared and got hotter, and hotter, and hotter. We reached the Hoover Dam and it was 40 degrees. We pulled off the interstate to go to the dam and just like the the Grand Canyon it was teaming with tourists and took us a while to find somewhere to park. The Dam was impressive as a feat of engineering and even the bridge above it that the interstate runs on was impressive. We walked half way across the dam figuring that the other half would be pretty much the same before we walked backed to the car and set off again.

We rounded a corner and we saw Las Vegas on the horizon. As we approached the traffic increased and we almost got into a fender bender as two 5 lane highways merged together. The sat nav took as round to the back of the strip to our hotel which was good because traffic on the strip was hellish. The hotel is Circus Circus and we werent sure what it would be like as it is quite away off from the main strip. As we approached we noticed a shabby motel next to the parking lot and  CJ commented that at least we werent staying there.

Vegas got me as soon as I checked in when I was told our room was in the motel across the street and I could upgrade for $11 a night. I took the upgrade and we were given a room on the 31st floor. We dumped our bags and set off for the strip.

Vegas is a strange place, its super hot here, and there lots of people. There are huge malls every couple of blocks, people giving out flyers and bums. Oh and Casinos. We ended up walking through the casinos just to keep cool. The casinos have mostly video slot machines and craps tables and blackjack, I havent seen any Roulette yet. We played a few of the video slot machines but they seem pretty boring to me, it seems the only twist to them is you can play multiple lines, sometimes up to 100 lines. There is nothing like the old fruit machines that I used to play where you would get nudges and features. Give me a Road Hog any day.

We had White Castle for dinner, this is the same as any fast food burger place such as McDonalds except that the burgers are smaller. With the standard combo meal you get 4 burgers.

We walked the entire length of the strip and back which is about 4 miles I think so after the long drive today and the walk I am feeling pretty tired. We returned to the hotel but will probably go back down later and hopefully it will be cooler.

Update: We ventured out again once the sun went down, my feet were still aching from the earlier walk so I stayed in the hotel Casino and CJ walked back up the strip. I played some slots and won $25 which is not bad for 1cent slots, I played some Roulette but didnt win anything.

Total Mileage: 2393 miles