Well, we're back (did you even know we were gone!!)
Katie and Naomi have just returned to the UK from our mega honeymoon travelling around the West Coast of the US.
In summary, we spent 600 hours together (only separating for restroom breaks - sound American much?!) over 25 days and drove 5158 miles!! This is our blog of our experiences.
27 March | London, UK
Our journey starts way back on 27 March when we arrived at our top secret Heathrow hotel. Deciding at the last minute to start our honeymoon a day early to avoid travelling to Heathrow during rush hour traffic we arrived at our lovely Radisson Edwardian (with facilities that we had no time to use!).
Thursday 28 March | London, UK to Los Angeles, California
We got the local bus to London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3 for our American Airlines flight to Los Angeles, California. It was still freezing in the UK so we couldn't wait to board. The flight was 11.5 hours so I won't bore you with that and you can jump straight to our arrival! *waves magic wand*
We landed at 4.30pm into Los Angeles and hit our first hurdle - US customs (no we weren't dodgy!). It seems that our 'family' causes confusion in the US. Something to consider when the airline are handing out the family boarding cards. A civil partnership (or hopefully in the future married couple of the same gender) is not recognised as a family. So us filling out one boarding pass was met with strange looks by security. He suggested for ease we say we are sisters (I pointed out how wrong that would be!) and we carried on our journey. Now clearly after an 11.5 hour flight we are tired, so we decided to stand at the airport pick up point for 2 hours waiting for an airport transfer that just didn't arrive. It turns out we were to call the hotel (no one had said this - thankfully we had a little battery left on one phone...) Finally at around 8pm we arrived at hotel number 1 - LA Adventurer*.
With thanks to: Mum & Dad Bennett, Mum & Dave Simpson, Marlene, Harry & Emma, Jackie, The Richards, Kristian, Damian Sarah & Kieran, Matt & Kayte, John, Fan, Ashley & Josh, Jan & Jerry, The Bellamys, Steve & Lee-anne, Lai-Har, The Coutrieux, Kat, Emma & Christian, David & Louise, Ghada, Claire & Kirsten, Kai & Taryn, Gemma, Liz, Kirsty & Adam, Phil, Sue & Bob, Don & Eddie, The Lesleys, The Jaques, Alan & Diane, Jenifer & Dave, The Redheads, Linda Seddon, YoungMinds colleagues, Legal & General Colleagues
*Thanks very much to: The Hanniquet-Brookings, Emma Burnell, Tiz, Erin & Emma, Dev, Rhi & Veerle, and Johanna, Layla & Gabriel, for all the hotels we were able to stay in!
Friday 29 March | Los Angeles, California to Las Vegas Nevada
Now, you should meet Jucy Lucy, our companion for the trip. No, not a third lady, but our trusty hire car! We had a lot of fun in America thanks to our Jucy Lucy. We picked her up from Hawthorne Blvd in LA at 9am in the morning.
This was the start of our big journey. We had a full tank of gas and everything we would need to get going. The question was, how the hell we were going to get used to 5+ lanes of traffic weaving in and out! Oh well, only one way to do it so we were off. The journey was relatively uneventful and easy. There was lots of talk on the radio about accidents, however all we saw was the remains of a burnt out RV on the side of the road, so luck was on our side!
Thanks to Adelaide & family
for the hotel
We got to our hotel, The Excalibur in Las Vegas. It was hectic, and parking was a nightmare but eventually we got parked and got inside. At this point we found out that it was Spring Break in the US which basically meant it was crazy busy! We dumped our bags and immediately were onto our days activities.
We started off with the CSI Experience where we got to pretend we were CSI investigators and solve a crime. Then we went over to The Rio hotel and watched The Ratpack is Back show. To finish off the evening we popped along to Improv at Harrah's. We walked back to our hotel via an amazing water display at The Bellagio and did a little gambling to complete the ultimate Vegas experience. By that time we were shattered and so to bed we went.
End of day summary: 278 miles; 2 States
Saturday 30 March | Las Vegas, Nevada to The Grand Canyon, Arizona via Williams
We woke up and decided that in order to get over the lights of Vegas we would lay by the pool and soak in the first of the rays we had the opportunity to enjoy. After an hour we checked out and were back on the road again.
Thanks to Steve & Neil, Lloyd and
The Michelles for the gas money!
Our first task for the day, filling up the Jucy Lady with fuel. This sounded easy, but you need a US post code to get fuel. After a few minutes struggling, we went inside and found out that there was a way to get gas in the US. Pre-paying the fuel in advance. Gas is a lot cheaper in the US, although Americans say it has been increasing and view it as expensive. Fuel was between $3.59 and $4.29 depending on the location.
Thanks to Elaine (Glass Bar)
Our first stop on the way was Williams along Route 66. We arrived into the town and looked for a diner for dinner. We found a Route 66 cafe and settled down. Our mobiles got somewhat confused with the time zones, and somehow we lost an hour meaning that by the time we were back on the road the sun was setting fast. Now this wouldn't be so bad except that there aren't many lights in the Grand Canyon and we didn't really know where we were going!
We arrived into the campsite in darkness to find that the campsite registration was closed. Thankfully they had a great system so we found our name, and our pitch number and map on the wall. Then the tough bit, finding the pitch in total darkness!
Thanks to Jay & Nick and Lauren
for a nights' camping
We finally found it and pulled in. This was our first night camping in the Jucy Lady so trying to set up in darkness probably wasn't the best idea! We decided to try out the roof bed for the first night so climbed the ladder to our bed in the roof (aptly named the penthouse!).
End of day summary: 280 miles; 2 States
Sunday 31 March | The Grand Canyon, Arizona
We woke up and walked over to The Grand Canyon (yes really - we originally were going to get the train into the Canyon, but that would have meant driving out. Our campsite was the only one inside of the Canyon so it was a 10 minute walk to the visitor centre). We spent a leisurely day on and off the shuttle buses taking in the various sights that The Grand Canyon offered. We also found a great spot for watching sunset later that evening. Come 6pm we settled in for the sunset. What started as warm and sunny very quickly became cold and windy, but wow was it worth it! After a stunning sunset we got the shuttle bus back for another evening in the Jucy Lucy. We decided to sleep downstairs as neither of us is getting any younger and the tiny ladder was not that inviting. Hey at least we tried it! Katie set the alarm for 5am as we had decided to get a view of sunrise to compare to sunset before we headed off to our next destination.
Sunset at The Grand Canyon
End of day summary: 0 miles; 1 sunset
Monday 1 April | The Grand Canyon, Arizona to Joshua Tree National Park, California
Sunrise at The Grand Canyon
Katie set the alarm wrong - we woke up at 4am!!!! Grrr, but actually it was a good thing. The sunrise may have been at 6.15am, but the colours and view started at 4.30am so by being awake early we got to see the whole thing. We were also more prepared and took our blankets from the car with us so we weren't cold. Katie even brought along pastries so we could enjoy breakfast and the view. By the time the sun had fully risen my hands were blistering from the cold harsh winds, despite wearing my batting gloves! Time to get back in the car and on the road (after applying a lot of moisturiser!).
Today's drive took us to California, however a brief stop for food and fuel turned into a 2 hour shopping spree in Kingman at Big 5 and Walmart. We quickly realised we were again losing time and so headed off towards Joshua Tree. We arrived at 5pm to again find the registration closed, but another slick system meant that we found our pitch and parked up.
This time we had some daylight left, so a quick hour chilling on our camp chairs reading and sunbathing rested us from the drive before we climbed the nearby desert hills to watch another sunset in a quite different surrounding. An early night was called for this evening as tomorrow was another long day so we set up inside and off we went.
Sunset at Joshua Tree National Park. Thanks to Melanie for a night's camping!
End of day summary: 388 miles; 1 sunrise; 1 sunset; 2 States
Tuesday 2 April | Joshua Tree National Park, California to Los Angeles, California
We awoke early and were on the road by 8am. We just about saw the warden, who otherwise would never have known we were there!!
Thanks to Dad and Pat Hall
for the VIP tour
We arrived back at the Los Angeles Adventurer hotel at 10.45am. We checked in and found a bus tour leaflet on the counter that departed at 11.15am. We signed up for it! 20 minutes later we had dumped the suitcases, freshened up and were awaiting the bus! We had a great tour of LA, taking in sights including the Hollywood sign, Hollywood Boulevard, some stars homes (including Beyonce & Jay-Z, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore and Angela Lansbury), Venice Beach, The Grove, Santa Monica pier and beach and so much more! Sadly our camera battery was flat as a (crepe) pancake following the hundreds of photos whilst camping and with no chance to charge it we were out of luck. We did however manage to find a shop selling disposables (you can still get them!) and so had to make do with this. If we ever get the cameras developed we will add those photos later!
Our driver kindly dropped us off in the WeHo gay district rather than back at our hotel so we could check out the LA scene. We stopped off for lesbian frozen yogurt and then on the way to finding the gay bars we got a little sidetracked and popped into an Irish Bar (they had an amazing happy hour!) for a few cocktails and the lady behind the bar recommended an amazing location for dinner in Malibu. We kindly noted this and moved onto the next location which turned out to be a beauty salon as I wanted a pedicure! Following the pedicure we dropped into The Abbey, a gay bar, where we enjoyed the most amazing steak we have ever tasted, and some equally as nice cocktails... and a waiter who made fun of our accent.
End of day summary: 138 miles; 1 State; 1 gay venue
Wednesday 3 April | Los Angeles, California
Thanks to Katie Carver, Polly & Mark
Another early morning as we drove to... wait for it... Universal Studios! We experienced rush hour traffic in LA on the way (wow, it is very busy, but it moves a lot easier than London). We arrived bang on time for our arrival and were greeted by our tour guide Matthew. We had decided to treat ourselves and had gone for the VIP tickets. On arrival we got free valet parking (the valets love our car!) and free breakfast, then on the studio tour we frequently got to walk around and get off the bus. We even got to go inside the props warehouse and the costume department! Then onto the theme park. Our guide looked after all of our bags whilst we went on the rides. Our VIP passes meant that we didn't have to queue at all so we were in and out and had the best seats! We also got an amazing all you can eat buffet lunch which was really nice and a good alternative to the usual over priced junk food on offer at theme parks. The afternoon meant saying goodbye to our guide and getting to go wherever we wanted. By 5pm we had done all the rides we wanted, and were ready to move on.
Thanks to the Ormerods for a lovely dinner!
We drove across to Malibu to Paradise Cove in search on the recommended restaurant that we had been given. The restaurant was amazing, but even more so was the view. It was right on the beach and there were dolphins and sea lions really close. We got to see a sea lion catch a fish and watch the sun going down over the water. The restaurant was truly amazing with great food, and it seemed to be a popular lesbian haunt, hidden away from prying eyes. We got dessert to go as we were so full and headed onto our next destination - Santa Monica pier. The end of another night and back to the hotel to pack ready to be on the road again!
End of day summary: 53 miles; 1 State
Thursday 4 April | Los Angeles, California to San Diego, California via La Jolla, California
'We're on the road again'... and driving down to San Diego. We had to make a bit of a detour as our main headlight wasn't working and we knew we had national parks coming up where headlights are compulsory. So we spent 4 hours *yawn* in a garage in San Diego. A call to Jucy was very unhelpful (talking to Mark in New Zealand) and eventually we agreed to sort it ourselves. The garage ordered the part that was being shipped from Los Angeles overnight and agreed to fix it in the morning. We departed for our hotel, a quick check in and we were back on the road!
Kayaking was the next activity as we drove to La Jolla and much fun was had (although not by the couple of women who after almost capsizing our kayak by approaching at full speed and then grabbing and leaning on our boat, instead capsized themselves and then begged to be dragged back to shore). We saw more sea lions, learnt a bit about the history of the area (it is the start of two tectonic plates) and got a good arm workout!
Afterwards we watched the sun set over the ocean before we drove back to the hotel, changed and got a taxi to the local lesbian bar 'Gossip Grill'.
Dinner thanks to Sarah Foster
We had a lovely meal, a few drinks and soaked up the atmosphere in this quirky and popular lesbian venue.
End of day summary: 74 miles; 1 State; 1 sunset
Friday 5 April | San Diego, California to Palm Springs, California
We got up this morning and Katie agreed to drive to the garage to get the car fixed whilst I had a shower and washed my hair as I had a near meltdown yesterday when Jucy suggested we simply pop back to LA or drive illegally yesterday! She arrived back with a fixed car and we were on the road. Palm Springs ahoy for Dinah Shore! We arrived around lunchtime and checked into our lovely hotel, The Spa Resort.
Thanks to Karen & Dawn, Patricia,
Kaye and Tibs for an amazing
Spa hotel experience
Now I should let you know that we were not staying in the hotels that were hosting Dinah Shore. We were in the one opposite. We could hear the music, but the benefit was our pool was not closed and there was a safe haven to return to (it was also cheaper!). We got our bikinis ready and popped along to registration to get our platinum bands. We also bought our drinks vouchers (the beach partys are no-cash operated) and two tickets to the film festival. Then we hit the pool party of course! After the pool party we changed for the film festival. We saw a very good television series called 'Second Shot' and a documentary called 'Out in the Desert'. Both were very good and well worth the $15 fee for entry. After the film festival we dressed for the White Party (in white!) and went off to dance the night away. The headline DJ, Havana Brown was outstanding. Her performance style DJing reminded me a little of how Peach performs. Her mixes were amazing, song choices genius and she had the whole room rocking away throughout. She even sang and danced her own single with backing dancers. Definitely worth checking out!
End of day summary: 139 miles; 1 State; c.30,000 lesbians
Saturday 6 April | Palm Springs, California
Dinner at Shermans thanks to Tali
We had breakfast in a lovely diner on the opposite corner to our hotel called Sherman's and then went back to our hotel to enjoy the quiet pool and hot springs. We popped across to the Hilton to watch the celesbian dodgeball competition and then back to our hotel for lunch and more sunbathing. Back to the Hilton pool party to catch the battle of the web series and then dinner at Sherman's before getting ready for the Monte Carlo party at the Convention Centre. The headline act was Karmin, who was amazing. The lead singer really interacted with the audience and the performance was amazing.
End of day summary: 0 miles; 1 State; c.30,000 lesbians
Sunday 7 April | Palm Springs, California to Yosemite, California via Bakersfield, California
We woke up and immediately hit the road. Dinah Shore had another day left, but we had places to be and people to see! Next stop was Bakersfield to catch up with an old friend from the OutGames in Montreal in 2006! We met Roberta for brunch in a little roadside diner in Bakersfield. Then we were back on the road and on our way to Yosemite National Park.
Brunch with Berta thanks to Annette
Within about 10 minutes of entering the park, the oil light came on... brilliant. Of course, nothing we could do so we just plowed on. We would have to deal with it on our departure the following day! We had a good old joke between ourselves about all the snow signs advising motorists to carry chains. This was why we had come in April, when the weather was warmer. We arrived at our campsite and parked up.
Nights in Yosemite campsite thanks to
Lisa and Elaine S
Some friendly neighbours from California invited us to join them by their campsite and we spent a lovely evening chatting to them. They even gave us fresh, warm cookies. The weather was turning and it looked as if it was about to rain so we all said goodnight and headed to our campers, but not before we were given leftovers for our dinner tomorrow! Yum. Within 10 minutes of battering down the hatches and closing the blinds we heard a coyote howl very close, and gunshot. Hmm, seems the park rangers were doing their job keeping the wildlife out of the campsite. Then the rain came, boy it sounded heavy, almost like hail. Anyway we fell asleep despite it!
End of day summary: 426 miles; 1 State
Monday 8 April | Yosemite, California
We woke up, opened the car and... SNOW!!!!!!! Not the snow we get in London, like proper snow. Overnight a system had dumped a whole pile of it. Yes, you can imagine, we were a little less jovial about the carrying of chains... which we didn't have. Heck, we only had a pair of jeans and a jumper everything else was for hot weather! To say we were unprepared was an understatement. The first thing we did was go to the visitor centre to find out if we would be able to leave the following day! Although some roads were closed that day, we were assured that it would have passed by the next and we would be ok. Phew. So we enjoyed a lovely day viewing waterfalls.
The best thing about snow... it fills up the waterfalls so they were stunning. Believe it or not, it seems a lot of snow isn't the end of the world. All of the roads were clear, people weren't panicking and everything was operating as normal... we weren't in London anymore! After a day of hiking around we retired to our Jucy Lady, in confidence that the snow would be cleared by morning...
End of day summary: 0 miles; 1 State; lots of snow
Tuesday 9 April | Yosemite, California to San Francisco, California
We awoke to no snow, normality, a perfect sunny day for driving, so that is what we did! Well, until we saw the first garage we came across, and then we stopped for an oil filter change *yawn*. Then we were on our way! San Francisco was soon in our sights and we instantly loved this town. We found our hotel, very conveniently located on Lombard Street and threw down our bags. We walked along to the World's most crooked road and then down to Fisherman's Wharf. We had a lovely lunch, road a cable car, street car and collected our Alcatraz tickets from Pier 33. In the evening we watched a baseball game. The Giants played against the Colarado Rockies. They won 9-6 in a really close game. We took a bus down to Castro, but we couldn't find the lesbian bars... better luck next time (there was no Planet London website to help us).
End of day summary: 190 miles; 1 State
Wednesday 10 April | San Francisco, California
This morning we woke and had a scrummy breakfast at IHOP; then we drove to Great America - today is theme park day! We spent the day riding rollercoasters and having fun. Going on a weekday makes it really good fun. No queues and the front of all the rides! At 5pm we headed to San Jose to meet up with Melissa & family an old Uni friend of Katie's for a lovely homemade dinner. It was very nice to have healthy food including salad, something we had certainly missed!
End of day summary: 114 miles; 1 State
Thursday 11 April | San Francisco, California to Petaluma via Bodega Bay, California
Dinner thanks to DR, night camping
thanks to Kelly
This morning we got the bus down to Pier 33 for a boat ride to Alcatraz. We both made it out alive after an amazing morning finding out and looking around this infamous island. Next we checked out of the hotel and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and onto our next home from home, a KOA campsite in Petaluma. We took a de-tour and drove along Highway 1 on the coast and stopped off at Bodega Bay for lunch. We ate in the Tides restaurant where the famous 'The Birds' Hitchcock film was filmed (well the actual restaurant burnt down in a fire but they have re-built it since!). When we finally arrived at the campsite we spent a few hours by the pool and in the hot tub before settling down for the night.
End of day summary: 99 miles; 1 State
Friday 12 April | Petaluma, California to Chester, California
Dinner at Chester thanks to
Rachel & Duncan
Continuing our non-stop (or brief stop) tour we drove up to Chester. Chester was a bit out of our way. We had hoped to see Lassen Volcano, however it was still snow covered and doesn't open until May (research fail) however we ended up having a lovely evening in a sports clubhouse which not only had cheap, good food but also $4 margharitas! We soon forgot about the volcano...
End of day summary: 263 miles; 1 State
Saturday 13 April | Chester, California to Shady Cove, California
We started the day going back on ourselves. Thankfully we have 2 brains between us so when TomTom told us to continue on we ignored it - those roads are closed and snow covered. We could have added 3 hours to our journey going partway and turning back...
We drove on until we reached Crater Lake. Now this was a strange day. Normally I take risks, Katie errs on the side of caution... not today. We arrived at the bottom of Crater Lake and there were those snow signs again, there were road closures and the park entry was waivered due to being out of season. Katie really wanted to see the lake, and after yesterday's disappointment we didn't want to fail again today so we decided to see how far we could get... stupid, perhaps but read on!
Dressed for the occasion!
As we climbed and climbed the snow got deeper and deeper, yet the road remained clear (they have great machines that pick up the snow off the roads and throw it on the sides, hence so high and deep). It is worth noting that Crater Lake is over 6,000 feet high... we reached the visitor centre but it was closed. There was hardly anyone there and it was reaching around 3pm. I was really unsure about continuing (plus I need to go to the toilet and there weren't any!). Katie pushed on about seeing the lake so we continued. We hadn't seen any cars going in our direction for ages (lots going down - would we get stuck, lost, locked in?!). Eventually we reached a car park. There were other people! We parked up but you couldn't see anything except mountains of snow in every direction. There were skiiers in proper gear (note I was wearing shorts and t-shirt - no I don't learn!). We were about to leave when I spotted a toilet. I pulled over and tried the door... it opened but to a long corridor with a metal grated floor. It moved as I stood on it. I envisaged myself falling through to my death but carried on. I turned a corner and saw another door at the end of the corridor. I finally reached it, tried the handle and opened the door. I was in a normal bathroom. Well that was an experience! I got back outside and spotted a couple walking towards a hill of snow. They were wearing normal clothes (jeans and coats and trainers, not shorts, t-shirt and sandles like me!). I suggested we follow them and all I can say is wow!!!
Dinner thanks to Paul & Georgina and Janine
The view at Crater Lake is amazing. It was well worth the drive, which was like being at a theme park in terms of thrills! We survived and didn't have to sleep in the car! We drove back down and on to our hotel. We celebrated our successful drive with the hot tub before heading out to a diner for dinner.
End of day summary: 390 miles; 1 State
Sunday 14 April | Crater Lake, California to Tillamook, Oregon via Portland, Oregon
Leaving California we headed North to Portland. We had researched some lesbian venues, but we were there during the day and they were all evening venues. On the way to look at one such venue my gaydar started to beep as we passed a cafe. We turned around and decided this was a good place for lunch. We had accidentally come across what seems to be a popular lesbian hangout. It served great food and we had to wait half an hour for a table, but we were amongst family! After lunch we headed into Portland downtown to check out the shops. The town was quite different to what we had experienced so far, and we didn't stay long. We had a way to drive to our hotel which was in Tillamook (famous for its cheese). We arrived, settled in and used the pool, hot tub and sauna before having dinner (Macaroni cheese of course!).
End of day summary: 349 miles; 2 States
Monday 15 April | Tillamook, Oregon to Seattle, Washington
Before I say anything about today... Happy Birthday Katie!!!
Ok, so we drove to Seattle and arrived around 1pm. We wanted to see the Space Needle, but had a bus tour booked at 3.15pm. We were in a hurry. Now we weren't worried as we have become experts at fitting lots into a short space; however we were at the mercy of other people. Oh no. So, we were met by the most incompetent receptionist. Poor instructions to the offsite parking meant I lost 10 minutes driving around (she sent me to the wrong road). Then she spent 20 minutes checking us in, whilst also dealing with 3 other customers at various times (one at a time stupid!) then she sent us to the wrong floor and building for our room... Grr, so we were a little stressed, but at least back in control. We took a walk along to the Space Needle and checked out the view from the top. Afterwards we walked back to the hotel to find our bus tour waiting for us. We were the only ones on it. Benefit to going slightly off season is not many tourists. We were lucky to have David as our tour guide. He went above and beyond and showed us so many sights, even going over the alotted time. After the tour had finished there really wasn't much more of Seattle to be seen so we went back to the hotel to freshen up. We decided to watch 42 at the local cinema, as it was about the first black man in baseball and as we were in the US, what better place to watch it? We went for dinner at 10 Mercer and then to the film. We were lucky enough to see David Simms leaving the previous showing (he is an ex-baseball player!) - our first (and only) celebrity spot!
End of day summary: 249 miles; 2 States; 1 celebrity; 1 special birthday
Tuesday 16 April | Seattle, Washington to Tumwater, Washington via Olympic National Park, Washington
Another early start as we were to take a ferry boat across to Olympic National Park and a drive up another mountain to Hurricane Ridge. We thought there was a lot of snow at Crater Lake, well there was here too, and again I was in shorts and t-shirt! Seriously, more research and I might have known!! Oh well. More gorgeous views and then onto waterfalls and a hike along Marymere Falls. Next we drove along to Forks (famous for Twilight!) and then onto Lake Quinault for another sunset. With the light fading fast it was a mad rush to get to our hotel before dark. Driving in National Forests in the day is beautiful, but in the dark is hair raising! We made it out before dark, and to our hotel by around 10pm.
Dinner was needed and we were happy to be greeted at our hotel by one of the family. She quickly spotted us and when we said we were popping out for dinner she recommended a place down town in Olympia which she recommended for the milkshakes. Never to miss a recommendation (and to avoid Subway, Jack in the Box and other delights) we jumped in the car and headed towards downtown. We found ourselves in the local lesbian hangout. Featuring a bar in the back and diner in the front, the King Solomon's Reef was indeed a good recommendation. The milkshakes were good, as was the pie and we were happy to add another lesbian venue to our growing knowledge of the West Coast. All in all a successful day!
End of day summary: 357 miles; 1 State; 1 Ferry
Wednesday 17 April | Tumwater, Washington to Horsfall, Oregon
Today was a day of driving. We only have a few days left and a long way to go. To say we were ambitious driving all the way up the West Coast to Seattle, East to Nevada and back and to squeeze in a lesbian festival would be accurate, but we still had a lot of miles to go, so an early start was once again in order. Of course, taking the freeway is quicker, but not much fun so we opted for the coastal route adding more hours but much beauty to our route. Needless to say, going the long way meant not using our satnav, not a problem as my trusty wife is good with map reading... read on to find out why this last sentence is funny...
View from the drive - the Oregon Coast
So, we only had to stay on the freeway until junction 36 and then come off onto the 30; even we could do that. Off we set and as usual we got talking. We started to have some really good ideas for Planet London, how we could do some new things, make improvements. Katie was scribbling away in our notebook that we always carry so we wouldn't forget any of these amazing ideas. We suddenly realise that we have no idea how far it is to our junction, remembering we weren't using the TomTom, so we look on the map, and at the next junction. We see a big queue of non-moving traffic ahead and our heart sinks. Our first proper, non-moving traffic jam. Katie announces we missed the junction. Not by one or two, but by 14 junctions!! The only good news is that there is one junction before the traffic jam; without hesitation I take it and re-enter in the other direction. Nothing like adding an hour to an already extended day of driving! Oh well, part of the adventure I guess!
Finally we arrive at Horsfall, we drive across a road that crosses a river. There is nothing but sand dunes and we wonder where we are staying. We see a box, sign in and pay $5 to enter Horsfall National Park. We pay up and drive on. The road is sinking in places, you can see where it has been repaired. Either side is either sand or in places just water. I wonder what would happen if we swerve off the road, or if the road sinks, and I decide it is safer to drive in the middle of the two lanes, after all there is no traffic!
We arrive at a car park, no actually that is our campsite! It is as close to camping on the beach as you can get. Just opposite our pitch is a huge sand dune, and on the other side is the ocean. Sadly the cloud cover was too dense for a sunset but being so close to the water was amazing. We didn't sleep very well in this location, partly as there were only 3 vehicles around, and because our over-active imaginations were imagining all sorts of things from a car driving into us entering the car park, sorry campsite; or someone towing our car into a swamp; or other such storylines from horror stories where two young women are along in a remote location!
End of day summary: 380 miles; 2 States
Thursday 18 April | Horsfall, Oregon to Morgan Hill, California
We departed Horsfall early at 8am as we knew we had a long way to travel. We stopped off for breakfast at the nearest town and got out the map. We were thinking of going off-plan. The original plan was to drive to Acorn East for one last night of camping but it was slightly East of where we were heading, and would leave a long drive the following day. Now much more aware of our driving abilities, and wanting to be able to add more interesting activities to our last proper day, we were thinking of pushing through and just finding accommodation wherever we may stop. After many discussions we decided on an estimated route, and picked somewhere we thought we could reach. We were doing it, blowing out Acorn and driving free. Afterall we figured that worst case we could sleep in the car in a Walmart car park!
Well, we managed to push right through to Morgan Hill, near San Jose! A whopping 600 miles in 12 hours! We found an Extended Stay America who were offering a reasonable rate. We decided the petrol we had offset in not going East covered most of the cost so we paid up and got our key. It also gave us a chance to re-pack all the suitcases so we wouldn't have to do this tomorrow - yay!
End of day summary: 600 miles; 2 States; lots of coffee
Friday 19 April | Morgan Hill, California to Santa Barbara, California
Another early start and we were on our way to Santa Barbara. Because we had made it so far, we were able to once again choose the long route and got to drive along Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. It is truly stunning and well worth the driving the day before. We stopped off at Pismo Beach for an hour to sunbath on the beach and then we were on our way again. We arrived at the hotel, checked in and got the car washed and vacuumed. We went for a swim in the pool and used the hot tub until the sun was starting to set. Determined to make the holiday stretch as far as possible we headed to the beach for one final sunset. Another view completely different from all of the others. We returned to the hotel for dinner and to rest before the drive back to LA to return our Jucy Lady.
End of day summary: 279 miles; 1 State; 1 sunset
Saturday 20 April | Santa Barbara, California to Los Angeles, California
We had a lie in, only joking; we were up at 6.30am for another early start! Back on the road and we were back in Los Angeles to return our trusty lady to the car hire shop. A sad farewell was said and a taxi whisked us to the airport for our flight home. And this is where I am now, awaiting a notification to board the flight back home; back to our lives in London.
End of day summary: 104 miles; 1 State
So, at the end of our mammoth trip, how do we feel? In awe of the States, we really have loved our trip. We cannot believe how easily the landscape, weather and experiences can change within a few miles; by travelling up a hill, around a corner or to a beach. The US is vast, and we are so aware that we have only touched on the magnitude of it. We have created a list of things we want to do next time; we've discussed coming back again, whether it be for a holiday, a sabbatical or perhaps a move; only time (and finances) will tell. We certainly have a wish list of things to see and do!
We also started a list, the top ten things we like about the US, ok so it is more than ten things; but that is no surprise!
Top ten (or more) things we love about America (in the order we came across them):
- Screw top alcohol
- Camping arrival procedures
- Turning right on red lights at junctions
- Camping pitch sizes and facilities (all come with fire pit and bench) - particularly National Park grounds
- The varied landscape
- Cars (cruise control is amazing)
- Still lemonade
- Real queue jump at theme parks and VIP tickets
- Paradise Cove
- San Francisco
- Free refills
- San Francisco houses
- Coffee everywhere!!!