Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Journey Home

Well bright eyed and bushy tailed, namely hung over and a bit hangin, I got to Las Vegas McCarron Airport and checked myself in to my flight. With my bags whisked away down a shoot hopefully to be returned to me at Heathrow I journey to the gate.

The flight was unspectacular like many other internal flights in the States, sat next to a nice British couple (we get everywhere in Vegas it's like a tackier busier Blackpool at times, well if Blackpool had the GDP of a medium country and wasn't really run down and a bit pants - so rubbish comparison by me there). The interesting part of the journey comes with the call for a doctor on the flight. Oh yes indeed that happens and so does emergency unsheduled landings in Minneapolis. So connection in New York gonna be close then. Patient walked off the flight, Americans concerned for her welfare. Can't help thinking that in Britain if she wasn't carried of a gnats whisker away from death she might have been lynched for the delay.

Well it was close, just made it across JFK airport and boarded my flight with no time to spare. Hoping my bags will follow me but if they wanted my soiled undercrackers then good luck I'm on the flight and I'm away to blighty.

Now again and unsurprising flight with the Adjustment Bureau as the film yet again, four flights same film.That was unsurprising until there was a call for any doctors or medical staff on the plane. Now once is unfortunate but twice in less than eight hours is really pushing chance. Luckily there was a doctor who had his medical licence on him sat on the other side of the aisle to me (had no idea that they carried those, quite cool though a credit card saying your a doc and qualified, he wasn't a British doc don't think ours get those). No emergency course alterations or landings this time, apparently the lady was ok.

Got home safe and sound (no laughing at the back, I know what your thinking) and miracle of miracles so did my case. On coach now heading back home, two people have been rude to me, got shoved out of the way at the coach station, a man at the back of the coach smells funny and the couple to the other side of me keep giving me evils - ah it is quite nice to be home.

Monday, 20 June 2011

That'll be the Grand Canyon

Spot where the helicopter landed for snacks, not a bad view.

Leaving Las Vegas

Well it's been a good last couple of days, got the haul home ahead of me but did manage to get to fly over, through and land in the Grand Canyon. It was truly spectacular to take a helicopter over Las Vegas and the strip across Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam then onto the canyon. It really was one those moments that is filled with awe and indescribably good, nothing really justice, needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Well back to blighty, woohoo here I come.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Back to Las Veas

So over the hill and far away go a land of sin and gambling, yeah Vegas.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Eerily still at night though

Driving through the desert looks like this, all the time...

Lots of mountains makes for interesting driving in the beast.

Oooh picturesquew

Biggest tree in the world

The one at the back of the shot is General Sherman, for a bit if scale reference it is proportional to a mouse looking up at a man who is well over 6ft. The fence you can see at the base is 5ft high.

Now that's a giant tree

Forgive the obvious taken through a windscreen shot but no where to stop and had a queue.

From High to Low

Covered off about 375 miles today ranging from being 5000ft up in the hills of the Sequoia National Park, with snow still on the ground at a balmy 72 degrees, to the searing heat of the Mojave desert.

Went to see the giant trees in the forest and saw the worlds biggest tree by volume the General Sherman. Not the oldest tree but it's a big un and still an impressive 2200 years old. Spectacular place and breathtaking views all round, truly stunning. Headed out down from there on to the Mojave and across the empty and sandy Mojave river, bigger than I expected. Oddly the desert at night is strangely peaceful especially if you've driven for hours through fruit orchards and small towns.

No aliens spotted even though I'm near Edwards Air Force Base and loads of military test sights. Maybe all those films are wrong??

4000ft up in the National Park

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Leaving San Francisco and into the Middle

So it's bye bye to San Francisco and over the bay bridge for some driving into the countryside. Well let's get past the driving thing first, the beast it appears is noticeable which is good. This is because americans are mentallists, for the love of god what kind of nation invents the four way stop and doesn't give up on it. Well dear reader the same nation that has five way stops, negotiated calmly by me (albeit a little clenched of buttock). Now today's special was a railroad crossing on a highway just before a seven way stop, yep seven!! Now let me be clear about this traffic was moderate not heavy nor was it light and not a one of us knew what we were doing, it was SUV ballet if all the ballerinas were blindfolded and driving drunk. It was over quickly and calmly as I took the British approach, I'm the quickest here (they were all massive tahoe gmc thingies) and nuts to you lot I'm off. Suffice to say the revving and indecision in front of me meant I didn't see the highway patrol car behind me, boo; or not as he came too and overtook me on the highway with a cheery wave. Ahh and unclench.

Now to address you dear reader once again california is freaky, I'm tragically burnt, yep red necked and stinging on forearm. Burnt good and proper, this mainly occurred on the bay whilst on a boat cruise, I was wearing sun block but clearly not strong enough. It was deceptively foggy and only in the low 60's at best. I have moved from this pleasant and mild coastal weather to 102 degrees, by any measure that's a tadge warm (I'm craving water and lager two things most of you know I rarely touch). There is an upside, they farm big out here, thousands of acres of fruit trees and vines, farms as big as counties in England. Passed what I thought was a power station and found out it was a grain processing plant for one farm. They have farm machines moving about in the distance that look like something out of star wars, I stopped to get gas and parked near a tractor, the beast was smaller than the tyre. So you are hopefully getting a picture and my delight is that they are all red faced and red necked, only here do I not look the big divvy I am for going out on the sea only wearing factor 30.

It's been a day of contrasts, my agricultural fuel stop brought me close to what can only be described as Cletus' dumber uglier family, who are all obese beyond belief. Now there is something special about a man in small tennis shorts from the late seventies possibly early eighties, sporting a fabulous amount of unkempt facial hair, in a vest like top with stains, and smelling like rotting livestock. I have failed to mention there that this vision of sartorial elegance and loveliness was also a smidge on the big side but tragically only about 5ft 2. This was in the queue in front of me and left before the attendant commented (mainly due to the look of horror on my face) that "ah never mind him that's just dwayne he's always been that way since he was a kid". Clearly my continued look of horror suggested that more explanation was needed as the pleasant lady continued "his whole family is that way, we've always felt for his brother; he's normal". The irony of her statement clearly lost on her but this is the sort of place the sat nav harridan is taking me.

Needless to say headed for the nearest Marriott hotel to hold up somewhere nice with air con. Tomorrow I strike out for the national parks - woohoo.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


One of them famous sealions - pier 39

Golden Gate Bridge

San Fran

San Francisco continues

Well what can I say I'm staying here, it's warm but not hot, loads to do, nice people, good architecture and interesting history. I like it here, only downsides are the tourists. Some like the British are lovely, came as a surprise to me too, others are not so pleasant, proddy jabby pushy little fellas. Ah but there is a cure, everywhere you go there are unsurprisingly Americans, and they aren't shy about butting in and telling em what for. It's genius to watch and it appears I'm not alone in my new spectator sport. Spent ages with some Aussies watching it to the point where we all settled down and got drinks.

Been to the San Francisco museum of modern art and saw the Warhols, Lichtensteins, Rothkos etc, oooh can you feel the culture. Actually joking aside a great museum and wonderful collections.

Been on a tour round the city and round the bay, both again very good and not tacky. Rather enjoying the tourist in me.

Enjoying the reasonably priced high quality foods and some cracking wines, not going to the vineyards stopping here and trying them all. Especially as there are so many great restaurants to try and all so nice and friendly. The heavier whites do however leave a mark on my face in the morning, looked like a Bassett hound having a very bad day this morning.

Still onwards more new things to try.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Score one for the American street system, back to where I wanted to be, hooray. Would love to say it's my sense of direction but they pack in a lot of memorable stuff on a walk about so not that hard to navigate.

So far so good

Haha not lost yet, curses tempting fate again...

San Francisco First Impressions

To be massively British about it, rather delightful. It's really really beautiful, wandering around without any particular agenda is really quite satisfying. Fabulous architecture keeps popping up although is occasionally interspersed with odd concrete bunker like buildings. What does appear strange to me is the amount of colour and pride in murals and buildings, it's very different from anywhere else I've seen so far. For a Sunday stroll about I don't particularly know where I am and am content with that. For all of you who know my famously bad sense of direction well the US caters for me, grid like streets and road signs everywhere telling you where to go - I may be speaking too soon can anyone sense one of those Alex getting lost moments coming up...

Ooh brooding sea

Yep brought some unseasonably cold weather with so bit more spring fresh that normal then, brrr parky at night. Also in this pic I'm now way past the other shore you can see on the other side.

Monterey cannery row from the pier/boardwalk

Sea Otter, really not easy to get to stay still, amusing little fellas tho

Hey found Nemo (unoriginal but hey)

Stack of turtles anyone


So continuing the journey north to Monterey, spent the night in a proper motel with the beast parked out front, was actually very nice. Then off to Monterey Bay Aquarium, apparently a must see. Well it was, went on a behind the scenes tour which was fantastic and also got to feed some of the exhibits. Was interesting and a fantastic place, highly amused by the sea otters and strangely fascinated by the kelp forest. Check out some of the pics.

Off to San Francisco for a bit and to do the touristy stuff, they do really good tours over here so might try and check one out.

Friday, 10 June 2011

That's Hearst castle

Hearst and That Road

So heading down highway 1 the pacific coast highway and you get to somewhere I've been looking forward to see, the Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst spent decades building the massive house and guest bungalows on the family ranch, which at it's height I'm sure the guide said was 250,000 acres, so not a smallholding. The house played guest to Howard Hughes, Chaplin, movie stars and the most famous people in earth including Churchill. So needless to say it's impressive and also stuffed with several museums worth of art and ancient artefacts. Overall it's massively impressive and set in fantastic ranch land, very special.

Back on the highway for spectacular scenery and sweeping up and down hillsides along the coast and the pacific shiner in the sun. So some things don't live up to your own imagination - well this does.

Then staying at a motel, well that's a good days work in my book.

Pacific Coast Highway

Just drove from over there, no all the way in the distance.

Not a bad little garden to stroll around - Getty Mansion

Pretty impressive - Getty Mansion

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Ah there it is

Well set off from Laguna Beach after a quiet and relaxing coffee in a fifties diner heading north. It's all very much like the reality tv shows, attractive people who are all rich and have impossibly white teeth. Beautiful place with lovely beaches and gated communities (ooh actually that's not so lovely) in fact it's another one to put in the odd American list. Then off for something I've been really looking forward to, off to the Getty Museum. On the way realising why the rich people live in Malibu it's again weird but you know I could live there, should I ever stumble across a few million or more.

Back to the Getty well there is only one word to describe it, magnificent. Well you could also have decadent, opulent and spectacular and all that's before the exhibits from antiquity. Left there feeling peaceful and actually quite serene. Back to the driving north.

Ahh and there it is, the sea and the undulating hills, the spaces filled with corrals with horses in them and the winding road passing sunset bathed hills and the pacific. Signs to ranches are at the exits for their drives but most don't have a building in sight giving you a clue to their size.

Off to San Luis Obispo, now might have made a slight error here unintentionally. Apparently it's farmers market (not like any I've ever seen) and graduation - oooooh oops. Still got some food and drink and people watched the college kids; feisty little fellas ain't they.

We're on the road again

My and my ridiculous ride, the beast (which handles like a barge in choppy weather) have plotted our way across the desert. Stopped off at a 50s diner which, whilst still a tourist trap, was really cool. In the OC baby, just a nod to all you reality tv fans out there, and again a bit odd. Clearly loads of dosh here, European cars a go go about the place, but mixed with lashing of badly designed roadside retail and fast food. Plus there is he obvious poverty knocking about. A place of contradictions again.

The Beast

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Golden Nugget you say, solid and 60lb, just as an ornament

Leaving Las Vegas

Well Vegas has been a blast, a whirlwind of excess that really doesn't care what people think of it. Been on a Vegas bus, tram and monorail and seen a bit of Vegas not on the strip, it's different alright. Met a couple married in the famous Wedding Chapel, their photos were actually very cool and such a nice couple. It looks like I'm going to have to come back here for longer because it's a full on place for a couple of days.

Picked up my new trusty ride yesterday and they were out of the cars I had ordered which I must say did upset me a bit, that is until the car rental people gave me an SUV. It's huge and easy to drive and with a sensible head on probably a wiser choice (plus it's got way more toys in it and satellite navigation - she has a massively irritating voice but I'd have never found the hotel without her).

Time to fill up the beast (for that will be the cars name from now on - I have to jump down to get out of it and I'm not the biggest thing on the road by far) and mosey on out into the desert. Hooray for air con 98 degrees out here and I know it's a desert but that's just plain hot, still people sunbathing by the pool though, can anyone smell cooking?

The open road calls and LA is waiting. Tally Ho.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Wow Vegas

Well it's safe to say vegas freaks me out, so much cash and so little taste and space, yet it's strangely addictive. I think Vegas may be the place some Texans go to forget Jesus. Loads of elderly in scooter things for old folks but they appear to be able but just not willing to walk. Unlike the old guy with a wheelchair and an oxygen tank being assisted by a casino employee to play slots - odd to say the least. Everyone is massively helpful and nice and if they find your on your own they instantly befriend you - so pleasant and unaffected - this genuine sentiment is odd.

Well it's my birthday and the folks in Vegas have got me tipsy god bless em, with a lovely meal and some good booze plus lots of wide eyed sightseeing makes today a good day.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

In the beginning...

Well it has begun, it was dark and very early in the morning never my best hours. The National Express coach was delayed so they put me and a couple of others on another coach to get here the same time - result! Got to check in with American Airlines only to find my flight to Chicago is also delayed meaning missed connecting flight to Vegas. Lovely check in staff at American Airlines sorted it out in double quick time, changed my connecting flight and only 30 mins difference in arrival time - yet another result. Heres hoping everything else goes as smoothly; well gets sorted out for me automatically and everybody who knows me will know that is the best way of me getting stuff sorted. Onward, mmm coffee and a sit down with the paper I think, now where is that WH Smiths gone.