I arrived in San Francisco on time. My friend Clare was due the next day. So that gave me a night with my buddy and his wife before she turned up. The plan for the next two weeks was to park the bike up and get a hired car for the duration of her visit. Penny is lovely but she really isn't cut out for a two up trip around the states. Plus, this was a little bit of a holiday and travel in some comfort together. She will understand.
We kind of spoke about a plan for our time here. To be honest with you Clare pretty much planned everything while I was on the road and I would just agree. I'm happy with most things. When we set off the first place to visit was the Sequoia National Park. This place is just east a few hours from San Francisco and it takes you through some amazing landscapes. It was really hot at this time of year so the air con was a real treat. The reason for visiting here was to see the giant Sequoia trees. These trees are huge! We got to see the General Sherman which is the largest tree on the planet by volume and it's 2200 years. Incredible.
Once finished here we decided to get some miles under our belt and head out of the national park and make our way towards Vegas. We have to spend at least one night here after the stories I have heard. It sounds crazy. So we spent the night in a cheap motel in a small town called Exeter. Happy days.
So, Vegas. Even driving into this place is crazy. The state of Nevada is just a huge desert and a lot of nothingness. When you cross the border and start getting near Vegas you really do start to feel the atmosphere change. The gambling scene is everywhere and your mind starts thinking of what times must have been like back in the day going to these places. Perhaps that's why there's so many movies that romanticize about those days. I'm sure they wasn't always that fun and exciting. Well we were excited anyway. One night to have a little taster before moving on. We got a last minute deal on a nice room for $60 which was great. Turns out it doesn't have to be expensive to go to Vegas, you just need to visit mid week. That price also included all the parking at the hotel and city tax. It was on the 26th floor of the Stratosphere tower which had great views of the city.
It's amazing how much effort has gone into this city. Every casino has a different theme to it which is great to see. We both were not gamblers but that didn't stop us from experiencing what these casinos had to offer. It truly is mind blowing. All the lights and the atmosphere. It's buzzing. I'm glad we only spent one night here, I couldn't do much longer here. I think I would go mad. I'm a person that doesn't like cities all too much so this was enough.
Next on the list was the Hoover Dam. I have always wanted to see this place. The engineering that went into this is simply mind blowing for when they built it. Lots of people lost their lives building this trying to produce power from the desert. It worked I guess but at a sacrifice. The alarming observation was how low the water level was. Apparently it's a real problem here at the moment and they're in a serious drought. Hopefully soon the rains will come and make everything all good again. So the lake that is associated with the Hoover Dam is called Lake Mead. We spent the night camping by the side of the lake and had an evening swim before dinner and another in the morning. Fantastic. Nobody around and so refreshing after being in that heat all day.
I know nearly everyone has a bucket list. And some things on the list are fairly universal. Like seeing the Grand Canyon. We spoke about getting out there as it's a big drive. But when you're in that part of the world you simply have to make the extra effort, and holy crap was it worth it. I have never seen anything like it in my life. What an unbelievable site to see. We were both blown away by what lay in front of us and not one of my pictures can really express the sheer size and scale of this place. It's enormous. You find yourself standing there and just smiling with your eyes wide open wondering if it's real. Honestly, that thought went through my mind. It's like your brain can't really process what you are seeing properly. So glad I have ticked that box. Especially watching the sun set across the canyon. Beautiful.
After a night of camping just outside the national park we took a beautiful route through the mountains of Zion national park and headed back for Nevada. Looking at the map we noticed a road called The Extraterrestrial Highway. Sounded interesting. It was and it came with incredible views of the nothingness that's out there in the desert. However, we did not see any aliens. Maybe next time.
We spent a night in an old small mining town called Tonapah. We arrived here late in the day and didn't know too much about it. In the morning we discovered that it's a great little town and the old mines are now a tourist attraction so we spent the morning walking around the old sites and learning a bit of the local history which was fun.
We were now headed back West towards the next big stop on the trip. Yosemite National Park. We stayed there for two nights and camped up. The drive there was amazing. Especially once you got up into the mountains. We didn't see any bears but apparently the area is full of them. The campsites have lockers for putting all your food in and it's an offence to keep stuff in you car or tent. The camping was great and lovely to spend the evenings sat around the fire playing cards and cooking our own food. Not only is this real cheap but it's great to be outside in the elements.
We spent a full day hiking in Yosemite. To get a hike up Half Dome you need a permit to get up to the top which is annoying so we took a route on the opposite side of the valley to get up to Glacier Point. This was a good hike and had some amazing views on the way up, including perfect views of Half Dome. The sun was shining all day and the views were great. This makes me happy. I love being in the mountains and this place simply did not disappoint. Definitely recommend getting up there.
It was time to head back towards the city. We planed to spend the remaining days with my friends. The last few days were fantastic and I can't thank David and Jen enough for their hospitality. We had food cooked for us, was taken out to see the sights and what was really cool was our first time watching the San Francisco Giants play Baseball in town. The four of us headed in to town fuelled up on beer and excitement and enjoyed the action. The Americans really know how to do sport. The atmosphere is incredible and very entertaining. Thanks guys for an amazing night.
One of the must dos on Clare's list of things to see was visiting Alcatraz. And also an In 'n' Out burger. At the time it was fully booked but we found out if you're there early before the ticket office opens at 0730 they sell between 50 and 100 tickets. We took a chance and it paid off. We got the tickets. I visited this place ten years ago on a previous big trip and it was amazing and I hoped it hadn't changed. It hadn't which was great. I loved it and so did Clare. Definitely put this on the list if you're in the area. Learning about the history of this place and how they all lived was great and you get cool views of the city too. If there's no fog!! After we went for that burger. It was good but nothing to write home about. Later I learned that they have a secret menu so check that out before you go.
It was sad leaving Penny for a couple of weeks but at the same it was real good seeing some old faces. Not just Clare that came out to visit but also my old army friend David, and meeting his lovely wife Jen. These guys really did help us out so much and made sure we had a good time. I've met a lot of new faces on this trip but at times you do look forward to seeing friends and family that are still back home. My life is moving in lots of different directions at the moment which is exciting, but I still miss what I have back home. So getting a little reminder every now and then is great.
Until the next time people. I'm slowly catching up. My next blog will be moving on down the West Coast and what happened on the way south to San Diego. Please keep following. I really enjoy sharing with all of you and love reading all the positive comments I receive. So I thank you all.
Aaron and Penny.