LA, Yosemite, Mehico and Vegas!

Trip Start May 21, 2004
Trip End Jun 17, 2004

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, June 14, 2004

so we flew into LA after a lovely 14 hour flight via tahiti, and saving us from ourselves by picking us up at the airport were friends masako, dave (walsh) and baby juliette. they were our saviours who gave us a bed and plenty of local knowledge. over the next 3 days they took us to see a bit of their home town. the south coast is lovely, and we found the beaches to be much nicer than elsewhere in LA - cleaner and less crowded. huntington, newport and laguna beaches are great if you ever get the chance, wide beaches with yellow sand that stretches for miles. plenty of surfies with the typical californian 'right on duuude' accents, laaaiiiid back....

we hired a car - 2004 ford focus for US$11 a day! then drove up to yosemite national park near san francisco. the drive was long and straight (initially) with a record 8 miles without turning a corner. yosemite itself was sooo beautiful, up in the mountains with the yosemite valley at the centre. tall trees and bush walks (some sealed!), waterfalls and rivers, 3000 ft vertical cliffs with snowy peaks and stunning views, and lots of massive RVs everywhere you look. beware - you must put all food, shampoo and anything else with a scent in the bear proof-lockers or they will come and rip apart your cabins or cars to get it! also - dont be surprised if a deer runs out onto the road and into the side of your car as you drive along, apparently thats pretty standard... ok then, sure. this was also where we picked up our mascot for the trip, miller the bear.

after a few days there we headed back to LA, stopping in a hick town called visalia - where andy k (for those who know him) was for 3 weeks with work. not only did we get a bed for the night, but we arrived on the night that the company shouts dinner each month. so bbq and beers all round! imported heineken rocks. i was stoked to celebrate my 25th bday at midnight with 2 of my best mates in a foreign land.

back in LA we stayed at santa monica right opposite the beach. nice beach but really crowded, the famous but run-down santa monica pier has the ferris wheel and theme park on it. lots of bums begging for money, some get pretty creative - it would be nice to see them put the same effort into getting a job! 3rd street promenade is nice with shops and cafes all along. we were most disappointed to find out that the night life was not quite what we expected, they dont really go out on friday and everything closes at 2am! still had a couple of big nights out tho, hooked with some scots who also knew how to drink...

while in LA we went to the staples centre in downtown LA to watch AFL (arena football - indoor gridiron), hollywood, beverly hills and bel air (niiice). LA is big, and quite hazy due to the smog. went to see the LA dodgers play baseball, good fun but expensive beer - like at the cricket, except US$15 for 2! tip - internet access is hard to find, they dont have many internet cafes. if you go to the local libraries or visitors centres you can often get it for free!

we also took a day trip on a bus to tijuana in mehico (ie. mexico). that was a bit of an experience and one day there was enough. tijuana is like otahuhu, old and run down, except it has lots of mexicans trying to sell you junk or drag you into their shops/bars/strip clubs. they also have zonkeys - which are donkeys with stripes painted on, almost worth a photo for a dollar. also cheap corona and tequila, and lots of it.

then vegas baby, vegas. another long drive across the mojave desert and a new record of 16 miles without a corner. vegas is amazing with massive hotels and casinos, not that we gambled but it was impressive to see. some have a theme - new york, paris, venice, and others were just cool - mgm grand, ballagio, cesars palace. we stayed in circus circus, and thankfully werent greeted at the door by a clown. so hot there - 100 degrees in the shade (thats 40 degrees celcius). the clubs were equally impressive, but the best had queues to match, tho we were able to bribe the bouncers to get into the palms - currently the most popular. drinks were US$8 each, but its vegas so we lived it up.

the grand canyon was amazing, even tho its really just a big hole in the ground in the desert. up to one mile deep and 10 miles wide in places. we flew in from vegas over lake mead and the hoover dam, then down to the bottom in a helicopter, then along the colorado river in a boat, and out as we came in. rugged rock formations with a variety of colours and layerings. very hot again but a dry heat, like standing in a fan-forced oven. so sparse yet so beautiful, quite a contrast to yosemite.

then back to LA for disneyland! i was about 15 years too late, and found that it didnt quite have enough big rides to satisfy me. but thats not the point, its disneyland! great set up with the various areas, all cartoon-looking and very detailed.

so dave left me back at masakos and flew out to rotterdam, cant wait to get there to join him but that will most likely be some time next year. staying here in LA for a few days, helen (my sister) is coming over for a holiday so will hang with her for a bit then try and drive up to vancouver. sure its cheaper and easier to fly, but i feel like more of an adventure...
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