Oh my gaaad she's travelling without her therapist

Trip Start May 27, 2009
Trip End Nov 14, 2009

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Grafton on

Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Yes folks I am now in LaLa land – well about to leave it actually as I am sitting in the departure lounge of LAX waiting on my flight to Fiji – stage 2 is about to begin.

So what have I been up to – well I am very thankful to Di and Tommy who said that a visit to Yosemite was a must. They were absolutely right, the scenery was breathtaking and very other worldly – I almost imagined dinosaurs to still be roaming about. The rock formations were incredible but what I found most beautiful were the wildflower meadows which could be found at really high elevation points. At one point I was almost 10,000 above sea level so as you can imagine part of the drive down was very scary. As with most of these National Parks credit for conserving them goes to Anglo Europeans and in this case John Muir born in Dunbar, Scotland but the native people had been conserving them for thousands of years – go figure! The road I took to exit the park was Highway 120, heading east – the Tioga Pass road and it gets my vote of my favourite drive. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to head east. The campgrounds along this road were in some great spots and if I haven't mentioned before I may think about taking up camping – as well as canoeing etc. etc – will I ever have time to work again – or maybe I could become a tour guide?.

So far so sublime – but the day did finish on a bit of a down note. Normally my rule is that I always stop to look for accommodation when it is still daylight and normally no later than about 6.30 ish but as I was not sure how long t would take next day to drive to Palm Springs to drop the car, I kept driving – big mistake. It was the start of the Independence Day holiday weekend and everyone was heading north to the lakes and mountains and I foolishly drove on through the largest town which did have available accommodation. It got dark and all that could be found for me was something out of a nightmare – a cross between Bates Motel and a ghost ranch. It was awful – I slept on top of the bed and was out of there when the sun rose. Never again will I break my rule! And to anyone travelling on Highway 395 – never stay at the Ranch Motel, Olancha

Getting to Palm Springs was very easy and as I was earlier than planned it meant that cousin John could avoid driving in the worst part of the day for heat. Yes I was now in desert country – destination Twentynine Palms on the edge of the Mojave Desert with temperature consistently over 100 in the shade. This town is the site of a US Marine base which has over 12,000 marines stationed there and it must be excellent training for Iraq, given the conditions. Unbelievably the base had an open house on the 4 July and anyone could enter the base to enjoy the fireworks and concert – I can’t imagine that happening back home.

My dad’s cousin John is an ex-marine and chose to stay after his retirement so has been here over 40 years. It was great to meet him, his wife Helen and sister Edith. They were extremely generous and welcoming to me and I would hope that I could return the favour some day either to them or their family if they ever visit the UK. My stay here was at the Circle C Lodge which was brilliant – Gowinda and his wife run a really tight ship and have a lot of nice touches – like flying an appropriate flag for their guests so the Saltire flew proudly alongside the US marine flag and the German flag. Apparently U2 tried to book in here when they were writing the songs for The Joshua Tree – but guess what – the previous owners thought they looked too scruffy so turned them away. So I can now claim to have been allowed in when they weren’t – I just need to write one of the best albums of all time and then I might have the 'edge’ – get it? Sorry very bad pun

The Joshua Tree National Park was amazing – I couldn’t have imagined that a desert could be beautiful but I was wrong. Yet again the rock formations were spectacular but mostly I viewed it all from the car as it was really was baking hot and for a delicate Celt it was too much to be out for more than a few minutes.

And so to LA and what a time to be there – The Michael Jackson memorial was the main event in town – there were even security staff on duty controlling pedestrian traffic and making sure no-one took up more than their share of time at his star on Hollywood Boulevard but everyone was very orderly and moved on if requested. The city is a huge sprawl and when arriving or leaving with luggage and no car, taxis are the only but very expensive option – I could probably have hired a car for less! Once luggageless, getting around was easier than I thought as there is an extensive public transport network. I think I could even have got to the airport for $1.25 but it would have meant a couple of station transfers with luggage – next time maybe. Watched a movie at Graumanns Chinese theatre which is the site where various movie stars leave hand and footprints in the cement. Next day I had a bit of a wander around the Staples Centre area whilst the MJ memorial was going on inside but the perimeter cordon set up was at quite a distance so there wasn’t much chance of seeing anything other than the fleeting glimpse of blacked out limos. However I did manage to get interviewed for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune so who knows I may be quoted. With time limited I opted for the hop on hop off tour – didn’t do the gawping at movie stars homes – feels to me a bit weird but that’s just my opinion. Well what do you know the tour passed the Beverley Wiltshire hotel where the Jackson party was having lunch after the service – helicopters overhead and crowds of paparazzi outside were a bit of a clue. Next stop Santa Monica Beach where I rode on the Ferris Wheel and walked along the boardwalk (actually concrete) to Venice Beach – hadn’t intended to do that so all without sun cream so bit of a red face afterwards. But still the legs remain as white as ever

The Farmers Market and Grove shopping area looked interesting but as I am trying not to shop I just looked from the bus – again maybe next time? My departing flight next day wasn’t till 11.30pm so managed to get to Universal Studios but as I am always conscious of time when I have flights to catch I didn’t really make the most of my time – or money as it is quite expensive at $67 for a day pass. The studio tour was great fun and I managed to get a complete drenching on the Jurassic Park ride but the lines for the other rides were too long and I couldn’t risk the time.

And so ends the North American stage of my journey – the six weeks have gone in a flash. It has been great fun, the scenery and experiences have been amazing but so too have the people. Thanks in particular to Wendy and Tony, Di, Tommy and Betty, John Helen and Edith for their generous hospitality and genuinely if you are ever in my neighbourhood please look me up. Highlights loads of them but specifically the Skeena train to Jasper, the Oregon coast and Yosemite.
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maddogbert on

Hi Spoonski
Yosemtite sounds amazing - that and Joshua Tree are on my ever expanding list of places to see. Yellowstone is another fantastic place but you are too far away for that - maybe the next trip !!


nettle on

Memory lane
Yo Spoonski! Well JD, CA and I are still beavering away in K-land though JD is off with piggy flu right now. Poor IT had to walk the plank though. Enough of that - loving the blog but managed to block the notifications in Spam manager! I still remember Yosemite from 1978. We stayed in a log cabin & the grizzlies emptied the trashcan overnight! Can't wait for next posts & photos - more my kind of places. Take care, keep safe but over all ENJOY. AB XX

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