It's the type of environmental project that would make Al Gore ecstatic! So from being spoilt in Tulsa, we're now being spoilt in California.
Chrissie shows us around the local area, taking us out to the nearby Stanford University to see the collection of Rodin statues
. We have a fabulous weekend with R & C visiting Big Basin National Park where we get to see the beautiful and enormous Giant Redwoods. The trees make beautiful circular formations when the middle parent tree dies off and there's also some trees completely hollowed out inside for as far as the eye can see. The 'Mother of the Forest' tree is 329 feet high and another with a diametre or 17 feet. High on our agenda, we visit Alcatraz by boat. It's not far across the water to the little island, which must have been all the more frustrating for the prisoners that were incarcerated here. When you get off the boat, you have to walk up a steep incline to the prison block. There's loads to see inside and the audio guide is great (narrated by ex-guards and prisoners). There are fascinating stories about the various escape attempts and some great views of the Golden Gate bridge and down town San Fran. We only spend one other day in San Francisco, riding the cable cars and trams and visiting the North Beach area. C & R have a couple of bikes, so we've have a great time riding around the local Palo Alto area. We also drive down to the Pacific Coast for a look and find a weird bird-covered beach with massive clumps of tubular seaweed growing out of the sand. Halloween is a big deal here and coming up very soon. There's cute pumpkin patches everywhere where you can go and select the pumpkins to decorate your front porch (apparently they're no good for eating). There's also endless houses decorated with cobwebs, gravestones, ghouls and the like
Finally, we have some time to catch up on stuff. One of my little projects included harassing the taxi company in Dallas, trying to get our day pack back. I decided to offer a reward, just for the memory stick - hoping we'd at least get our photos back. What do you know - the next day the office miraculously has the memory stick and apologises for the dishonesty of the driver, who hasn't returned the many other belongings in the bag (including the camera!). However, my contact persists and gets some other people involved and before you know it they have all our stuff! I can't believe our luck. Despite my dogged persistence, I didn't really think we'd get the bag back...
Minus our day pack, we land in San Francisco where Tim's Auntie Chrissie picks us up from the airport and whisks us off to their house in Palo Alto via the huge Californian freeway system. Palo Alto is on the southern part of San Francisco Bay and will be remembered by us by its alternative name 'Fairy Land'. The sun shines everyday, there's an abundance of everything, it's green, it's neat, it's tidy - it's perfect American suburbia! Tim's Uncle Robert is an engineer working here on a project with an Australian alternative energy company called Ausra: