Santa Monica & Los Angeles


LA is a joke of a city.  Approaching it I expected to see a nice view coming in from the hills, however we were greeted by smog and traffic.  The drivers are erratic and aggressive, the traffic jams are enormous and there are virtually no useful road signs telling you where to go.  With the help of Google Maps, we managed to navigate ourselves to the Hollywood sign view point and when we finally arrived, the car park had just 8 spaces, as well as some minibuses parked so that people couldn’t get in or out of the place so it took a while before we could actually get out and see it. 

The journey here was without incident, Aaron didn’t even turn into a weighing station for lorries by mistake like he had done previously!

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Grand Canyon


Keen to get away from the tack and crowds of Las Vegas, I was pleased to be headed to the Grand Canyon which I have always wanted to see. On the way, we visited Hoover Dam where we had an interesting tour and learnt such fascinating facts as it being over 720ft tall and, at its base, around 660ft thick. It is a massive structure and I really enjoyed the tour.

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Las Vegas

The saying goes that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, but obviously that would make for a pretty crap blog entry, plus we haven’t done anything outrageous, so on this occasion I am prepared to share!

The drive in was certainly interesting. Just in case driving a different, left-hand drive car on the wrong side of the road through one of the busiest cities wasn’t enough, Anna took the opportunity to hone her inimitable passenger-seat driving patter that always makes me want to drop her off at the side of the road and carry on alone. Highlights from this journey include “can you slow down please?” as I put my foot down to try to merge into a lane of cars going 10mph faster than I am, and “can you just stop for a minute?” as I hang around in the outside lane on a green light with cars beeping behind us wondering why on earth we are stationary. The arrival at the car park was a blessing!

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Death Valley

On Saturday, we left Lone Pine and headed towards Death Valley. We didn’t really know what to expect, other than a valley where little grows/survives, and so it was quite exciting.

Wow, the scenery was stunning, like nothing I’ve seen before ever.  Was really bleak and barren and no sign of intelligent life except a few snakes and lizards and insects.  The geology was amazing, rock strata and tilted rocks, outcrops, alluvial fans and stuff, was so interesting.

In a moment of wisdom we thought it’d be a great idea to do a 2 mile walk at 2pm.  So we headed up the Golden Canyon with a litre of water each, and, although I like to think I’m good with heat, I struggled and a little bit of dizziness/mardiness ensued.  Aaron was very good though as I’d finished my water within about 5 minutes and offered me his, but I just couldn’t believe the heat.  For once, I wasn’t so concerned about sunburn (had covered myself in suncream), just about whether I was going to be able to get back!  We survived though, and the scenery was stunning yet again.  Apparently Death Valley is the hottest place on earth.  When we got back to the visitor centre it was 45 degrees, which was average for August.  And we were just covered in salt.  A bizarre experience.

Water wasn’t too hard to come by ‘cos they had taps at the visitor centre where you could fill bottles up, but I hadn’t expected to get through it at the rate we did.  And how hot the water would be!

I have to say that the quality of the public toilets in the USA so far has impressed me (and that’s a compliment indeed, being someone who hates public toilets).  However I have been mortified on a couple of occasions in the National parks where there has been no running water to wash my hands.  I can understand why, but it’s gross.  So I was so happy when I found one with water yesterday 🙂  Fortunately I’d brought with me some alcohol hand stuff (thanks David), so at least felt semi-clean. But urgh!

We saw some amazing stuff in Death Valley – Mosaic Canyon with shiny marble ‘walls’ (accessed via a 2.4 mile gravel track hmmmm), sand dunes where we ate our lunch (my ham sandwich wasn’t short on filling – there was more ham than bread!),beautiful view points, including Dante’s View where you can see the highest point and lowest point of the park simultaneously.  The badlands and salt marshes were spectaular too, and what you thought was sand on the floor actually was just really really dry, cracked mud.

I did just about all the driving (and very well, I thought) until it was time to drive to Las Vegas and Aaron took over cos he coudn’t understand the ‘hieroglyphics’ that I’d written as directions, how rude.  On the way here we passed through the town of Pahrump, which was so bizarre, but probably typical.  The towns are so spread out – probably about 200m between houses, and just so kind of lifeless.  It seemed quite a seedy place and we had to laugh at some of the billboards as we went through.  I was very pleased Aaron drove though, cos the traffic in Vegas is crazy and it wasn’t an amazinggly pleasant experience as we didn’t really know where we were going.  And everyone was going so fast.  He did a good job though, and we arrived at our hotel, Harrah’s, and got upgraded too cos they didn’t have any non-smoking rooms with 2 beds left woooo!  So Aaron’s got a king-size bed, and I’m on a titchy single bed on wheels, but slept well and looking forward to exploring the city.  I think it’s going to be crazier than I imagined…