Friday, September 23, 2011

The Golden State

California is known for a lot of things. Last week, I got to see quite a few I didn't know much about.

California is beautiful. I could have told you that after my first visit there in 2004. It's a stunning piece of countryside, and I didn't see much of it then.

This time, we rectified that mistake! Between Thursday and Monday I drove over a 1000 miles. I saw the valley, LA, Disneyland, the east side of the Sierra's and the edge of Death Valley, the mountains and Yosemite. (The last two twice). I got to drive some of it too, in a really crappy rental car. Never buy a Hyundai Elantra. It's a horrible car.

The whole point of the trip, though, was to spend time with my sissy, and we got 3 full days together of just the two of us. So, check that box off. It was fantastic to go on a road trip, now that we are proper adults with the ability to rent cars and stay in hotels and such. Of course, we went to Disneyland.

Disneyland California is small. Actually, it's tiny compared to Orlando. But it feels pretty damn big after 8 hours of walking around! We did most things, except the stuff for real kiddies and a couple of rides I refused to go on. Unfortunately, the Pirates ride was closed, so I consoled myself by buying a pirate themed dress at the giftshop. We went back in the evening for fireworks and the Fantasmic show on the Rivers of the Americas. Both were really very good. We didn't get back to the hotel until after midnight!

We had every intention of driving back to Turlock Saturday morning. Well, until we hit the construction mess coming in to LA on Thursday. So, instead of the 5 hour drive up I5, we took the scenic route home. I am laughing as I type this, because I have never taken a more scenic route! It took us 11 hours (with stops)! We went out of the city on the north-east side and up passed Edwards AFB to the 395. This highway runs between the Sierras and Death Valley and finally up into Nevada. It was pretty amazing countryside at the start. There are the mountains on the left and then...desert everywhere else. Just low scrubland and mile after mile of straight roads. And the occasional house. After a couple hundred miles the trees come back and the mountains get bigger (on both sides) and you hit civilization again. Rachel wanted to stop at the Devil's Postpile. Which is sort of like the Giant's Causeway in Ireland, except not. It was an awesome detour into a mountain resort area and then down a very long windy road with towering trees!

After we got back on the highway we turned off at Lee Vining (almost to Nevada!) to head up the 120 through Yosemite. The entrance on the east side is at 9945ft. So, I've been to 10,000 and not just on an airplane! We managed to get across the park before sunset - just. I was so interested to see how the geography changes from one side to the other. And then we took the really fun way down the western side on Old Priest Grade. Top Gear has destroyed me. But damn was that a fun road!

On Monday we set off to Yosemite again, this time to the valley (south of Tioga Pass/120). Just getting there involves some pretty impressive driving (and a lot of construction, apparently). We were a bit late. ;) We stopped at the most amazing look out ever, which Rach and Lizzy said not many people know about. No wonder; you have to park before the long tunnel and walk halfway down to an opening in the wall. At the end, is a hole with a gate across it. Crawl under it and the floor drops away to the valley below. You can look left or right up and down Yosemite Valley and feel like you are standing on the edge of the world.

Once we got to the valley, we did the predictable tourist stuff by visiting the gift shops and visitor's centre. Sent a postcard from the post office and toured the museum. Then we walked up to Lower Yosemite Falls. The waterfalls in the valley are very June. By now, they are almost dried up. Still, it makes for a pretty picture. Then we had lunch in the parking lot and drove down to Bridalveil Falls, which was still flowing. We climbed up to the base of the falls (which was a lot of rock climbing, shuffling, sliding, slipping, and scrambling up boulders). At the top is a small pool where the falls empty into before they flow down to the valley floor. In the spring, it's under a torrent of water, but by this time of year was the perfect place to go swimming. The water, being mountain run-off, is only about 45*F, but it was hot out and the climb was tiring, so we went swimming. I did actually swim, without my feet touching the rocks! Once it got too cold we climbed back down to where everyone else was and went to dry off in the car.

We went and toured the Ahwahnee Hotel, which is stunning and then on to The Lodge where we had dinner insight of the Yosemite Falls. And then we drove home.

A fantastic trip. And now it is off to England in a few days!

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Is Not an Update

Off to sunny (and hot) California, in some blatant attempt to extend summer by another week. And to take one last relaxing ::cough::fun::cough:: holiday before the real work begins.

There will be a proper post for September in a week or two.