THURSDAY 21ST NOVEMBER 1996
Cathedral Hill Hotel (hotel no longer exists) Room 531
1101 Van Ness Ave
Having never flown before (or even stepped into an airport) I had no idea what to expect or how long it would take us to get there. We were flying at 1.15pm and had been told we needed to be there 2 hours before take-off so left home at 8am (it’s better to be early than late). Steve drove us learning both of us feeling slightly guilty at not taking him with us (he was given the choice). I’m sure he’s looking to having the house to himself for a few weeks. I’d stayed at Mum’s the night before to make sure we were both there, ready to leave on time. The drive up was perfect and we were at the airport by 9.30. One thing I learned is that there is not much to do inside an airport unless you’re happy to look around the few shops which are there - as shopping is not mine (or Mum’s) thing we found ourselves a seat in some cafe type place, occasionally taking a wander over to the “designated smoking area”. This was just outside the concorde arrivals and while there some skinny guy with a fake boobed bottle blonde clinging to him came walking through with paps snapping off shots everywhere (I have no idea who he was!!!).
The range of experiences I went through as we boarded the plane were phenomenal. I was so excited about what lay ahead of us but hadn’t realised how small and cramped a plane would feel (I got a window seat, Mum was in the middle and a really smelly guy - not in a good way - was sat next to her). We were (when we boarded) on time right up until the point we were going to taxi down the runway when we were held up as it turned out 100 suitcases were missing. We finally took off almost an hour later.
Now that I am sitting in a San Francisco hotel room I can say “how amazing” the flight was, however the whole time I was in the air I was pretty much shitting myself. Everyone said to me that I would love flying; they were wrong. Yes, the views we saw were stunning and like nothing I could have ever expected. We flew north, over Scotland reaching Iceland as our next land. That was breathtaking because by then the moon was out - as it was a full moon the ice below looked almost magical, it was glistening in varying shades of blue with flashes of white glowing through. It was the first time I have ever seen a frozen sea too - I never knew we would be able to see so much, so clearly. The thing I found most odd until we landed in Canada was that my side of the plane was in dark night skies, the opposite side of the plane was in full sunlight. The Canada landing wasn’t planned - a little elderly man a few seats in front of us was taken ill so we had to land to get him off. What an experience that was. We flew over (and through) the Rockies. At some points it felt as though the wings on the plane were going to scrape off the mountains next to us. How we stopped on the runway with the amount of ice on it was nothing short of a miracle (I am aware they probably land like it all the time but it still has to take skill to do so). While the unscheduled stop put us a couple of hours behind, it was great to see what we saw and I can now say I’ve been to Canada too :) Just because I spent an hour on the tarmac at the airport doesn’t stop that I’ve been there :) The only downside was having to deal with another take-off (I don’t like those).
During the flight we watched Independence Day (well, I got to watch it, poor Mum had a 7 feet guy sat in front of her so didn’t get to see much at all. I think because I had the window to look out of it wasn't’ quite so bad for me but Mum did begin to get a bit bored (sitting on a place for almost 15 hours is not the most exhilarating thing to do). She did make me laugh at some point when the flight attendant came round with drinks. She had glasses of orange juice and what I assumed was water. Mum however wasn’t sure what the other was so asked if she could have a “glass of clear” :) In her defence she did say it could have been lemonade!!
We finally landed at San Francisco airport at 18.25 (UTC) 02.25 the next day back home so we were a wee bit tired by the time we got to the hotel. As predicted (and as all the guide books we read before we left said) there was a lot of fog. It didn’t make any difference to us on the ground as it was dark and we were on a coach, but from the air as we came to land it was lovely to look down on as it had a real pink effect to it. We were held up for a while because of it but that added to the experience as I could see all the other planes behind, above and below us also waiting to land.
Our tour guide met us outside directing us to the coach where everyone else traveling on the same tour boarded. Nobody else spoke but I think everyone was tired too as a lot had been on our flight also.
Our hotel was used in the TV series Hotel (apparently!). It’s a nice enough place to be resting our heads for a couple of days. The room is a good size and overlooks the street below. There’s no tea or coffee maker though so we have to go down to the lobby to get one. Not the cheapest place as 2 coffees cost me $5.50 and a tiny glass of coke was $1 but we needed to drink and that was really our only option, unless we wanted to wander the streets of San Francisco after dark.
Made our way back to our room about 10pm where we both had a shower and hopped into our beds (we have 2 doubles.. bonus). Mum was snoring within minutes - it took me a lot longer to nod off (the constant wail of sirens whizzing up and down the street didn’t help!).
FRIDAY 22ND NOVEMBER
Hotel as previous night
There are no words to describe how comfortable my bed was. It was like nothing I have ever slept in before and the sheets are so smooth, cool and lovely to sleep on. I think I might want to stay here a while longer. I woke up at 01.30 - I’m sure it was Mum’s snoring that disturbed me. Oddly I felt as though I had slept for a month. I fell asleep quickly enough again, waking at 05.30, finally dragging my fat arse out of bed at 07.30.
The hotel offered breakfast (at a cost) but after paying so much for coffees last night we thought we’d see if there was anywhere nearby, finding ourselves a donut bar across the road from the hotel. We ended up with 2 donuts (that we huge) 2 cokes and a large coffee (the biggest coffee cup I have ever seen - which was refilled for free). The total cost; $3.89 (£2.37). We definitely made the right choice not to eat at the hotel.
We had to be back at the hotel for 08.30 where we were briefly introduced to our other travellers. At 08.45 we were on our way to explore the city. For some reason our tour guide - Maiko - thought we would all like to spend an hour inside a Catholic Cathedral. It was nice but there were plenty of other places we all agreed we would have liked to see. We drove through the Park Presidio and by the church where Marilyn Monroe had wanted to marry Joe DiMaggio (they weren’t allowed to marry there because she was divorced; instead they had their photo’s taken there instead). We also saw the house used in the filming of Mr Doubtfire and the tower block used in the Towering Inferno film. We stopped for a quick photo at Twin Peaks (not that we could see much as it was quite foggy) before heading down to see Big Sur. Mum bought herself a watch in a pop-up shop there and we still managed to be late back!! Eek. Thankfully we weren’t the only ones. Can only imagine how Dad would have reacted!!
From there we were driven to the Golden Gate Bridge and allowed 30 minutes to explore - an hour in a church that nobody wanted to visit and 30 minutes at an iconic spot. The fog lifted just as we got to it which was a bonus. It is a spectacular piece of architecture, that’s for sure. We would have loved to find the time to walk over the bridge but alas that was not to be. Mum managed to take a photo of a bin lid!! A stunning red bridge was before her and she photographed a bin lid :) I never saw a ‘Golden Gate’.
Once back on the coach we were driven down to Fisherman's Wharf and left to our own devices. Mum and I headed straight to the Alcatraz ferry to see if we could get ourselves a trip over and were lucky enough to get on the very next one. $10 each. Nothing back home is anywhere near that reasonable. The Island was a lot smaller than I thought it would be but so worth visiting. It’s shabby and rundown but that just adds to the ambience of the place. It also adds to the eeriness (there are a few places that I’d not want to be standing on a dark night with no lighting). There’s a lot of areas you’re not allowed to visit but you get to see all you need to. We also saw the doorways down to the dungeons and the trapdoor down in solitary that leads to ‘who knows where’. They are bricking a lot of these up so I’m not sure if we were to come back in a decade whether we’d get to see as much. You can stand inside one of the solitary cells but neither of us would do it. Not because they would shut the doors (thankfully, for that I think would be horrendous) but they had awful negative vibes to them. I’m not even sure I would have done it if someone had paid me to either. I can’t even begin to imagine how it must have felt to the inmates when they were put in solitary. Walking through the actual cell block wasn’t quite so bad as the ceiling is a lot higher but I was amazed by the size of the cells. They literally are 6x4. We took a photo of what was (supposedly) Al Capone's cell.
It was dinner time by the time we got back to the mainland so we decided to make our way back to the hotel. We could have called a cab (or got on a tram if we’d been able to find them) but after looking at the map we had of the area we saw it was only 2.5 miles so thought we’d take a stroll. Of course, being us we took a wrong turn and got a bit lost!! Thankfully though it meant we got to see a lot more than we would have done. We wandered through the heart of Chinatown before finding ourselves at the bottom of Lombard Street (we never got photo’s as we’d run out of film). We did (well, Mum did) get a photo of me and a Rastafarian dog. Not something I will ever experience again :) We’d just got to the corner of a street and this guy had a huge dog (I think it was a great dane or something) which was sitting on top of a mail box. I assumed the guy was homeless so asked if it was ok to take a photo of his dog - it had on a long Rastafarian wig and beaded waistcoat with a woolly hat and sunglasses). As I was about to take the photo the guy grabbed me; I don’t mind admitting it concerned me a little and Mum’s face was a picture but what he was doing was positioning me in front of the dog so Mum could take a photo of me with the dog. One of those great moments in time that we were able to capture :)
By the time we got back to the hotel we were ready for something to eat. A 4 mile walk in a normal city would not be a problem but San Francisco is all hills. Our legs ached, our tummies rumbled. At one point Mum was walking up a hill backwards when this older lady practically ran up it by us - she must live there and was most definitely super fit.
We grabbed dinner in our donut bar - it doubled up as a diner come the evening. Mum had fried chicken, chips (or fries) a large coffee, I had a cheeseburger (which was massive) fries and a coke. The total came to $9.53 (£5.87). They practically gave it away. If only postage and postcards were as cheap. Think we’ll take them back with us rather than post them!!
Headed back to our hotel after dinner and watched The Rock on the hotel’s movie channels. The sound was shit but it was good to see it as we’d been out to it during the day. Went to bed at 22.00 as we have an alarm call of 06.00 tomorrow.
SATURDAY 23RD NOVEMBER
The Hotel Fresno Room 425
3737 North Blackstone
Woke up at 05.43 because Mum was coughing really badly. Can’t believe we are getting up so early. We’re meant to be on holiday!! Had a water fight with Mum as we were getting ready, then just as we were about to leave Mum managed to spill water all over herself.
We ran over to the donut store for some of their yummy donuts to keep us going through the day before meeting up with everyone else in the hotel lobby at 07.30. On our way out of the city we picked up some dutch and french people who will be continuing the rest of the trip with us. The guy in front of me is a right ignorant git. He may find my pen in the back of his head if he reclines his seat without checking I have nothing on my lap again. We left the city via the Oakland Bay Bridge. It’s a 2 tier bridge (something I’ve never experienced before). It’s the one that collapsed during the 1989 earthquake. Luckily only one person was killed (not lucky for the person and their family but lucky there weren’t more deaths).
From there we headed through the Sierra Nevada mountains - so many different words could be used to describe them. I’ve found stunning and breathtaking work well. The 4 inches of snow on the ground helped to make it so. In fact it was a perfect day. Blue skies, sunshine, snow and mountains of scenery. What more could we have asked for?
Before arriving at Yosemite (our destination) we travelled some quite windy roads, 6000ft up with sheer drops to the sides of us and our driver wasn’t hanging around. He took some of those bends like a rally driver would. Mum had a right coughing fit on the coach (which embarrassed her). She didn’t stop until we got off in Yosemite itself. We grabbed ourselves a couple of hotdogs - which yet again compared to back home were huge. A squirrel decided to sit on my foot watching (and begrudging) every mouthful we ate :) After eating we took a walk along the river down to one of the waterfalls. We only had an hour so didn’t get to see much but what we did see was lovely. It’s somewhere I could go back to.
After leaving there we were taken to Sequoia. The giant redwood trees were astounding. Apparently they can live for over 3000 years, are resistant to disease, bugs, and fire yet their roots are so shallow that eventually they lose balance and fall over causing them to die. It seems weird to go to all that effort and living to just fall over and die.We were given only an hour to explore so we took a stroll up the hill from the car park (about a mile) taking a few photo’s on the way before finding a little stream with enough space to walk beside going back down. We took this route. However, what we hadn’t planned on was a thick fog descending as we got about a tenth of a way down the stream. There were just the 2 of us on the trail with no sound from anyone else who might have been nearby. It wasn’t until after we thought about what could have happened or we could have encountered :)
At this point in my diary I have mentioned how I’d rather be on the mountains I was on rather than sitting in the cold up the local viewpoint with my best friend and saying I was sure she would forgive me. As she has since died I now wonder what I wouldn’t give for one more hot chocolate and crazy night up there with her.
The drive from Sequoia to our hotel was quite boring for it was dark and we were on roads with no lights and very little to look at. We did drive through an old western style town at one point but were going too quickly for us to photograph anything. Got to the hotel at 18.30 and by 20.00 Mum was in bed snoring. I went an hour later.
NB; I never saw Yosemite Sam, a Grizzly Bear or Mountain Lion. Not such a bad thing as I’m not sure what we would have done had we seen one but from a safe distance it would have been nice.
There are 7 Bradbury’s in the Fresno phone directory.
SUNDAY 24TH NOVEMBER
Furnace Creek Ranch Room 725
Death Valley National Park
What on earth is going on?? I was up at 05.30 and Mum had been awake for 2 hours before me. That’ll teach us not to go to bed so early. Mum had spent her 2 hours looking through the maps Maiko gave us that show where we have been and where we still have to go and we’re covering a lot more areas than we thought we would be. It keeps getting better by the day. :) I knew I would enjoy the trip but didn’t realise quite how much. I just wish we could have had longer at some of the places to truly see them.
Avoiding breakfast in the hotel we took a wander around the area just after 7 stopping eventually in a gas station where we grabbed some sandwiches instead. I also bought some wine gums - that have blue ones in the pack!!! They were vile and so sickly sweet. Mum bought herself a bounty type chocolate bar that had almonds on top and I got a bag of mini rice krispie cakes (now those were lovely). For all we bought (coffees and coke too) came to less than breakfast would have for just one of us.
By the time we got back to the hotel the fog had descended (we do seem to be encountering a lot of fog). It was so bad when we left for the day I couldn’t see the car that was parked next to us!!
American’s do not understand English humour!! It is totally wasted on them.
We stopped for coffee in Bakersfield. Everyone was complaining because we stopped at a truck stop, but we were able to grab something to eat and takeaway coffees so were more than happy with ours.
On our way to Joshua Tree National Park through the Mojave desert we passed by the air force base with has F16’s and Stealth Bombers based. It’s also used for the space shuttle to land if the weather is too bad in Florida.
Joshua Trees are great. One minute there is nothing to see but sand and the odd piece of tumbleweed, the next these cactus style trees appear and dot about the landscape. Not sure which one appeared on the U2 Album cover! I took a photo of one anyway - just in case :) Thankfully the sun had burned away the fog by the time we got there, although it was a little too hot for me. Had we been allowed longer than 10 minutes to explore I think I might have burned to a crisp :) We got told once we got back on the coach that we should have been looking out for rattlesnakes, scorpions and black widow spiders. Nothing like closing the door after the horse has bolted!
Passed by the Tahapichi Loop as a train was working it’s way around it. The carriages attached often cover over 2 miles.
Lunch was McDonald's in a small town called Ridgecrest.
Driving through Red Rock Country was lovely because everything is literally red. The rocks, the sand, everywhere we looked was red :)
All the places we have visited today were like something from a film set and also gave an indication of how it would have been back in the days of the “Wild West”. At every turn I could easily have imagined Billy The Kid waiting with his guns drawn. At one point we stopped at some sand dunes (no idea why) but there was a film crew there filming an independent movie about a group of 4 people who carry guitars and go around killing people. We know what they were doing because Mum went and asked.
We arrived in Death Valley just before the sun began to set. At 282 feet below sea level is is the lowest point in the western hemisphere. There’s no humidity in Death Valley and the temperatures often reach 115’f (that’s hot). I can understand how it got it’s name. The visitors centre was closed by the time we got to it but the most amazing sunset made up for the disappointment of not being able to go inside. I have never seen a sky like it. It was as if the clouds were on fire rolling across the sky.
It was 7pm by the time we arrived at Furnace Creek Ranch. What a cracking little hotel complex. It is in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sand dunes and mountains. After dropping our cases off we took a walk around the site and to the general store which is at the entrance to the place. It sells just about everything. We bought sandwiches (my ham and cheese one had 7 slices of him and half a pound of cheese in it). We also bought a milky way each which is a single bar that is double the size of our 2 joined together. Had to laugh though for when we got back to our room to eat mine turned out to be a Mars Bar in disguise. Mum was not happy!! She ended up stealing a hotel pen to get over it :) I say “chop her hands off”. She’s naughty.
Was a bit gutted to find that had we arrived at the motel half an hour earlier we could have gone out on a moonlight horse ride. As it was a full moon I should think that would have been a great thing to experience.
The temperature when we went to bed at 9 (we know how to party) was 87’F.
MONDAY 25TH NOVEMBER
Westgate Las Vegas (was called Las Vegas Hilton when we stayed) Room 1325
3000 Paradise Rd
I think the Mars Bar was a mistake. I woke at 05.30 with a right bubbly tummy. Never a good thing. Darren did say before I left he hoped I got one in vegas (the arse). It looks as though he’s cursed me early.!!
Not wanting to sit in our room waiting for daybreak we took a walk to watch the sunrise. It was still pitch black when we got out there with the moon still slightly visible. The colours when the sun finally arose were vivid to say the least. Not sure if it’s because there is no kind of light pollution, the sand particles which fill the air or just because we were somewhere new but I have never experienced a sunrise like it. Added to the sunset last night I have truly had my mind blown. Once it lightened a bit we took a stroll around the outdoor museum they have at the motel. They have some old stagecoach wagons. How anyone travelled in those is beyond me, especially when I think of the places they were travelling. I’m not sure I could cope with a tarmaced road in one let alone across the salt flats of Death Valley or over the Sierra Nevada mountains. They were very brave people who risked their lives for a better life. I’m not sure I could have done what they did. I had taken a photo of one of the wagons before the sun rose and am glad I did for it has an almost spooky feel to it.
We left the ranch at 09.00 (I could have stayed there for many days) and drove to Zabriskie Point. We had enough time to take a walk up the hill so we could snap off some photo’s. It was already 85’f by the time we got there. The thermometer topped just over 93’f at the hottest point of the day. Way too hot for me if we were back home but I think because there wasn’t the humidity it didn’t feel it. It’s a good job we weren’t out in it for too long though for I could feel my skin begin to burn after just 5 minutes and I smothered myself in factor 30.
En route today we drove by a massive trailer park. Some of them were huge. Mum was going to sell up and move out here until she saw a Pest Control sign. Rather than ants, mice and rats like we get back home this was for Scorpions. She soon changed her mind :)
We arrived in Las Vegas at 11.30 and were dropped off at Excalibur. The casino is amazing. Everywhere you look there are people wandering about with tubs of coins; some just nickels and dimes, others are brim full of quarters :) We had a play then headed to the buffet hall for lunch. We did an ‘all you can eat’. For just $10 each we were given plates that were big enough to serve ourselves up on. The drinks were all free refills and there was pretty much every single food you could possibly think of to choose from. We made sure to fill up on foods that would keep us going for the rest of the day. Mum managed to squeeze in the biggest portion of cheesecake either of us has ever seen. The free drinks people are given as they play on the fruit machines meant a few of our fellow travelers were a little worse for wear by the time we arrived at our hotel.
Our driver took us all along “The Strip” once we left Excalibur and got us to our hotel (where Elvis was in residence!!!) at 14.30. We are on the 13th floor of a 30 storey building. Our room is basic and not what I would have expected of a Hilton but all we need is a bed to sleep in - although this is meant to be the city ‘that never sleeps’.
Whilst everyone else went on a tour of the city (we never bothered - at $25 each we have better things to spend our minimal funds on) we went down to the hotel casino. I had my bucket of nickels to play with and came away having broken even. Mum however played on a poker style gaming machine and walked away with $115. Bonus. Gives us the option of maybe doing something we hadn’t planned to do on one of our other stops. We headed up to our room at 20.00 and watched a movie before turning in for the night.
Have to say Vegas is not really my cup of tea. I’d much rather have stayed in Furnace Creek, but at least I can say I’ve been, seen and experienced the place. It really is a city in the desert though. One minute we were on a solitary road with nothing but sand to see (and the odd Coyote wandering along the side of the road). Then we rounded a bend and there is was, laid out before us. Bright lights and tall buildings rising from the midst of all the sand.
One thing I do like about the place is that instead of having to climb stairs to cross the bridges over the strip, they have escalators (and lifts for disabled people). I love that idea :)
I had to tell Maiko off today. Just because Mum and I are travelling together he seems to think he can give us one of everything and we will share. Told him we’ve paid the same, will not be together once the trip is over and so I want one of each. Get me being lairy :)
TUESDAY 26TH NOVEMBER
Rubys Inn Room 7625
26 South Main Street
I woke up at 04.45 to find Mum was already back down in the casino - she does like her slot machines. She never walked away a winner today but only allowed herself $15 to play with. I went down to join her at 05.50. There we stayed until we had to meet with the others in the lobby at 07.30. We were on the coach and on our way to Zion National Park by 07.45.
Maiko is a definitive twat. Instead of pointing out things of interest on the way (like the train we saw with 75 carriages and 3 engines - it went on forever) he gave us a long lecture on California before going on about how the world was created. I never knew it was once covered in water or that nothing will grow without water!! He also informed us the Mountains on the west side of the Rockies are in Western America (who would have thought it?!!). Many times he’s asked us questions which is fine but they are worded in such a way we have felt as though we are on a school trip. Mum asked if we should put our hands up to answer or if we need to pee. He does like to march up and down the aisle too handing out his highlighter pens before telling us what we need to mark off on the maps. He checks them all back into his bag before we are allowed to get off the coach.
The weather was still warm but a strong wind made it feel a lot colder than it was. We’ve been told it will get colder during the next couple of days. Crossing into Arizona we lost an hour - we’ll get it back. We also crossed into Utah for a toilet break. What a weird experience that was. The walls were so short I was able to chat to Betty next to me while she peed also. Not something I’ve ever done before!!
Had to laugh when we stopped at a supermarket to buy lunch. Mum and I got back earlier than the others and stood to the side of the coach to have a ciggie before boarding. While trying to light our ciggies we were shielding them when a huge gust of wind blew our skirts right up over our heads. Talk about embarrassing. Then I realised that our driver (Jim) had been looking in his side mirrors and saw what happened. He was having a right little chuckle to himself).
Our first stop in Zion was at Zion Lodge which basically is a shop. We had 10 minutes there. I bought myself a lovely ring for $20. Apparently it was hand made by the Navajo but I’m not quite sure how true that is. Another 10 minutes after leaving there we stopped again. This time there was a path that took us along the base of the rock (which looks as though it is weeping water). It wasn’t worth the half hour hike we found ourselves on so we (along with Betty) decided to turn back and do our own thing. Most enjoyable that was too.
Passing from East to West in Zion you have to go through a half mile tunnel that is a single lane. There is supposed to be a ranger there to let you through but after waiting 15 minutes with nobody turning up our driver carried on through. We got to the other side where a ranger was waiting and he got a right telling off :) Then, 20 minutes further down the road we got pulled over by a state trooper and he received a ticket for it :) It all adds to the excitement and experiences.
After leaving there we were taken to Bryce Canyon - arriving about 4pm. What a place. We had just 20 minutes to look at the view and take some photographs. It was nowhere near long enough. I could have spent days there and still not seen/experienced it all. The place is magical. From the bright pink and orange hoodoo’s to the dark green pine trees all covered with scatterings of snow that just added to the effect. Amazing place and somewhere I have to come back to. I nearly never made it to the viewpoint in the first place though. The ice was that thick on the ground, we were walking downhill and I am so not good on my feet. I slipped and found myself hurtling towards a 300 ft drop waiting to take me. Thankfully the railings in place are there to stop such a thing and they stopped me well - thankfully. About 3 miles down the road after leaving Bryce the Dutchman also on our trip realised his wife wasn’t sitting next to him. She’d gone to the toilets before getting back on, when Maiko asked if we had everyone he’d said “yes” so off we went. The poor woman had been left behind. Thankfully she had a sense of humour and laughed about it, although I am sure when they got to the hotel she would have given him a ticking off :)
Our room is right across the other side of the site (at the top and the furthest from anyone) but that’s fine. We have no fridge but it’s so cold out that doesn’t matter - we can just pop what we want on the balcony - it was -18’c when we got to the hotel:) We took a walk over to the shop area to grab some sandwiches and junk for for our dinner. Mum then had to go back later to find Jum as she realised she’d left her bag on the coach (not that it would have really mattered). By then it was pitch black and somewhere a coyote was howling. She said it was quite creepy!! She also beat me with a banana as she’d spent 5 minutes trying to open the wrapping on her sandwich. I did it on the first try :)
Went to bed early again - go us, such lightweights :)
NB. Petrol here equals 89p per gallon and includes road tax. Back home is it £2.60 per gallon with road tax on top.
WEDNESDAY 27TH NOVEMBER
Quality Inn Room 625
Kaibab National Forest
1029 N Grand Canyon Blvd
Woke up at 05.45 - seems to be the normal for this trip. We didn’t need to leave until 07.30 so we took a wander around to explore (not that there is a lot. It’s a motel complex with a shop and some old fashioned western style shops across the road - a printers, sweet shop and general store). It was still dark when we first headed. The moon hitting the snow and ice made it look almost as though someone had spread glitter everywhere. Quite beautiful.
Our first stop was Kanab where we stopped at yet another general store - they’re getting a bit boring now. Mum did buy us both a pair of sunglasses because although it is colder than I have ever experienced cold before, it is also extremely sunny and as we are at the front of the coach today we may need to block out some of that sun :) The woman who served us in the store thought we were from Kentucky - she was quite taken aback when we told her we were from England. Of course we then got asked if we knew Princess Diana - because everyone from England must surely know her and the royals personally.!!!
From Kanab we then traveled on through Page before arriving at Lake Powell. Just before we arrived I saw a Bald Headed Eagle soar across the sky in front of us. It looked so graceful; I felt truly blessed to witness such a sight. We had a quick wander across Glen Canyon Dam before being driven to Waheap for lunch. There wasn’t really anything to do there so we grabbed a sandwich, had a wander around before settling on a bench overlooking the lake. It was definitely warm enough to sunbathe. Such a contrast from when we left this morning.
When we left the Lake we drove via the Navajo reservation. I can’t tell you the feelings I had as we did so. They pretty much ranged from pity to anger and back again. How the people are meant to live on the lands they have been given - how it angers me to say that. It was their land to begin with - is beyond me. It is nothing but dust and sand with more dust and sand with the occasional dried river bed thrown in for good measure. I did see an eagle fly in the distance - the driver told me it was a golden eagle but I’m not convinced on that. I wish I’d been able to get a photograph of it. We did stop at the side of the road on the reservation where 4 ladies were selling jewelry. It would have been rude not to purchase anything from them. We didn’t stop again until 4pm when we arrived at the Grand Canyon.
Our driver appears to think the same of Maiko as we do. Today we were sat up the front of the coach so were able to chat to him and several times he had us laughing so hard where he was taking the piss out of him :)
Ok, I’m going to say it. I really don’t get all the hype that surrounds the Grand Canyon. There, I’ve said it out loud. After all the places we have been so far, the things we have seen, the Grand Canyon is by far a pretty big let down. While it’s pure size is impressive, the fact it was all carved from water even more impressive, the whole area itself is not so. The plan was to sit on the edge and watch the sunset with a glass of wine but it was -13’c when we arrived, way too cold, so everyone headed back to the coach where we watched the sun dip from the comfort and warmth of our seats. Have to say that even the sunset didn’t give much. Basically the sun dropped out of the sky. It went from yellow to black, there was no red, purple, orange or pink to be seen.
Once at our motel we dumped out cases then headed over the road to the restaurant for some dinner. Mum had a hamburger that in a style we have become accustomed to over here was HUGE and I had a spaghetti bolognaise. I think they used a whole pound of mince and 2 packs of spaghetti. I couldn’t eat it all. Our plan originally was to have a pudding as well - that never happened!
Maiko has decided that while the people who are doing flights over the canyon tomorrow are flying the rest of us should join him on a 2 hour hike. In -13 temperatures? I don’t think so. Several others have said they’re not going either; I think he may find he’s all by himself. I think it’s nice to be offered the option but to be told we WILL join him is not so nice. I’d rather have an extra hour in bed or go horse riding - not that we can do that as we have to leave early for Maiko to do his walk which is a good 40 minute drive away from our hotel so we cannot stay behind and wait for him.
Went to bed at 22.00
THURSDAY 28TH NOVEMBER
Pointe Hilton Room 2014
7677 North 16th Street
Today is Thanksgiving over here. Not sure the native people appreciate it but it seems to be a big deal to most people
Woke up at 06.40 (woo hoo, a lay in at last!!). The sun was shining, the sky was blue and it was bloody freezing (I really should have packed more than one jumper - I just never thought it would be so cold!!) :)
We were meant to leave the hotel at 08.30 but some cases got lost (that seems to happen a lot to our group) so it was 9am before we finally got away. I thought Maiko was going to have a coronary he was getting so stressed about it. We stopped at Mather Point where Maiko and just the 2 people willing to walk with him got off. The rest of us stayed on the coach and carried on with the driver down to Yavapai Point. It was just past 10.30 when the others arrived so we had plenty of time to take in the scenery and relax before getting back on the road again. Have to say you can definitely notice how thin the air is (we were 8000ft above sea level) and don’t get me started on the static electricity. I look like the fuzzy bear from the Hair Bear Bunch. I’ve given myself several electric shocks when touching things. I’ve even seen actual sparks! Still, I can’t complain too much. One of the other girls on the trip has really long blond hair that she can’t do a thing with. It looks as though she has pushed her fingers into a plug socket. Was mighty pissed off when en route to our next stop we drove back past our hotel. I could have gone riding after all.
On one stretch of highway the snow was about 8 inches thick so our driver pulled off the road for the australian kids who have never seen snow before - other than on the TV or in photographs. The driver told me to go and stand across this field so that everyone could use me for their snowball target practice - I really don’t like him :)
We stopped in Sedona for lunch (only 30 miles from where we had been) to find there wasn’t a snow drop to be found. The temperature had also risen quite dramatically from -18’c to +29.c crazy weather - I had to take a layer of clothes off.
I like Sedona, it’s somewhere I could come back to. There was a trail down behind the row of shops I’d have loved more time to explore. The whole area reminded me of the small towns you see in the Wild West movies.
For lunch we found a pizza place where my pizza (as usual) was huge and garlic bread on the side must have used a whole loaf (I had to leave some and I never leave garlic bread). Mum had a hotdog and asked for it with chips. You should have seen her face when she got a bag of salt ‘n’ shake crisps. She was meant to ask for fries.!!
From there we were taken to Montezuma’s Castle, one of the many cliff dwellings in the area (not to be confused with one of the same name in Mexico). Mum kept asking where the turrets and moats were!! Before we got there I assumed we would be able to explore it but all we could do was walk to the base of the cliff it’s located at so I found it a slight disappointment. There was definitely something rustling in the bushes at one point as we walked round. Knowing how the area is for rattlesnakes I didn’t hang around to explore what was causing the noise. Betty managed to accidentally tread on a small yellow scorpion - we found out after these can be deadly!!. We also came across a black widow spider - they are a lot smaller then I thought they would be. Have to admit with all the bugs and creepy crawlies they have over here which can do you harm I might be changing my mind about living here :)
We arrived at our Scottsdale hotel at 16.45 and not only is it huge is is beautiful. Our room is bigger than my flat back home. Our front door overlooks the pool area, our patio doors overlook some hills and mountains. Simply stunning. We have a suite basically including a marble work surfaced kitchen area. However it’s not really us - it’s too posh - I’d much rather have our Furnace Creek Motel again. Still, it’s not like I will stay somewhere a posh again in my life so we’ll take it as we find it. It’s a good job we have air conditioning in the room for when we arrived at the hotel the temperature was 93’f and so humid that we were dripping before we’d even made it to our room.
Ooh, we saw a hummingbird when we arrived at the hotel. It is tiny. I always assumed they would be a lot bigger. The colours on it were stunning and glistened in the sunshine.
Being the party animals we are we went to bed at 21.30 - we’re so rock and roll.
Maiko gave us all a questionnaire to fill in today. I enjoyed filling in mine. If he opens it and reads it himself the next few days could be awkward :)
FRIDAY 29TH NOVEMBER
Holiday Inn Hollywood (is now called Loews) Room 1122
1755 Highland Ave
Got woken up at 04.50 by the most amazing thunderstorm I have ever experienced. The lightning was phenomenal and the thunderclaps rumbled around the mountains for what seemed like ages. The rain came down dead straight in 10 inch long rods. What an experience.
There was no point going back to bed once the storm stopped as we had to leave the hotel at 8am.
We had a long drive today. We stopped about 10.00 for a coffee break then in palm springs for lunch. I’d spotted a Cherokee Jeep garage half a mile up the road from where we were getting lunch so took a walk up there instead of eating to grab some brochures to take home for Steve. The salesman thought it was a lovely thing to do - not sure if he was just humouring me. I hope Steve appreciates that I had to take my life in my hands crossing the road to get to it. There was no crossing to be seen and we had to make it over 6 lanes of traffic. I’ve no idea how we never got squished.
The sandstorm we drove through between our 2 destinations was an experience. Except for a hurricane I think we have experienced every different weather situation there is.
We arrived in downtown LA at 14.20. I don’t like it. We were dropped at a street market and it was horrible. There were people bashing into people at every twist and turn and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so claustrophobic. I also pulled my bag into me really close. Not somewhere I shall rush to go back to.
When we left there we took a little trip around LA itself and had the hotel used in Pretty Woman pointed out to us as well as the house Marilyn Monroe and JFK used to meet in. We drove down Sunset Strip and saw the Viper Room club - what a dive that looks from the outside.
Arriving at our hotel we realised our room looks directly down onto Manns Chinese Theatre and Hollywood Blvd - a good spot to be. There is a hotel just to the left of us on the strip itself that had a wonderful painting of Marilyn Monroe on the side. Being on the 11th floor gives us a great vantage point to view the city and because today has been a windy day the smog which usually hangs over the place was not to be seen so our view was clear for as far as the eye could see. The sunset was beautiful. We are dead opposite the El Capitan Theatre and Roosevelt hotel and CNN tower - sadly we can’t see the Bradbury building (what can I say? We are famous!!!) The theatre had loads of lasers going off all night. The only downside to our room is that the floor we are on is non-smoking. I went downstairs to ask if we could possibly change and instead they gave me an ashtray and told me not to worry about it. In the little elevator lobby area is a full length picture window through which we can see the famous HOLLYWOOD sign. We are literally smack bang in the middle of tinseltown.
Dinner this evening came via Burger King. The whole meal came to under $10 but all we had was a $50 travelers check to pay. I don’t think they had seen one before. She had to show ID and so did I for some reason. They spent 15 minutes checking all the paperwork. Talk about making us feel like criminals.
Back at the hotel we sat staring out of the window watching the world go by. It was totally mesmerizing. We stayed there until 22.00. Late one for us !!! Especially as we were up so early.
SATURDAY 30TH NOVEMBER
Hotel as previous
Got woken at 07.00 because Maiko had organised a wake-up call for everyone. Twat. I really do not like him. As the day was free for us to do as we wished I was hoping not to get up too early.
We left the hotel at 09.00 to explore the city. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen and we were up for all that the city of angels had to offer and what a bloody horrible place it is. I don’t think I have ever felt so uncomfortable walking streets anywhere as I have felt today. Every 2 or 3 shops there is a homeless person. Each and every one of them has a tale to tell but some get really arsey if you don’t give them any money - we don’t have any for ourselves as it is let alone giving it away to each person we come across.
We did take in some of Hollywood Blvd with all the starts, and the handprints outside the Chinese theatre (Mel Gibson has big feet). We also took a walk down Sunset Blvd to do some window shopping and found a factory outlet shop where we bought a couple of t-shirts. From there we headed back to the hotel stopping off at a waxworks on the way. Some of them were really good, others were bloody awful.
Bought lunch in McDonalds and as we were waiting to cross the road back to our hotel there are 2 gangs of lads at the intersection who were obviously dealing drugs. The second I saw a knife being shown I hot footed it across that road quicker than I knew I could move.
I can honestly say that there is nothing about LA that will entice me to come back. I felt unsafe the whole day and we were in the busy tourist areas. It does not have a nice vibe to it at all. Why so many people would choose to live here is beyond me.
Did see 2 flash cars with private plates. One was TALENT, the other MUSIC16. Could be someone famous?? Or just a wannabee trying to look good. I am sure I saw Pamela Anderson in a red soft top car as well but we are in LA so it could have been any number of bottle blonde fake boobed women.
I gave the poor girl in one of the shops we went to an electric shock. Literally as I passed the money over to her I saw the blue sparks shoot from my hand to hers; she really jumped back and looked at me as if I just done something horrible to her.
We never left the hotel again and went to bed at our usual 22.00
SUNDAY 1ST DECEMBER
Outrigger Malia (now Ohana Malia) Room 1017
2211 Kuhio Ave
As I write I am currently squished into a seat on a DC10 bound for Honolulu. I am hating every second of it. We are still climbing at the moment from take off and as long as everything goes ok we will be landing in Hawaii in just under 5.5 hours time.
I woke up at 05.30, Mum had been awake since 03.00 - the woman never sleeps. We left our room at 06.30 and met Maggie and Jim - the only 2 other people who are going to Hawaii - in the lobby. We were picked up by the other coach that has been doing the same trip as us. The guide is so much better than that twat we had. Just on the short drive to the airport he pointed out loads more than Maiko has done on our whole trip.
The plane has just leveled off and we have hit a lovely pocket of turbulence. If (and when) I get back to England I am never going to fly again!! Still, I have to make it to Hawaii and back, then from LA to home yet. I must have had some kind of brainstorm when I suggested this trip. I just stopped to look out of my window and while I can’t see much except the plane's wing, I can see that it’s a long way down and there’s nothing but shark infested water below. With the amount of turbulence up here I’m hoping we don’t end up down there. I really am shitting myself. I’d like to be anywhere else than where I am right now. I’d even settle for laddie sinking his teeth in my arm then this. I’m sure once we are home I’ll look back on this as a great experience but right now it is not!! And to add insult to injury we’ve just been charged $4 for the headphones needed to listed to the inflight movie. Bloody cheek.
That’s the last I wrote on the plane for I fell asleep and woke up with just an hour of the flight left. Did literally nearly shit myself half an hour from landing when the captain announced “Ladies and Gentlemen we have a slight problem”. I thought “this is, we’re all going to die”. The bastard then proceeded to tell us he couldn’t get a video to run which tells us a little about Hawaii. I hope he gets stung by a jellyfish.!!
We landed (safely) at 13.50 were in our hotel by 14.30 and wandering the streets of Waikiki at 15,00. It’s hot, it’s humid and we are in a tropical paradise. Our bag guy at the hotel was lovely - much friendlier than the ones we encountered on the mainland and the guy who served us our burger lunch in a little cafe up the road from the hotel could not have been more friendly if he tried. I did nearly choke to death on my burger. Not because it was bad but because a police car pulled up outside where we were eating. When I saw police car I mean golf buggy painted blue and white with lights on top and police on the side. A golf buggy. I’m still laughing now as I write this.
After eating we window shopped for just 2 blocks. It took us over an hour and half to do those 2 blocks. This place if perfect. We went into one shop and found 30 more hiding outside the back of it.
Got back to our hotel at 17.30 all shopped out. I wanted some ice to go with my coke so had to go down a couple of floors to the ice machine. Something happened to me on the way back up that I could never have expected or dreamed of. When the lift arrived and the door opened, stood inside were 5 top gun fighter pilots in uniform - I know they were top gun for it was on their badges and they also told me. Rather than let me out on my floor they made me travel up to theirs with them and were trying to get me to party in their rooms with them!!! Hmmm.. I’m sure that's what they really wanted!! I did stand on their landing and have a good chat with them. They’re over here for training of some kind. When I finally made it back to our room I think Mum was just about ready to send out a search party for me. :) She wanted to know where they are training so she can watch their planes although I’m not entirely convinced she believes I did meet them and was in the lift with them. It does seem odd they’re not staying on a base I will admit.
There are 12 Bradbury’s in Oahu - we get around !!
Went to bed at the usual time.
MONDAY 2ND DECEMBER
Hotel as previous
Was rudely awakened at 03.00 by some noisy buggers chatting outside our room when them proceeded to bang their bedroom doors. I’m sure they were having a contest to see who could make the most noise. Finally dropped off after an hour or so waking again at 07.00. Mum (as usual) was already awake sitting on the balcony having a cup of coffee. We sat and worked out how much money we have to spend over here and are better off than we thought (Mum’s vegas win helped). When we came out we had $23 per day that we could spend, now we are up to $30 per day. Go us. I only hope I’ve got the pay rise I’ve been promised when I get back home or we’re going to be living on bread and water until the new year.
While getting ready this morning a huge beetle type thing wandered out from one of our leis and dropped itself into the chest of drawers. From there I have no idea where it went. Not sure if it was in the flowers when the hung them around our necks yesterday of it just made it’s way to our room today. Either way I’m not sure I’m happy about it sharing our digs for free!!
Had to meet up with Jim and Maggie at 08.30 as we had to make our way to another hotel to meet a rep who will sort out our flights and transfers back to the mainland then back home for us. We found our way to the beach on the way back and somehow managed to lose the other 2. No idea where they went. Still, that’s not a bad thing. We were going to get our towels and spend the day at the beach but there were loads of people down there and nobody can go into the water yet as the place had just been invaded with jelly fish. How typical is that. Apparently it happens only once a year for a few days and it’s just coincided with the few days we are here! As we couldn’t do that we headed to our hotel's sundeck but it got so hot up there we gave up and took ourselves out to the aquarium where we spent ages watching a monk seal just bob about doing it’s own thing. When we left there we stopped for coffee and ice-cream. Mum also bought me a sundress because she said she’s fed up with seeing me cooking in t-shirts - I did wear my short today. First time I have ever worn them in public.
We popped into a photo shop to get our film from the mainland developed and while there it was one of the staff’s birthday so her workmates were on their way out with a big chocolate cake for her just after we got there so they cut us off a bit and stood chatting to us as we ate with them. How lovely is that? People would never do that back home.
I’m sure clocks here move backwards instead of forwards for it was only 15.00 when we got back to the hotel - we’d only left the sundeck at midday and done so much in such a short time.
We headed back out again at 17.00 to find somewhere for dinner. We found ourselves sitting on Waikiki beach watching the sun go down. It was beautiful. Once it was dark all the hotels along the shore line lit tiki torches and somewhere in the distance someone was playing proper hawaiian music. It really made the whole place come alive and it was just as I always imagined it would be.
We ended up back at the hotel by 20.00 where we stopped to get some dinner before heading up to our room and crawling into our beds at 22.00
Ooh; on our way out earlier we saw amy fighter pilot friends again - Now Mum believes me :)
TUESDAY 3RD DECEMBER
Hotel as previous
Woke up at 06.00 and it was raining - HARD. Mum had been awake for an hour before me. I don’t think we are ever going to have a lay in. We both also have quite bad minging colds. Hey people, welcome to paradise, home of the sore throat, snotty nose and headaches!! Not that it will stop us enjoying ourselves.
Left the hotel at 08.30 and walked over to an activities desk at a neighbouring hotel where we booked ourselves tickets to the sea life park and Pearl Harbor. By 09.00 we were on a mini-bus taking us to the harbor. Our driver (Francis) was lovely and really informative, pointing out things on the way. The couple sitting in front of us on the bus are from the next village over from us back home - small world. They weren’t very chatty though so guess they must have been supporters of the other south coast team :)
Wow, Pearl Harbor. What an experience. Our trip there started in the visitors centre where we were shown a film of what actually happened that day. Sitting where we were, all quiet and comfortable it was so hard to imagine the horror that went on. When it got to the point where the USS Arizona was bombed the screen went black. Not sure if it was meant to or they had a glitch but I’m going to assume it was out of respect for the men (and women) who died. From there we were boarded onto a ferry that took us to the memorial that lays across the Arizona. It is the only ship still under water and the only one which was regarded as a total loss. I can’t put into words how it feels to stand on the memorial deck looking down onto the ship below knowing that those who went down with her are still down with her. It’s a very sombre, eerie and extremely humbling experience. You’re only about 4ft above the waterline, the ship just a few feet below it and you can still see everything where the water is so clear. No attempt has ever been made to raise it and sailors can now have their burial on it. Mum and I both said we felt as though we shouldn’t be there, as if we were intruding on their final resting place yet at the same time I am so glad we were able to go, to see what happened. War is an awful thing and it is something that should never be forgotten so in that sense I believe the memorial to be a good thing. One thing I did find very hard was the amount of Japanese people who were there laughing and joking, taking photo’s of their country's achievements. I thought that very disrespectful.
Back on land we took a look around the museum. I found that hard as they have photographs of the men who were killed alongside letters they had been sending to their families. I know that they would have practiced for war, would have known the risks of being at war, but on that day they weren’t at war, they weren’t going to enter the war and those men and women would have believed themselves to be safe from harm where they were. It’s as if they were no different to you or I. They were innocent bystanders at the time. Did chat to a gentleman who had been on the USS Tennessee on the day it all happened. He was out there for the anniversary of the bombing at the weekend. Such a lovely gentleman I would have loved more time to chat with him. On our way back from the Harbor Francis was telling us about his experiences that day; how he had gone out with a friend that morning returning home to find his friends home had been bombed and his Mum and Sister were both killed.
It felt as though we had spent all day at the harbor yet we were back at our hotel for 12.30 (time really does stand still out here). Not wanting to stay in we decided to head off to a needlecraft shop we’d seen advertised while on the island. We took a lovely stroll along the Ala Moana canal before heading off to the street the shop was meant to be on. We never found it but will try again tomorrow if we get the chance. Didn’t want to keep trying today as it was so bloody hot I ended up with the mother of all headaches. We did grab ourselves a KFC on the way back - it was ok but nowhere near as nice as ours are back home. Arriving back at the hotel we ate, looked up the shop we’d not been able to find (it was just 2 blocks over from where we gave up) ate our lunch then headed back out to the shops where we found ourselves spending a long time in a bookstore - you can never have too many books.
Discovered back at the hotel that I hadn’t needed to go all the way down to the 9th floor, then back up to the 15th (thanks to the fighter pilots) the other day for there is a fridge in the room that has a freeze compartment which also has an ice cube tray; why did I not look for it before?
Had dinner in the hotel and chilled for the evening. I do have a very red face so think the suncream I bought isn’t very good!!
WEDNESDAY 4th DECEMBER
Hotel as previous
Woke up at 03.00 full of cold - lucky me :) Mum was snoring louder than any man I’ve ever heard. Thankfully I nodded off again to wake properly at 07.00 - a lay in, yay. We both decided we’d have an easier day so got our cases sorted and played cards until we needed to leave for our bus to the sea life park. Did see on the news there is a hurricane forecast for the weekend - that could make flying interesting!!
Loved the park which I know is wrong as it’s wild animals in captivity being forced to perform for the tourists, but they appear to be well looked after and at the end of the day unless they are being beaten (which they weren’t in front of us) then an animal will not do something it doesn’t want to do. They also have a rescue area for seals and sealions where they are cared for until they can be introduced back into the wild. I’m going to assume any park that does that really does have the interest of the animals.
Were dropped back into town (what you can call town, at least) 4 hours after being picked up so we headed off to the cinema to book tickets for the new Star Trek movie this evening. Popped into Woolworths for some bits and I replaced all of my make-up that I thought I had lost in Phoenix only to find it when I got back to the hotel. I really need to open my eyes further when looking for things.
The movie was good - Star Trek not really being my thing, but the cinema sound is like nothing I have ever heard before. Made me realise how backwards we are in the UK.
It was beautiful walking back this evening after the movie for everywhere had their Christmas lights up so it was all pretty and twinkly, and while we have reindeers pulling our sleighs, they have dolphins. I am glad we used the extra money to add Hawaii on to our trip; it is a wonderful place.
Point to note; Mum beat me at Yahtzee this morning for the first time ever. Not happy!! :)
THURSDAY 5TH DECEMBER
Hotel as previous
At 01.00 I nearly got into it with the girls in the rooms opposite. Rather than all congregating in one room they go to their own, prop the doors open and proceed to talk (shout) to each other. I got them back though this morning when they were trying to sleep!! :) They awoke me again at 05.00 and 06.00. I think there is only us and them on this floor - if not I can only apologise to anyone else I may have woken at 07.30. Let’s just say the girls won’t be shouting all night tonight.
Left the hotel at 09.30 and took a wander along the beach to see if we could find somewhere for breakfast. Would have grabbed some donuts and sat on the beach but it was crowded and nobody could get in the water because of the jellyfish. After wandering around for an hour we decided to go to the first placed we had passed - just a 3 minute walk from the hotel. Now, I like my bacon crispy but dear lord they absolutely crucified it. I couldn’t have cut it with a knife and fork the second I went to put the cutlery into it, so it shattered into a hundred pieces; I genuinely did not know it was possible to get bacon to do that. Add to that the hash browns which were nowhere near to being cooked and the scrambled egg which was like rubber I believe we made an unwise choice. The toast was still bread and the orange marmalade she promised us was grape jelly. Not a very successful experience at all. We should have just got donuts!! :)
Whilst waiting to board our Waikiki Trolley (which has many different stops en route that we can hop on and off at) we sat and watched a Hawaiian band and dancers perform on the street. I could definitely have taken one home with me (not sure Darren would have been too happy about that though!!).
Got on the trolley at 11.45 and the guy driving was huge but so lovely. Because we were the only English people on the tour and we had said we wouldn’t be getting off (we just wanted to have a drive around and see what there was rather than hopping on and off - we’d visited all we wanted to visit). He was great and like our own personal tour guide. Every now and then he’d shout out “Hey England, how you doing?” or “Hey England, check out that building to your right” :) We gave him a good tip when we got off :)
After we’d done that we made our way back to the hotel and played some cards while sitting on the balcony. I did grab Mum a calendar from a shop while we were out because she has paid for most of our trips and wouldn’t take any money from me. Bless her.
Not sure what was in our breakfast this morning or in the coffee’s we had but we both got a fit of the giggles this afternoon laughing so hard I’m sure we both wet ourselves (I know I certainly dribbled so there is no doubt in my mind she did too!!). Then later when she went for her bath she told me she didn’t realise she still had her bra on until she went to wash under her arms. Not sure I should have left her alone! She also tried to cheat at cards but ended up dealing herself the dodgy hand she wanted to deal me. She really is a loon :)
Spent the rest of the evening sorting our cases, having baths/showers, eating dinner and chilling before retiring at 21:00 - we have an 04:30 wake up call tomorrow.
Have to admit now I know it is ending I’m looking forward to getting back home, although we have a lot of air miles to cover before that happens. Don’t actually want to leave as such (I could stay here forever) but as we have to I’d like to be home.
FRIDAY 6TH DECEMBER
Marriott Airport Hotel Room 2333
5855 W Century Blvd
Our last day :(
Woke up at 04:30 as per our alarm call but had tossed and turned for most of the night anyway. I think partly because I knew I had to be up and partly because it was so very hot and humid.
We left the hotel at 05:30 and headed off to the airport where we had to go through an agricultural inspection - odd. Boarded at 08:30 took off just after 09:00. As usual I was terrified but it was actually a really good flight. The captain kept pointing out places and things for us to look at (it was like being on a coach trip with Dad :) ) and although we had quite a bit of turbulence it wasn’t as bad it could have been. Our landing was perfect. I had just said to Mum “we should be on the ground soon” not realising we already were. There was no bumping at all, we just glided onto the tarmac :) It was 15:30 when we arrived at LAX and I would have liked to just jump straight onto a BA plane and head back home but we have to stay here another night for our flight isn’t until tomorrow morning. I think our cases wanted to do the same for when we went to collect them they weren’t there!!! We waited for 3 hours while they tracked them down. Basically the airline had unloaded them and put the onto a flight home - thankfully they were able to get them back before the plane took off for I had left our tickets to fly home in my case (it never occurred to me that the case wouldn't make it back to me - something I have learned for in the future). That caused a rather heated argument with Mum which resulted in her storming off - the first one in the whole time we have been away (we’d not even had a cross word until that point). The guy looking into our cases kept saying they could go home and we could get them when we land tomorrow and that they he would be able to provide us with toothbrushes and washing stuff, etc. Asked if that meant we could fly without our tickets (which were in my case) to be told “oh no” so in the end I’d said to him “then you need to get my case back here, now”.
Arriving at the hotel we were ‘greeted’ (I am using that term lightly) by a right miserable bitch. At one point I didn’t think she was going to let us have a room for she couldn’t find our booking - I’d have been really pissed off if she’d not but eventually she realised she’d been spelling my name wrong even though I had written it down for her. Then when we got to the room it was a ‘No Smoking’ one so I asked the doorman if there was somewhere we could have a cigarette and he told us to just ring down to reception and they’d send one up. The shitty woman got even shittier with me asking “why” I’d not booked a smoking room. After spending 14.5 hours travelling and hanging around airports I was not in the mood so replied with the same attitude she had given me and pointed out I had requested a Smoking room to begin with. Not sure if she was being lairy or just scared after my rant because she ended up sending 2 ashtrays up to us. I don’t like having to be rude to anyone in the service industry for I can appreciate how bad their job is but when I’m polite and they are rude, it pisses me off.
By the time we had finally got to our room we were hungry so headed off the to hotel bar and grill for what was the most delicious steak I’ve ever eaten. Watched some American Football while there - still don’t understand the game - before making our way back to our room about 22:30 (get us having a late night). Finally retired to bed at 23:30.
SATURDAY 7TH DECEMBER
Home time :(
Part of me is excited to be going home and seeing everyone but a bigger part of me does not want this to end. I have had the most amazing experience of my life - so far.
Left the hotel at 14:30 and checked straight in at the airport - made a nice change not to be hanging around in queues for hours. Flight home was extremely bumpy, we caught the tail end of a hurricane and were rerouted several times and once arriving back at Heathrow we had to circle for an hour because a light aircraft had crashed on one of the runways just before we were due to land, but we got home safely, not that I thought we were going to as our landing was bumpy, bouncy and we shook from side to side; at one point I thought the wings were going to land before the rest of the plane we were at such an angle. I realised that although flying scares the shit out of me I do quite like it in a really weird, twisted kind of way. It will never stop terrifying me though, that much is for sure. Had to laugh at Mum for she managed to put her headphone sponges on the outside!! I do worry about her at times :)
And now it’s all over, I’m back home, it’s raining and life seems dull and dismal again but what a great time I have had. I’ve seen things I could have only imagined I would get to see, experienced several different cultures, met some pretty amazing people and have some memories that will live with me forever.
The highlight of the whole trip, for me, was Bryce Canyon with Zion National Park a close 2nd. What some spectacular scenery. They are truly amazing places - nature very own art work. Erosion is a bad thing in one way but when it creates landscapes like we saw in those 2 parks I can’t help but be in awe of it. . I’d love to go back to both some day and maybe explore more of the national parks the country had to offer rather than the cities. I’d have much rather preferred 2 days in either of the parks than in the towns and cities.
I enjoyed San Francisco, it was lovely and is somewhere I could possibly return to, but it’s not high on my list. I absolutely hated LA and was so disappointed in it - which is odd as I never set my expectations high to begin with. I found it dirty, intimidating and sad, all at the same time. LAs Vegas is ok if you’re 18 and into bright lights, huge crowds, heat and casino’s. It’s not somewhere I would chose to go back to, but I am glad I got to see it and experience some of it - it is most definitely an experience, a complete sensory overload. It is all about the ‘party people’ though. Yosemite was nice but not a park I would chose to go back to. The Grand Canyon was perhaps the biggest disappointment for me. I did have high hopes for that - the TV, photo’s and stories I have heard about it making it seem like a really exciting place to me, especially as I love my rocks and geology so much.
Hawaii - well the Waikiki area (I can’t speak for the city of Honolulu) was phenomenal. I don’t think I have ever met such friendly, kind and warm hearted people. I’m so glad we paid out the extra to go over there. Wonderful place.
All I need to do now is win the lottery so I can go back and see more :)