Its from San Fran, that we start to head southward towards the equator and ultimately little old NZ.
We left the hostel and passed by sleeping hobos to head out to the airport in San Fran to pick up our rental car. Try as Budget might, they couldn't convince us to upgrade our car and when we got to our car, we were glad we didn't - its a massive hulking 4 door Kia.
Thanks to our sat nav we eventually found our way to Route 1 down the Califonian coast. We passed through farming areas with lots of people out in the fields doing back breaking work picking strawberries. We passed small towns with general stores and stopped in one selling snake bite kits. We enjoyed the cool American highway signs, just like in the movies! Driving down the Big Sur coastline was, to be honest, a big disappointment. The coastal scenery was nice, but not spectacular like we'd expected, so not like Croatia or the Cinque Terre coastline drives. We did stop off to see the Elephant Seals - they're huge lumbering, slumbering creatures - I've never seen them before!
We put some petrol in the car. Gas is ridicuously cheap - a gallon (which is 4.5 litres Google tells me) costs around $3. So what maybe 75c a litre. What is it back home these days - $2 a litre?
On our drive we got a few giggles from some of the road signs we saw -
"Carpool fine $271" (What's with the extra $1, wouldn't $270 be a nice round figure?)
"Winding roads next 74 miles" (Just what someone who gets car sick wants to see!)
"Historic bridge, 1932" (Does that count as historic?)
Eventually we came to the wine country of Santa Barbara where we spent the night. A lot of hotels we stopped at, were charging upwards of $250 for the night (its was the weekend!) and we were starting to think about sleeping in the car (there was no availability at the hostels), until we found a room at the Best Western chain for $150. We made the most of our pricey room and jumped around on our King size bed, splashed about in the heated pool and took long, long showers. Using all the complimentary bathroom products of course.
We ate as much as we could of the complimentary breakfast the following morning, including toasted bagels and cream cheese and watched Sunday morning cartoons like Tom and Jerry (ah the good old cartoons are the best aren't they).
We continued our drive south from Santa Barbara and spotted seven oil rigs spaced uniformly, maybe just a mile or so off the coast. I wonder if the townspeople are nervous given the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico....
We passed more road signs that threaten enforcement of the speed limit by aircraft. How does that work? We had another dose of amusing signs -
"Tasty jerky ahead, next mile. It's the best." (Is there any such thing?)
"Crookedest sheriff department in the USA" (Disgruntled townsperson?)
As we headed inland it quickly got hotter and we cranked the air con. The scenery was rocky hills and dry dusty scrub filled plains, broken only by an eight lane motorway. But even in the desert you can find those golden arches and we pulled in for cold drinks, with lots of ice! Further into the desert we stopped to use a rest stop and stepping out of the car was like stepping into a sauna with hotter gusts of wind. We've never felt anything like it before! So that's what 42 degrees feels like! Further on signs warned us to turn off our air con for the next 16 miles to avoid overheating. We passed a lot of vehicles broken down on the side of the freeway and nervously kept our air con off for longer than recommended and sweated it out.
We saw a dust tornado and passed by paddocks of sand. On the California-Nevada border there was a tacky, wacky amusement park and outlet centre, including a gun outlet store! From there it wasn't too long before we arrived into Vegas and found our hotel, the Monte Carlo. Our double room is only $45 per night and is huge, overlooking the four pools. We swam, sweltered in the heat poolside and then lounged about in our hotel room watching Forrest Gump before heading down for a flutter in the casino. Ah what a hardship it is to be travelling.