What's gwarning from the USA!!
Today is a sad day. It's 2 weeks until we come home and we can't bring ourselves to do it. Unfortunately we didn't win our millions in Vegas and will not be putting off our homecoming so get out the banners and balloons.
- American people are angry human beings behind the wheel of their unnecessarily big cars (Kilroy, E; 2014)
San Francisco was great. What a laid back city full of good of food nice people and far less crime than LA. We started having withdrawal symptoms from camping after a couple of nights with running water and food cooked for us so we headed back out on to the road and East in the direction of Yosemite. Our journey took us through Oakland, a neighbouring city of San Francisco. Don't go there. It's not nice and we accidentally tried to go to a dollar store but aborted our mission through fear of our non Kevlar insulated doors being blown to pieces. We didn't quite manage to get to Yosemite that day but we got close enough! We found a campsite about 30 miles just outside and set out our pitch for the night in a completely empty campsite of about 150 pitches it was eerily quiet and with only a rattlesnake warning for comfort we cooked dinner and went to bed.
We awoke early the next morning and with fresh faces headed for the park. Unfortunately for us it was a Saturday and with all the parks reserved campgrounds full we settled for a campground in the more northern area of the park in Tuolomone Meadows. About an hour away from the more popular Yosemite Valley the meadows was a nice, quieter area of the park with a more laid back feel to it. We spent the afternoon on a couple of hikes and a bit of gift shopping before going back to camp. Yosemite is bear country and you have to place everything that has any sort of scent or odour in to metal 'bear boxes'. It's either move the chewing gum from your car or wake up to a bear ravaged Toyota corolla! With both of us unsure how to convert Fahrenheit to Celcius we awoke to 40 degree temperatures and freezing cold we soon worked out that the temperature had dropped to just 4 degrees Celcius. Not ideal when you've packed shorts and t shirts for your trip but not surprising seeing as we were at nearly 9,000 ft. With no showers at our campsite we decided to relocate for the next night to Yosemite Valley.
We packed up our stuff and headed for the more civilised area of the park and luckily managed to find ourselves a spot, scammed a free shower and went out for the day. If you haven't been to Yosemite it's hard to describe the park and pictures can't tell you the whole story. It's breathtakingly beautiful, every angle offers a perfect photo and you can't stop wowing in awe at your whole time there. We can easily see why it's so popular and we loved our time there. After 2 nights/3 days in the park we had to leave although we would have liked to have stayed longer and there were a couple of areas we couldn't explore due to the outbreak of a huge wildfire on our last day so we have good reason to go back!!
From Yosemite we headed south. Our next stop was Kings Canyon & Sequioa national parks. Home of the worlds largest trees and Ellie wasn't missing out on this one. This whole trip she has sought out dendrochronology exhibits at every museum and park we've been too in awe at all of them. Sequioa was surprisingly good, America has 55 national parks and some of them easily get passed by but we weren't missing this one. The two are joined together and we spent the day there before camping that night. We experienced our first spot of rain in the middle of hardcore bear country and woke up to find our tent had been gnawed at by some squirrels. b******s. The duct tape was drawn for and all was fixed so no big deal but we felt as though we had been infiltrated and had to up our game! We saw some more of the park the next morning including a couple of trails and walks before taking a stupidly long detour to Death Valley. If you look at a map of California you'll see that the parks are close to each other. Unfortunately someone stuck a mountain range in the middle meaning there's no road through. Making it even more difficult is the fact you can't get to Sequioa on the East side so we had to drive all the way down to Bakersfield to go all the way up the other side to reach Death Valley.
We tried our best to make it one day but decided that entering Death Valley to camp at 6 pm wouldn't have been one of our wisest ideas so instead opted to camp about 40 miles away at Lake Diaz. After driving all day we were relieved to find a good campsite with incredible mountain views and a sunset that would be hard to ignore. The next morning we set off early morning in an attempt to miss the afternoon heat of one of the hottest places on earth. We were in Death Valley by 7:30am and were exploring all morning taking in the lowest point in North America, Badwater, at 282ft below sea level. We also took the scenic artists drive where multi coloured rock formations, a result of amazing geological processes, was our view for 9 miles. Death Valley surprised us slightly, we weren't sure what to expect from hot arid land in the middle of a desert but we were pleased with what we found. The stories of the natives who still inhabit the land and call it home are amazing as are the stories of the mining that took place and brought tourism to the area, of which some still exists and really how picturesque a dry barren land can be. After the temperature reached 102 we decided that it was only going to get hotter and with most walks not recommended after 10am we thought we'd be fine until it got to midday at which point you couldn't carry enough water to hydrate you on a 2 mile round trip. We had fun though rolling down the mesquite sand dunes in the early morning sun. Our next stop was Vegas. About 2 hours from Death Valley and easily one of the most boring drives we've encountered so far but what awaited us was amazing. We passed a test nuclear site on the way before all of a sudden the skyline was filled with buildings 50 stories high and one after the other along the Las Vegas Boulevard! We checked in to our hotel and went off to explore. Neither of us could take our eyes off of the surroundings, looking and pointing and just wowing at the ridiculousness of the place we were in. We had a drink at Coyote Ugly in New York New York (a hotel who's one large building is moulded in to a New York sky line from the front) before Ellie indulged in some Mexican food. A 2 litre frozen margarita and a 32oz steak burrito was what she faced and with a little help from me we managed to kind of finish it!
We were quite tired but determined to have a look round and it isn't a quick task, with hotels taking up a whole block at times it can be a 15 minute walk from one to the other. We managed to see the MGM Grand and a few others before retiring for the night. Our second day was spent doing much of the same, we walked around in awe at these huge buildings whilst stopping every other one to take in a themed chocolate world! It couldn't have been more different from the national parks we'd been in the few days before. For dinner on the second night we has so much about the buffets in Vegas and while we both thought of buffets of tacky affairs that only Kerry Katona and her Iceland prawn ring would attend we couldn't have been more wrong. We waited about 30 mins to sit down and we didn't waste any time in trying the rib of beef, the steak, the sushi or the crab but 7 plates and 1 and half hours later we were defeated and too full to do anything. We tried to walk around a few more resorts and see what was on offer but after gambling a bit of money unsuccessfully we called it a night.
We knew that 2 nights wasn't going to be enough so we decided to move hotels and after Ellie had found a genius deal on Hotwire.com we moved hotels to the Flamingo. One of the original hotels of the new strip we managed to get ourselves a last minute room at half price! That evening we would win our riches. Ellie had never played roulette before so we changed $10 in to chips and we picked numbers, the first one she picked out was 26 (obviously, it's her birthday) and we had 9 others. The ball spun round and landed perfectly in black 26. Ellie had won $36!!! Vegas was amazing and we've been nowhere else like it, some people might see it is as tacky and bright but you can't not love the Bellagio fountains shooting water note for note to Frank Sinatra. We were sad to leave but after 3 nights and 3 expensive ones at that we decided that it was time to get out before we got trapped for the next 3 years.
Unfortunately I can't write anymore as much as I want to! My iPad battery is dying and the bacon is nearly cooked for breakfast so I'll finish this blog post soon and post it when we can. Enjoy!!!