For me this was the first time in the USA. And it was the most beautiful
part! Only those distances, we are not used to that in Holland.
The 'trek' I did this year was 'California Dreaming', and it was organized by American Adventures
It was a camping-trip, and I am not a big fan of camping. But this trip was a big surprised me: it is really fun. The tents are only used to sleep in, and are taken apart each morning again, before we leave the campgrounds. The big advantages of camping are that you can stay very close to all the attractions.
The total distance we drove during this trip was about 5000 km.
Monday June 5 and Tuesday June 6
Departure from Holland to Paris and from there to Los Angeles, with Air France. For me it was the first flight I had ever made, and it was a nice experience. In Los Angeles I went straight to the hotel, the Airport Marina hotel. A good hotel, with a nice swimming pool, bar, etc. Tuesday I spent near the hotel, there was not much to do in the area.
Wednesday June 7
First day of the trek, I met the group in the lobby of the hotel. The group looks good, a lot of different nationalities: Dutch, German, English, Israeli, and an American trekleader. There was another group departing from the hotel on the same trek. We met them at a lot of campgrounds during this trek. This group was completely German, with an American trekleader speaking a bit of German.
Before we went to Disneyland we made a tour around Los Angeles. It's not a very nice city; it's more like a collection of small, very different places grown together. We saw all the usual things: Hollywood Boulevard, Beverly Hills, views of the Hollywood sign, etc.
Then on to Disneyland. We put up our tents on the campground next to the park. After that we stayed in the park for the rest of the day, until after the electrical parade. Especially this electrical parade is beautiful. I also saw the Lion King Parade, and visited most of the attractions.
Thursday June 8
From L.A. we travel to San Diego. It takes a lot of time before you have left Los Angeles, it keeps going on!
We stopped a couple of times during this trip to see the coast. You have a beautiful view of the Pacific. San Diego is completely different from L.A.: this is a real city!
In the afternoon we got a tour around the city. Our trekleader lives in San Diego during the winter. Before he became a trekleader he was a history teacher, and knows a lot about San Diego and the whole area we are going to travel through, not only about the 'modern' American history, but also about the Indians.
We also went to Tijuana. That is a big change. When you come from the States you have to pass through a gate, and then you enter a third world country. To me it was a real shock to see that two worlds are so close in distance but so far from each other in way of living.
That night we went to the city, and spent a night in a number of bars, and enjoyed some good live music. One of the girls was only 20, so she was not allowed in the bars.
Friday June 9
We went to Sea World. This is better that a Disney amusement park. Especially the show of the Killer whales was good. Those animals know how to get a lot of water out of their basin. There was also the shark experience. There you have the opportunity to walk through a glass tunnel inside the shark basin. The funniest thing I saw in the park was a sign over a personnel entrance to the park. It said 'Smile, you're on stage'. That is a big difference with the attitude in Dutch and European parks.
Saturday June 10 - Monday June 12
We left San Diego. Just outside San Diego the nature starts to change, it becomes more and more rocky.
The first night we stay in Prescott and from there we leave for the Grand Canyon. We make a stop in Sedona and Jerome (an old mining town, but now an art-village). The nature near Sedona is great: those red rocks, covered with green trees, just amazing.
At the end of the afternoon we arrived at Grand
Canyon. We stop at the first look out point, and we get our first glimpse
of the Grand Canyon. It is impossible to describe, so beautiful, so amazing.
You can take pictures of it but it is just a weak impression of what you
see and what you feel when you arrive there.
We camped on the campground near the Canyon. The next morning we could walk to the canyon, and we spend the rest of the day exploring the area and the canyon. At the end of the afternoon we went to the village and watched an IMAX movie about the Canyon and then we went for a helicopter flight. That's when you see how amazing the Grand Canyon is. You are flying over an area with only trees, and suddenly there it is. The ground just drops a mile and you are flying over the Grand Canyon. And at the other side of the Canyon the woods just continue.
Tuesday June 13
We leave the Grand Canyon, after a last view from the Desert View lookout point. Then we move on to Monument Valley. But first we stop at the Navajo National Monument. This is a museum where you can see an old Indian village, build by the Anasazi Indians, inside a large cave. The Anasazi lived in this area before the Navajo Indians.
From there we move on to Monument Valley: some huge rocks dropped in a desert area. The campground is on top of a rock, and you have a great view of the valley. At the end of the afternoon we went for a jeep tour through the valley. It's amazing how big those 'Monuments' are when you are standing next to them!
Wednesday June 14 and Thursday June 15
We drove on to Lake Powell. They build a large dam across the canyon, the Glen Canyon dam, which stopped the Colorado River. The result is that the Colorado is a nice and quiet river from this point on. The lake itself is a large recreational area.
On Wednesday we went to the dam itself. There we saw a large model of the whole Canyon area. On this model you could see how large the flooded area is that is caused by the dam.
On Thursday we rented a jetski with a number of people and spent the day on the lake.
We left the lake in the afternoon and put up our tents on a campground near Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Here we spend 2 nights. We got the chance to 'observe' a habit of the Americans: driving through deserts on quads and motorbikes. They start their engines very early!
Friday June 16
We drove to Bryce Canyon. The weather isn't that good anymore. It started already on Thursday with some clouds, but now it is all gray en there is a strong wind. But even in this weather it is still beautiful. We made a long hike through the canyon, walking between all those amazing sculptures.
At the start of the road to Bryce there is a small (rebuild) western town. There was also a large store where they sold inflatable pillows. I was looking for that since the start of this trip, the ground is very hard!
The other group went to Bryce when we left. They got some snow when they were at the canyon.
Saturday June 17
We left Coral Pink Sand Dunes and went to Zion. Now the weather really started to become worse. When we were walking around it started to rain, and we decided to move on to the next stop, Las Vegas.
We spent the night in Valley of Fire State Park. The weather there was just a bit different from the weather in Zion. It was a cool day: only 34C. The first thing I did was finding some other clothes.
The campground was divided into two areas, a part for 'normal' campers and a group campground. This area was 'in the middle of nowhere': the normal campground (where the showers were located) was 15 minutes by car! The other 3 places on this campground are empty, so we are completely on our own.
Sunday June 18
Yes, Las Vegas. Finally a normal bed, and swimming pool! We made a trip with the van to see Las Vegas: the Casinos, the chapels (including the drive-in chapel) and a lot of other attractions. It is one of the weirdest places on earth, in the middle of nowhere (some people call that the dessert) with only a lot of casinos. And still a lot of visitors coming here to loose money.
We spend a lot of time in the casinos (well, what else can you do in Las Vegas?). Circus Circus is very good, with all the circus acts, Ceasars Palace has a great shopping area, all in roman style with moving statues and a beautiful ceiling, and we visited a joust in Excalibur and had diner there too.
I managed to have some money left when we left Las Vegas.
Monday June 19 and Tuesday June 20
We left Las Vegas and headed for California. But before we left Nevada we got the chance to spend our last money in a casino just before the border. They also had a big roller coaster there (that was the main reason for stopping there). It is one of the best, with one of the highest drops. This was the first roller coaster where you have to hand-over your glasses and your cap before you can start.
Because of the snow on the Tioga pass we have to change plans. We could not go through Death Valley to Yosemite, but we have to enter from the other side. First we go to Visalia.
From there we continue to Yosemite, but before we enter the park we make a stop at a supermarket to buy some food for the coming days. While we are shopping our trekleader takes the car to a garage, because the car is making some funny noises. That is caused by sand in the gearbox, and the car has to stay there for a couple of days for repairs! Luckily while we are shopping the other group arrives at the same supermarket. After the trekleader of the other group drops of his group at the next campground he picks us up, with all our tents and baggage. In the meantime we have time to go to a bowling center.
Wednesday June 21
We made a trip through the park, and we made a great hike to the Vernal Falls. It is possible to climb to the top of the first fall, but you have to take a path where you are walking through a spray of water, caused by the falls. But there is a large plateau next to the fall where you can sit and let it all dry again.
The trekleaders go back to the village with the supermarket to pick up the van, so we can continue our trek.
Thursday June 22
We left Yosemite again (sniff, sniff) and we went to a river just north of the park to go river rafting. Here there was another problem: the water level was too high to use the normal stretch of the river. So we had to use a part that they normally never used. It was a bit calm, but there where also some special attractions: there where still trees crossing the river. The boats have to be lifted over these trees, and that caused some fun. When our guides lifted the first boat the water got hold of the boat and almost pushed it upside down under the tree. They just managed to keep the boat and lift it again. That was about the excitement we got from this trip, but it was a very good trip!
Friday June 23 and Saturday June 24
From Sonora to San Francisco. First we got a tour through the city, where we bought some tickets to Alcatraz. We only could get some tickets for the next day and late in the afternoon. After that we crossed the Golden Gate and got a great view of San Francisco. We stayed in a hotel close to the center, a Howard Johnson hotel. That night we went to Chinatown for diner. After that we went to a bar and just when we were enjoying our beers all the lights went out. A short while later candles started to appear on the tables, and that was the sign for us to find another bar. But when we got outside the whole area was dark. So we decided to go to the other side of town but we could not get a cab. But suddenly a stretched limo pulled over and offered us a ride. We ended up in a blues bar with some live music.
I spend the next day with one of the Germans, because we both wanted to go to Alcatraz. We spend the day shopping and then went to the prison. It was a strange place, I can't imagine how it must be if you are kept in there, without any way to get off.
Sunday June 25 - Tuesday June 27
We are following highway 1 to Los Angeles. The weather is not as good as it was before, now it is cloudy and a bit foggy. We made stops in Monterey, Big Sur, Hearst Castle (did not see the castle because of the fog), Santa Barbara and Venice Beach. The last night we had a drink with the group in the bar of the hotel and enjoyed some karaoke.
Wednesday June 28
I rented a car and I went to Universal Studios with 2 others from the group. Driving looks so easy when you sit in the back of a car, but when you have to drive again after 3 weeks and then have to start on a freeway in LA...
Universal Studios is great. Just after you enter there is a Blues Brothers show, and after that we went to the Beetlejuice Rocking Graveyard Revue. The Back to the Future is one of the best simulator rides I know, and the Backdraft show (about fire and fire fighting) is very good. But there are a lot more attractions (ET, Studio Tour, The Flintstones, etc.) and they are all very good.
Thursday June 29 and Friday June 30
A quiet day to end the trip. The plane leaves around 8, so I spend the day at the pool.
The flight back is quiet, but in the plane from Paris to Amsterdam I meet some colleagues. They just came back from a visit to the office in Paris and were also on the way back home...
This was a very good trip. The group was good, we had a very good trek leader (Geoff from San Diego) and also the weather was good during most of the trek (but what else do you expect in California?). Even the problems with the car could not change the feelings about this trip. This area is great, and I am planning to go back some time.