Saturday, 27 October 2012

Grand Canyon via the Hoover Dam and Route 66

We did a post about our day trip to the Grand Canyon earlier but it really needed some pictures, even though it's impossible to do the Canyon justice .  .  .
 The Hoover Dam

 Alfonso's pic of us at the Hoover Dam

There were lots of amazing views from the road on the way:

We stopped at Seligman on historic route 66 and took a few pics:

There seems to be a theme here:

The most dramatic picnic spot:

 Proof we were really there!

 One of the 300 condors that live in or arround the canyon:

 Sunset over the canyon:

San Francisco

 Wednesday, 3rd October 2012

We headed across from Truckee to Emeryville on the final leg of the train journey, which was a lot less scenic than the rest of it. Most of central California is quite arid and flat, with a lot of sunshine. We came into the Bay Area in the afternoon and it was still sunny.

Then, we encountered the San Francisco area and, all of a sudden, there was a pall of fog hanging around it, trapping it in its own little world of fogginess.... We couldn't see the Golden Gate, so that would have to wait.

The train pulled into Emeryville on time and we did the trip across the Bay on a coach, driven by someone whose driving manner was somewhat reminiscent of home... We arrived at Fisherman's Wharf, grabbed a map of the city from the brusque but efficient tourist person and headed off for the next cab. We both realised, very quickly, that we needed our London "game heads" on and we stepped back into our less-relaxed, wary, selves.

It would be an insult to crazy drivers to describe the cabbie as crazy, but he eventually got us to the hotel, a few blocks away from the Tenderloin, with its highly visible population of rough sleepers, dealers and pimps.

The hotel, the Hayes Valley Inn, has two separate bits and we were in the quieter annexe at the back. We had to unlock a gate, and then a main door, to get in....

The first evening was spent back at Fisherman's Wharf after an impressively long wait for a bus, due to the usual urban nonsense of delays. The Wharf is a great place to hang out, being on the Bay (obviously), with a large choice of restaurants and stuff to see; we saw something of the Sealions, but mainly heard them.

We had a very nice dinner at a diner(ish) place and headed back to our hotel.

Thursday 4th October, 2012

The next day, we got up early, bought some all-day passes and headed out to the Golden Gate Bridge. There, we met up with a tour guide, Dan, a former high school English teacher. He was doing the tours for free as part of a non-profit organisation, but tipping is customary. He was excellent value for his tour of the bridge, its more macabre history, photos of its construction and so on.
 This is a view from the bridge.

 Tour boat seen from the bridge.

We walked the 2.4 miles across the Bridge and back, which is well worth doing. They are the best views of SF and it was a matter of pride for us to be able to do something easily, that we would have struggled to do a year earlier. We did have to fight with the cyclists for space, but we're used to that as Londoners.

 The trip across the bridge was punctuated by fly-over displays from the US Navy's Blue Angels team and their F/A- 18 Hornets (versatile fighter-bombers which are normally used on aircraft carriers). Their display was impressive, suitably loud and hair-raising at times, as two of them flew within 10 to 20 feet of each other.
 Alcatraz, seen from near the Golden Gate.

In the afternoon, tired and hungry, we headed for a Jewish deli place in the suburbs. The food was nice, but the server was Kevin the Grumpy Teenager.

From there, we headed to Ocean Beach, which is properly on the Pacific Ocean. It was important for us to see and, in Jo's case, dip our toes in the actual Ocean, as opposed to the Bay. The beach was beautifully sandy, very long, and uncrowded. San Francisco is not known for being hot and this day was no exception. It was a great place to spend a couple of hours, though.


From the beach, we took the long-ish bus ride to Union Square, via the suburbs and the Tenderloin. We had to do the old-fashioned Cable Car (the old school trams you see on TV) and it was a fantastic thing to do.

We got off and walked down (and then back up) Lombard St, which is the world's curviest- apparently. From there, we wandered back down to Fisherman's Wharf and headed home after some food.
 A police car driving down and the view from the bottom of the street.

San Francisco is a crazy, vibrant place with a very strong liberal feel. It's as gay-friendly and liberal as advertised, so it's not everyone's cup of tea. Personally, I loved it and I think Jo quite liked it as well.

Friday 5th October 2012.

The flight to Vegas happened without any hitches. More to follow about Vegas. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Long Train Ride Part 1

Our train ride from Granby in the East of the Rocky Mountains, through the Rockies, across Utah and Nevada and up to Truckee in the Siera Nevada mountains took 24 hours.  We had a long day of ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the sceanery and took over 1000 photos before it got too dark, sometime arround Helper in Utah.  The photos just don't do it justice and many have reflections from the train windows but here are a small selection.  This part is mainly the Rockies:

 For part of the journey there were high rock walls on one or both sides.

 Our roomette.  With the bunks made up there was about 1 1/2 square feet of floor space.  I was warned to use the safety net in the upper bunk as people who fell had become wedged and had to be rescued by fire fighters coming in through the window.  I woke with a death grip on the side of my bunk!

 The Colerado River
 Many of the observation car seats could swing 'round to allow you to look out the other side.

 More Colerado River
 Even more Colerado River

 The obdervation car of the Zephyr.  We generally managed to get seats but not always on the best side.
 The freeway here gives some idea of scale.

We followed the Colerado River for something like 200 miles and these are just a very small selection of our pictures:

Next, onwards across the Utah desert towards Helper and views of the train.