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Published: October 25th 2010
19/08 - London/New York
The long awaited opportunity to write a new blog was finally upon us, this hobby is becoming quite expensive!
In order to keep things interesting for all our followers we had asked some friends to get married in America - just so we could go on a road trip around the “wild west” afterwards and fortunately they obliged!
So in true form we had planned everything down to the last detail, flights - check, hotel for the first night - check, and that was it! To make things a bit more interesting we had also decided to move house the day before flying and just about remembered to keep our holiday things separate - details of that adventure to follow.
I went off to work in the morning and left Sally to check out of our old flat and hand the keys back. The day passed without incident and we met roughly as planned at terminal 5, London Heathrow. Not so new any more but our first visit and after all the hype I was a bit disappointed really - it doesn’t have a McDonalds, and doesn’t sell camera batteries (Sally had lost
ours this morning). We’d also had the first argument of the holiday (about the camera battery) so perhaps my view was a little clouded by the atmosphere we had created?
After eating (separately) we met back on the plane and settled into the relatively short flight over the Atlantic to NYC! It had been a while since we had both been there but with only one day we hadn’t really planned on doing anything in particular, other than finding a shop that sold camera batteries.
Arrival was easy - US immigration not too unfriendly either - and we headed out to our lovely “Comfort Inn”, close to the Metro so we could get into the city early all was fine. 20/08 - New York/Buffalo
We both had a good night sleep and awoke to a self serve breakfast at some silly hour in the morning. We ate waffles (self made) and then went via the airport, to drop out bags, to Grand Central station via the infamous subway. Sally stopped in the first Starbucks we passed and we enjoyed walking the streets and soaking up the NYC atmosphere which hasn’t changed since my first visit many
We walked to Times Square and then headed downtown for some lunch in the Tribeca areas. Stopping en route at the best electronic store we had ever seen. Imagine PC world, Curry’s, Dixon’s, all rolled into one with that individual shop style and a lot more class! We bought the now infamous battery and Sally got a new video camera flicker and we watched in amazement as our purchases whizzed around the shop to meet us on our exit!
A quick hair cut and then some burritos for lunch we made a stop at Ground Zero before going over to “DUMBO”, can’t remember what it stands for but it basically means under Brooklyn Bridge. We had an ice cream, wondered back to the subway through Brooklyn heights (as seen in the Cosby show), and finally back out to JFK for our flight to Buffalo.
On arrival in Buffalo I was like an over excited school boy. We picked up our economy hire car for the weekend and were given a nice upgrade to a sporty thing which started the wedding celebrations off in style; we wouldn’t have to park at the back of the church
Motel 6 was our next stop and then we made it to meet the couple to be and all the gang who were out there for the wedding, including Chris and James who I hadn’t seen since leaving Sandhurst over 10 years ago.
All being sensible the night before the wedding we were in bed by 3am having not touched a drop, I made particularly good use of our en suite and spent most of the early hours decorating the porcelain throne! From the welcome and first few drinks that evening we could tell this was going to be a fantastic weekend. 21/08 - Buffalo, Wedding Day
The big day had arrived and boy was it hot, I was sweating before I had put my suit on (maybe the hangover was contributing slightly) and it wasn’t going to get any cooler.
Sally had her nails done while I drove Chris and James around to collect cars, Jackets, shoe polish and brasso as you do the morning of a wedding.
We then drove out to the church which was huge! I think you could fit Wigginton church inside at least twice - with some room
to spare too.
Simon arrived in Blues with very smart ushers, and Chris and James as a guard of honour - getting theirs swords through customs must have been interesting.
Bre then made her entrance and looked absolutely stunning as you can see by the pictures. The service was conducted by Simon’s local vicar who had made the journey over with his family so was all the more special.
Simon drove Bre to the reception in a classic Austin Healy which Gary had refurbished especially for the day. We headed over in and had a cheeky snack at the Golden Arches en route.
The venue was the Buffalo Country Club and was stunning; the food was amazing (steak and chicken) and speeches very fitting for such a great couple. Their band has to be one of the best wedding bands ever and we all spent a very enjoyable evening drinking and dancing away. A fantastic wedding and one to remember for a very long time. 2/08 - Buffalo/Las Vegas
After we quickly took a trip to Niagara Falls, we headed over to Bre’s parent’s house which was a pretty cool place, especially the Dinosaur/Beatles/car mural in the
basement, the Dinosaur phone and the pizzas the size of their swimming pool! American hospitality at its best, thank you Margaret and Gary! Next stop Vegas! 23-26/08 - Las Vegas
Top 5 things we did in Vegas:
1. Taking in the strip, night and day, night and day….its a long strip when you walk it in the 100 degree heat as we found out when we walked to the airport by mistake! Still quicker than taking the bus or a taxi
2. Watched the most amazing acrobatic show by Cirque du Soleil - you can understand why some people to go to a show a night in Vegas!
3. Took a dawn helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam - amazing views, a lovely breakfast at a ranch where hill billys lived, sung and played. The only down side was that I had to sit in the back of the helicopter with 3 beefy blokes as I weighed too much for the front seats - of course its all baby!
4. Played poker and lost $90 in the space of 30 mins against a bunch of oldies in downtown Vegas -
great place to be and exciting even though we were only playing with $1 chips, unlike some of the tables where the minimum bet was $500 dollars. Still we got a couple of free drinks for our $90, and Nick did win a hand! I also won on someone else’s bet on a fruit machine - $10 - not bad!
5. Visiting the uber expensive, yet tacky hotels, to take in Venice, Paris and of course the Bellagio fountains which were amazing
Bottom 5 Things about Vegas
1. People handing out cards for ladies!
2. The heat - and it taking forever to get anywhere!
3. The endless casinos and people sitting playing slots all day and night!
4. The buffets which in face value seemed amazing but the food being pretty average - and just mass produced! No vegetables anywhere!
5. The general tackiness of everything! 26/08 - Grand Canyon - South Rim Walks/Kayenta
So from Vegas we started our road trip - yippee - this was what I had been waiting for and felt all Thelma and Louise as we headed out of Vegas - loved it. We
first drove along Route 66, in its hey day this was the route driven from Chicago to LA by numerous Americans looking for sunshine. Our first night was spent in Williams, a picture postcard American town, a buzzing with diners. Nick made a good first impression with the locals as he drove up a one way street the wrong way - luckily the lady coming the other way was driving slowly and dent didn’t make a dent.
We had dinner in a diner which consisted of a whole cow’s worth of ribs and the world’s biggest milkshake - with cream of course - it was one of those ones out of a metal cup - the real McCoy!
We spent the next day hoping on and off the bus at Grand Canyon NP and walking various sections of the south rim. The views were understandably spectacular and so vast almost impossible to take in. Actually seeing it from the ground I found more impressive than the helicopter as it was just so vast. The park set up was also brilliant and the trails easy to navigate - with all the rangers very helpful too. 27/08 - Monument
Ranch En Route to the Grand Caonyon from Las Vegas
Valley Sunrise - Antelope Canyon - Horse Shoe Bend - Kanab
Moving swiftly on from the Grand Canyon our next stop was the Navajo Nation and Monument Valley. We managed to get up for sunrise which was worth the effort as the towers emerged out of the darkness. A truly spectacular landscape and just like it was in all the cow boy movies!
We also managed to take in Antelope Canyon near Page - a slot canyon carved by water and wind where the rock formations and colours changed throughout the day. The pictures don’t quite do it justice.
Horse shoe bend was beautiful and my favourite part of the Grand Canyon/Colorado River.
From there we were planning on driving all the way to Bryce Canyon but stopped en route in Kanab as there was promise of a round up parade the next day and also a free barn dance in the evening! 28/08 - Kanab Western legends - Bryce Canyon - Zion/Springdale
I managed to find some cowboy boots in a local market and certainly looked the part. After searching for the barn dance we walked in to a
pretty hostile crowd who were mainly just sitting and watching. We didn’t dance as there was no bar to conjure up some Dutch courage but it was interesting to watch the others spinning around the floor wearing huge Stetsons!
The round up was fairly standard - herding some long horns through town with lots of horses and old cowboys in carriages.
The next leg was the drive up to Bryce Canyon - more amazing scenery and an outer worldly landscape on arrival. We really didn’t do this park justice and just drove around all the view points but Sally being with child meant long hikes weren’t an option. To really enjoy the area properly would take months and would require a very long trip - perhaps something for the future!
Ever onwards we headed to Zion for the night. This was one of my favourite driving legs of the journey. Not know what to expect of Zion we went through a huge tunnel on entry into the park and once through the other side the scenery was spectacular. The photos do not do it justice, towering cliffs with shear sides in all different types of rock. We
have to stop the car to take it all in.
We found a pretty good motel and watched the sunset against the cliffs in a Jacuzzi - nice. 29/08 - Zion - Narrows - Las Vegas/4 Queens
Zion turned out to be my favourite park/day of the trip. We boarded the obligatory park shuttle and headed up to the narrows for a short walk. As the valley sides closed in the trail ended in the river. To go any further you have to wade through - crossing from side to side. We took our shoes off and decided to make the first crossing for a picture and to see what was around the next corner. We then did this for the next 2 hours as the river got faster, the sides steeper and the gorge narrower. It was brilliant fun and even more so when Sally managed to dunk herself head first! She was the only person we passed that afternoon who was remotely wet.
After a healthy burger for lunch we hiked up to the enchanted pools which had great views up and down the valley. Whilst the main centre of Zion may
not be that big the variety of scenery in such a small area was fantastic.
Not wanting to get behind on the schedule we headed for Vegas for a quick stop over before the Californian leg of the trip.
Being back in Vegas after less than a week was a bit surreal, we stayed this time down town and had a fairly decent room1 for $25! The cheapest night of the whole trip with a view down the strip too. We had the Golden Nugget Buffet for supper which was a mistake as the food was pretty average and then walked around the casinos watched the light show and had an early night - Vegas is wasted on us. 30/08 - Death Valley - Kernville
Waking up for our last time in Vegas we were quickly on the road again. Today the plan was to get up to Sequoia National Park - and California! We also had Death Valley to visit (contend with) en route. Driving again was easy and getting out of Vegas very simple! We did have to stop for a drive through Starbucks before leaving the city which was pretty novel.
Just like Thelma and Louise
The scenery was pretty similar to yesterdays drive until we got into Death Valley, in effect a huge valley, very flat at the bottom with huge hills/mountains surrounding the sides. It reminded us a little bit of South East Bolivia near Uyuni and San Pedro De Atacama in Chile.
The temperature was certainly increasing and when we finally got to the visitor centre from memory it was around 95 degrees! We were also now below sea level.
It was too hot to do any walking so we did a few of the view points by car and then decided to try and get as close to Sequoia National Park for the next day as possible.
It seemed a lot further than we had anticipated on the map but fortunately we found a quaint little town in the mountains and stopped off in a little B&B for the night. Delicious Mexican food followed by a few local beers and another early night! 31/08 - Sequoia - General Sherman - Meadow Hike - Yosemite/Oakhurst
Being out of the dessert and in the mountains the driving, whilst still fun and scenic, took much longer then
before. Short journeys on the map turned into hours of winding roads.
To get to Sequoia we almost did 3 sides of a triangle and eventually found ourselves back in the mountains and surrounded by huge trees. They’re not the tallest but their girth and quantity of wood makes them the biggest trees in the world. Length not girth counts here and the giant redwoods don’t get a look in when it comes to records.
We found the General Sherman and it was pretty impressive. What would have been more impressive was if we had seen the bear that wondered off the track just before we arrived. We spent the next few hours gingerly walking around the meadows in the hope of seeing another one but alas it wasn’t to be. We did see a little deer which was nice but not the grizzly we were hoping for. 01/09 - Yosemite - Vernon Falls - Mirror Lake - Glacier Point/Oakhurst
Last NP before heading to San Fran and we did save one of the best to the end. Yosemite is famous for its towering granite cliffs and it didn’t disappoint. We hiked up to
one of the many waterfalls in the park and also to mirror lake. Unfortunately the reflection was somewhat lacking as the lake was dry but we got a great view right underneath half dome mountain. At the same time we saw a snake, a deer and its baby but not the elusive Grizzly,
El Capitan was pretty stunning at the head of the valley - people climb it over a few days and sleep on the face on harnessed platforms - rather them than me.
Yosemite is another great example of well run parks with a network of trails to suit every ability, the shuttle buses were easy to use and everything very family orientated. 02/09 - San Fran - China Town - Tram - Union St
We made it to our hotel in San Francisco easily and headed straight out to explore the city, starting with Dim Sum and a quick wander in China Town - yum yum! It was probably one of the best China Towns we have been to with lots of interesting shops and ornately decorated streets, not just one street with a temple at the beginning like most China
Towns. We then headed down town for a little shopping and some big cake from The Cheesecake Factory - the size of Nick’s carrot cake could have fed us for a week!
We finished our afternoon with a ride on the city’s infamous tram which is manually turned around when it reaches the end of its line by the two operators. What a fantastic experience, the driver was very witty and made the whole of the tram laugh continuously, it was fantastic to see the up and downs of what is a beautiful city from one of its most traditional forms of transport. We ended our ride next to the windiest street ‘Lombard Street’ which we would drive down on our way out of San Francisco. 03/09 - San Fran - Alcatraz - Tram - Castro - Haight - Union St
The next day, we were up early to get down to the docks and get the boat across to Alcatraz. Luckily for us it was a beautiful day and the tour around Alcatraz was fantastic, accompanied by a set of headphones it was a self guided tour where you were told all about the
inmates and the more amazing escapes, including when the inmates tricked the guards with papier mache heads in their beds that they had made over a number of months that gave them much needed time in their escape.
The afternoon was spent back on the mainland. After a quick lunch of shrimps at Bubba Gumps (delish), we caught a tram to Castro, the gay district, which was a vibrant place to hang out and people watch, with great restaurant names like The Little Sausage and Hand Job nail salon! The evening was spent enjoying a lovely Italian dinner on Union Street - a real find and a street that I would love to go back to during the day as there was some fantastic shops there too - Nick was also happy as on our first visit he saw a women flash her boobs to her friends whilst sitting outside a very posh French restaurant we went to! Most enchanting! 04/09 - San Fran - Lombard St - Golden Gate - Ocean - Home
Our last day was spent travelling over the golden gate bridge, unfortunately our luck was out as it was heavy
fog and we only got to see a foot of the base of the bridge, shame as it always looks so good in the pictures! On our way back to the airport we stopped to spend our last dollars and cents on breakfast with ocean views which was a lovely an end to a fantastic holiday. We loved San Francisco, maybe more so than NYC as it had lots of character and was small enough to walk around and take in at a slower pace with lots of different smaller communities to enjoy.
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