Fort Bragg

Well we all know how men like to ‘fix’ things when most of the time we just want them to listen to our story. Well this time my man did fix it good. He brought us a car.

image

Things were proving difficult = it is peak season. Town after town is booked out. Transport off the beaten track is non existent. We were stressed.

So like lots of people recommended before we came yesterday we decided to ‘buy a car’ to get around. It took the day to organise. The car dealer picked us up at the San Fran Hostel at 9.30am and by 3.30pm we had a car, GPS and hit the road. I felt like I could finally take a breath. We can resell it in Canada and still be in front considering car hire here is just financially silly and not an enjoyable experience! It is about $100 to rent a car because us Aussies have to pay extra insurance blar blar blar… Like I have said before, anything you see advertised is not what you pay. Even if the internet car hire says $30 per day, you end up paying $100. They are allowed here to advertise base pricing, then do all the extra adding, so be careful!

Having our own car, kids are super happy. Somewhere to call home and spread out there stuff. We headed north on scenic coastal highway 1. A road we would have never got close too if on going from city to city on the train. All of a sudden we felt like we were back in Tassie driving along a winding coastal road looking at the sea, free as a bird. How quickly things can change. The cities are interesting enough, but really, only in small doses. Amen for Mother Nature.

image

We thought now no matter what happens we have our own little place. Driving along we stopped in motel after motel and all booked. By 6pm we finally found one bed left in a big Motel 6. So we decided to not tell them we had kids and just make the one bed work. We made a bed out of our backpacks and Bailey excitedly camped on the floor. Gracie, Geoff and I had the double bed. We went to the best diner yet called Black Bear Diner in some random little town a few hours north of San Fran. It was super cool and finally we were feeling good.

image

So since we have a car, we went to Safeway, brought the mandatory ‘living in your car’ white foam esky for $4 and some food for the next couple of days. We even got signed up for the Safeway Club Card and saved shit loads on our bargain hunting food shopping expedition.

Now we are in a town called Fort Bragg for some down time. The kids went to the second hand book store and stocked up (now we have a car) and they have never been so quiet. We booked two nights in a roomy motel with two queen beds for $70 per night, including a basic continental breakfast. Lots of motels are owned and run by people from India. Its a funny place California, you would not know you are in America half the time there are so many languages and races. Gracie thought our room was so nice she asked if we could move in.

Today we have explored the quaint seaside town of Fort Braggs. Since our room has a microwave we have decided to have a $5 cook off comp. Its boys against girls. We have been to Safeway with a $5 budget per pair. I hope the microwave works.

Its about 1100kms from here to Fort Bragg to Vancouver. Its nearly three weeks since we left home. Our cruise to Alaska leaves Vancouver on 23rd August, so we have about 20 days to get to Vancouver.

Advertisements

San Francisco

When you read a travel brochure do you see any problems? Does it look hard or easy? All the pictures look pretty, exciting and inviting. Much like my pictures right. Then behind all the pictures is another story. One filled with organisation and plans to make things work. Lots of decisions, some turmoil and anxiety. Our world at the moment is filled with a mix of these things. We thought winging it was going to be easy. Like the travel brochures, but its not. It is peak season here so things are busy, packed and pricey. Its a total pain in the arse and frying my nerves. Besides all of that, yes we are like a happy little segment from Getaway. Maybe we would be more a Bear Grills story as his adventures look ‘once in a lifetime’ and ridiculous at the same time.

We are still working out the best way now to get around. Geoff is looking to buy a car, otherwise we will be on Amtrak. Greyhound is now not an option north of San Fran . It just means now we have to plan ahead and book things. That all takes time and money. I think our main obstacle is that it is peak season and there are people everywhere! Damn humans are so moveable these days.

So we are in San Francisco and booked the same hostel for 3 nights. It is like any big busy concrete city. We are at a hostel Downtown. Around 6pm lots of homeless and beggars fill the corners and pavements. I am talking about a whole movement, not just a few. The kids are asking all the time why there are so many people on the streets asking for money. You can flip between feeling sad and intrigued while others are obviously not well and make you feel unsafe. ‘Why are they living on the street in that box’ the kids ask. All hard questions. Are they stuck or do they like that way of life? It seems a real culture of them hanging out. They are quite organised with their cardboard bed set up, trolleys, signs, stories and some even have pet dogs.

The kids are liking the hostel. They have been playing pool and making pancakes. We are sleeping in a small room with two bunks and share bathroom with our floor. Its a six story hostel and we got the last room. We did a load of washing and the kids read a book each from the share library. Its big days for everyone and a big adjustment. Gracie has been asking for us to be ‘staying in backpackers’. Tell you what it is going to make us all appreciate even more what we have at home.

image

The walk to the Marina yesterday was cool. The roads are like the ones you see on high speed chases in American movies with the cars flying through the air on vertical steps from block to block. Am am sure the locals have toned legs and dont wear high heels.

image

A leg of the Americas Cup was on today. We seen the Prada yacht and some official timing boats. The whole wharf was filling with people and activities. Busking, maritime museums, people, shops and restaurants. We visited the Cable Car Museum, a submarine and some old boats. We all really enjoyed that.

image

We caught the local 8x bus into Chinatown on the way home for dinner. We could have easily been in busy China. We stood out and got some funny looks from the locals. We visited fish monger markets who had turtle, frogs and every other imaginable aquatic creature for sale. Live or dried.

image

We checked out the local fishing vessels to see what types of fish and crustaceans they catch in these waters. We could see Alcatraz Island across the bay.

Today we went to Golden Gate Park to see the California Academy of Sciences. We were there for the whole afternoon. It was one of those places you have to keep scooting otherwise you just dont get around. We watched a cool Plantetarium galaxy movie, seen a white alligator, living roof, Japanese tea garden, Amazon rainforest, huge aquariums, earthquake simulation and a big blue butterfly landed on my nose.

image

There was a bit of thick gunja smoking rolled into long brown cigars, psychedelic dreadlocked hippy action and black dudes playing chess at the bus stop this morning. All going on like another normal day passing.

Okay I have to sign off now. There is a girl running from hostel floor to floor on the megaphone yelling ‘free beer, free beer, get out of your room, there is going to be a party tonight’. Bailey and Gracie are chanting ‘free beer, free beer’…

by Bailey…

To all my awesome friends
I miss you all and i hope you all are getting lots of school work to do (JOKE! )we have just hired a car and we have being doing lots of driving. It is so boring in the car and it is very hard to find something to do. lately me and Gracie haven’t found the best thing to do in the car. Most of the things we do in the car include hurting each other and she can really hurt me.Right now Gracie is asking me to tell you that it is her BIRTHDAY! so i’ll tell you, I’T GRACIE’S BIRTHDAY! The country side has been dry, barren and there’s no tree’s (it’s pretty much a DESERT!) A couple of days ago we went to the Grand Canyon from Las vegas, which took 7 hours  to get to the canyon and 7 hours  to get back. In Las Vegas We stayed at the Stratosphere which was a big tower and a hotel. then we went to Zion national park which was another giant canyon.  me and Dad went on a big 3 hour walk through rapids and strong currents, some parts where so deep that even when me and Dad climbed a big rock and did a pin drop i still didn’t touch the bottom i’ll write back soon
image
this picture is for Aidan!
these are my  my new characters
hope you like them                                                                                   awesome
from                                                                                                             BAILEY!

Santa Cruz

We did another big day driving in brighter spirits today from North LA to Santa Cruz.  We travelled about 450 kms through various landscapes from huge brown barren mountains to dry open plains. Lots of picket signs in the deserted paddocks saying ‘congress created dust bowl’.  Something is going on here with their water, and obvious lack of it.  Its like a human created desert. Hundreds of kilometres of paddocks with no stock.  We seen one intense cow feed lot farm with thousands of ‘battery cows’.  We passed a massive state water dam that is so low half was dried up.
The lady at the roadside fruit stall that its all normal for summer – brown and dry.  In winter it all greens up again.  Just like my paddock at home.
We passed a bush fire burning in low scrub with choppers dumping water.  We also went through some broad acre agricultural land with various crops like oranges, tomatoes, cherries and hay bales.
imageIt is Gracies 9th birthday today.  She has had about three birthdays now, so she has had a good run turning nine.
image
Luckily for Gracie we spent the night in Santa Cruz.  WOW the boardwalk and beachside fun fair was awesome.  I real night to remember for her.  Especially at about 10pm on the way back from dinner we met ‘Tigger’ a street living dude who drew Gracie a tattoo for $2 and he told us a random story mentioning words like ‘cartel, ice, police, fear for my life, on the run, prison’, then got back to finishing the drawing for Gracie so we could be on our way.  She was chuffed.
image
Like I said yesterday that the pull over stops are like small towns.  The food stations are like convenience condiment city.  Everything is self serve easy to use and made ‘to go’ (takeaway).
image

driving…

The highways in the past three states we have travelled through have been really great.  Big, open, wide, split multi lanes.  You are allowed to do 75 miles per hour – 120 kms an hour.  Sometimes 85mph.  Everyone is flogging along. The roads are thick, smooth and built for speed.  This is why big American ‘trucks’ like F350s and 5th wheeler RVs dont seem big. We come across RV trailer parks full of them.  We have not seen America in recession yet. They are still eating tacos, refilling upsized sodas on their summer vacation.

image
Just like the Cars movie there are LOTS of trucks from LA to Vegas to San Francisco and beyond.  And there is a slow lane (to the right) flash truck after flash truck hauling arse.  The truck stops are like a little town.  Buffets, pokes to scratch your gambling itch and multiple shops.  A very tidy and well organised affair.

image
Americans have very good manners.  Always saying yes mam, yes sir and you’re  welcome.  Never ‘not bad’ or a grunt like we get from lots of Aussies in roles of service.  They dont seem have that terrible attitude of lots of Aussies like we are being interrupted and annoyed by customers who need serving. Americans will go out of their way to make sure you are serviced and happy.  And they will even ask if there is ‘anything else’, or ‘will that be all mam’.  Maybe its the tip thing.  We did tip Harold $10 and he gave us a road atlas of America and Canada.
The kids have done bugger all ‘school work’.  Well it has been school holidays Tara and Lisa 🙂  They are however keeping up with their travel journals.  Gracie who loves journalling is well organised and up to date.  Bailey is lagging and struggles to remember what we have done each day to make his entry, only because he is still catching up from five days in Vegas.  They have both taken to a bit of sketching.
We had a big day driving today from Utah back to the California coast.  It was a stressful day, not much fun.  We are on our way to San Francisco.  We seen some funny highway side billboards on the way – one said ‘4 wisdom teeth out for $799’.  The other funny as one going through Vegas said ‘No needle vasectomy’. Another said ‘Hurt yourself in a hotel? Lawyer up with us’. We watched an add on telly selling ‘virtually pain free catheters in a pack of four’.

Zion National Park Utah

We spent a big full day at this awesome famous USA national park today.
image
We managed to get a reasonable motel last night including breaky for $110. Its interesting how different a simple thing like breaky can be from country to country. So in Australia you know we will have a simple coffee, tea , toast and cereal – you know how it works. Here this morning we had on offer fruit loops, fruit bagels with squeezy butter and jelly (honestly it was so wrong). Even tea and coffee is strange – you have the sugar and milk in a powered can. They dont know what white coffee is – its always just brown water, you have to find milk and sugar to finish it off. At least they have tea, otherwise I would be totally loosing my shit.
The cool thing about our cheap motel was it had an awesome view of the whole canyon range right off the balcony. Geoff wondered if we put out a steak if a mountain lion would come. The town of Springdale at the base of Zion was very funky full of tourists from every corner of the globe. Every person you walked past was speaking another language of some description.
Yesterday we spent the day on the top of a very famous canyon looking down, and today we spent the day in the bottom of similar canyon but looking up. It was a great experience to be able to do both.
The canyon was full of interesting first time experiences. Like seeing the canyon red dirt, sheer cliffs, flowing river and cactus plants. We also seen reindeer, a tarantula, a baby rattlesnake, canyon tree frog, lots of lizards, eagles and a blue wren. There was a flash flood warning so we had to keep an eye out for storms building. The next sign said ‘Dont try to outrun a flash flood, seek higher ground or wedge yourself between two rocks’. Bailey read it all carefully and announced he felt so much safer now knowing what he had to do.
There was a sighting yesterday by other hikers of a mountain lion eating a deer (apparently big nasty cat rip your arms off dont get to close thinking its a big cute pussy). Gracie said she wanted to see a baby one. And of course lots of squirrels. They are so friendly and cute. You can tell who is American and who is a tourist soon as a squirrel is around. Tourists are madly taking photos of these cute little rats. Americans are yelling at their kids to dont touch and get away or you’ll catch a disease. Or they walk past and say ‘those bite ya know’. I asked one lady ‘what diseases?’ She goes ‘rabies and other nasty things and lots of them’. I was thinking bloody heck if they are full of rabies I am sure there would be a warning sign! You will cop a $100 fine if you are caught feeding one.
image
The place is like a freeway of people. You dont have to worry one bit about being out in the wilderness alone! There were literally thousands of people all hiking with their wooden sticks. It was like ‘keep right’ the whole time (yes they walk on the wrong side here too). You are not allow to take your car into the park as they just dont fit. So you leave your car in the town and catch a shuttle. The leave every 5-10 mins bus after bus after bus. FULL of people getting into nature. Bit like the Gibb River Rd with shuttle buses and thousands of tourists. Mental.
The cliff faces of Zion are just breath taking. The most similar is like Kings Canyon in the middle of Australia. Other than that it is very unique and awesome to view. The heat was okay. Some parts really hot and hard and other parts we could wet out feet and cool off.
Tonight we are in a town called Hurricane and happy we have paid $62 for a really nice motel room including a hot breaky in the morning! yayyyy…
We ate more Tacos and Buffalo Ribs for dinner. We only have to order two meals and share. We might be mexican by the time we get home.

Grand Canyon Arizona

It was a hard decision whether to self drive or bus tour to see the Grand Canyon. It is difficult to make the choice when you just havent been to a place before. We had to consider the desert heat, accommodation, navigation and all that jazz if we were going to drive. So we decided to take the tour. It was 15 hour round trip on a guided tour bus from Vegas out to the Canyon and back again. Hindsight is a great thing… once we got going we realised we could have easily drove and made a few days of it. Bugger…
We left at 6am and got back at 10.30pm. Yes a BIG day. On the way we made several stops. One being the Hoover Dam. It was pretty neat. A big ‘engineering’ structure if you are into clever things made by humans. We got to see cool ‘just like in the movies’ scenes like the silver trailers (caravans) parked in the open desert plains. Cheap land in the desert trailer life instead of a house. The other sneaky human made thing is the mobile phone towers we see are made to suit the environment so people dont notice them. They are made look just like a tall palm or pine tree.
imageThe scenery kept changing from flat rocky desert to mountainous pine forrest. We thought the Grand Canyon was going to be stinky poo desert dry hot and dusty however it was far from it. Instead it was interesting diverse vegetation and a beautiful landscape. The temp was pleasant with loud thunderous rain storms rolling in around us. Our bus driver Harold said it was monsoon season. A word I would have never associated with the desert!
imageThe Grand Canyon of course was nothing short of amazing. One of the seven wonders of the world was like a post card. Harold said the only ‘bad’ thing in his opinion about the Grand Canyon is that it doesnt look real. And he said it doesnt matter if you spent 2 hours or 2 days you just cant get enough of it. This was true. I could have sat and soaked it in forever. There was one particular stop that was beautiful and we just didnt get to stay long enough.
image
Gracie was happy as we seen lots of friendly squirrels and a few cute chipmunks.  We called out ‘AALvinnnnnnn’. We also seen some Elk on the road out. Like a big brown raindeer.
We also got to visit ‘Radiator Springs’ on Route 66 from the Cars movie. Historic shops and giftware to reflect the movie and this famous road and its story of the new highway superseding the old. One shop was full of skins like ‘wear the fox hat’ by Dan Boon. Skunks, raccoon, bobcat, fox and other Arizona desert animals. We seen some real hillbilly hicks along the way like the lady with no front teeth directing me to the toilet ‘out back’. She also said ‘the bar is open if you wanted a beer or somethang to eat like a hot dawg’.
image
We also visited shops cashing in on the Native American thing with ‘made in China’ indian wears. We did however love the locally made REAL Rattlesnake key rings. I bit like how in Australia you can buy a Kangaroo scrotum coin purse, a crocodile skin belt or a whole dried cane toad bottle opener. I could have picked from a real Rattlesnake head or dried tail that still rattles. Pitty that Australian customs wont allow dried snake or I would have had one in a flash.
image