USA Road Trip No. 1 - San Francisco to New York

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Monday, 19 December 2011

Verse 9: Santa Barbara to the Grand Canyon - Part 1

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6am in the morning and time to rise and shine ready for our 600 mile 11 hour drive! For us folk that live on the teeny tiny British Isles, that's like waking up in the morning at Land's End in Cornwall and thinking 'mmm I fancy driving to Dundee in Scotland today, just for the fun of it!'

So up for coffee and goodbyes with Mark (being a teacher he always has to head out early).  In our state of fuzzy headed early mornign confusion we had to content with our first petrol station fill up of the trip. Pay at the kiosk before filling up. Mrs B asked the clerk to put $100 on the pump and got a funny look from Tony (that's what it said on his name tag)... in the UK that would be about right to fill up the tank, of course we are in the US where petrol is at least three times cheaper, Tony suggested $40 and he was right. Cheap, very... but this doesn't come without a price that has to be paid elsewhere.

Heading out of Santa Barbara as the sun was rising was a lovely idea, despite the bleary, sleep infested eyes. 


We drove along the highway parallel to the Pacific Ocean and were treated to the sight of dolphins playing in the surf, even Mr B saw them although he was at the wheel... sorry no photo this time, you just can't capture every moment but as we drove Mrs B decided to scribble down notes in our little red book. Every now and then we managed to stop and snap a photo or catch a passing landscape through the lens. But mostly we were happy to sit back and soak up the incredible landscape.

And it goes a little something like this...

Sunrise over the mountains to the east (above), silver ocean to the west, dolphins in the rolling California surf. Surfers.

Trailer parks lining Highway 101 towards LA, grim, run down. 7.24am, starting to see the LA traffic now. Miles and miles of polytunnels flanking the freeway around Ventura, growing who knows what. Breakfast stop at Coco's, a Californian diner chain, too tired to make a note of where, but somewhere before LA. Mrs B took a nap in our booth and then we ate a huge breakfast!


Guns 'n' Roses on the radio just north of LA 'Welcome to the Jungle', could there be a more appropriate song? Listening to 100.3FM The Sound: Tom Petty, JJ Cale's Cocaine, Smashing Pumpkins, Bob Marley, Hendrix... a true LA soundtrack.

Hit the five lane freeway that skirts round LA, views of LA from the Pasadena highway.  A layer of smog hanging in the air like a thick blanket.

East on to Highway 10 and entering the Low Desert plains heading towatds Twentynine Palms and the northern reaches of Joshua Tree national park. Hundreds of wind turbines.

 
  
  

Off Highway 10 and onto Twentynine Palms highway, blue skies, snow capped mountains and desert. Joshua Trees (which are actually giant yucca plants - agaves -not trees) cropping up all over the place once we got near Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms. Dusty low lying towns spread out along the highway. Fast food chains, knife shops, Indian craftshops, tourist information, dust, Joshua trees, rocks.


Passed Kickapoo (best name yet), a town in Yucca Valley.


Popped into a HUGE Wal-mart in Yucca to grab a cool bag for all our roadtrip food. Parked next to a car that Mr B would gladly have swapped the Nissan Maxima (looking drab in the background) for this matt black and lime green beauty:


Just before Twentynine Palms we did a quick detour off the main road into Indian Cove campground, a rocky wonderland of towering rock formations with a campsite snuggled cosily at the foot of the rocks. The sites were empty apart from one RV belonging to a couple of climbers who we could see dangling of the rocks high above.

 
 
One of the discreet toilet blocks.

Back in the car after a brisk walk and scramble over the rocks.  Turned off Twentynine Palms onto the Amboy Highway heading north up and over the mountains. Views over the salt plains that belong to the American Chloride Co. and the barren darkness of the Amboy Crater and lava field. We pulled over and took a picture in what felt like the middle of nowehere, only to find a rock full of graffiti.

 

Onto the salt plains and the winding road (see above) through desolate landscape, would not like to be here in the summer. Hit part of Old Route 66 and our first Route 66 relic, Roy's Motel, once a buzzing crossroads on the two lane blacktop journey across the US, now a dusty reminder of life before the impersonal Interstate highways.


Route 66 stretched out ahead of us, a poker straight line for 50 miles before the first bend. All along the banks of the road people had laid out their names and the names of loved ones using white stones. We whizzed on enjoying the panoramic desert vistas, dust, no life apart from the scrubby plants and occasional bird riding the thermals high in the sky. Crazy yucca plants with gnarled blackened trunks and branches and vivid lime green heads.

Suddenly back on Interstate 40 and huge trucks crawling up the righthand lane. Freight trains that go on and on, carriage after carriage after carriage, snaking their way across the high desert valley.

At some point we drove past a man walking at the side of the road, pushing a trolley with a sign saying 'World Walk'. Check out his website. We drove past him during weeks 9-10! Had we not been on the speedy Interstate we definitely would have stopped to have a chat with him and give him a bottle of water and some roadtrip food. Good luck to him on his journey. 

Shortly after seeing Gary 'Walkingman' Hause we passed over the mighty Colarado River and from California into Arizona. 


  Goodbye California!
 Hello  Arizona!