LA to Melbourne
Last day in the US of A. Left the motel at 11am and went to look at the 3rd street Mall. Managed to waste about 3hrs there, then headed back up Pico to another guitar shop. Tim spent a while 'window' shopping and I stayed in the car reading. We had a late lunch at Rae's Diner, it was close to the motel and we wanted to try it out before we left. We still had four hours before the car had to be back at the rental company so we drove out to Malibu and watched the beach, waves, wildlife and surfers and drove into the foothills to catch the view from on high. LA gets a pretty bad rap back home, but if you stay away from all the tourist haunts, it's a town with its own unique and very quirky personality. And the northern beaches are beautiful.
Dropped the car back at Hertz and got driven to the terminal in the car, as we had so much luggage. Took an age to check in the bags and we still had more than 2 hours before boarding. Went to a bar in the terminal, totally over priced, rubbish service. Guess the lack of competition causes the problem. LAX is by far the worst airport we've been to in the country. Tim created quite a focus for himself playing Adro's guitar at the gate lounge. Ahead of us, 15 hours in coach.
America is beautiful, fascinating, picturesque, friendly and a very positive place to spend a holiday. We felt welcomed and save everywhere we went. Even after being away from home for so long we could happily have stayed to experience more of this extraordinary land. We were sad to leave and look forward to the opportunity to go back and experience all the things we missed this time around. There is much yet to see.
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LA to Melbourne
Up just after 6, breakfast and then hit the freeways to Anaheim. 40 minutes later and we were safety parked and on our way to the gates of Disneyland, right on opening time. Our first ride was Indiana Jones. We went from there to Big Thunder Mountain Railway and then Pirates of the Caribbean. Because we'd arrived early there was barely any wait to get on a ride. We headed across Main Street for Tommorowland for Space Mountain and Star Tours. We picked up a fast pass for Star Tours as it already had a sizable line and waited only 20 mins to ride Space Mountain. It was totally wild, decided we definitely needed to do it again, so picked up a fast pass for another ride and moved on to Splash Mountain. Wet and wicked. Filled in some time watching Captain EO, a 1986 3D SiFi starring Michael Jackson. The dancing in the film was amazing, but for all his incredible talent, he can't act. We drove on Autopia and shot our way through Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. Time to hit Space Mountain again, even better the second time around. On our way back to do Splash Mountain again we climbed Tazan's Treehouse and stopped for a mint julep in New Orleans Square. After all the excitement we finished with a gentle boat ride through "it's a small world" and caught the Disney Parade purely by chance. It was time to head back to the motel, get some dinner and relax a little.
Brilliant day, full of fun and excitement. Disneyland is really well run. It looks and feels new and fresh and the gardens are beautifully maintained. We were concerned that most of our day would spent in lines waiting, but by carefully using fast passes we managed wait no longer than 20mins for a ride. By the end of our visit we were happily exhausted.
The weather forecast was excellent, 25 and cloudless. Perfect day for the beach and Tim has been determined to get in a day swimming in the ocean. We walked down Pico Boulevard to Coverdale and sampled our way around a local farmers market. All kinds of fruit and veggies, pastries, honey, berries and small goods. Bought some beef jerky, just to give the local product a try and tasted some of the sweetest oranges and strawberries we've ever eaten. Must be the California sun. From there we caught the Big Blue Bus to the beach. Even though the water was too cold for me to even stand with my feet submerged, Tim spent 2 full hours body surfing and enjoying the waves. I lay on the sand in the sun taking in the view and reading a book. Very relaxing. We walked up the beach to Venice and strolled through the street market, very touristy, very hippy man. Had lunch sitting in a grassy park listening to an old guy playing an upright piano on the sidewalk. He could really play. Walked back to Santa Monica watching the pelicans feeding close to shore, the sun at our backs and a cool sea breeze keeping conditions The weather forecast was excellent, 25 and cloudless. Perfect day for the beach and Tim has been determined to get in a day swimming in the ocean. We walked down Pico Boulevard to Coverdale and sampled our way around a local farmers market. All kinds of fruit and veggies, pastries, honey, berries and small goods. Bought some beef jerky, just to give the local product a try and tasted some of the sweetest oranges and strawberries we've ever eaten. Must be the California sun. From there we caught the Big Blue Bus to the beach. Even though the water was too cold for me to even stand with my feet submerged, Tim spent 2 full hours body surfing and enjoying the waves. I lay on the sand in the sun taking in the view and reading a book. Very relaxing. We walked up the beach to Venice and strolled through the street market, very touristy, very hippy man. Had lunch sitting in a grassy park listening to an old guy playing an upright piano on the sidewalk. He could really play. Walked back to Santa Monica watching the pelicans feeding close to shore, the sun at our backs and a cool sea breeze keeping conditions perfect. When we got back to the motel we booked online tickets to Disneyland, very exciting. Tim is worried that he's too old for such things, we shall see.
Santa Barbara to Santa Monica
Set off for Santa Monica after a prepackaged motel breakfast. Picked up Highway 1 after driving along the Santa Barbara foreshore. Took Ventura Highway in the sunshine and walked the sands of Malibu Beach. Just north of Malibu we happened upon a pod of dolphins and watched at 3 breached at the same time, super cool. Standing on Malibu we saw more dolphins and marveled at pelicans skimming the water with their wings as they 'surfed' the incoming waves. Making our way into Santa Monica proved easier than expected and finding our motel was stress free. We walked down Pico Boulevard to Santa Monica Beach. It was very different from the Monday we arrived 5 weeks ago, it's Good Friday and the beach was full of people and the pier was in full swing. We couldn't have chosen a better place to stay. It's a ways from the beach, but within walking distance and buses are cheap and frequent, there's a Trader Joes next door and a guitar shop over the road.
We drove down to Main St and revisited The Library Ale House for dinner. Once again, great food, beer and wine.
Morro Bay to Santa Barbara.
Had the best Coffee of the trip in The Top Dog Cafe, Main St Morro Bay before hitting the road again, destination Santa Barbara. Took a detour down the Los Osos Valley to see the rest of the Morros. Well worth the time. We kept to the back roads as much as possible, keeping away from the freeways and taking a look at the countryside. We stopped in Pismo Beach to see one of the largest winter resting groves of the Monarch Butterfly in the US. There were only a few left at this time of year, but I've been wanting to see them since I was a little girl so it was still a big thrill. We left Highway 1 and drove through Guadalupe where we saw a beautiful old neon sign outside of a closed down picture theatre. This town existed only for agriculture and the soil was dark and rich. We rejoined the main highway not far from Santa Barbara and just off shore were 3 or 4 oil rigs. Fascinating but very unattractive. Had our first healthy lunch in days at The Natural Cafe and spent some time browsing the shops on State St. Came across a designer furniture store with stuff we either can't buy at home or the price is prohibitive. The women in the shop was lovely, she gave us a catalogue so at least we can take the pictures home and a bottle of water, as we were weary travelers. Spent a little of the afternoon on the beach, very windy, cool, water too cold to swim, though watching the pelicans drive for fish was a highlight of the day.
Decided to stay another day in Morro Bay so we could check out the southern half of Highway 1 and Morro Rock. The first number of miles up the coast was punctuated by little seaside towns with holiday houses and hotels. The beaches are very exposed and it seems the weather is usually cool with high winds off the sea. The sand is dark grey and overall not very inviting.
Just before we started to climb into the mountains we came across a colony of elephant seals lazing on the beach and undergoing their annual malt. There were hundred of them lying in the sun. A boardwalk had been built along the top of the dunes behind the beach that allows you to see then really close up. There we lots of pups, born a couple of months back, playing and swimming in the shallow water. We would have missed this if not for deciding to back track and see what we missed yesterday.
After lunch we drove over to Morro Rock. It was incredibly windy, and unpleasant out of the car, with dust and sand blasting in the gale. We walked around to the lee side of the rock where it was much calmer. Sea gulls were nesting high up in the crags of the rock, otters we feeding so close to shore you could see their faces and chipmunks were darting in and out of their burrows. (Warning, science content), Morro Rock in the remnant plug of a volcano that erupted 200 million years ago. It is one of nine volcanic plugs that line the Los Osos Valley between here and San Luis Obispo. It's 177 meters high, just to give the photos some perspective.
It was going to happen, as inevitably as sun sets over Morro Rock, Tim bought a guitar. Not for himself mind you but for our mate Adrain who was looking or a Telecaster. Now he has one, we just have to get it home safely. Shouldn't be a problem.
We watched the sun set over Morro Rock and than drove a little up the beach and watched it set all over again.
Carmel to Morro Bay (not as simple as it sounds)
We left Carmel at 9.30am and headed down Highway 1. Not far down the road the highway hits the coast and winds around the sides of mountains, offering stunning views of the Pacific's rocky shores and wave swept bays and inlets. There was ample opportunity to pull to the side of the road and take in the views and take pictures. There was some very ambitious architecture with houses perched atop high cliffs that overhang the ocean, some only accessible by dirt tracks that wove down the mountainside. We were traveling along with ample time to stop whenever the view took our fancy and arrive at our destination around 2pm. Ah, the best laid plans. Just before reaching Lucia the road was blocked with no possibility of passing and the only option was to return to Carmel and take the road through the Carmel Valley to Highway 101. Just before Carmel Valley Village someone in a BMW had done their best to write off their car and kill themselves at the same time. It took us 20mins to get past the accident scene. The valley road was equally as interesting and picturesque as the coast, though the road was more challenging, single lane in several places and very windy. We made it to 101 around 3.30pm with 60 mile ahead of before we could turn back to the coast and stay where we intended for the night. At this point we'd spent 6 hours on the road and were only 30 miles closer to Los Angeles. The west end of Carmel Valley is state park on one side of the road and cattle farms on the other. The east side is vineyards as far as the eye can see. We joined 101 at Greenfield and drove through Salinas Valley, not much to see, but very fast. Left the highway at Atascadero and headed back to the coast to Morro Bay. Made it to the motel at 5pm. Not quite the drive we were expecting.
Had dinner at Jasmine Thai, lovely meal and excellent value. Watched the sunset from the motel balcony. Oh! Morro has a rock. It's a biggin'.
Deciding to stay in Carmel for 2 nights was inspired. Today was perfect. Clear skies, no wind, warm. Started the day with a walk along the beach. It was covered in masses of kelp washed up from the last couple of days strong winds and large waves. Kelp is covered in small floatations sacks that are as compelling as bubble wrap, they must be stepped on. We stopped for a Coffee, as recommended, at The Carmel Coffee House, beans roasted on the premises and good espresso technique. The only thing letting their product down is the quality of the water, which is as poor as any drinkable tap water we've ever tasted. But now we're being picky.
There is a very groovy independent jazz radio station here called KRML by the sea. We dropped a CD off to the station manager and since we were in the car drove out to the Carmel Valley. A lovely drive and very scenic.
This area of the California coast would be very exotic if it weren't for all the eucalypts, acacias, melaleucas and grevilleas. In fact, they mostly look much happier here than they do at home.
We bought lunch to have back on the balcony at a well stocked cheese shop in the Carmel Plaza. We bought cheeses made with raw milk that aren't available back at home, and sat on the balcony in the sun, with the view of the bay and the mountains behind. We even listened to a little Red Symons over the internet.
After lunch we went to the motel pool, I read my book and Tim had swim, very relaxing. Spent the rest of the day lazing on our balcony soaking up the sun and soaking in the view.
Monterey Bay to Carmel by the Sea
Yes I understand that it's hardly a stretch at 7klms, but after the last motel we stayed in, it could be million miles.
We drove the scenic route to Carmel along Ocean View Boulevard beside the Pacific Ocean. The sun was out today with a stiff wind blowing in from the ocean, the surf was a raging mass of blue and white. At Carmel we booked into a very nice motel with an enormous private balcony and an ocean view. This a relaxed holiday day village, very different from the bustle of Monterey. After a late breakfast we drove the 17 Mile Drive, a road with breath taking views that loops around the peninsula between here and Monterey. With the weather as clear as it was today it was more than worth the $10 toll and if the amazing view of the waves breaking over the rocky shore around every corner wasn't enough, there was otters, sea lions, seals and chipmunks in the wild and easily observed. It took us over 2 hours to complete the circuit. Cold, gusty, exhilarating!
It was our wedding anniversary today, so staying in a nice hotel seemed appropriate. We went to dinner at a lovely restaurant, Le St. Tropez. Bubbles and amazing seafood. We made d it back to the hotel in time to see the sun set from our balcony.
Day 27: Half Moon Bay to Monterey (there's a song in that)
Woke up and it was bucketing down. Can't complain, the weather has mostly been very kind. Started our drive down Highway 1 with a limited view of the ocean and surrounds. Stopped at the Pillar Point Lighthouse which afforded a view to Pistachio Beach, the waves crashing with an enormous roar onto the rocks and sand below. We even passed the turn off to Bonny Doon, how's the serenity. We drove to Santa Cruz with the idea of walking along West Cliff and visiting the Natural Bridges State Park were Monarch butterflies spend winter during their migration to Canada, but it was so wet we only got to drive along the cliff top and get out to take photos. On the way to Monterey, the weather cleared and by the time we reached the bay the sun was shining. After lunch we discovered the Next Generations Jazz Festival was on and managed to catch a stage band and 2 vocal ensembles. The standard of the music was incredible for high school students, far more advanced than kids that age back home.
We took a walk along Ocean View Boulevard in the late afternoon, the sea was a picture in blue with the sun out, the gulls calling and marine otters feeding on molluscs clinging to on the rocks. We'd never seen otters before, only in documentaries. Diving for food, floating on their backs and so close to shore, brilliant.
Stayed at the Monterey Oceanside Motel, note to self, never stay there again.
Mariposa to Half Moon Bay.
Started the day in Mariposa, breakfast, packed and hit the road headed for the California coast. There's not a lot going on in central California. Fruit and nut trees, wind farms, outlet malls and lots of open space. We did drive by a number of very large pistachio nut farms close to Merced. Had to pull into a roadside stall and buy some as Tim was having pistachio withdrawals. Navigated our way over the San Mateo Bridge and across the peninsula to Half Moon Bay. This is our first stop on Highway 1 south to Los Angeles. It's a quite little Holliday town at this time of year and the weather was cool and cloudy. We walked around the township, had lunch and looked in some shops. In the evening we drove up the coast a few miles to see Mavericks beach, where the big wave surfers come from all over the world to ride the waves. We stopped at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company on the way back to the motel for a couple of drinks and dinner. We sat at a table over looking the ocean and as we ate, a thick fog rolled in over the water and enveloped the view. After dinner Tim got a personal tour of the brewery.
The English language doesn't contain the adjectives to describe Yosemite.
Amazing, astonishing, astounding. Daring, dazzling, dramatic. Not even close. Magnificat, marvelous, miraculous. Spectacular, stunning, stupendous. It's much more.
It's breath taking, awe inspiring, epic. Every sight a wondrous picture, around every bend another wondrous sight.
We drove in from Mariposa beside the Merced River, feed by the snow melt from the National Park and rushing over countless rapids on its way down the mountain. From the park entrance on we drove surrounded by snow capped peaks, cascading waterfalls, the flowing river and the sheer walls of cliffs that dropped from mountain summit to valley floor. From the day car park we walked to the visitor centre to find out how best to spend our limited time. It had to be Yosemite Falls. A three tiered cascade that roared down the mountains cliff face, floated into curtains of mist and collected in pools ready to feed the falls next tier. We did an easy walk in to see the lowest section of the falls first and after taking photos headed off to climb a 1000ft up the mountain to get the best few of the valley and a spectacular view of the falls upper tier. The path began with more than 60 switchbacks that zigzagged up the steep face of the mountain. Photo stops were often and necessary as the walk was difficult and strenuous. The view from Columbus Rock afforded a panorama that encompassed both east and west arms of the valley below. It took another 20 mins to climb to the viewing spot for the falls. The scenery was unbelievably beautiful. We ate our lunch watching the patterns the water created as it fell to the tier below. It was a hell of a climb but rewarded in spades. For rest of the day we drove from vantage point to vantage point, waterfall to waterfall, cliff face to snow covered mountain. We really picked the best time of year to see Yosemite in all it's splendour and the weather was perfect.
On the drive home, just outside the park, the mountainside were painted orange by California poppies growing wild. We stopped to take photos and asked a local lady if they were poppies and she told us they did't often flower on mass like this. So we came for one day and the time of year was perfect, the weather was perfect and the poppies put on a show. What an incredible day.