Tuesday, 19 July 2016

THE END!

MONDAY, 18th JULY.

We had decided on a quiet day on Saturday, 9th July going out for just a short while in the morning, first to a Salvo's Thrift Shop to drop off the electric jug, mugs and a few other odds and ends we'd bought for the road trip and no longer needed, then to Marina del Rey where we enjoyed a very good cup of coffee at Tony P's Dockside Grill before returning to the motel to relax for the rest of the day.  A pizza was bought from a shop around the corner for lunch, we couldn't eat it all then so polished the remainder off before setting off for the airport in the evening, dropping the rental car off and being shuttle bussed to the terminal.    What can I say about the flight?  It's 15 hours of tedium on the aeroplane, plus a couple of hours in airports at either end of the journey, necessary but not exactly enjoyable.  In crossing the date line en route to Sydney, we lost Sunday and arrived in Australia on Monday morning (11th) and after spending a couple of days in Sydney and Newcastle with our lovely family, we flew home on Wednesday 13th, arriving in Perth in the early evening.  Our good friend Laurie met us at the airport and drove us home and since then, we have been catching up on lost sleep and trying to settle back into normal (?) life.

So now we are home, our first visit to the USA over and time for reflection.

We've missed travelling with Boris this year and are still saddened by his unfortunate demise last August.  On occasions we felt a little envious of the motorhomers we saw along the way, especially those camped by a river, lake, canal or ocean, or amongst trees in a forest, but a Boris couldn't have taken us to many of the places we visited.

When we began discussing a visit to the USA a few months ago, we looked at the possibility of buying or renting an RV but dismissed both ideas as the information we garnered suggested that buying was extremely difficult for foreigners and renting was expensive, plus there was the added cost of camp sites.  There may be a CamperStop or CamperContact Motorhome Guide, similar to those in Europe, available in the USA but we didn't really look too deeply, having decided on the rental car/motel option which worked very well for us.

We stayed in a total of 39 motels and 2 airbnbs.  The motels were much the same in that they all provided a bed and a bathroom.  Some were small with just the basics, others were large, sometimes with a small table and chairs and a few had an armchair or two! A few were old and tired, others newish or renovated.  About 75% had fridges and microwaves, those that didn't had ice machines and supplied a small bucket to collect the ice.  None had an electric kettle so we bought one from Walmart as we do enjoy the convenience of making a cuppa in the morning without having to shower and dress to go out and find a cafe.  Breakfast was included in some motels but they were in the minority and usually consisted of pastries or muffins and coffee.  A few also provided cereal, yoghurt, fruit, bagels or bread for toasting and a couple had waffle machines.  Only one provided a cooked breakfast which was much appreciated.  What all 39 had in common was that they were all very clean and provided oodles of hot water for showers.  The first airbnb we stayed in was in a house which we shared with one other couple and two single people (both long term residents).  We had full use of the kitchen, living and dining rooms, laundry and our favourite, a front verandah with rocking chairs!  Bliss!  The second was a two bedroom, two bathroom condominium which we shared with the owners, a young couple and their dog Belle.  Both were very comfortable and we were reluctant to leave each one.

In order to keep costs down, and because we didn't want to eat out every day, we took with us a soft cooler bag, our 'Schultz' bag (named for the company that gifted it to Mike in his working life several years ago, filled at the time with Christmas goodies which have long since been devoured).  We bought 3 freezer bricks from Walmart which we froze in fridge freezers overnight, and these kept milk, butter, drinks & small food items cold throughout the day when placed in the Schultz bag.  When there was no fridge, we used ice which worked well but not quite as efficiently as the freezer bricks.  We carried cereal, tea, coffee, health bars, fruit, biscuits etc., and for lunches we bought plain rolls which we filled, or already filled foot long rolls for $5 which we shared and occasionally a cooked chicken for about $5 which, with a ready made salad, provided a couple of meals.  Walmart was our main supplier for lunches though we did share a few foot longs from Subway, but they were nearly double the price of Walmart's.  Another source of low cost lunches was the CVS Pharmacies which we first found in Las Vegas.  It was most satisfying to be able to have picnic lunches along the way, especially as very often when on the open road, there were no cafes/restaurants/diners within cooee.

We travelled into 9 of the western states and experienced very diversified terrain, with mostly warm weather, very little rain, a light snow storm, and drove through mountain ranges, marvelled at spectacular canyons, rivers, dams. lakes and waterfalls, enjoyed a rodeo, visited ghost towns and museums, rode cable cars, ski lifts and a little steam train, drove along the southern Oregon and California coasts, and visited 16 national parks (our $80 annual pass bought on our Grand Canyon visit saved us over a couple of hundred dollars and enabled to skip the queues).
The only bugbear we found was the tax added at the till, as being used to tax included in advertised prices at home, we never knew quite what we were going to have to pay....sometimes it was a mere 1%, other times it was 4, 5, 8, 10 or 12%.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and well worth the long flights there and back and yes, we would do it again!









Thursday, 14 July 2016

LOS ANGELES

FRIDAY, 8th JULY.
We checked out of the Camarillo motel late this morning and headed onto Highway 101 into Los Angeles.  The traffic on the freeway was heavy but moved steadily for most of the way on the hour long drive.  Arriving around midday, we parked in the car park beneath the Dolby Theatre and rode a couple of escalators to street level, emerging onto Hollywood Boulevarde which was packed with tourists so we joined them for a short walk up and down the street.  We didn't last too long on the street but managed to see what we wanted to see and to take a few photos then had a 'healthy' snack unch of cheese and bacon fries and a chocolate banana shake/coffee at Johnny Rockets on the 3rd floor of the building.  The parking only cost $2 and returning to the car, and after consulting the GPS and maps, we made our way to the Griffith Park Observatory, which I knew (from scenes from "Rebel without a Cause) overlooked the city so we hoped to get a good view and photos.  The GPS sent us along the 101 which by this time was chokkers and hardly moving, when we could have gone via a more direct route but we got there eventually.  There were hundreds of others there and even though there were signs stating 'Car Park Full', this did not deter my driver and we drove right to the top of the road, into the 'full' park and found a space within easy walking distance of the observatory.  The observatory is amazing and we were very impressed, spending quite a long time there and sorry it couldn't have been longer but we knew that although our accommodation was not so very far away, it was going to take a long time to get there....this city is huge and it takes a very long time to get from A to B.  We passed by the Greek Theatre, scene of Neil Diamond's Hot August Night, on our way down the mountain and although the GPS was going to send us on to the 101 again, we decided on the direct route which took nearly two hours because of the traffic lights on almost every corner, but as we crossed over the freeway we could see that the traffic was not moving at all in either direction!  This is our last night in the USA, we have a late, late checkout as our flight leaves tomorrow night so there won't be any more blogging for a day or two.  It has been a great road trip, we've loved our time here and plan an easy time tomorrow before we leave and are now looking forward to being home.




Sunday, 10 July 2016

MALIBU, SANTA MONICA

THURSDAY, 7th JULY.

It's not a long way from Camarillo to Malibu....part way on Highway 101 then through the Santa Monica mountains to the coast road.  We didn't stop but drove through to visit Santa Monica first as we'd be coming back the same way, at least as far as Malibu.  There were thousands of people at the Santa Monica pier and we had to pay $12 for parking, though this would have enabled us to stay all day if we'd wished.  We spent about an hour there, enjoying the sunshine, with people fishing off the pier, others eating in the restaurants and snack bars, children queuing up for rides in the amusement park and squealing with delight as they roller coasted, were flung around in scary rides and had fun doing so!  It was an hour filled with colour, noise and fun for all and was worth the visit but an hour was enough for us.
Back to the car and we headed back to Malibu, stopping this time for lunch, a falafel wrap in the Malibu County Park, a charming small park surrounded by shops stocked with expensive wares but our wraps were not dear, but were most enjoyable.  Our return to Camarillo was via the coast road and though we could see the ocean much of the time, it doesn't seem to be terribly accessible.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

CAMARILLO

WEDNESDAY, 6th JULY.

We only had a short distance to travel today so didn't set off till late, calling in to Arroyo Burro Beach, one of Santa Barbara's beaches, where there is a rather nice stretch of nearly white sand, a grassed picnic area, a cafe/restaurant, an interesting staircase and FREE parking.   Deciding to eat our lunch at one of the picnic tables, we first took off our shoes and went for a paddle.  The water was warmer than we expected though a little murky so we weren't tempted to put our whole selves in.  When trying to wash the sand off our feet prior to putting shoes and socks on again, we noticed that our soles were covered in tar which had seeped through the ocean bottom and was not easy to remove.  This was achieved later with hot water, soap and vigorous scrubbing with a nail brush but had ruined a pair of socks each in the meantime.
Next stop, Santa Barbara where we paid $2 to park for an hour, went for a stroll along the pier and enjoyed an enormous ice cream each, giving us the necessary energy to walk back to the car.  In the car park, we encountered a slightly eccentric gentleman who had lived for 21 years in a van which he had completely covered with all sorts of figurines, badges, model cars etc. and we gave him a koala which he was able to find room for on his dashboard.
Another stop was made at Ventura where we had coffee in a cafe on the pier and chatted for some time to two women, aunt and niece, who were holidaying from Georgia.  It was not much further then to our motel in Camarillo where we are booked in for two nights.  Unfortunately, after we'd settled in to our room we had to request that we move to another as we were right next door to the lift which made such a dreadful noise, and made the room vibrate, that we knew that we wouldn't be able to sleep.  We are now in a room further down the hall and thankfully, it is nice and quiet.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

CALIFORNIA CENTRAL COAST 2

TUESDAY, 5th JULY.

More photos from the coast drive!!


CALIFORNIA CENTRAL COAST

TUESDAY, 5th JULY.

It was a long day's driving today on the Pacific Coast Road from Salinas to Lompoc.  Our first call was to Carmel by the Sea, a pretty village with a lovely white sandy beach.  From there, we drove in and out of the mist, stopping at some of the many viewpoints along the way and taking photos from the car when stopping wasn't possible.  We bought take away coffee at Gorda and made and ate sandwiches a little further along the road while watching the mist rise ahead of us.  We had to stop a couple of times for roadworks and saw many elephant seals at another stop, some lolling about on the beach, a few of the more lively frolicking in the water and little squirrels, obviously used to people,  darting in and out of the scrub, charming everyone in sight and posing for photos.  Pulling in later to San Simeon for another take away coffee we could see a pier nearby so parked and strolled along it, taking a photo or two before continuing on.  At one stage we passed a 'mobile dunny', the fastest in the west....perhaps the person towing it didn't want to be caught short! 
It was a lovely drive, though long and tiring.  We are now in Lompoc for the night, have had an excellent fusion Asian meal at a restaurant a block away and are about to settle down for the night.


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

SALINAS 2

MONDAY, 4th JULY.

After seeing the heavy build up of traffic heading into Monterey yesterday, we changed our minds about going in to watch the parade this morning and as there's not a lot to do in Salinas, we decided to go to the cinema.  'Cen tral Intelligence' starring The Rock was good fun and a pleasant way to fill in a couple of hours, after which we went in to the old town and shared a pizza for a late lunch. 
Back at the motel, thinking that as the Independence Day parade in Monterey would have finished hours ago and the town might be less crowded, we drove in, parked and strolled to Old Fishermens Wharf and then into the main street of town.  There were plenty of people about but we were able to easily find parking and walk around comfortably, an enjoyable visit with a drive through Cannery Row before returning 'home', a much more enjoyable driving experience today than yesterday.  Even though there are signs around stating that fireworks are illegal, we have seen shops and kiosks along the roadsides selling them and we have fireworks going off all around us tonight.  I guess people just want to celebrate their national day and I suspect that the local authorities may turn a blind eye!