Behind the cut: the second week of this year's holiday, and the first week of the roadtrip through the West. I didn't dare to write anything while being on the trip itself as even though we occasionally had WLAN connectivity, it was quite unstable.
After spending the night at the Santa Cruz Ranch RV Park, a quite cosy and friendly campground next to Highway 17, we drove to Santa Cruz for visiting the Giant Dipper, a very old wooden roller coaster. Unfortunately, the ride was closed for the season, but the beach was accessible and we spent some relaxing two hours on the Pacific shore. Next stop was Monterey with Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Road and seals... It has some very scenic places, at least off-season, and is definately worth a longer stop. However, we had more plans for the day and went back to Highway 1. From the forest of Big Sur along the Pacific shore to San Luis Obispo we spent the rest of the day admiring the scenery. Our campground was the Orangeland RV Park in Anaheim with its famous orange trees. Unfortunately, it was too cold for lunch or breakfast outside, but this RV park is one of the best of the trip.
Surprise, we almost left on time and headed eastwards to Jushua Tree National Park. We first stopped at a view point on the way to Keys View and explored the rocks. After shooting some photos we proceeded to Keys View. Of course we ignored the paved vista point (how boring...) and instead followed the trail up the mountain... And didn't stop at the first peak -- no, we went all the way up, even though it was quite windy and cold. But we were rewarded by a breathtaking view from up there. Finally, we drove to the Hidden Valley, a valley surrounded by enourmous boulders with a very special micro climate. We stayed there until it got dark and left the park by the West entrance station at the town of Joshua Tree. The campground was the Twentynine Palms Golf Resort at 29 Palms, medium standard and medium priced.
We saw our first coyote while having breakfast on the other side of the street. Adorable creature. The first stop for the day was the London Bridge (yes, it is in fact the old London Bridge, deconstructed, shipped to the US and rebuilt there) at Lake Havasu. Quite a surreal place, if you ask me. But at least it is an authentic European building, not some mock-up kitsch as in Las Vegas, which was the destination for the day. Another short photostop was at Hoover Dam, in the twilight.
We arrived in Vegas at night and walked down the strip, which was sort of a (un)culture shock for lynard_ and Kayjay. The campground was the KOA Circus Circus RV park at the Northern part of the strip. Expensive, yet good quality and service, and everything interesting is reachable by foot.
We visited a couple of casinos -- without spending money on the slot machines. Siegfried and Roy's Secred Garden (they don't have the audio tour anymore, darn) at the Mirage, the Fashion Mall and the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. I bought another plushie at FAO Schwartz, a special edition German Shepherd by Steiff. And of course watched the fountains at the Bellagio.
More Casinos: Venician (argh...), Excalibur (uuuargh...), Mandaley Bay, Luxor (interesting architecture, at least...) We had lunch at an subsidiary of the Outback restaurant chain -- the prices were okay, the meals great and the main thing: they have good beer. What a difference after two weeks of Heineken and Miller Draft. In the evening we watched the excellent Sirens of TI show and drove up the Stratosphere Tower. However, we didn't try the drives: it was simply too cold for that (and not to forget that my height anxiousty would not allow me to even think about it.) One scary observation: the tower is directly in the approach zone of the airport. It is not exactly a good feeling observing a plane nearing you for several minutes until it takes the turn southwards to the airport just when it gets scaringly close to the tower...
Oh, the monorail is finally working. However, with $5 for a single ride we rather bought a day ticket for the bus and drove the strip up and down a couple of times.
We started off the day with groceries. BTW, where the hell is the VONS? Safeway's shop locator gives
an incorrect address... Fortunately there is an Albertson's across the street where the VONS is supposed to be. Afterwards we drove to the Valley of Fire State Park, where we saw the second Coyote on the trip, who quickly disappeared in the wilderness. Within the state park we visited the Beehives, eroded sand stone formed like beehives, Atlatl Rock and Mouse's Tank. When it got dark, we continued our journey and drove up to Bryce Canyon Nat'l park. It was quite an exhausting drive, what I didn't know in advance is that Highway 14 is in fact a pass road, quite icy at times. But we made it and camped on the North Campground in the park. No hookups, no showers, but the most beautiful night sky of the whole journey.
The third and last part of the report will follow shortly. Until then: stay tuned!