Tiki Tour on the Coastal Road

Our departure from San Diego lead us north on the renowned Pacific Coast Highway.

After weaving our way through the spaghetti junctions of L.A., unfortunately due to the weather Matt decided against a David Hasselhoff style baywatch run along the Santa Monica beach. Maybe next time.

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Now, we realise that the Simpsons isn’t a reality TV show but didn’t pick this as a nuclear power plant.

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Santa Barbara was bustling with people mingling amongst the Spanish styled buildings but no time to dilly dally longer than eating an ice cream, we we’re heading for Morro Bay.

The 2 nights in Morro Bay could have easily turned into more. It’s a quaint fishing town, touristy but great to look around the harbour and the beach.

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Our first night there ended in us meeting a great couple Eric and Camille who lived in a town nearby. After a drink and a chat it was decided that that that there’d be golf with Eric the following day. I put my caddie skills in place (didn’t carry a thing) and we had a great day on the course (pebble beach) overlooking the harbour.

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We encountered some bears on the course but no harm was done.

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Sorry to say that the score card was lost but I think Matt edged out Eric and his friend.

As predicted the 18th hole led to the 19th watering hole where we had great timing just tuning in to the last/playoff holes of the Masters at Augusta. Great setting to see an Australia/kiwi combo win. Was congratulated by several salty dogs at the bar on success of ‘your fellow Aussie’ Adam Scott.

The best part of the day though was managing to be invited to a Bbq dinner at Eric and Camilles after.

The Tritip (some kind of beef cooked in charcoal bbq) was super tasty (as was everything else) and it was very cool to spend an evening with them and their family.

It was good that our motel was equipped to deal with Matt’s sore muscles after golf. Never seen anything like it but bed goes like a 3.9 quake for 15 minutes after putting in a quarter.

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The town’s harbour is home to some noisy sea lions and playful otters which were lots of fun to watch, along with some mischievous looking squirrels.

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The sun sets along the west coast are beautiful.
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Our journey continued up the coastal drive which is not unlike a lot of NZ, rugged rocks beside the sea.

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This lead us to Monterey, another harbour town but on a much bigger scale than Morro Bay. Lots of sail boats in the harbour, old fisherman’s wharf as a tourist spot and another as a running commercial wharf.

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Matt got rather attached to the locals.

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Again lots of sea life in the harbour.

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Nearby is Carmel which apparently often has celebrities roaming it’s cobblestone streets.

We didn’t spot any when we visited but its a neat place to look around anyway and has a nice beach too, just a bit chilly for us to don our togs this day.

Another day excursion led us through Castroville, our claim to fame can now be that we’ve been to the artichoke capital of the world! This part north of Monterey was the most agricultural area. Along with the artichokes there were so many paddocks of strawberries and broccoli.

Well time to put the thermals on, next stop South Lake Tahoe.

Stay Classy San Diego

What a great place for us to spend a week.  We liked San Diego from the moment we got there, lots of public spaces/parks, cool beaches and overall awesome feel.  Quite spread out kinda like Auckland but with much better weather and a lot more Mexicans.

Airbnb came through for us again we had a great 1 bedroom unit with full kitchen in an immigrant area which meant some great asian restaurants with tasty but cheap food.

Our host also recommended a vietnamese supermarket with a full seafood/butchery department so we decided we’d cook for ourselves one of the first nights. Not all of the options were that appetising… Frog anyone from the live selection ?

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We decided on the safer option of getting fish. Language was a bit of a barrier so thats where this came in to play,
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We thought we asked for it to be filleted for pan frying, by the time we saw the whole fish (it was gutted) going into the deep frier a.k.a #5 it was too late.
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The end result was edible but we definitely won’t be doing that again.
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The food we came across after that experience was much better especially this pizza, cheesy goodness. Not sure what is messier the pizza or the beard.
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The centre of town has some great areas like Little Italy (where we had the pizza), Gaslamp (lots of bars/restaurants) and down by the harbour so there was plenty to see and do.

San Diego zoo is renowned for being one of the best and it definitely lived up to that reputation. We’d been told that we could spend over 4 hours looking around which seemed like a lot but you really need much more than that to see it properly. We got a bit animal’d out though but saw everything we wanted including some big cats,
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then a bit if monkeying around,

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polar bears just chillin,
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The grizzly bears were in great form, 2 brothers chasing each other around play fighting. We watched them for ages.
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The Panda and Sun Bear were neat too.
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Did you know the reason flamingos often stand on 1 leg is to keep themselves warm.
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Our accommodation came with bikes so we ended up using them on 3 of the days. It was great to take them to the beach and bike along the boardwalk and around the bay.
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Always lots of people walking / biking/skateboarding /rollerblading/playing volleyball/sunbathing.

Heaps of college students live in flats around the beach areas which keeps it lively and affordable.

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The public spaces are really outstanding would be a great place to live. Apparently traffic is bad but we didn’t really hit any despite driving often at peak evening times.

One of the beaches to the north, La Jolla has an inlet where the sea lions like to sunbathe, it was a popular spot for them the day we went.
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Overall we had pretty good weather, just a cool breeze off the ocean keeping it fresh.
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Very good times overall San Diego treated us well.

Palm Springs – where Hollywood came to play

After Sedona we had planned on heading straight for San Diego but our accommodation had double booked our first night so we had a chance to stop in at Palm Springs.  Its a lively town and in a way we wish we had of spent a bit more time here.  Great palm lined main street with lots of shopping and restaurants.  The restaurants with the water misters along the footpath were a welcome relief from the desert heat.

The town was a popular getaway spot for movie stars in the 60’s and was where Marilyn Monroe’s career began. She’s immortalised in the centre of town.

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We didn’t spot any celebs, the biggest thing on in town was the Dinah Shores weekend which bills itself as “the biggest girl party in the world” combined with the Women’s Jazz Festival. Effectively a lesbian convention which had 30,000 attendees.

Travelling west out of town there’s an area with thousands of wind turbines, incredible to see them on such a huge scale.
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Also came across a bit of a prickly spot en route to San Diego.
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The Red Rocks of Sedona

After the amazing sights of the Grand Canyon we headed off south towards Sedona. The drive took us through Oak Creek Canyon which was a really pretty drive (off the interstate which was a nice change) beside the creek with the rocky cliffs towering above.

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We made it to Sedona on the empty petrol light so first job was to fill up but then we had a chance to have a look around town.  Again this place seemed super busy, we hadn’t quite realised how touristy it was.

We’ve been trying to book the next couple of days accommodation in advance and when we were looking at accommodation in Sedona it seemed reasonably pricey, so trying to be cost effective we decided that we could stay a bit out of town and drive in when we wanted. One of the places that came up was a motel in Lake Montezuma.

Seemed like a good deal so booked it online. Driving there we realised it was  bit more out of the way than we thought, passed some interesting (mobile) settlements on the way.

Would say it was a 1 horse town but didn’t even see one of those, and as for a lake in the desert? Lucky then that the motel office was closed, good enough excuse for us to abandon ship and head back to Sedona (they hadn’t received the booking anyway). Yay, right in town now but paid 3x as much for a room. Good view though.

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The landscape around here is beautiful, the bright blue sky with red rocky outcrops of all shapes.  They’ve even been able to incorporate the rocks into architecture, this is one of the churches of the town perched between rocks.

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Found our future home here too apparently currently owned by someone described to us as “some google guy” and also “the roman who invented the laser scalpel”. Nice digs.

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We donned our walking shoes (sorry Jess didn’t do any mountain biking here) and started off on one of the many walking trails. We spent the 1st half hour  expecting a rattlesnake to jump/slither out from a bush to attack us but once we realised that most likely wasn’t going to be our fate we started to enjoy ourselves. 

Ended up clambering up some rocks to get an amazing 360°view of the valley and mountains.

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We stayed two nights- next stop Palm Springs en route to a week in San Diego.

Very Grand Canyon

After saying farewell to the Vegas strip we got accustomed with our rental car which Matt has affectionately named Zippy (sorry Gieve I know we’ve stolen it from you) and our GPS voice of Richard (Dick). I only made a couple of wrong turns getting out of town so Dick didn’t get too angry. The Hoover Dam is about 30min out of Vegas so we though we’d stop there for lunch. Being the middle of spring break for school’s here it was packed with people. Impressive structure but not a lot to see.

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We we’re then on the very long and straight road to the Grand Canyon, literally 247 miles of driving 80 miles/hr with very few turns.

We’re pleased to say that it was well worth the drive.

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The canyon is such an impressive piece of landscape. There’s simply no way to describe how big and sprawling it is, you’ll all just have to make your way here sometime.

We managed to time it right to make it for the sunset when the light hits the rocks and makes them pop with colour. Didn’t mind waiting in the cold for half an hour for the sun to go down.

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We stayed the night in Tusyan, just out of the national park, had some terrible Mexican for dinner and went to bed to the sound of the guy in the next room snoring. You win some, you loose some
:-)

The next day was perfect for a walk so went an hour down into the canyon and back.

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It would have been great to do a longer walk if we we’re staying longer but we hit the road again, next stop Sedona.

Viva Las Vegas

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Well you know you’re in Vegas when there’s pokie machines as soon as you step off the plane. 
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First step upon getting to our hotel was to recreate The Hangover.

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We started off our stay in Downtown, the original casino area. Great part of Vegas with its own strip of casino’s, Freemont St.  They have a light show every night and lots of free entertainment along with the buskers and bums.

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It’s not flash like the main strip but arguably more fun and better value.

Have to mention the pool at our hotel which had a 3 story hydroslide which ran through the shark tank. Matt got the job if taking photos while I went through, but it was hard to tell when my turn was so this may not be me. Pity you can’t tell there’s fish when going through it because if all the water splashing in your face
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Afterwards Matt went in to fish one out.

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Matt’s been going good at blackjack, makes the $ go further when you can play a $3 table. I’ve even had a go too, we’ve won a little but not enough to make the wallet bulge.
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You can play for ages without losing too much money.

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Vegas doesn’t really run on a clock, you can do almost anything 24/7. People wander from casino to casino along the strip with their drinks. Doesn’t matter whether you got it from a bar or the cheap ‘sells everything store’ you can take it anywhere. Byo anything anywhere anytime.

It is pretty intense. When you step out of your hotel room mo matter what time of day you are right into the madness (think christchurch pre quake town at 2am new years eve x 100)

The strip is long and extremely crowded with people sightseeing, busking, impersonating, trying to sell you things. The hotels are all huge, over the top, sprawling and designed to be as rabbit warren ish as possible so once you get into one its actually quite difficult to find anything except another pokie machine.

Few hotel photos note the multiple hummers and half hummer below

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The strip is best seen at night when the lights from the casino’s light up and the Bellagio has its fountain show. Couldn’t get Elvis’ ‘Viva Las Vegas’ out if my head for hours after that.
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We wanted to go to one of the shows and chose Rock of Ages. Great show, heaps of songs to sing along to, we both wish it went for longer than the 2 hours it did. Would recommend it.
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When we were there it was hot every day with clear blue sky with only jet vapor trails and helicopters breaking it up.

Someone clearly has built a hotel in imitation of the mighty Sky City.
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Outside the strip and downtown it was pretty desolate in places.

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We took buses taxis and 2 monorails while we were there they have the public transport down pat which starts at the airport which is super efficient and modern best we’ve seen.

Something that surprised us is how cheap Vegas is. Hotels food and drink are super cheap. Like an on strip hotel can be found easily for $40 per night. Sleazy motel room 1km off main strip $160 per week.

Beer can easily be found for 1 or 2 or 3 dollars thats if you’re not gambling.

Heaps of food deals.

So far easily the cheapest place we’ve been almost asia cheap.

While we did make it to the world famous M & M store- a lolly shop called the Spearmint Rhino we didn’t make it to was recommended by many at the blackjack table as the place to spend your winnings.

We loved Vegas and are looking forward to going back in around a month – will be better positioned to enjoy second time around. Slade we’ve found the perfect show for you.

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Phil a new beer cosy for you.

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Mars Rover

Our final full day in Maui we decided to drive up to the top of one of the volcanoes, Haleakala, and do a walk into the crater. This is the view of it from our accommodation.
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The day before we thought it had erupted but the locals didn’t seem worried, turns out it was just a huge fire. Still not sure where you’d run if it did erupt.
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Walking the crater we felt like we were on the Mars rover exploring new territory with all the red rocky ground. We walked an hour in and even though it was a steady incline the walk up only took us 10 minutes longer.
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Was hard work as over 10000 feet up.
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Awesome landscape though like nothing we’ve see before. Was good to get out and about walking too.

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Worst part of the day was driving down the mountain, through the clouds in pouring rain flash flooding water streaming across the road. Visibility was really bad but the sentra got us down safely.