Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Road Trip : Southwest and California Tour!

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Sorry for the silence on this end. I'll admit it has been pure laziness. I've been catching up on sitcoms, obsessing over facebook, and flitting around between Austin and Pleasanton - oh, and did I mention I have a pool?

So now it is time for the epic recap of the road trip adventure! I've decided to split into a sort of list to make this clearer and give a  better recap of our itinerary. I'll take a destination and write out a few of the highlights or funny stories - whichever may have happened at that point.


But first off, I'll give a few details on the actual organization of trip. We were seven humans in a Chrysler Towne and Country - dubbed Napoleon, after that we switched (oil problems) and took a Dodge Caravan who never had a name. Of the seven, the three boys were of French nationality and the girls were German. I was the only American. We used an iPhone for all navigation purposes, and did not use a map. The iPhone kept dying after constant abuse by all road trippers. The Town and Country was actually quite excellent as it had storage in the floor. We put the tents that we packed (two, one for the girls and one for the boys) and the air mattresses that we had bought in that nice little section. In the back of the car - we had it packed full, making it impossible for anyone to see out the back of the car. It was a bit cramped at times, but we made it work. A bit of discomfort never hurt anyone, and that's the point of a road trip, right?

Ok, so let's begin!

Austin
  • The crew arrived on July 1st, I went over to pick them up at the Austin airport. We then picked up our car - had problems with National (this became a theme), and finally secured the van.
  • My sister took us to Gueros and we had amazing tex-mex foodz.
  • SEGWAYS. My other sister took us on an awesome tour of Austin, where we learned about how EVERYTHING is bigger in Texas (including our Capitol building). We also saw many other awesome Austin things, and learned tons all whilst riding segways. 
  • That night we went to Midnight Rodeo, learned to two-step and saw trucks the size of houses.
New Braunfels, Tx
  • Went tubing down the Comal river. We accidentally left one of our doors open during the entire (2 hr) ride down the river. Not one single thing was stolen. That is how awesome Texans are. 
  • On the Comal river, we lost two sets of flip-flops going down the first chute. We searched the entire way, but never found them. 
  • Want to know why there are so many Germans in Neu Braunfels?
San Antonio, TX
  • Saw the Alamo, searched for banks, and could not find one open in the Downtown San Antonio.
Pleasanton, TX
  • Pool party! Two huge cakes were involved. Tons of food. Excellent.
  • We let off a ton of HUMONGOUS fireworks (admist a burn ban - oops) and had one explode.  
  • We played beer pong in my garage, boys vs. girls. The boys showed up in uniform - matching superman undies!
  • We all ended up a little drunk. Julien slept in the gazebo. The next morning, we were ready to hit the road!
During the 8 hr drive toward New Mexico
  • We set the GPS from Texas toward El Paseo. Didn't realize that we had the iPhone GPS on "walking" mode. This made us take dirt roads in Pleasanton and probably added 1-2 hours to our journey. Best part, we ate lunch in Utopia, Texas.
White Sands, NM
  • Went sledding on white sand dunes.
  • Got controlled by US Border Control - had to explain the Europeans were all illegals. ;-)
  • Got very lost in White Sand dunes. All the dunes looked the same, and there were no markers (once we went off the path) to tell the difference. The result? Crazy burns on calves, arms, chest and face. 
Santa Fe, NM
  • Our first camping adventure. Sadly, a theme began in with BBQs ... they always ended up being almost as expensive as restaurants.
  • A woman in the bathroom, wearing leather chaps and a Harley t-shirt gave me aloe gel. My burns from White Sands sold me out. People at campsites are genuinely nice.
  • Bought cool earrings from a Navajo woman.

Petrified National Forest and Holbrook, AZ
  • Picked up a piece of wood - it was heavy like a rock. Wild. 
  • We even slept in petrified wigwams that night (ok, they were concrete!). Very cool fun going down route 66. Holbrook, AZ was definitely a highlight.
Grand Canyon
  • Got there and decided the view from up top wasn't enough. We asked for our backcountry permit that afternoon. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about the hike 7 miles down ( We did it in 4 hours : A descent of 5,000 ft) and then 10 miles (We made it in about 6 hours : to go up 4,380 ft). I'm not going to lie, it was really difficult, and it was hot. We lucked out on the first day as it was cloudy . Day 2 was not. The hike was more difficult than anything I have ever done. At the end of the trail we were tired - no, exhausted, but proud. I'm glad to say that I did it.
  • Slept in a tent at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and played 500 rounds of UNO. We learned about California Condors during a Ranger talk and worried about scorpions through the night.
  • Woke up both mornings at 3:30 AM to start the hikes.
Las Vegas, NV
  • Ah yes, finally some luxury! We stayed at the Luxor and slept in the pyramid. It was a great deal for the price. After the death march at the Grand Canyon, we decided to stay an extra day in Vegas. This was a good idea.
  • Saw the show Le RĂªve at the Wynn and it was amazing. Best thing is that all the seats are good and it is a stunning show. Flips are rampant and people jump from the ceiling (into a giant pool). The stage moves in and out and become a living character in the show.
  • We lost Julien in the MGM, and discovered that it is very difficult to leave casinos!
  • Played beer pong at O'Sheas, and laughed a lot. Went to a strip club - we were the only patrons! We yelled at them and they drove us home at 5 in the morning.
  • Watched the sun come up behind a Sphinx in a desert. It was almost like we were in Egypt. ;-)

Yosemite National Park
  • The day was a long drive. Arrived at the southernmost point of Yosemite at 10 pm. I then realized that the campsite I thought we were staying at was not the one we had driven to. After some investigation, we discovered that we still had 2 hours of driving, down windy roads - with two very carsick passengers.  We retreated 30 miles to get some food (only place open) and then decided to do it. It took us ages and we ended up pitching our tents at 1 AM. For reference, we were at the Diamond O campsite.
  • Yosemite was beautiful and we walked up and saw waterfalls. Most of the park was done in the car as it is so enormous. We saw giant sequoias and walked all over the Mariposa trail. I did this in flip flops, my feet were disgusting at the end.
Mountain View, CA
  • Went to an Indian extravaganza to eat Indian food and attend my roommate's graduation party. There was singing and dancing. We convinced everyone to do the Cupid Shuffle with us on the dance floor. It was hilarious.
  • That night, we decided to head to San Francisco. We didn't really have a plan and we were all kind of tipsy (read : drunk), but we had wisely already nominated a designated driver. Got to San Francisco, drove around, and then went back to our hotel - in Mountain View.
San Francisco, CA
  • The sea lions were a highlight. We watched them over at Fisherman's wharf for a pretty long time. They battled, pushed each other off the docks, and made funny noises.
  • Saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - I liked it.
  • Went to Ritual Coffee, and had a delicious time. They had vegan pastries. 
  • Visited 826 Valencia and looked at all the Pirate stuff. Very cool.
  • I taught the Europeans about hipsters.
  • Decided I must live here one day. 
  • Saw the Pacific ocean for the first time.
Santa Barbara, CA
  • Coastal drive almost killed me. I was so carsick that I had to take Dramamine. Was out for almost the entire drive.
  • We tried to surf here, but there were no waves. 
  • Swam in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
San Diego, CA
  • Comic Con was going on, and so we saw Superheros running all over the city. 
  • The San Diego zoo was really awesome. It was big, pretty and very central. All things that I think a Zoo should be. We saw elephants getting a pedicure.
  • Did a few beach days (got burnt again). We did some crazy boogie boarding, and almost drown at Pacific beach.
  • Went to Yogurtland and had awesome personalized fro-yo goodness. 
  • Marlene and I almost needed to be rescued as the ocean decided we should stay a bit longer... We declined the invitation.
  • We went on a wooden roller coaster at Mission Beach.
Los Angeles, CA
  • Final city! Stayed at the Westin - woot!
  • Went to Universal Studios and saw the houses where they film Desperate Housewives! 
  • Ate at the Griddle Cafe, and had the most enormous pancakes ever. I ate one of the three and felt very sick.
  • We tried to find famous people's homes, but due to the winding roads, I had to sleep through it. I felt like death riding around on all of those curvy roads. 

Santa Monica, CA
  • Last day spent at the beach and on the Promenade. We did some shopping and then some sunning and came back for dinner.
  • Instead of getting a hotel for that night we decided to go see two movies and then head on to the airport. Everyone, but me, had a 6 AM flight. I was cool with it. We saw the Hangover and Public Enemies (I fell asleep).
LAX - Flight home!
  • Cleaned out the car and headed to the Airport. National rental tried to overcharge us (I fixed it later) and that was pretty annoying. I'll never rent with National again.
  • When we got into the shuttle, the driver asked us what airline we were using. I was just following the everyone (since I was leaving later), but realized quickly they didn't know what airline they were taking. This was a cause for panic. We told them it was American, but then it ended up not being American. There was more panic. After making a few phone calls and charging my iphone, we found out that they were flying United - this was perfect, because so was I. I took a standby flight to leave earlier and there was a teary-eyed farewell.
  • At the last minute, Julien went to buy a muffin. They had to call his name 4x's. Sigh. ;-)
  • I found my terminal and slept there (in my sleeping bag) for 3 hours. Finally got home and slept the entire way. At the San Antonio airport, I was a bit sad, a bit happy to be home, and exhausted.
All in all, the roadtrip was amazing. It was great to see parts of my country that I have never been to, and after being in Europe and doing quite a bit of traveling there - it felt right. I love the Southwest for its big wide open spaces, the friendly people and breakfast tacos. California was great too, but in a totally different way, and it was great to get beach time in at the end.  I also had an amazing time getting to know my group of friends even more than before.  We became a team, an awesome one, and now have shared such a great adventure. It was great because we were there to have fun and relax, which I felt was a rare commodity during the last year.

It was great to do it in a month tour. This gave us ample time to get to sites and enjoy them. There were some cities we wanted to see more in depth, but the road trip gave us a taste for places we would like to go back to. It was definitely an amazing experience, and I think I was in the perfect time in my life to enjoy it with the perfect people. ;-)

**my iPhone died the day I got back from the trip! Perfect timing ;-)

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