Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Three Hundred Miles from San Diego to our last stop in Paloma. From here to the coast of LA was not a long distance but took forever... yes, we'd hit LA traffic! we arrived at Venice Beach as afternoon sun became eveloped by dusk and to us at least it seemed a bit menacing. Lucky then that there was no room at the Inn. All hostels around VB were completely booked or really expensive... or both.
We eventually found a place called The Orbit via our Lonely Planet 'bible' and Jeremy felt his way along hot, sticky streets (lights not being one of his strongest points). We were on the edge of Hollywood which might sound quite fancy but anyone who's been there knows different. So we were more than relieved to find the hostel came with a free - and secure - car park.
I (Katy) got up early with directions to the Runyon Canyon...i know it sounds ridiculous but that's what its called and it is a BIG Canyon. It's where 'anyone who's anyone' goes for thier morning run. So I joined all the wanna be actors and singers along and up the very dusty road. It was brillaint, with such an amazing view from the top of the HOLLYWOOD sign and LA below me. It was also really hot but luckily they have taps for the dogs.....and Katy's! Just to put a picture in your mind of how it was, I passed loads of SYTDs (small, yappy-type dogs) all in jogging outfits, with quite a few owners in matching ensemble! But my favourite bit was at the base of the Canyon, where a lady was actually spraying her BIG dog with doggy deodrant... he looked mortified. I heard her tell him she didn't want him smelling "all doggy". I chuckled my way back over Sunset Strip and Hollywood Boulevard, to our new home in Melrose Place.
[Free] Breakfasted-up we headed for a what would be a long walk up to the Walk of Fame and Manns Chinesse theatre, on the way passing legendary bars and clubs such as The Roxy and The Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Boulevard, where people like Guns n Roses got their big break.

We stopped off for lunch along the way at a small cafe that was full of people on thier phones doing deals and talking about the "film". All very exciting for us and a little funny too. A few doors down was a pet hotel which looked very swanky indeed, lucky LA pooches! So we did the Walk of Fame,it's hard not to bump into people along the way as everyone is looking down, but with good humour you apologize and move on. We went to Manns and put our feet and hands in the prints of famous singers and movies stars. All in all we did the tourist thing, which was a fun day out if a little hot.

We'd given ourselves 10 days to sell Jeremy in LA so the following day we put posters up for Jeremy in various hostels then headed to Venice Beach where we had a wander round, checked out Muscle beach and stalls. An amazing place for people watching, we were in our element.I decided I wanted to roller-skate and Tim decided he didn't (last attempt resulted in several pulled stomach muscles falling over around Ruislip Lido)... so with my 1980's skates on foot I headed out along the very long pathway along the beach while Tim watched the skate boarders doing their thing. It was great fun for both of us, and I'd forgotten how much fun it is to be on wheels, mind you i'm not sure how getting to work on skates would've ended up as my braking is not that great.

After finding a site called we answered an ad for a room from a guy called Michael. He had a spare room for cheaper than the hostel so we thought 'why not?' and stayed for a couple of days. Michael , if you read this, you are quite a character! Eccentric Ex-pat Brit is a good way to describe him. Part photographer, part DJ but mainly eccentric! But loved his cats. Thank you Michael and I hope you get your slot back on local radio!

Another day at Venice and this time we took in a Body Building contest at Muscle Beach. First contestant was non too impressive and we feared the worst for the remainder of the show. Then the compere informed the crowd that the lady in question was 76 years old and had competed in every year of the competition... on that basis she was amazing and looked at least twenty years younger than she was! The rest of the show was more typical but was followed by the bikini contest which was just bizarre (but highly enjoyable)

The following day we decided to head back to the coast in Jezza to finish our West Coast experience and travel north toward Malibu - we'd had heard the beaches there are lovely('tis true). We found a nice State park campsite and set-up camp. Fired-up the BBQ, then wandered along a really cold beach to watch the sunset. Back to Jeremy with our head torches on, wrapped up in lots of layers, and in bed with a good book all by 8pm... GnR would be so impressed.

Onwards and upwards: the following morning we headed to Santa Barbara. A pretty place (as in 'pretty boring') nothing actually wrong with it and the tourist info lady was very sweet, but there did not seem much worth staying for. So we had a quick look around then started to hunt for somewhere to stay. we found another state park site which was great and right by the beach but expensive; we managed to offset that cost by spending the next night on the side of the road right next to the campsite (a) using their facilities (b) free parking (c) finding free wifi sat on a pavement outside an art gallery and best of all (d) sitting in on a lecture about sting-rays and sharks!! OK, it was intended for children under 10 but still very informative and genuinely useful later in our travels!

With our remaining time in LA rapidly running out we headed backdown to LA city and managed to get two people interested in Jezza. The first, a singer in a band called Pic Vicious (YouTube them... they're actually pretty good if you like that sort of thing). She was really sweet and very nearly bought him but in the end he went to a Mexican couple (also very nice but to my knowledge, not in an Electronica band). It was very strange saying goodbye to a van that we weren't sure would survive Canada let alone 12,500miles across America too (requiring just one new tyre and an oil change). But needs must and we were down to ourlast couple of days in LA. Goodbye Jezza, you are sorely missed. We loved that little red van.

Back in the hostel for the remaining days, we walked many miles in LA and saw most of the sites, notably Rodeo Drive (for the shopaholics and Pretty Women fans) and had a great time at muscle beach. Luckily we also found the Farmers Market not far from our hostel which was one of the few redeeming features of the neighbourhood (actually our street had some VERY swanky shops but we couldn't afford to even walk in the door so they don't count). Not a traditional farmers market (well, it is in LA), but had loads of small food stalls serving great food and most nights had live bands playing... really relaxed place. It is also next to some more mainstreet stores and a cinema where we wached ourfirst movie in months; a shame then that we chose 'The American' which apart from some beautiful Italian scenery and cinematography was quite boring and predicatble... must try harder Mr Clooney, alhtough saying that he was still very pleasing on the eye :)

We also invested in the Lonely Planet's South America on a Shoestring which we will be using as our guide on our next big stop.

As our final LA day approached we decided to streamline our very heavy bags, ditching excess clothes and shipping things across the globe (thank you to all the recipients)! As a final gesture we left a couple of big blacks bags of free 'stuff' in the bedroom... hope it found a good home! Right then time to get on a plane again........ I'd like to thank, LA you we're very much fun!

So Goodbye LA... Hello Miami!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Palm Springs, San Diego and Oceanside

So leaving behind our Canyon adventure and the desert heat we head back towards the coast (yet again) our next stop being an over-nighter 300 miles away in Palm Springs (still desparately hot).

With vouchers in hand we found a surprisingly nice travel lodge with two lovely pools, in-room A/C and a four poster bed outside by one of the pools... all for $30!! A strange but pleasant feeling to be able to go to bed with out having to make it and store everything away in the front seats :) I went to the pool for a cool down, Tim stayed in the room with A/C on full and a TV (it had been a while since he's seen tv so i lost him to bad american dramas for a few hours).

So, Palm Springs seems very nice, we found a nice restaurant that was heaving, always a good sign, so we treated ourselves to a Margarita (it was Monday after all) and they were good :) A very pleasant nights sleep at our desired room temperature, a free breakfast consumed and we got back in a very hot Jeremy, heading toward San Diego. But as we don't like to make things easy for ourselves we plummetted south and travelled along the Mexcian border, ending near Tijuana... one wrong move and we were in Mexico! But instead we ended up in a huge shopping mall surrounded by thousands of Mexicans, feverishly purchasing all the things they presumably can't get back home and cramming them into suitcases. After people-watching for some considerable time, we continued our journey toward San Diego.

As we unable to camp on the beach or in any area close to the beach without being towed away we decided to book into a hostel, a strange thing as we had been sleeping alone in Jeremy for sometime so "sharing" space was going to be a bit of a change... but we we're both excited as this would be a beach hostel and a cool place to chillax for a while. The drive was quite long and hot (of course) but we got to our hostel which was indeed by the beach, the room was probably the smallest room we've been in but was able to home 4 couples...cosy!?!? With beds tagged we headed to the beach to stretch our legs and watch the sun go down. It was all very bay watch, surfers catching the last waves before dark and the coloured lifeguard huts we're lovely.

After a good night's sleep I headed out early with a map along the beach front where I was greeted by some kind of race of 100's of people, I just mingled in and did my own thing then headed back in time for breakfast. By this stage in our journey my trainers have done many 100's of miles and we're really not doing there best anymore and i was in dire need of a new pair, but to cut a long story short i need a certain type, trust me i've tried many trainers and i know what suits me, so with this in mind we had a look around for some new ones for me, but they are quite hard to come by, but as luck would have it, we'd stopped for a drink and happened to sit next to a couple of ladies chatting about running etc. so i interupted them explained my predicament and they pointed us in the right direction to get what i needed and with a bargian in store if we were lucky !!!. It would be on our way out the following day, so i was very excited about that info. With that sorted we wandered round the town, which is very nice and laid back with lovely buildings and green areas.

Once we had "done" the centre we headed back to the beach. I had decided to hire a big foam board from the hostel and test my not very good surfing skills. I was reliabily informed that as the sea was lovely and warm no wet suit required, personally i beg to differ, anyway with a t-shirt and shorts on i dragged my massive board to the beach while Tim brought the blanket and lunch.

I won't lie to you it wasn't pretty, i didn't last long the waves we're huge i was being whipped round like a rag doll in a washing machine, unable to even glide into the shore, after what seemed like ages i dragged myself out and flopped onto the beach, very much like a beached whale! after removing my t-shirt Tim pointed out I was bleeding :( i had managed to some how get quite a gash over my ribs, probably from the fin, anyway i was quite upset and didn't want to go back in by myself, so I used the board as a sun bathing impliment, much safer and very comfy.

With calmer waves, I did go in much later with Tim and managed to nearly stand up which i was very chuffed about, i think i might leave the next surfing until maybe Australia.
Another lovely sunset, we wandered down to the end of the pier to watch it, not quite as romantic as it sounds as we we're surrounded by loads of Mexican families who fish all day, gutting there catch on the boardwalk or the railings, so a pungent sunset to say the least.

Right then dinner time; every night we had seen massive queues for this burger joint called Hodads (which is someone who talks the talk of surfing and wears the kit but doesn't actually surf... so, Tim then!) on the main street from the beach oposite the hostel. So we joined the queue - we are British after all - and it was so very well worth it. The inside of the diner was a trendy diner where i suspect they had spent alot of money trying to look like they hadn't spent any money! The burgers were massive (and I had the kids one!) Tim had the "mans" one and we we're both very pleased with our choices. So with full stomaches and a little walk along the beach to try and walk off some of what we had eaten we headed back to our hostel. We both really enjoyed San Diego, such a nice place to be, somewhere i think you could hang out for quite sometime, if you didn't have the rest of the world to see, well some of it anyway!

Another morning, another great run. Breakfast, then pack and head-out to find the trainer shop. OMG! It was like my heaven it was huge, if only i had an income i could of spent so long there, anyway i digress..we both got our foot analayis done, really just to humour the very smiley assistant, and armed with our data. we went to get shoes.
All very nice and very expensive. Now as we are on a budget, and remembering what the coffee shop ladies had told me, i enquired about the seconds area, so out the main shop and round the back we found my very expensive trainers for half price, (someone had tried them and didn't like them) so once worn and no box, i was the new owner of a pair of Brooks GT10's and Tim got some cross trainers too,and a pair of socks, which will hopefully help his achilies pain as his Merrels are useless now. So happy footed Marsh's we head off up the coast.

We spent that night in a nice campsite in the woods, a cool nights sleep, and the following morning we tested the trainers with a short training-circuit i made for us. Tim was quite keen until we started, so trainers broken in kind of... we headed to our next stop, which would be Oceanside, a nice, clean and tidy place.
We went to the surf museum which small but very well done, especially as they had an exhibition called woman on waves, (in my head one day it'll be me)... we spent hours there. We then had to try and find somewhere to stay, we popped into the tourist info. and were told to go to the harbour and pay a fee to camp in the car park over night. So we did, we found a space right on the beach,over looking the sea, perfect. I went off for a run to explore our new area, so nice to have bounce back under foot, there were lots of boats, a great warrior boats race going on and many surfers.
Back from my run, refreshing cold shower!, wrapped up warm then we fired up a fire pit (several dotted along the beach front), as the sun went down to cook our dinner (chicken fajitas and wraps, oh yes we eat quite well don't you know), it was a beautiful evening which drifted lazily into night time.

While we sat, on another fire pit next too us we were joined by a young man called Rolland with his digeridoo, (this is not a euphamism), Now i have never actully heard one played properly, well apart from Rolf Harris, and I'm not sure if that's good or not, anyway Rolland was good (later his friend turned up with drums which improved things still further), it was a really nice night. He gave us lots of info. for our onward journey as he'd just come back from a long travel himself. He also gave more wood for our fire, thank you Rolland very much appreicated. Their friends turned up and continued to party but we were very tired travellers so we said our goodbyes and slept to the sound of the waves and wood instruments.

The following morning we we're woken at 5.30am by the surfers, who all seem to just apear from no where, surf for a couple of hours then go off to work. not a bad life if you ask me. Went for a barefoot run along the beach, cold showered, packed up and off. We didn't actually get very far as we were both quite tired from our morniing awakening to drive for to long. We found a campsite in a place called Paloma, nice site espcially as it had a swimming pool and jucuzzi which we used until it went dark watching the stars come out. We were both quite excited as we had got a comformation from Linda in Ecuador for us to Helpx with her,so we we're looking forward to our next "job" in South America. Up early and the sat nav programmed we we're LA bound. Bright lights and big city would be a bit of a shock but we had to try and sell Jeremy before we flew out of LA, so we wanted to spend some time in LA getting flyers into hostels etc. This would be the last leg of our American story with Jeremy. A sad time indeed :(

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Canyon Fodder


we left Las Vegas with all our senses slightly numbed (sight, sound, hearing... smell? And to a certain extent, decency). We needed something to clear our minds - we needed a trip to the canyons!

There seemed to be no 'best route' so first on the list was Bryce Canyon. Desert gave way to occasional green plateaus. Many miles were covered with few notable landmarks but in the distance rockfaces started to become taller and redder. We found a campsite with unusal ease. A national park site which was as basic as usual but very new and was one of the best we'd stayed in - full but felt like we were alone.

Beer, barbeque and marshmallows were the prelude to an early night so we could make a start on the canyons before the worst of (or best depending on your point of view) the sun hit us.

Bryce was extra special as Katy's parents had been to these same canyons a couple of years earlier with family friends, Les & Bill (who were living in Wichita at the time), so this felt as if we were re-tracing their steps.

The photos cannot fully describe the vastness of the landscape. Majestic vistas were on offer no matter which way you looked. this combined with a gorgeously sunny and cloudless day made for some amazing and unforgettable views.

We packed a lunch and lots of water and did the long walk along the Canyon top from one side to other (well nearly), it was amazing and Katy was very excited as she had already decided that the following morning she would be running the same route with the added miles we didn't cover as I was suffering from my now obligatory achilles heal pain... a bus took us back to our campsite.

The following morning Katy got up early with her camel-back full of water and a sugar snack for the bus ride home and she was off. Several hours later, said wife returned home and only just before i called the emergency services (but not before some consdierable pacing and mumbling on my part).
She had tried to get on a track which is shut in the summer (probably due to the risk of death) but which wasn't actually marked on any of the maps as being so. Apparently this was "AWESOME". So, wife back, showered & fed and we eventually started talking to each other again: Bryce Canyon done...

We then headed over toward the oh-so-very-hot Zion National Park.

We only spent a night here, but as all US National Parks are so popular, even this was difficult, but eventually managed parked up, paid our fee and headed to the bus station for what we hoped an air conditioned ride around Zion. Being environmentally friendly, it had no AC but it did deliver some amazing views of rock and river.
Back to the campsite we decided that we would take advantage of our excellent river location and chill (literally) in the river. It was lovely; very much like Glasbury but with fewer canoes and more massive rockfaces above us. Such a lovely spot to relax in.

So, another day another Canyon done; the following morning Katy left me again in Jeremy and after yesterdays marathon run she only vanished for a short burst along the river before the sun got really hot: Zion done.

Next stop - the mother of all canyons and Ultimately the biggie - Grand Canyon.

Our drive was long and winding through amazing views and weather as it turned out, from baking hot Zion we got to the Sunny but chilly Grand Canyon via a thunder and lightning storm and the first real rain we'd seen for months.

Camp-site sorted, we boarded the bus see what we could see. Even after seeing two other canyon sites in as many days, it still lived up to the title 'Grand'. We stopped at all the view points and took so many pictures (be thankful, you are being spared most of them!). We hit the gift shop to get post cards and it was here that we found - what we hope is a - lovely Grand Canyon tree with animals for our soon to be new neice or nephew (Nephew as it turned out, hope you like it Ben). By the time we returned to Jeremy it was getting dark and cold and we still had to cook food so a rapid fire was made and a quick dinner before we headed to bed. darkness arrived quickly and brought with a surprisingly cold wind so we we're pleased to still have our snowboarding thermals...

A good night sleep we we're worken by the sound of rain and moving outside when we looked out a deer was in the neighbours site trying to get into the garbage or even sneak a beer!
Katy was VERY excited about doing a trek down into the canyon; I was very excited about a hot coffee and internet access: everybody's a winner!

As I logged in, Katy disappeared into a hole in the ground... apparently it should take twice as long to come up as it does to get down so with that in mind Katy left at 9am and we agreed to meet at 12pm this way she could get into the canyon to the base hut and turn round and come back and I wouldn't have to send out a search party for her.
Imagine my suprise then when she turns up at 11am, sweaty and smiley; it took her less time to get up than it did to get down (I'm very proud of her)! I'd had my coffee, katy had done a canyon, time to pack up and head off back to the coast, our next stop along Route 66 a quick snack stop in an old school diner and then onto another Canyon - almost. This time Black Canyon City... the hotest place we have been to so far.

Driving past open prairies of cacti in the baking heat with the A/C on we rolled into another KOA campsite with the obligitory pool.
What was unusual about this one was that they had a pet King Snake that they had caught just that morning in the site. Apparently these are the good guys as they take care of the rattlers! We knew it was going to be an uncomfortablely hot nights sleep, so we headed to the bathrooms where we we're greeted by our first native tarantula - a big beasty at first we we're a little petrified but as the cleaner who was trying to keep all other bugs at bay assured us it was fine and he gently picked him off the wall and took him to a quiet area of the park on the other side of the camp. we entered our respective washrooms and seconds later i heard a scream as Katy had been rained down on by a torrent of bugs and flies as she opened the door... the delights of camping!!! Our unbearably hot night in the van was tempered the most amazing night sky we have seen anywhere (and we've seen some bloody good ones on this trip!).

Three canyons and a canyon city all in 750 miles... Right, thats the last you'll hear about canyons (for a while at least).