Leaving Las Vegas

I’m glad to leave Las Vegas, it’s not my sort of place! However, Las Vegas served as a good staging point for our trips out to Zion National Park (a day trip) and to the Grand Canyon (over-nighted there) and to fly out to Washington DC.
 POST SCRIPT: we flew with Southwest Airlines where one gets a boarding pass but there is no seat allocation on the plane at all – just pick a seat and sit down. Great, except by the time we boarded there was not 2 seats together anywhere for the 1.5 hr leg to Denver, Colorado. Then when most Denver passengers departed the aircraft, we walked to the second front row of seats and sat together right up the very front for the 4 hr leg to Washington DC. Arrived at 11.00pm local time Friday night and had to take a taxi to our hotel, the Residence Inn Marriott Capitol.

Here’s a few more pics non Vegas pics.

Grand Canyon Arizona

We got up early and drove the 275 miles from Vegas to the South rim of the Grand Canyon. Encountered some severe weather (there were warnings on freeway overhead signs and radio – we saw on TV later that there had been 4 tornados about 80 miles from where we were that had destroyed homes). At the Grand Canyon there was an unseasonal thunderstorm and and some sunny breaks. We were freezing cold much of the afternoon!

Nothing can prepare you for the magnitude of this place

 Pictures just don’t capture the depth and breadth of it all.

Just how often do you walk into a cafe and find a sign like this at the door?

Of course, it’s Arizona!

It was also strange to see motorcyclists riding the freeways without helmets. I was gobsmacked to see people on the motorcycles helmetless at 75 mph out on the Interstate. Lots of them!

Zion National Park Utah

We hit the open road to Utah to see Zion National Park – a place I’ve had my heart set on going to since we first talked about a trip to the US. We left a warm Las Vegas around 8.00am, however by the time we got to Zion it was cool and drizzly – strange in a desert environment. Yet I have seen torrential rain and lightening over Ayers Rock in Oz which is not that common either.

As an aside, it was s strange feeling to be cruising down the highway legally at 75 mph, past two police radar traps and they did not give us a second look.

Zion is really well run. Cars are left in the car park and a fleet of step on – step off free shuttle buses that travel all the main beauty spots and hiking trail heads. These buses travel run in both directions and you never have to wait more than 5 mins for a bus – it makes for a much better experience than Yosemite with cars everywhere.Accommodation in and near the park is an issue though, so we did this as a (long) day trip from Las Vegas. We could have easily stayed a few days at Zion.

 A wild turkey – for real!

Hoover Dam, Mystere & The Phantom

Monday we went for a short run over to the Hoover Dam.

There is nothing very compelling about Las Vegas to a non gambler, however one of the things that we have enjoyed are the live shows. Sunday night we went to ‘Mystere’ by the Cirque du Soleil which was spectacular and then followed that Monday night with ‘Phantom of the Opera’ – very different performances but both were excellent.

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Yosemite National Park CA

We drove down the East side of  Lake Tahoe, into Carson City Nevada down Hwy 395 back into CA. This is an Alpine desert road, really pretty in a desolate sort of way – we even saw a coyote up close. From there we took the Tioga Pass to enter Yosemite from it’s Eastern entrance. This place is breathtaking. It is everything and more than we expected. I will let the pictures talk for themselves.

El Capitan

Many people out living their dreams motorcycle touring. Just about all of them in big HDs or Honda Gold Wings, I don’t think that I actually saw a sports bike all day.

Fort Bragg to Redding via Hwy101 & Hwy 229

Drove up the coast a bit on Shoreline Hwy 1, then on to Hwy 101N, (also about 8 miles on into the Humboldt National Park) the Redwood Hwy to Eureka, then to Redding via Hwy229E and the beautiful Shasta-Trinity National Forest. This is spectacular country and the giant redwoods are so tall that it’s actually hard to get pictures of them.

North on Hwy 1 Shoreline Drive

This is actually Monday USA time, despite what the blog date stamp says.
What a day! We trudged through the steep streets of San Francisco “only a few blocks” to Bush Street to pick up our pre-booked hire car. We got there at 10.00am only to join a very long queue of others waiting for their cars. Long story short, we left at 12.30pm ‘upgraded’ Jeep SUV. Now I had been pretty edgy about driving through downtown SF in a car I’d never driven before, on unfamiliar streets on the wrong side of the road. However, the joy that is a GPS made it all so easy. It was quite a buzz to motor over the Golden Gate Bridge and head north.

Hwy 1 North is much like the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, only more wild and isolated. Oh, and I was pulled over by one of Mendicino County’s finest today – but no ticket issued. In fact he was a very nice guy and gave me some education on California’s speed limits. It’s not what you’re thinking – I was pulled over for travelling too slowly! Dorothy had a good laugh!

Tonight we are at a motel in the fishing town of Fort Bragg. Had a great seafood meal at the North Coast Brewery, which was excellent and great value compared with San Francisco prices.

Tomorrow to the Humbolt Redwood park and beyond.

Napa Valley

We took a bus trip around some of the vineyards of Sonoma and Napa today. It was a boiling hot day in the valley, around 37C at one stage.

Very familiar landscape to Aussies.

 Back in San Francisco we went out for dinner to a restaurant that opened in 1849 – Tadich Grill.
The first is at a famous seafood restaurant, Tadich’s.

 A genuine San Francisco cable car.