In 2011, my girlfriend, my mate and I completed an incredible road trip around the western USA – this is our story.
In my previous two blogs I’ve written of my travels from the Northern Michigan summer camp I have worked at the last two years to Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles, where myself, my mate and my girlfriend rented a Chevrolet Cruz. We headed up the stunning Pacific Coast Highway and by August 22nd we were in Santa Cruz.
We watched people play volleyball in town and sunbathed before heading back for another campfire. There are few things better than building a fire, sitting and drinking around it with the ocean providing the audio backdrop and a starry canopy atop glowing faces reflecting the flames. And there are even fewer better things than doing it in California. We actually saw a skunk on the beach that night, something I’ve never seen before. Naturally, we didn’t get too close…
The following day we went to Half Moon Bay, which isn’t the title of the eighth Harry Potter book but in fact a quaint, quintessential (quaintessential?) coastal town where we had lunch. We then drove up the coast and got stuck in another cloud for ages – the police shut the road for a good 20 minutes or so. Eventually we got to Pacifica where I finally, after days of no swell, got to surf Cali! It was such a good feeling – so good I started thinking up ways I could move to the west coast and surf every day. Having not surfed for two years, I got back in the swing of it straightaway, to the random applause of two random kids of about six years old in the ocean with me. I would surf into the shallows and there they would be (I don’t know their names but they looked like a Sam and a Josh) clapping me every time for a good ten minutes or so. Until, that is, I wiped out in front of them, much to their amusement. The bay itself was gorgeous, a little bit like Cornwall but with stunning mountain vistas which looked like South Africa or Hawaii inshore.
I took my board back, showered and drove us twenty minutes north to the final destination on our west coast tour, the wonderful San Francisco. As we drove in over the bridge, watching the city unfold in front of us, I played “The Sound of San Francisco”, something I’ve always wanted to do that made me kinda giddy as it dawned on me what we were doing.
We checked in to Adelaide Hostel, parking in the valet parking lot as parking is a nightmare in San Fran’. The hostel was great: very friendly and full of Brits for some reason. We had dinner in a diner and explored downtown briefly, soaking up the trams and the sweet hillside setting where nothing is flat. At this point we couldn’t believe that I had just driven from Los Angeles to San Francisco with remarkable ease. Yet despite how much we had already done, there was so much more still to come. As we planned the next stage of our road trip that night, we realised what a daunting path laid ahead. Our plan led us inland out of California and across three other states on a colossal round trip that would leave the west coast portion of the road trip looking small.
Before that, there was still another day in San Francisco and a whole city to explore, starting with the cable car museum, San Fran’ being the only city in the world with cable cars of that type. We walked across town to Coit Tower, via a pretty cool cathedral and taking a detour to run up a lot of steps along the way for an epic view of Alcatraz Island.
We then walked along Fisherman’s Wharf and a strange arcade where you can pay 25 cents to make a creepy dummy laugh at you. We looked at boat trips under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz but the official trips required booking weeks in advance and the unofficial ones were still quite expensive.
Instead, we walked for the best part of an hour to get to the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately it wasn’t a day for ‘A View To A Kill’ style magnificent views. Instead the bridge was shrouded in a decidedly chilly fog and to climb up to it meant ascending into a cloud. Still, it was spectacular and walking halfway across it in flip flops with little grip in strong winds was exciting to say the least. Looking up at the colossal structure whilst halfway across gave me a tremendous sense of vertigo and despite not being able to see much of the rest of the bridge at any given point, it was still good to have done it.
After a long wait for a bus we headed back to the mercifully warmer downtown where I went in search of a much-needed haircut. I checked out a couple of places before returning to the first one I’d looked in, and boy did I get lucky.
The owner, Addy, was outside shouting at a traffic warden so the assistant told me I should kick off at Addy when he returned for keeping me waiting. I didn’t have the confidence to do this as Addy has one of the craziest personalities of anyone I’ve met. In fact, I was more distracted by the signatures on the wall of the celebrities whose hair he had cut, including Wayne Rooney, pretty much all of the San Francisco Giants and… Lady Gaga. I made Addy look me in the eye and swear it was actually her, although I recognised the signature. Apparently she had asked how much it would cost to shut his salon down for a few hours and then doubled the figure he gave. The amazing thing was it only cost me $30 to get a great haircut in a salon of the rich and famous (though I was more than happy to give a five buck tip on account of Addy’s chat making it the most enjoyable, hilarious and extraordinary haircut I’ve ever had).