In 2011, my girlfriend, my mate and I completed an incredible road trip around the western USA – this is our story.
In my previous three blogs I have written of the travels of myself, my mate and my girlfriend in a Chevrolet Cruze from LA up the West Coast to San Francisco. On August 24th we spent our last night in the great city…
Whilst still buzzing from having just had my hair cut by Lady Gaga’s hairdresser I meet my girlfriend Jodie and go shopping. San Fran’ is remarkably cheap and has just as good a selection as most parts of Chicago and Detroit – it’s the tax variations across states that makes the difference but America is generally so much cheaper for clothes than the UK wherever you are. I was able to get jackets and sweaters for $35 at places like Forever 21 that I know would cost in some cases over £100 back home. Even though I was running out of money it made sense to buy a new winter wardrobe in San Francisco.
That night we went for a wander around town and bumped into one of the most excitable homeless men I have ever seen. He engaged us in a ridiculous quiz whereby he asked us all what the best city in the world was, only to reveal that we were all wrong and that the best city was in fact “genero-CITY”. It wasn’t a bad pun but we were broke and didn’t give him any money so he persisted by asking us what we thought the best nation was. The correct answer was, of course, do-nation. At this point we made our excuses and practically ran away. If there’s one thing you can say about San Fran’ it’s that its hobos are incredibly friendly.
The following morning we looked at getting a cable car but the line was far too long. It’s still cool just to watch them, though. The free museum we had been to showed just how incredible this unique system was – if you’re not familiar with the workings of the unique cable cars in San Fran’ I recommend looking it up, it’s an engineering marvel. The history of them is also a very interesting one, with them having nearly been shut down for good twice only to now be preserved by the city for the long term. The great fire of San Francisco also played its part in their story.
We picked up the Cruze from the valet parking place and peaced out of San Fran’, tuning the GPS for Yosemite National Park. We hasd so far spent a lot of time on the West Coast but it was time for the adventure to turn inland, and the temperatures and distances to get far, far greater. As we left the coast it soon became much, much hotter. San Francisco had been a nice breezy 68° farenheit but before very long the in-car thermometer LCD was reading 103°F. This was crazy given that the hottest I had ever been up until that point was 101°F on that record-breaking day in the south of England back in August 2003.
It was a beautiful drive to Yosemite National Park down stunning windy mountain roads past epic waterfalls and incredible vistas. I know that sounds like one of my previous blogs about Pacific Coast Highway One but this was even better, not that I could have believed that possible a few days earlier. We pitched at Upper Pines campsite, one of a few in the same area which made it all the more daunting when we read the sign as we pulled up informing us there had been over 100 “bear related incidents” at that campsite alone so far in 2011.
We were issued with guides on storing all food and toiletries in a bear-proof bunker and had to sign to say we had read and understood what to do. This was serious – the place was covered in signs saying “you are in bear country – be vigilant to protect yourselves and the Yosemite bears”. We were very much in the wilderness and the landscape and the adventure had both stepped up a gear.
We waded in the beautiful river running by the site – it was so nice to cool down and thankfully as we were in the forest now the temperature was down to 83°F. That’s still hotter than it ever got in most parts of the UK this summer but we had adjusted by now and it felt refreshing. We went on an evening walk through ever more stunning scenery to the beyond picturesque Mirror Lake, so named because it’s perfectly positioned to reflect one of the incredible mountains with perfect clarity. It was even prettier at sunset, too, with the top of the mountain bathed in a gorgeous orange glow and the sky turning to a musky purple. Man, everywhere you look in Yosemite the place gets more breathtaking.
Having not eaten all day mainly due to the heat, we walked to the nearby Curry Village to grab a well-earned $16 all-you-can eat buffet, which was fantastic. We realised we had left it too late and become weak and shaky with hunger so we made the most of the great selection available. We headed back to the tent in the pitch black nervously, keeping an eye out for bears. The thought had occurred to us that even if all our food and toiletries were stored in a bear-proof bunker (which was people-proof too, it took me ages to figure out how to open the latch but maybe that’s because I’m not smarter than the average bear!) perhaps the bears would still smell food and trample past our tent right next door to get to it. We weren’t allowed anything in the car either where my mate Martin was sleeping. Whilst we were all excited at the prospect of seeing a bear, this was clearly not something to take risks with. Not even one item of trash could be left in or around the site…
Did we get eaten by bears? I’ll explain all in my next blog as we begin the toughest, hottest and most epic part of the trip…