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05 - USA

San Francisco to Las Vegas  -  19/09/03 - 27/09/03

We arrived in San Francisco via The Golden Gate Bridge - wow. It's huge and Alcatraz is just there, I thought it was out in the sea. Back to very steep hills, what a mad place to build a city. Went on a trolley car down to the wharf, or I should say up & down & up & down. Went past Lombard St, the really twisty road they do all the car chases on. R wants to do it on the bike. Luckily it's one-way down hill hooray!!

Whilst we were mooching round Fisherman's Wharf R spotted the USS Pampanito. A WW2 submarine that was open for visits. After promises of cocktails I was persuaded to take a look. I spent most of my time counting the bunks for some reason but the teeny weeny kitchen was interesting. It's amazing they did meals for eighty, three times a day from such a tiny space. R was of course fascinated by the engines, torpedo's, control room, everything in fact! We're a bit pink & blue eh? I think I'm being a very good wife visiting all this old things. Wait till we get to Mexico and we go shopping - he he.

Have booked to go to Alcatraz.

Alcatraz was very strange. We went in the evening so it went dark whilst we were there. Itís really spooky but very familiar at the same time. Itís been in so many films, we just walked round the corner and saw all the rows of cells and thought, oh yeah Alcatraz. Pretty miserable place really, but I guess that was the idea.

The Rock

On the way back R made me ride hanging on the outside of the trolley car to try and cure me of my fear of steep slopes. I was very brave but it didn't work. As a reward we went for cocktails on the 46th floor of the Hilton. I had my first Raspberry Martini since we left home. It was very good but not a patch on the one's at The Sanderson. The Cosmopolitan's however were excellent! The view wasn't bad either.

We left the next day via the twisty road which was really cool, but very steep. It was so hot leaving San Francisco, the thermometer on the bike hit 50 degrees, it was vile. We headed for Yosemite and it got cooler as we climbed. We took our time looking around, Ansel Adams pictures round every corner. We arrived in the valley and it was heaving with people. We couldn't believe it. It was the middle of the week and there was nowhere to stay. Not a room, a cabin or a single little tent site to be found. We had to go 16 miles back out of the valley to a campsite we had passed on the way in! By the time we got there it was pitch black. We had a great time trying to work out the pitches and if they were taken. We found one in the end and were very impressed with ourselves at how quickly we put the tent up in the dark.

Next day it was really hot again. Fortunately the road was very high , nearly 10,000ft over one pass, so it was not too bad. As we left Yosemite and went down into the valley and it got hotter & hotter. Route 395 runs between two mountain ranges. It made me see why it took so long to get to California all those years ago. It must have been so depressing, just get round or over one set of mountains and there's the Sierra Nevada looking at you.

 We stopped in Lone Pine for the night, 100 miles from the center of Death Valley. We went to eat that evening and came out to find a card from Kate & Weston, the couple we met on the Icefields Parkway in Canada, stuck on the bike. They were heading for Death Valley too but we didn't find them.

Death Valley

I feel here we should have a dramatic pause..... The next morning we, yes thatís us Jane & Richard got up at five, FIVE in the morning to get to Death Valley. The sunrise was quite amazing, not something we've seen too often. Makes you realise why people used to worship the sun, it must have been such a relief to see it come back each day.

R had quite a tricky time with it though. Going east on steep twisty downhill roads as the sun was rising maybe wasn't the best idea. It had to be done though, by eight o'clock it was 30 degrees and we weren't in the middle yet. Itís an amazing place, but the effort is diluted somewhat when you arrive in Furnace creek. Death Valley is such a big deal, itís so hot, itís so dry, you could DIE! Furnace Creek has a golf course!! Itís a green oasis with palm trees, 5 star resort and people in silly shorts and golf buggies (sorry golfers). How ironic is that.

The Strip

We zimmed around a bit, went off up some side roads and got some spectacular views. By nine it was 40 degrees and by ten thirty we were hightailing it out of there and heading for the air-conditioning of Vegas.  We got to Death Valley junction planning to go straight on, as the map indicated. But there was no road, just left or right. We went left, then right and eventually found the road. There was no sign but it had to be right so we headed off to nowhere Nevada. There was nothing and no-one for ages but we eventually saw a truck coming the other way, so we knew it had to go somewhere. A town called Pahrump is where it went, what a dump. We were really hungry by this time but couldn't bear to stop anywhere. I've come to the conclusion that the more space people have the messier they are. In towns out in the sticks where people can just spread out, there is no such thing as a rubbish tip or recycling. Cars, trailers, bits of house, anything is just left to go rusty and fall to pieces. Itís like they've got so much land they might as well leave something on it.

Paris?

We got to Vegas at about 12.30 and were able to check into the Luxor Hotel early. The quicker you're in the quicker they can get you're money I guess. Itís an amazing place, huge sphinx outside and obelisks and statues everywhere. Pretty good recreations actually.  We found our room and went straight down to find food. Of course in Vegas you can have breakfast all day, it was great, we had eggs and hash browns and toast. Still can't get a decent cup of tea, but have learnt to be more of a pest when asking for what I want.

We spent most of our time mooching up & down the strip, checking out the other casinos and walking very slowly past the poker room in the Luxor. R was determined to play poker in Vegas but took a couple of days to pluck up the courage. Itís pretty intimidating. We discovered they held free lessons at two o'clock each day, so off he went. You had to know how to play it was just casino rules & etiquette really. Later that day he went off and bought himself into a game with the minimum cost of $30. I went and wasted $10 on the slot machines, then went back to the room and lounged in the Jacuzzi. About 2hrs after I left him, he arrived back looking slightly perplexed. He had thought he was doing OK and was slightly up but ended up coming away with $100!! Very pleased with himself he is.

Scene of Richard's Triumph

We went to see Penn & Teller. They were pretty good, but not as great as we had expected. I refused to go and see any of the other magicians as they all use tigers and lions on stage. We went into the MGM casino which is huge and there was a big crowd of people standing in front of a large glass area. We wondered over to see and realised there were lions in this glass cage. I couldn't believe it. They keep the white tigers from the Siegfried & Roy show like that as well in another casino. I just can't understand how they think itís OK. I was so upset we had to leave. I went off Vegas a bit after that. Itís almost like anything goes there so itís still OK to treat animals like we don't know any better.

Anyway rant over, I could go on forever!

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