Travel: California Road Trip – September 2010

This is a two-week itinerary, flying into San Francisco, spending a couple of days acclimatizing, hiring a convertible Mustang and then driving south down the Big Sur – Coastal Highway #1 to San Simeon (Hearst Castle), across through Lake Isabelle onto the amazing 395, up through Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite, Bodie Ghost Town, Lake Tahoe, Napa, Sonoma and back onto the coastal route above San Francisco – including the filming locations of John Carpenter’s movie The Fog (1980).

Day One – Two

San Francisco – Marin – Point Reyes Station – Bolinas

san-francisco-california

san-francisco-california.

Arrive San Fran in the PM. Thankfully get second wind and feel alert after utter tiredness on plane after 5 A.M. start. Adam is fantastic. Drove up to Twin Peaks and around the city. Across Golden Gate in fog. Then to his place in San Raphael, in Marin. Fog vanishes and sun comes out. Lovely. Meet Jen and Vivienne. Good vibes. Lovely people. Adz and I drink Boont beer in the back garden. Take-out Thai for dinner. Then I crashed.

I had no idea before I came here, how much fog the city gets, in fact, the entire coastline for hundreds of miles is affected. Caused by the inland heat sink, drawing in the cold air from the ocean which encounters the long ridge of mountains close to the shore.

It was fantastic to have a place to stay for the first couple of days, to feel welcomed, to recover from the jet lag, and have a local give us an inside view of area and shortcut to the best bits.

Family road trip around Marin. To a redwood forest park. Then Point Reyes Station where there were photos of Prince Charles recent visit; an organic market and very happy friendly people – this my first taste of the California vibe. Then on to Bolinas (road signs hidden to stop tourists finding the place). Then on to Stincheon Beach, where yuppies contrasted with the hippy surfers of Bolinas. Nice lunch in Stincheon. Then up Tamal Pious mountain, through the fog to try and reach the top for a view but no joy, just fog, but still a good drive. Then down to Mill Valley (Milf Valley) and adz takes me to a crazy store selling porn and legal highs. Lovely drive home, chilled out, I go for an afternoon cat nap with Jo and we sleep for 3 hours instead, wake up at 8pm and so miss chance to grab dinner in Sausilito.

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reyes-point-station-saloon-bar-antique-cash-register

reyes point station saloon bar

Reyes Point Station – saloon bar
There was a great place for a drink in this small town. It had been there for decades. Had all this old ornamentation and objects that spoke of its age.

adz-and-british-sci-fi-dark-fantasy-author-david-j-rodger-in-reyes-point-station-california

Adz and Djr – we’ve known each other for nearly 30 years now

 

bolinas-california-filming-location-for-the-fog-1980

Bolinas – you can picture Stevie Wayne living somewhere like this

It wasn’t until I was walking around Bolinas that I had this eerie sense of familiarity. I thought, wow, this place looks like it could have been used in the John Carpenter film, The Fog. Later, back at Adam’s house, I mentioned this and he told me, Bolinas was used in the film The Fog.

smileys-bar-in-bolinas-california

Smiley’s in Bolinas – California

For whatever reason, the township of Bolinas do not like tourists. Or rather, they don’t want them. So there’s an edgy vibe being there, especially as an obvious outsider (me taking this photo picked up some dark looks). The bar was great however.

Day Three

San Francisco – Alcatraz

The hills of San Francisco

The hills of San Francisco

Slow and easy start to the day. Jen made buckwheat pancakes with sausage meat patties. Strong black coffee. Around 10A.M. Adam drove Jo and I into the city. Adam drove us ALL OVER San Francisco. Stopped at Golden Gate bridge, through Presideo to Sea Cliff, bizarre remains of Victorian Bath House; then Robin Williams house; then Golden Gate park, the bison paddock, then into Haight (where Summer of Love was born) for good walk around, then to Potero Hill where Adam has had five apartments in five years. Good vibe area. Lovely little cafe. Then down into china town and the zig zag descent of Lombard Street, before he dropped us off at our hotel. Jo and I walked past all the piers to Fisherman’s Wharf, which is very tacky but well done and fun, and had clam chowder. Then did the Night Tour to Alcatraz. Unforgettable!!! Now sitting in hotel bar. Lovely. Tomorrow we get car and head south down coast.

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san-francisco-busker-outside-vesuvios

san-francisco-busker-outside-vesuvios

San Francisco – busker outside Vesuvio’s

This place was the pub of choice for the Beats. Was also the place where Jack Kerouac holed up and instead of meeting with author Henry Miller. Henry waited it out in Big Sur as Jack whiled away the hours at Vesuvio’s. The night got longer, and the meeting never occurred.

san-francisco-rocket-ship-near-pier-1

san-francisco-rocket-ship-near-pier-1

san-francisco-alcatraz

A view of part of Alcatraz as I approach island by boat

San Francisco – Alcatraz

Situated about a mile offshore from the mainland of San Francisco, the island was wreathed in a growing shroud of fog as we approached. I would strongly recommend the Night Tour to everybody.

san-francisco-alcatraz-island

Alcatraz: a view of the whole island

view-of-san-francisco-from-alcatraz

view-of-san-francisco-from-alcatraz

san-francisco-alcatraz-broken-window

san-francisco-alcatraz-broken-window

san-francisco-inside-a-cell-at-alcatraz

san-francisco-inside-a-cell-at-alcatraz

San Francisco – Alcatraz

One of the cells in solitary confinement. It was surreal to step inside and hunker down in the near darkness, thinking, this isn’t a stage set. This is real.

san-francisco-inside-the-guard-office-at-alcatraz

san-francisco-inside-the-guard-office-at-alcatraz

San Francisco – Alcatraz

Glimpse of a bygone era.

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USA flag against a Full Moon

san-francisco-alcatraz-eerie-medical-wing

san-francisco-alcatraz-eerie-medical-wing

San Francisco – Alcatraz

The infirmary. Very spooky.

The ferry that took us bag had to chug through dense fog. As we popped out the other side, I saw San Francisco lit up, the streets clambering up steeps hills, and creeping through and above it, a dense cloud of fog all illuminated into ghostly glows by the city lights.

Day Four

The Big Sur – Carmel by the Sea – San Simeon

Woke up really early and enjoyed a big lie in at the Hotel Vitale. Jo and I grabbed breakfast in a nice spot near Pier #31, which was across the street from the hotel. Breakfast was fantastic. Checked out. Grabbed a taxi to the Hertz car hire place on O’Farrell street. OMG the car is unreal. Convertible Mustang. Arrrrrghhh. Jo and I both beamed with delight when the guy drove it up from storage. Out of the city on the 101, before cutting west onto the coastal highway. And a lot of mist.

The Pacific Highway. It’s… amazing.

Santa Cruz is yawn city but Carmel. We popped into the place on random whim and I simply fell in love with it. Like a sort of Stepford Wives meets Toytown. Very twee and yet brimming with an arty vibe. We had a fantastic lunch at a snazzy little place sat outside in a wee grotto, with sunshine pouring in upon us, sat next to buildings that could have come out of a Hansel & Gretel story. Then we sat on the beach, overlooking a pounding surf. I closed my eyes and soaked up the sounds, and heat and made a mental note: go back to Carmel next visit and spent at least a couple of days there.

It  took three hours to cover next 90 miles, average speed of 30 mph, slicing round tight and sweeping bends that hugged the incredible coastline with jaw dropping cliffs running right alongside the wheels of the car. We stopped every few miles to gawp at the brain-blasting views. Tomorrow we do Hearst Castle.
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san-francisco-incredible-breakfast

san-francisco-incredible-breakfast at Pier 31

pacific-highway-near-santa-cruz

pacific-highway-near-santa-cruz

Pacific Highway – near Santa Cruz

Finally, near Santa Cruz, the fog began to recede, revealing blue skies, sunshine and a magnificent blue ocean. You can see the tiny dots of cars on the highway heading south, and so gauge the size of the mountains starting to rear up to our left and the size of the fog bank moving back from the shoreline.

pacific-highway-carmel-by-the-sea

pacific-highway-carmel-by-the-sea

Pacific Highway – Carmel by the Sea

Carmel I love you. This is fairly indicative of the vibe and style of Carmel. Pseudo medieval / fairytale.

carmel-by-the-sea-endless-beaches

carmel-by-the-sea-endless-beaches

Pacific Highway – Carmel by the Sea
We spent an hour or so sitting here, or me down by the water, listening to the pounding surf and soaking up the welcome rays.

Lovely water. Leaving Carmel, I was a little sad. But, within a few miles the Big Sur began. The Big Sur is a very long stretch of road that takes in some utterly staggering scenery as the road literally hugs the edges of vast cliffs. One slip of the wheel and you’re fish food.

pacific-highway-the-big-sur-begins

pacific-highway-the-big-sur-begins

Pacific Highway – The Big Sur begins .
You can see the edge of the cliff rising up to meet the hip of the hill in the distance.

pacific-highway-the-big-sur

pacific-highway-the-big-sur

Pacific Highway – The Big Sur.
You might be thinking, ahh, it’s all the same the same, blue-green water, cliffs and windy roads. It it. But each bend grabs you. The whole roads drags your jaw open. We kept stopping, over and over again just to stare and gawp and marvel at the utter splendour and beauty of it.
Looking north, back the way we’d come. Imagine, the road you’re on is hugging the cliffs almost the entire way. It goes on and on. 90 miles took us three hours.

Day Five

Hearst Castle, Lake Isabella

Woke up in The Morgan hotel. Named after a certain Ms Morgan who was the architect behind William Randolph Hearst’s incredible castle. Despite a moment of mild panic about the constant hiss of gas from the fire (it was the pilot light, which has to stay on due to fire department regulations, so the receptionist told me somewhat moodily at 10pm, although I’m sure it didn’t need to hiss like that, whatever, it was actually a somewhat soporific sound), I’m awake early and feeling refreshed. A long lie in, then around 7 A.M. I tug open the curtains, brew a coffee, flick on the real flame gas fire, and settle into an armchair with a faint sound of the ocean through the window (I’d wedged open with my pac-a-mac). A nice moment. Breakfast was simple and quick. Hard boiled eggs on toast with black coffee and fresh orange juice. Then Jo and I headed back along the highway three miles to the entrance of the driveway leading to Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. This is the basis of Orson Well’s film, Citizen Kane. This is the achievement of a mighty goal by one man, William R. Hearst, driven by passion, culture, and an interest in the human being. We were early for our 10.40 A.M. tour so stepped in to see the movie they were promoting at the visitor centre. OMG!!! The film was nothing what I expected. Last time I saw this kind of “tourist flick” was on top of a mountain in Queenstown in New Zealand, and the thing looked like something from the 1970’s. In fact, I think it was from the 1970’s. This film, about Hearst Castle and the man behind it, was wonderful, beautiful, enlightening and very moving. I strongly recommend anybody who goes to Hearst Castle should see this film before entering. And it added layers of rich context and relevancy – particularly understanding the motivations and reasoning that lay behind the structure and the incredible effort put into constructing a castle on top of such a remote and difficult location. Charles Chaplin. David Niven. Aldous Huxley. Hubble. Churchill. Gable. And so many others. I walked in the temporal echoes of their footsteps, and laughter, and awe and pleasure as guests of Hearst in his remarkable castle. The tour was great. There are more tours, so I’ll definitely come back to do those, maybe spend 2 days in San Simeon to take them all in. Note: this will have to coincide with one of the dates they do the Evening Period Costume Tour, when the place is brimming with actors in period 1930’s dress. After leaving Hearst was an expected hard drive through tough plain landscapes, interesting for mountains only. The temperature shot up as we plunged inland and away from the cooling sea. Bakersfield was hellish. Now in Lake Isabella, creepy old motel but only place available and I’m glad for a bed for the night.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle – Photo from Internet Search – Click for Full Size

san-simeon-hearst-castle

san-simeon-hearst-castle

San Simeon- Hearst Castle.
First stop on the tour. This is 10ft deep in places.

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san-simeon-inside-hearst-castle

San Simeon- Hearst Castle.
This is where Mr Hearst gathered his guests during the afternoon. He didn’t allow people to scamper off into their rooms with meals or friends. He wanted them here. In this room, where he could listen to what these famous, intelligent, successful or powerful men and woman had to talk about. Talk, and conversation, was one of Mr Hearst’s great passions.

san-simeon-inside-hearst-castle-the-swimming-pool-used-by-david-niven

san-simeon-inside-hearst-castle-the-swimming-pool

San Simeon- Hearst Castle.
David Niven once described this swimming pool as a perfectly good pool to drown within. Ironically, this was the most expensive and yet least used part of the castle. Most of the guests of the time could not swim. The pool was a uniform 10ft deep, apart from a smaller annexe, just off to the right, beyond the balcony area you can see which is actually a diving board. The gold inlay is just that. Gold.

leaving-san-simeon-driving-east-towards-lost-hills

leaving-san-simeon-driving-east-towards-lost-hills

Driving east, towards Lost Hills.
Leaving San Simeon and the cooling coast, we headed east towards Interstate 5, via Lost Hills. The temperature rose sharply and the scenery changed into this vast expanse of brown, heat blasted hills with a few patches of greenery.

driving-east-away-from-bakersfield-towards-lake-isabella

driving-east-away-from-bakersfield-towards-lake-isabella

Driving east, away from Bakersfield towards Lake Isabella.
The Interstate 5 around Bakersfield is horrific, as is Bakersfield itself… we stopped there long enough to grab fuel and get out. Heading east from Bakersfield the mountains start to rear up again… this is the southern tip of Sequoia National Park and represents our most southerly extension of the journey before we turn another corner and blast north (the next day). This road was nutty. The mountain kept bulging out perilously close to the right (passenger) flank of the car so every time Jo took a corner, and there were hundreds of them, twisting and winding up into the mountains, I thought we were going to lose half the car.

lake-isabella-california

lake-isabella-california

Lake Isabella.

This is the high street of Lake Isabella. Not a happening place. We only stopped here because it was an hour from sunset, we were in the middle of the mountain range (southern tip) and the next viable accommodation was probably fifty to a hundred miles away.

If you’ve done New Zealand, then Lake Isabella is the “Arthur’s Pass” experience. Perfectly friendly and there’s a great store to buy in some groceries, alcohol, and hot food.

Day Six

Mammoth Lakes, Devil’s Postpile

heading-east-away-from-lake-isabella-towards-the-395

heading-east-away-from-lake-isabella-towards-the-395

Heading east away from Lake Isabella towards the 395

Beautiful early morning drive. You can see the mountains we have to drive alongside, ahead of us. Beyond there is the Mojave desert.

Woke up Lake Isabella, in Lakeview Motel, having fallen asleep stark bollock naked because it was so hot inside the tiny room. High winds, part of the atmospheric slipstream, howled around the building during the night but I had a really deep and lovely sleep. Coffee served from a thermos and a small cake were available in reception, and then we were off. Me driving east, out of Sequoia National Park and the terrain changing and becoming increasingly desert like, the Mojave Desert just over there… Then we turned north onto highway 395. Back when I planned this trip, sitting in the UK, I remember feeling that the 395 was going to be something worth doing. I was so right. Two lanes in either direction of beautiful blacktop, mostly straight, mostly empty. North, north, north. Through Lone Pine (where we might have stayed if following an earlier itinerary). Through Big Pine. Coffee and a McDonald’s in Bishop, the place that was our fallback for accommodation if we didn’t like the look of an unplanned detour for our itinerary… Mammoth Lakes. Well, I’m sitting outside Stellar Brew cafe in Mammoth Lakes, with a coffee and a massive grin on my face. It’s fantastic here. We did Devil’s Postpile, as planned, including a mad narrow mountain road descent to get to it, then a lovely walk back up to 9,000 feet. I got a headache and could really sense the air was thinner up here.

Went for dinner at Angels, across the street from out hotel (Quality Inn) which is also great. Angels serves the BEST Buffalo style chicken wings…EVER. Great service, lovely and affordable wine. I’d travel 5,000 miles to come back here (both Mammoth Lakes and Angels).

Slept with window open & curtains apart, view of indigo blue sky and moonlit pine trees, freezing mountain air pouring in, bliss. More bears in town at night than on slopes. They’re fattening up for winter. We were told to take everything out of our car, even though it was parked in an underground carpark…. but the main doors are open to the street and bears come in!!! I was using the computer in the lobby at night to access Internet and had an elevator door behind me. The elevator went down into the garage. I kept visualising a bear randomly clambering inside and hitting the button to take it up. Everytime the doors went ping behind me, I glanced round, partially expecting to see a bloody bear in there. Quite amusing.

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california-heading-east-away-from-lake-isabella-towards-the-395

heading-east-away-from-lake-isabella-towards-the-395

Heading east away from Lake Isabella towards the 395

The closer we got to the north/south corridor of the 395, the more the scenery transformed. Row upon row of parallel mountains.

heading-north-along-the-395

heading-north-along-the-395

Heading north along the 395

I love this road. See the yellow line is on the far left. White line on the far right is the hard shoulder. Both lanes, wildly empty, travelling in same direction. Another two lanes much further over to the left for the oncoming traffic. I really gunned it on this road. Nothing but US Military ranges and Deep Space monitoring going on to my right. I had a couple hundred miles of this with almost nothing to interrupt the flow.

heading-north-along-the-395-beyond-lone-pine-big-pine-and-bishop

heading-north-along-the-395-beyond-lone-pine-big-pine-and-bishop

Heading north along the 395, beyond Lone Pine, Big Pine and Bishop.

We’d stopped in Bishop for coffee and a snack, then plunged ever further north. The mountains shifted from dusty brown to cold grey. These mountains would be our next destination. It was utterly awe-inspiring to see them looming up ahead of us.

heading-north-along-the-395-beyond-lone-pine-big-pine-and-bishop-california

heading-north-along-the-395-beyond-lone-pine-big-pine-and-bishop-california.

Heading north along the 395, beyond Lone Pine, Big Pine and Bishop.

Further and further north. The mountains began to bristle with alpine vegetation and pine trees. We kept passing signs that showed our altitude climbing and climbing, 4,000 feet… 6,000 feet…. and I began to realise that the initial blunt wall of rock was not our destination. In the far distance I saw an even more gigantic and wide spanning stretch of grisly, gnarly mountains… that was where we were heading.

jagged-peaks-and-monstrous-mountains-heading-north-along-the-395-beyond-lone-pine-big-pine-and-bishop

jagged-peaks-and-monstrous-mountains-heading-north-along-the-395

Heading north along the 395, beyond Lone Pine, Big Pine and Bishop.

Further and further north. A vast storm front swirled into existence, flashed some lightening in the distance and then rotated away again. The mountains began to take on a truly frightening aspect. Eventually we reach the turn off for Mammoth Lakes. I had no idea what this place would be like. Was it a one horse town or something bigger? It turned out to be a fantastic place. A few streets, very wide, instantly recognisable as a ski resort place and a great vibe. We pushed on to Devil’s Postpile, which requires you paying a small fee and then driving down a nutty narrow road that hugs sheer drops into dense woods.

mammoth-lakes-devils-postpile

mammoth-lakes-devils-postpile

Mammoth Lakes – Devil’s Postpile.

Over 100,000 years ago, molten Basalt lava flooded this area to a depth of more than 120 metres. As it cooled, it formed cracks, which became hexagons, one of nature’s most stable shapes, and then formed into this gigantic columns, which in the past 20,000 years have been eroded and polished by glaciers, weathering, and buckled by earthquakes.

We had to repeat the nutty drive, this time ascending back to the top and down the smooth winding road into Mammoth Lakes. We checked into the Quality Inn. Great place. Had coffee at the Stellar Brew cafe.

Day Seven

Bodie Ghost Town, Lee Vining, Yosemite National Park

bodie-ghost-town-sun-glare-telegraph-post

bodie-ghost-town-sun-glare-telegraph-post

Woke up in Mammoth Lake. Probably around 2A.M. in our massive bed, window open showing a view of moonlit pines silhouetted against a backdrop of purple indigo night sky. I thought I’d heard a noise outside. A bear. I got up and took a look. Nothing but cold fresh mountain air streaming through window…

I padded back to bed smiling in the dark. I felt awake but happy to go to sleep again. I felt ALIVE. I love this place. Mammoth Lakes, and the hotel. I dozed, with ideas for Yellow Dawn and Oakfield (novel) whirling through my brain. Eventually time to get up proper. I knocked back coffee from the thermos flasks placed around common areas in the hotel, and posted a new message on Facebook using the rare access to the Internet.

Breakfast, very nice selection, yet more good marks for the Quality Inn. Head down to garage with slight trepidation: will the car be okay? Or will it have been peeled open like a can of sardines by a hungry / curious bear? All cool. Reversed out from the underground space, Jo jumped in as I thumbed the roof down. Then we’re driving. Cool air, a little chilly, but hell it’s good. Back to the north/south rod of the 395. Turn left and head north. Through Lee Vining, to the junction with highway 270, a tiny turn-off that we actually missed at first… then 13 miles of twisting and narrow blacktop. I’m pushing the Mustang along at high-speed, hit a straight and take it up to 55mph… a road sign flashes past saying “Pavement ends in 50 yards”. I maintain speed whilst my brain goes slow… pavement? I think. What pavement? There’s no pavement. Just blacktop and dirt. Then I discover that the pavement in America is not the “sidewalk” as it is here in the UK. The pavement IS the blacktop. Abruptly, the road just ends. And I blast out onto a strip of rocky rubble, kicking up a storm cloud of dust and fighting to control the wheel as the car slews sideways and begins to fishtail. Jo screams. I grunt and yell. I get the car back under control, drop my speed to 15 mph, and it feels like we’re being bounced and shaken to pieces. I’m really worried the car won’t be able to take the punishment. It’s intense. And it goes on for 3 miles. You do the maths. It’s the roughest thing I’ve ever driven over. Seemed to go on for ever and all the time the car is getting a hammering. Eventually, we crest a rise and turn a corner, and there’s our goal, Bodie Ghost Town, directly ahead and below us. Abruptly it’s all very much worth it.

Nearly impossible to describe. Over 8,000 feet altitude, it occupies an area of rocky / desert like landscape. By now the sun is up and blazing down. It’s hot and I’m thirsty, and I’m feeling the twinges of altitude. Bodie is a fantastic relic left over from the goldrush era. We were lucky enough to catch a noon (free) guided tour of the Mill area; gave us a great insight into the harsh working conditions there, and an insight into the lifestyle of the town during the 1890’s. But the altitude, sun and dehydration had me feeling a little squiffy and I was glad when we finally got going. Drove back to Lee Vining. Great lunch at a BBQ place called Bodie Mike’s. Pork in a bun for me with a massive glass of root beer. Two hour intense drive down highway 120, also know as the Tioga Pass, closed during winter and no wonder… it’s mad. We finally reach camp curry after 5pm. I’m there now. At Curry Village. The bar pours VERY generous shots of whisky. But there’s a lot of bear warnings here. EDIT: Hilarious time trying to find our tent with torch-light. We got totally disoriented amongst the tents and wound up trudging through dense, utterly dark forest, with just a small torch beam to guide us, and the knowledge that there are bears in the area. However, we made it, and then went back out to the bar, got hammered on whisky, met Lisa & Lorenzo, and James and John, although James is really Cedric. Great night.

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bodie-ghost-town-the-old-methodist-church

bodie-ghost-town-the-old-methodist-church

Bodie Ghost Town – The old Methodist church

Erected in 1882.

Back in it’s heyday of the 1870’s and 1880’s there were 10,000 people living and working here, and sometimes gunfights would see at least a man a day being killed. Bodie was a full of lying, cheating, stealing, fighting and killing.

bodie-ghost-town-interior-of-the-dolan-family-house

bodie-ghost-town-interior-of-the-dolan-family-house

bodie-ghost-town

bodie-ghost-town

19th-century-coffee-machine-bodie-ghost-town-california

19th-century-coffee-“machine”-bodie-ghost-town

bodie-ghost-town-horse-drawn-carriage

bodie-ghost-town-horse-drawn-carriage

bodie-ghost-town-bootlegger-wagon

bodie-ghost-town-bootlegger-wagon

leaving-bodie-ghost-town-3-miles-of-bone-jarring-gritted-teeth-dirt-road

leaving-bodie-ghost-town-3-miles-of-bone-jarring-gritted-teeth-dirt-road

Bodie Ghost Town

Leaving Bodie we had to contend with another 3 miles of bone-jarring, gritted teeth dirt road. Here’s a glimpse of it snaking off into the distance.

california-road-trip-chrome-tanker-reflection

Back onto the 395, heading down to Mono Lake

mono-lake

mono-lake

Mono Lake

We didn’t drive down to the shore of the lake but rather stopped here, on the edge of a cliff overlooking the terrain. The lake is impossibly blue and is actually a million years old.

yosemite-national-park-entering-via-tioga-pass

yosemite-national-park-entering-via-tioga-pass

Yosemite National Park – entering via Tioga Pass

We headed south along the 395, stopped in Lee Vining for lunch (again) and then turned onto highway 120, Tioga Pass.

yosemite-national-park-on-highway-120

yosemite-national-park-on-highway-120 -heading in

Yosemite National Park – on highway 120

We start to descend, twisting, winding through mountains with majestic views. This is pure, undiluted and unspoiled wilderness for as far as you can see, and beyond.

Finally, after 2 hours on the 120, we get into Curry Village and then to Camp Curry. This is our home for the night, amongst dense tangle of forest. Amazing smell of pine.

Day Eight

Yosemite National Park

Woke up in a tent in Camp Curry, in the heart of Yosemite National Park. A little bit chilly but that’s because we decided to use the linen provided (Jo called them prison sheets) and not both to unpack our sleeping bags. Last night I drifted off to sleep with dense overlapping chorus of cicadas and the pungent aroma of pine, helped by the six or so whiskies I’d guzzled during the night. Bloody fantastic. A few flurries of good-humoured cursing from people trying to find their tent in the utter and absolute darkness of the forest at night… but otherwise I had an uneventful sleep.

Jo on the other hand was woken up by the sound of a bear sniffing around our strong box (placed outside the tent and where you store all food and anything with a scent)… it was then that she remembered she’d left a scented lip balm in her handbag which was inside the tent with us. She spent much of the night lying in silent terror… debating whether to crack open the tent door and chuck the lip balm into the darkness, or maybe wake me up (she didn’t because she figured I’d try and go out and photograph whatever was out there).

We were in tent 956, conveniently close to the shower blocks and toilets, the car park area (you could be fined $5,000 if you didn’t take EVERYTHING out of your car at night), and the main thoroughfare leading to the main buildings within the camp. Actually waking up and getting orientated within the vast sprawling mass of camp curry, and selecting what to do from the wide range of trails and activities and sights, took quite a bit of time, followed by a sense of urgency to actually get started because most of the things require either ½ a day or a full day to complete.

I’ve got to say that Camp Curry is incredibly well organised and fantastically friendly. I’ll definitely stay there again. We grabbed a ride to Glacier Point, overlooking the valley floor from 7 ½ thousand feet. Jaw dropping views of half-dome and other peaks. Getting back to camp curry we went to collect our car – we were now chasing the sun to get to our next destination (El Portal) before dark… bumped into Cedric and John, shot some pics of them posing in the Mustang… then headed west along the 140, to the western foothills of Yosemite, and the Yosemite View Lodge (more of a motel, albeit vast, with a nice room and great balcony overlooking a river gorge).

If you stay at Yosemite View Lodge, don’t bother with the restaurant; dirty cutlery and expensive…serving nothing more than oven-baked food. There’s a pizza place within the same building / compound, but no idea if it’s any good.

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yosemite-national-park-glacier-point-british-cyberpunk-horror-writer-david-j-rodger

yosemite-national-park-glacier-point-david-j-rodger

Yosemite National Park – Glacier Point – Djr

This is overlooking the magnificent Half Dome, which looks like a hooded head… the evil emperor, perhaps?

One of the vividly tangible elements to Yosemite is the lack of any kind of safety control. You’re literally in the wilderness with pockets of well organised accommodation / services, but nobody’s making any attempt to stop you encountering that wilderness wherever you are.

It’s a couple of miles walk to get from the Mirror Lake trail head and back. Easy walk. Ahh, but here’s a helpful little sign at the trail head about what to do if attacked by a Mountain Lion.

There was a gang of noisy children that we passed, with a couple of adults. Jo said, “Hmm, maybe we should stay near them.”

She was going to say, “So the noise will scare away any animals”.

But I was already responding, nodding my head sagely saying, “Yes, good bait for the mountain lion to go for first.”

That earned me a thump on the arm.

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yosemite-national-park-glacier-point

yosemite-national-park-glacier-point

Yosemite National Park – Glacier Point

Brave or stupid, walk out and look out from 7 1/2 thousand foot vantage point.

yosemite-national-park-curry-village-cedric-aka-james-and-my-convertible-mustang

Curry-village-cedric-aka-james-and-my-convertible-mustang

Yosemite National Park – Curry Village – Cedric (aka James) and our convertible Mustang

One of the chaps who we met the previous night and wanted to have pics taken when they found out we were driving a convertible Mustang.

Day Nine

Lake Tahoe

lee-vining-on-highway-395-bar-bq-bodie-mikes-you-have-to-eat-lunch-here1

lee-vining-on-highway-395-bar-bq-bodie-mikes YOU HAVE TO EAT HERE

Woke up in Yosemite View Lodge, far western edge of Yosemite park. Lazy start. Three mugs of coffee brewed up on the little coffee-mate machine, me sitting outside our room, utilising the balcony overlooking the river and gully. I drove us east, up the 140 then onto the 120. Really fun drive, two and a half hours, roof down, sun shining, Jo and I singing along to 80’s tracks on Sirius FM. Then we hit the 395 again. Swung north and pulled into Lee Vining, again. Lunch in Bodie Mikes BBQ place, again (mmmMMmm delicious mound of BBQ meat in a bun). Then we hit it, Jo taking over the driving. Into Nevada. Bad drivers and shit landscape. Finally we got onto the mountain road that snaked us steeply up above Nevada and over the mountain down to Lake Tahoe. Drove through Stateline, and then into South Lake Tahoe. At first I wasn’t too happy. The whole urban sprawl is like a city, and after being in so much rural beauty it was a shock to the system and left me feeling jarred. We cruised around looking for a good place to stay. Settled on the Best Western Timber Cover Inn, which was right on the lake shore. Asked reception for a room with a view of the lake, and we got one. Room 255. Two nights. Access to the beach. Later: we strolled the beach for a while with a view to eventually heading into town. Instead I spot a bistro on the jetty, near our hotel. The Blue Water Bistro. Cocktails, followed by Boont amber ale (several), followed by $70 of starters and nibbles. Jesus fek. But a lovely night.

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south-lake-tahoe-david-j-rodger

south-lake-tahoe-david-j-rodger

South Lake Tahoe – Djr

You can see the pier in the background where we soon discovered the divine Blue Water Bistro.

south-lake-tahoe-view-from-blue-water-bistro

Sunset: south-lake-tahoe-view-from-blue-water-bistro

South Lake Tahoe – Blue Water Bistro

More people enjoying the ability to wade far out across the lake with only shallow water before the massive drop off.

DAY TEN

Lake Tahoe

Woke up in Best Western Timber Cove Lodge. Delicious sleep. I stepped out onto balcony for early morning coffee, my breath pluming it was so cold. Decent breakfast. Then we drove around the lake shore, 72 miles, stopping off at several places. North shore is definitely the place to stay if you’re a fan of more rustic settings. The only reason I’m enjoying South Lake Tahoe is because of the location of the hotel, we asked for a room with a view of the lake, and the fact we have access to the beach and blue water bistro. Everything else in South Lake Tahoe is urban and crass. We had an early lunch in King’s Beach, a small place on the main drag, can’t recall the exact name but has a sign saying VOTED BEST BREAKFAST. Some kind of log cabin. I had Cajun eggs Benedict and they were to die for. The food was fantastic. Vikingsholm was very disappointing. Tahoe city is lovely.

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lake-tahoe-memorial-observation-point-oj

lake-tahoe-memorial-observation-point-oj

Lake Tahoe – Memorial Observation Point – Oj

This is heading towards the north shore of the lake.

lake-tahoe-tahoe-city

lake-tahoe-tahoe-city

south-lake-tahoe-view-from-blue-water-bistro-miracle-dog-running-across-water

south-lake-tahoe-miracle-dog-running-across-water

South Lake Tahoe – Blue Water Bistro

We went back to our favourite place for a final dinner in this beautiful location.

It’s not just humans who got to enjoy the shallow nature of Lake Tahoe’s shoreline. This woman must have thrown a ball out a hundred times if not more, and her dog excitedly sprinted out through the water like a torpedo after it.

south-lake-tahoe-blue-water-bistro-sunset

south-lake-tahoe-blue-water-bistro-sunset

South Lake Tahoe – Blue Water Bistro

Sunset falls swiftly and the temperatures drop quickly. But picture it, you’re sat out on a balcony, overlooking a quaint pier and a lake… and you’re watching this before your eyes.

Day Eleven

Calistoga (Napa Valley) 

Woke up Lake Tahoe, in the Best Western Timber Cove Lodge. We spent the morning on the pier and the beach, just chilling. We were going to take the long way to Calistoga for the simple fun of driving, but the temperature climbed up to 105 f (41 C) as we descended to sea level and ploughed ever west… so around the town of Auburn we decided to just press on and get there. Four and a half hours later, without stopping, and with a nutty 1 hour on Interstate 80, we got to Calistoga (grabbed mexican bite to eat in a small place in St Helena). Hot. Very hot. I’m looking forward to getting back to San Raphael and San Francisco. The hotel here, the Clarion, isn’t great. The staff are a bit surly or moody, like they’re being bossed around and stressed by crap management. Just a vibe.
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south-lake-tahoe-early-morning-sitting-on-the-beach-with-a-full-moon-still-in-the-sky

south-lake-tahoe-early-morning-sitting-on-the-beach-with-a-full-moon-still-in-the-sky

South Lake Tahoe

Early morning. Everything is still and silent. A near full moon hangs in the sky. It’s beautiful. Notice you can see the brown floor of the lake just below the surface, covered in trails of green water weed.

Arriving Calistoga: from the crisp and fresh vistas of Lake Tahoe to the balmy heat and south American vibe of Calistoga. When I first got here I wasn’t totally into the place, but I soon came to love it. The sun wasn’t far off setting when we got there, so we wandered down the main drag and at the very end, just a moment before we were about to turn around and head back, we found the fantastic Calistoga Inn (a bar). And so a legend was formed.

Day Twelve

Calistoga (Napa Valley) – St Helena

Woke up in Calistoga with no memory of how I got back to hotel or into bed. Spent last night at the Calistoga Inn in the good company of Jon, our barman, sat at a row of five small stools, perched in front of a tiny bar frontage that catered to outside seating. There was another, larger bar inside, but here we found ourselves intimately associated and quickly in conversation with anybody who happened to sit next to us. It was fabulously sociable. And Jon, the barman, kept giving us samples of this that and other. Beer, wine and then fine bourbon. Ooooo.

At one point we got peckish. I checked the bar menu and saw “Best Buffalo Wings”. Ah-haaa I thought, and explained to Jon that the best buffalo wings were in fact, in Mammoth Lakes. So I tried them anyway, and bloody hell, they were also fekking amazing.

Today we did a bit of driving around, taking photos, back to St Helena and lunch at the amazing Gott’s Roadside Diner. Double cheeseburger and garlic fries (sautéed properly in garlic butter and parsley). Then we went to Castello di Amorosa. An authentic 14th century Tuscan, medieval castle. Completed three years ago. I was expecting something a little cheesy but far from it. The place is superb. We tasted around 10 wines and bought a bottle for $26, not too bad. Definitely worth doing. Then we did some more driving around, just for the fun and sake of it, listening to endless 80’s tunes on Sirius FM. Then Jo and I chilled out at the hotels swimming pool and geo-thermal mineral pool (with bubbles). Now we’re back at the Castilago Inn, with Jon, enjoying pinot noir and buffalo wings.

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heading-into-st-helena

heading-into-st-helena

Heading into St Helena

As if you needed any clues to tell you were in wine-country.

heading-into-st-helena-gotts-roadside-diner

heading-into-st-helena-gotts-roadside-diner

Heading into St Helena – Gott’s Roadside Diner

Situated on the southern edge of St Helena (Napa Valley). If you’re in the area you must go there. It would be a crime against your stomach not to.

gotts-roadside-diner-st-helena-best-burger-and-garlic-fries-in-california

gotts-roadside-diner-st-helena-best-burger-and-garlic-fries-in-california

Heading into St Helena – Gott’s Roadside Diner

My order, double-cheeseburger, with garlic fries (sautéed in garlic butter and parsley) and root beer no ice.

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa

Calistoga – Castello di Amorosa

Okay, so, we’re in California. In Napa valley. And I’m looking at what looks to be an authentic 14th century Tuscan, medieval castle.

This is the Castello di Amorosa and it is not a theme park.

90% of the structure, and there is twice as much below ground again, as you can see above (4 dungeon levels), is occupied by the wine making process.

Finished only three years ago, the man that built it (for $40 million) comes from a long line of wine making family, and like William Randolph Hearst, had been deeply influenced by earlier trips to Europe.

I was expecting gimmicks. I was expecting surface level detail and a lot of cheese. Instead I got a living Castle. Before flying out to the US I read some reviews and many people were negative, saying, “If you want to see castles, go to Europe.”

True, you can see hundreds of castles in Europe, but just about all of them are dead, derelict, cold and draughty places. This is a recreated castle, using many old, long-disused techniques. And it’s a genuinely interesting and delightful experience to be taking through it. At the end, we got to sample around 10 different wines. We made a purchase (drank before end of trip).

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-surrounding-vineyards

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-surrounding-vineyards

Calistoga – Castello di Amorosa

Looking away from the castle.

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-gargoyle

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-gargoyle

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-very-convincing-medieval-interior

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-very-convincing-medieval-interior

Calistoga – Castello di Amorosa

There are little touches like suits of armour, and a moderately stocked armoury that help maintain an interesting and evocative atmosphere.

There’s an iron maiden. And rather disturbingly, after we’d had a look inside, it’s a genuine relic from the 15th century, meaning it’s most likely been used at some point in time. Metal spikes on the inside puncture the body when the door is slammed closed, avoiding vital organs. The person is left inside, often with a fire beneath to heat things up a little…before being transferred to ever more grim forms of torture and punishment.

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-into-the-vaulted-cellars

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-into-the-vaulted-cellars

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-sampling-the-wine

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-sampling-the-wine

Calistoga – Castello di Amorosa – Oj

This is our guide preparing to give us a taste of a Cabernet Sauvingnon that is only 1-year-old, three years before it would normally be released to market. As expected, it tasted bloody rough. Later, we were giving a taste of a fully matured version.

Definitely not the best wines you could sample or purchase, but the atmosphere they create through the physical surroundings and story telling does lend itself to your taste buds.

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-barells-of-wine

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-barells-of-wine

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-wine-on-the-vine

calistoga-castello-di-amorosa-wine-on-the-vine

Calistoga – Castello di Amorosa

Ironically, this fruit is the reason we came here to California. This fruit and the film Sideways.  :o)

calistoga-calistoga-inn-jon-legendary-barman

calistoga-calistoga-inn-jon-legendary-barman

Calistoga – Calistoga Inn – Jon

Here’s one good reason why I enjoyed Calistoga so much. This guy was terrific. Really looked after you and kept you trying new things.

Day Thirteen

Jenner, Bodega Bay…and back to Sonoma

Woke up in Calistoga, at the Clarion Lodge. Hungover from another excellent night at the Calistoga Inn with our barman Jon. No show from our ageing CIA pilot Roland, but, we did get to spend a fantastic evening getting to know Declan and Barbara, from Belfast. Hilarious fun and drinking. They were staying at the Calistoga Best Western just down the road from our place, so we all walked back through Calistoga together, drunk, chatting and laughing. Nice.

This morning we checked out after coffee for breakfast then hit the road. At first a really nice drive, just for the sake of driving. All the way back down south, through St Helena, to Napa (outskirts) then loop back up through Sonoma and Sonoma valley. We hit the Russian River and follow it to the coast. Jenner.

The plan was, get to Jenner, check it out, maybe head a little north then blast down the pacific highway #1 through Bodega Bay and find somewhere to spend the night and have a nice meal. However… heading east, along the last ten miles of the Russian River, we’ve got the roof down, and the temperature drops from 103 F (40 C) down to 56 F (13 C). It was fekking freezing. And then we hit Jenner and it’s like we’ve entered a scene from the John Carpenter film, The Fog. It was surreal, chilly and just… spooky. Seriously. Jo and I were both affected by it. Only an hour or so earlier we were in hot climes and lazy wine country. This was extreme change.

We checked out Goats Hill Beach, and down through Bodega Bay…

I thought, damn, this is our penultimate night in California. Our last night out of the city. I want this to be special. If we stayed here, out on the coast, we’d be cold and a little miserable.

Also, tomorrow, the drive back to San Francisco was supposed to be including the location of the lighthouse used in the film, The Fog. It felt wrong to be here now.

After Bodega Bay, I said to Jo, let’s hang a left and cut back inland. We can be back in Sonoma in an hour. She just grinned and said go for it.

Bang on 5pm we parked up in the main square of Sonoma. The temp is back up to 99F (40 C). It’s lovely. We check into the Swiss Cottage Hotel. Lovely. Go for a walk. Then sit on balcony outside our room, overlooking the square, and we drink the bottle of wine we bought in Calistoga. Delicious. Then we head out to a fab Mexican place we spotted on our walk around. One of the best meals I’ve ever had. Then we grab a couple of drinks in the hotel bar, meet Lee, a gregarious Texan now living here and in San Fran.

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between-jenner-and-bodega-bay

between-jenner-and-bodega-bay

Outside Jenner

It’s all change. After leaving Calistoga, driving down the Napa Valley and back up through Sonoma Valley, we follow the Russian River to the coast.  It’s a surreal and spooky shift.

between-jenner-and-bodega-bay-fog-bank-rolling-in

between-jenner-and-bodega-bay-fog-bank-rolling-in

Between Jenner and Bodega Bay

One of the most eerie things was the sound. This vast ocean, muffled by the dense fog, like some partially concealed beast that might abruptly decide to become less docile and, perhaps, something bad might happen to you. At any moment. That was the sensation. Of ever-present and impending danger.

between-jenner-and-bodega-bay-insane-cliffs-and-fog

between-jenner-and-bodega-bay-insane-cliffs-and-fog

Between Jenner and Bodega Bay

The chill in the air carried a dampness that sank deep into your bones, bringing in a dull ache that would sap your happiness if it wasn’t so awe-inspiring.

bodega-bay-california-like-a-scene-from-john-carpenters-movie-the-fog-1980

bodega-bay-california-like-a-scene-from-john-carpenters-movie-the-fog-1980

Bodega Bay

And like a scene from the film, the Fog came rolling in.

sonoma-david-j-rodger

sonoma-david-j-rodger

Sonoma – Djr

Went to an amazing Mexican food place. One of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.

Day Fourteen

Point Reyes Station (Lighthouse from The Fog), San Francisco

point-reyes-like-a-scene-from-john-carpenters-movie-the-fog-1980

point-reyes-like-a-scene-from-john-carpenters-movie-the-fog-1980

This is a view you’ll see in the movie, The Fog. I know it well from my childhood – awesome to be standing here in the flesh and seeing it with my eyes.

point-reyes-lighthouse-like-a-scene-from-john-carpenters-movie-the-fog-1980

point-reyes-lighthouse-like-a-scene-from-john-carpenters-movie-the-fog-1980

Point Reyes Lighthouse

It seemed to take forever to get here. After getting through Point Reyes Station, you loop onto Francis Drake Blvd for about 20 miles… through some of the most bleak and inhospitable looking moorland I’ve ever seen. It was really grim getting here. Then parking up… then walking the final 1/2 mile or so… and finally, finally turning a corner and being able to look down these steps with my own eyes, after knowing this view for 30 years merely as an iconic horror scene….

point-reyes-lighthouse-used-in-john-carpenters-movie-the-fog-1980

point-reyes-lighthouse-used-in-john-carpenters-movie-the-fog-1980

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Zombie doorway. This is where Stevie Wayne “Your Nightlight” would enter the lighthouse to start work in her little radio station, and, later, where a fog shrouded zombie would smash through….

on-highway-1-chased-by-the-fog

on-highway-1-chased-by-the-fog

On Highway #1

The Fog, it seemed, didn’t want to let us go. It crept and seeped over the mountains after us. Very freaky.

sausilito-sushi-ran

sausilito-sushi-ran – incredible food amazing atmosphere

Sausilito – Sushi Ran

Abruptly, we’re back in San Francisco, checking into a corporate chain hotel and then rushing to grab a ferry to Sausilito. We’re met by Adam and Jen and head to Adz favourite sushi place. My god. This place is amaaaaazing. I like to think I’ve eaten good sushi before but this took the experience to a whole new level.

Post Travel Review, Tips and Advice

DAY THREE

MUST DO

  • Alcatraz – the Night Tour. Definitely book in advance and make sure you grab the audio headset they offer. It makes the tour come alive.

NICE TO DO

  • Pier #39. Food and buzzy atmosphere. Definitely check out the sea lions (not advertised, you’ve got to find a side entrance near the far end, on the left as you’re heading down, and step out onto the edge of the pier where you’ll find dozens of sea lions doing their thing on pontoons).
  • The Haight. Sub-culture and counter-culture meet here. Good vibes.
  • Twin Peaks. Get up there for a view of the city but don’t bother if it’s foggy.
  • Tamal Pious Mountain. This is in Marin, north of San Francisco. Great views if it’s not foggy.
  • Ride a Street Car (Tram). Only two dollars with lots of predetermined stops. Just get on at the front, pay the driver, cash only, must have correct amount. Recommend you avoid rush hours when the things are busy with regular commuters on top of the crush of tourists.

DAY FOUR

MUST DO

  • Carmel. Definitely pay a visit. I’ll certainly be spending at least one night there next time and do more research into what to see there.
  • The Big Sur. Plan for this to take 3 hours, even though it’s only 90 miles from Carmel to San Simeon.

WEIRD, or WOULD CHANGE, or AVOID

  • Santa Cruz . Reminded me of an American version of Blackpool.

DAY FIVE

MUST DO

  • Hearst Castle. Definitely book in advance. Check the movie times before you book so you can see the film before you grab your tour. I’d start with Tour #1, The Experience Tour.

NICE TO DO

  • NA

WEIRD, or WOULD CHANGE, or AVOID

  • Lake Isabella. We stayed at the Lake View Motel, which, admittedly, did strike me as something from a 1970’s horror film, but I’m being unfair to the proprietor. It’s actually a great place to sleep. However, next time I do this trip I’ll avoid the drive through Bakersfield and avoid stopping in Lake Isabella. This probably means after leading San Simeon heading east only a little bit, just past Lost Hills, and then back north along Interstate 5 for a fast, grubby journey, to Lake Tahoe, then doing Yosemite and Bodie, so changing the order quite a bit. The road from Bakersfield to Lake Isabella is slow, long and very winding.

DAY SIX

MUST DO

  • Mammoth Lakes / Angel’s eating place. I’d strongly recommend staying in the Quality Inn. Just across the street from Angels. .

NICE TO DO

  • Bishop. Fair sized town. Had a nice vibe. Good place to stop for coffee or lunch.
  • Devil’s Postpile. Interesting geological feature. Nice area to get some walking in but if you do, make sure you’re equipped for rapid weather change and are prepared to suffer minor altitude sickness.

WEIRD, or WOULD CHANGE, or AVOID

  • NA.

DAY SEVEN

MUST DO

  • Bodie Ghost Town: seriously atmospheric. Make sure you’ve got a reliable car, because the last three miles will shake it almost to pieces. They do free tours at Noon and at 4pm, get there in plenty of time to have a look around first. Bring plenty of water (there’s a water spring there, so I refilled my flask from it), a hat, and be prepared to feel the altitude a bit. .
  • Sleep in a tent at Camp Curry (Yosemite): you have to book in advance because they get full several weeks in advance. Ideally you want 2 nights, to be able to enjoy the space and the range of hiking / horse riding and general sight seeing. Top tip, spent the time when you first arrive to check out the Tours & Attractions stand, next to Registration / Information zone, and work out what you want to do, and when… and then book it, because if you leave it to the next day many things will be booked up, or, you’ll find yourself wasting valuable time faffing when you should be getting up and out to start a hiking trail that might take all day. Top Tip: make sure you book a bed & breakfast. They give you a voucher that works like gold dust in the main eating hall. There’s a long queue of people lining up to get a table for the banquet style buffet they put on in the mornings… ignore the line and make yourself known to the people manning the tills… you’ll be escorted away from the line and told to take any table you want. Time is precious there and you don’t want to be wasting it queuing. The buffet breakfast is also pretty damned amazing… don’t get mixed up with the small café area selling croissants and coffee. You don’t want to waste your voucher on that.
  • Visit Glacier Point (Yosemite): fekking AMAZING view of half-dome and Yosemite Valley, with a drop of several thousand feet right below you, giving you incredible vistas. Take a camera!!!!

NICE TO DO

  • Lee Vining & Bodie Mike’s BBQ eating place: great slabs of meet in a bun, or other feasts at a fair price.
  • Use the shuttle bus service (Yosemite Valley): this helps reduce traffic on the roads. Leave your car parked where it is and use the very regular and reliable shuttle bus service to take you to many of the trail heads and sights.

WEIRD, or WOULD CHANGE, or AVOID

  • NA.

DAY NINE

MUST DO

  • Drive around Lake Tahoe: it’s only 72 miles, is a lovely scenic drive and a good day out. Be sure to stop in places like Crystal Lake, Kings Beach and Tahoe City (which is more like a lovely town).

NICE TO DO

  • Drink / Eat at Blue Water Bistro: in South Lake Tahoe, just behind the Best Western Timber Cover Inn. Great vibe, great views.

WEIRD, or WOULD CHANGE, or AVOID

  • Vikingsholm: don’t bother. Very disappointing. Not much to see and what’s there is dull.
  • Stay in North shore: South Lake Tahoe is very urban and busy. If you like that kind of thing, great, but I’m a big fan of the rustic setting so any of the small towns along north shore, or even Tahoe City, get my vote.

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David J Rodger – DATA

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