West Coast 2012
Who: Jelle Collignon and Heidi Willekens
States: Californië, Arizona, Utah, Nevada
When: July 2012
Destinations: L.A., Anaheim, Williams, Kayenta, Page, Bryce Canyon Village, Las Vegas, Mammoth Lakes, Oakhurst, San Francisco
Sights: Hollywood, Disneyland Resort, Route 66, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Las Vegas Strip, Death Valley, Yosemite, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge
Day 1: Arriving in LA
After a very long trip we finally arrive in Los angeles. Too bad the Dodge Chargers were already gone, but now we are driving a magnificent Chevrolet Impala. After checking in at the Custom Hotel we immediately go to sleep to be in good shape tomorrow.
Day 2: Santa Monica and Hollywood
We can start enjoyin Los Angeles. We start the day in Santa Monica with a walk on the beach and the Santa Monica Pier. Temperatures were already a nice 25°C.
Around noon we left the beach an drove inland, to Hollywood. It was very busy there! Spongebob, Batman and Micheal Jackson were waiting for us on Hollywood Boulevard. We saw a lot of famous stars, especially in the pavement.. ;-) Hollywood also had some nice shopping.
From Hollywood we went to Anaheim. Traffic in LA is comparable to Brussels, we were bumper to bumper from Hollywood to Anaheim.. Finally we arrived and checked in at Best Western Stovall's Inn. In the evening we already went to the Disneyland Resort.
Day 3: Disneyland and California Adventure
We had all day to discover the Disneyland Resort. Finally we could see the park Walt had walked in. In California Adventure we really enjoyed Cars Land.
In the evening we had a reservation at the Wine Country Trattoria in California Adventure. The dinner included fastpass tickets for World of Color, a magnificent evening spectacle with fountains, lazers and waterscreen projections.
Day 4: Roadtripping on Route 66
Today we were going to spend a lot of time in the car. We were heading for Williams, Arizona. On our way we drove a beautiful part of Route 66.
What does Route 66 look like? Wel, imagine a road without any other car than yours and with only ruins of hotels and gas stations. Temperatures during our trip rose to 39°C, so thank you, inventor of the airco!
After an 8h drive we arrived at the Holiday Inn in Williams. Grashoppers are huge and many here! We ate at the Pizzahut next to the hotel.
Day 5: Grand Canyon National Park
The weather was ideal, no sun, but an very nice temperature. About an hour's drive we arrived at the visitor center of Grand Canyon National Park in Grand Canyon Village. We parked the car, bought some drinks and started our hike.
The first sight of the Grand Canyon is mind-blowing! Really beautiful! Very excited we started our hike along the rim. At the 8km mark we returned to the visitor center with the shuttle bus.
We left Grand Canyon Village and on our way to Kayenta the weather started to change. In just minutes the sun disappeared and storm clouds gathered. A severe thunderstorm broke loose. Luckily we were in the car. Once we reached Kayenta the rain stopped and we could check in at Kayenta Monument Valley Inn. The neigbourhood wasn't very nice. It really felt like the middle of nowhere.. Indians were constantly watching you and stray dogs were patrolling the parking lot.
Day 6: Monument Valley
From Kayenta we drove to Monument Valley. We passed many stalls where Indians sold jewelry. Suddenly some lonely rocks caught our eye, Monument Valley! We followed the road to the point you can see on the photo below. We took some photo's of the magnificent view before returning to Kayenta and setting course to Page.
At noon we arrived in Page, where we checked in at Courtyard by Marriott Page. It was very hot here. We hadn't planned anything else today, so after a visit to the grocery store we went to the swimming pool.
Day 7: Bryce Canyon
After breakfast we headed to Horseshoe Bend. Temperatures were already rising to 33°C. We went up de hill and saw it was still a good hike down (and back up to return to the car) so we took in the view from the top and returned to the car. We were going to spare our legs for the hike in Bryce Canyon in the afternoon.
When we reached Brycen Canyon Village we saw a nice hotel. We were already delighted. But unfortunately our hotel was the little motel next to it, the Bryce View Lodge. But we also had a nice stay here! After checking in we headed for the park. We were going to hike a combination of Queens Garden Trail and Navajo Trail. We descended into the canyon via the Queens Garden trail and ascended again via Wall Street on the Navajo Trail. Bad decision... Some good advice, do it the other way round! Going up via the Navajo trail is hard!
In the evening we went to the rodeo in Bryce Canyon Village. GREAT! Definitively worth the 11 dollars. At 10pm we were also surprised by fireworks. It was Pioneers Day in Utah.
Day 8: Viva Las Vegas!
After a ride of about 4 hours we arrived in super hot Las Vegas. Temperatures were around 44°C! We had tickets for the NBA Summer League, so before heading to our hotel we went to the Thomas Smith Center. We saw 2 matches, Chicago Bulls vs Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers vs Boston Celtics.
A short drive brought us to the hotel, Paris Las Vegas. We tried the 20-dollar trick and were lucky. The receptionist said: "Oooh, you have a gift for me, well, I'll take care of you!" We got a upgrade and were on a high floor with a view on the strip and the Fountains of the Bellagio.
The first night we went to the casino. We were carefull and only spent 10 dollars each. In the end Heidi still had 9 dollar, but Jelle had lost everything.
Day 9: Shop till you drop!
Shopping, shopping, shopping! We went to Caesars Palace for the Palace Shops, but most shops were way too expensive for us. Rest of the day we explored the casino resorts on the northern part of the strip.
Day 10: Blue Man Group
On our third day in Las Vegas we explored the southern part of the strip. We went to World of M&M's and the Coca Cola Shop. Next we visited the MGM Hotel where we ate at Rainforest Café. In the afternoon we did some more shopping in Miracle Mile in the Planet Hollywood Hotel.
In the evening we went to Blue Man Group in the Venetian. PHENOMENAL! Three blue men drumming on PVC-pipes and joking with each other. After the show we spent some time in the casino. We finally got it that you got free drinks when you were playing! We had some luck tonight, because we won 2 small jackpots!
Day 11: Some more shopping
Our last day in Vegas.. Again we did some shopping. This time we visited Fashion Show Mall on the northern part of the Strip. There are 250 shops here!
Day 12: Hot, hotter, Death Valley
Las Vegas we will miss you! We'll definitely come back, but preferably not in summer and not in the middle of a roadtrip.. It was going to be a long drive today. We would be spending about 8 hours in the car..
We thought we were leaving the heat in Las Vegas, but that was wishful thinking.. We drove through Death Valley National Park. We experienced the highest temperature we ever felt, 47°C. We went as far in the park as Bad Water, the lowest point of the USA, 86m below sea level. We turned back and set course to Mammoth Lakes.
On the mountain roads we saw a lot of signs saying "Falling rocks" and they weren't there for nothing! Around a bend we suddenly encountered a large rock on our lane! Luckily the car wasn't damaged! We continued our ride and upon arriving in Mammoth Lakes we checked in at Shilo Inn Mammoth Lakes.
Day 13: A trip back in time
We hadn't planned much for today. After a breakfast with Belgian waffles we drove to Bodie State Park. Bodie was a mining town in the late 1800's but is a ghost town now.
On the way back to Mammoth Lakes we stopped at Mono Lake. The water of this lake is very acid and is full of minerals. The lakeside was black, due to the many insects.
Around 2pm we arrived back at the hotel. We wanted to visit some hot springs, but the concierge told us it wasn't a good idea since the roads to get there were very dangerous. We followed his advice and want to the mountain lakes instead. We visited Lake Mamie, Lake Mary and Twin Lake.
In the evening we played some board games and drank a real Belgian beer, Stella.
Day 14: Yosemite
Via the magnificent Tioga Pass we drove to Yosemite National Park. It was a Saturday and it was veeeeeery busy in the park. We were lucky to have one of the last parking spots in the park! We only spent about an hour and a half in the park since it was too busy to enjoy. We did enjoy the beautifull visitor center.
We spent the night in Shilo Inn Oakhurst.
Day 15: From the mountains to the coast
Our next destination was San Francisco. On our way there we made a stop in Santa Cruz for visit of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. They have one of the oldest rollercoasters of the USA. Too bad it was broken.. We had some calamaris with a great view on the ocean before leaving for San Francisco.
When we arrived in San Francisco we quickly checked in at Holiday Inn Golden Gateway, before returning our car. We won't be needing it anymore.
Day 16: Alcatraz
We had to get up early today since we had tickets for the early bird trip to Alcatraz. We were on the first boat to the island. We skipped the introductory talk of the rangers and immediately headed to the cell blocks. We were among the first in the building so we had some great photo opportunities.
Alcatraz was the highlight of our trip!
Upon returning from Alcatraz we went to Fisherman's wharf for lunch. From Pier 39 we walked to Ghirardelli's. From there we rode a cable tram to Union Square. Jelle liked the Ferrari store, but he changed his opinion when he saw the jackets cost about 1230 dollar.. In the evening we ate at Rainforest Café.
Day 17: Fullhouse nostalgia
Our last day in the USA. We started by visiting Alamo Square to see the famous Painted Ladies we know from the series Full House. Next was a walk in Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the afternoon we went back to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. On the way there we saw a homeless guy with a good sense of humor. He had a sign saying: "I'm devorcing and need money for a hitman". This was almost as good as a sign we saw in Las Vegas: "I'm too ugly to be a pornstar".
Day 18: Going back home
At 4h30 we took a cab to the airport to start the long trip back to Belgium.