Drought

Last week, the Voyager travelled through the tallest forest in the world, crossed the most famous bridge in America and felt the spray of the Pacific Ocean on its windscreen once again. In week four the journey heads inland to the very heart of California before doing a quick U-turn to continue down the Pacific coast towards the city of angels.

Day 22 – San Francisco, CA to Sonora, CA

The beginning of a new week meant the saying of a fond farewell to our latest home. But before leaving, there was one more thing that must be done on any visit to San Francisco – at least that is what the guide book says.

A tram ride through town is not the quickest, most comfortable and certainly not the cheapest method of municipal transport. But it is an iconic symbol of the city and a far better alternative to travelling through the busy streets and over the cities countless hills than walking. A one block walk in San Fran is equivalent to climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty combined. That fact isn’t in any way true, but my leg muscles would argue otherwise.

San Francisco Tram

It appeared as though San Francisco did not want to say goodbye to us, however, as leaving downtown proved harder than escaping Alcatraz with a spoon, a dirty sock and a handful of magic beans. A two hour crawl to the interstate gave us time to consider how we were the most prepared car in history for total gridlock. We could toss the curtains up, turn on the stove and settle down with a herbal brew and an episode of Fishlock’s Wild Tracks wherever was required.

Once we finally left the clutches of the city a three hour drive to the border of Yosemite National Park await – a park dealing with a recent outbreak of bubonic plague. Lovely. Following our earlier delay, we were now driving in darkness with our feeble headlights providing less light than the even more feeble cats eyes. It was like driving through a cave holding a birthday candle. Eventually, we made it to Sonora.

Day 23 – Sonora, CA to El Portal, CA

The road to the park took us over nine-thousand feet on about five separate occasions, each time we would drop back down into a deep valley or gorge with our nostrils full of worn brakes or burnt clutch. Only minutes after crossing into the National Park we saw the two precious gems of Yosemite standing proud on the horizon – the granite beacons of El Capitan and Half Dome.

Yosemite National Park

El Capitan

We made our way towards the village at the centre of Yosemite, carefully sidestepping elk, deer and manic tourists, and had lunch in the shadow of the dome. With it being the beginning of labour day weekend all camp sites inside the park were packed to the rafters and so we had to leave the confines of the park and settle for a spot by the side of the road – which just so happened to be within inches of Yosemite’s gates. It actually worked out for the best as it was free, quiet and uncovered – underneath a clear and cloudless sky.

The Gates to Yosemite

Day 24 – El Portal, CA to Atwater, CA

Yosemite

In order to try and beat the bank holiday crowds an early start was required. Before the sun had even crept its warm hand into our camp site we had set off in search for the base of Half Dome. We hiked through dense forest until we eventually arrived at the mountain in question only then to realise that we were too close to photograph it or sufficiently view its grandeur – similar to staring at a TV with your face one inch from the screen.

Yosemite

Yosemite

We then went to view Yosemite Falls – the highest waterfall in America – only to discover that it had run out of water. Although that did not deter the many bus loads of Japanese tourists from taking an obscene amount of photos of where the waterfall should have been.

However, all was not lost as we had a far better view of Half Dome upon leaving the falls than we did earlier in the day. We left Yosemite, we believe, plague free – although symptoms can take up to seven weeks to manifest, I will keep you posted – and headed back towards the Pacific.

Half Dome

Half Dome

Day 25 – Atwater, CA to Big Sur, CA

Atwater was much like every other town we have stayed at in between places we actually want to see. It has no centre, no discernible landmarks and has all the charm and beauty of a disused nuclear power plant. As far as we could see, McDonalds was the town hall which was in turn surrounded by thousands of smaller fast food restaurants and, usefully for us, one laundromat.

A laundry day without at least one attempted mugging hardly feels like laundry day at all now. The most exciting aspects of today’s escapade was forgetting to put a wet sock in the dryer and the adding of another large mosquito bite to my already impressive collection. We left the Death Valley temperatures of Atwater post haste in order to chase the cooler climate on the Pacific coast.

The Road to the Pacific

A Big Bite

To say lunchtime was a hot affair would be akin to calling Atwater mildly dull. It was roasting. Cheese sticks were turning into cheese dips, ice creams melted the instant they were removed from the wrapper whilst Aaron developed a brand new tan/burn line every few minutes. The closer we got to the coast, the more bearable the heat became and by the time we reached Big Sur we could put our hands outside the window without risking sixth degree burns.

Big Sur

Big Sur

Day 26 – Big Sur, CA to Santa Maria, CA

Big Sur is beautiful. I will go as far as to say it is the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen. It is rugged yet tranquil, and dotted with expensive houses on the shore and experienced surfers in the sea. The coast road appears to never end, which is not a bad thing. It winds back and forth around cliffs and over canyons and I am thoroughly pleased we chose this far longer route to L.A than taking the highly tedious inland interstate.

Big Sur

Big Sur

We decided that today would be a beach day – Pismo Beach, California day. We slopped on some factor two-thousand sun cream and marked our territory by the shore with a colourful blanket.

I often forget that the body of water we are swimming in is not the Mediterranean, it is the Pacific, and it does not matter if you are ocean swimming in Chile or California, it is never going to be ‘warm’. After a canine-like run and leap into the drink you soon remember this. But following the exertions of sea Frisbee the water temperature was most tolerable.

Pismo Beach

Twenty-six days into our trip and a relaxing day of reading and burning was exactly what was required. As the tide started to commandeer people’s forgotten beach towels we decided to source some beer and a new Californian camping spot. More of the same tomorrow, ta.

Santa Maria

Day 27 – Santa Maria, CA to Los Angeles, CA

The everyday scorching temperatures is becoming more and more of an issue as sleeping inside a car pre-heated to thirty-five degrees Celsius is almost impossible. Our tinned food only lasts a day or two, at most. Our perishables perish the instant we leave the chilled supermarket whilst we appear to sweat out more fluid that it is humanly possible to drink in a day. Today’s beach day was almost unbearably hot as we headed further south to Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

No breeze, burning sand and zero shade meant we had to curtail our time at what was a really beautiful Californian beach in order to find some air conditioning. We struggled towards a pancake shop that offered us refuge, water and, unsurprisingly, pancakes. Following a beach-side shower that kept us sweat-free for almost ten seconds we were back on the road to our next sizzling location, Los Angeles.

This is the hottest, most humid and driest Californian Summer in living memory and we began to hear rumours that the annual storm of El Nino was, this year, going to be the biggest in recorded meteorological history – a super-storm lasting months, if not entire seasons, rather than days. With our vehicles not in the least bit amphibious, or even capable of keeping a mild drizzle outside of the car, we needed to quicken our pace towards the Nevada border.

The Road to Los Angeles

Day 28 – Los Angeles, CA

Another sweltering night and we woke up in a pool of what I originally thought was my own sweat, but after opening and rubbing my eyes I saw that the pool was moving – at quite a pace.

Ants, too many to count, were crawling all over me, Shu and our bed. I quickly scanned around the minivan and, like a scene from Saw – sort of, I saw gigantic ants crawling in every direction. On the windows, on the doors, on the ceiling and on me. As if waking up at 7:00am after a virtually sleepless, sweaty and sticky night was not enough, I got the worst alarm I have ever had – but it sure as hell wakes you up.

Ants

Following a two-hour de-fumigation of both vehicles, Aaron and Jess did not escape the ant-alarm call either, we could finally head in to Santa Monica. Our first stop was very significant to me as we visited the spot where the most famous road in the world – one in which I am obsessed with – ends.

Route 66 gift shops filled with signs, clothing and other pointless keepsakes line Santa Monica boulevard. For Route 66 rookies, it is hard to imagine how one single-lane road has acquired such curiosity, wonder and fame. I can’t ever envisage the M4 selling motorway merchandise on this scale.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica

After a promenade along Venice beach and board-walk we met up with a friend of Shu’s who she had known since high-school and who had been living in L.A the last four years. Sue, and her boyfriend Jon, took us for a superbly delicious dinner in Koreatown.

If you don’t already know, a Korean meal consists of randomly timed deliveries of countless miniature bowls – filled with foods fermented for long periods of time – orbiting a large meat-based dish and swilled down with Makgeolli. It was the best meal we had had in four weeks and thoroughly re-energised us for the journey ahead.

Venice Beach

Santa Monica

Next week the voyage heads as far South as South goes as we reach the notoriously dangerous Mexican border before climbing back North through three of the hottest and driest National Parks on the planet. I am sweating profusely at the thought.

Total kilometres: 6,341

J

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