Aug 1, 2010

Last Post! Grand Canyon National Park, Driving home.

the final post. this trip was an exciting, new experience for me. I would have loved to stay longer and explore more places but the lack of funds turned out to be a real issue. Our trip was fun but not at all times relaxing-finding a place to sleep that is fairly cheap and yet still nice enough to sleep in can be challenging. Nevertheless I will never forget the trip and I hope to come back and visit the places we saw again sometime in the future.
our journey this time brings us to...
the Grand Canyon!

we rented a quick night in a subpar hotel in Flagstaff, AZ. the room was OK but the complimentary breakfast was horrible, we at least got to eat SOME passable healthy food other than fast food.
 The drive to Grand Canyon National Park was long and arduous at some points but soon we were the only ones on rt 64 and were speeding along the Arizona desert landscape.

Grand Canyon National Park was a bit of a hassle to get into, finally we were able to park at a location close to the south rim of the canyon. After a short trek we made it to the lookout point and the views did not disappoint.
video

and that was all just from the south rim of the canyon! we were told that the north rim had equally beautiful views and less people since it was harder to get to. had we wanted to stay a bit longer I think it would've been nice to see the views from the north rim.
alas, we also wanted to head back home.

After exploring a bit more of the Grand Canyon we decided it was time to start on our way back toward the east coast.
Leaving the Grand Canyon we decided to take an alternate route to get back on to the main highway. our route took us through the Hopi Indian Reservation. the reservation was very wide open but also a bit sad. Passing by lots of worn down shacks on the side of the road was very depressing. We got further in to the reservation and the main road we were traveling on opened up stretching out flat for miles and miles, I sped like crazy on that road. If I had a nicer, faster car it could've easily done over 120mph, probably even faster than that!

After leaving the reservation and its uninhabited roads we made it to the interstate and thus our long journey home finally began.

we made fairly good time. our goal wasn't to get back to Maryland just yet, we planned to make it to the outer banks in North Carolina to surprise Chaz's family and spend a relaxing week there.
We left around 4pm and drove straight through the night. Despite our stops and one speeding ticket (oops!) we made it through Arizona, New Mexico,  and a sliver of Texas all the way to Oklahoma by sunrise.
Not stopping to sleep just yet (SToK espresso shots are amazing by the way, definitely buying some for school this fall) we zipped through Oklahoma and all its creepy Jesus billboards. Arkansas was equally barren and unexciting from Interstate 40 (sorry Arkansas!) we got sidetracked a little trying to find gas and supplies but we made it through the state by midday.

Tennessee was another matter, I could never have comprehended how long of a state it was to drive through before-but now I know from experience. It wasn't a bad experience at all though-Tennessee is beautiful! there's another vacation waiting to happen, exploring Tennesse. Along with the scenery we got to experience some very nice hospitality-friendly people!

On our trek through Tennessee we got lost in Memphis by accident. After having the urge to eat somewhere with decent food we decided maybe Memphis would have something for us. Chaz pulled off on one of the first exits he saw and unfortunately it didn't lead us to food.
it lead us straight to HELL! more on that...
 
We passed a ritzy area of the city and found ourselves suddenly in a very poor, slum-like area. On top of that, there was construction on the roads and the signs we saw leading us back to the Interstate were annoying and impossibly hard to follow. by luck we made it back to 40 after about a half hour of being utterly lost.

Driving for a bit more we decided to stop at the first decent restaurant we saw, a few signs later and we were at a Texas Roadhouse just outside of Memphis. The food was fine, we ate a bit too much I think, but at least we had a friendly waitress-the whole restaurant was really friendly and everyone said "y'all" with twangy southern accents. It was kind of refreshing!

Back on the road it was nearing nightfall. It took us the whole night to drive through Tennessee (We passed by Nashville and Knoxville but I only remember Nashville because it was so well lit and it looked so pretty).
we made it to North Carolina by about 5am East Coast time (yes, we drove through the whole night again). we lost a few hours going from west coast time to east coast time. Finally! after 2 weeks of being packed in a car, eating slightly less than decent food, showering infrequently, and blowing quite a bit of money...we were finally at the Outer Banks beach house eagerly awaiting Chaz's family.

we surprised his family as they were not expecting us, it was very nice to be in a relaxing atmosphere for a change. We spent the week there-that is a completely different tale...

So, in conclusion: this trip has definitely been the most memorable vacation I have taken so far in my young life. I got to experience new parts of the US and see some amazing things. I keep saying this, but it's true, had there been more time and more money it would have been awesome to stay for the planned three weeks and explore some more.
Maybe when I win the lottery...
just kidding! thanks to everyone who read the blog for actually reading it and looking at the pictures! until the next big road trip...this blog is done.



Jul 31, 2010

Sequoia. Bears. Driving. Arizona.

After some breakfast and a morning swim we left our campsite and drove through more winding, narrow, cliff-plummeting roads in Sequoia National Park
video

some road construction stopped our progress to the point that we had to wait an hour before moving again-it wasn't so bad though.

we drove along through forests of redwoods and sequoia trees although honestly I couldn't tell the difference. finally we came to a sign for the "largest tree in the world" the General Sherman tree-we had to stop!

a small hike along a path lead us to the tree, it was massive-as promised. very very wide and very very tall-the biggest tree I had ever seen!

we gazed at nature's wonder for a few moments and then began hiking back up-although not for long...

a group of hikers had clustered around a part of the fence along the path-they were looking far out in the distance close to the General Sherman tree we had just hiked from. supposedly a bear was shuffling about around the area we had just left!

we hurried back to the area and quickly located the bear, having wanted to see one all week we weren't going to miss the chance.
video
video

the bear we saw was a smaller black bear, not a grizzly, but still formidable. the bear was minding it's own business, ignoring the crowd of people on the other side of the path fence staring at it. the only thing this bear wanted to do was rip at tree bark to look for some grubs to eat.
I caught some video, hoping maybe the bear would get a little closer-probably not the safest of ideas but so far the bear didn't seem like causing any trouble.

looking at the bear-even though smaller in size-you could see the massive power in that body. ripping at the bark on the fallen trees-imagine the bark being your arm or leg...although apathetic he was still a bit scary.

after the bear encounter we decided to drive a bit more through Sequoia and then it was time to leave the park and make our way toward Arizona.
the drive to Arizona wasn't started off bland, but then we started driving through the desert and the fact that we were driving through the desert along with the mountains we saw along the road turned it into an interesting experience-we even tried to outrun a train!
video

after 10 hours we arrived in Flagstaff, AZ tired and hungry but ready for the Grand Canyon the next day!

Jul 26, 2010

Driving to Sequoia

Our journey through San Francisco ended early the next morning, we packed up quickly in the morning and headed out from the city
it was bittersweet, had there been more time (and more money) I would've loved to explore the city some more.

we drove out of the city without much difficulty, the weather hadn't cleared up much since yesterday-it was still a bit overcast and dreary which put a damper on the mood a bit-had it been a sunny day even with a few clouds I think I would have felt a bit more excited, it's funny how the weather can affect a trip. you expect the weather to be beautiful and clear to compliment a nice trip (a short one too). It was a bit sad to be in San Francisco (and most of California) on such overcast, chilly days-especially since the state seems to have the reputation of being sunny and beautiful all the time.

our goal for the day was to get to Sequoia National Park and set up camp

We headed out along some highway driving through southern California. the trip was surprisingly unexciting-we saw a few signs for Los Angeles but grimaced at the idea of going to such a city-not for us-at least not on this trip.


After for driving for 5 hours we finally turned on to the road for Sequoia National Park. the road turned out to be winding and very steep at some parts, the scenery was arid and not strangely not very green.


After paying the park fee at Sequoia we drove on the main winding road to a campsite for the night. our campsite was beautiful! very hot, lots of annoying bugs-but beautiful, especially because there was a gorgeous river below the campsite. The water was frigid yet it was very refreshing. There were rapids before our swimming spot and further down and a few people were fishing-the atmosphere was very relaxing.

tomorrow would be exploring more of Sequoia and then the drive to the Grand Canyon!

Jul 21, 2010

San Francisco!

Our journey this day brought us to the wonderful Californian city of San Francisco!
after waking up at our homey campsite outside of the city we packed up quickly and headed toward San Francisco. driving on route 1 and getting closer to the city limits was quite exciting, we were always looking ahead to see a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge or any sign of the San Francisco skyline.
We got back on route 101 to get into San Francisco and as soon after we saw our first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge
overcast as the weather was it was still exciting to drive over such a famous and controversial bridge. we were officially in San Francisco!

driving through the city was quite the experience, you never really know how hilly San Francisco is until you see how the city is planned out. After driving for a bit and seeing some interesting areas we found our way to Fisherman's Wharf.

finding a hotel in San Francisco turned out to be easier and less stressful than I thought, it may just have been luck but Chaz and I found a decent hotel at a very cheap price, it wasn't the best but by no means was it a bad hotel.

after finding the hotel we traversed the city until we found a place to eat
I'mma eat'choo
our fishwiches were delicious and we had a bit of an audience! it was a bit unnerving, that seagull was so bold, he had no fear-had I turned my eyes away from the food or got up for just a second he would've snatched it away. the seagull was perfectly still and perfectly intent on our food-so much so that some people passing by took notice-a few elderly asian men actually stopped and snapped a few close-up photos of the bird.

after lunch it was time for exploring! we decided to walk to Chinatown-a good distance away from our hotel but still a very enjoyable walk!

Chinatown was-hard to put in words-like an out-of-country experience (to be blunt). There are obviously places in America where one does not need to speak a word of English at all and Chinatown was one of those prime places. I had never witnessed a cultural place of that scale before (it is considered the largest Chinatown outside of Asia-according to the website)

whole streets brimming with signs, shops, advertisments-all written in some Chinese dialect. the shops were the most intriguing-everything from touristy gift shops, authentic Chinese goods gift shops, markets, pet stores, clothing stores...it was a real thriving community.

major culture shock happened for a bit, especially walking past the markets and having to squeeze past throngs of locals trying to buy food.

After our Chinatown experience we grabbed some tasty milkshakes from Burger Meister and headed back to the hotel for a quick rest-then off to Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and dinner!

Fisherman's Wharf was a nice walk, interesting shops littered the streets, street performers tried to entertain tourists, pigeons scurried about-the languages too! so many people walked by speaking so many different languages-I love it when I get to experience that.

we explored the shops of Pier 39 and also took the chance to get a good view of Alcatraz off in the distance. the day was mostly overcast but we still had some nice views.

the sea lions (not seals) on the Wharf were silly-a funny site-they looked pretty lethargic too

our dinner was at a place called Neptune's Palace-it was very very nice, where we were sat had a nice view of Alcatraz and the bay, Chaz saw a few fins in the water as well! maybe sharks or dolphins-the waters around Alcatraz were notorious for being dangerous and inescapable by


We traversed the dark city streets back to our hotel and settled in for the night-it had been a very tiring day. maybe tomorrow would bring about more exploring in San Francisco, still undecided. our next stop is Sequoia National Park to see the redwoods! until then...

-Holy slow hotel internet connection, Batman!!!- I have a video of us crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge... unfortunately BOTH times staying in hotels the internet connections have been slow-at best.
I'll post it when there is a decent connection...somewhere...

PPS-All throughout this Californian adventure-specifically and only through California- my head has been filled with California-themed songs. all. the. time.
anything ranging from the Full House theme song (ahaha...gaaaaaaaaaaah!) to...
San Franciscan Nights by the Animals
Californication by RHCP
Under the Bridge
the O.C. theme song - Phantom Planet
even California Love by 2Pac and yes, even the annoying California Gurls by Katy Perry...
my question to you readers...any of you out there in the blogosphere...what other California-themed songs are there? what have I missed? out of all the 50 states California definitely takes the cake for having the most songs written about it.