Monday, June 11, 2007

California Road Trip- Go West

I got back from a ~2 week road trip to California the other day. I was planning on riding the whole way, but recently my lower back has been hurting me, so I decided I would just drive. It makes packing a lot easier, too, not having to figure how to squeeze all the stuff onto the back of the bike.

I left the house real early, even earlier that I had hoped because I woke up well before the time I had my alarm set for. Even for the first day of Memorial Day weekend there wasn't a whole lot of traffic. West Texas went by at 80 mph, only slowing down a little for El Paso. New Mexico went by quite quickly and before long I was at my first non-gas stop, Saguaro NP in Tucson. It was quite evident that it's a relatively new National Park, because some of the signs still refer to it as a National Monument. There wasn't a whole lot to do there, mostly a circular scenic drive. After leaving the park, I went to the Harley dealership but they had just closed at 6pm. I liked that in parts of the city, the houses were set back from the road with cacti planted, so it really looked like the desert, with the houses and stores less visible. From Tucson it was on to Phoenix where I had dinner at a Texas Roadhouse and spent the night at a Holiday Inn.

The next morning I got up early, well before they were serving breakfast and packed up and had McD's. I got gas just before entering California and a long stretch of no services. I went through Joshua Tree NP, walking around the desert for a little while near the Skull Rock. Once leaving the park, it wasn't far to the outskirts of LA and the crazy traffic started. I got off the highway in Pomona to go the Fairplex and the NHRA motorsports museum. Unfortunately, it was only 30 minutes before closing, so I didn't get much time to look at the exhibits. I then went on to my hotel downtown in the financial district. After cleaning up I had dinner at the brewpub in the hotel- the food was pretty good, but the service was terrible. I went out for a walk over to the theater district, particularly to see Gehry's concert hall. There didn't seem to be much of anything going on in that area, so I packed it in for an early night.

Breakfast at the hotel was ridiculously expensive, so I ate at IHOP a few blocks away. After leaving the hotel, I drove through Hollywood, stopping at FLW's Hollyhock house in the Barnsdall art park. The house wasn't open, but I walked around the outside. A quick gawk at the tourist traps and I headed for Santa Monica and the start of the Pacific Coast Highway. It started to get interesting out of Malibu, finally starting to get away from LA, and then it turned into US-101 freeway. After a ways, PCH split off to the coast again and eventually I made it to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. The grounds and the buildings were absolutely amazing, truly unequaled in splendor. It was almost 8pm when I got to Monterrey and decided to have dinner. Not knowing the town at all, I went to the tourist trap Fisherman's Wharf and ate at one of the seafood places. I called a couple friends in SF I was trying to meet, one couldn't make it as late as I was going to be, the other said it was just fine and sort of expected I'd be late. I met up with him after getting cleaned up a bit at my hotel. We had a beer at his favorite place, then got a beer to go from a corner store and walked around the city for a while.

The next morning I met my friend for breakfast. Since he is not currently gainfully employed, he showed me around the city by bus and on foot for most of the day. We saw or at least buzzed past a lot of the landmarks/neighborhoods- Haight/Ashbury, Castro, the TransAmerica building, Lombard street, etc. At about 6 I decided it was way past time I should have been on my way. Before getting too far, I went across the Golden Gate Bridge and drove through the Marin Headlands. Back across the Golden Gate and then the Oakland Bay Bridge, and I headed for Yosemite. It was 11:30 when I got to the park entrance and after 1am before I got to the actual campsite. After setting up my tent and laying out my mat and sleeping bag, I had no trouble falling asleep.

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