Day 19 – Los Angeles

It was strange not having anywhere to drive to today, but we took advantage of this and had a day of being tourists in LA.

First up, we headed to Hollywood Boulevard to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where the names of the rich and famous are in stars on the pavement. There are also hand and footprints of actors, directors an musicians in the pavement around the entrance to the Chinese Theatre, which is also in Hollywood Boulevard. We spent a little while spotting various names on the pavement. The most notable ones we spotted were Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Arnold Schwazeneger, and the legend that is Vince McMahon. We didn’t stay around for too long, mainly as the parking was $2.50 for every 10 minutes!

Next, we decided to get closer to the Hollywood sign so we could get some pictures. You can see the sign from Hollywood Boulevard, but we wanted to get nearer so headed up into the Hollywood Hills towards the sign. We eventually came to the closest point that we could get to, and it seemed a lot of tourists had the same idea as even though we were high up in the hills, there were plenty of like minded people around.

We took a group and individual pictures with the sign in the distance, then headed off for lunch, before returning to the hotel for a few hours by the pool.

We headed out into Hollywood in the evening for dinner. Even though it was the last night of the holiday we didn’t have a crazy one. It’s been nice to relax and chill out in LA after a hectic schedule over the last few weeks. We’ve been looking over pictures from our trip today, and as we’ve packed so much into the past weeks, Boston and New York seem like months ago!

Tomorrow we fly home – Jon in the morning and the rest of us in the evening. I can honestly say its been the best holiday of my life, and we’re fortunate to have seen so many different parts of America and meet so many different types of people. It’s hard to believe that all of what we have seen is part of the same country! Hope everyone’s enjoyed reading the blog, and we’ll see you all soon! And if you’re ever in the US, make sure you head down to Old Route 66 and get your kicks on the Mother Road, even if its just for a few miles.

20130923-230849.jpg

20130923-230914.jpg

20130923-230931.jpg

20130923-230946.jpg

20130923-231023.jpg

Advertisements

Day 18 – Los Angeles

We set off in the morning determined to finish the last few miles of Route 66 again, this time in daylight, so headed back down Santa Monica Boulevard towards the Pacific Ocean. The official end to Route 66 is somewhat underwhelming, for as you near Santa Monica Pier, you take a left turn down Lincoln and as the road reaches a crossroads with Olympic, that’s it. The end. No signposts or markers to signify the end.

Thankfully, on Santa Monica Pier, there is a ‘End of the Route’ sign, so we headed there on foot to get an official picture for the end of the route. It felt quite strange having finished the drive, especially when you considered it was effectively the same road that we set out on in Chicago what seems like a lifetime ago. It’s also a pretty cool achievement having driven from East Coast to West Coast, via 22 states, and looking back on the pictures we’ve taken it’s amazing to reflect on all the places we have been to in just under 3 weeks.

We spent a little while at the pier, then celebrated finishing the route with a full English breakfast in a British pub, before heading back up to West Hollywood to where our hotel is. We spent the rest of the day chilling out in and around hotel. It was strange not having anymore driving to do – there was even brief talk of driving to San Francisco for the day, but we decided to just relax in LA for the rest of the trip instead. Jon and I took the time to catch up with an old friend from school who we hadn’t seen in over 15 years, which was nice.

We had a relatively low-key evening, with dinner and a couple of drinks in Hollywood. Vegas is still taking its toll on a few bodies and minds!

20130923-183551.jpg

20130923-183610.jpg

20130923-183634.jpg

Day 17 – Los Angeles

After another crazy night in Vegas, it was time to head back down to Route 66 and complete the final stretch of both R66 and our road trip across America. One of the most challenging parts of the trip so far was dragging the rest of the boys away from the casino/bar to leave Vegas, and as most of them were in no fit state to drive, I took the wheel and headed out of Sin City.

We had a few hours drive until we reached R66, with nothing but desert all around, and before long most of the group were asleep. The sound of silence after 2 days in Vegas was a welcome relief!

We headed out of Nevada and into our final state of the trip, California. There wasn’t too much in the way of R66 attractions on the way to Los Angeles, although we did stop off at what is known as the ‘Bottle Ranch’ near Barstow. The ranch is basically what we’ve come to recognize as a standard R66 roadside attraction. You can’t help scratching your head and wondering why it even exists, but that’s R66 for you!

The ranch is a large collection of multi-coloured bottles mounted on large poles, as well as a large number of other items of junk including an old missile, machine guns, typewriters, sewing machines and just about anything else you could think of that was old and rusting. A hillbilly-looking guy lives on the ranch, and came out to speak to us as we took some pictures. His dad started the ranch with an old bottle he found, and ever since his dad and now him have collected old bits of junk to display in the ranch. Fair enough!

We continued along R66 and entered Los Angeles, headed for the end of the route in Santa Monica. Los Angeles is massive! It also has a lot of traffic! So much so that although we entered the Los Angeles area with the sun just starting to set, and by the time we made our way along Santa Monica Boulevard to the end of Route 66, it was completely dark. We therefore made our way to our hotel in West Hollywood, and decided to do the final bit of the route again in the morning so we could get some pictures.
20130922-221211.jpg

20130922-221231.jpg

20130922-221253.jpg

Day 16 – Las Vegas

The first night in Vegas was predictably crazy, involving a lot of gambling and drinking and very little sleep. I wouldn’t even know where to begin, so I’ll leave the stories of Vegas for when we’re home!

After almost no sleep, we all headed to the hotel pool the next morning, where we spent the day enjoying beers in the desert heat, before another night at the tables and enjoying the bar.

Vegas is crazy!

Next stop – Los Angeles

20130921-221621.jpg

Day 15 – Las Vegas

After spending the evening in probably the worst hotel any of us would ever stay in for the rest of our lives, we set off again along Route 66 to Vegas. Las Vegas is another detour north away from R66, but before we headed north we followed Route 66 through probably the most picturesque section of the road through an area known as Sitgreaves Pass. The road meandered through rocky mountainside, surrounded by cacti, with sections of the road hanging over the edge of sheer drops.

As we followed the road, we came to a small town called Oatman. This was yet another town that has now been completely bypassed by the interstate, but was well worth a visit. As we drove into Oatman, it felt like we were entering an old cowboy film set, with small wooden buildings either side of the short stretch of road through Oatman.

We visited some of the shops, and played around with a gun holster. The lady in the shop even gave us a real gun to put in the holster and pose for pics, and took great pleasure in showing us her own personal handgun, complete with pink finish an pink bullets.

After Oatman, we headed north to Vegas. We made time for a minor detour to the Hoover Dam on the way, which again made for some impressive pics.

After driving in the desert for a couple of hours, it was nice to see Vegas suddenly appear in the distance as we headed toward it. We are staying at the Bellagio, with a room overlooking the fountain, and the view is amazing.

After checking into the Bellagio, Baz and I made our way to the airport to collect Jon. We had grown suspicious of Jon’s ‘present’ that he was bringing with him, and had guessed that he was most likely bringing someone with him. When we arrived to pick Jon up, there stood next to him was none other than Tel the Chair, USA veteran on his 75th tour! After arriving back at the hotel, we headed off to the casino and then to see what Vegas had in store……

20130920-202114.jpg

20130920-205644.jpg

20130920-205701.jpg

20130920-205711.jpg

Day 14 – Kingman

Today was another detour away from Route 66, this time to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was around 80 miles north of where we had spent the previous evening, but worth every inch of the detour.

After arriving at the visitor centre, we walked the short distance to the the rim edge for our first view of the canyon. It’s hard to put into words what it’s like when you first see the canyon, it is literally breathtaking and you can’t help but stare in awe. We had wondered on the journey up if it was going to be as good as people say, or if it would be a let down, but we all agreed it was absolutely amazing.

From the south rim, the canyon is over 7,000 feet deep, and looking over the edge is pretty terrifying. Seeing eagles soaring thousands of feet beneath you puts into perspective just how high up you are.

We spent 2 or 3 hours at the canyon, walking a few miles along the rim edge and taking pictures. Sticky seemed intent on getting as close to the edge as possible (I think he has a death wish), and there are some impressive pics of Baz, Sticky and Lec stood on ledges of rock that overhang the canyon. As you’d expect, I wasn’t going anywhere near the edge!

One of the strangest things about the canyon is the lack of fencing. There are some fences at designated viewpoints, but these are few and far between and the rest of the time you can literally walk over to the edge.

As we continued our walk along the edge, the sun was getting lower in the sky, and the shadows created across the canyon made some more great pics.

There were telescopes dotted around the rim, through which you could see the Colorado River on the canyon floor. It was this river, over millions of years, that has carved the Grand Canyon, although a random hillbilly told us that it was all a myth and aliens created it whilst searching for something down in the river!

We left the canyon later afternoon and on to another hotel, this time in Kingman, Arizona. Picture a seedy motel in any horror film with multiple murders, and that’s pretty much where we have spent the night!

Next stop – Las Vegas

20130919-085037.jpg

20130919-085051.jpg

20130919-085123.jpg

20130919-085158.jpg

20130919-085252.jpg

Day 13 – Flagstaff

We set out around 10am and drove a a couple of hours south to rejoin Route 66. Our first notable stop of the day was the Painted Desert/ Petrified Forest, which is a national park. As we love driving so much, we decided to take the 27mile drive around the park.

The painted desert is an area of desert with rolling red hills, which made for some good pictures. The Petrified Forest is an area that was once an ancient forest, but over time the forest fell and the trees were fossilized and turned to rock. Again, we took some pictures, but having seen Monument Valley the day before, it was hard to be impressed with what we were seeing.

We continued to follow R66 west, towards the town of Winslow, Arizona. On the way to Winslow, and after driving 3/4 of the way across America, the inevitable happened. Whilst driving through a small town and crossing a bridge, I looked up in my rear view mirror to see the flashing lights of a police car, so pulled over to the side of the road.

The officer who pulled us over informed me that I was driving at 50mph in a 35mph zone, and so asked to see all of our ID’s and ran some checks. He cracked a joke before he went off to run the check which put us at ease, and he seemed like a nice enough bloke. It seemed to take an age for him to run checks on us, and the boys took great delight in telling me what was going to happen to me in the local jail that night whilst we waited for him. When he eventually returned, he told me I was getting a written warning, which was a relief as we were expecting a fine. He still couldn’t resist another joke before he let us go, and told Baz that whilst running a check on his ID, it had flagged that Baz had been in trouble for firearm and explosive offences. He definitely had Baz going for a moment! I think by now he was enjoying the attention, as he even posed for pictures with us before sending us on our way.

We continued to Winslow. To be honest, there isn’t much to see, but it is the location of an old song which references ‘standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona’, so naturally we took advantage of a photo opportunity. At the cross roads on Winslow is a giant Route 66 sign painted in the road, so we all took the time to get our pics taken.

Next up was the Meteor Crater, a huge crater in the middle of Arizona caused by a meteorite striking the desert 50,000 years ago. Apparently the crater can hold 2 million spectators around the rim, watching 12 football matches in the middle. Needless to say, it was amazing to view from the edge of the rim. There was a museum which provided some more info on meteors and this particular one, so we browsed the museum before making our way towards Flagstaff.

We found a hotel in Flagstaff, and after being deprived alcohol for 24 hours, made our way out for a few beers. What was already a memorable day was made even more so when we tried to get a taxi back to our hotel. We asked a police officer where we could find a taxi, and upon hearing our accents, he offered us a lift home.

Baz rode up front so myself, Leccy and Sticky sat in the back for a couple of miles as the officer took us back to our hotel. It was quite a cool experience, although the back of a police car is pretty bleak. For the second time today, the officer was happy to pose for a picture before he left. I’m guessing theres not much to keep them busy in this part of Arizona.

Next stop: Kingman, Arizona (via the Grand Canyon)

20130918-102555.jpg

20130918-102641.jpg

20130918-102704.jpg

20130918-102726.jpg

20130918-102915.jpg