Somehow, with all our tripping around, I managed to miss SF. This simply would not do, so we changed our point of departure for Oz to SF (instead of Denver, which coincidentally I missed too, despite flying through there 20+ times) and spent our final two days in the States in (comparatively) sunny California. SF is a beautiful city and I can see why so many people gravitate there. It was wonderful just driving/walking around the streets (well, the ones that weren’t too steep anyway), admiring the houses.
We were a wee bit touristed out by this point – 4 weeks of sight-seeing and photo-taking had left us rather uninspired, so we kept it pretty basic: no bikes, no trams, no Alcatraz trips. Just some good food and views.
And that’s it for our 7 months in the USA! We had a fantastic time and would do it all again in a heartbeat. The USA is a brilliant place to travel, and it really does have something for everyone. No doubt we’ll be back. We did not, however, have much time to ponder, reflect and get teary over our departure as the moment we got on the plane it was time to prep for the next adventure: marriage! When we left SF, it was 12 days and counting to the big event. Next installment: the Lacey and Adam Wedding Festival!
It’s been over a month since posting on here and that’s because we haven’t been sitting around long enough to type this stuff down. Time has now arrived to give it a crack…
We sat in 1024 East for a few days whilst Mark eyeballed dream bikes and mused over cliffs rides and enchiladas (the Moab kind). Reality struck and a plan to at least ride Durango was made. As a warm up, a spin on the Road Apple in Farmington and the Alien Run in Aztec were conducted. Whilst some have blogged that these are just big BMX tracks, I love them for it, and after seeing Durango and Moab (below) I do prefer the fast flowing single track – must be missing the speed as I’d normally have with engine power!
Durango was next: time to get into the hills – well, let’s call them mountains – and do some riding. Surprisingly the 10,000ft elevation was not too difficult though as Murphy’s Law would have it, a flat occurred on the first ride. Turns out the Stan’s ‘no flats goo’ had expired after 3 months! Engineer Mountain trail and Molas section of the Colorado trail were ridden and are amazing. By far the most amazing bit was the Alice in Wonderland flowers that grow above head height with the trail weaving through them.
Moab also had to be tried and after the usual bike choice delays we hit the MOAB trails and then Slickrock. My lasting memory will be the first proper hill at Slickrock that is about 10m high with 40 degree off camber rock, turns out you can just ride down it but a few minutes were spent psyching up for it. The rest of the trail had similar hills to go down and up and is a great experience that all MTBikers need to complete. The other achievement for Moab was getting out to the delicate arch after missing it on my previous 4 tries. Even got some photos of it!
Vegas: The target was to get Lacey out to Zion Canyon and do both Angels Landing and the Narrows. Our hire car was the first experience, a Mercury Grand Marquis, apparently a 2009 model that looked like it was out of the 70’s and had a boot sufficient for at least 2 bodies. Whilst we can bemoan the fuel guzzling V8 power, it makes for a smooth ride and a car that can dispatch speed bumps that way has to be tried to be believed. We only made it to Angels after a travel distance miscalculation, but it did mean we were back in town for a Black Bear Diner feed and some hot tub relaxation.
California: It’s a busy place and needs a different approach as there are no quiet corners. We tried Sequoia Park – it has big trees (as you’d expect). We missed Kings Canyon due to delays and swung through Yosemite again. California has a bear on its flag – I was a bit skeptical about this choice, but whilst taking some photos in Yosemite Valley (where the camp sites and hotel are) a bear and its cub wandered past the bridge we were on and continued on down to the campground! Guess they can justify the flag.
The drive from Vegas west was to meet Lacey in the Napa Valley. She was flying over for Opening the Kimono, an entrepreneurs event held at the Meritage Resort. The resort worked well for me as I could spa, swim and laze around, which was what I needed after 10 weeks on the road. Unfortunately, the Meritage food met Americans standards of quality requiring trips into Napa to eat. Luckily some great food is available in town, look up the tapas on main if you are there. My Napa highlight was hearing a big block again: it has been a few years and there is no better sound than big pistons spewing fuel out truck pipes. See my favourite car of the show below.
The focus of the trip was definitely on the natural wonders, but we happened across a few funky cities along the way.
After a time consuming border crossing, Seattle was a welcome surprise. In the space of an afternoon, we managed to cram in:
- Pike Place Public Market – famous for the hustle and bustle of its seafood sellers and as the home to the original Starbucks (no, we didn’t partake – the queue was out the door and across the street!
- Space Needle – offers a brilliant view of the city, and all the more special when Mt Rainier looks like its floating!
- The Sculpture Park on the foreshore – pretty impressive, even to a bunch of heathens like us
I liked it so much, I’m going back in a few weeks to catch up with some ex-pats! Definitely worth a visit.
No trip along the west coast would be complete without a stop in San Francisco. China Town and the botanical gardens were high on the list, but most impressive was the Golden Gate Bridge:
You know you’re in the tree-hugging hippie state when leave the redwoods to discover they’ve been replaced with their metal brethren:
On the home stretch we stopped in Las Vegas as our launching pad (literally – Jeneen and Mario took a helicopter ride from there) to the Grand Canyon. From the Stratosphere and away from the noise, Las Vegas actually looks quite pretty:
And of course, admiring the Bellagio water fountains was a great excuse to partake of the Bellagio buffet… again 🙂
As you might expect with any trip through the Rockies, we saw A LOT of mountains. Shock horror. Still, no matter how many you see, they continue to astound and amaze. Some of the places we visited were simply gob-smacking, especially considering the poor excuses we have for mountains in Australia.
The first big ‘uns were the Grand Tetons – all the more spectacular for seeming to rise from nowhere in the plains leading to Yellowstone.
The Kootenays were our first exposure to the Rockies north of the USA/Canada border.
Before launching ourselves onto the Icefields Parkway, we decided to stay at Lake Louise Hostel (great tip – thanks Sab!) to soak up the surroundings. Lake Louise was, of course, absolutely heaving with tourists of the most obnoxious kind. Adam and I left Jeneen and Mario to brave the mosquitoes around the edge of the lake and took the first path that didn’t look heavily laden with pushy people. We failed to read the signs that explained the route was 3.5 miles one way, and climbed steadily the entire time. We ascended 750 metres with aching calves, but were rewarded with this view of Lake Agnes and, thankfully, a far lower density of obnoxiousness.
The next day we started the Icefields Parkway. I say ‘started’ because we would drive some stretches of that road 5 times before we left the area. One of the highlights was undoubtedly Bow Lake lookout. Moraine Lake and Castle Mountain were close seconds.
After starting Canada Day in Jasper, we made our way to Kamloops via Mt Robson. Adam patiently waited an hour for the clouds to clear and expose the peak – as you can see, the clouds simply did not cooperate. Nonetheless, it was gorgeous.
We crossed the border, thinking we’d left behind the snow and cold. Then we came to Mt Rainier National Park, just outside Seattle. Yes, those crazy Australians wearing shorts and t-shirts in the snow belong to us…
After a reasonable detour from US5, we climbed up to Crater Lake and found it was well worth the effort. Snow covered ridges with still, sapphire blue water and cool enough that half the roads were closed due to snow… in July!
Last but not least, perhaps the most iconic location of all. This view is Yosemite Valley – Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls all in one shot. Amazing.
Amidst these incredible mountains were canyons, waterfalls, glaciers… more about them in the next post!
First item to note: Adam has a new camera. That camera is ideal for close-up photos. It also turns out Adam has inherited his mother’s passion for photographing flowers. As such, there are quite a few for you to enjoy! Our first experience with the beautiful wildflowers this continent has on offer was at Glacier Park, on the road just before you reach the park. It was, as you can see, a stunning day:
The rest of the flowers were spotted in numerous places – walking to lookouts, on the side of the road, in the parks, growing in peoples’ front yards – we’ve condensed the best below:
And this is one of my fave shots. No idea where Adam took it…
Okay, that’s enough flora. Time for the fauna!
For an Australian, sharks, spiders and snakes are animals you’re used to (if not quite comfortable with). You can avoid sharks by not going in the water, you can deter snakes my making lots of noise and you can kill a spider with your flip-flop (if you spot it). Over here, they’ve got very few of the animals we are familiar with. Instead, they have bison, goats, elk, deer, sheep, squirrels, porcupines and bears. It’s not only the bears you need to avoid apparently: all these animals (except perhaps the squirrels) need to be given a wide berth. Pity they don’t give you an induction for national park – we only found out about the need to keep your distance when Adam received a firm lecture after getting this too-close shot of a bison in Yellowstone:
Following this, we kept a more respectable distance:
Numerous were elk and deer (sorry, my ignorance is so bad I don’t know which is which!). They’re certainly not shy, and litter the side of the road in the same way kangaroos do back home. Adam had a close call on the way to Great Falls, so we tried to give them as much room as possible. These two were happy enough within a few metres of us:
And of course, these little fellas are EVERYWHERE, and they’re not shy either! One of them nearly climbed my leg, and if I’d had a crumb in my pocket I think he would have found it…
The most agile and gravity-defying of all we saw were the infamous mountain goats. These two were not the least fazed by the parade of cars and camera-wielding people following them on their grazing journey, When they were done, they simply leaped the vertical face next to the road and took off – this was taken out of our sunroof:
Last, but never least: the rambling bears. Fortunately we only ever saw these on the side of the road (I’ve no idea how we would have coped with finding one on the trail!) and the etiquette is to roll slowly past in your vehicle, leaning out the window to rapidly snap a couple of shots. We saw black bears, black bears with brown coats (yes, apparently the name ‘black bear’ is often a misnomer) and what we think were a couple of baby grizzlys:
They were keen to avoid humans and frequently vacated the area when spotted – especially when some people were stupid enough to get out of their vehicles and cross the road to take a photo – so we were treated to the sight of a lot of bear bums (hee, hee, hee). It was wonderful to see them in the wild, but we were reminded of their danger: a woman was killed on July 1 by a bear. Best admired from a distance, we think.
After a couple of warm-ups (Ouray and Santa Fe) it was time to hit the road on Tuesday 21 June for the Filipich Road Trip. Adam had been planning for weeks, and Mario and Jeneen were relishing the opportunity to see some of the diverse landscape of the States. The map below roughly shows the trip, minus meanderings, mistakes and repeats:
Yep, it was HUGE! Here’s the key stats:
- 6,000+ miles (Google tells me it’s 4750 miles, so we must have done a fair bit of wandering off the track)
- 2 cars (first one broke)
- 2 countries
- 15 states
- 2 land border crossings
- 2 public holidays (Canada Day and Independence Day)
- 16 national parks – Yellowstone, Glacier (USA), Kootenays, Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Yosemite, Grand Canyon… the list goes on
- 25 hotels/motels (or maybe more… they all blend into one another after a while)
- Too many amazing sights to name (or count!)
In fact, there were so many sights we decided to split them up into 4 separate posts that follow this one, be sure to check them out:
- Flora and Fauna
- Lakes and Mountains
- Moving Water
Here’s the stuff that didn’t fit into those posts:
Okay, we’re exhausted just looking at these photos! It was a truly epic adventure. We farewelled Jeneen and Mario on Wednesday, and four hours later welcomed Mark – so there will be more travels to come. We promise to update the blog more promptly next time…