Tues 16 Sept – Griffith Observatory and Driving inland

I was up and out relatively early today, and out to Griffith Observatory.   It’s an art deco (?) building high up on the hill in a park.

You get a  good view of the Hollywood sign from there, plus amazing views right out over LA.

The building itself doesn’t open till noon on Tuesdays, which I didn’t wait around for.  But I was mainly there for the architecture and the views, and to take some photos.

Stunning place, and I probably would have stayed longer and maybe had a look inside, but in the ridiculous heatwave that LA has had the last couple of days meant that according to the car thermometer it was already 107F (almost 42C) at 10:30am.  Despite the fact that I was wearing a hat, on Bertha and therefore not walking, and drinking heaps of water (over 1L in less than an hour) I quickly started feeling the early symptoms of heatstroke so I beat a retreat to the car aircon and got on my way inland!  Click for my route for today (ignore the grey lines, the blue one is the one I took)


 Thankfully the traffic wasn’t too bad and it didn’t take me long to get out of town (I was already on the right side of LA to start with, so that helped).  Unlike yesterday when I criss-crossed the place today’s itinerary was a little more efficient.  And the good roads here really do help – the maintenance often isn’t great, but they built them well, with plenty of capacity, good cambers, wide lanes, etc.

 I stopped for a break in Palmdale, which I thought was a little pipsqueak place but turned out to be pretty big, with multiple huge shopping malls.  I did the last of my shopping there – I needed a paper map (can’t rely on Google everywhere, much as coverage is pretty good these days) and a few other things.

After that I had to decide – do I go to Death Valley or not?  Given that I’d just nearly cooked myself in LA, and that it’d mean at least a 200 mile (320km) detour off my route, I decided against.  Most of my trip is pretty relaxed but I’ve got a deadline to meet in Yosemite on Friday – I’ve got a full day photography lesson booked.  So I headed on up the highway.

An hour or so later I came around the bend to see this:

The photo really doesn’t do it justice, this huge field of wind turbines just kept going left and right, and way up and over more hills to the left.  There must have been thousands of them. From some googling I think it’s Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm.

California geology is made up of a series of mountain ranges all running parallel to the coast – I’m guessing they’ve all been created by the Pacific tectonic plate diving under the America plate (ie the San Andreas fault and others).  But it means that as you go West to East you go over mountains, through valleys, then over the next set of mountains.  Each valley is a little dryer than the last, as each mountain range stops more rain from reaching inland.  The main one (Central Valley) is east of the Sierras and grows a majority of the USA’s fruit and veggies.  I’m passing that one by right now and heading for the one behind the Sierras, which is pretty dry (especially now with the drought they’ve got here).

So once I’d passed those turbines I turned North, going through a valley with mountains on either side.  At sunset I had this on the left (Appalachian hills with Sierra Mountains behind).

And this on my right (not sure what it’s called but it’s the next mountains over).

Believe it or not this place was called Lone Pine – a name with totally different connotations for us Australians.  And co-incidentally, as I pulled up to take some photos, I got an email from  Bill )my photography teacher for Friday) who was wondering how my trip was going, and that I should stop at Lone Pine to take some photos!

Pretty spectacular stuff!  Once past that I started thinking about where I was going to sleep.  My next objective tomorrow is Mono Lake and Bodie (a ghost town), just up the road a bit.  But I need to find somewhere to sleep first.  Mobile internet to the rescue again (once I found some wifi at a McDonalds) – hotel all booked at Mammoth Lakes.  Job (almost) done – another 90 mins up the road and I can get some sleep!

Mon 15 Sept – Mostly Chores

Oh dear.  Day two and I’m running behind on the blog already.  I’ll try to do better!

Lot of running around today, shopping, getting the rest of the van fitted out as a “campervan”.  I’m now the proud owner of a mattress, doona and sheets, a basic kitchen kit including a 12V esky, and some food. Plus some extra clothes and outlet shopping – I definitely didn’t pack for this ridiculous heat, it’s been in the high 30s. Funny how that feels like work to me when a lot of people would see that as a main feature of a US holiday. 

I started in Venice and Santa Monica, where I had breakfast of a bagel with garlic cream cheese at a little place on Main Street.  And Ruth: the garlic had some real bite, just like we never see in Australia any more!  Yummy.  And for those of  you who are or were Californication fans – the place really does feel and look like that.  Tiny streets and lanes, high fences with what you sense are expensive houses behind.  And very cute little boutiques and shops.  And even numerous bald men with large cigars!!!

One thing I did enjoy was my first visit to a fabric store.  I promised myself I’d only buy what I could see myself making up and enjoying straight away – and I think I stuck to it pretty well.  This place was amazing – a massive range, mostly great quality, and good prices compared to what we pay in Sydney.  I’ll be doing more of these as I travel around, but since none of you are sewers I’ll keep my comments to a minimum 🙂  I was aiming for a second fabric store but lost my nerve when  drove into the neighbourhood.  The fashion district here is block upon block of what can best be described as chaos – what looks from the road like tiny jam packed shops, hundreds of people everywhere, and men with flags ready to wave you towards parking garages.  I declined and headed out – it just seemed too much to deal with.  I might come back before I fly out, I’ll see.

Although today was mostly driving, it did give me a good sense of L.A.   From Santa Monica I headed up Wilshire Boulevard, through Beverley Hills, downtown, the fashion district, and ended up in Burbank (where a lot of the actual filming of movies is done) for the night. Fascinating to see the variations, from hugely expensive (even though I didn’t head into the really rich areas) to very poor and lots of homeless.  Even the police cars show the difference – LA police have old basic cruisers, while Beverley Hills have nice new model SUVs.

Nice Art Deco and Spanish style architecture everywhere.

Sun 14 Sept – Venice Beach!

I’m here! I had a good flight, got to gate check Bertha (ie I kept her with me all the way to the door of the plane, where they then took her and put her in the hold). It’s a huge advantage, it meant I was mobile while hanging around at the airport, as opposed to someone pushing me in a manual chair straight from checkin to the gate.

The roads and keeping to the right felt familiar pretty much straight away – good going given the jetlag. After getting myself sorted out with the car (van?) and some basic shopping I decided to head straight for my hotel at Venice Beach rather than try to do too much else.

Apart from some hassles accessing the parking, the hotel’s great. Right on the boardwalk so you feel like you’re in the middle of all the action (tall building in picture below), I can distantly hear everything (including a drumming festival that’s been going since I got here) but soundproof enough that I had no trouble falling asleep even in the middle of the day.

Once I’d checked in and changed (it was 35C here today!) I had a wonderful walk (or should that be Bertha?) along the boardwalk. Very touristy but good fun! They seem to manage a very good mix of tourists, locals, and (unfortunately) lots of homeless people.

Cheap tourist shops, mixed with hawkers, buskers, and LOTS of people just out skateboarding, dancing, biking, walking the dog, whatever. And of course with that wonderful ocean, beach, palm trees etc in the background.

After a slice of greasy pepperoni pizza just before sunset I’ve retreated back to my room. The noise regulations are clearly strict – after sunset the place went dead quiet. I was in bed just after 7, and asleep not long after that!

Almost on my way!

So I’m almost off on a new adventure! Long Service Leave, and another USA road trip – taking in about 10 states this time, from LA to the Pacific Northwest, up to the Canadian border at Glacier National Park, then down via Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and the spectacular desert country in Utah and Arizona to San Diego. A week in the office there, then back up to LA and home. This is roughly my route going north, and this is what I’m planning on my way south.  I’ll be all on my own most of the way – so please keep me company, I’d love to hear from you either in the comments here or by email.