Saturday, 30 July 2011

Day 13: Yosemite to San Francisco

Up and have breakfast at the Best Western High Sierra where we were staying the night.
Load the car up and head off up the road to Yosemite.  It’s about 30 mins to Lee Vinnings where you turn up Hwy 120 over and over Tioga Pass. 
Road up to Tioga Pass
Up at Ellery Lake

Ellery Lake

Ellery Lake

 About 12 miles up the road you stop and pay your fee and you notice how high you are.  Nearly 10000ft.  This is the highest I’ve ever driven before. 
Pay Point
Driving along and stopping for photos and to see the sights.
Stop at Tuolumne Meadows for a walk and to grab a drink from the shop. 
Tuolumne River

Lambert Dome

Tuolumne Meadows


Back in the car to drive the rest of the pass.  It takes a while due to all the photo stops!!
Climbing the rocks.

Spot The Climbers?

Tenaya Lake.

More climbers.

Half Dome from Olmsted Point

Olmsted Point View.

Redwoods at Tuolumne Grove.

Look-out Bear!!
Have to say the scenery was stunning and after driving the bareness of Death Valley the day before it was great to see so much green.
The valley was very busy, so we don’t go on the loop, we’ll do that on out next trip here. 
Now, Sally Sat-Nav has performed with no hitches until now.  Driving down the road it suddenly tells us to take the next exit.  Driving through what only can be described as scenes from Deliverance we start to doubt we are on the right road.  Denise consults the map and yes she could be taking us on a short cut.  Oh, but no.  When we reach the highway again she sends us back up the road 10 miles to where we would have arrived 15 min earlier.  A few swear word aimed at Sally!!!
Onto Oakdale where we stopped for lunch.  Driving out of town we see a few roadside fruit shops, so we stop at Denise’s Farmers Market to buy some fruit. 
Fruit Market.

Suitably stocked up on grapes, strawberries and nectarines we continue onto San Francisco.
Sally Sat-Nav takes her second mishap of the day and takes up off the freeway only to re-join 3 blocks down the road!  She’s getting rebooted when we get home as punishment!!
It’s nearly an hours wait to get onto the Oakland bridge.  Not a happy chappie as our lane was for cash and when we get closer, find it’s closed and have to get into a new lane!
Arrive at the Donatello where we are staying and check in.
Get all the luggage brought up to our room where the first thing we do is to unpack every bag and put our clothes in the hotel drawers and cupboards.  Repack all the gifts and shopping we have bought into a sensible order and go off out for tea. 
We end up at the Westfield Shopping Centre.  Pasta for Meg and Korean for Denise and I.
Take in a few more shops, buy some milk and head back to our hotel for a nice cuppa and to relax.
Nighty, night.

Day 12: Death Valley to Mammoth Lakes

Up and have breakfast at the Staybridge again.  Last night we got all bags ready for loading into the car. 
Arrange the luggage into the car, seven large luggage bags now and a number of other ones!
We filled the cool box with juice and the chocolates and covered with ice.  We also made sandwiches for lunch. 
On leaving the hotel it was straight to fill up the tank with petrol. 
Car suitably fed, then start off to Pahrump.  It’s about 60 mins from Vegas.  

Road to Pahrump
We get there and head for Bell Vista Road to drive to Death Valley Junction.  I had read when planning this drive that it was about 3 miles from the normal junction. You start to doubt you are heading the right way as you leave the town behind and are out in the sticks when you see the turn!
From here it’s a good 30 min drive to Death Valley junction and the Amargosa Opera House.  Meg and I see a Road Runner.  Didn’t see Wilde Coyote though.
Amargosa Opera House
Next stop, Furnace Creek where we stop along the way to pay our fee and get a few photos.
Pay point.

Zabriskie Point

In Furnace Creek we get some ice lollies as it’s hot, hot, hot.  Eat our lollies in the car as they are melting too fast outside. 
Old Dinah at Furnace Creek
The barren Death Valley
Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells
Back in the car and off to Stovepipe Wells.  We stop here for eat our sandwiches.  I get some nice freezing cold juice from the shop.  Definitely eat in the car as it 115°F (46°C). 

Stovepipe Wells RV Park!!

The next bit of the drive up to Paramint Springs it a large climb up over 4000ft, so to take the strain off the car overheating with the luggage the air-con was off during the large climbs. 
Leaving Stovepipe Wells behind.

At the top of the pass.

Going down to Paramint Valley and that straight road.
Gosh, it got a bit sweaty, but seeing cars at the side of the road overheated, we knew a wee bit of discomfort was worth it. 
Downhill, air-con was on full blast!
The road is so straight at some points and you enter Paramint Valley and onto the next final large climb.  This pass is up to about 4500ft with a few switch backs.  We were also stuck behind a large truck for a bit until we stopped for photos.
Paramint Valley

Rainbow Valley & Paramint Valley
Snow in the hills in the distance whilst it's still over 110°C
Onward to our next stop Lone Pine for some cold drinks and rest stop!  A local McDonalds makes do.
Mammoth Lakes is only just over 100 miles from here, so just drive.

We arrive just before 4pm.  Knackered mainly due to the heat.
We were planning on just taking a small bag of clothes into this hotel as we’re just staying the night, but at check-in they say bring everything in as smells attract the bears!
Have a swim in the pool.  Burr, it’s nice a cold.  Lovely after the heat today.
We go for a drive round Mammoth Lakes, park and go for a walk. 
We get food in an Irish Pub, fish and chips and loaded skins for Meg.
No chance of alcohol at over 7000 ft for me!


Back to our hotel .

Day 11: Hoover Dam & Madame Tussaud's

Had a bite to eat at the Staybridge Suites for breakfast.  Free breakfast at this hotel.
A couple of choices of hot items and the usual bagels, toast and fruit.

After some sustenance we headed off to the Hoover Dam.  The last time we were in Vegas we just flew over the dam on the way to the Grand Canyon.

En-route the obligatory photo's were taken at the "Las Vegas" sign.
Girls at the sign.

It's about a 45 min drive from our hotel. 

Arrived and parked our car, eventually after being behind the slowest driver!!

Walk over to the visitor centre and pay our entry fee.  Two for the power plant tour and one for just the exhibit.  One of us doesn’t like tunnels or lifts, so the power plant tour was out for them. 

The first part of the power plant tour was a video about the building of the dam.
Then off to the first lift ride, where they squeeze about 30 odd people in the lift and you go down to the diversion tunnel.  You see this and then it’s back to the lift to the power plant area.  This is a massive area with the hydro generators in it.
Diversion Tunnel

Generator room

Then it’s the final lift session up to the exhibit area.  A look around there and it’s out to the observation tower for a look and photos and then on top of the dam itself.
The Dam

New Interstate Bridge

Grab a cold drink as it’s burning hot and back to the car.

We drive over the dam to the Arizona side, turn and drive back over.
Dam from Arazonia side.

Now, I took some slagging as I wanted to drive over the new bridge at the dam, but I drove over it and back. 

On the drive back to Vegas, we stop at a Walmart to get some sweets for back home.

Vegas on the drive back.

A quick stop off at the hotel and we decide to try and get another bag for luggage from one of the outlet malls in Vegas.  It’s just a few miles down the road.  Get the car parked and wander over to the shopping area and look for bags.  They are all extortionately priced so we don’t buy any.  The only item one of us buys is Meg and a Juicy Couture top, the third of our trip!

Back at the hotel it’s swim time.  Thinking the pool would be lovely and cool, no!
It was warm, but it was nice to just relax in the water.

We have salad and pizza for tea that we had bought in Walmart. 

Head back down town towards the Freemont Street.  We stop at a Target en-route to get a bag and we do!

Park the car near Freemont St and wander up and down the street.  The last time Denise and I were here was our honeymoon and we stayed in the Golden Nugget.  The Freemont Street experience wasn’t here then, so it was good to see.

The Golden Nugget.

Freemont St minus the lights!

We stop off at the Venetian to go to Madame Tussauds as Meg wanted to go.

The entrance fee is so much cheaper than London. 

It was a nearly an hour wandering round.  BeyoncĂ© and Eva Longoria just couldn’t keep their hands off me!  At the end of it, President Obama was willing to have his photo with the girls in the Oval Office.

Drive back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep as it’s a long drive tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Day 10: The Road To Las Vegas.

Enjoy a bit of a long lie today.  Breakfast is delivered to our room at 8:15am.  The car is loaded with all the luggage and we check out the Candy Cane Inn.
We will definitely stay here for a third time on our next visit to LA.

Head off up the road to Las Vegas.  We head for Calico Ghost Town just outside Barstow.
Girls locked up!!
Old School House
Calico Ghost town
Panning for Gold

Ghost Town
The entrance fee was quite cheap and it was fine for an hours stop to break up the trip.

Back in the car and off again to Baker for lunch.  Stop for a Taco Bell!!

That's 42°C in UK.  In Baker at lunchtime.
Drive the rest of the way and the Sat Nav directs us to the hotel with no problems.
We are staying at the Staybridge Suites.  Nice as it's a one bedroom suite with a full kitchen and washer dryer.
Unpack and pop a few washings on!!

We order some food to be delivered for tea and after that drive over to the MGM Grand to find the CSI: The Experience.

After walking about the hotel for what seemed like ages, we find the area and buy our tickets.

Off down the escalator and choose the mystery to be solved.

After solving the mystery with the correct answer you get a certificate!  If you want this here you have to pay extra for it!  Think they could have printed it for free as part of the entry fee and even maybe a free pen or something.

Anyway, it was well layed out and good fun.  We've done something similar at the Edinburgh Science Festival, but not with the same effects.

We have a walk next door to M&M's World and Coke World.  Buy some wee nick knacks.

We find our car and drive down the strip showing Meghan all the hotels lit up.  We see the wedding chapels and drive back up the strip.

Wynn's at night
Back to our htoel and have a cuppa before bed.  We bought a kettle on the first day and brought Twinnings T-bags as you can't beat a good cuppa!! 

Night, night!!