The big road trip from Reno to Los Angeles was insanity on all levels. We traveled from the highest peak in the lower 48 states to the lowest point below sea level within 24 hours. We saw the largest ghost town, a Western shootout in a saloon, snow, deserts, mountains, giant redwoods, autumnal forests, casinos, the list is endless, so I’ll try to be as concise as possible.
It all started in Reno, NV, when we met with Lieke and Maciej so I was reunited with even more members of the Rishikesh yoga crew. So good to see people again after so long, especially on their own turf. We hung out a couple of days to get our stuff sorted, Maciej had taken care of all our camping needs so we just need to get ourselves a car. In the meantime we took a trip to Lake Tahoe to trek around and to nearby hamstrings to laze about naked in the eggy waters beneath the stars. We picked up the car (we really lucked out and got the last one in the lot, a much more luxurious chrysler than the compact we reserved) and the three of us set off for uncertain dangers on our route dependent on a resolution to the government shutdown. Our first stop was a trip to Bodie the biggest ghost town in the states. It was such an incredibly well preserved living museum, with a township almost entirely intact, it was eerie but you could explore for hours, sadly we had to move quickly before nightfall to set up our tent. We couldn’t camp in Yosemite itself so we set up camp in Lee Vining just outside the national park entrance. We consumed our own body weight in homemade falafels and pumpkin soup before farting the tent out to a highly flammable state, but it was a great way to keep warm in the cold. We we’re several thousand feet high by now so the temperature had dropped considerably. Sadly we noticed a sign asking to conceal all food because bears had been spotted a few nights previous, so my mind was a bit preoccupied with being mauled to death in my sleep. We woke up to a full on ground frost, it had snowed 2 days prior to our arrival so we counted ourselves lucky, but this meant the the chances of driving through the park we’re beyond slim. After an epic diner breakfast we spent the morning exploring the tufa and ‘active’ volcano next to Mono Lake after consulting lovely ladies in the tourist board who claimed this was their favourite geological site. We we’re mildly unimpressed and baffled by their favouritism. But they were right on one thing…the Tioga pass was miraculously reopened, so we got to drive through Yosemite and illegally stopped along the roadside to get a glimpse a what we were missing. The devastation caused by the recent forest fires was really upsetting to see, so much of the forest had been taken out and left the place barren with charcoal remains. However we felt lucky that we we’re defiant against all odds in getting in, beating the fires, shutdown and snow, the window of opportunity to get inside were a mere matter of days, we were just in the right place at the right time. We got to the other side and drove through Sonora on our way up the the Calaveras Big Trees park before dark and set up camp again. This time we set up the slackline between 2 trees and gathered lots of firewood for the first of our campfires. This time the bears had visited the night before so we had to hide everything that gave off the faintest scent in the bear bins. One was heard rummaging nearby but didn’t come close, I’m fully aware that they have no interest in humans, only food, but after seeing them up close in Bern I really didn’t feel like testing that fact. The sequoiasin the morning we’re even more impressive than I hoped they’d be, it was just sad to see that these 2000 year old giant redwoods had at times been cut down for display in European exhibitions.
We drove the winding Sonora pass, which was even more beautiful in our opinion than Tioga all the way down to Lone Pine and set up camp next to the lake. We headed in to town for evening entertainment, slightly confused by all the people dressed as cowboys. After enquiring we learned that the film festival was taking place in town all weekend, with western film stars and parades. Turns out Lone Pine is the mountainous setting for many a films past and present, so we decided to stick around an extra day to check things out. We went to a lively saloon bar filled with cowboys line dancing to a live country band, we joined in and had a song dedicated to us so we we’re obliged to join in, weirdly the singer thought I’d be impressed to learn that they had entertained the troops in Guantanamo Bay! A full on shootout was enacted filling the room with smoke that set the fire alarms off, boys and their toys. The following morning we were recognised by everyone in town. We headed to the film museum and watched the parade of the children of western actors in open top cars,rodeo queens before heading on the road again through death valley. There is absolutely nothing for miles there and the temperature started picking up rapidly so we were keen to make it to Las Vegas asap. Our 24 hours there were like in fear and loathing minus the hallucinogenics, you simply don’t need them, everything is such a bombardment on all your senses. We took the rollercoaster in the NY hotel after a cocktail, my collar bones took a good battering. The strip with all the lights is just surreal, how anyone spends any longer than a day there is probably in need of ptsd counseling. We continued into Arizona from the Hoover Dam and on to route 66, where we landed in Ash Fork a former railroad destination. We met a rancher named Jack at dinner who offered to show us around his patch. He was quite the character so we took him up on it, cruising around in his pick up and firing his gun at tin cans. We headed to the Grand Canyon that evening the very same day that Nevada negotiated it’s reopening ahead of the end of the shutdown. Luck struck once again, but we also returned to waking up to a frozen tent. The view along the canyon was phenomenal, so we hiked a stretch before hitting the road for Prescott. We drove through Sedona with it’s incredible big red rock formations and fall colours and landed in Jerome where we met Perry after his yoga class. Another rishikesh member in the gang, so we headed to Perry and Doug’s beautiful home for a weekend of parties. Friday was spent perusing the thrift shops and liquor stores of downtown Prescott before taking part in an unusual yoga class, a fast paced vinyasa flow with a live dj, black lights and uv paints. We got a little tipsy afterwards and danced the night away in the studio like crazed hippies. We spent the rest of the weekend hiking, drinking, eating delicious food and doing yoga, we partied and chilled with the best hosts ever in their gorgeous home. We then had a massive hungover drive through Phoenix to San Diego in the desert heat to complete. Running parallel to the giant wall of Mexico was really eye opening, I don’t think I ever fully understood how heavily it is policed, really looking forward to being on the other side. San Diego is pretty but has such a heavy military and police influence. We ate some incredibly fresh fish mind as soon as we arrived turns out Mondays are mostly industry nights in big cities so we enjoyed a half price sushi feast. Tuesday was spent mostly on the beach as we crossed the bridge to the Coronada peninsula watching helicopter after helicopter fly over head. We then continued the drive up the coast on highway one to a great surfers paradise campsite bagging the final pitch just in time. It was our last night all together so we cooked up a bbq storm and made enough smores on the campfire to bring on a diabetic coma. In the morning we watched all the surfers at various stops up the coast until we reached L.A. My favourite was Laguna beach when the tiniest mouse was chasing my feet and led me to a macabre memorial to a dead pet cat, truly disturbing.
We arrived at the grove in L.A. at our first couchsurfing host’s house and said our goodbyes, we were so sad for it to be over, 2 weeks disappeared. Our new host Louis welcomed us so well, we headed to Chinatown for a delicious Cantonese spread trying loads of new dishes, best being a cold shredded sesame chicken dish. We spent the next day exploring Hollywood fully understanding why the people of Los Angeles say that it imperative to have a car, we walked countless miles seeing the Chinese theatre, walk of fame and the Hollywood hills sign before venturing to the sunset strip. We knackered ourselves out and headed home, detecting music nearby. It sounded like it could be Kings of Leon and was almost uncertainly live. We joined a couple stood on top of their suv looking over the fence into a car park. It was them, after missing them in central park, a car park was the next best alternative, we even got a wave as they left the gate. On Friday Louis was free from lectures and drove us to Venice beach, I had absolutely no idea just how cool it was. We spent ages gawping at the skate park watching this tiny boy nail the bowl. I then got dragged in to a b boy performance along the strip before checking out the beefcakes at muscle beach gym, such a surreal place, would love to be at Venice beach on a summer evening. We headed off to Santa Monica and checked out the surf shacks before heading back to cook up a storm. We made a lemon chicken risotto which unbeknownst to us lined our stomachs for a heavy Halloween night on the town. We drove past many a usc frat party that would probably put our drinking to shame before entering west Hollywood on Asian night. We ventured in to an average looking gay bar with the standard go go boy set up, prosthetic erect penises in hot pants etc unsuspecting of the whirlwind that ensued. Paparazzi started showing up left right and centre and the crowds we’re pushing. It was Mel B an actual Spice Girl. I was the only person in a sea of queens that actually knew all of the dance routines to the hits playing to a drag act. I was reliving my childhood playground days in bizarre style. We headed back to the apartment to play a Chinese dice game with tequila forfeits. Bad idea, we finished at 4:30. We waved goodbye to our awesome host at the airport feeling worse for wear. LAX is the worst place on earth for a monster hangover. Mexico city here we come…