We got to Los Angeles, stayed at the cheapest hostel we could possibly find and then headed to the campervan depot to pick up our baby first thing next morning. All the vans were named and the guy working there was thrilled to be handing the campervan named Icarus to a women named Athena.
Stopping at our first supermarket to fill our mini kitchen full of food we found that God had provided a recipe for bread, who would have thought the commandments extended to baking?
After stocking up we headed straight to a nearby theme park called Six Flags: Magic Mountain where we crammed in about 10 extreme roller coaster rides. Floorless, standing, lying down, multi-dimensional, high speed launches and backwards, we have done them all.
All the campsites were closed due to recent bushfires but we since we were in America and in the land of the free it was actually legal to camp on the side of the road so we found a large patch of ground away from the road and stayed there the night.
Unable to waste time due to our tight schedule of getting all the way to New York in 4 weeks we headed straight up the famous west coast highway 101 and stopped at Santa Barbara for a lunch of campervan sandwiches. Our first big town outside of LA, we headed straight for the nearest brewery where we encountered great beer, along with our first tipping scenario. Luckily we had internet on the phone and calculated the correct tippage in the nick of time. Phew, crisis averted! They had a beer which was designed by apes. They took beer ingredients to a Zoo and the ones the ape was most interested in got added to the brew. Nearby, there was also a giant tree which was held together by long bolts so that it didn’t collapse.
A big billboard which promised wine and glass blowing lured us into the tiny town of Harmony. We quickly discovered that the glass blowing and wine making enterprises were actually separate.
To reach San Francisco from L.A we decided to take the long squiggly coastal road. There were plenty of stops along the way for viewing the unreachable beaches and testing out the van on steep windy roads. It took us both a while to the used to the width of the giant van and whoever was the passenger would always have to be on Edge Patrol to make sure the driver wasn’t getting too close to the curb.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Towards northern California a few hours from San Fran we found a beautiful campground in a forest of Redwoods. While cooking dinner, we quickly learned to keep the campervan doors closed at night as a raccoon came quickly scuttling over to our van. We had to run to close the doors in time before it could jump in. We later heard it wreaking havoc on someone else’s picnic table.
It was really hard to capture just how big these trees are with a photo. Many of the trees were over a thousand years old and the species of tree, sequoia sempervirens, is the tallest known organism on earth. Some of them were almost as wide as the campervan!
Seems like we were having too much fun in San Francisco to take many photos. We didn’t visit Alcatraz Prison but we did take a photo of it.
Yosemite National Park
We heard about a free campsite just outside Yosemite but didn’t realise it was down such a long windy dirt road. It started up in the mountiains and wound its way all the way down to the river running through the valley. We were excited about going for a swim until the icy water ruined our plans. The river must have been fed by the melting glaciers as even in the middle of summer you could hardly even get a toe in.
We entered actual Yosemite the next day and spent it driving and walking around the park. The scenery was not disappointing and we took hundreds of photos that day. We saw our first deer, squirrels and lots of birds. There were signs everywhere warning about bears and how to store food properly (you can’t even leave it in your car overnight) but none visited us that day unfortunately.
It was nice to see natural grassy meadows that were not cleared from forests or maintained by humans.
The RV park we stayed at that night was out the other side of Yosemite where it starts to get closer to Nevada and more like a desert. There were some good hills to climb.
The road we drove down had hundreds of these giant cracks running across it. A good example of the state of roads in USA. We are writing this from Tennessee and all the way from California we have encountered giant potholes in the middle of freeways without even warning signs, dual lane highways with the lanes at different heights, main roads so cracked and uneven it is hard to stay in your lane and definite lack of safety barriers in key areas such as corners with cliffs and the edge of bridges. It is a shame that a country that is so amazing to see via car has such a neglected road network.
Next State: Nevada!