A Travellerspoint blog

Terrified Desert

32 °C
View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Ok, firstly, I’ve just noticed that the pics I’m uploading are showing low res on this blog yet I’m uploading at at least 1024x768 and there seems to be no clear link to our gallery, so here it is…

http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/Dodgey/

(update thanks to "sam I am" - I now know how to make the pictures larger! - let me know if it looks aweful - I think I can live with the odd text allignment if it means having pictures that are actually detailed) - p.s. I understand teh "wrapper" bit but not sure if I can be bothered to get the url for each one. We'll see)

The weather has turned from a little chilly at the cabin (it snowed) to baking hot. I’ve spent a little more time experimenting with the telescope. I think I’ve got the hang of it now. I found some different eye pieces so things actually look bigger than to the naked eye now – which is a relief. I got some good views of the moon. I tried to ram one of the digital cameras up against the eyepiece to take a photo but it’s way harder than you’d think. Here’s an attempt… Not amazing but it kind of worked!

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Kirstin obviously started to feel like she was cooking at the homestead so she made and baked a pie. She didn’t check on it though.

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(The four and twenty blackbirds are most definitely dead)

It was actually a bit of blonde day for her. I lay in the bath upstairs listening to Pete’s Electronic piano play classicals – it’s one of those real sounding pianos that you can hit a button and it plays itself. Kirstin shouted upstairs, “Is that you? I didn’t know you could play?!” haha. If that was me then I’m a virtuoso.

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(yes, I’m a master)

Anyhows, after a few days lazing about we set off to see some sights. Our first destination was Sedona – about 1 hour away at the most. It’s famous for it’s red rock formations and ancient “native American” ruins. It’s a surreal place when you arrive. All the rocks are red, the soil is red, the houses are…. Red. You get the picture.

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Sedona is famous for it’s new-age shops. Apparently the place is built on some kind of cosmic line – not my bag at all as you probably know. We had a peek in one of the mystic gem shops. What a load of cobblers! They had stones that “drain your negative energy”. Ok, fair enough. Then stones that enhance your “money making ability”..o…k… then stones that help you lose weight! – I guess you eat them and then there is no room for cakes. They even had a massive lump of petrified wood marked “very rare!” – very rare my ass – it was a huge rock! More on petrified wood later.

So we were presented with a choice of things to do. There are many 4x4 jeep tours that take you all over the region. Most of the tours seemed to promote themselves on the fact you go on a “wild 4x4 adventure” and show pictures of the jeeps clambering over rocks etc. We’ve both done lots of 4x4 action in the past (I used to compete off road with my older brother Steve) so we poo-poo’d that idea and went with the more cultural choice – the “Ancient Ruins” adventure. We knew we had picked the cultural choice when we were loaded into our jeep. There were just two other people with us – all the other destinations had a good 6 or more people in each jeep.

Our driver blasted down the road for a while and then we joined a dirt track for some time and arrived at the ruins. The scenery on the way was breathtaking. It’s a huge place.

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Then we trotted off on a hike to the ruins proper. They were quite interesting to be fair, but not really what we expected. Just a few crumbling walls built under the cliff overhangs. There were a lot of interesting “petroglyphs” – mud drawing on the walls.

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Our guide was amusing. He was clearly “winging it” a lot of the time, and when he asked, “so, what do you think these drawings mean?” – we thought, “great, he’ll tell us!”, but when we gave him our best guess he would reply, “maybe - you could be right, we don’t know actually”. Lmao. He tried, bless him.

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( Is it me or does she look like she’s not paying attention?)

The couple in the jeep with us were from New Jersey. I don’t know if you watch the Sopranos, but that’s based in New Jersey, and I loved the accent.

Overall it was a great day out. The scenery was awe inspiring, and red. And the jeep was pink. They were called Pink Jeep tours after all..

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(Our transport for the day)

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(If I’d known you could rent one :--( )

After a day or two more chilling we then decided to head up to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert (a bit like Kirstin’s pie).

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(Did I mention I’ve bought a polarizing filter for my camera?)

It’s about a 3 hour drive, and to be honest, the drive was equally as interesting as the sights at the end. We spent a long time on the long straight roads that you see in the movies with the horizon melting into heat haze. With the roof down we zipped along soaking up the atmosphere. We even ended up accidentally doing a stretch of Route 66 which delighted Kirstin no end.

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The petrified forest is essentially a desert with a collection of trees that got petrified (no surprises there!). They sat in ash and mineral soils and over 100000’s of years and absorbed all the elements, slowly turning to stone. To be honest, we expected to see upright stone trees, but of course they had fallen down millions of years ago. Fascinating to see, and the trail was an 18 mile drive through the landscape with various viewpoints and trails to walk along on the way.

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(A petrified tree!)

Of course this stuff was everywhere, which is why I found it hilarious that the store in Sedona was describing it as very rare…

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Of course we could not resist some “petrified gags”

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(nope, the joke didn’t wear off for some time)

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(me doing what I do a lot)

At one stage we reached the “crystal forest” – a very exciting prospect. When we reached the trail to it we were greeted with a sign explaining most of the crystals had been stolen by thoughtless visitors. Great. Still, it was a good walk.

We’d forgotten about the painted desert at this stage so when we happened upon it it was quite a shock. A colourful and huge landscape. Probably the highlight of the trip.

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Everything here seems to be on a scale you can’t quote get your head around. Can’t wait for the Grand Canyon in a week or so.

Talking about large - I've had a little play with making panorama shots - this is one below of the painted desert from a different view point - it's rough and ready - clearly I need to set manual fixed exposures etc but it's kind of fun as it is - if you click on the picture it should start a 5mb download - then you can view it on your PC - be zure to zoom in and scroll around with your picture viewer....

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Oh - we are on a Pulp Fiction mission - so far we have tried MacDonalds, KFC, and Wendy's (they do a burger called the "baconator!" - next up is Denny's, Jack In The Box, and iHop. Unfortunately we have not seen a "Big Cahoona" burger yet.

One more thing - boy does it get hot! we've been driving with the roof up, at 90 degrees and the aircon can't cope with the sun beating through the windscreen. We are told it gets to 122 degrees in Phoenix soon - yikes!

We are off to Mexico to the beach in 2 days time, for a week or so then , after San Fran and then some wine tasting in the Napa Valley we are going to Florida - Fort Lauderdale for a week to do the Keys, then we've rented a villa in Orlando and apart from the usual stuff we are going to see a space shuttle lauch!!!!

Posted by Dodgey 20:34 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Log Cabins & Skiing!

sunny 26 °C
View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Been a while again! – We’ve been having a super-duper time.

After a few days at Pete and Mary’s we went up to their “cabin” at Stoneman Lake, Near Sedona – about a two hour drive up from Phoenix. What a setup! – I don’t think “cabin” is fair. They have a main house and then a secondary one which is the guest house. Everything is powered by solar via two huge panels in the garden that rotate automatically to follow the sun. It is tranquillity personified out there. Pete being Pete, they are hooked up with Satellite TV and surround sound etc which as you can imagine makes them the perfect retreat in my books :--)

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(Where our power comes from)

The balcony view looks directly over the lake and the upward view is stars and more stars. I had a try of the telescope but couldn’t quite figure out what I was supposed to be looking at. I just saw the same stars, but a little bigger. It is great to look at the stars with no light pollution. None at all! – the cabins are in the middle of nowhere.

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(View from the balcony)

Each morning was spent sitting round the outside fireplace having coffee. Usually at about 7am. It’s strange, both K and I are waking up at 7am since we arrived in Arizona. Can’t figure out why, maybe it’s the dry air? Who knows.

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We generally spent the weekend relaxing and taking in the scenery – including a healthy walk round the lake. Oh yeah, we went skiing! – in Arizona! – it was surreal for sure. A 50 minute drive form the cabin and we were on the piste!

It’s a small resort with only 3 or 4 lifts and about 11 runs – plenty for one day. We of course are not travelling with out ski gear so we just wore our jeans, normal socks, and a sweat top. It was so sunny there was no need for ski gear – which kind of perplexed us all when we saw lots of people donned head to toe in winter gear, hats and all.

A bargain too - £10 for a lift pass and £10 for all the ski kit. It really was a fantastic day and really not something we thought we’d be doing again for a long while.

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(Peter and Kirstin "Sunbathing")

Each day you discover Arizona is a unique place. Desert, Skiing, Guns. Did I mention guns? – in Arizona you can carry a CONCEALED weapon with a permit, and I’m told on good authority that any chump can get one. No matter if you can’t, you’ll be OK, you can carry any weapon/s you choose in your car, as long as they are in plain view. That’s right, not only can you wander round with a gun in your holster or glove box, or handbag, but if you can’t get that permit, you can load your parcel shelf with rifles. A good piece of advice here is not to get into arguments in your car – you never know, you might find a gun in your face! – Still – a technicality – so far we’ve found everyone to be really cool. Anyhow…

After the weekend we went back to Phoenix and then spent a couple of days chilling in preparation for the 6 hour drive to San Diego to meet Bud (my Cousin for those that don’t know). The thing is, we got thinking, we’ll be seeing Bud in Mexico soon and we are kinda beached-out, and we absolutely loved the cabin at Stoneman Lake, soooo… yep – we are back at the cabin now :--) - K and I are staying here for a week. We’ve stocked up on beer and food and movies and are having a bit of a Huckleberry Finn week. I’ve also liberated Pete of his mobile Internet adapter so I can stay online (and play poker :--) ). It’s so relaxing here it is untrue. Our daily routine consists of coffee on the veranda by the open fire, then maybe a mountain bike round the lake, then get the fire going in the lounge, cook lunch on the BBQ, and then retire to watch movies and play poker. It’s a pretty good life :--)

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(I was there too - honest)

I’ve even researched how to build a proper fire :--) . I searched for it on the internet after some less than reliable fires in the lounge fireplace. I found a great article, it opens, “Most people pile on kindling so it’s so hot you can’t get near it, and when you can, it’s not hot enough to light the big logs, or they pile on loads of big logs early and have a fire that’s too hot to go near and lasts all of 10 minutes” – Yep! That’s me! – So I read on and I’ve got it sussed now… read on if you want to be enlightened! – You make sure you have a bed of ash already. Then you put one big log at the back, one big log at the front, then start the fire in the middle with kindling and small stuff. The logs at the front and back glow and keep the middle hot, and you just add one big log occasionally in the middle. When the front or back logs burn out, you pop them in the middle and replace them with new ones. It’s great! We now have fires that last all night and use only a handful of logs. Ahhh – ME MAN!

We are going to see the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and some Indian reserves from here during the week. It’s also saving us a fortune in accommodation and for that we are hugely grateful to Pete and Mary. It’s making the cost of America a little less hard a pill to swallow, that’s for sure.

When we get back to Phoenix in a week from now we are off to Mexico for a week with Pete and Mary, hooking up with Bud and family. Then after that, Vegas – hehe.

Posted by Dodgey 18:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Submarines Segways and Sword Swallowers

sunny 32 °C
View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

It’s been a bit of a giggle over the last 24 hours. We dived into Disney for our second day – it was a nice change – we were in no rush to do anything as we’d already done most of the rides so we just strolled around and did all the silly things, like going to the Princess’s castle (Kirstin insisted of course), walking round Tom Sawyer’s Island, catching a lake ferry and other frivolous stuff. We went in the park after 10am this time and it was rammed already. People watching was, as before, the main attraction.

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(She insisted)

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(I insisted)

We also went in the “Invention centre” which overall was pretty lame, except.. we happened across Segways! – you know – the two wheeled stand-up transport thingies. Always wanted a go on one so we queued and both had a zip round a course. They are wicked! Both K and I managed to handle them much better than the others we’d been watching – of course :--) – I so want one. We both do.

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Space Mountain was also back online so we had a go on that – quite impressive, much like the Black Hole at Alton Towers. After that we had a walk around the history of Disney museum and it was then we realised why the rides seemed dated. The Matterhorn Bobsled, for example, was crated in 1957! It was the first steel railed rollercoaster in the world. Space Mountain is at least 20 years old too. Now it is all clear.

Done with Disney we went back to our pool and hot tub again and fell asleep in the sun. It’s nice to be back in dry heat rather than the sweltering humidity of Asia. Mind you – I underestimated the power of the sun, what with no insane humidity to warn me. I am now officially a redneck – I have a perfect red circle round where my t-shirt collar was. Bugger!

This morning we set off back towards Long Beach. They have the Queen Mary cruise ship docked there – you can walk around and look at all the Victorian rooms etc. It was $30 each and we decided it was too much to spend on something English! But.. they also have a Russian Scorpion submarine moored next to it which was far too good an opportunity to pass up. We had a good old poke around inside – quite interesting overall. “Go inside a submarine” – tick!

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(My little submariner!)

After our sub-adventure we headed to Venice Beach, to the Ocean Drive Promenade. We’d read it was a freak show and by God it was! There is a line of “stalls” for a good mile, all of which are run by old hippies, beggars, alkies, stoners, nutters. The lot! We sat and had a beer and listened to a street band who, as far as I was concerned, had done well enough just to get up out of bed this morning. All the while they were playing a totally nuts woman was dancing with a shirt on her head. We’d spotted her earlier talking and laughing to herself. The music just sent her into orbit.

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(she was totally, utterly barking mad)

The whole atmosphere of the promenade was one of old hippies and wasters, it was hilarious to watch and we loved the atmosphere. There were some great live show – you know, street performers – the highlight being a group of “African Americans” doing break dancing. These guys were nothing short of gymnasts, and their carefully practiced banter with the crowd was genuinely hysterical.

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(A typical "band" on the promenade)

Kirst spotted a “Freak Show” and curiosity got the better of us, so we both shelled out 3 bucks and went in… to a room no larger than a pantry, lined with jars containing malformed animals, you can imagine, i.e. with their brains on the outside, two heads, three eyes etc etc. Mostly a humorous con :--) – the bigfoot footprint in plaster cast was a bit of a giveaway. As we were about to bail out, a shirtless guy in black and red striped pants came in. He looked somewhat like Iggy Pop. He announced that we should stick around if we wanted to see him perform “sick acts” on himself. There was no moving us now. We got the choice of seeing him swallow a sword (fairly common in LA if you get me) or stick a spike through his arm. We chose sword! – I checked it for authenticity and sure enough it was a bona-fide sword – he then wiped off my finger marks on the blade with an alcohol wipe – in his own words, “I don’t know where your hands had been and I don’t want them in my stomach”. Sure enough, he swallowed the lot!! – then pulled it out and showed us the stomach-slime on the blade. Whoa! “See man swallow sword two feet in front of you” – Check!

We strolled on and saw all sorts – one chap in a thong which had to be seen to be believed, lots of weird as hell tarot readers, nutty old men, “wizards”, skaters everywhere. It really had a true “Californian Beach” feeling to it. You could tell everyone had dropped out and all that mattered was the sun and the weed. Great place but we won’t be going back there at night.

We’ve now found a cheap motel right on the beach – Santa Monica Beach / Venice Beach – it’s fab – it’s completely retro “California” with a sun deck and lots of bleached blue wood. We are a couple of minutes from Santa Monica Pier and a few minutes from Ocean Drive Promenade – and we are right on Ocean Drive / Pacific Coast Highway – the road that runs all the way up the West Coast. Super location and relatively cheap. We love the atmosphere, - there is an old geezer in the room next door who sits there with his windows open smoking his cigars. He’s clearly been here a long time (family photos on his table etc) and the landlady is an old dear who’s very sweet. We are going to stay here tomorrow night too and spend tomorrow cycling along the beach… or perhaps… we’ve just found you can rent a Segway for 2 hours!!! Yay!

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(Our sundeck at the beach motel)

Oh – a couple of random things..

1) We are finding the Americans to be amazingly polite, helpful and welcoming.
2) You need to spend a little time in each area to scratch under the surface. It’s very easy to drive down bland streets and think , “ok, lets move on”, but if you hang a round for a while you start to notice what the place has to offer and why it is so popular with the locals in the first place. It’s easy to let the touristy gloss cover up what lies beneath…..

Oooh! More! – it’s Monday now and we are in Phoenix Arizona with Uncle Pete and Mary (not Uncle Mary). On our last day in LA I ended up chatting to the old geezer in the motel I mentioned before. Weird – without provocation he kept going on about how his wife left him and how he likes Asian girls, and , “you can get them cheap in Thailand can’t you?”. Why oh why do they all seem to bring this up when you mention Thailand? Sigh. In Cambodia a chap leant over and said to me AND Kirstin, “do you know if there are any Girlie bars here?” – I mean, WTF!?! – why ask me when I’m with my wife for God’s sake? Odd. K says if it happens again she’s going to give them a piece of her mind. Not that she has much to spare this morning.. More on that in a mo…

(stupid China Airlines – their seating is for little people, plus, on top of that, it’s the first long haul flight we’ve been on with no screens behind the seats! Daft old projectors, and in my case, a small TV mounted above the aisle miles away with half the screen obscured by the overhead locker. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I tried to sleep I could see through my eyelids the flashing of the television – the television I couldn’t even watch! – I got creative though – no free eye masks here – I grabbed my pillow and removed the cover and put it on my head. Worked a treat. Me and K sat in different parts of the plane so we could have aisle seats each – leg room was a must have – even for just one leg – she came looking for me half way through the flight and couldn’t find me as I had a pillow case on my head – wish she got a picture)

Mary picked us up from PHX airport in the biggest truck known to man. I was in the passenger seat and was so far away I could have done with those coloured ping pong bats they use on the runway to talk semaphore with her.

Their pad is amazing. Breathtaking views over Phoenix and a very stylish house. We’ve been here about 24 hours now and I’ve already set up his wireless network, printer, and fixed his hifi :--)

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(the view from the poolside)

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(Mary with doggy)

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(me & Pete)

Kirstin was more than excited to have female company again – so she got smashed with Mary. I sank a few beers and gins too – Pete bought the biggest bottle of gin I’ve ever seen. K fancied dancing so Pete drove us in his Roller down to a seedy blues bar and we continued getting thoroughly wasted. Mary danced with a bearded kind of wino looking bass player, Kirstin was stroking a big fat nerd’s beard, and then they both asked if they could sing with the band. Luckily they declined – phew.

I got chatting to the nerd about sci-fi movies and stuff – fortunately I have a good quality geek stripe in me so I was able to hold court well. He’s seen all the odd films I’ve seen but no one else has ever heard of. He’s going to sci-fi-con in August. I’d have LOVED to have seen that lol. Won’t be here then though – ahh well.

Looks like Pete has lined up lots of entertainment – we are off to the cabin for some r&r and some skiing later this week, then some other things which have escaped me right now. Also Bud has the use of a client’s mega-millions pad in San diego next week and we’ve been invited down so we may well do that.

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(The sunsets here are something to behold)

We are also hatching a plan to camp (in a tent) our way round the national parks in the West – should be a ball and will save us a tonne of money.

K just got up – she had the hangover from hell (It’s ten past one now).

Speak soon!

Posted by Dodgey 08:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Unites States of 'Amburgers

sunny 34 °C
View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Here we are in the good old US-of-A! Yeehaa!

Wow – is it friggin’ expensive after Thailand and Cambodia lol! – at least the Dollar is weak and we are getting over two to the pound. We knew this would be the case, but I’ve becoming a tightwad and need to break out of the mindset that something costs “100” – it’s only “50” really if you see what I mean. Still hard to deal with when you buy a coke for $3 and it’s “only” really £1.50 (in a theme park you understand).

1st surprise (I’m sure we are in for many) was at the car hire depot at LAX airport. I’d booked a deal with Dollar car rental called “lock and low” – you pay for a compact and get a random car in the “midrange” bracket (wanted to say midrange range but bracket made it all the much better). We went in, signed the forms, and then they tell you to go to Zone 2 = zone 2 was a garage (pronounced gararsh of course). I then asked the purdy goil in there which car – she just said, “pick one” – wicked! There was a line of cars – all sorts including convertibles – Kirstin made a bee-line straight for a soft top but it was well gay. I steered her successfully to a Ford Mustang. Sorted. V8 Power! And off we drove – and got totally thoroughly lost. And I mean really really lost. I was trying to deal with the new car (which I accidentally power-slid out of the rental “deepoe”) plus understand their road sign system, which is actually totally logical but 100% the opposite of what the UK do. You see a boulevard to your left and the name of the road you are still on is hanging directly in the middle of the road (yep – it’s still a bloody road as far as I’m concerned!) above the new road on the left, so it looks like that’s the name of the road on the left, but it’s not, it’s the name of the one you are still on. We soon cottoned on when the signs suggested there were about 10 La Brea Boulevards in a row. Couldn’t be! We drove round in so many circles it was daft. We could see the Highway/Freeway we wanted but every time we tried to join it there were roadworks, or I missed the turning.

We got there in the end, all the while keeping an eye out for a “Halfords” equivalent to buy a $100 Sat-Nav unit. No luck there. The V8 started to show the signs of illogical car choice – quarter of a tank gone already – hehe.

So we checked into the motel on Hollywood Boulevard and took a mooch down to the walk of fame – you know, the handprints of all the stars etc. Forgot our cameras but hey, you know the scene. When I say a “mooch”, we drove. America is BIG and we didn’t like the look of the locals.

After “mooching” and failing to convince K that we should eat in “hooters” :--p we chose a classy “Americas Grill” – and WOW – what a meal – I had a New York Strip steak and K had Fillet Mignon medallions (that means, in English, 2 x fillet steaks!). We got the typical super attentive US service and tried our 1st American wine – the French choices are severely limited. Somewhat suspiciously we had the recommended Martin Ray Pinot Noir. We had a half bottle as we had to drive, though I figured with my experience I could pass a sobriety test quite easily on a bottle or two how hard can it be?!?! – anyhow – the wine was blinkin’ fab! – our 1st American wine and it was delicious. Half bottle was £10. Nice and peppery, smooth finish, semi-complex, and to me, just missing a little of the French “character” – great none the less, and far easier to get it right than with French wines. I usually find New World wines tiresome after a bottle or so, so time will tell. Next time I won’t be driving and I’ll down a couple and report back… We’ll certainly be scheduling an exploration of the Napa Valley.

This morning we went to LA’s Six Flag Magic Mountain coaster park (notice how I omitted the “roller” before coaster? We are going local). Our receptionist chap tried to convince us to buy his tour package - $85 each for tickets and transfer there - each. In his own words , “with the cost of gas now this is cheaper than driving”. Yeah, right mate. I bought tickets online for $39 each and the drive was 30 minutes tops. And “gas” is half the price of UK petrol. It was a quarter last time I drove here so I can understand why car adverts now promote the MPG before the satnav and “HD” radio (the car itself gets talked about last). We hit the park at 10.30 am and joined the spring breakers – we discovered it was Easter here too. The queues were busy at fist. We queued for a mental coaster where you hang like you are flying like superman and it took 1 and a half hours. After that we spent $20 each and bought 4 “flash passes” each. This meant we could walk straight to the front of the queue on 4 rides. Wicked. The looks on the fat ladies faces when we queue jumped was worth the money.

Actually, there were not too many fat people. It seemed the Latinos had done most of the eating.

Boy oh boy does that place have a lot of roallercoaster. After the initial queuing, things eased off and we didn’t end up needing to use half of our flash passes. We went on every single coaster but two (one broke down and the other, we were far too tired and shaken up by then). We did a total of 9 coasters and 3 water rides. We did normal coasters, mega high, mega fast, standing up, lying down, sitting with legs forward, hanging under, and sitting in swinging chairs. I’m not sure if there can be any other configurations available!.

The highlights were:

Tatsu – you are hung underneath, suspended horizontally, and get sent round upside down, right way up, swirling looping etc, but the real moment was when we reached the top of a HUGE loop and you looked down , straight down as you are hanging underneath, and you can see you are about to drop at least 150 feet and loop, ending up at the bottom of the loop on your back looking at the sky. Even I screamed. (don’t confuse this ride with the rubbish Alton Towers equivalent which is too slow). It was truly fantastic and something we'll never forget. You just can't explain how extreme it was.

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(if you zoom in you'll see a lot of people hanging up there! - that was Tatsu)

Colossus – an old wooden coaster – it was a very different experience from what we are used to and all the huge drops and hills, plus the rattling was a nice change and quite a “pure” coaster experience.

Goliath – a HUGE regular coaster on steel rails. The initial drop (370ft at 85 Mph) was terrifying, and then it went into a loooong spiral downwads. The G-force was so strong we wouldn’t see because our heads were stuck sideways on the headrests. I was nearly sick. Seriously, and more and I would have chucked.

All the others were OK – and very impressive individually, but we found they were all just different ways of seating you (or standing) on similar tracks. There are only so many times you can “enjoy” being twisted and looped violently. The real trick, and why the above three were special, seems to be in anticipation – making you see what you are about to be thrown into. Being violently twisted and looped gets boring quickly if you can’t tell which way is up. Might just as will sit in a washing machine.

By the time we went on our last coaster (the “Batman”) – we were commenting on how nice it was to be sitting down and totally forgot what was about to happen. We were just enjoying being comfortable.

We went on ride called the “Tidal Wave”. No surprises I chose what I thought would be the driest seat and got the wettest.

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It was a great day. We did everything. As the day got later (It’s open until 10pm) the park started filling with “gangbangers” – at least that’s what we think they are. Hispanic types with sleeveless tops, lots of tattoos, and calf-length shorts with crotches also at calf-height – either they are all well hung or they are fashion victims. This was when we decided to call it a day, an easy choice as we were totally “coastered out”

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(we threw half of that cone away - it must have weighed a Kilo!)

Tomorrow we are going to check out LA a bit more – going to drive down Sunset Boulevard all the way to Malibu Beach, and then the next two days… Disney LOL. More coasters!

p.s. gotta love this place – News on the TV just now….”A local man was trying to drill holes in a partition wall in his home. After failing several times he got frustrated and used his gun to fire several holes through the wall instead. His wife was on the other side – she died in hospital later”.

Tomorrow update - this is tomorrow here! - yep - we drove down Sunset Boulevard and then through Beverly Hills- it's astonishing how you can be in one block, drive accross one road and then go from built up city to green mega-bucks land. Really odd.

Oh - I got a pic for the "Arsed" Easter Egg competition (It's a family thing) on Rodeo Drive- can we enter it?

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(Our entry is titled "Eggspensive"

We parked the car in Rodeo Drive (valet parking - ouch - expensive!) and took a stroll and bought a coffee, then drove down Santa Monica Boulevard. When we hit Santa Monica a thick cloud base had moved in so we headed North to Malibu and wow, there are some nice houses dotted along the coast. I'm not sure if we went into Malibu proper - we stopped at a pier in the Malibu district and had a burger and watched the surfers. All very Baywatch. The weather was beautiful and the surf good. You can see why people "dream" about California

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(K on the Malibu fishing Pier)

26-3-08 – At our motel by Disney Land – very exited! – going tomorrow. Just watched the fireworks from our balcony – we are getting the impression the rides are really well thought out – will be a great change from just being thrown about!

We managed to get here only getting lost once. As soon as we got here I asked the receptionist where I could get a sat-nav from – so we drove down to a huge shopping thingy and I found a Tom-Tom Go - $200! – BUT – the lad I asked about it said, “you can get it cheaper at Best buy” – when I quizzed him and explained I only wanted it for 2 months he said, “no probs, just take it back to any Target store and get a refund – we give a 90 day refund policy on everything” – sweet :-) The car rental company wanted $16 a day to rent a sat-nav, so even if we couldn’t have returned it it would have been a big saving over 2 months. I guess he wasn’t happy in his job.

Talking about savings – I researched car insurance over here before we hired the car. I found out that the rental companies charge, on average, $15 a day for CDW (damage insurance) and another $15 a day for Liability (stops you getting your butt sued off when you hit a “ped”) – both these elements are deemed essential by anyone with any common sense. To quote one chap on the net, “if you don’t take out insurance you are insane and if you have an accident you’ll wish you were the one that died” lol. So that’s $210 a week on insurance. Bear in mind we’ve hired a Mustang for $124 a week. So I did some research… and I’ve bought a 12 month policy from the UK that covers all CDW, and Liability, and Excess cover, for … $200 – for a year! I’m so smart!

p.p.s I think I’ve broken about 4 US laws in the car so far :-p

Talking about language differences, not withstanding everything here is in English and Spanish, we were bemused with frequent markings on the roads saying “Xing Ped” – hmm is there a Chinese community here too I pondered? Took 24 hours to realise it means “Crossing Pedestrians”. Doh! More on language shortly…

28th March – we hit Disney this morning with great expectations. We did a heap of research (see , still getting more American by the day) and accordingly arrived at the park at 7.45 am after a great latte and a warmed cinnamon Danish with lots of icing – something we’ve both been dreaming about since Aspen a few years ago – no one does a Danish like the Americans, funnily.

We had read the reviews of the rides in both Disney Land and Disney California Adventure (the more “extreme” bit of the setup) and they were all glowing, mentioning the amazing special effects, the thrills, etc. So we dived straight in and queued for the Matterhorn. A 20 year old kiddies rollercoaster in a plastic mountain. Fair enough we thought, the newer rides like Indian Jones will be much better! So off we trotted to The Indy ride.

There is a fastpass system that is very well thought out. You hit a ride queue entrance, enter your ticket into the fastpass machine and it spits out another ticket with your time window – so if you arrive at say 9am, it will give you a ticket with a time window of 10am-11am to return and skip the queue. The funny thing was that as the Indy ride the queue for the fastpass machines was longer than the actual queue for the ride! – and people kept ignoring this – so we went straight in. Or so we thought. A lot of the rides are heavily themed inside and you actually end up unofficially queuing inside the ride buildings. No probs, took no longer than five minutes.

As we were lining up and walking “inside” the Indy ride (not queuing you understand) a modestly fat (but not fat by US standards) lady scooted by us on her mobility scooter and went straight to the ride proper. Ahh we thought, a poor disable person, then she got out of her buggy and literally RAN onto the ride. I was gobsmacked! – at least TRY and look a little incapacitated. Lazy cow. Seriously, it was like a miracle when she got up and ran- we laughed our asses off after I picked my chin up off the floor.

The Indy ride was kind of fun, but in essence it was a ghost train with Indy instead of ghosts. We were expecting Disney to lay on much more impressive special effects.

Next was the top rated Pirates of the Caribbean ride – actually it was never connected to the movie, it was created well before it but they have “tweaked it” to suit. It is basically a boat ride past a myriad of animatronic pirate “actors”. Kids stuff for sure.

Then we moved onto the Haunted House. After this we properly understood that Disneyland is most definitely for kiddies. No doubt young ones would be terrified, and they’d also have found Indy “awesome”. It’s not a criticism, we had fun, but it’s for kids, or for parents to watch their kids’ faces.

We also did the “honey I shrunk the audience” 3D movie – which again, was lame to be honest – the “4D” movie we saw in Bangkok was far better. We were both surprised Disney had not updated the experience.

Still, we were having a laugh, but both disappointed that everything seemed dated. By far the best “ride” was the people watching. I’ve heard the real fat people are in Florida. If that’s true, it’s going to be a real shocker. There are loads here. Truly shocking. We’ve never seen anything like it – “front bottoms” everywhere. Most memorable was a fatty family all wearing Mickey Mouse hats/ears and the horrendous mother stuffing cake after cake in her mouth. I counted 8 – and her daughter kept up with her. It was cruel to watch. Without exception, every pair of fat parents had kids that were clearly on their way to catching up. Poor things were consigned to a life of reduced mobility and ill health before they even got old enough to make the choice. Mind you, don’t confuse fat with US fat- its unreal. I saw one woman with her “front bottom” hanging out and I nearly brought up my lunch.

One caveat I’d add is its little surprise. There is literally NO choice of what to eat here. It’s either burgers, pizza, Weiners, corn dogs or… no, that’s it. Not just in the park – once out of a main city you are hard pushed to find “normal” restaurants. Fast food has truly taken over.

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(this is typical - they are not disabled as such, they just can't be arsed to walk their bulk around. I missed her stuffing crisps in her cakehole - her basket was full of food - I think her scoot was food-powered)

Anyhow… fattism aside, we had now done nearly all of the main attractions in Disney Land bar Finding Nemo – that had a huge queue and we decided it could not be any better than what we’d already experienced, so we headed over to Disneyland Adventure California – the more “extreme” park next door included on our 2 day tickets.

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(Me just before we got soaked through on a rapids type ride)

From the off this was far more impressive. The whole California theme-ing was far better than the Disney theme-ing of the main park. Again, we manipulated the fastpass system and did everything! – the coaster was great – we got front seats. The Tower of Terror was fantastic. You sit in a “lift” strapped to your chair and you are then presented with a “twilight zone” presentation and then hurtled upwards in the dark to then see more illusions like infinity mirrors – all fine and dandy.. but then…. The lift rockets upwards at a seat pressing speed, then stops, and then doors open in front of you and you are well over 100 feet up looking straight out over the park – it’s a surreal experience – you really don’t expect to see outside after being in a dark lift for so long. This is polished off with the lift plummeting at such a speed you go weightless for a significant time (I had to catch hold of my rucksack as it was rising to my knee height). You then shoot up and own “out of control” a fair few more times. We were both majorly impressed. It offered thrills and surprises – what we were expecting of all the rides to be honest.

After that we chewed through most of the other rides. By 2.40pm we were done for the time being. We decided to go back to the motel and sit in the hot tub for a rest.

Not bad going – we’d done nearly all of the main attractions in both parks by early afternoon and hadn’t queued for more than 20 minutes for any ride – some of the rides we walked straight on. Good timing too – it was getting rammed by 2pm and big queues were forming everywhere. We’d been pretty canny with out fastpasses too. You can only get another fastpass when the entry window for your existing fastpass has commenced, so you need to grab a new fastpass for your next ride whilst on your way to your next ride. With simple logic you can milk the system. All the panic we have read on the web about beating the queues seemed unfounded – and we were there during Spring Break (Easter)! Not bad!

Oh!- regarding the language thing - everything in LA seems to be in dual language to support the Spanish. This is not interesting in itself, but, when you are on a ghost train and a classic spooky voice-over warns you of all the "ghouls" and "horror" to follow it's bloody hillarious when it's immedialtely followed by a "spooky" Spanish version! You had to be there.

We are now in our room drinking beers and watching TV. We were supposed to go back to watch the parade and the fireworks but we both fell asleep :--) - seems jetlag caught up eventually! – No matter – we have tickets for tomorrow too so we are going to “cheese it up” and do all the naff stuff like hugging Mickey (no, don’t worry I’m not serious – no Mickey hugging – seriously – adults were queuing up to hug a random guy in a Mickey suit. Adults! – come on!!)

So tomorrow should be a giggle- no rush to do anything, no early start, and no real agenda. The most exciting thing lined up is the Monorail I think :--)

After that it’s probably back to LA to do Universal Studios , then head down to Uncle Pete’s in Phoenix….

Posted by Dodgey 22:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Just a minor update

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View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Haha! – you’ll love this. We have 4 nights (3 now) in BKK before we fly to LA and we want comfort so we can “hole-up” and chill, watch some movies and do LOTS of web research on the USA, We went back to our old room at Rambuttri Village (near the Koh San Road) and had to live with cockroaches, mozzies and very noisy air con again, for 950 Baht - £18 (deluxe room with TV and fridge). This was fine when we were in transit but now we need quality time to do our research before we go to the hugely more expensive USA. We decide this morning that you must be able to get a much better room out of the tourist centre – bearing in mind you are paying for the privilege of being central – so we searched for hotels nearer the airport…..

… lots of crap hotels and resorts, and some swankier ones but they got bad reviews regarding service etc, and also wi-fi is essential for our research. We are determined not to go to the USA unprepared like everything else we have done as we have quickly learnt that you miss all the best deals and accommodation if you leave it too late or just grab rooms on arrival…

Then I found this… the Nasa Vegas, about half way between the centre and the airport. The reviews were all positive, just mentioning it’s a bit dated. A bit dated – it’s like stepping back in time but it’s superb!!! – We have gone from paying £18 for a tiny room with A/C and a telly, plus cockroaches and mosquitos, to a “Suite” with a separate upstairs and downstairs, unlimited 1Mb internet in the room, large screen TV, Jacuzzi bath, fridge, leather couch, table and chairs etc for £30 a night lol. On the ground floor they have a leisure centre with hot tubs, saunas etc..

It’s very dated but super value – where else can you get a suite like this for £30?

If you see us online try a Skype or MSN video call, we are permanently linked and my bandwidth tests to the UK are excellent.

Ahh – time for lots of relaxing and research now, before we go back to basic rooms and motels in America!

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(Kirstin noting down all the movie channels - and the stairs to the bedroom)

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(Our little office at the other end of the room)

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(Bedroom with one hunk included)

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("Jacuzzi bath" for one very small person)

Love it.

Oh - I've dumped a load more pictures on photobucket - make sure you select a country on the left when you follow the link - there is Cambodia and Thailand now. I've also added the Tsunami video that was shot at the place we stayed in Koh Lanta - it's in the Thailand folder///

http://s97.photobucket.com/albums/l235/dodgey99/

Oh.. And Kirstin says.....

"Just to prove that my travel diary has not gone by the wayside here is just a short extract:

Phnom Penh

Rather than fly we opted for the 6 hour coach ride down to Phnom Penh, a trip we would avoid in future as their idea of air-conditioning is pretty basic and certainly not very cool, and whilst the road itself was fine the coach driver played recorded karaoke type programs for the duration of the trip. Rog spent the entire trip with ear plugs in and I sipped only enough water to keep my tongue moist in order not to have to use either the on-board loo or the squats at the stops along the way.

Phnom Pen itself is fairly grotty and full of beggars and drug-sellers – rog was offered everything from weed to opium on a regular basis. There are also many tiny children wandering the streets either selling fake tour books or simply looking for a free bit of something to eat and whilst their laughter and play can be heard everywhere it is still rather heart-breaking to see them wandering barefoot and asking for (yes asking rather than stealing) the left-over food from whatever inexpensive meal you have just gorged yourself on.

After a very sad afternoon spent at the genocide museum we decided to call it a day in Asia. We need a break as whilst we have both thoroughly enjoyed our time here so far and are keen to see more, it can be quite mentally exhausting, not to mention the heat which is rising each day as the hottest season approaches. We need a stretch of semi-normality before coming back to continue with a part of the world which will only become more poverty stricken the deeper we explore.

America here we come…..

(Kirstin)"

Posted by Dodgey 21:45 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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