Sunday, June 14, 2009

Home in God's own

Just a little note following up and finishing off.
We're home. Jet lagged a tad, in bed at 7pm for about 3 nights in a row so far.
The bags are unpacked, the tidy house, not tidy, and the laundry full of washing to be done. Yes reality has hit and life is kinda back to normal. The Beckenham adventure is at an end.

Thanks for joining us.

Jane and family.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Back on the coast.
We left Pomona this a.m. with a quick-ish stop at San Dimas. What a little gem this outlying LA suburb is. It’s very old world in, with wide streets, houses with gardens, and the shops are quaint. A little bit of car part shopping – which proved successful and then we found the freeway heading south and drove to Santa Monica, basically we completed our journey as we’d driven through Santa Monica six weeks earlier. This time however, we found a carpark we didn’t need to pay $7.00 for and Neil and Anzhela went and dipped their toes into the Pacific – at least this side of the Pacific Ocean. It was a tad chilly!
The sand was perfectly white, perfectly groomed, with no seaweed or bits of rubbish. There were two big sand moving machines doing their thing, making it perfect for the rich and famous that live in the area.
Instead of going back along the freeway, we headed through sidestreets along the coast and drove through Venice beach, and South Venice. The beach was shrouded by tatty apartments and only by going through really narrow alleys could we get to it. However, it was a also a bit seedy so we decided to keep going. The south part of the beach however, was very very upmarket with exclusive homes and fancy apartments, and a boat marina that housed thousands of boats that much cost at least a couple of hundred thousand each!
We could see planes coming in to land above and so knew we were close to our motel 6 where our journey started what seems to be a life time ago! A quick flick on the freeway and hey presto we were back in town.
We’ve repacked, and repacked, and yes we’re overloaded, but hey it was fun getting to this stage. We’ve done a bit more trawling, looking for gifts and now, we’re ready and rearing to go again.
Time to go home.
So what do we think of this land?
Some thoughts from me, and sorry if they’re repeated from our journey blog.
This land is HUGE. HUGE. HUGE. It is only as you travel it that you realise the size, you realise the mass of land and population. But when it comes down to it, people are people and pretty much the same, we live, we breathe, we work and play and no matter what land we live in, we usually want the same things. Whereever we go, we’ve been welcomed.
LA roads need a bit of resurfacing.
Drivers need to slow down , learn to indicate, and not be so impatient at intersections.
You can eat well, and cheaply here, you just have to look. Also food is cheap, gas is cheap, people don’t really know how lucky they are!
Impressions from my 17 year old teen- Anzhela – Food servings are huge – too big. Clothes are cheap
Neil’s impressions – What you can actually buy off the shelf is awesome. Life is big, and fast.
Yana – Disneyland was cool.

And so that brings us to the night before we fly out. I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey. We have. We’ve got several thousand photos, have travelled just on 7000 miles! We made it!
Happy days everyone, come check me out on my web site...
Jane and family.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


One of the reasons for our big adventure is to see old cars! Weird I know, but we can’t help it, we’re addicted. Vintage, classic, rusty, or restored. And more particular, if it’s a Ford, well all the better.
Before dawn Neil drove a few miles up from our Motel 6 in Pomona, California to go to the Car Swap Meet at the LA showgrounds/Flexipark.
Firstly, there were more American classic and hot rods cars than you could count – and that was just in the carpark. They were for sale, some brought in on trailers – too lovely to drive – others too wrecked to drive. Some wanted totally unrealistic prices, others were okay when considering NZ versus US$ exchange rates. 2$:1$
Inside the grounds were what seemed like 10 miles of stalls, selling everything from old toys and skateboards to engine bits and bolts and panels.
Kiosks sold everything from hot dogs to beer, but the cost was OTT - $14.00 for a burger, fries and drink. Cheaper to starve.
It’s really hard to pinpoint one car that stood out, there were just sooo many, the size of the showgrounds big enough to hold a small plane landing strip in the middle.
The gages opened at 5a.m., Neil arrived at 5.30, and they shut again surprisingly early at mid-day. At the end he arrived back at the motel exhausted, feeling as if he had walked across the country.
One day to go! And then I can cuddle up with my dog....
Happy days
Jane and gang

Friday, June 5, 2009


IT NEVER RAINS IN CALIFORNIA... EXCEPT when we get there,...just a few spots, but the temperature has certainly dropped. Nothing like the high 90 deg F we were having a day ago.
Leaving Barstow, which was a surprising little town, we headed back up the Interstate 15 for a ghost town called Calico. This was a very rich silver mining town which although only boasts 9 residents now, was once a bustling town on the edge of the desert and hills. No water there, they even had to bring it in back in the olden days.
There was every store imaginable there, and though some were new/in an old fashioned way, there were original buildings, though the town did actually burn to the ground twice in it’s history. The shops like a candy store and a couple of restaurants are still active. Actually we had lunch there, it was so cool. Buckets of peanuts in their shell were on the table. We wondered where to put the shells, and the lady said just on the floor – adds to the saloon flavour! Fun! Then our drinks were served in preserving jars with lots of ice adding to the old town flavour. We took train ride around the township, took a stack of photos. The landscape as you can see again is so arid, the local Indians in days gone by came here to take the pigment from the soil which they used for dyes for their pottery.
By 1pm it was time to get moving and head back to L.A. Actually we’ve decided to only go as far as Pomona today – about 1 ½ hours away and will stay here for 3 nights...tomorrow Saturday the girls will go to a water park with neil and i’ll go SHOPPING on my own, then on Sunday Neil goes to the Ponoma car swap meet – for old cars.
Anzhela is happy she has bought her Guess brand bag at a Mall outlet we found quite by accident – or was that divine intervention? Neil brought a tool of some kind at Harbor Tools.
It’s Friday night rush hour in Southern California, and we’ve made it to the motel. Traffic heading out of town is thick and show, while we had a reasonably good run in, with only one report of an accident just near our freeway exit.
So... our time is nearly up...but not yet... still a few days to report.

Jane and gang
ps - even the local indian liked Pinkie!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Forgot to add this bit in. We trawled Las Vegas Boulevard last night as darkness fell. The street didn’t quieten down. IT was busy, loud...and did I mention busy.
Some of the things we saw
Coca Cola shop – 2 floors just selling Coca Cola products
M&M store – exactly as above... America certainly knows how to market and merchandise.
MGM casino – rainforest restaurant and a lion enclosure within the casino, but the lions were out to dinner!
A walkway across the main street, cops riding bicycles, a roller coaster that goes around the casino in and outside at the same time. The Imperial Palace Cassino with a car show at the back with cars costing in excess of US$2 million. Coca cola bottle lift – four stories high, a casino in the shape of a pyramid, dancing fountains, the Eifel tower, noise, lights, more noise. And more pimps with cards of their girls! Very blatant!
Back at the motel... an airconditioner that sounded like a plane taking off, but we couldn’t turn it off because it was just too hot to sleep otherwise.
Hectic, but worth seeing because it is SO different from real life.

Leaving fantasyland

Did a bit of shopping in Vegas this a.m. – they’re experts at selling, believe me. However, things like t-shirts and extra suitcases were really cheap – does that tell you something!
Anyway, managed to get away about 9.30 with a bit of a false start as we kept missing turn off to get to the highway. However, we have become experts at following our noses and we finally got the right road heading towards Pahrump and the California border.
Vegas really is a town built out of nothing, rocks and desert. The surrounding landscape for miles is dry rugged rocky land. Our reason going to Pahrump was to visit the parents my good friend, author ND Hansen-Hill (who also writes as Melody Knight). We found our way there thanks to Google maps. What lovely people. We lunched with them at a casino in town which had a wonderful interior that reflected an old cowboy town. Beside the diners were the gamblers with their slot machines going ring ring. Every now and then an announce would come over stating that things like bingo was about to start, and special offers. A real eye opener for us greenhorns.
To get to Barstow where we have parked up for the night care of another Motel 6 – great places – clean, reliable and thoroughly recommended – we had to of course go via another car wreckers yard on the constant hunt for car parts. Plus we drove along the lower tip of Death Valley – certainly deserves its name. Nothing grows, the road goes for miles and miles and miles in a straight row. God help anyone who breaks down and has to walk!
But arriving at Barstow we were surprised it was so busy and in fact we go the only room left. Tomorrow we are back tracking about 5 miles to visit Calico Ghost town, then we head for pastures unknown at this time.
Do we go to San Diego and Sea World – where it’s $65 per person – say it quickly when you realise it is x2 for our NZ$ equivalent. Or do we got directly to Pomona, do not pass go, and do activities from there. We have to b e in Pomona on Sunday for a car swap meet – yes don’t laugh, cars, cars, cars, but while the hubby goes car part shopping the girls go....mall trawling! Or perhaps we’ll find an outlet mall!
So we’re nearing the end of our stay in the USA – only 5 nights to go. It’s been an amazing journey, this land is amazing, so vast, and i am in awe of the huge amount of energy it has taken to build this country up, the engineering involved. Well done America.
Happy days...and I wonder where we’ll end up tomorrow.

Jane and gang

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Gosh what a day of contrasts. We left Kingman this a.m. but first drove around the streets – Kingman is famous for being part of Route 66. Lots of antique shops, and an old Santa Fe steam train. Neil had taken an early morning walk and got to go into the Mohave museum wit h the cleaners!
We drove towards the Hover dam and realised we didn’t have much gas left, but still had time to stop and look at a car wreckers – read old cars – for sale! Petroled up, we arrived at the Damn. Oh my, what a huge example of the superb engineering we’ve seen in our travels. The temperature was in the mid 90s – read hot hot hot. We parked up and took a stack of photos. Cops had one car area roped off, a body in the dam! Apparently the temp here last July 4th was 130deg F.
They are building a new road/bridge which will basically go between mountains right beside the dam. Americans sure can do roads and bridges. I am in constant awe of this.
We arrived in Vegas, driving the freeway to the north and then had to back track along Las Vegas Boulevard to the hotel which is the south end of the strip. Although it was a bit of extra driving it was cool seeing all the casinos and the wedding chapels! Circus Circus, the Trump casino which is gold coated no less. The MGM Grand, the Eiffel Tower . I mean we’re just a couple of doors from there. We’re actually staying at the Travel lodge. Ok, but i think the Motel 6’s we’ve stayed at have been better quality, but this is nice and close.
We unpacked and started to roam the streets – along with the THOUSANDS of others. The strip is noisy, over crowded and it was mega hot! What shocked me was that part of it was the dirtiest street we have seen on our travels. Lots of litter – but i can also understand why. Along this part of the strip, hawkers were handing out cards – in fact these guys were basically pimping their women via these cards! It was quite shocking and was rather intimidating. We then went into the Planet Hollywood casino, but just to show the kids, it is next door to the Mile Mall – which it was. Lots of shops, some British stores which was a surprise too. Very touristy, some very expensive, but also some quite reasonable – they want you to keep your money for gambling.
We’d reached McDonalds and the sweat poured down my face. I’ve never drunk so much so fast! The pool at the hotel was a tad cold, but was oh so welcome. Neil went back to a casino which also housed a stack of old cars for sale – not our price range – they were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.
Once dinner has settled, we’re heading off to the New York New York casino which also has roller coaster going around it. Not for me, you understand, but the kids. I gave up on roller coasters after my close and intimate experience with Space Mountain at Disneyland.
And so that is it. We’ve experienced one of America’s wonders at the Hoover Dam and spent the rest of the day in another fantasyland.

Happy days
Jane and gang


Anzhela wanted to tittle this blog The bottomless pit...but the Canyon is not bottomless, but it is sure a LONG way down. Today was a bit of going down memory road for me. Thirty years of roads in fact. I first visited the Grand Canyon in November 1979. The road up from Flagstaff was pretty quick, lots of motor cycles on the road. The landscape close to the canyon was quite lush which surprised me, but as we arrived at the park – yes another $25 entry fee – we were all in awe at this wonder of the world. It is HUGE. And that is an understatement. At the first area there is a stone tower built in 1930 which is a viewing platform, plus the derigeur tourist gift shop. But really, all eyes are on the view. It goes straight down, and forever in each direction. I must admit, 30 years ago i was okay about sitting at the edge, but now, nope. No way. I didn’t really like being right beside the railings when it was about a mile or so to the bottom. The Colorado river winds through below but is dirty brown. At other view spots, it is more of the same.
But it is the colors that are awesome. Every autumn color you can think of, reds, browns, greys and everything in between. Some people were brave or perhaps stupid and had walked down several rocky outcrops away from the barriers. Absolutely b... nuts!
We ate up at the Canyon village, but wouldn’t recommend it again, food really just mediocre. If we had realised there were other options just outside the park, we would have waited.
Back onto highway 64 and then Interstate 40 heading west to Kingman. Interesting that the freeway signs give the miles to Los Angeles. This makes me realise our trip is nearly over... o nly 7 days to go. Time to go home. And yes, it is time, we’re all a bit tired and cranky.
But a surprising highlight came when we went off the freeway for a ‘restroom’ stop at Prescott. What a cute unexpected find. Cars... yes cars again... Old ones. We hadn’t realised we were also travelling along Route 66. Now for car nuts like us, this was a real treat. And the gas station we had stopped at had all this Route 66 memorabilia for sale. And yes, we indulged.
And now we’re at historical Kingman for the night. We’ve swum in the pool, relaxed.... until tomorrow at least.
Hoover dam and Las Vegas to come.

Happy days
Jane and gang

Do you want a hoodoo?

A long long long day – 13 hours on the road, and travelling further than we expected, partly our own decision, and partly coz we’re too cheap to stay at an expensive place!
Arriving in canyon country is something so different. We’d been driving along plains and seeing towering pinnacles of rock known as Hoodoos dotted along the landscape, superb views. Lower Utah is the birthplace of Butch Cassidy, lots of writings about him and his adventures.
The first park was Red Canyon and it justly deserves its name, the rocky terrain almost plum in some instances. This canyon is the precursor to Bryce Canyon, but no less wonderful. Supporting towering pinnacles of rock which almost look as if man has placed them there, but no, they’re nature made. Though there were 3 arches we drove through which man has dug through.
National Park entrances here charge $25.00 entrance. The entrance to Bryce Canyon was far quieter than going into Yellowstone. Our first stop was the visitor bureau and i must say the American’s do this well. There was a 22 minute movie which we arrived just in time to see which highlighted the history of the canyon, and of course the usual calendars etc for sale – I succumbed. Then off we drove t the first of several look outs.
It was magnificient. Because of how nature affects the area – i.e. very high temps, and very cold temps – even snow – the rock formations are like looking down on something from a sci – fi movie, these pinnacles reaching up from below us. Twisted rock and crevases were everywhere. It really looked like something out of a movie, you could imagine Will Smith flying his space machine thingy through all the nooks and crannies of the rock formations.
There was a park ranger giving a talk on geology, but we only heard the last few minutes of it. She was talking about storms and right on cue, the bulbous purple clouds above did their thing and let forth a fork lightening along with a thunder straight after. She had just told us that if you can’t count to 30 after the lightening, then you’re too close to it. Right through the park we noticed burnt trees and from what we understand these trees had been hit by lightening.
Well you can imagine the race to the car after that, and not just by us, but most of those around us hightailed back to the carpark. The rain was pretty heavy and the lightening spectacular and scary.
We did however, carry on driving around the park, but when one particular thunder struck as we were to exit our car, that canned that expedition!
From Bryce we headed south, having lunch at Orderville and then drove through the Navajo Indian reservation. Their land is huge, but totally barren, just nothing. Homes were quite poor, lots of craft stalls along the road side. Each house had another structure beside it, usually with a round roof. From the distance these buildings appeared to be round, but i couldn’t figure out what they were for – wondered if they were a modern version of those sweat tents I believed the Indian’s used.
A spectacular bridge – Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon – again amazing me with the engineering across this land. But what we have noticed is that along many of the laybys (places to stop and take a look at the view) there were Indian craft stalls taklng up the parking space.
We had hoped to stop at Cameron which has a lovely viewing area right beside the motel. It is an area run by the local tribe – the motel and the tourist store – but there were only suites left at $150 p/night and if you figure out the exchange rate, then that was a no no no from us. Gray Mountain up the road about 11 miles offered a motel, but it also offered 2 cops outside with a guy in handcuffs so that again was a no no no from us. No other option, we had to hike it up the road another hour to Flagstaff. I was here 30 years ago – greatly changed – much bigger.
But we were pooped after our 13 hours on the road, hence no blogging done i’m trying to catch up.... more coming shortly.

Jane and gang