Right, I promised you guys an update on our progress, didn't I?
Ok, so Las Vegas is terrifying. I said to Laura, looking over the balcony of the 26th floor of the Luxor to the casino below: "It's like we've checked into a dystopian nightmare..."
"Emma, think about it, this is
a dystopian nightmare."
We managed a cheeky upgrade due to being checked into a room where people already were (awkward) and so managed to get a properly lush room with views right across Las Vegas. The best part of Las Vegas was probably that room - looking out over the tiny cars going up and down the streets and watching the sun sink behind the mountains. We walked up the strip, then stopped for Mojito Slushies outside Caesar's Palace where we discussed why exactly we were disturbed - Laura was coming from an anti-excessive consumerism perspective while I disliked the fact that the female staff of the casinos had to basically wear underwear for their uniform and there were people on every street corner trying to push calling cards fro prostitutes into your face. You know those cards that you find in phone boxes back home? Those ones. They flick them together to make an angry noise and then shove them into your face. Every street corner. I found a takeaway salad and then we ran back to hide in our room.
On the way back we saw
- A man dressed as Elvis (of course) who winked at us
- A man dressed in a Picachu costume looking miserable and sullen outside Paris Casino
- Two guys sitting on a bridge begging for their 'Marijuana Research Fund' - "we promise we won't spend it on food - only on getting high"
- A Stormtrooper harassing R2D2.
Las Vegas seems like it would be brilliant fun if I wasn't such an angry feminist. Hrm.
We had breakfast in Starbucks the morning after, where I found out the hard way that they use sweetened soya milk as par for the course. This resulted in a fairly twitchy, sweaty sugar headache on my part. The perfect state of mind to drive out into Death Valley.
Do you know when is a brilliant time to realise you don't know where you are? Not in the middle of Death Valley. We had a fairly tense moment where it appeared that the satnav had gone mad and we were trying to work out where exactly we were. Turned out we were on the right road but bloody Nora, let's not do that again. A coyote watched us from the side of the road, condescendingly, the way locals do to tourists.
We went to Badwater, salt flats which are the remains of an evaporated lake - it's the 2nd lowest land elevation in the world I think. It is pretty hot. This was commented on, many times mainly by me. Laura tried to ignore me and amused herself by stamping all over the salt flats. The sign on the way in asked us to tread lightly to try and preserve this natural phenomenon. Laura took this as a sign to balance on top of the ridges.
"LAURA YOU BROKE NATURE."
"David Attenborough would be very disappointed."
We drove through Artist's Drive, where the mountains are striped all different colours due to geology or something. We did it at sunset which was pretty beautiful. The road looked new - they had painted yellow lines over the loose rocks that lay on the side of the road and most of them were still in their same position. Lazy road painters. Laura climbed up things that she couldn't get down from again and I watched her do it like a dowdy, overcautious mother. When the sun set we drove to our favourite motel yet, in a little town called Beatty Nevada. The Atomic Inn is visable from the road because it is covered in fairy lights. There is a framed photo of a mushroom cloud hanging above the beds, there are pens with little aliens on sale in the reception and the password for the wireless network is 'meninblack'. It was insane. We got a discount on our room because the receptionist liked our snazzy pink British driving licenses.
In the morning we headed out to Rhyolite, an actual, no fooling ghost town. It was epic. We were wandering in and out of buildings which still felt a bit uncomfortable, like we were breaking and entering. Laura was pretty much in her element. It was completely deserted and silent when we arrived, which is where I debuted my new and annoying habit of accidentally leaning against the horn. A-whoops. I have since done this twice, once this morning in a San Francisco gas station.
After that I made Laura walk 45 minutes out into the desert and 45 minutes back so we could walk along sand dunes. Although that's just what she claims - I reckon it was a mutual decision. Either way it was pretty stupid, especially when there was a much easier way to get there down the road. Still, it was totally worth it and we got some exercise? Again, whoops.
We got gas and icy drinks from Stovepipe Wells service station (which looked like it was from the 1950s) and we headed out towards Yosemite. We had to swing under the Sierra Nevada since it was winter and the mountains are just too damn big to deal with. We got to drive through Sequoia National Forest. GOD IT WAS LOVELY. I am going to retire to one of those tiny villages outside of the park - they had creeks and fields and trees turning yellow and dramatic rolling hills and I want it ok. I WANT IT.
We reached Yosemite in the dark. The roads were pitch black, winding and steep. There was hardly anyone else on it and we were listening to The Woman in Black. On top of this I had the recurring thought of 'please don't be bears please don't be bears please don't be bears'. I missed a turning, did a three point turn and set off again on the left hand side of the road. Perhaps in all the tension and uncertainty I was subconsciously searching for something good and pure and true. Anyway it was into oncoming traffic.
L: Right side of the road! RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD!
E: Well that was a stupid thing to do.
We got to the hostel, had proper food and wine! Actual wine. Oh it was good. And we slept that night, so we decided to repeat the experiment the following night with a bottle. Success once again.
We missed the bus into the park the following morning, despite running and only being 5 minutes late. We were wearing sports bras though, so that was good. We were also wearing thermals. Not so good. We drove into the park ourselves, with a detour since a massive rock-slide had taken out part of the road - dangerous business, nature. Mule Deer were pretty tame here as well. We saw quite a few when we were driving in and then when we were walking around. They are big silly things. No bears though, which relieved me and disappointed Laura because she has no sense. We hiked up the side of a waterfall - me tripping up everything the whole way. Noticing a theme I bowed out when the steps became wet and slippy. Laura left me her backpack and headed the rest of the way herself. After 5 minutes of getting cold and upbraiding myself for being a pussy I walked up myself, with two backpacks. TWO. BACKPACKS. I met Laura near the top when she was coming back down. I was panting, sweating, almost crying, holding out her backpack for her to take back. We headed back up to the top. VICTORY. We had victory hummus and headed back down. By the time we were near the bottom the weather had started to roll in - apparently this side of the Sierra Nevada is where they keep all of the weather. We got back to the hostel before it started snowing.
We went through all the food that had been left by other lodgers and put it on top of baked potatoes we made. Interesting meal. Then we spent the money we saved on wine and chocolate. The chocolate may have been the mistake as the cafe was crawling with kids who fixed us with terrifying solemn stares until we gave up our m&m's - or rather Laura did, that was totally not my plan for that chocolate. Apparently one of the kids was not allowed chocolate at home, so they're never sleeping again.
It snowed during the night, but was raining by the time we got up. The rain followed us across the state to Napa, where we stopped at a Gilmore Girls-esque tiny expensive town called St Helena. In fact we had sweet potato fries at somewhere called Gilwoods Cafe. We also found the world's second biggest Robert Louis Stevenson museum, which seems like an odd claim to fame. We were the only people in there and were given a private tour by a little old lady who looked at us blankly whenever we asked her a question before returning to whatever internal script she was reading from. Very odd. It would have been a beautiful place if we could have seen it through the rain. We went on to San Francisco where the rain turned into a full-on thunderstorm - driving rain, lightning, the works. Poor Laura - she managed to negotiate her way into the city across the Bay Bridge and find a parking space while we weren't able to see road markings due to them being under water. "I am that good" says Laura.
We'd been pretty much on the go for a week and by the time we got into the hostel in San Francisco we (psychologically) crashed and crashed hard. We made food and watched an episode of Supernatural before sleeping like the dead.
We felt a bit brighter this morning and walked around San Francisco in the sunshine. We headed north along Route 101 in the afternoon - over the Golden Gate bridge and through a tunnel decorated with rainbows. We have since seen GIANT redwood trees, about a million condors, more snow, clouds rising out of the forest and a rainbow that actually came to rest on the road in front of us. I have never seen the end of a rainbow before - very strange. It moved to the right by the time we hit that point in the road.
We're in Arcata, which is apparently a really nice town, but it's cold and wet outside, and we're slumped in our motel room, watching bad telly and eating dry cereal from plastic cups. Living the dream. The tap on our sink works by yanking in almost out of its socket before it'll relinquish any water. Laura came out of the bathroom to tell me that it was almost worth coming here just to see how mental people are (in regards to the tap set-up). She then disappeared back into the bathroom and I heard the tap go on and off again another 7 times. Another early night I think.