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phoebus - The Amazing Adventures of Sid - Week 1
LA, Monterey, San Francisco, Yosemite NP
Well, I've finally got around to submitting something to this forum. Sorry it took so long, I have no excuse other than extreme lazyness. I guess I'll split it into separate days and pop various pictures along with the text. The pictures will be quite small due to various people not having quick downloads but I'll make each picture a link to a larger one on a separate page (which should average around 90KB so still shouldn't take too long to download). I have high res images of all the pictures so if anyone wants any I can mail them to you. Happy reading!
Chrystler Sebring
Our car in the driveway of the Marina International Hotel, Marina Del Rey.
I flew into LA with Rich (him only just getting on the plane, with 10 minutes to go). Premium Economy was excellent and my seat was on the top deck so there was loads of space. Rich's seat was four rows in front of mine (in Upper Class) so we walked around and chatted for most of the flight. Once we arrived in LA we went to the hire car place and picked up our open-top (a Chrysler Sebring - nice car and very comfortable but drove like a soap dish, as Rich described it). We drove to the hotel that Rich had booked in advance (the Marina International), showered and went straight to Chives and Olives in Marina Del Rey to avoid falling asleep instantly. It was a nice restaurant and we sat in the garden/patio type thing and were only interrupted by the occasional outbreak of song by the staff (for one of which we were provided a song sheet - we declined to sing). Tiredness getting the better of us, we went back to the hotel and collapsed.


LA to Monterey Coast
The coastline between LA and Monterey looking south, near Big Sur.
We awoke at 6.30, checked out and drove to Monterey, somehow completely missing Carmel, perhaps due to its diminutive size. The first half of the coast road was fairly boring - all freeway - but the second half was excellent - all small winding roads hugging the coast and cliffs. I got incredibly burnt with lid on the car down all the way up the coast. Part of the journey was shrouded in fog and started to get a little chilly, but driving a cabriolet meant that it was necessary to keep the roof off, so we wound up the windows and switched
LA to Monterey Coast
The coastline between LA and Monterey looking north, near Big Sur.
on the heater. We got to Monterey at about 3-ish, checked in to the hotel and left the car with the Valet. We went out to explore the town and found the very touristy Fisherman's Wharf area, packed with clam chowder restaurants giving out free samples, next to which was a large area of rocks and floats, entirely populated by barking sea lions. Hundreds of them. Hundreds of sea lions make a lot of noise, and a lot of crap, as could be distinguished in the surrounding air. To say that the place stank would be an understatement. Afterwards we drank in a couple of 'British' pubs and ate in a very nice restaurant, although I have to say that the evening from then on is a little hazy due to the combination of jet lag and booze. Then we went to another few bars and ended up in one of the pubs - seemingly the only Karaoke bar in town - where a number of Welsh men were trying to impress upon the locals how badly they could sing. Having had enough of an ear bashing we decided to call it a night and went back to the hotel.
Rich near Golden Gate
Rich near the Golden Gate Bridge (shortly after I fell off the bike).
We woke at 7.30, went for breakfast in a cafe across the road and checked out. Drove to San Francisco and got there about 12.30. Got a little lost in Santa Cruz - in the slightly less salubrious area of town (there were Mexicans hanging around all over the place looking decidedly shifty) - and decided it was not a place we'd like to visit again. We left the car and our luggage with the valet at the hotel in San Fran, since we were early and the room wasn't ready, and went to explored town. We got on a cable car, probably one of the most
San Fran from Golden Gate
A view of San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge.
ancient vehicles I've travelled on - it makes the underground look positively safe - down the street to a bike hire shop. The cable cars are quite cool, people can sit inside or just hang on to the outside and the cars seem to have right of way over pretty much any other vehicle on the street (probably since it's so difficult for them to stop - the driver actually has to hang on the brake with his full weight to make it stop. He also mentioned to someone that the brakes are wooden, something that didn't fill me with confidence). We hired a couple of bikes (the two wheeled variety) from a completely spaced-out guy and cycled up to and across the Golden Gate Bridge, which is an excellent bridge and extremely
San Fran from Golden Gate
Another view of San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge.
high off the water (I think Rich was feeling a little vertiginous), ending up in Sausalito (a great and seemingly rich town). I managed to fall off the bike before the bridge on a gravel road and looked very stupid (I was trying to do a wicked skid - the brakes are the wrong way around here so I ended up nearly going over the handlebars. Fortunately we had bottles of water so I could wash the blood off my leg, although it couldn't remove the embarrassment caused by the laughing passers by). We got the ferry across the bay back to San Fran and dropped off the bikes. Went back to check into the hotel properly (The Stanford Court, very nice indeed - another one Rich pre-booked - which was well placed on Nob Hill (snigger) to access all areas of town fairly quickly), showered and went to a couple of bars. We ate dinner in a restaurant near a marina (I think) and went to more bars - a couple of Irish pubs and ending in Vesuvio, a cool bar with a very chatty and slightly forward waitress. Failing to get trashed and still feeling a bit jet-lagged we went back to the hotel about 11-ish and slept soundly - the beds were very comfortable with big plump pillows and duvets.
Not much happened today - just sorting stuff out and moving stuff around. We went for breakfast in Lori's Diner - just a few blocks away, a slightly modern version of an old style chrome diner - and once again ate far too much. Checked out of the hotel and I drove Richard to the airport. We ate Chinese dim sum in the airport (which was surprisingly good - the food and the airport) and I said goodbye to Rich (where he was apparently sent to the back of the huge queue despite having an Upper Class ticket - what is the world coming to?) I drove down to the Dollar car rental place to drop off the car and picked up a new one (Dodge Intrepid, too big, too expensive, but what the hell: I'm on holiday) and drove to the motel I'd booked earlier that morning (the Ramada SFO Airport in South San Francisco, or South City as it is known). Checked in and discovered there was no bar or restaurant and no Ethernet connection (something I was going to have to get used to - dialup is such a pain). Drove to a liquor store in Grand Avenue and bought some beers and Southern Comfort (I get asked for ID every time I buy booze and they always look surprised when they realise I'm 29. I suppose I should be flattered). I ended up going to the Holiday Inn across the parking lot and eating dinner in a sports bar (I say dinner, I mean chicken and chips at the bar). Afterwards I went back to my crap motel (the Holiday Inn looked much nicer) and watched a movie (Bruce Almighty - very funny) and hit the sack.

Miles covered so far - approximately 470. Money spent so far - not sure, although it's probably too much.

No pictures today I'm afraid - I don't think Rich took any and I don't as yet have a digital camera.
Checked out of the crappy motel and began the drive to Yosemite National Park. I crossed the bay over the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge - an absolutely huge bridge about 10 miles long. Apparently it's a toll bridge (it even says "begin toll area" at the beginning) but since there was nowhere to pay at the end, I suppose it wasn't. Drove through fields and fields of hills with windmills on the top, hundreds and hundreds of them. After the hills the land flattened out so there wasn't much of interest to look at, aside from the signs outside of farms offering all manner of bizarre items for sale, including "meats in the shell," whatever they may be. Hit an enormous traffic jam about 30 miles long on interstate 580 after travelling for about 2 hours, which was completely stationary for most of the time. Consequently I got into a town called Oakdale (which is about half way between San Fran and Yosemite) at about 5-ish and decided to call it a night in case there were no rooms left in Yosemite. I checked into the Best Western in Oakdale and went for a wander around town. Pretty crappy all in all - just car lots and local stores, all spread out so it took ages to get to anywhere. Getting relatively bored, I ate dinner in a place next door and went back to the room for the rest of the evening.
Checked out of the motel and started to finish the drive to Yosemite. I stayed on highway 120 for most of the journey, turning off only once to look at Tullock Lake, which was quite nice, although filled with speedboats and jet skis. Finally made it into Yosemite valley at around 3 and discovered the wonders of not booking ahead: there were no rooms at the main hotel, the Ahlamha (I think it was called, but don't quote me) and the only room available the next night was a suite at around $750! The only other place available was in Curry Village (nice name), which was a tent with no washing facilities and an outside "bathroom" (hole in the ground) which reminded me of the scene in Vacation to Walleyworld. Couple that with the fact that there were "recent bear activity" signs everywhere, I didn't really think that a small badly built shack was that inviting. Having driven around for a while and taken some pictures (Yosemite Park is quite spectacular, lots of granite domes that the roads make their way around, with no barriers and barely three feet of gravel before a sheer drop), I decided the best thing to do was to continue heading east out of the park along the 120 and find a place elsewhere. After stopping off at a place just on the outskirts of the park for the prospect of food (which looked quite frankly gross, so I didn't get any), I went south to the June Lake Loop, a highway that loops from US-395 and back again in a 40 or 50 mile road around a few large lakes. At about 8pm I at last found a motel with a vacancy (the June Lake Motel) in June Lake and checked into a room. Not bad, I suppose, for 59, quite small but it had a bed and shower so it was OK. Ate at the Sierra Inn for dinner (once again, too much food) and went back to the room as there was pretty much nothing else in the town to see.
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