Not long after returning to work after a recent trip around the former Yogoslavia, I thought to myself as I stared out the window that 'if I didn't do it now, I never would....' So after making the tough decision to leave a good job behind, to explore the world on an open ended trip, the planning, bookings, logistics, sorting what I'd need, co-ordinating with others and packing up my life ensured...
Not surprisingly due to basically working up until a few days before I left, it meant a hectic last week in New Zealand, so finally getting away to start my intrepid travelling was somewhat of a relief; despite the unsettling nature of resigning and leaving everything behind all in the space of five odd days... but as the French author André Gide once said;
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless
he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”
California represented the starting point of our intrepid journey across the United States – Coast to Coast - that two friends and I embarked on in the spring of 2008 after arriving from New Zealand into LAX. After meeting up with my two travelling buddies, Marcus and Brendon, the first few days consisted of travelling around Los Angles, sightseeing and setting ourselves up for the next seven weeks in the States.
After a few days based at a hostel near Hollywood we took a trip out to stay with Marcus’ friend in Ojai (which is some 80 miles from central LA along the coast to Santa Barbara) for three nights. It was great to get out of the city and into a smaller town amongst the mountains. We even managed a mountain run one day and a marathon length cycle ride another as well as a night out in Santa Barbara. As an aside, the weather in California in April seems perfect for travelling too, it’s sunny and warm yet not too stifling hot – not a threatening cloud in sight! Although be warned about the static shocks we are constantly getting due to the relatively dry air…
Marcus’ friend in Ojai (just NW of Los Angles) lent us his vehicle to get around and hunt for a vehicle of our own. As mentioned we did find one through the local 'trade and exchange' type website; a Dodge Van which is perfect for our 9,000km road trip! Plenty of room for three or four people to relax while travelling, even enough to allow us to sleep while exploring remote areas far from the towns. In case you are wondering it cost us $1,600 USD. Then due to the fact that insurance is compulsory in California we had to sort that (the van we brought though Craigslist and insurance through Geico incidentally). That represented some annoying bureaucratic administration – buying a vehicle in a foreign country – but well worth the effort for the months of intrepid travelling that followed.
From where we were staying in Ojai, on the Californian west coast, we began our epic Coast to Coast journey with the first leg which was a seven hour drive to San Francisco and spent a day exploring the city; riding trams, Pier 39 wharf area, Mt Davidson Vista Point and of course the Golden Gate Bridge. It was noticeably colder in San Francisco than in Los Angles, so we were all keen to head inland to the warmer spots, but before we could reach the warmth of the inland deserts such as Death Valley, we would visit Yosemite National Park first, then Lake Tahoe to visit a friend from New Zealand who was a ski instructor at Squaw Valley, a ski resort near Tahoe city.