USA Roadtrip (Part 2)

June 27, 2008 § 1 Comment

So we left Yellowstone and headed to Salt Lake City en route to Las Vegas. These were good times as the journey was terrific. As we dropped altitude we re-entered lands of green fields and patchy dry lands – this was the view from the back of the car:

behind

Glorious isn’t it? Worth the shot even though I had to hang out of the side of Cadilliac in order to take it. Here’s the intrepid team:

intrepid team

We had the more than serious mission to attend to of getting to Salt Lake City. Kath and I had established the system of me driving in the morning and Kath driving in the afternoon. This not only panders to the genetically proven fact that men are better with maps (in return women are better with landmarks), but it also enabled me to kick back and soak up the sun, and to have a cheeky beer whilst enjoying the ever changing landscape. I also listened to some Pink Floyd on my new funky red ipod which I’m loving.

Soon we entered the area of Salt Lake City. From my experience of Portland and Seattle I’ve become accustomed to the general beauty of a city with snowy mountains in the backdrop. SLC though has the mountains much closer and starker up against it – it’s a wonderful looking place. On the approach there we were flanked on both sides by mountain ranges and SLC sits comfortably in between them. It was a wonderful drive, and I’ve come to have a sense of regret that I did not pay much attention in Geography class at school; I found myself curious as to how these ranges were formed – there were markings and features in abundance that I didn’t quite have the smarts to make sense of.

ranges

Salt Lake City is an intriguing place. It’s very clean and spacious, and in being similar to Portland in some respects it seems very well organised and cared for. It’s also the epicentre for Mormonism – the church of the latter day saints. When walking around Kath and I popped into the Mormon complex for a look. I have concerns with religion, but with a completely open mind I found the people there thoroughly and refreshingly friendly exuding positive warmth. It was fascinating to experience a sort of microcosm of a completely different culture set in the heart of a big western city. That evening we went back there, and sat in on the Mormon choir rehearsal for their Sunday morning worldwide broadcast:

mormons

(image nicked from someone else’s blog)

saltlake

The next day we set off for Sin City – Las Vegas. On the first part of the journey we flung the car via an attractive looking lake and took a snap:

lake

I had a little bit of unfortunate luck with the drive to Las Vegas as the camera ran out of power. The drive was unbelievable. Entering the lands that the Grand Canyon occupies was breathtaking. Essentially the drive was a reduction in altitude. As we got lower the landscape around us got hotter; there was no more snow to be seen and our thermometer cranked up to 100 or so. But the scenery got more and more dramatic. Red coloured earth, eroded into canyons as far as the eye can see in staggering scale. As we drove down we twisted and turned through various rocky ranges – a drive I would recommend whole heartedly to those willing.

rocks

My last shot, doing absolutely no justice to the ride.

We arrived in Las Vegas. I can honestly say I was looking forward to Vegas. I’d won a game of poker during my time in Portland and so thought I had some smarts to handle myself at a table. When I saw however you had to spend 300 bucks or so just to get on a decent table and that they didn’t seem to play the same game that I understood, we decided we give the gambling a miss. To be honest I didn’t like Vegas and that’s an understatement. I at least thought that there would decent sidewalks to walk on and it would a pleasant experience to walk up and down the strip. But there are all kinds of people there explicitly selling girls and drugs and the place is a construction site full of pollution anyway. I feel the city represents humanity at it’s casual worst. There seem to be a lot of people that go there who don’t know what else to do other than drink and gamble. Vanity also rules here, especially poolside at the Bellagio where we were staying. Anyway enough ranting. I am grateful for the experience of going there – it added colour and variety to our already wonderful vacation.

the strip

It looks quite nice from the above shot…

atnight

Our hotel.

After a couple of nights (in which we returned the car) we got to the local airport and flew out to San Francisco. I had high expectations of this city after listening to colleagues rave about it over and over, and I can happily say it did not disapoint. Firstly the geography of it is crazy – a very much hilly place. I liked it though, it’s a city with loads of character. We ate out in the North Beach area in a smooth little Italian and then the next day I temporarily stepped out of vacation mode and visited a colleague on a project there. After a brief catch up he took me to the local ThoughtWorks office which happens to have an amazing view of the city and bay (TW actually has two offices in the same building, and I met a long lost Swedish friend there who had the unfortunate circumstance of working all day in a room with no windows – tough break…).

After that, we hit Alcatraz:

alcatraz

And I got put behind bars – dark times:

behindbars

Then we walked round the city

kathsfc

And then cycled the bridge:

bridge

And that was it. I really thought SF was a cool place. We flew from SF to Portland where we did some more shopping (we bought a load of suits at a billionth the price of what they’d be in the UK), then we went out for a meal with my old colleagues who were still there, and the next day we caught our flight back to blightly (after a quick hop to Seattle). We landed at 12.30 the day after that and by 1.30 I was in a five hour cricket match. I thought I did OK given the circumstances – a few good runs and a good laugh.

It was a terrific vacation.

ranier

This is Mnt Ranier as visible from the flight to Seattle from PDX.

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