We start from Gainesville in the afternoon - a lazy drive to Tampa International Airport. Arrive at Los Angeles after a four and half hour largely uneventful "Song" flight. This is the first time I was flying Song , and I loved there little seat back TV's. Los Angeles from above looks simply awesome - lights spread as far as one can see. The unbelievably cheap rental car turned out to be a brand new PT Cruiser - it was weird driving a vintage looking new car! We finally reached Riverside well past midnight.
On our way to Los Angeles stopped briefly at Ontario Mall - and girls just loved the outlet stores - it was tough getting them back on the road! Anyway after a sumptuous lunch at a Thai place on Sunset Boulevard , drove along the road , passing the oh so famous Hollywood sign and Beverly hills. Its a nice little stretch - starting from glitzy Hollywood -thorough the city to almost into the Pacific. Unfortunately that's all we saw in LA.
Started early from Riverside for Las Vegas. Its drive mostly through hilly deserts and occasional elevations. And just like that the whole city opens up - not to forget the tempting billboards popping up everywhere! We found an amazingly cheap deal in the "tallest" hotel in the city - in fact later I learned that "Stratosphere" is the tallest building in the west of Mississippi.The first look at the Casino was definitely intimidating - before we figured out its the same everywhere. Las Vegas is effectively one long road - called the "strip" , with imposing structures lining up on either side. Most of those hotels have impressive architecture,a huge casino and surprisingly affordable restaurants, not forgetting the "shows" which is an integral part of Las Vegas experience. We started our evening with the Fremont Street Experience - which is a dazzling display of light and sound. Then we had time to enjoy the stunning interiors of the Venetian , watch the explosion of fire at Mirage , climb up the half size replica of the Eiffel tower at Paris and see the wonderful musical fountains at Bellegaio before calling it a day.
From Las Vegas , we started for Grand canyon. We did not really stop at Hoover Dam , drove pretty fast through the deserts to reach the national park just around sunset time. We checked in the rustic Maswik lodge and had dinner at Bright Angel restaurant.
An early start to the day to watch sunrise at Hopi point. While not surreal - it was an experience nevertheless. Spent the rest of the day hopping from one vista point to another - culminating in clicking the sunset pictures again at Hopi. While everyone has a fair idea of what Grand canyon actually is - you have to be see it to appreciate the sheer depth and vastness of the structures formed by natural erosion and Colorado river. After having a nice dinner at Yavapai, drove up to Kingman in Arizona.
Kingman is a little town on the historic route 66. It takes just over an hour to reach Las Vegas from there. That was our last night at Vegas - and what would be the better way than to watch a "show'? Searching for half price tickets , we managed to grab ones for "La Femme" in MGM - turned out to be pretty "entertaining". We also had time to enjoy the inside of magnificent Mandalay Bay and generally the lights all around us.
Drove back to Riverside in which was otherwise a pretty uneventful day.
Started late for San Francisco - a very boring drive through the freeway.
Like LA before ,it was the only day we had in SFO. Started with the predictable Golden Gate Bridge (it looks pretty bland red in day time though!) - had a great seafood lunch at Fisherman's Wharf and spent the evening in Pier 39. San Francisco should be a drivers nightmare - most streets are one way with nasty slopes - sometimes going up or down almost vertically. I dont know how they parallel park on those places!
Not surprisingly , this turned out to be our longest day! Started pretty early in the morning - hit the Pacific Coast Highway at Santa Cruz. Till Monterey nothing seemed to happen - but once we crossed the little town - the landscape started to change dramatically. It was wild Pacific on one side with steep hill on the other side - the road itself was full of sharp curves and hairpin bends. I always heard about this drive - but unlike "Road Rash" the margin for error is very less. Initially we stopped at every scenic vista point - appreciating the wild beauty - but had to hurry up a bit at the latter part. It continues like that till San Simeon - we barely had daylight that long - the sunset was magnificent too. Eventually reached LA at night - before taking the red eye to Tampa.
Link for the Photos -
I had a tough time selecting which pictures to upload from the thousands we have taken!
Los Angeles and Pacific Coast Highway
Las Vegas, Grand Canyon (yet uncaptioned) and San Francisco
And if you would rather look at us with those wonderful places forming the background, those pictures are