We start the road trip at San Francisco Airport where we pick up Tom's parents. We had booked a pretty big car but it turns out not so convenient as it is too high to assist Tom's mother into the car so we switch right away and move on to our first destination.
Back during the rainy days of Easter Island, we have planned the whole trip, booking hotels in advance, checking accessibility and checking the itinerary. Well Tom did all the work and I just supported where needed. Funny enough, when we had this itinerary checked by Gary and Janete, we had a good lauch as we mostly booked in pretty "dangerous" areas apparently. So we are going to the top places with the highest crime rate it seems, let's see!
28 - 31 October: San Francisco
The part of Oakland we are at turns out quite lovely and the next day we go to visit San Francisco's landmarks together. It is a beautiful sunny day and apart from the dreadful traffic inside the city, we enjoy the ride a lot thanks to Tom's careful planning.
31 October - 2nd November: Napa and Sonoma Wine Valleys
Put Dorleans together and what do you get? Well wine tasting of course! We leave busy for the lovely wine valleys, a romantic landscape full of vineyards and gentle hills. We stay in Vallejo, another top crime rate city apparently, where we do hear in the middle of the night, cars speeding with noisy engines but apart from that, the hotel is particularly accessible and an easy ride to the wine valleys.
We have an amazing and simple DIY picnic at Rombauer accompanied by their delicious chardonnay. The setting is fantastic as they have a beautiful rose garden slopping down from the tasting area and have nice stone benches where we enjoy our sandwiches, made by our private chef, Tom.
Sylvie and I cannot follow the tasting rythm of the father and son and so we tag along for the rest of the day and admire the beautiful views of the valley and the city of Napa.
Another day, we go into Sonoma valley and enjoy the beautiful winery of Benziguer. Their garden at the entrance is fabulous with pictures about the everyday life at the winery, the animals and a few explanations about biodynamic agriculture. The wild life is pretty impressive too.
Already we are leaving the beautiful wine valleys and start towards the big national parks of California next.
2 - 4 November: Yosemite National Park
We are renting on airbnb a pretty house in the countryside, overlooking a valley so we did a bit of grocery shopping and are able to enjoy home cooked meals, a rare delicacy when you are on a road trip! The house is well located to access the parks and Tom and his parents spend a beautiful day in the impressive Yosemite National Park. I take the chance of this house to stay home and rest a bit.
4 - 5 November: Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park
We arrive at our next countryside house rental though Kings Canyon National Park, a beautiful forest ride tempered by a somewhat emptying tank. We were lucky for the last downhill part that got us safely to the next gas station! The house is called Hummingbird house, unfortunately the bathroom isn't very accessible but Henri still manages to make it happen. Otherwise, it is a beautiful house with a nice dining room with a view on the garden which is full of little feeder where a lot of hummingbirds come to feed. It is a beautiful sight!
The next day, we arrive at Sequoia park. These immense trees make us feel so small and the trail around these giants is amazing. It is cemented so we can push Sylvie's chair and we all get to enjoy a beautiful forest walk, saluting the giants and taking this out of the ordinary atmosphere, with sunlight illuminating the canope.
5 - 6 November: Road day to Mojave and Death Valley
After the park, it is a long ride to Mojave where we arrive quite late. Turns out that in the hotel we booked for the night, the bathroom of the accessible room is broken and the plumber isn't coming anytime soon. We start on a 30min ride around town stopping at every hotel to request if they have rooms available including an accessible one. Now we realize how good it was to book ahead and do the research in the first place. Finally we find a Motel 6, quite cheap with an accessible room, we are not picky, it is already quite late. As we are watching a series our the computer in our room, we hear a very loud train noise. We think, wow a late night train, so close that the walls actually shake and honking the horn like a crazy man. Two hours later, the same! And checking on the internet we realize why the cheap rate, it is like sleeping with a train coming full steam ahead at you every two hours and because it crosses a city, it makes a lot of noise to ensure no one is on the rails! After a hysterical laugh due to tiredness, we finally succumb to sleep even with caking every two hours or so for 30 seconds to hear the train pass by. The next morning, we thus start with a late and very greasy typical US breaky at the dinner in front of the hotel before starting our way to the DEATH VALLEY!
We have lunch at the last restaurant before the Death Valley, it is like the last bit of civilization before entering another world, there is a gas station, an tourism info point and a far west kind of restaurant where we have a nice lunch. Here we go. The road stretches to the infinite, it is the desert and very flat for a while before we arrive at strange sand formations everywhere. The air is so pure and the environment eerily quiet. It is like entering a world in a separate time-space bubble. We love it.
Soon though we get out on the other side of the bubble and into Pahrump where Tom and I are upgraded to an amazing room with jaccuzi and it is an overall very stay for all of us. We are recommended the best steak house in town, located inside a casino. It is indeed delicious and so we finish a beautiful day with a great meal, a near to perfect day!
7 November: Riding across 3 states and into Utah
The next day we have a long road across 3 states ahead of us, we leave Pahrump and drive to the outskirts of Las Vegas, we get a glimpse of the crazy city but soon we are off towards a little bit of road through Arizona. We stop over a little place to grab some food, it turns out to be quite a healthy fast food, with nice vegetable and fruit juices. From Arizona, we see a piece of road going through rocky formations, it feels like driving through a tunnel and coming out on the other end and into Utah.
We head for Cedar City where we have a very nice Mexican dinner and after this long road head off nicely into sleep.
8 November: Bryce Canyon, the height of the trip
The next day, the air is fresh and crisp and we drive through the Cedar Breaks National Monument where we stop in awe of the landscape for an inpromptue visite. Driving through an amazing red rock arch, we finally arrive to Bryce Canyon. It is breathtaking and we enjoy the beautiful landscape, spotting the little squirrels hanging out around the parking lot and getting a speed ticket driving to the other end of the park for more views.
In the evening we are staying at Bryce, into a giant chalet like hotel which must feel so cozy in winter with all this beautiful wood beams. We dress up and take a picture dressed as in a Far West movie for the souvenir and enjoy a memorable dinner in a good happy atmosphere.
9 - 11 November: Last Vegas Baby!
We head back to Las Vegas the same way we came. The hotel we chose this time is a big casino at the edge of the city. The idea is to get the Las Vegas experience without the crazy rhythm that reigns in the city. The Aliante Hotel and Casino provides just that and also an accessible pool where we all get to have a good time together.
Of course we go through the Casino where we get a bit of "free money" to play and I even end up winning about 20 dollars which we then lose again of course. It is noisy and clinky and full of agressive lights contrasting with the heavily carpeted floors. A strange mix that reeks of decadence and hopelessness when you watch elderly people chained to their game machine with empty eyes, throwing coins in and pressing the buttons. To be honest, I don't see the appeal in such games. Poker yes. Even betting games such as the Roulette are more fun to play in my opinion.
We also spend an evening visiting the Strip. It is fake everywhere and so impressive all the same! We go to watch a crazy show as one should do when in Vegas which we all come out wide eyed with wonders and have excellent meals as well.
Overall it is a pretty nice experience altough we are relieved to leave the noisiness and endless activity of the city for the Mojave desert.
11 - 13 November: Palm Springs
We go through the Mojave National to Amboy and then through to Palm Springs. The day is filled with dusty roads and the emptiness and quietness surrounding the cactus trees. After all the fuss of Vegas, it is a welcome sight. We stop at Amboy for coffee and for some pictures of the mythical Route 66.
We arrive in Palm Springs and enjoy a very nice dinner in a quiet and cosy part of the town. There are little lights suspended in the street, giving out a romantic and warm feeling to the place. After the big natural spaces of Utah and the crazyness of the cities, it feels like a comfy little nest.
The next day, we head off to a nearby "western" town which used to be a set for movies and have fun visiting the "dirty old town" before heading back to Desert Hot Springs where we stay at a beautiful hotel, with an accessible pool and an impossible "1001 nights" fairytale like decorum. Henri and Sylvie get to enjoy a relaxing massage which completes a very nice experience of the place.
We leave the special quality of silence that fills the desert lands to dive deep into the tentacular city of Los Angeles.
13 - 16 November: Los Angeles
It is not an especially great feeling to arrive in the huge traffic jam that welcomes us into the city business center, tall buildings everywhere cutting the horizon, cars everywhere and the sun shining hard on everything.
However, we manage within this crazy little world in itself to have a really good time. We visit altogether the Warner Bros Studios where we all get to recognized little pieces of famous TV shows. We enjoy delicious meals, in particular a brazilian meat place that is completely decadent with all you can eat meat delicious cooked and served at your table, sliced from the picanhas. The visit to the extraordinary museum, the Getty Center, is an instant switch off the business of the city, high lands, beautiful structures shining in the light, it feels like a space ship enclosed in a quiet and light bubble landed there on the top of the hill.
Even with the nice experiences, we are happy to continue onwards to the last leg of our trip together, the way back to SF by the coast!
16 - 18 November: LA to SF by the Coast
Already it feels like the end of the trip, we enjoy our last days altogether. It has been a long road, many kilometers and so many amazing beautiful things we saw together. The energy of the crew is great and fun and captain Tom continues to guide us through the itinerary he planned masterfully for us.
From LA, we take a peak at the famous Malibu beach and get a glimpse of the LA glamour as a goodbye sight. The road is quite nice, the weather too. We reach Santa Barbara which we all enjoy a lot, this little city is a welcome relief from the gigantic LA. It is a romantic and rich city, with a relaxed atmosphere. We head off to Carmel by the sea and before, we get to enjoy the sight of a colony of young seals basking in the sunlight. Carmel is also charming and we have a really good meal facing the ocean and watching the sea otters! I've been wanting to see those since Vancouver Island, and finally, we meet them. Beautiful and playful little animals, they stay in the water and are not so shy so we get to see plenty of them!
18 - 19 November: Back to friends and goodbye to the family
We end the trip with Tom's parents by a beautiful and warm finish at Janete and Gary's place! We are lucky to have such good friends and we are invited at their place with Tom's parents for a great dinner! Lots of smiles and friendly warmth as well as interesting conversations, it is a beautiful evening to soften the nostalgy that always settles after such a great journey together!
The next day, we bring Henri and Sylvie back to the airport and say goodbye and see you soon!