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USA Holiday 1999

Looking under Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

In October 1999, Penny and John went on holiday to California and the American West. This was a two week fly/drive visit, through Virgin Airways. Penny's daily diary is shown below, together with some photos of the trip. The photos are snapshots using an APS Cannon Ixus camera, or still frames from a video shot on a JVC digital camcorder. There are several pictures for most days, so CLICK ON THE DAY to see them.

SATURDAY 2 October Pictures from todayHEATHROW TO LOS ANGELES

Suzie and Jessica drove us up to London Heathrow Airport for 9 o' clock in the morning. Jessica enjoyed seeing the planes and having a Macdonald's! We flew off at midday in glorious sunshine, which made the flight more enjoyable seeing the sights below. We flew over northern England and Ireland, then Greenland which was mountainous and covered in snow, over the Atlantic to Newfoundland then Canada to Montana over the Rockies, the Columbian Plateau, Reno, Yosemite, then landed in Los Angeles. On arrival we picked up our car, a Plymouth Voyager (Brilliant). We stayed in Anaheim near Disneyland. We arrived at the hotel at 6.30 (2.30 at night to us!) we had to get our body clocks right so went down to have dinner and went to bed about 9 o'clock exhausted.


After breakfast we walked two blocks and visited the Crystal Cathedral, which is built with glass - it's amazing. Unfortunately, it was Sunday so we could not enter as there was a service being held. After this we drove to the North side of LA to visit Universal Studios. One of the best areas was the 'Terminator', which was a 3-D effect film. There was a silver monster, similar to an octopus and the tentacles came out and it looked (through your 3-D glasses) that it was about to hit your nose, just amazing. We then visited the Back Draft lot, which showed how some of the fire scenes were made, off then to childish things; we rode on ET bikes!

MONDAY 4 OctoberPictures from todayQUEEN MARY, LONG BEACH

We left Anaheim early and drove to Long Beach and visited the Queen Mary. This liner used to leave the docks in Southampton on its voyages to New York. Southampton was its home port and we used to see it many times in dock, so this was very interesting to John and me. We drove to Palm Springs making a detour down the coast, Laguna Beach to Dana Point and then northeast over the Elsinore Mountains. The temperature certainly rose and stepping out the car at the hotel was like walking into a cooker!! John was fascinated with the windmills that surround Palm Springs (and also San Francisco).

TUESDAY 5 OctoberPictures from todayPALM SPRINGS

After eating breakfast outside at a café in the town centre (only the English would prefer to eat in the heat of the morning sun than sit inside in the air conditioning), we then visited the Museum, followed by a trip on the Scenic Tramway. This took us high above the desert floor about 8000ft. We had superb views, on the one side was desert and mountains and the other was woodland. After this we set off for Phoenix. This road was nearly straight from Palm Springs all the way to Phoenix. Here we stayed overnight at Scottsdale.

WEDNESDAY 6 OctoberPictures from todayMONTEZUMA / SEDONA

Visited a shopping mall at Scottsdale and had breakfast there, unfortunately most of the shops didn't open till 10 o'clock and we needed to be on our way. Just north of here we visited an old town called Rawhide and sat on some wagons, shown in the photo. We travelled north, stopping at Montezuma Castle National Monument. This was some dwellings cut out of the cliffs by the Indians. Next was a quick stop for apple pie and a drink at Sedona. We would have liked to stay here longer but were already an hour or so late in our schedule. I think we will have to come back here and see the wonderful shaped red rocks again.
Anyway, off now to the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately we just missed the sunset so had a meal and off to bed early ready for an early morning.

THURSDAY 7 OctoberPictures from todayGRAND CANYON

Up at 6 o'clock and out to the car to find that there was a frost. We drove down to the edge of the canyon and watched the sun rise. It was freezing cold and as the sun rose, it was followed by a breeze which vanished as soon as the sun was up. We spent some time taking photos and videoing and by now it was getting quite warm and we returned to the hotel for breakfast. We returned to the Grand Canyon village where we parked up and caught a bus which drove west to different view points where you could get out and catch the later bus which followed about ten minutes behind. We could also have walked but didn't have that much time as we had to be at the airport for our planned helicopter ride over the canyon. This experience was incredible. I was lucky to be picked to sit in the front seat, which of course was what I wanted. The only problem was the sun was too low in the sky and kept getting in our eyes. The next time we visit we would like to go down to the floor of the Canyon and get out and explore. After the flight we returned to get a good spot to view the sunset. I couldn't believe the places that some idiots tried to sit. One slip and they would be dead, and we would have had to watch them fall. We had a good laugh with the people around us and decided we could make some money on the good photographs that we could provide the newspapers with! That evening when we got back we went to the Imax theatre. This was the most incredible experience. You fly like a bird over rocky formations down to the river, along the river over the rapids and swoop up again. The screen itself was about four times larger than a cinema screen. I believe we will be having a similar theatre in a town nearby us. I can't wait for it to open - I will be first in the queue.

FRIDAY 8 OctoberPictures from todayPAGE / BRYCE CANYON

Again we were up at 6.00 to see the sunrise (again freezing cold). After breakfast we travelled along the east drive, unfortunately, we got stopped by a policeman with no sense of humour! He did eventually let us go, after giving us a lecture on going over the speed limit! We then entered the Navajo Indian Reservation, and travelled north to Page. We stopped for a McDonald's and then visited the Glenn Canyon Dam at the western side of Lake Powell. Again we were running an hour late and entered the state of Utah and had to change our clocks to an hour ahead which now made us two hours late! We drove west and then north on route 89 to state route 12, which is a scenic byway. On entering this road we passed through two arches made of red rock and on to Bryce Canyon. We arrived just in time to see the setting sun. The colours were amazing; they ranged from white to deep pink and brown to a rust colour. The shapes were like stalagmites reaching from the floor of the canyon upwards. These were called hoodoos.

SATURDAY 9 OctoberPictures from todayZION CANYON / LAS VEGAS

Another sunrise!! Still freezing cold. We drove and walked up to 8000 ft and also walked part way down into the canyon. By now the sun was shinning and again the canyon looked different in colour. Unfortunately we had to move on south and west to Las Vegas via Zion Canyon. This canyon was so different. The rock was granite. To enter the canyon we had to drive through a mile long tunnel carved out of the mountainside. There were a few portholes through which you could view the valley. The traffic was heavy today, as it was Columbus Day weekend. We saw a few climbers on the face of a mountain; they looked like dots on the mountain. Next stop was 'Circus Circus' our hotel at Las Vegas. We left our hotel at around six in the evening to walk the strip. This was a foolish thing to do; we should have caught a taxi to take us to the more exciting hotels. I thought the 'Venician Hotel' was the best (see picture). On the second floor of the hotel it had a canal running though the streets of shops. There were even gondolas taking people to different shopping malls. (see picture) The ceiling was made to look like the sky and this changed to make it seem different times of the day. The Eiffel Tower also had streets and the sky effect in its "Paris" hotel. The MGM Hotel had two beautiful lions that played football with the keeper. We also went into the building shaped to look like a Coca-Cola bottle; it was full of coke merchandise, expensive! By midnight our feet couldn't take it any longer so we took a taxi back to the hotel and fell into bed.

SUNDAY 10 OctoberPictures from todayDEATH VALLEY

Death Valley was next and wasn't it hot, dry and barren. There was an area, which was like a desert, just sand dunes. There seemed to be nothing growing at all. Also in Death Valley is the lowest point in the USA. We travelled on till we reached the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to a town called Lone Pine. From here we could see Mount Whitney 14.494 ft high and the highest point on the American mainland.

MONDAY 11 OctoberPictures from todayMONO LAKE / YOSEMITE

Drove north to Mono Lake which had weird things growing up in it, they were called 'Tufa' and formed from salt deposits.
This was also an area of old volcanos. We turned west here to go through Tioga Pass, which took us to Yosemite National Park. This again was beautiful. It was a shame that it hadn't rained a few days before as all but one waterfall was dry. Again there were two tunnels to go through both going and coming out of Yosemite. The mountains just towered above us we could have spent more time just sitting looking at the enormity of it all. Fresno was our next call where our hotel awaited us.

TUESDAY 12 OctoberPictures from todayKINGS CANYON

We lost about half an hour trying to get out of Fresno. So I threw away the maps and went with my instincts! We seemed to drive higher and higher until we looked back at Fresno and saw we were the highest thing around. We eventually arrived at Kings Canyon, where we hoped to see the General Grant tree, which is the second largest Redwood in the world. There was also a fallen tree, which was so large you could walk through it, which we did. Kings Canyon itself was spectacular, with huge cliffs around us, and glorious viewpoints, including waterfalls. Again we were very late and had to return to Fresno and on to San Francisco. We arrived on the outskirts at dusk and saw all the wind machines on the hills, amazing sight, well John thought so. By the time we reached the Bay Bridge it was dark and we were faced with eight lanes of traffic and didn't know which lane to be in. Here we panicked but somehow managed to get to our hotel in China Town. The view was great (even though it was dark) from the bedroom window. We looked forward to the next day to video it.

WEDNESDAY 13 OctoberPictures from todaySAN FRANCISCO

The view was vanishing with the fog coming in from the sea. We had breakfast delivered to our room as we had to be up early for the coach which was picking us up to take us to the starting point of our 3 hour sightseeing tour. I don't think the driver stopped talking for more than a minute during the whole trip! He drove us to the Golden Gate Bridge, which was covered in fog, with just the tops of the span showing. This made a great photo. He eventually dropped us off at Fisherman's Wharf where we boarded a boat to Alcatraz Island. We were given earphones each and could listen to the history as we walked around. They showed you the cells of 'Bird Man' and the cells where the three men escaped. On return to the mainland, we visited Fisherman's Wharf. There were lots of interesting shops but most exciting were the seals basking on the piers. We spent ages just watching a pair of males trying to claim the females, which were ignoring them! We decided we would catch a cable car tram to take us back up to China town. The first stop had a mile long queue so we walked to another stop which wasn't much shorter. The other passengers were really enjoying themselves and we all had a good laugh. We got off at Macey's and did some shopping for the kids back home. Eventually found our way back to China Town and had a very expensive dinner there.

THURSDAY 14 OctoberPictures from todaySAN FRANCISCO / MORRO BAY

Drove to the Golden Gate Bridge to see it without fog! Visited the fort beneath it and took loads of video and photos. Next was to find the coast road and drive south. Stopped at Monterey and walked up the Wharf picked up some sandwiches for our lunch and asked how long it will take us to drive down to Morro Bay. We were advised not to take the coast road as the fog was coming in, so what did we do? Yes, we took the coast road! It was a shame the weather was not better as it would have been a lovely drive. As we neared Morro Bay, we noticed the beach was covered with seals. We stopped the car and walked over the fields to the edge of the beach. There were loads of them all tightly lying together like sardines in a can! We watched a magnificent sunset and then travelled a few miles down the road and found our hotel for the night. This one was far more luxurious than all the others were.

FRIDAY 15 OctoberPictures from todaySOLVANG / VENTURA

Unfortunately, it started as another dull and misty day. We walked though the small town and bought Jessica a kite and then returned to the car for the drive to Ventura. Halfway, we visited a town called Solvang. Danish people founded this town. They have kept it looking traditionally Danish. It is a very attractive town with the windmills and beamed houses. Even the people dress up in their original costumes. They do make lovely pastries and coffee. We arrived at our Ventura hotel at the same time as a coach load of tourists so we decided to take a walk on the beach. This night was to be our last intake of American burgers. We were feeling a little depressed thinking our holiday was over and also excited at coming home to see the children; it's amazing how you can miss Jessica so much.

SATURDAY 16 OctoberPictures from todayGRIFFITH PARK, LA / HOME

This morning we drove to Los Angeles and visited Griffith Park. This is high above Hollywood and from it you can see the great Hollywood sign on the side of the hill. At the very top is an observatory, which we walked around, it had splendid views of L.A. We sat and took in the sights and the sun for some time, as we didn't have to be at the airport till 2.30pm. When we arrived back to the car, three fire engines were in the carpark. They looked immaculate. We had a peep inside the cabs and saw an array of computers. We drove down to L.A. and eventually found the Car Rental, where we returned the car and boarded a bus to LAX Airport. The journey home wasn't so exciting as it got dark quite quickly, and so nothing to do but watch films! Sadly, the end of a wonderful holiday. We can't wait to come back. John is already planning the next (in his head at the moment) to Canyonlands, the Arches, Capitol Reef and Mesa Verde National Parks, visiting Utah and Colorado. As you can see, we preferred the open spaces rather than the cities.

The return trip was made im May 2002 and starting from Las Vegas, we had over two weeks to tour the American South West / Grand Circle. This trip we planned ourselves, to our own itinerary.

If you have read so far, I hope you have enjoyed this accounrt of our holiday and I thank you for your patience and fortitude!

Why not now have a look at what we got up to on our May 2002 holiday to the American South West.



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