Well, a bit off piste this one but I figure all work and no play might make Jack a dull boy. Or me, Andrew.
Having recently resigned from work and having the summer off, it was time to treat myself. The new job starts in early September and having worked solidly for xxxx years (I couldn’t bring myself to write the exact figure; it’s frightening!), I am welcoming the chance to recharge. So no daily running to work over the summer. My exercise plans will involve regular local runs, numerous British Military Fitness visits and some Hot Yoga to iron out the wrinkles.
But before all that it was time for some serious down time and when the chance for a California road trip with my flatmate arose, we were packing quicker than a New York cabbie honks at a green light.
The trip started in Las Vegas with a couple of nights to let some steam off! Have you been there?! Writing about Vegas would require an essay in its own right, but I’d put it in the upper echelons of man made wonders of the world. Sorry, it might not have the history and culture of the traditional wonders, but as an impressive destination and architectural feat it will assault your senses in a major way. And that’s before the nightlife!
The larger hotels containing all the gaming machines might take 15 minutes to walk from one side to the other and are villages in their own rights: they are utterly impressive. And as one local cabbie told us: “remember in Vegas, there ain’t no one to send you to bed”. He had a point! So after a few late nights around the roulette tables we were off on the long drive from Nevada and around California.
Picking up our red Mustang (it is an American road trip after all!), we set off towards Death Valley in temperatures of 110f. With the roof down. Ok, so not clever, but we’ve hardly had the weather here in Blighty for that kind of caper have we? Cue weird looks from locals safely wrapped up in the cold blanket of their uber efficient ice buckets of an air conditioning system. Probably in the 1200+ miles we did over the week we saw 3 other cars with ‘tops off’. But what the heck!
Coming from London its easy to think there’s little in the modern world to shock, but we knew we were in deepest America when driving past eye opening establishments in Death Valley such as the (presumably aptly named?) “Shady Lady”. We really had no idea these places existed in anywhere but the film sets. Google it if intrigued!
To the outsider, I knew what this part of the USA looks like: a film set. Do you remember CHiPS tv show from the 1980s?!
So we settled on our first night of relaxation in a minor city called Bishop. A chance to recharge, get a proper night sleep and plan the rest of the trip ahead of us. Speaking with locals, we were advised to head to Mammoth Lakes from where we could plan our tour of Yosemite National Park . Which it transpires is like the Lake District on hardcore steroids.
Mammoth Lakes is a famous US ski resort which also doubles up as an outdoor centre in the summer. Plenty of mountain biking and hiking, and we would use it to tour Yosemite which gets fully booked upto 6 months in advance. Have you watched the Lord of The Rings trilogy? Well that’s what the scenery is like. Middle Earth. Nothing like you can imagine from good old Blighty. Huge waterfalls, enormous peaks, giant Sequoia trees (Redwoods) and lush green valleys and pastures. And Black bears!
We used this part of the trip to get some proper exercise in after the assault on Vegas. A day trip to the top of Yosemite falls was planned. Yosemite falls is the highest waterfall in North America and we were told would take 6-8 hours to get up and down. Errmm, 3 hours later we’d done it, but perhaps we didnt stop and take in the views as much as we should. But we felt we needed to break a sweat, so thats what we did.
Day 2 we planned a round 5km trail run involving 2000 mtrs of ascent and descent. Errmm, this proved quite tough at 9000 mtr altitude, but it was good to open the lungs and work off some of the massive American portions! The afternoon involved a 2 hour Kayak in a local lake. After falling in within 2 minutes and the cloud coming over dropping temperatures down to British conditions, we were back on the shore and ready for a good feed.
From Mammoth it was a drive off to the coast were we settled at Laguna Beach. This really was an interesting town; mixed with the botox set from LA were the occasional rancher and a good smattering of surf dudes. A real eclectic bunch. So we past the time as a local might, wandering up and down the strip, eating leisurely lunches at some eye catching beach view restaurants and sharing some cold beers in the evening with local types around ‘Cheers’ type bars.
Sadly the trip was over and aside a long drive and one more night back in Vegas we were done. A much needed trip away from the headaches and stresses the London and Britain seems to be fogged up in at the moment and back to another few weeks off work. In which to run and lift weights and assault British Military Fitness to wear off some of those massive portions that the Americans deliver so well!