California USA Visiting LA, LV, SF, and National Parks
Hi there. Here is a small story about our great travel in California.
If you like to see more (route, video etc) go to Life Is Joy - Home
California: GoldenState of the USA
Route 66, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Hollywood, San Francisco, Las Vegas, all names that will let you dream away. Add a good motorcycle and you have a great holiday.
After a smooth flight of 10 hours we get to the extra secured customs in San Francisco. After nearly an hour waiting, we get an iris scan and our finger prints are recorded electronically. Fortunately we are not (yet) wanted and we are free to travel.
We take the BART subway to downtown and find a nice hotel at Powel Street. After a good night's sleep, we walk to the hire station, were we find a nearly new BMW R1200GS and R1200R. We repack our backpacks to the suitcases and drive after some formalities to the east.
Riding in California is relaxed also because of the perfect traffic rule: "Stay in your own lane." In short, this rule means that you can overtake each other left and right, giving a much more relaxed traffic flow. A rule that should be imported in Europe directly.
We drive through the delta highway to the east and dining at Denny's dinner, one of the largest family restaurants in America. We conclude the day with a delicious cappuccino on a terrace at Starbucks, the largest coffee chain in the world.
We start the day with a hearty American breakfast with pancakes, eggs and bacon we drive 200 km boring straight road, but just before the town Melon we are surprised with a beautiful winding and hilly landscape. Soon we drive into the Yosemite National Park (NP) and inform at the park station for a hotel or motel. The only thing free would be a room in the historic Wawone hotel, where a night's sleep cost $ 210. We then decide to sleep outside the park and after 10 km we found a fully furnished Yurt tent at the YosemiteLakes campground. Officially a Yurt is a round Nomads tent from central Asia that can be build within a half hour. The construction of our Yurt was clearly longer since we have all imaginable luxury, as a TV, microwave, refrigerator and even a air conditioning. We enjoy a BBQ meal with a beautiful red sunset and a clear unpolluted sky.
The next day we drive in a queue (each year Yosemite gets 3.5 million visitors!) to Yosemite Valley, which since 1984 is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. The park is 95% pure wilderness and is fames for the many black bears. At the first stop we directly get a visit of a bear, which apparently smells the cookies in our backpack. Fortunately, there is a park ranger who is chasing the bear by waving and hard calling. When we start driving again, Niek seams to have a flat tire. In a petrol station we inform for a good tire shop, but the first shop seems to be three days driving in Las Vegas. Fortunately we have a tire repair kit and after more than half an hour the tire seems to be closed.
The next attraction in the park is the Tioga pass, at 3300 meters height the highest we ever done. The climb is almost straight and you can count the hairpin bends on one hand. Once on top of the pass the views are impressive, with rocks and vistas as we know in Europe from the Alps and the Dolomites. Big difference is that here at 3300 meters, it is still 20 degrees Celsius.
We spend the night in Lee Vining at the Mono Lake, known for its high concentration of salt. This is caused by a lack of connection to the open sea, which means the water only can leave by evaporation. At this moment there is in the MonoLake already five times more salt than in the sea. We enjoy the quiet roads, great views and delicious cappuccino in-between by Starbucks. At one of the many fuel stops, we get to talk to a friendly American who like to know everything about our California-trip and motorbike driving in Europe. He also drives intensive motorbike and gives his business card with the remark that we can call him day and night for help. His business card is indicating that he is the local sheriff. Always good to have such friends .....
After a night in Lone Pine we leave at sunrise (5:00 am) to the second national park in this trip. The second hottest place on Earth: Death Valley. After a number of beautiful mountain passes, with only rocks, pebbles and sand, we are at the beginning of the actual valley. Right on the edge is the Panamint Spring Resort, a nice campground with a few hotel rooms, probably the best stay for visiting Death Valley. We take 5 bottles of water and throw the tank full again. After an hour drive we reach Stove Pipe Wells, where impressive large sand dunes stretched along the road. Shortly after that we arrive at bathwaterBasin, the lowest point of America, 86 meters below sea level.
Here is also a huge salt plain and as far as you can look, you only see a big white salt plain. The temperature, according to the board computer of the GS, is now up to 118 ° Fahrenheit or 48 ° Celsius! Even the riding wind is so hot, that the helmet should kept closed to be able to breathe. We find it so unique and beautiful that we decide to take the longest route on the south side to exit Death Valley. There is not one tree or rock with a shadow in sight, so the drinking stops are in the middle of the road in the full sun. After more than two hours not seeing one car, only having empty drinking bottles and a bright burning light of the petrol gauge, we are very relieved when we return the occupied world.
The next day we see from a high mountain pass Las Vegas10 miles away in the middle of the desert. From this distance it looks like a toy town in a big sandbox. We visit the local BMW dealer and ask a new tire to be mounted on Niek’s bike. It is nice to see that there is little difference between American and European BMW dealers. The same workshop, the same store layout, the same clothing and of course the same motorbikes.
We take a room in one of the largest hotels of Las Vegas, namely the Luxor hotel, with more than 4400 rooms! We wash our clothes in one of the major launderettes and admire the huge buildings and hotels on The Strip. Apart from buildings like the EiffelTower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Egyptian pyramids, you will find for example reconstructed cities like New York, including the Statue of Liberty and the EmpireState Building.
After Las Vegas we drive over the impressive Hoover Dam (with a web of 200 meters thick!) next to Lake Mead to the west side of the Grand Canyon. Here is since 2007 the Skywalk, a transparent glass balcony 20 meters over the Grand Canyon, where you see the Colorado river 1200 meters below your feeds. The attraction is not completely ready according to the unpaved access road of 25 kilometers and construction buildings around the glass balcony. The view is so breathtakingly beautiful that you quickly forget. The Colorado River is a small indent at the bottom of the Canyon and the magnificent red rocks are getting all colours of the rainbow with the right sunshine. Left and right you see birds hanging in the thermals of hot air and the silence is deafening. The beauty of this place is that it is much quieter than the more familiar North and South Rim.
We spend the night as the only guest in a small motel just outside the park and enjoy again the silence and the feeling of being alone on the world.
One houre of highway driving and then we leave the Mojave desert and drive on to the historic Route 66, to the ghost town of Amboy. In the middle of the desert, we stop at Roy's hotel and gas station. This place was once very important for all passengers on the old Route 66 and was known for the amazing burgers. It is now a deserted museum were outside an ex-sheriff with a big gun is keeping a eye on the few visitors. The man tells that he had been sheriff in LA and now enjoys the calmness of the desert. The only things happening over here are people who are bitten by rattlesnakes or dead corpses found, who are most likely dumped in the dessert by the underworld of LA. Welcome to the wild wild west.
After a few hours dry and flat desert, we arrive at the Joshua Tree National Park where the Colorado Desert connect to the Mojave Desert. The flat desert changed here in a beautiful hilly landscape, with great curves and finally some vegetation and beautiful rocks. We do not see the expected large Joshua trees, which seems to be on the other side of the park…..
When we exit the quiet park on the south side, we directly get on the busy Interstate 10 toward Los Angeles. After 2 hours we exit the highway just above LA to the AngelesNational Forest.
Here is one of the most beautiful mountain roads of California: Angeles Crest Highway. The road is only 100 km long, but there is not one straight road and the road climbs to 2409 meters altitude. Unfortunately the road is closed for maintenance, but we take a nice diversion from Palmdale to Hollywood LA. In Hollywood we visit off course the Walk of Fame and make a picture of the big Hollywood Sign, but the best is our ride on Mulholland Drive. This road passes through Hollywood and Beverly Hills and keeps you surprised by the huge houses where all the movie stars live.
If we leave LA we realise how huge this city of 3.8 million inhabitants is. After more than an hour driving between the traffic queue, we arrive at the coast to PismoBeach. Here is one of the most beautiful coastal roads of the world, a piece of Highway 1, also called the Pacific Coast Highway.
The road is tight between the sea on the left side and rocks and mountains on the other side. Just after Cambria we are treated to a herd of wild elephant seals playing on the beach and seemingly not be impressed by our motorbikes. From MontereyBay, we turn inland and drive through the beautiful MountMadonnaCountyPark to Oakland, where we find a hotel for the last days.
We ride the motorbikes through the most winding streets of the world, namely the Lombard Street in San Francisco. Total length only 200 meters, but 8 hairpin turns and an increase of more than 20%. Through Fisherman's Wharf we drive to Pier 39 were is always a large group of sea lions enjoying the sun. Also today there are hundreds lions on floating shelves and each lion seems to like to make more noise than the other ones. We conclude our journey with a ride on the Golden GateBridge and take a look from the other side of the bay at the large but cozy San Francisco.
We had a great time and can recommend California by motorbike to everyone.
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