The next morning we met with the 4 new people who would be joining myself, Kath, Liv and Sarah for the southern half of the tour back to New York. The newbies are all girls – there is a lack of men on this part of the trip which makes for a different group dynamic.
We headed to Beverly Hills, and then onto Hollywood to check out Grauman’s Chinese Theater:
And the handprints and footprints:
We also walked along the walk of fame, and tried to make out the Hollywood sign but it was a little misty.
Then it was time to head out of LA and onto San Diego. I can’t say I was sorry to leave LA. It’s an enormous city that is very difficult to get around, there are lots of dirty-looking areas, and there was no sign of the typical Californian sunshine.
San Diego is only a couple of hours south of LA so we arrived in time for lunch. We went to a great Hawaiian cafe called Leilani’s, which was really nice.
Then we headed to Belmont Park and some of the group went on the rollercoaster there. Not being a fan of rollercoasters, I kept my feet firmly on the ground.
After that it was mid afternoon and time to head to the hostel in the Gaslamp Quarter. I really liked this area, lots of bars, cafes and restaurants, and a good vibe.
After we had eaten we went on a pub crawl organised by the hostel. The first stop was at the Shout House Rock and Roll Duelling Pianos bar. It was awesome. 2 guys, 2 pianos, taking requests from the audience. Everything from Miley Cyrus to Meat Loaf.
We then went to a karaoke bar that also had a bucking bronco….different, but fun to watch (you should know enough about me by now to know that I wouldn’t do either karaoke or get on a bucking bronco!).
We went to a third bar after that but I headed to bed soon after.
The next day was a free day in San Diego. Mike drove us to the Zoo in Balboa Park. Most of the group went to the zoo but I decided to go to the Air and Space Museum instead. Balboa Park has around 15 different museums so plenty to choose from.
As I walked to the museum, I passed a large line of smartly dressed people waiting to go into a building, and a number of TV trucks setting up on the road. Wasn’t sure what this was about, but it would become apparent later. The air and space museum was interesting. They had an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions which was great. That man was a bit of a genius.
As I walked back towards the zoo, it became apparent what the queue of people and TV trucks were for. We are in election season in the States (though to be fair election season goes on for about 2 years), and Hillary Clinton was giving a speech in one of the buildings. There was a large crowd of people outside so I joined them and listened to her speech for a while (didn’t see her, but speakers were set up outside). Kinda interesting to see the people there, including the Bernie Sanders supporters and the odd Trump supporter.
After that we went to Mission Beach for some sunshine. I fell asleep for a bit and could feel myself burning so I went for a walk down the boardwalk. Not a lot there to be honest, but it passed the time.
We went for dinner and then a few of us went to the piano bar again. Slowly everyone drifted away and I was left on my own, but I loved it so much I stayed until 1am.
The next day we headed to Las Vegas. On the way we stopped at a ghost town called Calico. I’ve been to a ghost town before on the northern edge of Death Valley called Rhyolite which was utterly abandoned. Calico, however, has been commercialised. The buildings all house gift shops, cafes and exhibits. I think I preferred Rhyolite as it felt more authentic.
We arrived in Las Vegas in the late afternoon and after driving down the Strip we headed to our hotel in the Downtown area, just off Fremont Street. This area is where Vegas originally developed.
After getting showered and changed we headed out in a ‘party bus’ for a tour of Vegas. We stopped at the Little White Chapel:
We hopped off at the Bellagio, and myself, Kath and Maica walked through the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace and the Venetian (I might have fed a few $5 bills into some slot machines…) before heading back to check out Fremont Street at night. A few interesting sights to say the least!
The next day was a free day in Vegas. I headed back to the Strip to wander through some more of the hotels (and feed some more $5 bills into the slots). I went to Treasure Island, the Palazzo, the Venetian, Harrah’s, Paris, Flamingo, New York New York and Excalibur.
I headed back to the hotel in 42C heat, and also got my first Uber.
In the evening a few of us went to see the Chippendales (ahem…), before heading to the Stratosphere so that some of the girls could go on the rides there. We also had a cocktail in one of the bars at the top. Then we headed back to the hotel and I had a successful spot of late night gambling.
The thing about Vegas is that you lose all concept of time. It was 2am when I rolled into bed (I’d only spent 30 mins on the slots) but I felt wide awake. In the casinos there are no windows, no clocks, people are there gambling 24/7. It’s really easy to see how you’d become addicted to it and lose a lot of money.
After a week or so of cities it was then time to head back to the peace and quiet of the national parks.