The United States has never been on my ‘must visit’ list. The awe and wonder has long since gone with the US continually in the limelight; splashed across the media for this reason or that. The States felt some how over familiar, un-exotic, and ‘the easy way’. Gid had occasionally posed the idea of going east across South America, denying that it would be his first choice for our way home; just waiting for me to bite, I felt.
But an hour or so after we arrived in LA, I was hooked. It didn’t have one or two beach volleyball courts, there were twelve of them lined up waiting for players. Roller blades, bikes, skateboards all zoomed past; the place was alive. As we cycled toward our host’s place in Korea Town, Gid pointed out the Hollywood sign on the hill in the distance. What a perfect start! Hollywood boulevard, Sunset boulevard, Route 66 here we come.
We were lucky to be staying with an enthusiastic local, Oscar, who was generous enough to take us on a guided tour for a day. Whizzing about on our bikes we visited the Griffiths Observatory, downtown, rode the metro with our bikes (yah boo LT) … and had the best tacos in town.
Under our own steam we wandered along Hollywood Boulevard, spotting the stars names in the pavement sidewalk. Besides a spattering of tourists like us, there were scores of movie wannabes, in costume, hustling for paid photo shoots. Instead, more economically, Clare opted to lie down with Rod Stewart and Burt Lancaster, and fire off selfies. She passed on Donald Trump though: he used to host a talk show, apparently. What have we missed?
- Wide, long, hot, dusty streets – check
- Grids, intersections, traffic lights – check
- Glitzy mall – check
- Elaborate Christmas decorations – check
- Spanish spoken maybe more than English – check
- Stretch limos, Ferraris; and Porsche runabouts – check
- Movie cameras in use on the street – check
- Black & white squad cars – check
- Big red fire engines blasting through intersections – check
- Palms and bougainvillea – check
- Huge pickups with nothing in and rumbly engines – check
- Empty lots and abandoned shops – check
- Body beautiful workouts on the beach – check
- Joggers left, right, and centre – check
Gid was struck by the poverty evident amongst the splendour. Street walkers riffled through the bins, make-shift shelters filled hidey holes, and tents appeared along the concrete floodways. Shanty towns, where structures were covered with random sheets of plastic, that could have been straight out of India, filled areas of wasteland. Such ad-hoc homes were especially evident when we followed the cycleway along the enormous culverted drain – and each tent seemed to have a bicycle or several.
We’d chosen Cycle Route 90 – the USA Southern Tier coast to coast crossing, because during the fall it’s run as a commercial trip. Local ‘guided trips’ we’ve done before are picked for their scenery, points of interest and traffic free roads so we hoped this would be too. We would be cycling November to February, so we hoped staying well south would avoid frozen toes (and many mountains too).
To reach Route 90 we rode down the California coast, with eye watering camping costs but beautiful coastal views, to the starting point in San Diego, then turned eastwards and set out through California towards the desert. To our relief, camping costs plummeted, often being free and the occasional motel became affordable.
This was a different USA entirely. Small towns, widely spaced in the hills and sands. The days are short, so we often cycled through sunset, and occasionally met the dawn when we crawled out of the tent in the morning. Most days we meet at least one other cycle tourist, although most of them seem to be heading for South America rather than California. It’s a playground for the local big cities too. Motor bikes, quad bikes, buggies: big, medium and small career around sending out plumes of sand up behind them. Endlessly, we’re passed by towed buggies and all-terrain vehicles behind monster pickups and huge RVs. Unfortunately, while American freight drivers (“semis” mostly) seem responsible enough in passing or waiting, the RV boys seem unconscious of their width, bow-wave and tail suck; it’s a good job the roads are mostly wide and lightly trafficked.
With lots of space to leave things where they are, and a climate that’s kind to buildings, metalwork and even mummified roadkill, there’s lots of photogenic old stuff to take pictures of.
One disappointment so far, is that wildlife seems very timid. We’ve not seen much although, the humming birds were rather special and much too fast for our cameras . On the highway, there’s not even roadkill, until just recently a couple of flat & desiccated coyotes. Maybe morelive beasties will turn up further east.
Writing this, here we are in Wickenburg, AZ, a town of cowboys and rodeos – team roping capital of the world, it claims. But frustratingly, it’s Thanksgiving Day, so no rodeo today. Worse still, the local shops have run out of turkey, except for whole frozen ones. Chicken will have to do, cooked on the camping stove on the veranda of this comfy motel.
Wow – what a lot of photos we took in Australia – getting on for a thousand each. Well, here’s a selection. There’s even more wildlife photos a few of which we’ll upload to the Birds and Beasties pages someday.
The Scenic Views, Part 1
The Scenic Views, Part 2
On the Road
Hervey Bay, since you ask. Several times we saw whales from the coastal cliffs, down much of the SE coast. The humpbacks migrate that way.
The Best of the Rest of the Wildlife
The Holiday Snaps
Clare in Bali
Gideon in Bali
Clare in Flores
Clare on the Boat to Rinka
Gideon in Flores
Then we packed up, and probably marking the end of our most adventurous travels, left Asia and its bustle, noise, and low prices, for Australia.
Post dedicated to all our friends at Worthing Camera Club.
The limestone caves near Phetchaburi are lit up with coloured tubes. Beside the cave temples, there’s plenty of interesting drippy rock formations. But how to make a picture of them?
Needs to be a bit more alive, perhaps…
Ok, but only ok. And quite tedious, in a cave, without a tripod or flash gun. Hey, unlike an English cave, tripods aren’t banned 🙂 But I haven’t got one. My camera’s tiny detachable flash is, err, detached. And anyway no help, far too weedy, boringly white, and boringly stuck on top of the camera. So thank you Olympus for making a tiny lens that’s f1.8, that saved those photos. But I still had to get Clare to stand still for way longer than is normal. And can only shoot from an ideally placed stalagmite. And they’re not terribly exciting.
Which got me to remembering some of Worthing Camera Club’s winter lectures a few years back. Intentional Camera Movement is a respectable (ish) discipline that isn’t only “I forgot to bring my tripod to the bluebell wood”. So here are my Thai rocks:
PS: Most of those are colours as shot. A few are rather mucked about with in Lightroom.
Thanks for looking!
A tiny blog posting – a Micropost!
I thought it would be interesting to see how the countries we pass through compare economically. Thanks to Wikipedia, it’s pretty easy.
Here’s a chart showing the Per Capita Income in each country we’ve passed through, or hope to pass through.
And here’s the same chart, adjusted for the cost of living in each country (called Purchasing Power Parity, or PPP).
PPP seems to have the effect of making the people in middle-income states better off. And Singapore.
We can even divide one by the other, to give us a rough Cost of
Living Cycling. However, this is a bit rubbish, as in most of Europe, costs were kept down by camping. From about Bulgaria/Romania onwards, it felt a bit insecure rough camping, and hot – we really appreciated the comfort of a shower, so mostly stayed in guesthouses and cheap hotels. In tourist cities, that was often pretty cheap, but out on the road, I would guess that it very often was close to $20/night for a room for the two of us, irrespective of country. So far the most expensive nights have been Uzbekistan ($70 for a yurt), India (~$70 for a tent, ~$40 for a palace (really it was, gorgeous)), and Myanmar ($50 at two of the hotels, trading on scarcity). Not normally regarded as high-cost locations. The Caspian Sea ferry was also an expensive night, but did cover a fair bit of ground as we slept. The Tajikistan Toyota Tour was by far our most expensive week, but wasn’t exactly integral to the trip. And it didn’t include the (cheap) guesthouses!
Turkey, Uzbekistan and India have been most costly for souvenirs, not because of prices, but because of the wonderful handicrafts, and their availability, and perhaps more stop days, and maybe the timing of Christmas.
End of micropost!