California and Nevada are wonderful destinations to travel. They offer nearly everything and in particular California, with its splendid Pacific coastline is outstanding for living. I traveled both states, although I just saw a tiny part of Nevada, around Las Vegas. This was still one of my best journeys so far and I will come back in the future, that is a promise. For your overview I prepared the chronic of this trip with this post, you can just click on the different days and will be directed to the appropriate blog entry.
It’s the last day of my journey. I hike the north-east of the city this time. My way leads me from the Tenderloin to Japan Town, from there up the hills of Pacific Heights, down into Chinatown and the North Beach.
The last day of my trip has arrived. I am so pumped with positive energy and joy about what I have seen and experienced, that there is no time to be sad I have to return to Florida. The flight is at night, so I have the full day to spend in the city hiking around. I pack everything and start, today I hit the Tenderloin first, an areal of San Francisco right in the middle of the city, where lots of broken people hang out, yet tolerated by authorities – I decide to not take pictures here while I walk along Hyde Street. It is close to the Mission area where my exploration started yesterday. I have nothing special on my agenda today, just strolling around and see as much as possible of the rest of this awesome city.
From the Tenderloin I reach Japan Town first and continue to walk up the hills of Pacific Heights, another good area for pretty pricey living.
You have a great view from those hills, either to the bay, to Alcatraz or to the center of the city. It’s beautiful! I take some time in Alta Plaza Park, which is not overwhelming but still offers a great view onto Alcatraz. On the other side, towards the inner city, I can observe a big column of smoke, there has to be a big fire somewhere…
From Pacific Heights I walk along Broadway back towards downtown. I have no energy left to make it actually to shore of the bay, to the Marina Blvd, therefore I should have gotten up earlier.
Soon I hit SFs typical China Town and I decide to get me some decent dinner over here, Peking duck with rice, to go. I quickly eat half of it in the Portsmouth Square Plaza but I really don’t like this area somehow, so I continue the Kearny Street towards the Telegraph Hill.
The Pioneer Park with the well known Coit Tower on top, which is closed due to refurbishment is my last destination. I eat my dinner while I watch the sun going down. It has been a sleepy day today, compared to yesterdays march. Still I made some miles, but the more beautiful areas of SF are surely to be found around Mission, Castro and Haight-Ashbury. At least I was in North Beach, the touristic area of SF, and it is beautiful after all, isn’t it. I return to Oakland and Carl brings me to the airport. If I am totally honest… I’d love to stay in California right away and not go back to Florida, at least for this moment – but on the other hand I am looking forward to see my people in Gainesville, too. It is a great state of the USA, so far the best I have ever experienced and it is worth reconsidering, if a comeback – for longer – would not be an option. Thanks Carl, thanks Californians for your hospitality and the great time!
Hiking SF is fun. Part 1 of this report is about the route from Mission, to the Mission Dolores Park, through Castro, to the Buena Vista Park, from there into Haight-Ashbury and to the Golden Gate Park. At the evening Carl joins the party and we attend the beach again and for dinner it is Steak Pizza this time. A great day, hiking this great city!
Carl has to work, he leaves early and I sleep a little longer. I need to recover, the last days have been tough. Just one true party night (Vollgas!) on Saturday, but the many miles from San Diego, via L.A. to Vegas and back, along Big Sur, Santa Cruz to San Francisco… All the impressions, the many hours riding the car, all the memories and the fun time spent with him and all the cool people I met along the way… All of that is pretty exhausting, yet very satisfying. It is already one of my best trips I made so far, hands down – maybe together with my Bahamas trip of the past and my last visit to Fehmarn… Now I am on my own, without a car, hiking the city. The way to the Metro which is called BART in SF is quite a bit and on my way I see Oakland. It is not as bad as everyone states, I don’t feel uncomfortable for a single second.
My route for today starts at the BART Station 16th St / Mission. And I explore the Mission district first of all.
I hop into the Dolores Park Cafe for breakfast – it’s already 2:30 p.m. but this still is my breakfast… 🙂 – Espresso for me, like always and a great tart. The Californians are really good in their business doing bakery, nothing to miss here compared with Europe! The barkeeper prepares a cool smoothie, fresh, with some fruits, some veggies and some ice cubes, without adding sugar, puts it all just in a mixer. I tell him “this is cool shit”, he pours me a drink on the house – just another “wtf, how awesome” experience here! Not just because of this experience – Dolores Park Cafe is worth going if you are around, they know what they do! And it’s right besides Mission Dolores Park, my next aim.
I enjoy the sun and the mild breeze, while I watch the people in the park, the city and some hummingbirds, which flitter around the blossoms of the trees. They are tiny and cute, no chance to catch them on a picture!
My way leads me into Castro, the gay and lesbian district with all its colorful houses. It is a beautiful district with theaters, fancy cafes and restaurant, and artsy shops. Certainly one of the better areas of San Francisco. On my way, Castro changes smoothly into the hipster district Haight-Ashbury, yet another central and good area of SF. I pass the Buena Vista Park on my way.
When I exit the park, I am in the middle of hipsters paradise. Haight-Ashbury was cool last night, it’s flashy today! All those colors, the cool shops, everything rises my mood, although I don’t have the feeling to be hipster, or is this kind of an indicator?
It’s late afternoon, around 5:45 p.m. when I hit the Golden Gate Park kind of the “Central Park of San Francisco”, a most beautiful, stretched out piece of green in this over all very green city. It is so big that a baseball field, a polo field and even a golf course find their space…
I leave the park at a certain point because it is getting too dark. Haven’t heard from Carl yet, so I continue to walk towards Ocean Beach and the Great Hwy, along Fulton Street, later I change to Cabrillo Street since there is less traffic. The lighting I get to witness is stunning, no wonder this whole area was baptized “Golden”.
Close to the shore Carl gets me and since we are already there, we decide to go to Oceans Beach again. A good decision, today we witness a wonderful twilight!
I realize that I will have to leave the next day, so I want to be ready for it, since there is still plenty to see!
The main sights of San Francisco, without entering any museum, just from outlooks are the Golden Gate Bridge, with is without doubt, the island of Alcatraz, the Twin Peaks and the Ocean Beach. Those sights are not easy to reach by foot and you better employ a car. But if you are there time flies by and you will be impressed by the synthesis of man made engineering and nature, which is unique!
Okay, I am there. The final destination of my trip, the mother of freedom within the USA. The Golden Gate Bridge is what I see first. I am embraced! Thousands of people are looking for a space to park their car, to get their share of space for their unique souvenir, a photo. It’s not that easy and it takes time.
Carl picks me up in downtown, it is absolutely great to see him, haven’t seen each other since December 2013 in Innsbruck, the last time when he stopped by before he left to work in San Francisco for two years. He lives in Oakland, this is kind of a suburb to San Francisco and since it is a fight to get back there in the traffic we decide to stay in SF directly and start with a beer of IBK-reunion – Hell YEAH! We hit the bar ZEITGEIST first and it’s crowded as hell. Pitcher time!
We get to know two guys from Cali, can just remember the name of Patrick tho. After four pitchers we decide to continue to another location. We are all quite wasted already and a smell of Sizzurp lies all over the city… For some reasons we are not allowed to access one place, are thrown out of another one and get totally wasted in a third one but the place sucks so we return to the first place and the night ends soon. Somehow Carl and me get back to Oakland, we don’t remember how, but we awake at his place the next morning…
It takes some time to recover but finally we manage to start. In Cali you work a lot and just the weekends are off, OK that is nothing new, but the vacation each year is limited to a maximum of 15 days with not even half the amount of public holidays compared to Austria. Not much if you consider to get around there and all of that getting around takes time. It is weekend and he has not to work so we actually go cruising, first of all to grab an awesome sandwich at the Sandwich Point.
Then we had back to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area close to the Golden Gate Bridge. We spend about one hour there and it is just relaxed after the last night and the view to the city is breathtaking.
We continue to the Marine Headlands (Point Bonita) which are further outside of the bay. On the way I realize that there is lots of green and there are lots of hills or small mountains even, surrounding this city. Must be a paradise for bikers, for surfers anyways and for winter sport enthusiasts if you are willing to drive out to Mt Tahoe. This city has it all!
We return in direction of the city and take another exit directly in front of the bridge, this is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area directly by the bridge. And we meet two nice Cali girls who are willing to take pictures of Carl and me and in return we take pictures of them. Cali has lots of nice and open minded people, who give you a helping hand here and there all the time, I love that!
The timeshift of last night favors our plans to see more sights of the city this day. We head to San Francisco’s main beach, the Ocean Beach at the Pacific. It is huge and beautiful but freezing cold.
And there is still time left before sunset. Since the clouds block the sun totally and it’s cold we decide to drive up to the Twinpeaks to have our next stop. The view from the peaks over the city is unrivaled and we have another beer while the evening wins over the day and the lights pop up in the city.
In Haight-Ashbury we have another stop and there are pretty cool shops. It’s already 10 p.m. but a music store has a DJane giving her best (cool!) and she plays some crazy tunes. We dance a bit, have another beer to the music and decide to head home afterwards.
The day was not too long but we are tired and decide to go home and relax. Carl has to work the next day but it was a great day and we saw a lot and for me it is time to recover from the last days roadtrippin’.
On our way back we make a stopover on Yerba Buena Island, to enjoy one last glimpse onto the city. With the surfing in Santa Cruz in the morning of the day before, IBK-reunion at night, all those wonderful impressions and the great food my most memorable 24 hours of the whole trip! Thank you bro for your hospitality it has been the most fun 24 hours for a long, long time – and remember, PUSH!
The trip from Santa Cruz along the coast is in no means inferior to Big Sur. Is it the flashy colors and the high cliffs in Big Sur, that make this place special, it is the green meadows and the flowers, which are everywhere, for the rest of the path to San Francisco. The city itself is majestic and the Golden Gate Bridge a masterpiece of engineering.
It’s already lunch time. I have a great espresso and a lemon tart in one of the plenty small cafes you find in California everywhere. California has, compared to the rest of the USA, quite a strong sense for good and healthy food, you find less fast food restaurants, than in the other states I visited so far and I really like that. I follow the advice of Cassidy and drive into the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. It is a beautiful wood with plenty of big sequoias and since I did not manage to see the Sequoia National Park and good old General Sherman, I am happy to experience the silence and peace of this forest.
The sequoias over here are certainly nothing compared in height and diameter to the ones of the national park but they are already way of too big for my camera. They are awesome and honorable and all the people I talked with, who told me about the experience within those forests are right, those forests have a soul and you feel it when you are around.
I continue northwards, up the PCH-1. I want to get to the Golden Gate Bridge, before I have to return my rental. And on my way the coastline shows its beauty again! There are green meadows full of yellow flowers along the hills which reach to the ocean. It is stunning, and that is my personal imaginary picture of Ireland – which I have not visited yet but will for sure.
I have to force me not to stop too often, since the time is running out and I feel stressed for the first time on my trip, stressed because I would love to have more time here, to enjoy this divine landscape – for example while having a picnic. But there is just one goal today and I am also eager to get to San Francisco and meet Carl at night. So I continue…
And as you can imagine, the traffic in San Francisco, when I finally hit it, is bad. Not as bad as in Los Angeles but still no pleasure at all. Good part of the story – I reach my final destination, the Golden Gate Bridge and the beautiful city beneath that, San Francisco.
I manage to sneak into the parking lot right besides the bridge but time before I have to return the rental is too short, to make it to the plateau behind the bridge. After all I am able to return it and I feel relieved. I am in the middle of the city and find a small Diner where I wait for Carl to pick me up. But San Francisco is yet another story to tell… It is too beautiful and too much to just attach it here. And it is one of the most enjoyable cities I have ever visited!
Santa Cruz of California is like Innsbruck of Austria in regard to outdoor activity. It is a sleepy little town, in the middle of the most beautiful part of Californias coast I experienced. Redwood is surrounding the city and the campus is built in this forest. You find nice and laid back people over there and for surfing there is probably no other place – like for snowboarding there is no other place like IBK.
I hit the campus right out of a big CF* in Santa Cruz. It is a tad elevated over the city and – interesting! You have a humongous forest around all the university buildings and in between the little condo houses of the students. It looks a bit like the elven village from Lord of the Rings. I want to talk to a Professor I know from a congress and I am lucky to find him in his office. Won’t say more, can’t say more, believe me it was quite an interesting talk… But University of California, Santa Cruz is for sure a nice place to be. It’s comparable to Innsbruck from the spirit, in IBK you got mountains and snowboarding, in Santa Cruz you got the Pacific in front of your door, supreme surfing and snowboarding if you are willing for a two hour ride into the mountains – what is a couple of hundred miles, right? Awesome!
After sunset and some observation of the skills of the local surfers (hilarious!) I make my way into the city. It’s tiny! I stroll around and discover a bad-ass shop for vinyl LPs, some of the most cool shops for surfers clothes, I’ve ever seen – and that’s where I get my new beloved hat – and a little further into downtown, some artists performing Hip Hop and Samba on the street. I join them, of course and party until 10:30 p.m.
And after this really cool experience, I attend the Irish Pub Poet & Patriot, where I get to know some really nice people. A girl called Violet from south Italy and her American friends, and later this evening Cassidy, a dude from Washington D.C.
I still have no place to sleep and I really don’t care. Could just ride up to campus and sleep in the car, right? But that’s not necessary. I talk with Cassidy about mountaneering, surfing, snowboarding and want to say goodbye, like “Dude, was awesome to meet you and your buddies, have to leave now to find a place to crash in the car, where the cops don’t find me at night…”. And he invites me to crash at his place. It’s really great! And so I crash at their place. The guys are all PhD students in physics, really nice folks, love to surf, to snowboard and the craziest thing is, Cassidy will come to Europe by the time I come back, for a conference and I invite him to experience the mountains of Tyrol with me. That will be fun! Cassidy, you are still very welcome and I hope you will be able to manage our mountains… 😉
The next morning I have breakfast with the guys, the other one is Juan from Spain. And since I had the intention to go surfing – second time of my life, 6 years after my first experience on Eleuthera of the Bahamas – I ask them for advice, where to rent the equipment and where to go. They send me over to Freeline, a small but very well sorted surf shop in the south of Santa Cruz. And they tell me to visit the Nisene State Park close to Santa Cruz before I leave… You can rent your equipment for just $25 a day, that’s what I do. Glad the board fits into my small rental car.
I hit Sharks Cove right at the end of 41st Street and enjoy two hours of surfing. Probably looks pretty clumsy but I don’t care. It’s the second time as I told you and for that it still works alright! I am able to catch some waves, they are pretty big. And all the paddling and swimming really exhausts me, yet leaves joy, happiness and adrenaline. After two hours I am just done, with a big grin on my face, and I still need to hit San Francisco… Exhausted, but happy and relaxed I continue my journey and I will never forget those friendly and nice people who live in this city.
*I will use CF as a abbreviation for cluster fuck = traffic jam
My travel brings me along the coastal line between Santa Maria and Santa Cruz. You will hit stunning cliffs, turqouise water and massive big waves along shore. A deep forest of redwoods and eucalyptus and lots of wildlife. On a good part of the trail the country looks like Ireland and since it is spring, there are blooming flowers all over the place…
The night was too short. I feel ill and crawl out of the bed. Another trip of around 200 miles lies in front of me. It’s probably the most scenic route of the trip, the Pacific Highway US-1 (PCH-1) along the coast and I will pass Big Sur, the most well known region there, known for its divine beauty. My destination is Santa Cruz. I have heard about Santa Cruz about one year ago, when a Professor of the Institute of Chemistry of UCSC was talking in Fulpmes and since this day I am totally eager to find out about that tiny city at the coast. The first place I hit this morning is Pismo and it’s a cute little village by the sea.
I haven’t had any Internet service during my stay at the crappy Motel so I decide to stop and find a cafe to get some breakfast and to my surprise I find the best breakfast of my trip, and of my time in the USA. The place is called
Old West Cinnamon Rolls, the name of the cafe, in Pismo at the coast offers true Espresso, cinnamon buns and everything else a European heart would desire for a great breakfast. The experience is so great, that I need to report on it and if you ever hit this area, make sure to grab you breakfast over there. The Wi-Fi access is granted with the password cinnamon by the way… 😉
I continue the trip and the ocean is wild and merciless. The coastline changes every once and a while, every turn you make along PCH-1 reveals a different scenery. There is not much traffic and the picturesque landscape forces you to stop often and enjoy the views. My music pushes me even more, the windows down, a black and mild cigar in the ankle of my mouth, the spume of the ocean stroking my skin, delivering an unique and incomparable scent to my nostrils. This is how freedom feels and just California offers it in this way. I luv it!
This whole landscape is a theme park of earth porn. You stop the car here and there, have a look down to the beach and see splendid of wildlife. A massive group of elephant seals just lies around and chills. It reminds me of obese German / Austrian / American tourists, taking a sunbath in an all inclusive hotel. Just chilling there, without moving most of the time and when moving just shoveling sand on their fat bellies. Have never seen a stranger animal alive so far!
You certainly have the feeling of a small creature, if you experience the coastline and its power. Building up PCH-1 in this surrounding must have been a challenge, taming this nature will probably never be possible… And every once in a while the sea has gotten a piece of land and the highway is broken apart into the deep. Impressive!
And when you leave behind those turquoise lagoons you will hit a deep forest of redwoods. It goes hand in hand. You will find the scent of Eucalyptus as well. The tree came there as an endemit from Australia and causes lots of trouble to the settled specimens… Soon I hit Monterey and all too soon this trip is over. Before I can lay back on the shore of Santa Cruz I have to face the traffic and that is the non-appreciable experience of the day…
This is a pure Roadtrip, getting back marvellous Las Vegas to shore of CALI. It’s great to witness the diversity and change of the countryside on just 100 miles in diameter. You will see desert without a droplet of water, to mountain lakes and forest. The only thing I misses were giant redwoods, I assumed to find them, since you pass the Sequoia National Forest. But they seem to be more in the region of the National Park, which I decided to leave out.
Now we talk roadtrip! The distances are huge in California and Nevada and so is my way back to Cali’s shore, where I booked a shabby Motel room for the night in a place called Santa Maria. Just read up somewhere that it’s the best entrance to the stunning, breathtaking beauty of the Pacific’s coastline along PCH-1. I leave I-15 at JCT 395, it leads me direct into the Mojave, California’s huge desert in the east. It seems endless and I just cruise, 80 mp/h shows my tacho, it seems like 30 km/h, the mountains pass by so slowly and the hours pass as if it were minutes, like in a beautiful dream. There is basically nothing, some civilized spots every 30 – 40 miles, some big solar energy power plants, albeit from that just sand, dryland, some dried bushes, some cactaceae, mountains, blue sky and some clouds. It’s a beauty for itself.
After some time, I decide not to stop anymore to take pictures, but to take them while riding the car out of the front window with my phone… Works great – and snap – just after I start, I am pulled over by the cops. They don’t issue a ticket, lucky me, but they fine the rental company for not having the insurance papers on the car. Hope ALAMO won’t charge me for that, since it is their mistake after all… It’s a strange feeling to be stopped by an American cop in the middle of nowhere and he has always his hand at the gun, man.
The way leads into the mountains and the Mojave ends abruptly. The mountains become more and more green over here. The region I enter now is called the Sequoia National Forest.
I come along Lake Isabella, which is beautiful and the mountains get higher and the streets narrow and become steeper. The countryside looks just as out of a Western movie, totally transformed from desert now to plenty of farms, with huge stones and creeks in between, it’s like in a movie and I have the certain feeling, that the dudes who produced Rockstar’s Game Red Dead Redemption must have lived here or at least must have hung out a lot in the plains.
It starts to dawn and the sun hides behind the mountains quickly. I push the gas since I don’t want to ride this street at nighttime, the Americans go crazy in regard to speed over here, same like we would do in the alps. I just make it out of the mountains in the last light and what I see surprises me. I find a countryside totally similar to what I have seen travelling Italy and the Tuscany region. They grow their wine over here, those are wine yards for sure, and I don’t wonder about that at all. There was sun the whole time, the grapes will have the water from the mountains on the western side, since all the water from the Pacific goes down here – in contrast the east side of those mountains is arid as hell, the Mojave desert starts over there. It’s a great trip and seeing how drastically nature changes on maybe 100 miles diameter is impressive, too.
At 10:30 p.m. I finally reach my Motel, room is OK, not more not less. Anyways just a place to sleep and since my credit card won’t work anymore and I don’t have too many cash left, I decide to not book for Santa Cruz and just travel there and see what’s going on the next day…
Spending so many hours in the car, crusing, relaxing, sightseeing – without company most of the time, can be exhausting. The only puzzle piece missing on this stunning trip is company, preferably the company of my not existent girlfriend… 🙂 Yeah, I guess 2014 has still lots to offer and I hope that the one will cross my way this year, travelling together is so much better, if you have a lovely and reliable person by your side, with whom you can share all your impressions. We will see about that…
But now to the music, I will just provide the playlist here, with all the songs which kept me awake, in good mood, and last but not least entertained in an audible way. It’s not cool to hear yourself thinking 24/7… 😉
Rich Aucion – Push (Saw him live in L.A., luv him!)
Low Roar – Low Roar Album (Best sound for the divine beauty of Big Sur @ US-1)
I hope you enjoy the music as much as me! It made the trip even more pleasant in most parts. Enjoy it and have fun!
Las Vegas is like a fairytale. Everything seems possible, public drinking and smoking, and all the gambling in the sights, which are the hotels. A crazy place, flashy, colorful, in a hostile surrounding, the desert. If you haven’t seen it with your own eyes, you won’t believe something like that could even exist, it’s against all logic out there.
I think I was pretty prejudiced towards Vegas. A city which seeks a comparable counterpart in artificiality on the planet, maybe it’s in good company with the cities of the United Arabian Emirates with all their flair in the middle of the desert…
As soon as I had dinner with Ivanna and her mum, we start into the city. Ivanna offered me to attend a show at Planet Hollywood, but I was too late, so we decide to just do the strip and she promises to show me all the Hotel shows. As soon as we hit the cities heart I am totally impressed. We park at the Bellagio first, the hotel which is robbed of the prominent crew in the movie Oceans Eleven.
This hotel aims for older, more classy guests. The water show takes place every 10 to 15 minutes and is stunning and is not repeated the same way. Inside everything is decorated with flowers and of course – like every hotel over in Las Vegas – the Bellagio has a huge casino. It’s directly located in Vegas’ heart, the one you will recognize from all the post cards.
We continue our way along the strip. All the people are drinking and smoking in public, on the streets and in the casinos. Nobody cares over here, it’s so different from the rest of the USA I visited so far, so liberal, so fun oriented. I think by myself, that it’s a pity for the American people somehow, that there needs to be a place without any boarders within this country, a place where you have the freedom to do, what you wish – how easy is life compared to that in the EU.
Ivanna shows me the MGM and the Flamingo hotel. The MGM is well known for ultimate fighting (awesome!), David Copperfield who gives his magic show there and for the big, notorious pool party events, when famous DJs deliver their best electronic music to the masses.
Time truly flies by in Vegas, and even if I would have been in the mood to gamble here, it’s already in the middle of the night and I am satisfied and done after this day which started early in the desert.
The view along the strip is surreal, like everything over here in Nevada seems surreal. The whole state, with its diverse and beautiful nature, snow covered mountains and hot and deadly desert in contrast, this 24/7 illuminated city with all this glamour in the middle of nowhere. This is a place which you won’t find a second time on this planet. And it’s great to be here, even without all the gambling. The casinos look pretty much alike, no matter in which hotel you go and the hotels itself, with all their shows and specialties, are the sights of this city.
The last sight of the night is the Welcome to Fabolous Las Vegas Nevada sign at the cities entrance. Ivanna and me take some fun pics and it’s still plenty of traffic of different people who want to have their shot. Afterwards we cruise the city, listening to flashy sounds, to a higher elevated spot, because I’d like to have an overview about the city and I get it and it’s awesome! So much light and so much life going on at 2 a.m.!
Tomorrow it’s already time to leave and continue the trip back to Cali’s shore. Unbelievable, I’ve been here for two nights but it feels not even like a day! At this point I want to thank you Ivanna, you have been a great host and the sightseeing with you was lots of fun! До свида́ния! 😀