RTW Day 52 – Kathryn’s Dream(liner) day in Seattle

Washington is the home to Boeing, and it seems rude to come to Seattle, without visiting the Boeing factory in Everett. Here they make Boeing 747s, 777s, and 787s. The building used to make the 747s is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest building in the world by volume, which could fit Disneyland inside it, and include the carpark as well. It really is a very big building.

IMG_3681Driving around the outside is one thing, but another is stepping inside the factory. To see the place that planes are made really is fantastical to me; Kathryn wasn’t so impressed. In my mind it seems a bit beyond comprehension that there’s a place where planes are made, they just always seem to exist. I think it’s because they’re so massive and complex, they go beyond the thinking of a New Zealander. I don’t think we’d ever dream of building our own airplanes, and yet, there’s an airplane factory in Hamilton. Sure, the planes are a bit smaller, but same thing.

From here, we headed back into Seattle, and went to the Seattle Pike Place Market, which is the home to the original Starbucks. I can see the original appeal of Starbucks, a place to chill out and relax, even if the coffees are a bit more expensive. At least they don’t shoo you out after 30 minutes like McDonalds.

IMG_3694But for something actually delicious, at the Seattle Pike Place Market, you can buy Alaskan King Crab, a small paper plate for $20 USD. It was delicious, sweet, salty, really just delicious. Sure, $20 is expensive for a bit of crab, but if you want expensive, then pay $80 NZD for the same thing back in New Zealand.

Also near the Pike Place Market is Gum Alley, which is where people put their chewing gum on the side of buildings. I’m not sure why that’s an appealing thing, Kathryn really wanted to check it out, and I thought it was disgusting. It looked like people had spewed on the side of a building. Literally looked disgusting.

RTW Day 51 – Our Portland to Seattle Roadtrip

Thankfully, our final day of driving was upon us, with the journey from Portland to Seattle. The drive is about 180 miles, or about three hours. And with the drive being a daytime drive, I didn’t even mind the fact the rain was so hard I couldn’t see the car ahead. The worst is when grey or silver cars decide not to use their lights in heavy rain. That’s the best because then they’re stealth cars that can’t be seen. Useful if you want to be invisible, not helpful if you don’t want to get crashed into.

IMG_3664The weather was actually appalling enough that Kathryn saw a car spin out on the freeway. All I saw was a wall of brake lights lighting up in unison like a tidal wave of red. Weirdly, no one was hit, the car was undamaged, it turned around, and continued along its merry way. I’m not sure why it spun around if nothing touched it.

Since we’re soon to be car-less, it was time to do our final big shop, and there’s no better place to do it than Walmart. When it comes to having the largest variety of foods that aren’t good for you, Walmart does take the cake. Though to be fair, that’s not specific or unique to Walmart, I believe it’s more of an American phenomenon to have these hyper-produced foods, like Miracle Whip. That stuff has like 30 ingredients, and is intended to replace sweetened whipped cream, which has two ingredients. I don’t understand why Miracle Whip exists as a product.

Anyways, I ended up buying about $150 worth of various interesting foods. The novelty of foods in America delights me, but only because it’s novel. If I lived here, I’d quickly grow tired of all the manufactured crap that people have the eat, and would start to long for just vegetables and fruits.

We made it to Seattle, and pulled up to our hotel near the Space Needle. Seattle is a really nice place, it’s like half way between Portland and San Francisco in terms of casual vibe versus having a bit of life and excitement. Not that I’m saying that Portland isn’t exciting, but it’s relaxing vibe might get too relaxing after a while.

We walked around the Space Needle, then hung out at the Armory, which is a food hall that sold pies! Kathryn thought her chicken pie tasted ‘earthy’, but I thought it was delicious. Maybe because it’s been the first pie I’ve had in two months!

RTW Day 50 – Grumpy Portland

When you’ve been travelling in each other’s faces for the past seven weeks, sometimes you get a little grumpy at your travel partner. It’s nothing personal, it’s just spending so much time with someone else without getting a break. So we were in a bit of a grumpy mood, but we got over it because we were in Portland.

IMG_3640Portland is a great city, full of great people. It’s probably the city closest in vibe to Wellington, full of super hip people drinking their super hip coffees, living their super hip lives. We headed to a random coffee shop that was full of people on their Macbook Pros, others looking down on their luck having a plain coffee, and kids sitting and playing cards. It was a nice relaxing atmosphere. People were laid back, there was none of the hurry or stress of Los Angeles.
From there, we walked past all the food vans in Portland. They look like the best way to good food in the town, with so much variety, including my all-time favourite, a Hawaii Teriyaki Chicken Plate. However, instead of going there, we decided to head to Lucky Labrador, a beer hall for some Pizza and beers.

We caught the Portland Streetcar to Lucky Labrador, which I think is a great way to see the city. Even with a car, I think catching any sort of loop public transport in a new town is a great way to get your bearings and discover interesting places around.

Kathryn loves beer, and this place didn’t disappoint. I had a cider, and I should have learnt better. It’s a brewery, not a cider-ery. The pizza slices were nice and big, and the base was crisp. The guys next to us brought their own board games, and started playing which was good. There was an office Christmas party happening at the table across us, you could tell, because everyone was bored, didn’t want to be there, and brought each other crap gifts.

From there we headed back to the Holiday Inn Pony Express, and Kathryn decided to head to the restaurant next door, selling all American food. Like Denny’s, the food was average, salty, and fattening. I went for a crab salad that was really nice, by virtue of the fact that I didn’t ask for dressing or sauce. Kathryn went for the Chicken Steak, which is basically Chicken Schnitzel, except the meat was grey. Grey is not a good colour to describe chicken. I laughed at Kathryn’s food order, and I’m pretty sure she was jealous of my salad.

RTW Day 49 – A 17 hour drive from San Francisco to Portland, or, never again

Things I never want to do again, drive 17 hours in a day. We’ve been a bit jetlagged in America, which means we go to bed at 8pm, and get up at 4am, so we decided to take advantage of this, and leave San Francisco at 4am bound for Portland.

IMG_3613There’s not too much to see between San Francisco and Portland, but one outstanding thing is the Avenue of the Giants, which is features massive redwoods, including some trees over 900 years old. It was a significant detour, but Kathryn did say when would we ever do this again, so we went for it.

Because we left so early, we breezed easily through San Francisco, driving north over the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove through many small towns in North California, where the land changes from the bay area towards massive rural areas, a few communities, a vast open spaces. One thing I underestimated was just how vast America is. It’s soo easy to look at Google Maps, zoom out, and say, oh, I think I could travel that in a day. Sure, some of these things are technically feasible, but they don’t take into account the largest rainfall in a 100 years, the darkness, the tiredness of travelling for the last seven weeks, I was optimistic in my travel planning.

IMG_3631We got close to the Avenue of the Giants when we discovered the road was closed. Again. While we had checked the Internet for road closures, this one wasn’t listed. We could have waited for 4-6 hours, as many were doing, or we could drive back about 2 hours the direction we’d come from, then cut across to the main freeway, which is what we did. In times like those, what can you do?

We then drove for ages to reach the Interstate, which was then a big giant relatively straight road bound for Oregon. Sure, you’re going 70 miles per hour, but with 500 miles to go, that still takes a while.

My favourite driving combination is straight roads, sun, the beach, and great music. My worst driving combination is darkness, rain, corners, and fog. This was what we encountered on our drive to Portland.

I think I lost track of a couple of hours as I just followed a car in the rain. You can’t see anything, so I just found the brake lights of the car ahead, and stayed there. By the time we made it to Portland, I felt like a zombie.

RTW Day 48 – San Francisco’s crooked street, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Golden Gate Bridge

Our accommodation, the Francisco Bay Inn, offers a complimentary breakfast, which for me consisted of a bowl of Coco Pops, and a doughnut. There’s a really good reason why people don’t eat doughnuts for breakfast, it’s both bad for you, kinda gross, and a heavy way to start the day. But when in Rome…

IMG_3579While our accommodation, the Francisco Bay Inn, was tired and super noisy due to the highway next door, the one redeeming feature it has is its location. We were only a minute’s walk from the crooked part of Lombard Street. This was basically a street that zigzags down a hill. It reminded one of someone’s driveway, but it’s a big tourist attraction in San Francisco.

From there, we walked down the street to the Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a really nice area, filled with tourists and homeless people. I guess if I was a homeless person I’d want to hang out in a really nice part of town. We then caught a ferry trip around the bay for $28 USD each. For an hour, we cruised out along San Francisco Bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge. It really is a magnificent bridge, I know bridges are boring, but they decided to make it really beautiful, not just another boring bridge. And in return, it became the most iconic thing in San Francisco. As the boat was turning around in the bay, the water was super choppy, and we were going up and down about a metre. That was pretty exciting. We sailed past Alcatraz which was interesting to look at, only three people escaped, yet, it’s relatively close to San Francisco. It must have been painful knowing you were so close yet so far.

IMG_3599We then had some food at Fisherman’s Wharf. Of course it was overpriced, it was in the tourist part of town! But, the crab and shrimp chowder, served in a sourdough bowl was delicious!

We then walked around, and checked out a Trader Joe’s supermarket. This is where white people shop, and was full of nice, and good priced foods.

Finally, we did some life administration, which means finding a laundromat, and doing laundry. This gets pretty tiring, so a great way to pass the time is to annoy each other. We played knuckles, watch the video to see the results.

RTW Day 47 – The 13 hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco

Today, we were bound for San Francisco from Los Angeles. There’s a few different routes to get there, a quick road, a medium road, and a slow road. Since we were in no hurry, we took the medium road, or the US Highway 101, north. Getting out of Los Angeles is slow at the best of times, and since we were on the road around 6.30am, we were stuck in rush hour traffic, but that soon dissipated.

IMG_3544We then moved onto the most scenic route, California Highway 1. As we kept driving the road got less and less busy. Turns out, the road was closed because of the once in a 100 year rain storms that have been affecting California. So we turned and went over a tiny canyon road back inland.

From here, we took the medium road to a place called San Luis Obispo, and then went back onto California Highway 1. While this road is soo much slower than the freeway, the advantage of this road is the views along the coast. Randomly, we saw an Elephant Seal colony that was amazing. They stink so bad, I had to switch to mouth breathing.

Onward bound, we then entered the Big Sur region. The views along the coast are simply breathtaking. As we climbed up the coast on a winding road clinging to the side of cliffs, this was the reason for renting a car and driving across California.

IMG_3550From Big Sur, we headed through forests towards San Francisco. It was around here that the weather turned, and our sunny day turned into rain. And the further we drove towards San Francisco, the harder the rain got.

And then it got dark. And foggy. And stormy. It was literally the worst driving conditions I’ve seen. Add a random destination, fog, rain, darkness, and I could have been driving towards nothing. It was awful.

As we got closer to San Francisco, the roads slowed down to a crawl. And then we were stuck in rush hour traffic.

A drive that the GPS said was an one hour and forty minutes turned into about a four hour drive. Suffice to say, we were not happy towards the end, after a 13 hour drive in total.

And then our original motor inn was flooded, and we had to go to a sister property, which was average. It was in a nice location, and that was about it. I think we’d had enough of that day, and we went to bed.

RTW day 46 – Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, and Venice Beach

Today was a day of sightseeing around Los Angeles. Having more confidence when driving really helps out a lot in America, since it’s difficult if not impossible to get around without a car.

IMG_3498The first destination was Beverly Hills. This really is where the rich and famous shop. Well, at least the rich. A few shops were by invitation only, but that’s OK, I didn’t even know they existed, which probably goes to show that I’m not that rich, or that famous. We walked down Rodeo Drive and found that to be as Kathryn described, overcooked. A lot of people showing off a lot of wealth, buying a lot of things. But I think it’s a bit like a mouse on a treadwheel, once you’re on, you have to keep up. And to what end? To show off to your friends? They’re doing exactly the same. Kathryn felt quite a bit of judgement while walking around Beverly Hills, but I didn’t, since I don’t care what others think about how I look or behave. I think there’s a certain kind of freedom with ignorance, but then again, it means that when I see Tiffany Jewelry, rather than seeing beautiful objects, I see a bunch of shiny overpriced things.

From Beverly Hills we drove down the road to Santa Monica Pier. Since America is set up for cars, it’s refreshing to see that parking is priced so cheaply. Two hours of parking in Beverly Hills was free since we bought something. Most places were charging $1 USD an hour.

IMG_3503Anyways, I really enjoyed it at the Santa Monica Pier. It was a super sunny day, and even though it’s winter here, it’s about as warm as a New Zealand summer. I bought some cut watermelon, walked out onto the pier, and found out they were doing some filming on the pier. If you see a short dude waving on a pier on any TV show, then it’s probably me.

We then walked along the beach towards Venice Beach boardwalk. This is about an hour’s walk away, and since it was winter, there was hardly anyone on the beach. Which was surprising to me, since it was a warm day with no rain, New Zealanders would have flocked to the beach in these conditions. But I guess if you live in Los Angeles and have perfect weather most of the time, why go to the beach when there’s a little cloud?

Venice Beach to me was full of the creatives, stoners, bodybuilders at Muscle Beach, and skateboarders. And full of celebrities! We happened to see one Oliver Driver, star of Shortland Street (from ages ago), and TV3’s cancelled breakfast show Sunrise (from ages ago). I said to Kathryn that she should have yelled “I loved you in Sunrise”, but he was too far away by then.

RTW Day 45 – Driving to Los Angeles, The Grove, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame

We got up early and started our California road trip, bound for Los Angeles. Los Angeles is 180km from San Diego, about 40km further than Wellington to Palmerston North.

IMG_3467We stocked up on supplies at the nearest Target, Kathryn grabbed some Starbucks (her secret shame), and then we set off for San Diego.

Relying on a GPS is fantastic, but I do think without some planning, you’ll miss out on some of the sights on your journey. Our GPS was obsessed with the quickest route, not the most scenic, and therefore unless you really love the views of a freeway, there isn’t too much to see. For our drive to San Francisco, I’ll definitely plan a more scenic route.

Anyways, to deviate from the freeway, I took a random off ramp and ended up in San Clemente. San Clemente’s slogan is Spanish Village by the Sea, and we found it to be a charming village. On a Sunday morning an organic Farmer’s Market was open, selling 6 limes for a dollar, and organic smoothies. We had a light lunch in a small restaurant on the main street, getting waffles and a Lavender Caramel Latte. It was about the size of two normal coffees, and I only drank half. Making sure I don’t gain 10 pounds is one of my goals while in America. It’s harder than it looks, with massive meals available for only $4 or so.

IMG_3482On we continued, until we made it to Los Angeles, the city of angels. Since we arrived a bit before check in, we then headed to the shopping mall that Kathryn had idolised in America, The Grove. The Grove is a fancy fashion shopping mall in Los Angeles, that lots of YouTube vloggers frequent. And apparently, they are the only location that stocks a particular makeup brand, Charlotte Tilbury. Next to The Grove was The Original Farmers Market, which stocked massive sandwiches, meats, and other delicatessen. They even make their own ice cream, which looked delicious, but was probably 800 cals.

We then checked in at our accommodation, halfway between East Hollywood and West Hollywood. It surprises me how close poor neighbourhoods and rich neighbourhoods are. People sleeping on the street, massive barbed wire fences around preschools, and the mega mansions next door. Bizzare.

A bit of walk from our accommodation was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I’m guessing the less famous people are at the start, because we didn’t recognise any names for a bit. That part of the walk was filled with people down on their luck, and somehow, I was nervous and on edge the whole time. Kathryn was super relaxed, which was a change from the normal state. Kathryn’s goal was to see Peter Jackson’s star, and that we did.

RTW Day 44 – Shopping, In-N-Out Burger, and buying a Moto 360 Smartwatch in San Diego

After travelling hard for the last two weeks, we’ve taken our foot off the gas figuratively, and taken it easy today having a day of shopping.

IMG_3445Just across the freeway from our accommodation were two massive shopping malls, Westfield Mission Valley, and Fashion Valley Mall. This was entirely unintentional for us to stay so close to such large shopping, it’d be like randomly staying next to The Base in Hamilton. Except I’d suggest these places are like two Silvia Parks right next to each other. It really hits home the scale of things in America. San Diego city itself has a population of 1.3 million, so similar in size to Auckland, but San Diego County has a population of 3 million, or the population of the North Island.

Westfield Mission Valley is anchored by Target, which is pretty much a massive Warehouse and a supermarket. I love the size of everything in America. Do you want a 500gm Snickers bar? Then you can buy it. 500gm! Half a kilogram! That’s actually a silly amount of Snickers. The pack says “Slice and Share” but I can bet a few people just “Eat and Regret”.

After checking out Westfield Mission Valley, we stopped to get some lunch at Chipotle, a mexican food place. Kathryn went for a chicken burrito which was also massive. I wonder why they don’t do smaller food portions here. It’s not like people are so starving that if they were given smaller portion sizes they’d feel ripped off. Perhaps they would. It just seems so wasteful, and the waistlines of a few people around reflect the size of the meals.

IMG_3446I wanted to go to Best Buy since I’m considering getting a new laptop. While Best Buy is just across one road from Westfield, everything conspires against you as a walker. The road is a four lane road, so you can’t just walk across it. Once crossing the road at a crosswalk, we then had to walk past a massive chain link fence from the neighbouring parking lot, and then walk through a hedge! Just to get to a Best Buy. Or we could have driven. It really is amazing how the infrastructure is so set up for driving. As a friend of ours told us, it’s nicer to drive, since there’s Air Conditioning.

At Best Buy I ended up buying a Moto 360, which is a smart watch. It’s fairly massive on my wrist, but I love the fact you can change the watch face, and check your notifications without pulling out your phone.

We then headed to Fashion Valley, another shopping mall. Kathryn needed to get some makeup, which then somehow got interpreted into her getting a face makeup makeover. When I next saw her, she was about three shades lighter, except for her cheeks which were rosy, and her lips, which were equally a rosy colour. It was aggressive makeup.

After some more shopping at Fashion Valley, we then went In-N-Out Burger. Kathryn had wanted to go here for ages, and it was really nice and cheap. Weird that for drinks, you could buy either soft drink, a 600 calorie thick shake, or a milk. Just plain milk by itself. Which is what I bought, mainly for the novelty of it all.

We then headed back to the accommodation, where we had buffalo wings, and 650ml margaritas. Just massive. And that wasn’t even the largest size, we could have had a 1L margarita for $12. Just silly.

RTW Day 43 – San Diego Zoo and Walmart

After our diem horribilem, or horrible day yesterday, today was a day of relaxation and recovery. And what better way to start the day, than to go to a place called The Waffle Spot, the onsite diner. For $9 USD, I was served 3 scrambled eggs, 4 rashers of bacon, and a massive hashbrown. I tried not to eat it all, seeing as how this is a place where food should be shared, because portion sizes are for two.

IMG_3411From here, we caught a shuttle to the Alamo Rental Car Depot. For ~$750 USD later, we’ve got a brand new Toyota Camry, and as much insurance and roadside protection as we could buy. If there’s something I’m terrified of, it’s crashing the car in America. I don’t really want to  get sued. I even paid $100 for a GPS rental. Anyways, we picked up the car, and I started driving on the right side of the road for the first time.

The frightening thing about driving in America isn’t just being on the right, it’s being on the right side of the road at a four way stop sign. I don’t even like those in New Zealand, and here, they use them as a substitution for roundabouts. Driving on a 12 lane freeway is tough. I stuck to the far right lane, like an elderly driver. And when driving at night on a six lane freeway, turns out trying to figure out if there’s a car beside you, is well, an impossible task. I just indicate, wait a random amount of time, then slowly move over.

Kathryn in her infinite wisdom thought that today was a good day to visit the zoo. It’s been raining quite a bit, and San Diego is not a place where rain happens a lot. In fact, California has been having a massive drought for ages, so now that it’s raining, people are freaking out. The rain is about as hard as a typical Wellington day, so I wasn’t freaking out at all. Anyways, because of this, I thought the zoo wouldn’t be great in the rain.

IMG_3423After a few missed turns, we made it to the San Diego Zoo. This, in my opinion, is the best zoo in the world. Just amazing. It’s massive in size, and the number of animals is phenomenal. They have exhibits which are out of the way, in the middle of nowhere, and then boom, Grizzly Bear. In Wellington, the Sun Bear is the star attraction at Wellington Zoo. At San Diego Zoo, it’s like an afterthought. And because it was raining, but then stopped, the zoo was empty, and made it fantastic. There was a sign saying the typical wait time to see the Giant Panda was 45 minutes, today, it was 1 minute. No waits, there it was. Just amazing.

After the zoo, we then went to Walmart for supplies. I could write a whole blog post in Walmart, I really do enjoy the place. The variety, the size, the people, just incredible. A massive roast chicken, $5USD. A pair of pants? $6. A pregnancy test at the checkout? 88 cents. In New Zealand, those are $10 each! There’s a business idea right there!