51 Even more USA travels

More South-Western USA Our children come visiting Apr-Oct 2017

We were invited to meet Paul and Sara Barry in Gallup, NM.

We had a braai with boerewors she had ordered online and which arrived overnight from New Jersey for his birthday. Also a divine Mexican salad.

In September they are quitting their jobs,(pilot and nurse) selling their house and are going to tour Central and South America in THEIR OWN PLANE.: A Maule M5 made in Georgia. The planned trip entails a lot of research regarding landing for immigration, range, landing strips for fuel etc.

The world's largest rosebush, according to Guinness World Records, is in Tombstone, Ariz., and covers 900 square meters. The gnarled trunk is about 3,6 meter around.

The bush, a Lady Banksia Rose, was planted in 1885, back when Tombstone was a boomtown for silver mining.

Andre, Liesl, Andre jr and Karla arrive in LA on a free shuttle from LAX. They had been in transit from Johannesburg via Amsterdam. Karla spots Leone on the right and says “Why is ouma driving Dipli!” (South Africa drives on the left of the road).

The first three nights are at Hyde Park Hotel. Dipli taxis to Universal Studios for thrilling rides and attractions.

We walk Hollywood Boulevard where the names of the famous are within stars on the sidewalk.

At the Natural history museum we are all fascinated by the displays of many dinosaur skeletons, North American mammals and a fantastic collection of rock specimens. A supper picnic at Marina del Rey affords the children the opportunity to frolic in the sea with gusto.

We collect their Motor home from Road Bear. The Breytenbachs name him “Grizzly”. It is a 23ft. (7m) with two double beds and a huge bathroom. Because we do not use their transport, we receive the kitchen kit free of charge. With linen from us and new pillows they are all set.

Andre soon looks comfortable driving on the right and in the multi-lane highway with busy LA traffic. One Freeway takes us to Barstow Walmart. Their supplies have to be purchased. Andre and children do that enthusiastically while Liesl unpacks. She gets her turn to shop between 23h00 and midnight.

In Las Vegas it is 45°C. Circus Circus RV Park has a welcome pool. The CC casino has a trapeze act and an oversupply of colourful souvenir shops. The rented motor home can be plugged in for aircon but we suffer all night.

After swimming we take the Deuce bus to Luxor casino. Aj and Karla strike amusing poses next to Egyptian sculptures. The free monorail takes us to Bellagio casino where we admire the floral tableau and the ceiling of glass flowers by Dale Chihuly. In front of Bellagio the large fountains play to music. The children enjoy Hershey’s Chocolate World, M&M World and Coke World (Aj amuses us by burping the alphabet). They admirably walk kilometres and wait to supper late.

Rising towards Williams, AZ causes Dipli to overheat. Kaibab national Forest hosts us and David and Jody’s party of 5. There is a fire ban and David has brought his propane BBQ to celebrate Jan’s birthday. Aj meets an Elk. Ron and David find that Dipli has a cracked overflow tank. The next day they bring a cooling system test kit while the Breytenbachs are at Bearizonia wildlife park

At Grand Canyon National park, the photogenic big ditch, Aj and Karla complete the book, join a ranger talk and receive their Junior Ranger badges.

Dipli goes ahead to secure parking at Desert View campground among the Junipers. The sunset views over Grand Canyon from Desert View tower are spectacular.

Walmart in Page enables more retail and wifi with aircon. Librarian Liesl appreciates the lovely Page Public Library.

It is the 4th of July and we watch the fireworks from a distance.

At Bryce Canyon national Park Utah, they hike down between the hoodoos. A scenic walk to Mossy Cave leads to a pool beneath a waterfall.

A Rodeo with brave riders and equestrian skills provides a unique western entertainment.

The long lonely road through western Nevada brings us to eastern California and the snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains reflected in the pale turquoise waters of Mono Lake. This ancient saline lake provides a habitat for millions of migratory birds which come to feed on trillions of brine shrimp and alkali flies

We are relieved to see that Tioga Pass leading up to Yosemite National park is open.

At the top of the pass the children play in the snow and build a snow man.

Granite cliffs, waterfalls, meadows and clear streams define the beauty of Yosemite.

It is Karla’s 9th birthday and we have a party with “my little pony theme”. Later Andre, as always, does the perfect “braai” (bbq), followed by s’mores.

Dipli’s battery seems to be defunct. A ranger complains about the generator running after-hours (11am). We drive down to Clovis. Get to Napa 10 minutes before closing AND they happen to have the correct battery.

We park at Walmart and there is more opportunity for shopping including buying more shoes!

At Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park we do the General Grant trail and hike below towering forests of giant sequoias to the massive General Sherman Tree; by volume the largest living tree on earth. The children earn their 4th Junior Ranger Badges, after saying the pledge: “I promise to teach others…”

We go west to the California coast. Andre jr and Karla swim in the sea and play on the beach with new friends at Gaviota and Refugio State Parks.

Malibu State Beach is a good spot to clean the rented RV. Andre takes the children to a large pool in the creek where Aj jumps from the cliff face.

We Return “the Bear” RV and all 6 pile into Dipli and make our way through LA’s horrific traffic to the Anaheim Desert Inn Suites. (Cheaper than camper rental plus two campground sites) And directly opposite Disney’s entrance. From the hotel’s roof terrace we can watch the nightly fireworks at Disney.

Everyone has a great time at Disney Land.. We are at the right spot and enjoy the spectacular parade of colourful floats with Disney characters. California Adventure Park has more thrilling rides and displays. On their last day in Los Angeles there is a visit to “the Cube science centre” and to Disney’s Lego shop

We felt lost without the family. We take Highway 1 up the Californian North Coast. It is a fabulous coastal drive, which cuts a winding course on isolated cliffs high above the crashing surf.

A local recommends a stop at the Sea Ranch Chapel. In a tranquil scenic setting we enjoy the spiritual vibes of this tiny artistic sanctuary.

Red woods National Park has some spectacular groves of the world’s tallest living trees. Magical trails and drives run between these magnificent Redwood Trees.

We would have continued north along the Oregon coast but then received an invite to meat up with Swiss friends to view The Solar Eclipse. The new route was 2000km east through Oregon to Wyoming.

We drive through small artsy Sisters town with 1880 facades named after the adjacent trio of peaks. Charmingly no strip malls or chain stores.

In Bend we visit with Jeremy a young friend who is flying for the national forest service; and we learn a lot about wild fire fighting.

Erika and Claude and Junior, the Toyota motor home, were waiting. We got caught up in the excitement leading up to the Eclipse. Everyone was talking about where the best place would be to watch and where to get eye protection goggles. We camped together at Gray rocks Reservoir and waited. We were not disappointed. It was a clear day and we had 2 ½ minutes of totality. Claude took fantastic photos.

After using the internet at the new Douglas Library we parked for the night at the town’s free Riverside Park. Wyoming is sparsely populated and we loved the prairies and historic sites like Fort Laramie and all associated with the Oregon Trail.

A detour north led to Thermopolis where Leone could soak at Hot springs State Park.

South again via Flaming Gorge on the border of WY and Colorado, to Flagstaff AZ.

The Hopi festival was a colourful affair before the farewell to our Flagstaff friends.

Still in South-Western USA Our other children come visiting Apr.–Oct. 2018

Jody took us to enjoy a profusion of pink blossoms on trees in the streets of Flagstaff.

Shortly after arriving in the U.S, we went north to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah, where the eroded cottonwood trail was a challenge. Then there was a corrugated stretch leading to lovely Canyon Lands NP.

Back in Flagstaff we discovered a broken chassis (again). Jan’s preparation and

David’s welding skills made a fix to last.

Ingrid had been to London but met up with Gerhard, Gerrid and Jana in Qatar.

We waited in Los Angeles for them to arrive. And there the weary 4 were! From the hotel we went in Dipli to Universal Studios where the amazing “Wizarding world of Harry Potter” had just opened.

While Jan and Dipli parked right in Hollywood boulevard we walked and searched the pavements for the names of our favourite stars. Complimentary chocolates and divine coffee at Ghirardelli’s sustained us for shopping, the Wax museum and the Guinness Museum (where Gerrid lost (and found 2 weeks later) his backpack).

After the visit to the Natural History Museum we made a seaside supper picnic. On the wide Marina del Rey beach there were volley ball nets a basketball court and a bike track.

We collected the rented RV from Road Bear. Dipli and Gerhard plunged into the LA traffic. Late afternoon it was 38ºC in the Barstow Walmart parking lot. Shopping, and McD was in air-conditioning and the (mid) night cap was iced coffee there.

Las Vegas was even hotter. Circus Circus Casino RV park’s pool and the Water park next door was a welcome cooling diversion.

In the evening Gerhard arranged Uber to the LV strip and we arrived at the Mirage casino as the ‘volcano’ erupted. A long margarita at a bar-with-dancing girls before and then we enjoyed the unforgettable Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles music performance called “ Love”.

Uber took us and the children to a sports shop. Jana cut her knee running up a descending escalator. After a fuss we still went along Las Vegas Boulevard in the Deuce bus to the pyramids and sphinx at Luxor casino. They enjoyed Coke world, Hersheys chocolate world and the colourful M&M world.

At Bellagio we admired the Dale Chihuly glass ceiling, the conservatory’s botanic display and saw the large musical fountain twice.

Up then to Williams AZ. Where David and Jody and family came to meet us in Kaibab forest. Jody brought enchiladas and Jana packed prettily, brownies with strawberries for dessert.

Bearizonia wildlife park introduced North American animals to them.

At Grand Canyon Gerrid and Jana were not interested in posing for pictures. They were enthusiastic to complete their Junior Ranger Books. After the Ranger talk on lizards they could perfectly imitate the actions of territorial lizards. They pledged and received their first Junior Ranger badges with Ouma the same afternoon. Meanwhile Ingrid and Gerhard enjoyed some peace and a lovely sunset over the canyon.

The next day was walking and taking the shuttle to the furthest west, Herman’s Rest, in the park and later at Desert View Tower another memorable sunset.

Bryce canyon national Park’s hikes were down between the hoodoos and to a waterfall beneath more of “the poetry in stone”

After the rodeo we parked at the scenic rest area as the sun was setting spectacularly.

On the way to Page in the Navajo Indian Reservation there were stalls with Indian jewellery for sale.

We reached Walmart Page midday. Ingrid researched and found a boat trip on Lake Powell nearby. From the marina the golden towering cliffs loomed above the boat as the canyon narrowed to the Glen Canyon Dam Wall.

Two long days’ driving through dry western Nevada brought us to east California to Lee-Vining. At “La Te Da” we had a latte on the brilliant green lawn under a shady tree. Nearby was Mono Lake, with pale turquoise waters; an ancient saline lake that provides a habitat for millions of migratory birds which come to feed on trillions of brine shrimp and alkali flies.

There were still small pockets of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Tioga pass to Yosemite national park passed pristine lakes like Lake Tenaya with swimming and a picnic area.

While we were home in South Africa, we did all the bookings for Ingrid and family’s visit to the USA. However, in spite of logging on at the second of reservation opening for Yosemite, all campgrounds were booked out. After research on “www.ioverlander.com” we found camping in the forest just outside the western entry to the Park.

A very early pre-breakfast departure, following the winding road, ensured a precious parking spot in the Yosemite Valley. Within reach were: the shuttles, the crystal clear Merced river, Granite cliffs and waterfall views. After Mirror Lake hike we enjoyed huge pizzas and the kids’ favourite: a soda fountain (many refills and mixes)

Ingrid and Gerhard walked a strenuous trail while the children did the junior ranger-thing.

Towering forests of giant Sequoias, some of the largest trees in the world, grow in Sequoia National Park. From the campground we could visit the groves of awesome Sequoia trees.

The Twin park Kings Canyon is deeper than Grand Canyon.

We walked the trails and drove right to the end of the road above the Kings river Canyon.

When we parked at the Shandon Rest Area we saw under glass photos and a description of the accident nearby which had claimed the life of James Dean in 1955.

Our camp sites at Gaviota State Park were closest to the sea. Two days of not-driving and the lovely beach was a treat.

We had reserved a camp site at Malibu Beach State park for the last night and for cleaning the rented RV. “Closed” the sign said. The attendant allowed us free access to the Day use area, but we may not camp overnight. After much persuasion she told us that there had been a murder.

At Malibu Beach we joined a trendy crowd to have cocktails on the beach and dinner at the popular Malibu Beach café. Parking for the night was next to a minor road.

After returning the rental we all 6 pile into Dipli and make our way through LA’s horrific traffic to the Anaheim Desert Inn Suites. (Cheaper than camper rental plus two campground sites and directly opposite Disneyland’s entrance.) From the hotel’s roof terrace we could watch the nightly fireworks at Disney. There was also an indoor swimming pool and free breakfast.

Everyone is dazzled by Disneyland’s characters, shows and rides on submarines, roller coasters, miniature cars, boats, and teacups etc.

Gerrid veers off and gets lost. After 2 hours and panic stations Ingrid finds him at “lost children” reading a book.

Disney California Adventure. The Oliviers enjoy more thrilling rides and attractions. A climax is the-late-night absolutely fantastic parade “world of colour” an endless sequence of vivid neon-lighted extravaganza with captivating music.

It is a sad day when the Oliviers have to depart for South Africa.

We drive up to Big Bear Lake to relax in the forest for 2 weeks and for Leone to heal two broken ribs (from a slip leaning over a bath). On the 2nd last day, coming from the village, Dipli breaks a side-shaft flange in front of our quiet spot. (Jan had been expecting it, so the timing and place could not have been better chosen.)

At Joshua Tree National Park we enjoy seeing these giant-size yuccas and suffer 40ºC heat.

Flagstaff at 2200m is comfortable; also with DaJo camp’s wifi and electricity. Many days are spent on bank affairs including a 4-hour phone call. At the county fair Leone enjoys the dancing of the group Ballet Folklorico de Colores.

After many days of TLC for Dipli. we headed to Texas. We stopped at Petrified Forest National Park AZ where Conifers from 225 million years ago had fallen.

Carlsbad Caverns warrants a 3rd visit; and we admire the caves with the modern new lighting

Guadalupe Mountains in Texas is an unexpected treat. Rising from the desert with also flora like the red trunked Trees, Texas Madrone and claret cup cactus. At the Visitor Centre we see mule deer.

Big Bend national park is beautiful beyond expectation. The desert is green with a variety of flowering shrubs and cacti like the ocotillo and chollo. The Chisos Mountains is a scenic backdrop to the campground. Rio Grande makes a loop with Mexico on the other side.

Near Fort Davis is the McDonald Observatory. A guided tour takes us to the Harlan J Telescope and Hobby Eberly, One of worlds largest optical Telescopes, with it’s twin back home: SALT (South African Large Telescope).

Nearby we park at a lovely quiet maintained picnic/campground. Free for all. Where else in the world?!

Back in Arizona, Dragoon, we are amazed by the native American museum: Amerind.

In Flagstaff we enjoy the Navajo Festival. Then it is time to pack for South Africa. A new procedure is Dipli’s winterizing. This time we are not leaving the RV at Apache Junction but with David and Jody in Flagstaff, where it freezes in winter.

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