Day 96-97: Paso Robles #2

To begin with, sorry for the massive delay in posts. We’re not currently in Peru and travelling has really stepped up a notch. I kid you not, we have barely enough time to go to the bathroom, let alone blog!

While we were in Paso Robles, we stayed with a very left-wing couple called “Steve” and “Matt”. They’d invested the best part of $200,000 into their home to make it fit for a B’n’B, and they were pretty much set up for life. They’d already hosted 800 groups of people, so by the time we came along, their establishment was a well oiled machine. We were one of three couples who stayed with them, the other two being a Dad and son from the UK and a married couple from Australia. We inevitably started talking about politics within ten minutes – remember that this was before the election. The hosts were adamant that Hillary was going to win, with a lot of pretty sound statistics to back it up. Both us and the other UK pair agreed, but the Aussies seemed less sure. They didn’t think we should have counted our chickens just yet, and I wish we’d listened to them!

For our second day, our hosts recommended that we visit Hearst Castle.

William Hearst was an eccentric millionaire, whose father came into fortune in his 40’s when he successfully found a massive batch of silver. His father very carefully gave Williams inheritance to a trustee, who would only give William what he needed and when. William was passionate about a patch of land in California, and was eventually granted the rights to own and build upon it at the beginning of the 20th century. He built one of the grandest and most luxurious buildings in California and invited some of the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Charlie Chaplin and the like (I can’t remember..).

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In it’s hay-day, Hearst had all manner of exotic animals, such as polar bears, at his place. He also had a very unique way of allotting time to each guest. Every evening, he would invite everyone into the dining hall for dinner. Each guest would find their names along this beautiful table.

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On your first night, you would find your name very close to Hearst and each night after, your name would be placed further and further away. When your name finally reached the end of the table, that was Hearst’s signal to you that you had maybe outstayed your welcome. If he liked you, however, you would be invited back.

He was passionate about the land the mansion was built upon, and was often heard saying that he would rather the building fell apart than have any of the trees burnt down. He lived by that principle by moving any trees that needed to be moved instead of cutting them down, which would have been much less costly. He also demanded that his guests stay out of their rooms as much as possible and enjoy themselves outside in the sunshine.

And now time for my Bad Tourist award. This one goes to a lovely couple who, after a five minute and very explicit lecture about leading/touching/sitting on anything other than the ground or the handrails, sat here for a full half hour. I’m getting better at my passive-aggressive behaviour though as they originally asked me to take a photo, and I said no. I was shaking with the adrenaline.

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Our next destination will be the end of our time in USA, North America and the Northern Hemisphere for a while! We figured we may as well go out with a bang and head to LA. If I don’t see Tom Hanks, I will be pissed!

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Day 94–96: Paso Robles, CA #1

We continued along the 1 Freeway on the way to Paso Robles. There was nothing in particular about this place that we wanted to see, it was just a stop on the way to LA. The journey was stunning though, and dotted with amazing sights.

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Our first stop was McWay falls (pictures above). It’s most famous for the waterfall that tumbles onto the beach, creating a scene that is pure paradise. A slightly lesser known fact about this place is that there used to be a multi-million dollar house built on this site. In the 1980’s, a landslide caused the house to me almost completely covered in earth, with only a few broken remains of walls and the view from the patio. As always, nature has a habit of returning the land to glory and it didn’t take the plant-life long to regrow in the areas.

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Next up was Bixby Creek Bridge. I apologise for the cheap pose, but when would I next get a chance to hang off a bridge?! There was also a pathway that led down the side of the bridge and gave you some amazing views of the beach below. Me and Dan have started to have a “anywhere you can walk, I can walk further” competition, so if he could get down to a certain spot, then I had to follow.

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I can’t really provide a location for these photos. They were just along the way. The horses were beautiful and incredibly curious, though they may have been hungry and willing to take a chance on some strangers. It was around this time that I truly began to appreciate what California had to offer. It took a little time, but I’ve got some love for you now Cali!

The next place we went to was completely by chance. It may be because the 1 Freeway isn’t commonly used to get from A to B, but not one person we asked told us about this. I’ll get the small grievance out of the way first, because it was truly sensational. Whenever I’m doing anything, I always want to follow one golden rule. If 1000 people could do the same as me without changing anything or damaging anything, then I go ahead. If 1000 me’s would create damage to anything, I stop. This rule means that I am not one of those travellers – someone who doesn’t care about their surroundings. This lady was one of those travellers and shame on her.

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Ok now I’m done, so here’s the good bit. This is what they didn’t tell us about.

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Elephant seals! Everywhere! All huddled and muddled along this beach, showing all of the emotions.

Bliss.

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Worry.

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Horror.

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Fear.

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Cuddle-road rage.

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Acceptance.

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And finally, love.

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It was amazing to see how individual all of their faces were. Not a single one looked exactly like the other. They did have one thing in common though. It became evident that each of these glorious animals had the instinct to turn towards the sea and head back out into the big blue. It was touching to see this one give a final farewell before heading out.

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There’s something amazing about seeing an age-old tradition take place, such as this. Once that precedes me and mankind, and one that will hopefully outlive me as well. These eccentric looking creatures knew what they needed to do – now we just need to figure that out!

Day 91-93: Halloween and Monterey

Our  Canadian Thanksgiving mission, which was to spend it with a local, was pretty successful. We did not have roast turkey and all the trimmings, but we did have a Canadian breakfast in a Canadian home with a Canadian host. And I put some maple syrup in my tea. The reason that we were so adamant that we had to spend thanksgiving this way was because we can’t spend 9 months feeling like a tourist. Sure, its not our holiday, but as I keep explaining to people we meet, we don’t go crazy over much in the UK apart from Christmas.

Monterey was a beautiful sea-side town, which was our first stop between San Francisco and LA. We’ve done a lot of back and forth in our journey in order to see as much as possible, and we’re still only going to scratch the surface. The town is just off the 1 freeway and has stunning drives to and from the place in any direction. The main attraction here is the Aquarium, which I think is the largest in the world? I’m sure that’s what someone told me.

Our AirBnB hosts were kind enough to lend us their annual pass, which stopped us from being $100 out of pocket. It’s not a cheap place to get into, but a lot of the money goes towards keeping the wildlife in the area healthy and sustainable and researching into global warming. I’m sure most of these pictures are going to speak for themselves, so I’m just going to pop them below:

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Here, just like in any zoo or wildlife enclosure anywhere now, they spoke a lot about the impact of climate change. I personally never gave the oceans much thought before this visit, and focused most of my concern on wildlife in the rainforests and the climate closer to home. But the truth is that nearly half of the known coral reef in our oceans has already died and we have reached a point in time where the climate will wipe out all of it if we do not intervene. The oceans absorb most of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere, but become more and more acidic as a result, which affect the balance needed for ocean life to thrive. That fact is indisputable and it’s terrifying. How arrogant are we to come along and wipe out species of animals who’ve been here for millions of years? Do we really want to be in a position where all we can do is mourn these beautiful, living sculptures?

Now back onto Halloween. Dusk was approaching and we had made no plans. We asked people on the street, waiters, supermarket workers, anyone within reach, but they all said the same thing; Halloween is on a Monday this year. If we weren’t around to celebrate it at the weekend, then we pretty much had lost out chance. We could try and go to a bar, or we could go back to our AirBnB and admit defeat in front of a TV with some candy (that’s sweets/chocolate to you and me).

We drove home and shuffled up to the front door with the keys in hand. Before we put the key in the lock, the door opened and we were faced with two people and a dog in fancy dress. As usual with the people we meet, the British-ness in me feels that taking a photo of them would be an invasion of their personal space, so I’ll find the best replica I can on the internet.

Is this in any way how they looked? You’ll never know. Our hosts didn’t have much Halloween luck either, as they thought we would be their fourth trick ‘o’ treaters, but they made the effort to dress up and provide candy regardless. We ended up eating most of it and watched Cloverfield 10 with them, so it wasn’t the Halloween we expected, but it was a good one.

Day 89-90: Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park, California.

Believe it or not, even with the wealth of photos in the last post, I still managed to leave one out. Once we turned away from the General Sherman (biggest tree in the world), we were racing with the sun to gather the last few shots we could get. We were just in time to see the last glimpse before it disappeared completely.

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Now onto the next day. America is all about the big, and so was Glacier Point. Just high enough to get a tiny bit of altitude sickness, which was most likely a mind over matter situation, we drove up to 8000 feet above sea level. Due to the time of year (end of October) a lot of Yosemite was closed, so Glacier Point was one of the few places that were left to view in all its glory.

when we first arrived, the area was covered pretty thickly in clouds.

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Before we let the British in us out and start grumbling about the weather, we decided to wait a little while.

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It paid off. Both for us and the recently married couple. There’s not an awful lot to say about this day that isn’t covered in the pictures, so I’ll just leave it with a few more photos. Glacier Point in Yosemite is pretty accessible, as it’s only a short walk away from the car. We tried to make up for this lack of adventurousness by decorating our shots with the pretty leaves. I think I nailed it with my shot of Dan. We’ve also learnt this cool trick of turning round and looking the wrong way when smiling for photos. It makes us look more travel-wise.

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Day 86–89: Lake Tahoe and Sequoia National Park

After our bad couchsurfing experience, we needed a day of not doing much. It makes us sound a little soft I know, but it wasn’t because we were emotionally traumatised or anything. If you’ve read the blog, you’ll know that it wasn’t that horrendous an experience and pretty much straight away we were laughing at how we’d finally lost our shitty-couchsurfing-experience virginity. Finally we had a story of our own to tell at dinner parties.

No, we needed to take a day out because we were tired. We spent hours looking for a decent motel after we decided to leave and finally found one in the early hours of the morning. The man behind the desk probably wasn’t that nice, but he honestly looked like Mother Theresa to me as I was so worried. When we got to our next AirBnB, I had an hours long bath and went to bed. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Well nearly..

I went with Dan to see Lake Tahoe, but slept in the car while he went on a hike. This is what I saw:

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And the next bunch of photos is what Dan saw alone. I could try to justify taking that nap more, but all I will say on the subject is his two hour hike felt like five minutes to me, I fell asleep that fast. It was at this point that Dan discovered the Macro setting on our camera (allows you to take very close up shots and blurs the background to anyone who was like me before this nap/hike), so enjoy the artistic photos because we’ve gone crazy with that setting ever since.

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That evening we stayed in a town called Fresno. Fresno is not an exceptional town for anything itself (just about every Fresno resident I met told me that), but it has a great advantage of being smack-bang in the middle of a lot of cool stuff. So it does see it’s fair share of tourists. Thankfully for us, we gave Couchsurfing another go and got to see a little more. Our hosts ‘Michael’ and ‘Brittney’ (just assume from now on that I’m not using their real names as I never ask permission) let us in to stay for two nights.

The first night we were there, they took us to some cool bars. I learnt two things that night; a) Fresno is working hard to re-build their music scene that started to decline in the 90’s and b) I actually like some types of beer out there. The first time someone handed me a beer, I gave it back to them thinking that someone must have thrown up in the can. This beer was so much nicer though, they had types with blood orange in, sour beers etc. You may not think it’s a big deal, but having those kinds of beers on tap is rare in the UK!

Brittany also thoroughly entertained us that night by telling us all about the time she used to date one of the Hell’s Angels. Apparently he was a nice enough guy, but he was too much of a junkie. She also introduced us to a guy who played some of the best piano I’ve ever heard. He did ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – very eclectic and awesome!

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The next day, we went to seek out the ‘Sequoia National Park’, which contains the worlds largest tree. Obviously it isn’t just this one tree surrounded by lots of dinky, normal sized trees, so we got to experience life as a squirrel for a day! The two main types of trees were called Redwood and Sequoia. On the way, we passed by some more beautiful scenery and a lime farm (?!).

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The first thing that dawned on us as we got out of the car and took a look around was wood really does play it’s own song.

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The next thing was the grandness of these guys. The obvious pitfall in trying to photograph something so large is trying to get the whole thing into one shot. We did our best.

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Having people nearby helped to give you guys an idea of the sheer scale of these trees. When they were first discovered, the original forest workers had to cut down and send off various samples of the trees to prove to the world that they were real. For a long time, these trees were considered to be a Californian hoax to entice people to visit.

I feel like a common thread in our rural posts is the wildlife that we see. Didn’t want to let you down did I? I know only one of these is exotic enough to not be found in most of the world, but all three were cool to look at.

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We were not yet at the sight of the largest tree, and the sun was setting on us, so we had to get a move on, which meant only stopping a couple of times to take in this scenery.

 

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Finally we got there. The Great Sherman Tree. Boy he was big!

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We tried to capture this guy from as many different angles as possible. The highest branch, using us for scale, comparing him to his neighbours, just taking a picture of the damn thing. You can see from the photos that he is never overshadowed completely, which may sound obvious, but he’s not the oldest, or the tallest, or the widest tree in the world (we saw plenty that were arguably wider). He just takes up the most volume in m3.

As impressive as we was, one day he’ll die. I wonder which one of these fellas will grow up to take his place?

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Day 82-84: Google, Computer History Museum and Sancramento

We left San Francisco and ventured into the ever so slightly more rural parts of California. Eventually, we want to do the coastal road connecting San Jose and LA but before that, we want to see the National Parks of California, and so we need to head East.

These couple of days were more Dan’s fantasy than mine, but I think I managed to appreciate it as much as a computer novice could. We made our way over to California’s Google offices in order to have a little experience of Silicon Valley. The offices were very much as we expected them to be; sleek, slightly hipster and futuristic.

The first thing we noticed was that there were Google bikes everywhere. Nothing too special about them, except that they offered the workers free transport.Dan was telling me that the workers can just leave them on the side of the road anywhere once they were finished, and they would be picked up and returned to Google offices. That would be super cool for the workers. 

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Then it just got cooler.

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That last picture is a Google Self-Driving Car. Apparently (I’ll say apparently until I can catch a lift in one of these) you can sit back and take a nap, while the car does all the work for you. The only annoying thing is we kept seeing the drivers meddle around with joysticks in the cars, so maybe they’re not completely self-driven? Either way, they blew our mind! 

We spent a good hour talking about what life would be like if all cars were replaced with google cars. Infants sitting in the drivers seat, taking a nap while heading to work so those hours are no longer a waste of life. You could commute much further to work, as you wouldn’t have to do the commuting yourself. And less road accidents. Seeing those cars definitely told us that we were in the future. 

The Google mascot is a dinosaur, which seems cutely ironic, as Google is all about the future.

From here, we went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. If I seemed at all ignorant just now, its about to get much worse. I did not have a clue here. I knew nothing. Dan loved it all, so maybe he’ll re-do this blog post, but until he does, you’re gonna have to see this museum through my eyes.

They had several things.

They had a Google Car, as modeled by Dan.

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Then they had a giant cigarette dispenser.

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Then some giant cassette players.

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Some mini beer kegs.

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Some TNT.

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Some cheap Christmas lights.

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Some large pennies that hadn’t been stamped with anything yet.

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An extremely white man offering money to any woman who could sew the fastest.

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An exposed washing machine. Everyone was going crazy over this one. It just went round and round.

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A flask with a complicated stirrer.

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A fun game where you had to guess the correct time each morning before work.

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And the most annoying piece of technology to ever be invented.

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Yeah, I didn’t get it. After about an hour, I went to the gift shop. It was a well ventilated building.

After the very modern, we went to the very old fashioned. We drove (in a manual car unfortunately) to Sacremento, where we would be staying for the next two nights. A woman named Dora agreed to host us on CouchSurfing while we were there. Sacremento has a section within the town that pays homage to the days of gold mining in the area. It shares its history by letting you walk through the shops as if it was the late 19th century.

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I liked the place, but if you don’t have the money to go shopping, you begin to get a little bored wandering around. I eventually stumbled into a fortune tellers shop. I don’t personally believe in fortune telling, but I have to give her credit for her calm demeanor when speaking to me. I could have easily spent an hour talking to her, mainly because she was chilled, but a little bit because I’m slightly narcissistic. She told me that I will not have a great amount of sickness in my life – score!

That evening, we had a chance to speak to Dora about politics. It’s a very obviously contentious topic to be discussing at the moment as things are getting more and more tense closer to the election. I don’t like bringing it up either as it seems a bit hoity toity of me to come stomping into someone’s country and start discussing their politics with them when I barely understand them myself. Dora seemed pretty open to the idea though, so we used it as an opportunity to quiz her on her views.

One topic that came out of our discussion was America’s use of guns as Hillary opposes the use of them. As a Brit, it seems absurd that everyone should own a lethal weapon in their homes. I’ve grown up without a gun in my house, so having one now would make me feel more unsafe, if anything. Dora is someone who has grown up with guns in the house, so she had the view that if everyone around her has a gun, then she would compromise her safety not having one.

I can’t justify it in my head, but I can’t think of a plausible solution to it now either. The guns are out there and people own them. How would they ever manage to reel them all back in? Apologies for this blog suddenly becoming very somber. To anyone worrying back home, Dora was very sane, just like 99% of gun owners I’m sure. If you’re still worried, we’re not staying with Dora anymore.