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UNITED STATES: PHOTOS AND TRIP REPORT
Here below some of the most
fascinating photos from California and the United States. Together with the photogallery, you will find a funny
and interesting trip report full of info and anecdotes describing the whole travel itinerary.
If you haven't read them yet, check out all travel info and precise itinerary here: www.wildtrips.net/united-states.htm.
UNITED STATES TRIP REPORT
the sunny August of 2006 I went to the US with three friends and
a lot of imagination. I was hoping to have an "on the road"
adventure like the characters in Jack Kerouac’s novel… maybe
with less alcohol and drugs, but equally fun.
Probably my youth fantasies were exaggerated and our vacation
was by no means "beat-generation-like”. Yet, despite the lack of
booze, hangovers, poverty and homelessness, it was a great trip. It
all started from San Francisco airport, where we collected our
Dollar rental car. The clerk of the agency was moved to pity
when he noticed how much luggage we had, so at no extra-cost he
provided us with a spacious SUV instead of the sedan we had
booked via internet. The clerk was so kind and caring that we
considered asking him also for a free gold watch and a kidney,
but in the end we didn’t want to take advantage of the
situation. It was night. We
drove for half an hour before stopping at a motel.
The next morning we woke up with enthusiasm under a blue sky. We
set off towards our first destination, the Yosemite National
Park. The typical 8-lane road really smelled of America but
was unattractive. When we turned towards the mountains, 6 lanes
disappeared and the landscape became more enjoyable.
For those who are not used to driving cars with automatic
transmission, I have a quick suggestion. When you stop the car,
please don’t press the clutch pedal strongly with your left
foot. Firstly, because there is no clutch pedal. Secondly,
because you will press the brake pedal instead, brutally
stopping the vehicle. Luckily, no one rammed into the back of
our SUV and the holiday didn’t end there.
The Yosemite owes its fame to the impressive rocky mountains and
“alpine” landscapes, with mythical cliffs that are a
The road went up through a dense forest. We parked and we
ventured into the vegetation on easy trails. There were many
huge trees and the superb giant sequoias. We were excited
as children at the carnival. We jumped and climbed around while
watching trees that were more than a hundred meters tall and
with trunks so wide that you could dig a road tunnel through
them. It isn’t just an example: at the end of the 19th
century a tunnel was dug in the sequoia Wawona, without asking
her permission. Wawona didn’t appreciate and since then she lost
her healthy and vigorous appearance.
sad story that didn’t manage to ruin our mood. Actually, our
enthusiasm was fueled by the absurdity of those gigantic trees
as it was a juicy anticipation of the many other American
excesses we had ahead. We were close to meet the free madness of
drove up to a scenic spot full of squirrels, the Glacier Point.
From there we could admire uninterrupted views of mountains,
valleys and forests. We continued our car trip, stopping
occasionally to have a short walk or to take some photos at a
viewpoint. We found rivers, waterfalls and scarily-high granite
cliffs (including the famous El Capitan). Some of the mountain
passes were over 3000 meters above sea level. It’s important to
know that some places, for example Glacier Point and Tioga Pass
(on the road to Nevada), are closed from November to May because
of the snow.
Well, everybody knows that very high mountains are high indeed.
Yet we didn’t think about it and we decided to camp on a
mountain pass. It’s true that in the day it was hot, but in the
evening the temperature dropped to 5 degrees below zero. We were
at 2700 meters above sea level, so we couldn’t really complain.
should have burnt all the forest in order to keep warm (one
of us panicked and was about to set fire to our only map of the
United States, but we stopped him in time). Instead, we went
to sleep at 10PM in our summer sleeping-bags, wearing light
clothes as we didn’t have anything else. At 4 AM we were all
locked in the car with the heating on. So we made a virtue of
necessity and we drove to some viewpoints to enjoy the sunrise.
It was spectacular. We thanked the frost.
Still, that Yosemite
camp had two very positive aspects: 1) There was a sign
that said “Don’t feed the bears”;
2) Payment method was cash deposit in a wooden box.
Nobody checked: it was all based on trust. It was a nice example
of the Americans’ high sense of community. It’s also true that
many of them support death sentences, fast-foods, creationism
over darwinism and wars around the world, but, hey, nobody’s
spent the morning wandering around, then we left the beautiful
mountain landscapes and drove down to the desert flats shared by
California and Nevada.
We improvised, but we had an approximate travel itinerary in mind. We ate a hamburger in a pub that looked
as if taken straight out of a western movie. After lunch, the
outside temperature rose to 45 degrees. It means that we
suffered a temperature shift of 50 degrees in 7 hours. I
felt like a frozen fish suddenly thrown in the pan.
arrived in the Death Valley and admired its extreme
landscapes: salt lakes, canyons, rocky peaks. No vegetation and
no water except for a few paddles at the edge of a salt lake at
an altitude of one hundred meters under the sea-level. We slept
in a cheap motel (as we did most nights).
After an American breakfast with eggs and bacon, we ventured
again in the American nature. Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon,
Canyonlands… they are all extraordinary places, with an amazing
variety of landscapes (although the rocky canyons are the main
highlight, as you can guess from the names).
was a photography enthusiast’s paradise, with those
ever-changing shapes and colors and with sunrises and sunsets
that took the breath away. It
was 2006 so we were at the beginning - at least to my knowledge
- of digital photography. My camera had a 128 MB SD memory
holding about 60 photos. Before the holiday, it seemed to me
that it was sufficient, being the equivalent of three old rolls!
Instead, the desire to take zillions of photos was irresistible.
Luckily we had a PC with us where we could download our
pictures. At the end of the holiday we counted about 1000 photos
each, taken on a journey of 5000 kilometers. The simple idea of
a 128 MB memory now makes me laugh.
all the places, Bryce Canyon is the one that surprised us the
most along our travel itinerary, with its improbable red rock pinnacles. It's simple to
visit: a comfortable road climbs up a mountain, reaching an
altitude of over 2000 meters and providing many vantage points.
The Canyonlands region is less flashy, but wilder. So its visit
is much more adventurous: you can follow a variety of
semi-deserted dirt roads that run through canyons and rocky
Adventure is what a fair person needs in the midst of such
amazing scenery. It was a mistake, due to our inexperience, not
to organize some mad activities in the wilderness. 4x4
exploration, skidding on the gravel and looking for the perfect
camera angle was satisfying, but we had the itch to do something
more and the feeling to be continually dominated by landscapes
that were too big for us. Some hiking and a canoe ride on a
river or a lake would have been excellent and economic
solutions. There were also more expensive and complicated (but
rewarding) opportunities, such as 3-day rafting tours or
rock-climbing in the Grand Canyon.
After some scenic drives along dirt roads in the Canyonlands
region, we reached the Lake Powell, where Americans of
the rurrounding states go on weekends with their SUVs towing a
boat or an aqua-scooter. The water is flat and hot, thus making
the lake an ideal place for wakeboarding, wakesurfing and
bare-foot water-skiing. This last sport seems as impossible as
the story that Jesus could walk on the water. Yet, at high
speed, it is indeed possible to enjoy water-skiing without skis,
and to perform stunts as well.
had to be content with swimming, playing beach tennis and other
similar leisure activities, then we drove to the Monument
Valley, with its famous rocky cathedrals in the desert. At
sunset, it was an outstanding show.
The day after we reached the Grand Canyon. We only
visited its edge near the main tourist center. It was enough to
be amazed by the superb landscapes and impressed by the
vertiginous cliffs, but a longer trekking would have helped us
to appreciate and understand more about this unique place.
the road again, we drove to the crazy Las Vegas. Its
hotels and casinos were fantastic skyscrapers and a constant
source of awe and head-shaking. We noticed the replicas of the
Eiffel Tower and the town of Bellagio and we laughed to
America’s delusions. But, in the end, Las Vegas was a lot of fun
for us too, so we couldn’t really feel superior.
There were entertainments for all tastes and all budgets. The
hotel rooms were cheap, in the casinos there were tables and
roulettes where the bets started from one cent, many shows were
for free and the buffet restaurants provided good food for few
The consequences on our health were tricky. When we had lunch at
a buffet with delicacies from all over the world we ate way too
much. Going in and out of the air-conditioned hotels was
debilitating. Spending the evenings in bright and luxurious
hotels, without realizing when the night came, took away time
from our sleep.
However, we survived Las Vegas. After having refused to spend $
60 for a quadruple room in a 5 star hotel, complaining that it
was too expensive (the reception clerk’s face was funny) we
drove all night towards San Diego, the next stop along our travel itinerary. We
didn’t have a GPS navigator, so we followed the road signs,
generally very accurate, and the palm trees, according to the
theory that the more palms we saw the closer to San Diego we
were getting. Strangely it worked and at dawn we could lay down
on a Californian beach.
slept. It was good. When we woke up the long, sandy beach was
already full of joggers, families and surfers. It was a typical
American beach view, with a long pier and the lifeguards’ red
4x4 pick-up. Then we visited San Diego, a modern and liveable
city with an ideal climate. We
slept in a motel. The day after we drove north, to Los
Angeles and its famous neighborhoods of Hollywood,
Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Santa Monica and Malibu. As we drove
through Los Angeles Downtown (the city financial center, full of
skyscrapers and offices, lively by day and deserted by night)
we came upon a scene of guerrilla. We saw overturned cars,
flames and gunfires. It looked pretty interesting. We
stopped to check out the situation and we found out that it was
a movie set. A policeman (a real or a fake one? Reality and
fantasy mingled) explained to us that it was a scene of The
Santa Monica we challenged some players to a few sets of beach
volleyball, with alternate results. There was a huge, really
excessive amount of volleyball courts: I think that millions of
players were needed to use them all. Maybe they migrated from
the North in the cold season, I don’t know. In
fact, in a gigantic city like Los Angeles, divided into several
towns, it takes time to get to know the right places and times
to meet the local people, to play beach-volley or to drink a
beer in good company. We always had the feeling of being in the
wrong place at the wrong time. In Europe the most vibrant area
of the city is often the "center", but Los Angeles Downtown
in the evening was rather spooky. The problem was that there
were several city centers in Los Angeles, one for each "neighborhood"
(a misnomer for Santa Monica, which has nearly 100,000
Wandering aroung we found a rather popular pub and beaches full
of people, but certainly it takes time to be able to appreciate
metropolis like Los Angeles, and possibly the help of some local
Long Island we had a Whale Watching trip. Unfortunately it was
not whale season (so we were told after we had bought our
tickets), but it was fun anyway, as we ended up seeing hundreds
From Los Angeles we continued towards North. We stopped in the
nice town of Santa Barbara, where we surfed for a while. It was
a cold, gray morning that became a sunny afternoon. We drove
along the beautiful coast up to Monterey. The next morning there
were gray skies again. We took another whale watching trip,
but this time the whales were so kind to show up, as expected.
The Monterey Bay offers very good chances of spotting a whale or
two, and also seals and dolphins. Maybe you really don’t care
about watching whales, but in our opinion it was a fascinating
experience. Clearly the best option is to rent a sailing boat
(there was a good wind) and tack and jibe between cetaceans:
it should be pure adrenaline! An amazing adventure as long as
you don’t hit a whale… which rarely happens anyway.
Then we drove to San Francisco. The sky became quite blue, which
is not guaranteed in this part of California, while in the
South it is the normality for most of the year. San Francisco is unique, beautiful and livable. Its
highilights are quite famous, from the Golden Gate Bridge
to the trams climbing up on steep roads, from the elegant white
buildings to the wide and windy bay in which lies Alcatraz
island. On the last night before catching the flight back to
Italy we lived a funny adventure.
were admiring San Francisco skyline, with its illuminated
skyscrapers and bridges, when I casually closed the door of the
SUV. Unfortunately, the keys were inside the car and no-one was
with them. When I tried to open the door, I noticed that for
some magic reason it was locked. In short, we were locked out of
the car, seized from the outside world. We stared at each other
for a while and we decided to blame the Dollar clerk who hadn’t
donated us a kidney. Then we walked to a nearby police station.
The sheriff made us call the firemen.
They arrived shortly after abord of the typical big red truck,
the same model that appears in the Hollywood movies where some
flames are involved (most of them). It really seemed an
overkill, but the firemen came out laughing. They were friendly
and nice. With an axe and a piece of wire managed to open the
door without damaging it and they saved us. That experience
symbolized the general kindness of the Americans, always ready
to help. We
drove to the airport. Our flight made a stop in Philadelphia,
where we spent twenty-four hours. It was funny to visit the
stairs where "Rocky" run in the famous movie and to scream “Adrianaaaaaaaaa”.
We slept in the train station. At 4 AM a policeman woke us up
by hitting twice our bench with his flashlight. We left the
station together with the other homeless people. We
returned to the airport and the holiday really ended. An easy
and spectacular trip, in which "on the road" meant freedom, but
also comfort (really, if you feel uncomfortable during such a
journey, you should try the island of Java in Indonesia). This
trip is definetely advisable, and I dare to say mandatory, essential,
necessary. If you want to plan a travel itinerary in this region, please consider that the National Parks are worth a longer visit and
additional adventurous, funny, crazy activities!
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