Posts Tagged With: road trip

USA Tour: Day 14 – Hollywood & Santa Monica (03/07/12)

Before we left Santa Barbara, we went to see the famous Mission…the day was dull, misty and grey…it was too early to go inside the mission but a lot of the interest is in the art that has been created on the parking lot.

There are hundreds of images so I couldn’t really take all of them.

This was our last day on the tour and we finished by a quick tour of parts of LA: we drove through Beverly Hills, and then stopped in Hollywood and ended with Santa Monica.

I was relatively disappointed by Hollywood. When we arrived there, there was a strong smell of manure floating around…which you don’t expect from such an urban setting and well there isn’t much to see.

We checked out a few of the stars and hand prints…I was obsessed with finding Burt Reynolds as he had kind of become our mascot following the story about the special shot called Burt Reynolds after which you have to display the moustache…it became a whole thing because the Scottish girls had no idea who Burt Reynolds was and we started doing the moustache after every alcoholic drink we had…

We got to see the sign from the shopping centre in Hollywood, we were quite far out so this is the best shot I got of it, full zoom. We tried a couple with us in front but it was impossible to see the sign…

I had a huge crush on Magnum P.I.! The only man with a moustache I have found attractive. It’s still one of my favourite series and I recently completed the DVD collection and nearly done watching it

 

We didn’t really have much time to go looking for particular “stars” so these were the ones that I actually recognised…On the stretch of road we were at, there were loads of starts from the early days of Hollywood and many I didn’t know.

Burt Reynolds!!!!

I couldn’t resist a little Steven Segal action…there is a joke there somewhere I am sure

 

This one was for my aunt who is a huge Duke fan

 

I just found this particularly amusing…Childish I know, but tell me it didn’t make you chuckle a bit!

This is as close as we got to BH!

 

Santa Monica

 

Now this is one thing I definitely learned on that day…I had no idea that Route 66 ended on Santa Monica Pier.

You could buy this map for $5! Although even if you had the time to check them out, all you probably could see was the huge gates…

We were about 5 miles south of Malibu Beach where Baywatch was shot in the 90s but this looks quite similar…

I wouldn’t mind one of those…although probably a bit scary during a proper storm…

Santa Monica Pier…

 

I took a lot of pictures of Black & Whites…mostly because of James…who was obsessed with them.

I thought this was a particularly interesting view point…

No pier is complete without an amusement park on it…

Apparently the “original” Muscle beach…although there weren’t any muscles around that day…

This was it…the end of our trip…after our little walk around the beach, we headed back through the shopping street…it took us a couple hours to drive back to the Hacienda. Everybody was quiet on the drive back…I think we were feeling the little depression that comes with knowing that it is the end.

Some of us were flying out this night, most were flying the following day. As it was the 4th of July I had decided to extend my stay for one more day to experience it.

Next Chapter: Celebrating the 4th July

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USA Tour: Day 13 – Santa Barbara (02/07/12)

We headed out to town for a day at the beach. We took the bus right across from our motel and within 15 mins we were in State St which is the main shopping street. From the first look I liked Santa Barbara’s Mexican’s influence. All the shop fronts are the same, hacienda style. It’s warm, it’s sunny and it’s clean. The town centre is quite small and yet it has all the shops, cafes, restaurants and bars that you might want. There are a couple of art house cinemas and I think even a theatre. When in the town centre you are about 15 mins walk from the beach front but if you don’t fancy walking, you can take a cute little shuttle train for 80 cents.

Bare feet are dangerous…!

SUP: Stand Up Paddling…is the top sport around there…

 

A cool van…

 

After a walk along the pier and the beach front (looking for the jet ski rental) we ended going to the beach for a bit of swim and sunbathe. We didn’t find the shop…

The marina

We had lunch at the beach cafe, which actually was rather nice. It was a nice day of doing not much…On the way back, I did a bit of souvenir shopping and bought a new pair of earphones from the drugstore as mine had broken.

We went back to the motel to get showered and headed back out for dinner.

We ate at a little Italian restaurant (the usual group…Steph, Heather, Melissa, Achim and I) and then went looking for a place to have a drink….

We settled for a place called the Sand Bar which had outside fires and looked funky.

They had really nice cocktails…I enjoyed a few Pina Coladas…

 

Then we discovered that they turned into a club after a certain time…which suited us very well and we ended up staying for a bit of a boogie…

Left to right: Achim, Heather, Melissa, Steph and a very tanned Me

The happy gang after a good night drinking cocktails (for the girls) and dancing…

Next chapter: Hollywood & Santa Monica

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USA Tour: Day 12 – Pacific Highway 101 & Santa Barbara (01/07/12)

So we left San Francisco and headed towards the most beautiful (and long) drive we had so far…Pacific Highway 101 is famous for its vistas…You drive along the ocean and it does live up to the hype. But first we stopped to see the famous painted houses of SF. They were the ones where the TV series Full House was supposed to be shot.

We missed out on seeing them the day before because of the delay with the Alcatraz trip and some of the girls really wanted to see them.

“Full House” houses

As you can see the day was foggy and grey. Apparently it’s often the case in the morning in SF. We did drive through pretty neighbourhoods to get out of town and it gave me back a little liking for the city…

There are lots of little houses like that around in that part of town and I wouldn’t mind one of those.

PCH 101 View – Oh my!

We had lunch there. It was cute. You have to walk through an art shop on the ground to get to the restaurant on the first floor. The menu was a little restricted and not cheap…but it’s pretty much the only place you can eat for a long way.

Saying that, I had a good breakfast so wasn’t really hungry so only bought a fruit salad.

After lunch we stopped at a view point. It’s a historical area where a famous rich woman used to have a house…

This was one of the views that woman had from her house…I could live with that…

A little birdie…

Our next stop was to watch the sea lions sunbathe….

We arrived in Santa Barbara in late afternoon. We were staying at the Oasis Motel about 15 mins bus ride from town centre. And of course it had a pool so as soon as we were settle in our rooms, we headed out for a swim. It had been a long drive and everybody needed to relax and cool down.

Mel had organised dinner in town at an American dinner called Joe’s Cafe. I decided to play a little more Girls vs Food by ordering their French double dip sandwich…which by the way has nothing French about it as we don’t do that at all in France.

Girl vs Food: Beef double dip sandwich. It was good but definitely was goood!
This is supposed to be a French style sandwich…I can tell you that I have never had one in France and grew up there!

We didn’t hang out in town for long after dinner..didn’t even go for drinks.

Next chapter: Santa Barbara – Day 2

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USA Tour: Day 8 / 9 – Yosemite (27-28/06/12)

Day 8 – 27/06/12

I am not going to talk about the rideto Mariposa and our hostel in the middle nowhere. It was long, it was hot and we were really, really happy to arrive…

The hostel we were staying out is an eco friendly place in the middle of the wood, called the Yosemite Bug. They call themselves a rustic resort but it’s a hostel. We got dorms. http://www.yosemitebug.com/

The 2 good points about the place were a) it had a tiny spa and after a 9hrs drive, I was happy to pay $10 for the jacuzzi overlook the forest ; b) their restaurant: the menu wasn’t amazing but quality was good and portions were enormous. I went for the mexican salad in a taco bowl shaped shell for diner and I couldn’t finish it and their breakfast….the best pancake I had…actually they converted me to pancake for breakfast.

We had dinner and we stayed a little up chatting away and playing games…quite relaxing really…the cold and the mosquitos sent us to bed!

Day 9 – 28/06/12

Biggest blueberry pancake I have had…and it was soo good too!

It took 1 hour to drive to the actual Yosemite Park…we stop to take pictures of El Capitan, one of the famous rock climbing peaks…

El Capitan

and we had to wait forever inside before we could get started…Heather had forgotten her phone in her room at the Red Feather lodge in the Grand Canyon and they were mean to ship it out to Yosemite park. Turns out it’s a big park with a couple of postal codes…it tool an hour to track the parcel down.

We were due to do the Mist Trail but as we started an hour late, it put a little spanner in the works. Half the group stopped at the halfway point and turned back…My group (with Heather and Steph) was hardcore and we carried on. It was a really tough hike but beautiful and I am really proud of myself for doing it.

Yup we went all the way to the top of that!

The guys who made it! (left to right: Lawrence “The Finisher”, Stephan, Heather and me). Admittedly Lawrence got there at least half an hour before us but still…no one else did…and we waited for them whilst cooling our feet in the very cold stream…

Even Mr Piggy needed to get himself cool down…

Mr Piggy proving he also made it to the top!

After 30 mins up there we realise that no one was going to come…and wouldn’t you know, there was no water fountain there either. Luckily we met some really nice ladies police officers on a break, who had the kit to purify the stream water so she lend it to us to refill our bottles…I don’t understand what is the problem in those areas…saying I suppose getting plumbing set up there could be a be-atch but then, they could have someone to sell bottles or someone (like our guide) should tell you these things so you didn’t get caught up. Dehydration up there can’t be fun as of course, you still have to come down…It took us 2 and bit hours to get up there but luckily the trail loops around and we didn’t have to use the same route to go down…To be honest, considering how hard the last bit had been, I am not sure if I would have been able to do it back that way. We saw some people do it as we were crossing people going down as we were going up but they would done the easy trail going up so their legs weren’t spent yet.

We saw a guy that had fallen halfway through and it wasn’t pretty as it looked like he had tumbled whilst going down and not up…which over there is scary as hell as it is steep and only sharp rocks to break your fall. He was all battered and bloody and was being looked after the park rangers…

We were supposed to all meet back at 5pm near the park entrance gift shop but considering we wasted time waiting for the rest of the group and with time it took to get down, we were about 30 mins late (which all in all wasn’t too bad)…everybody else had returned by then…I was a bit disappointed that we had missed the opportunity to go swim in the lake as it had been so hot and it was supposed to be how we finished the day after the hike (the other group, the one that stopped halfway through, went to the lake to spend the time waiting for us)…turns out, they actually didn’t swim, barely dipped their feet in (like me up stream) as the water was way too cold…so I didn’t miss out on anything.

The day was not over yet…Mel had another vista to show us…back on the bus and 1 hour drive we were at Glacier Point. Nearly opposite from where we were…we could see the top of Mist Trail from across the valley.

Top of Mist trail seen with max zoom from Glacier Point…

Mr Piggy on top of the world….

The 2 hours drive back was pretty and we even got to see a wolf by the road side. I was on the wrong side of the van so I didn’t get to take a picture but I could see it. It was beautiful and so unconcerned by the vehicles that had stopped to watch it. We all tried to stare in the woods throughout the rest of the journey back to see if we could catch glimpses of bears but no luck…none came out for us. Then again, might not be such a bad thing as they are not particularly known for being friendly 🙂

Back at camp, we all had a quiet evening (not much else to do to be honest) at the lodge’s restaurant/bar. The spa was unfortunately closed by the time we had dinner so we just chilled talking crap and drinking cheap drinks.

Next chapter: San Francisco

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USA Tour: Day 6 – Las Vegas (25/06/12)

Getting into Vegas was like seeing part of my favourite TV show though (CSI).

And we are off again. To tell you the truth I can’t remember much about that ride.

Although I missed the shot, we also saw a “drive thru” wedding chapel! I mean how desperate are you that you can’t even get out of your car to get married???!

We got to our motel, the Best Western Mardis Gras (not sure what Mardis Gras has to do with Vegas, but who cares…). It’s nothing special, except it has a pool in the court yard and considering how sweltering the temperature was we all needed a swim…but not so fast for Melissa, Achim and me….we were in dire need of clothes/shoes as we had been told that we were going clubbing in fancy places that night and girls needed to dress up and guys no trainers allowed. Now why didn’t I think that we might need party clothes on this trip, I am not sure but I had the dress and the shoes in my hand, in my room…put them in the case and then decided…nah, won’t need that! Silly because now, we have to make a mad dash to one of the shopping centres of Vegas – Town Square…20 mins cab ride and we get to the shopping area…it’s huge and we have no idea where to go. Melissa and Achim latch out on the first shoe shop they see (I was the only one who needed a dress)…I was freaking out because all the shops I could see were Gucci, Versace etc…no way I was going in there! I decided to ask the shoe shop assistant and she directed me to…H&M! Yup went all the way to Vegas to shop at H&M! A bit sad really… I left the guys sorting out their shoes and made a dash for the shop to save time…we were on the clock as it was already 3pm and we also wanted a chance to go swim before heading out.

First round of the shop, I didn’t find anything suitable and was starting to panic…then bam! perfect little top with a pair of short leggings and for the fun I even got a pair shoes to go with! I had just paid when Melissa and Achim found me and he decided to buy a couple of shirts too. As we were coming out the shop thinking how we were going to get a cab back, when one pulled in front us to off load some passengers and he was more than happy not to leave empty.

When we got back to the motel, it was party round the pool…well not completely but music was blaring and the sun was shining…We had a few good giggle and added to the soundtrack of the holiday with Justin Bieber playing on a loop and One Direction becoming The Finisher’s tune…you had to be there.

Plan for the night festivities were dinner at a local Thai restaurant, with beer tower

and sharing all the food…we were at the end of the table so somehow, we didn’t get our money’s worth to tell you the truth (we had all put money in the kitty for that dinner and to pay for the limo…oh yes, we got ourself a limo!)…speaking of, the limo came to pick us up to take us up and down The Strip and around Vegas at night…we had all bought some alcohol from an off license beforehand so the party was on!

A party shot…

Caesar Palace fountain show…

We stopped there and got to see the whole 15 mins of it. It is done in time with a tune from the RatPack. I believe they change the tunes at every show, and I am ashamed to say that I can’t remember which one we had.

Paris by night…

New York by night…

Just to prove that I was there and to show off my outfit…no glitter but I felt cute in it 🙂 It is however annoying when people don’t know how to take picture…this one would have been better in portrait…would have cut out all the noise around…oh well.

I don’t have many pictures of that night, shamefully…not like Rachel who took about 200!! None of them deemed Facebook safe 🙂

After the limo tour, we went to the LAX night club where Melissa (the guide) had secured us some free entry…she had built it up to be this amazing place and it turned out to be pretty disappointing. It was small, girls were supposed to drink for free before midnight (anything we were told) but turned out it was only vodka based drinks, but not redbull…the bartenders were not nice and very slow so we only managed 2 drinks before midnight…there was no room to dance and shock of all shock, there is no smocking ban in the US so people were lighting up right, left and centre making it very unpleasant. We stayed there for a couple hours (if that). Long enough for a tall, black girl to offer Steph to teach him “how to dougie” which I found hilarious but he unfortunately declined. Now that would have been something to film!!

Some people decided to go home from there, others (us) went on to another club – XS @ Encore…unfortunately, as I was getting in the taxi, I jumped in a little too excitedly and hit my head on the door frame…it hurt really bad and made me moody…it was not help by the fact that I was just starting to enjoy myself at the first club and when we got to the new one, we lasted 30s on the dance floor because it was packed and they just stood in a corner near the bar…I wasn’t in a mood for more drinking so my happy mood just took a nose dive. At the first sign of someone wanting to go, I jumped in with and went to bed…some stayed and I had a night they don’t really remember 🙂 at least they had a good time…

The best part of that night was the cab ride between the 2 clubs. We got a really cookie dude who seemed to be high on something and just talked and talked randomly for the whole trip…

Next chapter: Las Vegas by day…

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USA Tour: Day 5 – The Grand Canyon (24/06/12)

Today is the day of my first helicopter ride! I am a little nervous as I can suffer from travel sickness but I have made sure that I have put my trust acupressure wrist bands.

First we have to go through the dreaded weighing…luckily it is kept discreet so only the cashier sees it. You get weighed so they can decide where to place you in the chopper to balance it all out…and boy did I get lucky! Not the heaviest but not the lightest either, so I ended up which what I think was the best seat in the house. front right with nearly a 180 view outside…

Left to right: Larry ” The Finisher”, Achim, Melissa, Me, Rachel and Lisa

The coolest profile picture I have had so far….

As I said before, there aren’t enough words to describe the experience…suffice to say that I loved every seconds of our 55 mins flight and wish it had been longer and that our pilot, although a thoroughly nice chap, had been a little more adventurous in his flying… I didn’t feel any motion sickness at all and instead I was awed and excited and amazed and even a little loss for words…believe me, that doesn’t happen very often.

Rick, our very competent pilot.

He had cool music playing on the headphones and he filmed the whole flight. We had decided to only buy one CD for the group and then copy it later as the DVD was about $20 and we thought it would be cheaper but I now regret I wasn’t the one to buy it as we didn’t get the chance to copy it whilst travelling and trying to sort this out now that we are all back home (and our group was very international).

So as they say a picture is worth a 1000 words…enjoy!

The Dragon tail

 

I have loads of them but I won’t bore you with more…You get the picture really (no pun intended actually) even if my images don’t always do it justice as I feel the colours are a little faded and they felt a lot more vivid in my memory. If you are going to the Grand Canyon, I really recommend that you splash out for the chopper tour, it is well worth it. And go for the long one (55 mins) as the price difference between and the 30 mns one isn’t huge and it is well worth it! I could have stayed up there forever…well maybe not forever but it definitely ended too soon for my liking.

Once back on the ground, we headed out to the park for a day of hikes, cycle treks or leisurely wanders (depending on the group). I went for the cycle myself as I could get my hiking fill at Yosemite and wanted to cover a variety of activities.

Bike rental is quite cheap actually and we took a half day rental. We elected to do the Hermit’s Rest trail which according to the guide takes 4hrs return. Now, a few words of advice: the Park prides itself for its environmentally friendly credentials and in most cases it works…except for their notion that you should buy refillable bottles instead of water bottles as there are water points throughout the park….that maybe so if you hike but it is not the case for the cycle tracks…except no one tells you that. We discovered it the hard way.

We set out enthusiastically with a 500ml bottle each first through the woods where we met some of the local wildlife.

An elk (for those like me, who are quite ignorant about these things). They are quite placid and you can get relatively close (within reasons) as they are quite used to humans.

Problems started with our first, and steepest hill. It took us about 20mins to “climb” it and nearly all of our water. We still thought at that stage that we could refill at the first view point….no such luck!

View from the first view point

The hiking trail view from across the gorge. Apparently it is as hard as it looks. The guys who decided to hike it really struggled with it (except for The Finisher who is just a hiking machine!), they had water refill station though…

Mr Piggy showing off…

Apparently I was quite a hit on that ledge. Well I say a hit…I mean people looked at me funny wondering what the hell I was doing lying on the floor trying to photograph a toy pig! Crazy people everywhere uh?

Left to right: Achim, Steph, Heather, Me, Melissa and Simon

At the top…having literally just made and getting ready to run for the water fountain! The first 500ml didn’t even register my lips and mouth were so parched!

Did they say refreshments? We had ice cream…we deserve it too!

Because it took us longer than expected to reach the top, if we wanted to be able to cycle back down, we needed to only have a short break before heading back. Melissa and I couldn’t face it, Achim and Simon decided to wait with us, Steph and Heather braved it…

Having decided to take the bus back, we had time to have a picnic, check out the souvenir shop (I bought a lovely native american inspired silver necklace in the shape of a dreamcatcher and some photo prints) and a few pictures to show we were there…

Buses there were awesome as you could attach your bike at the front. Unfortunately they could only take 3 of them at a time and we were 4. So we split in 2 groups. Melissa and I went first. It was a busy bus, so we didn’t sit together. I was sitting next to a few oldies and a nice old man started chatting to me. I have to say it was hard to concentrate on the conversation as the heat and exhaustion were finally catching up to me and as I naturally feel sleepy on buses, I felt my head droop a couple times.

We couldn’t stay on the bus the whole way back, so we still had to cycle the forest bit, only problem was that we had followed Steph on the way up so we weren’t totally sure of the way back. Luckily I do have a good sense of direction. I can’t read a map, but I have a good memory of landscape, particularly if I have done the route at least once….I did good, only took one wrong turn and I realised pretty much straight away.

We got back to the bike shop with 15 mins to spare on our booking and Steph and Heather had only been waiting for 20 mins. We joined them to wait for Achim and Simon who got back a little after time was up.

We were exhausted at this stage so decided to head back to the hotel and take a swim in the pool before going out to dinner. Simon decided to try and do part of the Angel hike (crazy dude!) and once back, Achim went to the Imax cinema. Steph, Heather, Melissa and I went to eat at the Yippee-ei-o!! steakhouse in Tusayan. We fancied trying a little western style. The menu was quite limited but for starters we decided to be adventurous…well Steph convinced us that it was a good idea to try rattlesnake…we weren’t totally convinced but as we were all sharing it, we thought ok…let’s do this….

Deep fried rattlesnake – before

Tucking in…

After….it was seriously foul!

No meat, lots of bones and the batter tasted old…basically we didn’t eat much on that and we were quite happy to see the rest of the dinner show up to take the bad taste away

12 oz steak with beans, corn on the cob, jacket potato and a salad…I left the sides out well except of the salad and potato and gave the steak a run of its money…still I couldn’t finish it. Lot of meat there.

After dinner we decided to go for a quick drink at the taqueria next to the hotel…for the first time, I had made the mistake of forgetting my passport. I still amuses me to get carded before I can order an alcoholic beverage….the waiter could obviously tell that I was way older than 21 so let me off and I had a beer. The day was taking its toll though, the conversation was quite sparse and the eyelids heavy…we didn’t linger too long before heading back to bed.

Next Chapter: Vegas Baby!

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USA Tour: Day 4 – Route 66 and the Grand Canyon (23/06/12)

Now nothing spells luxury and holiday for me like the chance to have a swim first thing in the morning! There isn’t much in Lake Havasu as I said and we said in a fairly non descript motel…but it had a pool and because it’s so darn hot down there, by 7am it was just about lovely to take a swim!

Then, it was on the road again….to one of the most picturesque stop we had…Some random road side station on Route 66 in Huckberry…

Inside the ladies in service station on Route 66…

Mr Piggy on Route 66!

The diner inside the gas station….Route 66 – Huckberry

Mr Piggy’s fancy car….

Some of the locals

Anyone for a ride?

Watch the road…

License and registration….no Ma’am though.

After an interesting and colourful stop at the gas station, we carried on. On this journey, we got pulled over by the police for speeding (well Mel did, bless her) and boy do those cops lack a sense of humour. He never looked at us, kept his shades on and hand on his gun at all times!!! Actually he made us nervous.

For lunch we stopped at the funniest diner ever. In the middle of nowhere so the folks there do whatever they can to entertain themselves…sometimes at the expense of their customers…but always in a friendly manner so you don’t hold it against them really

The wall of fame….

Check out the Cheeseburger…here they serve it with or without cheese…truth!!

The Finisher after he asked for a small coke! They pretended to squirt ketchup out of the bottle to my face…of course, it was empty but I still squealed…to everybody’s delight.

I got cheese with mine and everyone got a smiley in their basket….cute!

We don’t who Bob is but I bet a few people would like to be him…:)

After lunch, rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived at Tusayan, the closest town to the Grand Canyon National Park. We were staying at the Red Feather Lodge, which thankfully also had a pool.

We were supposed to go take a helicopter ride above the Canyon on arrival but being stopped by the police delayed us and when we arrived we were told that the flights in the afternoon had been cancelled anyway as it was too windy…did we want to take the early morning one the next day? Hell yeah!

We chilled by the pool until it got too cold and then we went to watch the sun set on the Canyon whilst eating pizza….

Happy to be here!

The boys checking how deep it is….

There is really no words to describe how small and insignificant you feel when the Grand Canyon is first revealed to you….you think you understand the scale but there is nothing this big on Europe…and the beauty of it at sunset…you feel special experiencing it.

Next Chapter: The Grand Canyon…full tilt.

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USA Tour: Day 3 – Lake Havasu (22/06/12)

Another day, another early departure and the chaffing of the van seat really didn’t help…I know, my fault.

So we set out for a looonnng drive to Lake Havasu, AZ.

Lunch at Chipotle, somewhere on the way…Massive burritos there!

 

Unforgiving Arizona landscape….we drove really close to the Mexican border and it felt real hot!

 

After a long drive in desertic landscapes, it was nice to take a dive in the lake…actually a crook in the Colorado River. The water was cool and the beer got hot quickly :(…

 

There isn’t much in Lake Havasu but they have a reproduction of London Bridge…for some obscure reason!

 

Nice sunset though…although you don’t get to see much of me…

 

All we did in there was go have dinner…

I think there is a whole chicken in my salad….they really don’t do half portions!

 

After dinner, we strolled back leisurely and went straight to bed…my sunburns were starting to feel about bearable!

Next chapter: The Grand Canyon via Route 66

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