A Travellerspoint blog

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Space Needle and whale-watching


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It was a pretty okay breakfast at our staying at the downtown hostel. We could satisfy our hunger but that was it. We dressed up in warm clothes and drove off to Everett and the whale-watching we had reserved in advance. The sun was absent and the sky was really cloudy. The rain was on the way and it was drizzling at first but the further out on the sea we got the more it rained.

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First, we spotted several California Sea Lions lying upon huge buoys where some of them were proudly posing for us when we passed while the others didn’t care at all. Magnificent animals!

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Earlier during the day, they had seen the gray whales in a certain area which the captain was heading for. Then we waited... and we didn’t have to wait for long until the first water puff could be seen. The captain was well prepared about the whales and told us that one of the gray whales we saw today was called Patch since he had a patch on his body. Patch had been traced since 1991 and had been spotted here ever since. For about 1 ½ hour we watched the gray whales and I managed to get great pictures of the water puffs and sometimes even the tail fin could be seen. But in the end, it was freezing!

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When we returned to Seattle it was time to pay Space Needle a visit. We felt pretty small standing next to the entrance looking up on the 184-meter-high tower, but we just had to get up there! We paid and got into line to the elevator… well, the elevators. It was four elevators and a host in each of them. I don’t know why, maybe because of safety reasons? Anyway, the elevator went up with racer speed and it took only seconds to go up to the observation deck and the restaurant. What a view! A view over the entire Seattle with the mountains in the background – beautiful! Unfortunately, it was cloudy but at least it didn’t rain. My fellow traveler had a hard time struggling with her fear of heights but I think she did great after a while. Then we took the elevator down again and visited the Space Needle gift shop.

After this day’s adventures we returned to our hostel and tried to find a somewhat cheap parking lot in Seattle (downtown)… which is not easy! It’s difficult to drive at all in downtown Seattle due to all 3 lane one-way-streets. And of you have a GPS that literally screams “TAKE LEFT!” when you’re in the right lane… is not easy! Eventually I lost my temper so my fellow traveler had to take over the wheels and find a parking lot. And when we finally parked the car and got back to our hostel we practically tumbled into bed; we were that tired!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities road_trip space_needle whale_watching Comments (0)

Twin Peaks and Iron Horses


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We checked out from the hostel pretty early in the morning and parked the car to visit Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59. There were a lot of aquariums with many different species of fishes, jellyfishes, sea horses, octopuses and species I’ve never seen before. In another building they had sharks, rays, eels, seals and otters among other species. Totally worth a visit, even though you’re not that into fishes. After the visit we went to Pine Place Market with a lot of booths with flowers, handicraft, freshly caught fish, clothes, souvenirs and food all within a stone’s throw of Seattle Aquarium. There were activities everywhere and the market was spread out on several floors.

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Now we felt all done with Seattle and started to drive towards Montana along I-90-East. First stop was Snoqualmie and the famous waterfall there, known from the TV series Twin Peaks (1989-1991). It was easy finding Snoqualmie Falls since it was well-posted signs and a lot of parking lots. During this time of the year when the water level was high, water drops whipped up from the fall even all the way to the Viewing Point which we were standing.

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We kept going on I-90-East and soon started to see huge mountains in the horizon. It was Cascade Range piling up far away and we were soon enough right in the middle of those mountains. Cascade Range proudly piled up on each side of the road and it was beautiful to see the snow-covered peaks partly surrounded with fog. And the higher up in the mountains we got, the lower the temperature dropped. At the lowest it was 0 Centigrade. Eventually it started to snow and we drove side-by-side with snow banks close to 2 meters of height! At that point we had to drive very slowly at that since we didn’t know if our rental car had winter tires on. When the snowing stopped and we came down to a flatter and agriculture landscape again we could finally relax.

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Later along the way we stopped by some View Point Area’s, which were well posted from the road. At one of those places there were huge iron horses upon a high hill. We just had to get up there! Said and done, we started uphill hike. It was very windy but it was damn steep too. When only half way up we could only state… “What have we gotten ourselves into?” But we kept on hiking uphill until we reached those iron horses. After some pictures taken and enjoying the amazing view, we had to walk downhill again and then keep going along I-90-East. We drove as far as we could and arrived in Spokane before we had to find a place to stay for the night.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls cities road_trip Comments (0)

Rocky Mountains: Untouched Scenery


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We woke up to a sunny but chilly and windy day in Spokane. We walked to Riverfront Park where Spokane River divides into a waterfall in several stages. After some photos we walked towards downtown and visited Macy’s for some shopping. I bought a brand shirt and a pair of shoes. It’s crazy how much money they add to imported clothes and shoes in Sweden. I paid about 300 SEK here in the US for the shirt and shoes… back home in Sweden I would have to pay about 1200 SEK for the very same shirt and shoes. We also visited a book store and next door they had a small store with arcade games, card games, puzzles among other things. I was looking around and found different games with “Family Guy”, you know the cartoon TV series. If I had had more space left in my suitcase, I probably would have bought some of the games.

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We kept on driving along I-90-East and drove through northern Idaho. High up in the Bitterroot Range it started to snow (again). But pretty soon we drove into Montana and the snowing stopped when we got down from the mountains again. When we got closer to Missoula, we could finally see Rocky Mountains far away. The time zone changed when we crossed the border into Montana and suddenly, we had to hurry up finding a place to stay for the night due to the 1-hour loss. We drove by several villages with signs that said “No Services” which is great so you don’t have to make an unnecessarily stop. Thumbs up! Finally, in Deer Lodge we found a staying for the night, beautifully situated and surrounded by Rocky Mountains.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged mountains cities road_trip Comments (0)

Arriving in San Francisco


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In order to make it to Billings Logans Int’l Airport in time for the return of our rental car at 7 am, we had to get up early. And I still can’t understand why we chose a time that early, when our flight departed at 10.29 am? Anyway, after a few hours spent in the airport we finally boarded the plane and I must say it was the smallest airplane I’ve ever flown in, so far. So small! You almost got claustrophobic. After 1 hour and 30 minutes we arrived at Denver Int’l Airport and stretched our legs. We were fortune enough that the flight to San Francisco departed from a gate just nearby the one we arrived at. Though we had about 2 hours to change flight, but Denver Int’l Airport is BIG and you never know how far you need to go!

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The flight between Denver and San Francisco took 2 hours and 45 minutes and during that time we had changed time zone again. At San Francisco Int’l Airport SFO we had to find the rental car company to pick up our rental car. Even though the airport was big the signs were well-posted and so much better organized than at Tacoma Int’l Airport in Seattle.

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We received the car keys and the GPS and walked to the parking lot and got our car. This time we got the car we had booked. But once again the GPS didn’t work right away and it took it forever to find the satellites and help us find the way to our hostel in downtown San Francisco.

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We didn’t have much time to explore San Francisco today since we had to get early tomorrow morning and needed to sleep.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities road_trip traveling Comments (0)

Alcatraz and downtown San Francisco


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After a well-deserved sleep-in and breakfast at a restaurant nearby, we walked to China Town. You couldn’t help yourself feeling like stranger here, but at the same time it was an interesting experience. After seeing Transamerican Pyramid we went to Lombard Street, the world’s most winding street. I would like to add the world’s steepest street as well! After walking uphill to the top, you could really feel how steep the street really was. Then we walked towards the wharf and took a Cable Car to Union Square. We found a cozy restaurant and had lunch. After lunch we took the Cable Car back to the wharf.

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We walked to Fisherman’s Wharf and did some window shopping. We started walking towards Pier 33 which the ferry towards Alcatraz departed from. We had pre-booked this tour since it’s very popular and sells out days in advance. We felt it would be nice to have something to do in the evening as well so we had booked an Evening Tour.

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It took 10 minutes by ferry to get to the Alcatraz Island and it was mighty to see the prison IRL. When we disembarked the ferry there was an uphill slope (totally 40 vertical meters) before we got to the actual entrance of the prison. Once inside we all got our audio tour player with headphones that guided you around on your own. It was almost unreal to walk around in there and listen to actual prisoners that once served time here in Alcatraz. A few cells were put up and staged just as they were 50 years ago when the prison was still in use. It was also interesting to see the cells from where a few of the prisoners actually escaped. And as I understand they still haven’t found one of those escapers. It was dark outside when we embarked the ferry again and San Francisco’s illuminated skyline silhouette was amazing. Now we were tired and even though we took a taxi, it felt like ages before we came back to the hostel.

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Pacific Coast Highway 1 and Malibu Pier


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After check-out from the hotel in San Simeon we went back to the beach with all the Elephant Seals to take some photos in daylight, since it was too dark yesterday evening. The first we got to see were squirrels and especially a female squirrel with two adorable squirrel babies, they were sooooo cute! All the Elephant Seals were down at the beach being lazy, splashing some sand on or itching themselves. Today in broad daylight they weren’t “talking” as much as they had done last night.

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We kept on driving along the Pacific Coast Highway 1 towards Los Angeles. When the highway passed through larger cities it was poorly signed where to drive, which got us lost several times. Anyway, we got down to Oxnard and I did have an extra eye out for “the Hammer” (Ernie Orosco), the well-known police officer in the town of Oxnard that once initiating a traffic stop, he will give you a ticket no matter what. But I didn’t see a single cop in Oxnard. We drove further along the Pacific Coast Highway 1 and reached Malibu Beach and Malibu Pier. Honestly, I thought the pier was supposed to be larger than it actually was. Well, been there done that anyway ;)

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We drove the short distance left to Los Angeles. Once in Los Angeles we checked in at our staying and went to a local restaurant for dinner. We nor had time or wanted to do something else that evening since we were so tired.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities road_trip pacific_coast_highway_1 malibu_pier Comments (0)

Los Angeles in its pride


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We started the day by strolling along the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is 2,1 km long and contains almost 2500 stars in fake marble. We took photos of some of the most famous stars. We walked and walked and the stars didn’t seem to end. Eventually we had to turn around and walk back since we had booked a sightseeing tour in Beverly Hills and to the Hollywood Sign.

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The driver drove past many celebrity homes during the tour in Beverly Hills and at the time I remembered which celebrity lived in which house, but now years later I can’t remember anything. But few of the famous celebrities we drove by were Dr. Phil, Heidi Klum, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Osbourne, Steven Spielberg, Britney Spears, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and Michael Jackson.

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After that we got to the Hollywood Sign. Nowadays you can’t get as close to the sign or climb your way up (like people still do) as before due to the danger of falling down. But we got to the Viewing Point Area. Nearby we spotted cactuses growing and blooming (I think it was Prickly Pear Cactus).

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In the afternoon we took the car and drove to Venice Beach and took a swim in the Pacific Ocean. It was darn cold, but totally worth it! Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any surfing boards for rent.

In the evening we walked back to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the last part that we hadn’t seen yet. Last but not least we came to the stars we wanted to see most of all… Elvis and the Beatles. Their stars are placed on a separate street from all other stars. Hmm, I also want my own star on my own street ;)
Then we visited the Hollywood Wax Museum, you know the museum with all the wax dolls looking like celebrities. Though I wasn’t that impressed since many of the wax dolls didn’t look like the real person at all… so that was when I started to think “And what were they thinking here?” I mean I would probably have done a better job than that! When we bought the ticket to Hollywood Wax Museum a ticket to Guinness World Record Museum was included and the museum was just across the street from the Hollywood Wax Museum. I wasn’t impressed at all, maybe because it was so late at night and I was so tired? So today we mostly saw and visited things and most of all did some walking. Our tired feet were proof of that. But it was probably just for the best since we had been and would be sitting a lot in the car during this road trip.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged beaches cities road_trip hollywood Comments (0)

Los Angeles: Universal Studios


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The entire day was dedicated for the visit at Universal Studios. We had booked VIP Experience tickets in advance so we would get the most out of this day, while we were here. And it was worth every penny! I highly recommend VIP Experience tickets for those who visit Universal Studios for the first time. To be able to enjoy all VIP services everyone with VIP tickets got a necklace that they had to keep the entire day. We were divided into smaller groups of 10 people in each and every group got their own guide. Our guide was Doug, a super nice, well-spoken American that really loved his job. He talked and talked and he had great humor as well. So, thumbs up for you Doug! So, during the next 7 hours he guided us around the Universal Studios.

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So, what was included in the VIP Experience?
Beside priority lane to everything in the park (and seats in the front), a fabulous lunch was included at a luxuries restaurant with buffet so you could eat all you wanted. Lovely dessert! Doug told us afterwards that the lunch itself did cost about $250! And on top of that we got free water bottles the entire day. We also got to ride on our own VIP-car with Doug by the microphone speaking and joking about everything. The VIP-car drove us to Wisteria Lane, known from the TV series Desperate Housewives and where they actually shot the scenes. And when we passed a studio and it said C.S.I. on one of the trailers outside I really wanted to get off the VIP-car and go inside but I couldn’t… unfortunately. We visited another studio and went behind the scenes of the TV series Parenthood. We also got to walk through the Costumes and Props (for the entire Universal Studios) that beside all clothes also contained props like lamps, cutleries, paintings and so on.

What about all the rides?
Well, we started with the Jurassic Park Ride. Doug warned us that we would get wet during this ride and handed out rain ponchos for each and one of us. I thought: ok, it can’t be that bad… but I must say it was nice to actually wear that poncho because the water came from everywhere! And the entire ride ended with a 25-meter fall… that was not nice! A little warning would have been nice! And they photographed us during that fall and afterwards you were able to buy that photo. Only $24! Haha, are you kidding me? Damn that was expensive. It should have been included in the VIP ticket in my opinion!
Transformers in 3D. Not impressive at all. Sure, the 3D effect made it a little more real, but a lot of robots running around and fighting each other… no thank you.
Revenge of the Mummy – the Ride. Finally, a ride with some speed. Thumbs up! And we liked it both my fellow traveler and I. I think we rode it like 4 times or so during the day. Also, here they took a photo of you that you could buy for a shameless price.
Terminator 2: 3D. Say what you want about Arnold in the Terminator-movies, but this show just sucked! The volume was too high, the 3D movie was mixed with (bad) acting on stage and everything just got into a mess. It was just bad!
Water World. I have no idea what this is really about or where they got it from. But a few people rode around in a water landscape, sometimes on boats and sometimes on water scooters and fought each other. I didn’t like it. For us with VIP tickets had reserved seats in the back, and not in the front. But we soon realized why. The two front rows were marked as Wet Zone and before the show started, they tried to get the audience wet by spraying water on the people in the Wet Zone. Haha, that was the only fun part of the Water World.
The Simpson Ride. As a fan of the Simpsons I was looking forward to this ride. It was what I had expected but a little short.
Shrek 4D. I had no expectations at all for this show. I mean, I was actually more bothered when the seat jumped up and down, got sprayed with water and getting compressed air in the neck… would this really give you a better experience??? No, I did not like it at all.
It was also a Special Effect Stage, which is exactly what it sounds like. A stage where they perform special effects and show you how it’s done. But honestly, I already knew how those effects were done. So, I got a little bored.

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So, by 5 pm we said goodbye to Doug, our guide and we had an hour to walk around in the park on our own before it closed at 6 pm. Doug recommended us to visit Universal Studio’s Citywalk since the traffic is very intense around 6 pm when the park closes. Don’t even bother to try, he said. So, we found a small ice cream shop that also sold Frozen Yoghurt. We got to taste every flavor first before we decided what we wanted and then we paid after the weight. Very clever! And the Frozen Yoghurt was great! While walking to our car, we experienced an amazing sunset over Los Angeles – photo moment of course!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities road_trip universal_studios Comments (0)

Crossing the Mojave Desert


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Last day in Los Angeles and we felt pretty done with the city by now. Packed down sandwiches for our road trip across the Mojave Desert and started driving. We passed Mojave Desert which had a temperature of “moderate” +35,5 °C. Desert as desert perhaps, but it was still beautiful with many shades of colors, barren nature and vegetation that we don’t have back home in Sweden. All and all it took us 4 hours and 30 minutes to drive to Las Vegas, a break included.

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When in Las Vegas, we checked in at our staying at Fremont Street and we got our room on the 18th floor with an amazing view over the city. Outside our hotel window on a building few blocks away there was a display that showed time, date and temperature. And the temperature was +28 °C today. We had lunch and took a power nap before we headed for Fremont Street just outside our hotel which beside several hotels also includes many gift shops, souvenirs and casinos. And when darkness started to fall over Las Vegas the mood on Fremont Street changed and the city was lighted up by billions of lamps. That in itself was an experience!

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The evening was rounded up with a drink in the hotel bar. Then we decided to get early to bed since we had a long and warm day waiting for us tomorrow.

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Beauty of Fighter Jets

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As a tourist there is nothing interesting to see in Phoenix, so we just passed through driving south towards Tucson. Somewhere between Phoenix and Tucson we stopped at a mall with an outlet with a lot of clothes. We shopped at GAP. I bought a thin sweater among other things that could be really useful later during the ranch week.

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It was really hot in Tucson. I would have guessed at about +37 °C in the shadow. We stopped at Pima Air and Space Museum. I had emailed the museum prior to our trip and asked if they had any F14-Tomcat for display. And yes, they replied, they even had TWO. So, I was overexcited and thrilled when I paid the entrance fee and then ran around and looked for them. The first Tomcat was placed inside in the Flight Central Hangar and pretty easy to find. Then I started to look for the second one they claimed having but I couldn’t find it. And when I asked one of the staff members, he looked like a question mark; “What? Two? We only have one.” So, I guess the person that replied my email couldn’t see the difference between a F14-Tomcat and a F15-Eagle. Sure, they look very alike, but if you work in a flight museum shouldn’t you know/see the differences? I’m just wondering… Other interesting objects to view were MIG-29, Black Cobra, Mohawk, Blackbird among others. And on top of that they had several hangars with older airplanes from e.g. First and Second World War. And out in the open yard they had commercial airplanes and few space shuttles as well.

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After lunch we visited a shopping mall with all kinds of stores like Victoria’s Secret, GAP and Nike. Before we left the mall, we had to buy refreshing Frozen Yoghurt. It was really great! Then it was time to check-in at the hotel next to Tucson Int’l Airport and return our rental car to the rental company before 7 pm. The airport wasn’t that big and it was well-posted where to return our car. It didn’t take more than 5 minutes to walk from the airport and back to our hotel again. The staff from the ranch was picking us up tomorrow so we didn’t need the car anymore. In the evening we swam in the outdoor pool and even though the sun had gone down it was still warm outside (and in the pool as well)!

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