- parks tend to be large, ergo they are for slow cars
- toilet paper and beer is weird
- right turn during red lights is awesome
- everything's grilled
- one word: huge. Cars, lakes, meals, shopping carts
- super friendly and curious. "Are you speaking in German?"
- Cappuccino what now?!
- most helpful sheriffs
- the sales tax, added at the end, is the worst
- gratuity and payment processes in restaurants are worse
- sunsets in canyonland are epic
- mobile phone rates/plans are ridiculous
Even though I am currently sitting in a transatlantic flight from Philadelphia to Munich, this blog is far from over. Due to lack of (usable) internet in our last couple of accommodations, I was not able to upload any photos or text updates. Once I am back in Vienna and have access to the www as well as a computer capable of handling all the image and video footage, I will post some more impressions of this trip, including the last couple of days spent in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Our last week in the states is highly dominated by national park visits. Luckily, this weekend is Veteransday Weekend meaning all state-run national parks have no entrance fee. This way, we’re saving a lot of money (which we can later spend in Las Vegas).
We started off with Arches National Park in Utah, known for it's naturally - through erosion - created sandstone arches. They range from thick, large arches reaching great heights all the way to thin delicate structures looking like they’ll crumble any minute. Very impressive. The road led us further south to the state border of Arizona where we visited Monument Valley, a national park owned and run by Navajo natives. The location is well-known from various western movie sets. The vastness of this land is overwhelming.
Next up: Lower Antelope Canyon. This is by far the most interesting natural formation I have ever seen. The canyon is formed by flash floods and air passing through its extremely narrow cracks creating beautiful abstract shapes and forms. In fact it's so narrow as to only allow one person to pass through certain sections. It truly is a magical place.
The fourth canyon on our tour is Bryce Canyon in Utah. This too was formed by tectonic movement and the shifting of various sediment layers throughout the millennia. The color play between red, white and green - along with many patches of snow - left a memorable experience on me. We took the peek-a-boo trail for roughly 3 hours in the afternoon; temperatures varied from ’fairly warm, I'll take of my sweater’ to ’better put on my gloves’.
The final visit was Grand Canyon. To be honest, it's not as impressive as the other canyons except for its shear size. It really is grand and sadly also overrun by tourists; even on a Tuesday afternoon in November.
After not getting in to Yellow Stone National Park, the groups moral was broken. We travelled further down south to find hot springs close to Idaho Falls. Once we arrived at the site, we found them not only closed as well but also not charming at all. We all decided that the day was officially the worst day of our journey. Later in the afternoon, we pulled up to a gas station to fill up the cars. We started talking with the cashier who told us, that there are other hot springs which are usually only visited by locals. So we took off once more in search of hot water. We climbed a mountain, following a rather warm river in hope of finding hot spring at the top. Sadly, there were no springs to be found however, once we turned around and looked down the mountain, we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunsets. Idaho is vast. Very vast.
San Francisco is long gone and feels like a lifetime ago yet it has only been 48 hours since we left the Bay Area. On Sunday morning, we packed our bags, had one last breakfast and said goodbye to an amazing AirBnB apartment. Since we have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge by tandem bike two days before, we decided to drive up to Napa through Berkley and the harbor bridge. A short stop was made directly in Berkley to check out the campus of the University of California. Just three days prior to that day, we had the chance to take a look (and actually get a tour) of Stanford. It was interesting to compare these two well-known universities.
The drive from Berkley to Napa took only an hour and soon we would find ourselves in California’s famous wine region. To be honest, when thinking of Napa Valley, I imagined something completely different. The valley was barely a valley with its vast open, flat landscape – you would only occasionally find hill slopes covered by vineyards. The next shock was the whole wine tasting experience itself. Many wineries are aligned on the main road through Napa Valley, but mind you these wineries are at a scale you simply will not find in Austria (and Europe).
Once gift shops not only sell wine but also T-shirts, hats and wine glasses with the family’s name printed on them, you know that a new level in marketability has been reached. Restroom facilities are dimensioned in a way to accommodate hundreds of guests per day. Another thing that surprised me were the prices. We only had the chance to visit three wineries since most of them close at 5pm, however none of them had prices of less than 20$ per bottle. The cheapest usually started at 22-25$ with an average of around 50$. Definitely not a destination for a bunch of students to stay for more than one night. To balance our individual budgets, we slept at a motel and rented a room for four people. There are eight of us. Let's just say the night was cosy.
Today was spent mostly in our cars. We drove up to Klamath Falls in Oregon where we arrived at 8pm. A short stop was held in Redding to take a look at a pedestrian bridge by Santiago Calatrava. Tomorrow we’ll go for a hike at Crater Lake reaching an altitude of 2900m. Since the temperature here in Klamath Falls is 3 degrees, we expect pretty frosty conditions up in the national park.