Kids in America - AWooHoo
23.03.2011 - 25.04.2011
So after 19 hours travelling, we touched down at LAX approximately 2 hours after leaving Cairns. This thanks to crossing the international date line somewhere over the Pacific. Air New Zealand did not let us down. First off, a superb safety demonstration video featuring the All Blacks rugby team "If you need to get up to give your hammies a stretch during the flight that's fine, but remember to buckle up when seated" and "If you're found smoking during the flight, you're dropped". The thai beef salad bordered on fine dining by coach class standards and was enjoyed whilst looking down on the spectacular Great Barrier Reef. Best viewed from several thousand feet up in our opinion. We briefly said hello to New Zealand with a change in Auckland and took off again back to the good old northern hemisphere on route to the United States.
The Northern Hemisphere did not fail to disappoint. The tourist information at the international hub that is LAX was indeed lax, consisting of little more than a couple of dusty files containing a few hotel names. This left us at a bit of a loss, but we headed out (Katie's hard earned tan wincing in the pouring rain) to find our hire car. God bless satellite navigation. To think I almost turned down this little extra. Not only does this thing take you to where you want to go, it also does a dam sight better job at finding accommodation than the Tourist Information. In no time at all we were settling in to our Motel 6 just off Hollywood Boulevard. Hollywood Boulevard is where the train bursts through the pavement at the end of Speed in case you are wondering. We were exhausted, again the in flight entertainment system had taken priority over sleep - as well it should, but in keeping with the first night in a new country tradition, we ventured out to source some local cuisine. Look no further than Scooby's Hot Dogs, a hollywood boulevard institution. Chilli Cheese Dog for Tom, Philly Cheese Steak for Katie - took liberties with the complimentary jalepenos.
We were also terribly excited to catch our first glimpse of THE Hollywood sign. Somehow this is the only picture we got, the sign is in the top right chaps.
A morning stroll along the walk of fame took us past such legends as The Pointer Sisters, Kermit the Frog, Errol Flynn, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ross Kemp to name an eclectic few. Don't worry Jamie, there is still plenty of space. Colin Firth's star was looking p-p-p-particularly pleased with itself and we found a mountain of flowers beside Elizabeth Taylor RIP.
Stopped by Borders (closing down here too) to pick up a discounted Rough Guide and found some breakfast at a trendy cafe just off Sunset Boulevard. For the rest of the morning we wondered up and down the walk of fame: Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, Johnny Cash, The Three Stooges, Marie-Kate and Ashley Olsen (yes really - at least they had to share one).
We took a quick look at the Chinese Theatre where famous people's handprints in are cast cement, turns out I am very close to Tom Hanks, and glanced at the Kodak Theatre where the Oscars ceremony is held.
Katie also got a photo taken with Shrek.
We then dived in the car for a bit of LA cruising, heeding down the Sunset Strip through Beverley Hills and Rodeo Drive (Pretty Woman "Big Mistake" scene) ending up at Venice Beach. Unfortunately late march is not prime beach weather so the Iron Pumping on display at Muscle Beach was minimal (Tom is so hard on himself). Nevertheless we took to the sand for the obligatory Baywatch shots, slow motion running and power stances.
That was enough for LA, time for us and the Hyundai to hit the road. So we fired up the SatNav destination Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree lay on route between us and the Grand Canyon, but turned out to be a spectacular place in itself. We arrived late in search of accommodation, eventually finding our first proper park-outside-the-room motel in Yucca Valley. However, not before we first dropped in on the Joshua Tree Inn. For those in to their early seventies rock, room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn is where Gram Parsons met his untimely end in bizarre circumstances (worth a Google). Alas, the suite we were offered, and where Robert Plant stays when he is in town, was beyond our budget range. Nice to have a look though.
We ended the day at Pappa & Harriet's Pub in Pioneertown, a cowboy village built as a living film set in the 1960's, munching on excellent burritos and sipping beer from old jam jars whilst listening to some not so excellent american-spanish live synth.
We woke and set off to explore Joshua Tree National Park, so named for it's abundance of, you've guessed it, Joshua Trees. We wondered around a couple of nature walks (ooh) and a cactus garden where we saw snake (ah). Katie took her first and last stint behind the wheel and we zipped around admiring thousands of Joshua Trees to the dulcet tones of Meat Loaf on the ipod.
Before leaving we nipped into the Visitor Centre where I tried to purchase a Joshua Tree National Park Centenary poster. I say tried because on enquiring whether said poster was available to purchase I was told in no uncertain terms that the poster design was 'public domain' and as such we couldn't buy something we already own. We didn't know what the hell that meant, but it was clear we weren't getting the poster. On asking what he meant, it became apparent that he also didn't know, so we left. Posterless.
The next stage of our road trip took us north to perhaps the second most famous road of all, after the Yellow Brick, Route 66.
Doesn't get much traffic these days, replaced by the building of interstate freeways, but there is still plenty of evidence of its past grandeur, including a fantastic old gas station and motel on this little stretch where we stopped for a - wait for it - Root 66 Beer - see what they did there?
So with Nat King Cole ringing round the car we drove straight east, and I mean straight, for about 150 miles to Needles for dinner at the Wagon Wheel and on to the Arizona Motel in Kingman. Free HBO whoop whoop.