Thursday, 26 January 2012

Ahh beverley stop it.... NorCal Pt3

Waking up on the carpet we all sat around and chatted about the previous nights messing and traded stories. Not sure if we were going to head south towards LA or not today we moved our conversations out onto the porch and subsequently chilled out there for 2 or 3 hours more than we should have. The conversation invariably went off topic until eventually someone rounded up the troops and made the decision we would stay another night! Decision made we chilled out for another hour to formulate a new plan!

Leaving the house we piled into the van and decided we would spin around downtown San Fran and pick up the general vibe of the place. The lads who had been living there for the summer advised us on the best spot to go to see the Golden Gate and gave us a few more suggestions for places to visit etc. Our first port of call was Lombard Street which is a very steep and windy street just outside of the city. Not sure what all the fuss was about we made our way there anyway! On the way it was pretty cool to travel around San Francisco's infamous steep and hilly streets getting some cool views of the city, the bay, and the surrounding area from the hill tops.

After scouting around this area of San Francisco for a time we eventually stumbled across lombard street. Not really convinced why there was so much fuss about it we winded our way downwards regardless.
Lombard St.

From here we then decided to make our way across the Golden Gate and see one of the most industrially acclaimed sights in America! Heading over the bridge this tune came on ( and suffice to say we went mad. Seven lads hopping  about in a car going nuts on the golden gate! Digs were thrown and jungle most certainly was massive. Possibly one of the funniest moments of the trip.

We also planned to make a stop to a village called Sausalito that had been recommended a visit by a friend in San Diego. Pitching up in Sausalito I thought it was a very cool spot. Someway comparable to Kinsale if your looking for a visual but there was a very 'artsy' feel to the place. A fairly picturesque residential community with gorgeous looking restaurants aplenty and a few yachts if your buying. It was here aswell that we saw a cool boat that looked like something a villain from a james bond movie would keep his secret base on!

kind of a submarine/secret base job

This town was north of the golden gate so from here we made our way towards the hills above. Apparently it was the best view of the bridge according to the lads! We wound our way uphill catching some cool views on the way up..

But it was onwards and upwards from here to the place the lads had told us about. It was a kind of abandoned type military bunker used in years previous. Some pretty cool ex-military occupied buildings and bases around we parked up and decided to do some exploring. Making our way around the old bunkers etc we came across a path to walk out to a lighthouse I think was called Point Bonita there was some pretty cool views to be had. It must be said the lads hit the nail on the head with this place, it truly was the best spot to get the bridge into view and take in everything else happening around the bridge, seeing the contrast between San Fran on one side and the Golden Gate national park on the other was fairly immense. This was the last picture we got before the camera went dead, which was a shame as I will explain later.

God awful picture I know but I am seriously proud of it.

Making our way back to the car with the above view in our sights we bumped into an old couple who said we should wait a while and head up to the hill with the missile cover and watch the sunset. Apparently sometimes if you're lucky when the sun sets that time of year there is a green flash just as it sets. They were from the area so we said we would trust them! We jumped up onto the missile dome thing and kicked back, relaxed and waited for the sun to set over the water recounting stories of the summer. The sun eventually set but there was no green flash, it was still fairly cool however what happened next was one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen. After picking up our stuff after watching the sunset we made our way back up the hill to the car and just as we had gotten over the hill the view in the above picture was in front of us except the whole city was alight with the moon literally just hovering above to the left of the beam. I am finding it hard to put this into words but it was truly amazing. Going from seeing the sun set and the ocean being immersed in complete brightness to looking onto one of the world's most famous cities alive at night, the moon gliding above. 

Anyway enough of that gay shit. With that we jumped back into the car, span back to the lads gaf and drank cans because we are hard men who don't enjoy nature and views and stuff. Deciding we were going to hit for the south the morning after we relaxed ourselves back onto the porch for another night of procrastination and mindless yammer. Getting hungry later on we decided to go for a drive-thru in Jack in the Box (fast food restaurant) and the experience has put me off drive-thrus ever since. We ordered for 6 of us in the car and after a lot of shouting into the microphone trying to convey the order to yerone she eventually understood us. Up to the gate to pay anyway and everyone threw the needed amount that their food cost and that was grand. Then we went to collect the food and the Indian lady at the till only handed us over about half of the food we had ordered and paid for. Understandably we got annoyed however she was having none of it. After a minutes or so arguing things got pretty heated so she closed down the service window and locked it with a screwdriver. Me in the drivers seat I started hurling abuse and the lads voicing it from behind. Eventually we gave up hope and said we would go across the road to McDonalds to get food for whoever had been left short. So we ordered for 3 people and went up to the window, same story again! Left short on the food front. Tails between our legs we went back to the lads house. If there is a lesson to be taken from this though it's that if you are in Berkley, do not under any circumstances go to a drive thru! 

Waking up in the morning we packed our stuff and loaded up the van yet again, ready to head south. One of the lads we were with however needed to fly home early so he decided to hang on and get a greyhound bus to San Diego, collect his stuff and make his own way home! The first casualty of the road trip :( We chilled out for another bit saying good bye to the lads and having the chats.Best porch in the world

Hopping into the van we were ready to go but not before the lads landlord could have words though. Trying to charge us rent for sleeping on the floor! Donal stuck up for us though in what I will only the describe as the "ahhhh Beverly" incident and we got away clean enough! Santa Cruz ahoy.......

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Yosemite Revisited

Ok, I talked about Yosemite and how amazing it was a lot.
If this doesn't show you what I'm talking about I'll throw towards travel costs to get you there!

Yosemite video in HD!!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

NorCal Pt2.. San Fran and all that goes with it

So with that we left Tahoe and the last of the wilderness and trees etc.. roughly 4 hours to San Fran according to our sat nav (we had a name for her as well but i cant think of it) so we left the mountains and took to the open highway again!
We were going to san fran for 2 or 3 days depending and staying with a couple of friends that were there for the summer! It felt good knowing we would have the comfort of a bed/floor and a roof over our heads after the few nights up the mountains plus we knew the lads would take care of us the minute they saw the state of us! The drive was relatively uneventful except for a period of about 20 minutes where this guy in a stupid little convertible that didn't look anyway expensive or powerful tried to take over us. You know the type of car, the kind of car somebody buys to compensate the fact they haven't much going on either upstairs or downstairs. He also had slicked back hair.. the prick. Anyway as he sped past us we caught up to leave him trapped behind the car in the fast lane and one of our, usually very chivalric and mannerly, group took a bit of a disliking to him. They then decided to roll down the window in the van and proceed to repetitively shout "GYPSY" out the window at him and give him the finger. After 15-20 minutes of this he eventually found a gap in the traffic and tore off looking non too pleased! Que the laughter...

As we made our way past Sacramento and started ascending up a slight hill one of the lads threw on a metallica album. Myself and a couple of others in the back at the time lobbied for a change however the driver and the passenger were contented with it so we sat grumpily in the back (as you can imagine the tunes playing throughout were always a problem) as we went towards San Fran. However what happened next was absolutely daycent, because there is no other word than daycent to describe this. We had just climbed the slight hill and the long intro for the S&M album was playing and just as we topped the hill this song ( came into its own and the bright lights of San Fran were visible in the distance... And even better than that the gypsy from earlier was in our sights! Lifting it towards San Fran and catching up with our old friend, more abuse was hurled and good times had!

After navigating over the Bay Area's bridges and expensive tolls ($7 quid-ish.. make sure your going to the right place on those bridges, some of them are two storey and fairly confusing :S) we found our way to the lads house in Berkeley, and after some serious searching around made it to their house late at night. So we did what we do best, got some cans of the good stuff, threw on some tunes and chilled out on their ridiculously well furnished porch for the rest of the night!

Next day, Dónal dropped us into the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) station as we were going to head in and do the whole tourist thing around Alcatraz and San Fran city! Before I go anywhere here I just have to take a moment to say that the BART has by far the single most retarded method of payment and ticket fares for boarding. We were slightly put out by it and I wont really go into it but 3-4 weeks later with my suitcase and $1.40 to my name, trying to get to the airport proved fairly traumatic! Anyway!!.. we hopped off the bart in the statiion we were told to and hopped the barriers (see above sentence regarding retarded ticketing system) we were in downtown san fran and not one of us a clue where to go next! We eventually navigated our way down to Pier 39 or somewhere nearby and got on the boat to head towards Alcatraz!

While on the boat we were given the whole talking tour of the bay etc and told of how windy it was blah blah blah... What happened next was absolutely hilarious. Blakey had bought a paddy hat in River Island before we went and I had proceeded to give him dogs abuse regarding said hat. However as the summer had progressed I took a shining to this hat and had somewhat taken to wearing it and caring for it more often than Blake in an almost adopting/parent-like fashion. Anyway as we were bombing across the bay towards Alcatraz island taking in the views and laughing stupidly at nothing in particular a gust of wind took aforementioned hat from my head and launched it up to the sky and it took a nice floating position out on the bay. Scotty took one look at me and had to be picked up from the floor laughing, along with the rest of them. Except Blake, he was none too happy. After some careful negotiating and giving him a reminder of the Flip-Flop-gate scandal (wiki: flip flop gate) things were smoothed over and off we went to see the old gaf of al capone, silvio berlusconi, the dalai lama and bobby sands.

To be honest the history associated with the prison was none too interesting I think it is just the novelty of having a prison on an island surrounded by various different cities is what makes this appealing as a tourist destination. There are no shocking anecdotes of prisoner conditions or escapee stories and after shelling out 30 odd quid for it the comparison between Alcatraz and the free and much more aesthetically pleasing views in Yosemite and the Grand Canyon was fairly unbalanced. Flynn and Dave had it on the ball by giving it a skip. It was still pretty cool to see and have a walk around but if it really is not your thing and your on a budget, give it a skip me thinks!

This dude was jailed for 5 years for robbing a cornetto and a pack of green rizla out of centra

Al Capone probably played baseball here!..


Scotty mac doing his picturesque scenery thing, and doing it well I must say!
The view from that edge of the island.

After a scoot around the island we decided to make tracks back in to San Frandisco for some food and see what was happening around the place! We jumped on the boat and headed back inland. Prisoners of our own hunger.

Terrible joke, indeed. 

So off we went to have a walk around the piers and see what there was to see and find a good spot for a feed! So eat we did and found a watering hole to whet the whistle!

We took a stroll around downtown San Fran later on that night and got to see the city a bit at night! Either way legs were getting tired so we found a BART station and got a train back to the lads house. We loaded up on four loko and cans on the walk back, landed in the lads house and the session began! After an hour or two we made our way up to Berkeley where all the student life would be. We saw a bar with the same name as one of the lads so that was surely our first port of call!

Having one or three here we then made our way up the street quintessentially following the crowd mobbing there way up there. We eventually saw what all the fuss was about, FRAT HOUSES! As in genuine frat houses, I had seen the frat houses in Santa Barbara and didn't think much of them however these were exactly as you would see in American Pie/Van Wilder. Obviously they were based on something but I just thought it was pretty cool to see one in real life! 

We chanced our arms getting into a couple of the parties going on in there however our beers:people ratio (0:10) girls:lads ratio (2:8) and member of fraternities:non-members (0:10) really counted against us. Plus it was getting late and most of the parties in the houses were being shut down by the cops! I guess they must be legally allowed to run parties once they are shut down on time etc, etc. Anyway feeling a bit dejected myself and Jamie managed to get lost from the lads and end up in some apartment complex talking utter bollox to this group of girls for ages. I eventually sobered up, noticed it was getting bright and left him to it. Off for a morning of snoozy snooze on the comfiest carpet in Northern California....

Thursday, 5 January 2012

NorCal Pt 1

Leaving the magnificence of Yosemite behind, 7 tired bodies continued north. We came down the north side of the Yosemite Valley and the landscape changed to a grim, more barren one. Lots of loose, rocky terrain with brown and wasted looking grass sticking up everywhere. Still pretty cool though! Once down and out of the valley we happened upon a petrol station ("Gas station"). The bodies weary and the pockets starting to feel considerably lighter it was here that we happened upon our first hiccough and the first disagreement of the trip came about. As it was regarding the unfair distribution of hamburgers it was nothing too sinister and all was well 3 hours up the road. This was the only bit of friction on the whole trip which I think is testament to everyone considering we were living out of a car for two weeks straight!

Anyway, we drove on for the rest of the day and seeing as it was late when we were leaving Yosemite due to afformentioned hike we found some dodgy little backwater (Gardenerville I think it was called) and had our first (of many) stays in a dodgy motel! Parked up in some backwater on the California/Nevada border we pulled in, got the room and a couple of cans, as natural. As the night aged we toyed with the idea of going into one of the local saloon type bars and seeing what happened however one or two people passed out in the meantime and we said we would give our bodies a rest...

We woke up in the morning and went across the road to the Walmart to stack up on some breakfast and supplies for the road ahead. While everyone else was munching on, myself and Blake realised that Cork were playing the dubs in the semi final of the football. Because of the time difference we managed to most of the first half however we didnt exactly have anywhere to watch it either! As we had nowhere to access the internet either we decided to take turns sneaking into the office of the motel and jumping onto the proprietors computer while he was in the back. Each time after about 15-20 minutes he would come in and kick one of us out but we eventually got to see the result! A narrow and, apparently, undeserved Cork win. Who cares, we'll take it!

So we loaded up the van yet again and off we went. Leaving Gardnerville someone managed to spot a group of very attractive girls in slightly wet t-shirts advertising a car wash. Our thoughts..... HAPPY DAYS! We swung the car around and passed by the same girls advertising it and somebody commented on the fact that the girls looked a tad young. We pulled into this kind of parking lot where the car washing was taking place we realised those suspicions were well and truly correct. One look at the even younger looking girls washing the cars confirmed it for us. And the sign saying girls u-17 soccer fund-raiser really drove it home! While we were parked up (of course we werent still thinking of getting the car washed, we were just stopped..... trying to tune the radio) we noticed our big white van had attracted a few stares. These stares were not of the Gardnerville u-17 soccer team but their hell's angels type biker looking fathers. That was dis-invitation enough for us. Scoot.

A pretty good marketing ploy it must be said, putting the tallest, oldest looking girls of the team out in the middle of a main road wearing wet t-shirts however maybe they should have made the u-17 section of the sign a bit bigger. No pictures of this incident fortunately (or unfortunately, depends who's reading!)

Leaving Gardnerville with a bit of a bitter taste in our mouth we tore on up the mountain ahead to see what all the fuss was about this Lake Tahoe spot. Scotty managed to grab a couple of snaps out the window on the way, and just as well. Yet again, serious landscape!

-This photo is just as we were approaching the ascent to Tahoe

-Here was looking back on where we had just come from!

Once we arrived in Tahoe, like Yosemite, the scenery was absolutely stunning. Nature at its finest! Deciduous trees, crime fighting squirrels all that jazz. However a lot of the place has been ruined with massive signs selling you this, that and the other thing. Kind of took away from the place a small bit, especially after being in Yosemite where there was only one licensed shop in the whole one thousand odd square miles! Meh, troop on regardless!..

We stopped at a shop so a certain somebody could make a couple of "quick" phone calls to his nearest and dearest. 2 hours later we were absolutely fuming and getting a bit impatient as the cigarettes were starting to run out. We did happen to chance upon an absolute lunatic however who gave us his business idea for a kids toy. I wont say anymore on it just in case he has a patent on it however I will say for it that it was an absolutely terrible idea with no appeal to anybody... anywhere. Phone call finished we went off to find the booze cruise that the girls we had met in Yosemite had told us about..

Before you get any ideas of an inbetweeners style magaluf booze cruise I will stop you right there. This cruise involved us bringing a case of our own beer onto a rented raft and doing a whitewater style journey down the river. I will say however that the rafting wasnt very extreme. Hence why we were drinking. Midway down the river we needed to pull in to the side to relieve ourselves while families with young children and couples swanned past us. Inappropriate? Yes, but that was beginning to become a common trend.

Here's an idea of what we were up to... Add beer

Once we drunkenly found the end point there was a bus back to the start so we hooked up with the lads there and tore west for San Fran. Not before we could get a picture with the token fat chick however...

(apparently she used that stick to kill her prey)