We arrived into LA airport and had a nail-biting wait at immigration whilst they gave Bryn the final thumbs up on his green card. Funnily enough the immigration man didn't appreciate Bryn's joke that 'my wife isn't really American'. Luckily, he still got the right stamps and we were able to meet up with the third Roadtrip team-mate - Wren, who'd flown in from the UK.
We headed north and stopped at what was to be the first of many bland roadside motels. After a good night's sleep we all felt a lot better and ventured into Santa Barbara, an upmarket coastal town full of preened blond Californian sporty types, for Wren's first paddle in the Pacific and an opportunity to stretch our legs.
We headed further up the coast to our rendez-vous with Roadtrip team-mates 4 and 5 - Fi's parents, who'd flown into San Francisco and driven south. The next day we all headed over to Hearst Castle, set in a spectacular position, high in the hills overlooking the coast. Hearst Castle was only finished in 1947 but the sheer opulance, grandeur and wacky mix of architecture had to be admired. Randolph Hearst was a media mogul with a large fortune and spared no expense creating his dream retreat.
The next day we stopped at the local sea-lion colony. It was incredible, these giant slugs were all laid out all over the beach sunning themselves. We couldn't believe we could get so close....no wardens, entry fees etc
Heading north we were driving up the stunning Big Sur coastline - our little road clinging onto to the dramatic seascapes. The weather was lovely and stopping for coffees at local cafes overlooking the coastline was divine. We reached Carmel, an upmarket little town on the coast, for lunch and had a potter around the art galleries. In the afternoon we did the 17 mile drive through the Pebble Beach community - admiring the houses and stunning coastline.
The next day was, Thanksgiving, and Monterey Bay Aquarium for 3 of the roadies. The aquarium was excellent and we got to see lots of fun things - tiny seahorses, beautiful circling silver sardines, colourful jellies, playful sea otters and cute penguins.
We continued up the coast and had Thanksgiving lunch in an authentic American diner - bringing back lots of happy memories for Bryn from his days serving in the deep south. We all got up to San Francisco and were thankful to find our hotel, The Phoenix, in the notorious Tenderloin district. The Phoenix is a favourite haunt of rock bands and it turned out to be excellent value if you don't mind the marujana fumes.
San Francisco was fully decked out in the Christmas/Thanksgiving spirit and everyone had a great time wandering round the shops. We all went out on a bay cruise - a wedding present courtesy of Hillie and Tom - thankyou very much. The sun was shining and we had fantastic views all across the bay and back to SF.
We also had tickets for a Sunday game to the San Francisco 49ers - it really was quite a spectacle. Despite the fact that they only play for about 60 minutes, we were sat in our seats for about 4 hours whilst the cheerleaders performed, the army marched, new marines were sworn in, jets conducted fly overs and heros were honoured. We couldn't imagine any of that at a premier league game. Wren got quite into the spirit of things and pal-ed up with the 49ers fans.
3 roadies took the trip over to Alcatraz and loved the audio tour, walking round marveling at the story of the Great Escape and vowing to get our hands on the film asap.
Then after a couple of bottles of excellent Napa wine we had to say goodbye to road trippers 4 and 5 who were back to SF for their flight to the UK.
The rest of us continued driving up the coast and visited haunting Bodega Bay, where the Hitchcock movie The Birds had been filmed. It really was like the film - the sea fog was amazing the way it would move in and cloak us suddenly. This was twitchers paradise and we had fun spotting turkey vultures, hawks and pelicans.
We visited Redwood NP where you drive through the redwood groves for about 30 miles. We had fun doing the tacky tourist things like driving through a tree....
on a tree.....
and also having a little wander through the groves.....
Further up the coast, we went for a day hike in the Prairie Redwood NP - we had an excellent day for it, sunshine and crisp cold air. This was billed as 'the best one day hike in the redwoods' - and it thankfully lived up to it's billing. We started off in a dark redwood forest, ascending gradually through all the big trunks looming up at us. Soon we were heading down again and we reached the beach - completely undeveloped and deserted. Well apart from a sea lion who we startled somewhat! It was quite eerie walking along the beach as the coastal mists oozed down the valleys obscuring our view. After a few miles, we started to head inland, but not before spotting a majestic elk skulking over by some trees. Giant redwoods, deserted beach, crashing waves, sea lions and elks - what more could you possibly want from a day hike!
The next couple of weeks we spent driving through Oregon and then onto Washington having a look round the wine areas and stopping at cute little towns on the way and visiting a whole host of wine tasting rooms. Much of this a wedding present courtesy of the Centric boys - thanks very much. We spent a couple of days in Walla Walla, a cute if particularly cold little town in the middle of Washington wine country. It was Friday night and there was no stopping Wren who had us out visiting the wine bars ending up at some live music. Wren had the whole bar up and dancing!
Then it was time to drop roadie number 3 off at the airport and start our long drive back to LA. A whole lot of very boring freeway - with an exciting stop to visit the Napa Valley, a particularly informative visit to a couple of wineries - courtesy of Hillie and Tom - thankyou very much. The little town of Napa is pretty cute and a symbol of the success of the valley.
We also stopped off in Bakersfield - which is a really dull and grey place in the middle of the Californian dust bowl. However, Bryn had been reading the Lonely Planet which had it down as the place to go for county and western music.....so we checked in and headed over to the massive venue and spent the evening in awe of the proficient line dancing.
It was great meeting up with the parentinos, none of us could believe that we'd been away for over a year. But it's time to get our flight down to Cancun, Mexico! Vamos chicos!