So I just got back from 10 days spent on the Best (West) Coast of the United States. Over the past week, I have driven more than 2,225 miles, crossed the Hoover Dam 6 times, lost 5lbs, been in 4 States, visited the Grand Canyon 3 times (hiked the South Rim in one day, seen the West Rim, and done the touristy Skywalk), visited 2 National Parks, been to several clubs and casinos in Las Vegas, sailed in San Francisco bay, driven down the coast of California, eaten more fresh Strawberries than any Californian would deem sensible, had one camera break on me, had a flying cow trash a rental car, and much more!
Photo: The Golden Gate Bridge. One of my favorite places.
I arrived in San Francisco, California (my favorite City and State of being on the planet) on Wednesday morning, picked up a rental car and drove down to the Red Hat office in Mountain View (MTV), to say hi to some folks I wanted to meet (vacation notwithstanding). In the late afternoon, I headed to Golden Gate Park, and then hooked up with my good friend Sven, and stayed at his place in the Haight (an absolutely awesome place). On Thursday, I recovered from jetlag, hung out with Sven, chatted about upstream realtime, things like that.
Photo: KFOG KABOOM 2008
My old college friend Alison (who I last saw 9 years ago, but we keep in touch online) was visiting California around the same time, so we had pre-synched itineraries and met up in San Francisco on Friday afternoon. I had spent the morning in Berkeley (saw a National Laboratory, had coffee, ran errands). We headed up to Mt. Tom (Tomalais) to enjoy the afternoon sunshine, before hanging out in the evening with Alison’s friend, Tiffany. Both ladies joined us for the KFOG KABOOM sailing extravaganza on Saturday afternoon, which was absolutely awesome. Just like last year, Sven dropped anchor at a great spot and we watched the fireworks while eating some truly excellent food prepared by an actual chef (who normally spends his time creating menus for quality restaurants).
Photo: Alison Cornish and Jon Masters stopping for Strawberries
On Sunday morning, I drove Alison and myself to Yosemite National Park. We did a quick mini-hike only up to the waterfalls for photographs (my camera was trashed at this point – just like this time last year my camera was stolen, this time it was dropped, so it wouldn’t be until the next day that I had a replacement…I should have some shots of Yosemite that can be added), before we had to turn around and drive back to San Francisco, swap the car out for a blue Ford Mustang convertible, and then on to Monterey. We stayed in Monterey for the evening.
Photo: Jon Masters posing with a Ford Mustang
On Monday morning, I drove us to a Circuit City (to buy a replacement Nikon Coolpix camera as close to the old one as possible – because it takes AA batteries, which is a slowly disappearing feature), and then from Monterey all the way to Los Angeles down the California Route 1 highway – better known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), even though it’s not actually called that until you get nearer to Los Angeles itself – stopping for fresh strawberries on a few occasions. We stopped briefly at Hearst Castle, and at other locations along the highway for various classical photoshots. And of course, in Ventura, that perfect little town, for coffee at the Crowne Plaza hotel (where “Little Miss Sunshine” was also filmed) I resisted the urge to lie on that damn beach and be miserable as I wasn’t alone.
Photo: The Excalibur, Las Vegas, Nevada
After leaving Ventura, I drove us direct to LA. But we weren’t done when we got to LA. That would just be a regularly fairly long roadtrip down the entire coast of California. Instead, I then drove us from Los Angeles all the way out to Vegas, in a marathon late night of driving, rocking out to various cheesy pop, and stopping at the typical locations (Mad Greek, etc.). We slept a little, and then hit the strip, Excalibur, IHOP (I’ve decided I actually love their double blueberry pancakes), and went back to our hotel (New York, New York, Las Vegas, Nevada ) so Alison could change for Cher and I could drive to the Grand Canyon.
Photo: Hoover Dam, as seen at night
I left Las Vegas around 7pm Tuesday, headed to Henderson’s REI for some equipment, and finally hit the road to the Grand Canyon around 9pm. This meant that I didn’t actually get to the Canyon until the (not so very) early hours (I stopped to take photos at Hoover Dam, get decaf. coffee and gas, and to relax), and was fairly exhausted when I did. But that didn’t stop me taking a weekly conference call and reading email at 7am from my iPhone, while at the Grand Canyon. I was late leaving the lodge (Yavapai), and didn’t start out until about 9am, after stopping for a larger than usual breakfast (I don’t normally eat breakfast, but I figured this was a time to make an exception, given what I was about to do). I stopped to take a lot of photos of the South Rim, which is an awesome view.
Photo: Hiking the Grand Canyon in one day. Over 300 high resolution photographs uploaded
At 10:34am on Wednesday morning, I hit the Kaibab trailhead, and subsequently did something that is explicitly not recommended. I hiked the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in one day – actually in around 8.5 hours, including photo stops, lunch, and time at the Phanton Ranch at the Canyon base. It helped to take my mind off Karin for quite a while, and besides, I actually did have something to prove to myself – I’m doing a 24 mile hike next month, which will be worse. I arrived at Phantom Ranch around 1:15pm, and stopped briefly in the canteen to buy a t-shirt, after enjoying the views, the beach, and filling up on water. Then, I hiked Bright Angel Trail all the way back to the South Rim of the Canyon, arriving in time to stand and to watch the sunset, even after taking a couple of shuttles.
Photo: Jon Masters, at the base of the Grand Canyon
I explicitly do not endorse or encourage anyone reading this to hike the Grand Canyon in one day. If you are inexperienced or not in good shape, it could be pretty bad. There are many many signs telling you not to attempt to do this, rescue is complex, and you really really don’t want to try doing this. But if, like, me you still want to do it, and you actually do, then the experience is highly rewarding, that’s for sure. I met a couple of other foolhardy hikers along the way who had also attempted to do the same – and some less crazy folks that I was just glad of sharing a conversation with to while away the time. I was glad the bandaid on my toenail held in place – I lost my toenail the day before, since the blackened one from my hike up Mount Washington had finally fallen off in the shower.
Photo: Hoover Dam, as seen by day
After hiking the Canyon in one day, most people would probably decide they had had enough. I however, am not most people. I drove 6 hours back to Vegas immediately, in order to catch my friend Alison before she went to sleep. I missed the Zumanity show that she had been to, which I could have made if I’d left for the trails a bit earlier in the morning, but we still got to hang out. And I still wasn’t done with the Canyon, because Alison wanted to see the West Rim of the Canyon (specifically, that Skywalk), and I had agreed to drive us out there. We called up, and were told they close at 8pm. This is true, they do close at 8pm, but they don’t let you in after 6:30pm. And the Destination Grand Canyon West Skywalk reservations folks don’t bother to tell you this when you call them. So we drove all the way out there only to have to turn around and go all the way back to Vegas.
Photo: Jon Masters, on the West Rim of the Grand Canyon
Not to be foiled by the incompetence of the Skywalk reservations phoneline lady, I offered to drive us out again on the Friday. So, after checking out, taking some photos, driving up and down the strip, things of this nature, I drove us back out to the West Rim to see the Skywalk. We made it this time, and the Skywalk was almost worth the hassle (and the expense), since you can stand on glass thousands of feet over a huge void. The West Rim itself is definitely worth seeing at sunset, which we did (personally, I wouldn’t recommend you bother driving out there yourself just for the Skywalk). And then some big shuttle bus coming from the Skywalk sped past us, likely spooking some animals, who jumped out into the road soon after. We were lucky only to actually hit just one cow (we didn’t kill it). On a remote Arizona backroad, at night, with little GSM coverage. While doing about 10 or 15mph. The car wasn’t too happy, but it was drivable. The cow got off surprisingly lightly. And some kind local passer’s by (from California originally) helped us to get in touch with the Mohave County Sheriff’s department. The officer who responded was one of the nicest, kindest, and most professional people that you could hope to meet right then.
Photo: Flying cows and rental cars do not mix
Our plans to get back to Los Angeles were, however shot, and my nerves weren’t so good for having had my first accident (which I don’t think was my fault. I was driving correctly, wasn’t tired, and I really want to blame that big shuttle van for spooking the animals). I got us back to Vegas. Somewhere on Friday night there was a whole bunch of middle of night recalculating of logistics, re-routing of flights, additional hotel costs, insurance claims, police reports, and things of this nature. All because the silly Grand Canyon West folks hadn’t given us the right information the first time so we’d driven back out there a second time. Those same people will not let you book the “park and ride” bus on the day of your trip, nor do they publish their prices clearly on the website, and there are many other issues I won’t bother venting this time. Suffice it to say, I won’t be driving back up to that Skywalk any time soon. I do, however, think that Hertz were very good in dealing with the incident, and the lovely Mohave County Sheriff’s deputy was such a very kind man too.
Accidents aside, the trip was quite relaxing until the end, and I enjoyed getting out to the Best Coast of the United States. It had been too long.