London to Baja California ~ across America

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by v v, Jul 29, 2018.

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  1. May 4, 2019 #251

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    Saturday 5 January Day 23 ~ Monterey CA to San Luis Obispo CA driving down the Big Sur, US Highway 1

    France ~ Saturday 4 May 2019


    Up, breakfast and soon away heading for Hwy 1 that is just outside town.

    It's raining with low cloud but this along with the ocean being rougher than we have seen creates a dramatic picture, we all come to agree the weather is adding to the atmosphere of driving this coast road. First we are headed to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to visit the most southerly stands of Coast Redwoods in the US. The main stand is outside the park next to the Big Sur Lodge, which we appreciate later in the day.


    Even in the rain Hwy 1 is beautiful

    s66890a.jpg


    Before we drive into the park we make a stop at the visitor center about 1/2 mile to the south of the park entrance and directly on Hwy 1. There is a lot of information here about the parks plus the whole coast down to San Luis Obispo (SLO). Milton picks up a leaflet with information about a beach to the south of us, it would be one of the major highlights of our entire trip.

    After some good advice from the park rangers we head back up to the entrance, see the lodge, park car and the Redwoods are just there on the edge of the car park. What an amazing sight the first ever glimpse of the tallest trees in the world (more later about that).


    The sheer height

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    and sheer physical size

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    of these giant living things in the misty, damp and rainy setting will remembered forever

    s66922a.jpg


    As these are the most southerly stands of Redwoods and at the extreme limit of their natural growing range we learn that these are the smallest of the remaining Coast Redwoods at 250 feet tall. To the north of San Francisco is the ideal growing region where they grow a whopping 100 feet taller at 350 feet. Even knowing that we were more than impressed by these trees that we could stand next to and touch.


    We had a unanimous vote for a warm drink in the Lodge where we also found a log fire that made the perfect end to our visit. Just take a look at the pine cones on the mantle behind Rosie, they are huge! Of course they are from the Redwoods.

    s66934a.jpg


    We head off continuing south on Hwy 1, Milton starts to read from the pamphlet he found.

    To be continued...
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
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  2. May 4, 2019 #252

    SarahZ

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    I agree that misty weather is perfect for viewing redwoods. I imagine it adds to the wonderful smell, too.

    I've been to California a few times but have yet to see the redwoods. They're definitely on the list for next time.
     
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  3. May 4, 2019 #253

    AmtrakBlue

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    We tried to go to Muirs Woods when I visited the kids a few years ago, but the small parking lot was full and the sides of the narrow, winding road was filling up, making for a long walk just to get in. So we ended up on a small beach nearby. Since then I've read you now have to have reservations to visit, or something like that.
     
  4. May 4, 2019 #254

    SarahZ

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    That's good to know. :) Thanks!
     
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  5. May 4, 2019 #255

    caravanman

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    I am sure there must be a joke here about visiting the Redwoods and then enjoying a log fire... :D

    Ed.
     
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  6. May 4, 2019 #256

    AmtrakBlue

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    The logs in the fireplace are trigs that fell from the redwoods :p
     
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  7. May 5, 2019 #257

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    Saturday 5 January Day 23 ~ Part II... Big Sur CA to San Luis Obispo CA driving down the Cabrillo Hwy, US Highway 1

    France ~ Sunday 5 May 2019


    ... and the day continues, rain getting heavier to the point we can't always see the ocean. It's a combination of rain and a sea mist which strangely looked good with the mist hanging in the trees, feels a bit like a rain forest. It comes and goes, this is real weather.
    Milton reads out his pamphlet. There are a couple of viewing points to the south where we may be able to get close to view seals, but not any old seals, Elephant seals. We are interested but not hugely excited as we had seen seals in the bay at Monterey, of course we would stop but it's getting very wet out there.
    Milton then reads a few facts. They were hunted almost to extinction, I think only about 100 were left on the California coast, but since conservation measures had been introduced their numbers had expanded rapidly. They return to the beach where they were born every winter, just about this time of year. They migrate south to mate and to have their young, then return north. The males can weigh in at over 2 tons, as much as a pickup truck and can grow to 16 feet long.
    At this point Rosie and I are listening, a little more interested now.


    During a clearer spell this is what the ocean looked like

    s66938a.jpg


    We arrive at one of two Elephant seal access points, for those interested the one we stopped at is about 5 miles north of San Simeon at this GPS location 35.663225, -121.257733

    At least the rain had eased and it was brighter, still raining but not too bad and we are getting used to it. The parking was good and there was a trail at the back of the beach directly overlooking, yes Elephant seals in all sorts of poses. Having never seen any before they came as a shock, how small the females were and how large the males were, quite a magical panorama below us.

    Two males, a female and an new born pup

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    A pair of juvenile males play fighting, an adult behind not particularly impressed

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    While the males fight, the females sleep

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    Easy to see how they got their name

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    What a pose from a female

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    This best displays the enormity of these animals

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    We stayed a long while, a real privilege to just drive off the road, no fuss and see these magnificent animals in their own environment. Thank you to the people and authorities who enable this to happen.

    Not too long to finish the day's driving into SLO, we take our time at the hotel then meander across the road to eat, too damp to go out into the town so stay in a watch a movie. Another day tomorrow to include fulfilling an ambition to visit Surf Station and take a look at Santa Barbara for the first time before heading back to Milton's at Canoga Park.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2019
  8. May 5, 2019 #258

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    Hello again

    Here's a little information, few ideas and a couple of questions for your upcoming Europe trip. It may be things you hadn't considered so may be of interest.

    Take a river trip from Greenwich to Westminster Pier, you'll see much from the river that you will recognise, the river is the heart of London. Can recommend City Cruises on the south side of the river outside the Royal Naval Museum and College.
    A superb way to arrive there is to get to the DLR light rail station Mudchute and walk down to the river to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel North. Walk through this impressive Victorian pedestrian tunnel under the Thames, you'll come out next to the Cutty Sark historic Tea Clipper sailing ship, the City Cruises pier is about 50 yards away.
    You will be standing on the 0° line for the earth's Longitude by the way and outside one the great British museums the National Maritime Museum

    When you arrive at Westminster you are right next to the Houses of Parliament (the very building that a political implosion is currently taking place), best seen from the south side of the river. On the land side of the of the Houses of Parliament you can get a Hop On, Hop Off ticket and board the open top buses, good way to see a lot of London.

    Last for London is to take High Tea at Fortnum and Mason https://www.fortnumandmason.com/restaurants/afternoon-tea . I guarantee you wont forget the experience.

    Are you travelling to Amsterdam or Antwerp? Both have very good city centers but Amsterdam is world class and very very walkable.

    Travelling by car through France to Spain. What sort of time do you have for this or is it just the time to drive through? It would make a difference as to which route to take and some places are easier to navigate than others.

    There's tons more stuff on your journey, but don't want to put you to sleep.

    One more thing, Brighton. It's a major LBGT center in the UK, has a great atmosphere, friendly and tolerant. We've visited a few times and have always enjoyed our time there.
     
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  9. May 6, 2019 #259

    anumberone

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    Thanks for the tips on my trip, I have to go over them later and see how I can incorporate then into our plans. But, for now I have to tell you how much I appreciate your photos. Looking at the redwood scenes I was thinking I can almost smell them, exactly what SZ wrote in the next post.
     
  10. May 7, 2019 #260

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    You are very welcome and thank you.
     
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  11. May 7, 2019 #261

    anumberone

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    Thanks for all the info, I am going to get to spend some time in London and hope to take advantage of your ideas. I really want to see the Maritime Museum. I am going to be in Amsterdam for a couple of days and Antwerp a few hrs. And overnight. I'm hoping to get to the rijks museum in Amsterdam along with taking some kind of tour. Also going to be in Nijmegen, hope to get to a Airborne Military Museum close by.
    Driving through France in two days only. Plan on spending a night in Bordeaux.
     
  12. May 13, 2019 #262

    MARC Rider

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    I second the recommendation for the Maritime Museum in Greenwich. I was there in 1985. Great exhibits, except they insisted on labeling certain paddle-propelled watercraft was "Canadian Canoes," even though the exact same craft are also native to, and widely used south of the Canadian border in a certain former British colony that is not called "Canada." Also, the Royal Observatory is worth visiting, and gives one the opportunity to straddle a brass strip on the ground that marks the Prime Meridian. When I went, I took a water taxi service out to Greenwich and rode a train back into London.
     
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  13. Jun 1, 2019 #263

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    @anumberone

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, lots of work and travel for work got in the way.

    I'm listing a driving route that will show you a little of the different French regions and misses driving through Paris (there are 3 ring roads on the popular Paris east side, all are busy if you get the wrong time of day, best avoided unless you like excitement).

    You also have the option of using the TGV or other high speed trains say from Amsterdam to Paris to Bordeaux then pick up a car.

    Utrecht - Eindhoven - Hasselt - Namur - Liege - Reims (this section is through the Ardennes where Patton had his tank battle) - Epernay (the center of Champagne production) - Troyes - Auxerre (look out for the cathedral on your right as you cross the Yonne river) - La Charité-sur-Loire where you will join the A77/N7 heading south towards Nevers - Moulins - south of Moulins pick up the N79/E62 Expressway westwards direction Montlucon - Montmarault is where you take the A71 south direction Clermont Ferrand - about 10km before Riom turn off the A71 onto the A89 direction Brive - (you cross the Massif Central through the northern part of the volcano national park here. They are extinct and fairly small but a lot of them) - Brive - Bordeaux on the A89/N89

    Hope this helps, it's a mix of Interstate and national roads, will certainly give you a flavour of some of France.

    Good luck
     
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  14. Jun 1, 2019 #264

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    Sunday 6 January Day 24 ~ SLO to Canoga Park, LA following the coast where possible

    Written France ~ Saturday 1 June 2019

    After another pause here we go again, more of this fragmented journey.

    Warmer and brighter than the previous couple of days as we re-join the road south. Pass through mainly pristine farmland although nobody working as it's Sunday. Through the giant Vandenberg air base to Surf Station, in my eyes one of the great rail stations of the world.
    Improbably named and improbably located, and although having travelled through the station a couple of times there was never an occasion to experience it. Rosie and Milton were very gracious about making this detour and humouring me. They may even have enjoyed the visit themselves?

    Photos tell the story, the rain and winds from the previous day were still evident in the movement of the ocean


    Perfectly named

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    Sand from the beach is part of the station

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    View from the beach side rail line

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    View of the bay to the north in the direction of SLO

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    We were lucky to be there as a Pacific Surfliner arrives. 1 passenger off, and 1 on. It was strange feeling to see an Amtrak train arriving at a remote station that we were not there to board

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    Surfliner heading north

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    Still a few waves

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    Then there was this warning, repeated several times around the staton. Apparently the Great White remains still waiting to ambush it's prey. Sounded scary to us and they can be huge too!

    s67054a.jpg


    This gentleman was a real character, notice where he places his chair. He's an ex airforce officer who lives about 15 miles away, think his name is Bob. He likes to see the few trains each day, speak with the tiny amount of people using the station or the beach and watch the ocean. He had plenty of interest to say and quite a few funny stories, we were all pleased to have met him

    s67057a.jpg


    Surf Beach Station, the official plaque. It's a quiet and almost wild place to have a station, it feels more part of the beach than the land behind it.
    There are a few basic facilities, toilets, car park and that's it, but can't think anywhere else on the planet that is quite like it.

    s67026a.jpg


    After a couple of hours we continue south, look at Santa Barbara through the car windows but don't feel any wish to get out to explore. Suppose it's just not our type of place. Drive the Ventura Highway watching a few people surfing, the waves are not as big as further north.

    Arrive back at Milton's early evening, quick dash round to the Mexican bakery for a top-up.
     
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  15. Jun 1, 2019 #265

    anumberone

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    Thank you for taking the time to help. We are going to have almost three days in Bristol, so if jet lag don't interfere too badly I should be able to see quite a bit. We are going to drive to Brighton, and after their show, get a early start and drive from Brighton to London, spend the day and catch a late flight to Amsterdam. Have the next day to explore. Play a show, drive to Nijmegen, not too far, play a show, drive to Antwerp. Play show, then catch a train to Paris early the next morning. This is where things get sketchy for me, Steven who has been to Paris many times, never has, but wants to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. He's thinking rent a car and driving there. To me it's a huge consumption of the clock, and I'd just as soon wave as I see it in the distance. But, he has probably done that a lot, it'll all work out.
    What size did you make those photos to upload into your post. They are all really thoughtful shots.
     
  16. Jun 1, 2019 #266

    junebug

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    Gorgeous!! Your pictures are amazing. I went to that same beach, I think! Not far from Hearst Castle?
     
  17. Jun 1, 2019 #267

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    I hope you get paid for your travel writing and photos. You're really good.
     
  18. Jun 1, 2019 #268

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    Thank you June, that's very kind of you. That you enjoy the stories is more than enough for me.

    Hope to find the time to write up the rest of this journey soon as we are just back from a shorter rail trip within France and that did have a few funny moments along with stunning scenery and interesting people. On top of that there are the beginnings of a new very long distance rail, bus and taxi journey which is moving from an idea to actual research which I'd like to write about too.

    BTW, you're right about the seal beach it isn't far from Hearst Castle or SLO.
     
  19. Jun 2, 2019 #269

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    Although I drive through Paris about 10 times each year it's like any world city, busy. If you are arriving from Antwerpen at Gare du Nord train station (you almost definitely will) then Metro + RER rail systems are by far the most convenient way to get to the Eiffel Tower, no doubt about that.
    I guess Steven may be thinking about baggage after you leave the hotel or if you are travelling to the ET directly on arriving in Paris, maybe leave any bags at the 'Left Luggage' at any of the main stations and when ready to leave Paris rent the car then?

    The recent photos are usually 1200 x 900 pixels although sometimes I crop them where the proportion is different but always using 1200 as the maximum dimension. Have been experimenting with photo size since the forum changed it's format and recently decided on 1200 x ? for the best compromise.

    The camera is a Sony bridge camera which has it's limitations, but for travelling haven't found anything better for quality / convenience (built in high value zoom) / compact and light enough to take anywhere without hauling a full size SLR and camera bag with extra lenses etc.

    It sounds as though your band travels are tight on time in a few places, I guess you will use the toll autoroutes when travelling distances? The autoroutes are as good as anywhere we have been in the world, the service areas generally excellent too. Here's a tip for paying the toll that Steven may well know. Use a debit or credit card to pay for your toll, not cash. If you need a paper receipt you generally have to press a button to the right of where the card is inserted.

    Is it rude to ask what kind of band you are travelling with, you have piqued my curiosity.
     
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  20. Jun 4, 2019 #270

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    Monday 7 January Day 25 ~ Sorting out and preparing for tomorrow's journey to Austin TX. Greyhound all the way via Denver CO

    Written France ~ Tuesday 4 June 2019

    Return rental car, start packing again although this time must be very light. It was difficult as we are travelling through very different climates on this section of the journey, we have to compromise. Buy a few 'bus' provisions including from the Mexican bakery, and re-start the discussion on Twinkies vs Ding Dongs, it's a tough life.
    All set for the 'off' tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
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  21. Jun 6, 2019 #271

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    Tuesday 8 January Day 26 - LA to Denver by road, travels over the Rockies

    Written France ~ Thursday 6 June 2019

    LA Greyhound Bus Station to Denver Greyhound Bus Station - Depart Tuesday 8 January 18:40pm Greyhound Schedule 1684 ~ Arrive Denver 17:45pm Wednesday 9 January

    Slow start but we are ready to roll on time. Bus from Milton's directly up to Chatsworth Station (CWT). Right bus, right on time and we are relaxed, arrive at the Chatsworth Amtrak and Metrolink Ventura County Line station. Buy tickets from a machine on the platform through to Union Station, LAX, from there we'll transfer to the LA Greyhound Bus Station about 2 miles away.


    Ticket machines on Chatsworth station platform. The station appears unmanned although the waiting room is open

    BB-74a.jpg

    The station is interesting, has quite a few film and cowboy connections. Inside the waiting room is a museum, one info board tells that the station was opened by none other than the real Lone Ranger. A number of movies used the station buildings, trains and surrounding scenery for quite famous films, such as Stagecoach and the Squaw Man. As Hollywood flourished so did Chatsworth station becoming ever busier.

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    Then there was a model of a Saturn 5 rocket which puzzled us but only for a moment. Just down the road was one of the larger Rocket Dyne plants for assembly and development, mystery solved

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    Right on time again our Ventura county Line commuter train arrives, a double decker too

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    We are whisked through all the old film studio towns down to LA Union station. Comfortable commuter train, clean and bright.

    Burbank Station, so California
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    We are around 1 1/2 hours early at this point so use the time to get a cup of tea and sit in the fabulous Union Station waiting area with the comfy leather armchairs, if only all stations were like this.

    Soon time for a cab down to the Greyhound Bus station. Cabs are not our usual mode of transport but for such a short distance it was 2 buses and a possible short walk between the two, not much more to get a cab. Traffic was quite heavy and started to talk with the driver. He was a friendly person but became evasive when asked where he came from. We didn't press him but he talked of home although skirted around the edge of where that was. As we arrived at the Greyhound depot he told us he came from Iran and had arrived 16 years ago. He said that some passengers became a little upset if they knew where he was from which was a shame as he was pleasant, polite and drove well, just the sort of immigrant any nation wants.

    We were surprised as we walked into the bus station. It was clean, bright and airy, the staff were helpful and pleasant, possibly the best Greyhound station we have ever been through. I have heard that the UK business FirstGroup have put Greyhound up for sale. This may be just what Greyhound needs as the service level has deteriorated since the FirstGroup's ownership.

    s67062a.jpg
    There's our bus
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    We have boarding tickets one and two, and are allowed to board first, we get the choice of seats and take the bus right mid seating our favourite place in the bus, the adventure is about to start. Not too many board with us, but the bus starts to fill up at San Bernardino. Jolly bunch of people start to settle down after Bakersfield. We are heading towards an evening arrival at Las Vegas, should look it's best at night as we drive across the desert.
    True to form Las Vegas looks amazing at night, it always impresses in a way nowhere else does. We have an hour layover at the Las Vegas bus station opposite Freemont Street, decide a walk is a good thing to do and stroll inside. Very different to when we were here in September, then it was packed but not so tonight. Obviously a weekday in January is not the same as September.

    Bus station is busy so we stand for a while until we can re-board, but that's not a bad thing as we'll have plenty of sitting time.

    To be continued...
     
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  22. Jun 6, 2019 #272

    anumberone

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    What's the old saying, fly into Vegas, leave on the hound.
     
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  23. Jun 7, 2019 #273

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    Brilliant saying, we've met them!

    It's an insight into a life we don't know, leaving Las Vegas by Greyhound is an experience never to be forgotten.
     
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  24. Jun 9, 2019 #274

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    Wednesday 9 January Day 27 - across the Rockies on the I-70 to Denver in mid winter

    Posted France ~ Sunday 9 June 2019


    We both managed to sleep just enough, woke to see snow on the slopes of the nearby mountains. At sunrise some of the dramatic rock formations looked special with such sharp colour. We took plenty of photos but for reasons unknown only two worth posting.
    Stopped at Green River for a breakfast hot drink. Snow on the ground and cold here, warm in the bus though. An unusual feature was the bus was still almost completely full, this trend started last year and is even more so in 2019. Whether Greyhound is more popular than before or whether they are running less buses have no idea. With no or little free space people feel crammed in and some become a little fractious. The driver was brusque and shut himself away, the boys at the back of the bus were occasionally boisterous.
    Another feature of this particular route was it felt as though there were fewer rest/smoke stops than most routes, maybe because a lack of suitable stopping points? Whatever was happening the rest stops were welcomed by most people every time.

    Vail had the best snow and the slopes were really busy, there had been snow since green River but probably not good enough to ski.

    Very impressed at the Eisenhower Tunnel, at 11,158 feet elevation it is one of the highest road tunnels anywhere in the world. Great engineering feat and even more impressive that the roadways were kept smooth, clear and free to drive, it must take a terrific effort to keep this road open all year, well done Colorado.

    After the tunnel there had been an accident which delayed our arrival in Denver by 30 minutes. For some this was a big deal as when we arrived in Denver Bus Station and the door opened it was like a release of pressure. Too long a ride for some?

    Found the local bus stop near the Greyhound station, bus turned up almost immediately, we were dropped a few yards from our hotel. Changed from travel clothes and straight back out to eat. The restaurant we had intended using was closed Wednesdays, ended up with a Polish sports bar where Rosie had dumplings and I schnitzel, too much food on our plates for us, huge portions.

    Tomorrow visiting the Colorado Museum and the State capitol, followed that evening by another 24 hour Greyhound ride to Austin, and a reunion with the (in)famous Bob Dylan.


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    To be continued...
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
  25. Jun 11, 2019 #275

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    Thursday 10 January Day 28 - Denver... Part I

    Posted France ~ Tuesday 11 June 2019


    Days Inn on Colfax is a very well located hotel, and considering it's location is well priced too if booked in advance. Breakfast was ok, we managed to find some cereal without added sugar and plenty to drink. It's our second visit so we knew the hotel would be helpful allowing us to store our bags until evening, that coupled with excellent public transport more or less outside the door made it perfect for us.

    The day was just right, blue skies and not too cold, first up a 1/2 mile walk down E Colfax Avenue to the State Capitol. On arrival we learn at reception that the next guided tour is in around 45 minutes, to access the dome you have to take the tour. Also told that we can't get into the public gallery of the Senate as newly elected Jared Polis was giving his inaugural 'State of the State' speech as Colorado Governor, but if we wished to watch the speech we could on a large screens in the Press Room, which we did without any accreditation.

    Mr Polis has many aspirations, many of them would make us want to live in Colorado if he could push them through, but there was no mention how they would be paid for. That's the end of the reference to politics. He came across as a very well meaning and genuine man, also learnt he is the first US gay Governor. Rosie tells me he has a nice smile, I was taking in his hopes for the future of Colorado and how different his presentation was to British politicians. Have since learnt he's quite wealthy too, got a lot going for him.

    At the end of his speech which appeared to be very well received we return to the foot of the stairs near the reception, waiting for our guide to arrive. Then who should walk down the stairs but Governor Polis himself surround by his entourage, he did have a nice smile.

    We meet the guide and were taken to the dome access, along the way we see the great detail and fine design in this building. The last section is a flight of stairs up to a small door to the midway platform inside the dome, these stairs are pretty steep. Didn't bother us or any of the other 6 visitors but may be difficult for some.

    Here's a strange thing. We were 8 visitors, 2 Germans, 2 French, 2 Australians and us, no Americans...

    A few photos from inside the Capitol


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    How is this for a view? Civic Center with the mountains (front range?) as a backdrop

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    Rosie is starting to feel a little under the weather, but stills smiles all day long as we are really enjoying this return visit to Denver. We take our time exiting the building, we really are so impressed with the quality, care and detail that has gone into this magnificent building. It's the third State Capitol we have visited, they have all had something special about them, but perhaps only Denver has that view.


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    Another Denver, portrait in one of the galleries

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    Next for us was lunch at the 'History Colorado Center' an interactive museum of the State, it was only about 400 yards away. They have a very nice café restaurant in the same building as the museum where we take the opportunity to eat another hot meal, we are on the road again this evening.


    To be continued...
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019

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