We keep telling everyone that we’re travelling the world staying with real people and living like locals but so far on this second JWalking segment that just isn’t true. We’ve turned into posh types that reside in hotels, motels and holiday inns! That’s all about to change as we get ourselves over to the west coast.
Before that we had to negotiate a little drive back from Flagstaff, near the Grand Canyon in Arizona, to Las Vegas in Nevada. Probably a 5 or 6 hour drive and we had to get the hire car, Notey, back by 4pm. No problem if we left early and didn’t get held up.
Arizona to Nevada
I don’t want to bang on about it too much but the scenery in Arizona, even from the freeway, is just stunning. It’s bleak and sometimes very bare but the shadows and colours constantly change often giving a far-off-world quality to the landscape. I’m not sure I’d want to live in any of the tiny run-down towns tucked away in each canyon and valley but they sure do look fascinating as you pass through them. I usually hate dead straight roads but somehow these ones had the opposite effect.
We were really sad to leave Flagstaff and would have liked a few more days there to explore the place but had a flight to catch the following day. Obviously we just had to find a local country music station for the journey so had classic tunes on KGMN 100.1 by ‘Spade Cooley’, ‘Rascal Flatts’ and ‘Three Horse Town’ (love those Three Horse guys …).
Between singing ‘My Wife ran off with my best friend and I sure do miss him, ‘Youre the reason our kids are ugly’ and ‘How can I miss you if you won’t go away’ (all real songs by the way) we pushed up back to the town of Kingman where we stopped for a drink and a bun.
Now nothing ever seems to be simple for us and so it transpired as we pulled up at McDonalds and wandered in to order. Massive queues and a general air of carnage filled the air. When we got to the till we discovered that just 5 minutes before we’d arrived a local woman had driven her huge station wagon right through the side doors of the restaurant! Apparently the D for drive looked very much like the R for reverse. Very exciting.
To break the journey again we turned off right on the state line to visit the Hoover Dam again. This time we headed for the viewing area and the walkway back across the Colorado River.
Very hot, very windy and very spectacular.
Back in Vegas
We managed to negotiate the Las Vegas roads and signs fairly well and got the little hire car back with no issues. Sad again to see it go as we really like our Noteys but so well organised and we just needed to grab a taxi to our motel. This was where I went down like a sack of spuds. Not literally but I was just hit with the mother of all headaches and aches and pains all over. I turned into a pathetic incoherent mess (no change there some of you might say) but I felt awful. Don’t really remember the taxi ride or motel check in but by 4 o’clock I was in bed. It goes without saying that Jo was an angel looking after me and doing absolutely everything and the journey next day looked like it could be tricky.
Early morning shuttle bus to the airport next day ready for a short one hour standard flight to San Diego. The first strange thing was getting out the taxi, crossing the road and then checking in our hold baggage OUTSIDE! That’s right, the check in desks were all on the pavement outside the terminal. Seemed crazy but worked so well as there were loads of desks and virtually no queues. Never seen it before but brilliant. The next weird thing was that as we waited in the lounge the check in staff started holding tell-a-joke competitions over the tannoy. Then guess-the-number-of-peanuts-in-the-pack and more. This would never work at Heathrow but seemed to go down a storm in Vegas. Such a weird place.
So onto the flight. Fairly routine but I just have to say that Southwest Airlines are one of the best airlines we’ve ever flown with. The staff were all fantastic. Every single member of the team had time for every single passenger and you don’t get that anywhere these days. Just wish we’d booked more flights with them.
San Diego and the West Coast
Our first Airbnb of JWalking 2 and we would be staying out in a suburb of San Diego called Lemon Grove. Our host Jean had kindly organised one of her good friends to pick us up from the airport so we had a nice drive back through downtown SD with Peter who pointed out a few sights to us. Jeans house is set on a corner plot with a beautiful private garden to the side and lots of outdoor space. We had our own bedroom, bathroom and separate living room so it was a real home from home.
Staying with Jean when we arrived were a couple of her old friends, Judy and Irwin. They’d been here for a few weeks and were fascinating and friendly company. Neither of them work anymore and they have lived on a 30 foot boat sailing the coasts of America for several years. We obviously felt like we had a bit in common but they had been living the nomadic lifestyle for a lot longer, over 12 years I believe. So lots of stories and chatting, we could have sat and listened to them for hours. Two lovely people.
Unfortunately my sickness had spread to Jo and we spent the first 5 days of our stay suffering and generally laying in bed and on the settee. Not good at all but we didn’t have much choice and couldn’t really complain as it was the first illness either of us has had in over a year. Eventually though we both felt well enough to get into the city and have a look around. Jean very kindly gave us a lift all the way and dropped us off at her workplace giving us a whole day.
Exploring the Harbour and Coronado
San Diego then, a history lesson. Founded by the Spanish in 1542 it became part of Mexico in the early 1800s before joining the United States in 1850 after the Mexican-American war. That explains the Spanish sounding name. The city is fairly modern and is the eighth largest in the US but it’s biggest selling point is almost certainly the climate. The weather is consistently hot and dry virtually all year round.
It has always been a big US Navy town too and there is a huge military presence in the harbour, in fact the US Navy Seals do their training here. So we wandered down to the harbour seeing all of the ships in the Maritime Museum including the absolutely huge USS Midway aircraft carrier. These ships are just enormous and look far too big to even float to me. Covered in all types of aircraft and exhibitions it looked amazing.
Our favourite part of the harbour/maritime area was where they had a massive statue of a couple kissing that was based on a photo taken in Times Square in 1945 when the 2nd World War ended. It’s called ‘Unconditional Surrender’ and the story goes that a photographer called Alfred Eisenstaedt just happened to be there as a sailor ran down the square kissing woman after woman. As he grabbed a white-uniformed nurse Eisenstaedt took the shot and it just became an iconic picture. Neither person was identified and although several claimed to be one of the participants it is still not known exactly who the couple are. Perhaps that’s what makes it so special?
South of theses ships is Seaport Village, a crafty area of little shops and restaurants where we decided to stop for a late breakfast. We found a beautiful spot on the balcony at the Edge Grill for a couple of coffees and some bacon and eggs.
More meandering led us down to a ferry station so we decided to hop on the harbour ferry to Coronado on the other side of the bay. We love a boat trip these days even though it was a short one. Coronado was full of fairly smart bars and shops and some classy looking hotels. So what did we do? We went and sat on the little beach ignoring the shops and watched the world go by for an hour or so.
Loved the ferry so much we got another one all the way down the bay to the Broadway Quay. Much longer trip this time and we could really appreciate the size of the US Navys influence on the city. Apparently San Diego hosts the worlds largest naval fleet and we saw submarines and aircraft carriers being worked on in the many shipyards on the opposite side of the harbour.
As we left the ferry a baseball-hat-wearing excitable sort of chap came charging up to us exclaiming ‘have you been out there? have you been OUT THERE?’. We weren’t too sure where ‘out there’ was but he wouldn’t let it go and just screamed at us ‘You just have to go. Go right to the end. It’s amazing!!’. Smiling apprehensively we said ‘The Pier?’. He virtually exploded. ‘YES THE PIER’. ‘GO TO THE END, GO NOW, ITS INCREDIBLE’. So we went. To the end. All the way. And it wasn’t incredible, it wasn’t even amazing. It was just a pier. We could still hear his voice in the distance though ………
But, and this is a little but, we sat on a couple of uncomfortable metal chairs on the edge of Broadway Pier and it was really nice. Maybe even lovely. Not incredible though. More people watching and boat watching as we relaxed in the California sunshine.
We’re both still feeling a bit under the weather, Jo currently struggling more than me so we’re trying to take it easy. Hoping to get another day out and see some of the Californian coast but we’ll see how we feel.
13.4 – 20.4.2016