U.S.A. -97

    • This is a short version of the trip. We traveled for five weeks and I took more than 220 pictures on the trip.

Travel Route
Finally, after all that dreaming, I arrived with my friend Anders at Chicago O’Hare June 28 1997!

Los Angeles, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley

But it was only for a short stop and then off to Los Angeles where we stayed one night at the Hilton. Then we rented a car and headed for Grand Canyon, which we by the way saw on the flight between Chicago and LA. It took us over an hour to get out of LA even though we drove on Interstates all the time, sometimes with up to 14 lanes.

Grand CanyonThe view when we saw Grand Canyon was absolutely stunning! You can’t really see anything until you’re just next to the rim and it all opens up. I can’t get enough of this place, I’m definitely coming back.
The classic view of Monument ValleyWe couldn’t get a motel room in Kayenta so we had to go Farmington (NM). That meant an extra 280 miles but it also gave us an opportunity to visit the Four States Corner, the only place where four states meet in one point (NM, AZ, UT and CO). Then we head on up to Monument Valley where many of the classic western movies was filmed (e.g. The Stagecoach with John Wayne). The indians that still live there wants the tourists to ride with them in 4×4 trucks but we’re Swedish vikings so we took our crappy little rental car out there, driving like mad trying to avoid big rocks in the middle of the so called road. Anyway, the landscape is totally unbelievable, we just drove around for a couple of hours and we hardly said a word to each other the whole time, just wondering how this was possible.

Moab, Arches, Zion

Some of my wounds five days after the crashWe continue north through the beautiful Utah to Moab, the number one place to be if you like mountainbiking. And I do, Anders don’t but we rented two full suspension Specialized bikes at Rim Cyclery, a legendary bike shop. We had (as usual) 40° C (100° F) and most people thought it was too hot to ride but we were just passing through so we had no choice! We both crashed early on and I tell you, the rock is hard! But the heat was even worse and it didn’t get any better when Anders, half delirious, spilled half of his water. The heat made him move in slow motion trying to pick the bottle up again. Afterwards we went to McDonalds, I was in their restroom for at least 30 minutes trying to rinse the wounds and wipe the blood away.
Delicate ArchWe limp out of Moab, professional bike racing dreams crushed, and head for Arches National Park. We’re so beat up and exhausted from the heat that we leave the car only once in the entire park.
Everything's cool in AmericaAfter Arches we turn west and then south towards Zion National Park. In St. George we have 34° C (93° F) at midnight! But we still find it cool because the sun is gone.

Las Vegas

Unusual view of Hoover DamAnd now Las Vegas! We drive through it in the middle of the day on an Interstate and it wasn’t very impressing then, but just wait! We continued to Hoover Dam, the size of it is amazing. We take an elevator down to see it from below. When we got back to the car it was impossible to touch the steering wheel, it must have been a million degrees! And the cool refreshing water bottles we so cleverly hid under the seats are so hot that we almost burned our throats when we tried to drink from them. We rushed to a life saving Pizza Hut to get cool drinks (and loads of pizza). The temperature was a new record for us: 45° C (113° F)!
Luxor with the Sfinx in front which is actually larger than the originalBack in Las Vegas we drove the strip passing all the famous casinos. The strip is cool even during the day, this is the real Las Vegas. Unfortunately we can’t get a room at any casino since it’s the 4th of July. We have to settle for a motel half a mile from the strip, we just unload our baggage there and then we’re off to Luxor.
Stardust CasinoLuxor is a really beautiful and stylish hotel. We play there (mostly video games) and check out the nearby Excalibur. In the middle of the night we drive on the strip again and now it’s really alive, people everywhere and flashing light all over. It takes us two hours to complete the strip.

Death Valley

Salt floor of Death ValleyWe’re heading for Death Valley and this time we load up with lots of water, not just for our selves but for the car too. Another record: 50° C (120° F)! We walk 100 m (300 feet) on a slight uphill to a viewpoint and drink a bottle of water each on the way! The Swedish vikings never had to endure this kind of heat. We feel like 90 year olds when we walk back to the car, it’s already hot inside and it doesn’t get any better when we have to turn off the A/C. We laughed when we saw the signs telling us to do that but when we checked our coolant temperature we didn’t laugh anymore. Obviously in this heat the engine suffer even more. Death Valley was the only national park we kind of enjoyed leaving.

Yosemite, Maraposa Grove

I would like to frame this oneWe enter Bishop, I will always remember Bishop as the place where I had my first Sourdough Jack from Jack in the Box. It’s the best burger on the planet and I will have many more until I leave U.S. of A. By now we’re about to enter Yosemite National Park, perhaps the most beautiful of them all.
YosemiteIt kind of reminds me of Sweden, only bigger and better. It’s not as dry up here, small lakes and creeks form everywhere from the melting snow. We stop to throw snowballs at each other at 3000 m (10000 feet). Rocks, cliffs and waterfalls are all very beautiful.
Anders inside a giant treeAs a part of Yosemite there is the Maraposa Grove, the giant trees. They are truly gigantic, some of them are 10 m in diameter and 100 m in height (30 x 300 feet).

San Francisco, Monterey

The Golden GateNow we’re driving towards San Francisco, we stop to look at San Quentin, featured in many movies. We accidentally park too close to the gate and get chased away by a big guard with an even bigger gun! Did he think that we were planning to free some bad guy? We stop to the north of Golden Gate to get some pictures, it was freezing cold in the wind up there (had we already forgotten about the earlier heat?). After Hawaii we would return to San Francisco and because of that we just drove straight through it to the classic Highway 1. We stopped early in Monterey but I didn’t know that the Laguna Seca Racetrack is located just outside Monterey!
The Lone CypressThe next day we took the 17-mile drive where a lot of rich people in California have one of their several houses. I think golf sucks but if I could play at Pebble Beach I’m not so sure any more…
Hearst CastleThe fog followed us almost all the way to Santa Barbara. We stopped to see Hearst Castle, the surroundings and the exterior of the house(s) were totally amazing but inside it there was too many mixes of styles I think. We’re driving through Malibu and there are luxury houses and cars everywhere.

Los Angeles

When we returned the car at the Hilton we had driven 5300 km (3300 miles) in 10 days. It’s nice to be at the Hilton again but our budget doesn’t allow us to stay there until we leave for Hawaii, instead we went to a hostel called Banana Bungalow, perfectly located on a calm street next to the Hollywood Bowl.

I'll be back tooWe walk down to Hollywood Bl. and check out the stars. At the hostel we talk to some nice Germans having done a similar trip.
OJ's mailboxThe next day we went on a bus for the LA tour. We drove by homes of stars like OJ Simpson. The picture is taken from inside a bus at 60 km/h (40 mph). Click on it to see a bigger one with OJ’s mailbox marked on it! We drove Sunset all the way to Santa Monica, I found out that Baywatch is filmed at Will Rogers State Beach. I have to go there some other time because we went to Venice Beach instead. I didn’t like it much, even in the middle of the day the place was filled with drug dealers shouting at you to buy their poison. Then we headed for LA downtown and we saw people living in cardboard boxes just next to the skyscrapers! Then it was time to lock the doors on the bus because we turned towards the southern parts of LA, the tour guide wanted to show us where the riots (after the Rodney King thing) started. He instructed us not to look at people and not to take pictures because he wasn’t sure if the windows were bulletproof!
Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel shot from Rodeo DrBack to nicer neighborhood, Rodeo Drive! The bus was filled with people living at a hostel charging a whopping $12/night and now we were at Rodeo Drive, I guess the store owners quickly locked the doors! We entered the hotel from the movie Pretty Woman (The Regent Beverly Wilshire) but they didn’t look too happy to see us either.
The gate from TerminatorAt the end of the tour we went to Griffith Observatory. We looked down at LA but the pictures didn’t turn out very good because of the smog. Anyway, which is much more important, this is where Arnold Schwarzenegger kicks some serious butt with some punk asses in the opening of the second best action movie of all time (T2 is the best), Terminator.
The next day we went to Universal Studios, it was really really good. All the shows and rides were top notch and you could spend the whole day there (which we did) since they have everything there, shops, food, etc.

Maui

Then it was time to leave for Maui, Hawaii. Warmer than LA and the humidity is higher too. During the day it doesn’t matter since we were in the water all day but the perfect thing about Hawaii is that it gets kind of cool in the evening, then it’s like a good summer day in Sweden (at noon).

MauiWe stayed at Banana Bungalow, it’s the same guy who started both of them. The location is not the best, a car is needed. We rented a wreck for very little money and it took us everywhere, even on closed roads! Hawaii has only three colors: the sea and the sky is blue, the vegetation is green and the land is black from the lava. The colors are really intense. It must be paradise on earth. The picture is from the northwestern part of Maui, on the road to Lahaina. It was forbidden to drive on the road with rental cars because of all the damage inflicted to them on the very bad road. Only 4-wheel drive the signs said, but then again, we’re Swedish vikings.
We also took the road to Hana, the one with 600 turns in 35 miles! On this side of the island (east) it’s tropical with extremely dense vegetation. Very beautiful indeed. We saw the Black Beach (lava sand) and on another forbidden road (vikings you know) we saw Charles Lindberg’s grave.

The clouds are rolling into the crater of HaleakalaWe went up to Haleakala which means “House of the Sun”. After 30 minutes of twisty road you’ve climbed from sea level to over 3000 m (10000 feet) and it was actually cold up there in the wind as you can see on the picture. On the way up we drove through the clouds! It’s said to be one of the best places to look at the stars and sunrise is to be something really special up here.
The best beach we found was Makena (Big Beach), the waves were huge, up to 3 m (10 feet). It was great for bodysurfing because the sand was very smooth and there were no rocks on the bottom. The power of the sea is something totally different than what I have experienced before in Sweden.

Surfers at Hookipa BeachWe also went to Kanaha Beach, which is more forgiving than Hookipa, it has sand instead of reef! We loaned surfboards from friends at the hostel and one day we rented our own board. Hookipa is the number one place on earth for windsurfing and we were there several times to watch the crazy people who went out there to surf in those strong winds.
The last day on Maui we spent on one of the largest budo competitions in the world, the Festival of the Kings. We had no idea that it’s held on Hawaii but we saw posters about it and since both Anders and I have trained Karate since 1986 we of course went to see the competition and it was great! 12 hours of competition!

Oahu

Then we flew to Honolulu on Oahu. We went by limousine to the hotel, only slightly more expensive than a taxi but much more fun! We went to check out the famous Waikiki Beach but we found it too crowded even at six in the afternoon. Too much families with small children screaming everywhere, not what we had expected. The city of Honolulu is full of Japanese people.

San Francisco

Man turning a cable car at Market StThe next day we flew to San Francisco. It was hard to find a cheap place to stay at so we had to settle for a crappy hotel but we made sure that the location was good. Nearby there was a hostel so we went there early next morning to get a room there instead. It was close to Union Square. We had to wait almost two hours for the cable cars at Market Street but it was worth it, it was something extra to glide up and down the mighty hills of San Francisco.
The closest we got to AlcatrazWe walked to Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf and tried to get tickets to Alcatraz but they were sold out. Instead we visited Underwater World, it was fantastic! Then we walked some mighty uphills to Lombard Street, the “crookedest” street in the world.
Seals at pier 39Next day we rented a car and headed towards Silicon Valley. We flew in a combat flight simulator there and I won the dogfight! We also visited Nasa Ames Research Center. They have the world’s largest wind tunnel. On the way back we looked at San Francisco from the only place where you have a 360-degree view from above, Twin Peaks.

The End

Next morning, very early in the morning, the fun was over for this time. We flew to Chicago and then home to Sweden, already planning the next trip to America!