We have returned from our brief sojourn in Phoenix. We had quite an eventful week and a bit, and I've sat down a couple of times to attempt to write it all up, but I've been suffering a bit of writer's block (blogger's constipation?), and I haven't got around to it. So I'm going to just do a longish post covering the everything. It's probably not going to do anything any justice, but if I don't write something down now, it'll never happen...
It also gives me a chance to test out my modified seemore plugin (only does a fold for RSS feeds, leaves my blog alone). After I just spent 15 minutes grokking how it worked, and making the one-liner I needed, it seems someone beat me to it. Ah well. C'est la vie.
The Friday night drive down
We made it to Rialto, to the east of Los Angeles, by about 12:30am and called it a night at the first motel we found. Not the greatest lodgings, the walls didn't offer a lot of sound insulation from the neighbours. The people in the room next door wanted to play the same track of a CD over and over and over. Fortunately there was a rent-a-cop doing the rounds, so we proxied a "turn it down!" via him, which made it more bearable. The main highlight of the drive was seeing snow on the mountains a bit south of San Jose on the 101.
Rialto to Glamis
We saw more snow on the mountains nearby. We Also saw an enormous wind farm. Unlike the one we'd seen on the way to Tracy when we picked up the Prius, this one was actually going at the time we drove past, which an impressive sight. I think I'm an infrastructure junkie. Power stations, dams, anything that is a big engineering feat, and I like to just look at it in awe...
We got to Glamis by about midday on Saturday, which was about bang on when we guessed we'd get there. We had a way cool couple of days there. I don't know where to start. So I'll just braindump. It was like Summernats, but in the sand. I guess people who are in a landlocked state spend their money on sand rails instead of boats. They sure seem to put some money into them, and theme them and name them like people would with boats.
There would have easily been a few tens of thousands of people camping out in the dunes on the weekend. Craig said it wasn't normally anywhere near as crazy, but because it was a long weekend on account of President's Day, every man and his dog (literally, photos here) were out with their sand rails.
It was a lot of fun. Craig and Sarah's RV/fifth wheel/bloody huge caravan was an extremely comfortable home away from home. It had three queen sized beds in it, two TVs, hot and cold running water, toilet and shower facilities and a fully functional kitchen, including microwave. You sure don't need to rough it, you just need to own a 7 miles-per-gallon pickup truck to drag the enormous thing around.
They also had an Arctic Cat, a little 4x4 for fanging around in the sand in. It went inside the RV for transportation to and from the dunes.
The campsite was really close to some train tracks, that had some seriously huge freight trains go past at all hours (with the requisite honking at the level crossing). When we woke up on Monday morning, there was one just sitting there, and it stayed put for hours, so I snapped a few photos of it.
Arriving in a Prius immediately got us branded as tree huggers by all of Craig and Sarah's friends. The duners are a bit apprehensive towards environmentalists because they seem to like to close down chunks of the desert for conservation reasons.
Glamis to Phoenix
On Monday morning, we broke camp and headed to Phoenix, where Craig and Sarah live (in Peoria to be precise). It was a fairly uneventful 4 hour drive. We did go past the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station from afar, which is apparently the biggest reactor in the US. I would have liked to have checked it out more closely, but time didn't permit. I also don't know if any men with guns at the gate permit... I was a little surprised that it was so clearly signposted from the highway. It took a bit more work to find it again with Google Earth.
Phoenix was quite a nice place. Sarah and I both liked it. On the downside, it had pretty ordinary public transport (buses were about it), but on the upside, the roads were really good, with the exception of a few extremely confusing cloverleaf flyover things that defied comprehension, even with GPS navigation. Our navigation system's maps were pretty lacking, for no apparent reason other than the manufacturer hadn't kept them up to date. Housing was cheap a couple of years ago when Craig and Sarah bought, and they have a beautiful, huge house out in the first thing that resembles what I'd call typical Australian suburbia that I've seen in the US.
On Friday night we headed back for Los Angeles for a day's sightseeing in Hollywood on Saturday.
Phoenix to Hollywood
This was a fairly uneventful drive. We left Phoenix at 4pm, and arrived at the hotel in LA at 10pm (this was with an hour lost when we crossed the California/Arizona border and switched back to PST from MST). One of the interesting things was seeing the California State Prison. We saw this enormous brightly lit area to the left of the highway long before we saw the signs (that included warnings about picking up hitch-hikers).
I wasn't really all that impressed by Hollywood, to be honest. At least not in the bit we stayed in, which was apparently in the thick of it all. It just seemed pretty grotty. The air was really hazy/smoggy/foggy (take your pick). We did a couple of tours on Saturday, one that just basically drove us around to a decent vantage point of the Hollywood sign, and another that took us around Beverly Hills and showed us a few of the celebrity's homes. After that we wandered around the Kodak Theatre, got a photo holding an Oscar, had some dinner, checked out Grauman's Chinese Theatre's forecourt and went home. I don't believe we saw any real live stars.
Hollywood to Mountain View
We left the hotel at about 9:30am, and made it back home by 4pm, with a bit of a lengthy stop for lunch at Casa de Fruta.
All in all, it was a good trip. The car performed well, and we've doubled the number of miles it's done. I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we had to refuel, and it still performed fairly efficiently on the open road (as opposed to city stop-start driving, where it's supposed to go better).
Oh yeah, one interesting observation was how bug-free the trip was. We drove the equivalent of Canberra to Brisbane and back, and if we'd done that trip, the car would have been completely covered in bugs from the trip, whereas we came away more or less unscathed from this trip. No complaints there.