Day 35 – 38 – Los Angeles – Banana Bungalow & Hostel Life

Decided there are more important things than visiting this place again. Very little to do after seeing stuff before. An excellent comedy night, some good American food and a top session of karaoke were the highlights before flying out to Costa Rica!

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Day 34 – San Francisco – Leg Day & Party in the Park

Today I woke up bright and early to check out of my hostel and head to the bicycle rental store around the corner. Today I’d remain on the tourist trail and cycle through the peaceful bliss of the park and then proceed to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a famous cycle route although with the cold I expected not to see too many people on my route. I could not have been more wrong…

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Somehow I had managed to organise my peaceful cycle ride on the same day as College Street Party which coincided with a 10 km race that basically mimicked the cycle route I was taking. The race had long since finished but the party continued despite the protests of the police, who were closing things down block by block only for parties to spring up in areas they previously shut down. In all honesty I was so so tempted to sack off the whole cycling thing and try to crash a party somewhere but I hadn’t seen enough of San Francisco yet and I had too much to do. I settled for enjoying the entertainment as a spectator. And what a spectacle it was:

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I was completely dumb founded. Whenever I’ve met Americans in the past they’ve been complete lightweights and I’m pretty sure that stereotype is still true. However I’d always assumed the frat parties you see in the movies are completely over hyped and not remotely close to the real deal. However, now I’ve seen it for myself I can confirm, as much as I hate to admit it, College kids now how to party. That photo of the house with the enormous crowd outside belonged to the some of the college band members and they were in full force blasting out anthems. People clambered on roofs, hung out of windows and chilled on fire escapes. As the day went on, the amount of clothing utilised diminished and when I came across an entire fraternity (male) whose dress code was naked I decided it was time to move on.

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Although my first photo was photo bombed by a stray Ironman I did eventually get to a point whereby I could take some photos of the magnificent beach. Unfortunately, in doing so I had inadvertently put myself on the track recommended for elite cyclists and the only way back was through the masses of students now heading to the beach. And so the workout began.

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I haven’t been cycling in a very long time and I haven’t done anything resembling exercise since my ankle injury a couple of months ago. In all honesty, it was hell. I repeatedly had to walk the bike when the hills got too steep and my legs burned the entire time. Looking back on it now though it was absolutely worth it. The views from the top of that Hill were sensational.

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I then proceeded to cross what must be the windiest cycle path in the States. On the bridge itself the gusts are so strong that a man had perched himself for lunch at a particularly bad section to watch and laugh as countless cyclists tumbled off their bikes and struggled to get up again. Fortunately I escaped this hilarious fate by a whisker and made it to the end unscathed.

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Unfortunately I had spent too long in the park so I wasn’t able to visit the Giant Redwoods to the north and instead had to return to the bay area on the ferry.

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It was an incredible day in an amazing city. Apart from making me feel like I wish I could afford to do a second degree in the States, I also found the city that would be my choice to live if I moved there. Back to Los Angeles!

Day 32 – San Francisco – Wish I had a Bouncy Ball

After a 15 hour bus journey I arrived and promptly fell asleep in San Francisco. Soon enough I was up and decided to walk across the city to the coast and attempt to catch my first view of the Golden Gate Bridge from a distance.

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As I walked through the city it was everything I’d imagined it to be. Ever since that Sony Vaio advert with the bouncy balls I’d wanted to visit this city. The streets rolled over hills and were completely unforgiving. If you didn’t know your way through the sporadic mounds then you’d best be prepared for a workout. It’s very difficult to capture the gradient of these streets in a photo but believe me, there’s a reason why motorised bicycles are so popular in this city.

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Pier 39 is a little over priced and touristy for my liking but it does present some great views across the bay. Alcatraz is quite a spectacle as it sits ominous way out in the water. Unfortunately the tours were booked out for my entire stay in San Francisco so I wouldn’t get the chance to see it this time around. There’s also a local sea lion centre which is quite amusing to watch, especially when the enormous ones try to get up on the platforms only to flop against the sides and back down into the water again. The Golden Gate Bridge is also just visible from that lookout point although slightly obscured in the sea mist.

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After some excellent Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bowl I headed back into town and ended up spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the park. San Francisco is a beautiful city and I’d pretty much fallen in love with it with just a small walk across a tiny fraction. A couple of days later I cycled a lot further.

If you missed it, here’s my post on what I did the next day, the FA Cup Final!

Day 28 – 31 – Las Vegas – Round 2

There really isn’t a lot to say about going back to Vegas a second time except that the Craps table doesn’t get more forgiving the longer you play. The lights are as bright as they normally are no matter when you go and the all you can eat T-Bone steaks don’t get any smaller.

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I would say that we had a great time on Fremont St aka The Old Strip. Considering how cheap it is I’d say that for people around my age is definitely worth checking out if the Strip Casinos have taken a bit more of your budget than you bargained for the night before. 25 cent beer nights are always a laugh. There’s also a fabled 2 cent beer night but we couldn’t find it, not for lack of trying.

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It turns out I would be leaving before Sams birthday but we still had a one last hurrah at his plush new pad, the Platinum.

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This must have been one of the only hotels in LV that didn’t have a casino and as a result was considerably more expensive. Apparently there’s some connection between Rod Stewart and Sam’s 11th cousin or something but they managed to get a pretty good deal. The night ended much the same way most nights end in Vegas for me, an empty wallet and a happy drunken stumble back home. Things for Sam and his newly arrived English mate were a little more…let’s just say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Onto San Francisco!

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Day 27 – San Diego – Balboa Park

Today we left San Diego but not before checking out Balboa Park, on of the city’s major attractions. Placed right in the middle of the city, the park is 1400 acres and dwarfs the older Cental Park in New York City. The scenery is also totally different to that of Central Park in that the heat and drought in California has created quite an arid landscape in places, with various cacti populating the majority of the view.

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As we made our way into the outer belt of the park, we stumbled into a Native Indian Festival. It was interesting to see the musicians at work and to find out a bit about their culture. I think I may have wee’d a little when I bumped into this monstrous dog. I was assured that it was only 90% wolf and was quite safe but I wasn’t taking any chances and we made our departure soon after.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon hiking through the park, getting lost several times and running extremely low on water before we eventually found somewhere to kick a ball around. The heat was exhausting so we soon gave up and headed back to the car. Although the landscape wasn’t quite what I’d been expecting, it was great to see this side of California.

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It was time to head back up to Vegas!

Day 23 – 26 – San Diego – Beach Bum Heaven

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San Diego is about as far away from Las Vegas as you can get. In Vegas the party never stops whereas in San Diego the party stops at 2am, period. I’m pretty sure the hippie community on the beach struggles to last past lunchtime so I don’t think they’re too fussed about the strict laws that are enforced as a result of the growing alcoholism issue in the city.

The areas surrounding the beaches on the Pacific Coast are beautiful and a lovely place to relax. There’s almost nothing commercial which means that a lot of things are over priced but not to the extent they’re unaffordable.

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For the first few nights we stayed on Ocean Beach in a hostel where we looked slightly out of place, especially once we’d visited the outlet stored to the south and stocked up on new clothes.

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As a community everyone is extremely welcoming and I was really pleased to find somewhere where the smartphone isn’t king, an issue which has plagued hostels since I began my journey.

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We moved downtown for our final night to see if things were a bit more lively there. We weren’t disappointed and spent the night clubbing at various venues across the city. However, as I previously said, we had gotten used to going out after midnight in Vegas and attempting the same in San Diego lead to a short night.

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Our last stop before heading back up to Vegas was Balboa Park. I was desperate to find a game of football and apparently you could find community games in the area. Although we didn’t find any games we stumbled into a Native Indian festival which was pretty entertaining. We even caught a glimpse of a dog which is over 90% wolf, something I didn’t even know was possible.

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Day 22 – Phoenix – Texas Roadhouse

Phoenix ended up being a stopover for sleep as opposed to a party as we’d expected. However it is worth writing a short post on the wonder that is Texas Roadhouse. We fancied steak for dinner so spent some time looking up which place had the best reviews. It appeared that Texas Roadhouse is a hands down favourite with the locals so we hit the road.

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Hoedowns in the aisles, portions bigger than you can fit in one photo and service with a smile. Everything you would expect from an American Steakhouse.

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The food was excellent and the leftover made for great sandwiches the next day. I’d recommend the restaurant highly for anyone needing a decent steak in Phoenix or in any of their many venues across the country. Just look for the Red neon lights :

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