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We are about to board our sixteen-hour flight from Los Angeles to Singapore, after three weeks of hopping across the US, seeing friends and meeting email acquaintances. This is it, the big jump!
We hadn't even made it out the door of our apartment and had already managed to be a week late leaving. Thanks to our friends who helped us eliminate possessions, clean the apartment, and get us to the airport, we are now well on our way.
The main purpose of these dispatches is to let friends and family know what we are up to, so we will only give highlights along the way. It will be left as an exercise for you to read up on the destinations since there is an overwhelming supply of well-written travel literature, online and offline.
This dispatch has more details on a daily basis, as we have had good computer access in the US. We expect later dispatches to be more general in nature. Don't be surprised if this starts to sound like a "Round-the-World Food Trip." We're already carrying five pounds more than when we started, and they're not in our backpacks.
July 13-14, 1995: Palm Bay, Florida
We pulled an all-nighter, packing and cleaning. We made it to Orlando International Airport fifteen minutes before our 8:10am flight departed for Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.
July 14-17: Fort Worth, Texas
We started off our RTW pilgrimage by visiting Russell and Kathy, and the home of the Around-the-World Journal. We don't need to tell you much about them since their journal is quite revealing. When we first got the idea of taking this trip two years ago, we contacted Russell for help. Our extensive email discussions laid the groundwork for the Round-the-World Travel Guide. They were able to come to our rescue again by giving our packs the once over and overhauling our packing needs, then it was off to The Container Store.
The next day, Russell's brother, Mike, gave us a guided tour of the Internet from Austin by remotely taking control of our Netscape browser, using Pow-Wow. While doing this he explained what we were seeing using Internet Phone. After our intellectual needs were satisfied, we headed out to lunch for a Texas-style Muffaletta and Chili, made a pit-stop for truffles at Godiva, and relaxed at the Water Garden in downtown Fort Worth. By now we had worked up an exceptional appetite for fajitas that could only be filled at Joe T's Mexican Restaurant.
July 17-18: Denver, Colorado
We flew into Denver International. The hotel game begins: (1) arrive in city, (2) locate hotel area, (3) find a hotel. We took the RTD bus downtown to our first hostel, The Melbourne Hotel and Hostel, a quiet, clean, and relatively safe place to call 'home'. Talk about not wanting to let go of one's roots We dropped our bags and walked six blocks to the 16th Street Mall, where the entire spectrum of alternative culture is thriving.
We had posted an open offer to rec.travel.misc to meet people while we travelled, and only received one bite. Steve, a handsome, dynamic, and travel-enlightened sailor, took us to the Dehli Darbar Restaurant in Denver, where we exchanged far-reaching travel stories and RTW plans over a fine meal and memorable pot of cardamom tea. He will be casting off from the Caribbean next year, transiting the Panama Canal on his way to New Zealand and destinations beyond. Steve provided more positive reinforcement and reminded us that you should follow your dreams and never have to say "I should have."
In two days we have already recognized the theme that is becoming quite common. Those who understand computers are using the knowledge and skills at home for games, finances, etc. Regardless, they are spending a tremendous amount of time at the keyboard. It is very addictive; the more time you spend with the computer the more you are able to do. It is very difficult to break the cycle. We're going through 'computer withdrawal' every time we are away for more than twelve hours. The new goal is to cut back, but we can't find a way since it is an essential part of our lives.
July 18-21: Granby, Colorado
On our way to Union Station to board our Amtrak train, we stopped for breakfast at a French patisserie on the 16th Street Mall. The California Zephyr rolled out on a clear morning, seemingly not affecting the deer grazing on the green mountainside, then it struggled up the inclines of the snow-capped Rockies, puffing its way through twenty-nine tunnels, including the 10km (6.2 mile)-long Moffat Tunnel at an altitude of 2800m (8535 ft).
We arrived in Granby and were met by our friends, John and Libby, who had migrated from sea-level in Melbourne a year earlier to an elevation of 2500m (7620 ft) on the side of a mountain in the Rockies. Libby has a tremendously positive outlook on life and has overcome great physical pain. She will be the first to tell you to enjoy life while you can, because you may not get a second chance. The ultimate telecommuter, she is self-employed and works out of her home in the clouds.
Being 'flatlanders', we were quickly fatigued and had to nap. We woke up to Florida-style barbecued chicken on the back porch, where iridescent green hummingbirds zipped by in competition for the sugar-water in the bird feeder. After this feast, we went hiking in an Alpine meadow and watched the sun set over the peaks. Later that evening Bob and Dana arrived from Melbourne.
The next day we went hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park to Adams Falls. A light rain moistened the pinetrees, giving the forest that familiar smell of Christmas. This called for another meal, so we went to the Grand Lake Lodge for one of the best in years: corn chowder, porkloin with snowcrab and mushrooms, shrimp and crawfish pasta, and micro-brew.
Not to be outdone by the previous day, we barbecued hamburgers, then headed out at 6:00pm for a treacherous drive up to Corona Pass at 3500km (10,670 ft). We played in the snow, which was 2m (6 ft) thick in some places, and wore out the adjectives 'pretty' and 'nice'. It is easy to see why Libby and John have escaped to this natural setting.
July 21: Train to California
We boarded the California Zephyr once again with a positive attitude, even though it was an hour and a half late. It only took Marc two hours to relocate away from the woman who was nursing a tequila bottle filled with butterscotch schnapps.
We followed the Colorado River as it carved its way through the unusual rock formations in the red canyons. After Glenwood Springs, the river turned orange, and we watched rafters riding the rapids. We had dinner with Cecil and Linda from Newport News, Virginia; they managed to tour the canyonlands of Utah in a single day. We discovered how difficult it is to sleep on a train, but did get some shut-eye when the train took an unusually long break in Salt Lake City, Utah.
July 22: Train to California
We transited the desolation of the Bonneville Salt Flats, passed through Reno, Nevada, and crossed the Sierra Nevada, with its breathtaking view of Donner Lake. We soon found ourselves in the fertile valleys of California, heading towards Sacramento and Davis. A substitute teacher from Oakland, who usually teaches California history to elementary school children, was kind enough to explain everything that went by the windows for the rest of the trip. At dusk we rounded San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Straight. Being five and a half hours late wasn't so bad, as our first view of San Francisco included the Golden Gate Bridge and the lights of the city reflecting off the bay.
Patiently waiting for us at the Emeryville station was Larry Cotter, a true gentleman and another of our RTW mentors, who contributed generously to the Round-the-World Travel Guide. We dropped our bags at his house in Berkeley and walked to Le Mediterain Lebanese for an excellent meal. After dinner we retreated to Larry's home to savor Javanese coffee and make plans for the week, only to realize that we had more ideas than time.
July 23: Berkeley, California
Slightly late waking, but overwhelmed by a huge breakfast of fruits, cereal, coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice, we headed off to REI to fill our packs with more necessities. We drove through San Francisco along the Embarcadero, past the 'tourist Mecca' called Fisherman's Wharf, then crossed the venerable Golden Gate Bridge to reach Muir Woods, home of 80m-tall (250 ft) Coast Redwood trees. We followed an excellent loop trail along Redwood Creek for 1.5 hours, through a comfortable and quiet forest. We drove through Sausalito, then to San Mateo for a few travel books at The Book Passage. We ended the day back in Berkeley with a Chinese dinner.
July 24: San Francisco, California
Nearly woke up on time for another amazing breakfast with fresh rolls before catching the subway, better known as BART, to the Balboa Park Station in San Francisco where we met a controversial character from rec.travel known only as the Iconoclast. He doesn't use his real name because the ideas discussed are more important, and you never know if the names you see on the net are real anyway. If we were worried, we could have walked away when we met him, but there was no need after all the email and phone discussions. We won't tell you any more, except that he is a superb Swing dancer, and we now have a better appreciation for the value of discussing issues in person, rather than the so-called subjective nature of the newsgroups, which seems to have its share of misunderstandings and flame-wars. True discussion is an art for people who are willing to listen and understand another's point of view.
We were not able to pass up his open invitation for a whirlwind tour of The City. Little did we know that we were about to see it as only an old native would know it. We were surprised that he was going to drive, but he reassured us that he was blessed by the Parking God, since he always gets a space where and when he needs it.
We started at the Benny Bufano Penguin statue at Lake Merced, then up the coastal highway where a parking spot awaited us directly across from the Dutch Windmill and Queen Wilhelmina Garden in Golden Gate Park. While we enjoyed the landscape of flowers, Karin entertained us with De Zilvervloot, a song about the Dutch admiral Piet Heyn, who in 1628 captured the Spanish treasure fleet loaded with silver in the Battle in the Bay of Matanzas. Icono's second favorite place in the world is the Netherlands, which he visited many years ago while tramping around the US and Europe.
There was only one space waiting for us at the ruins of the Sutro Baths, where he often went in his youth. After the Holocaust Memorial in Lincoln Park, we stopped at a few places along Lincoln Blvd for views of the Golden Gate Bridge, including Fort Point at the base of the bridge. Cruised through the recently closed Presidio Army Base, which would become part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area, to see Refugee Shacks from the 1906 earthquake.
We passed the Palace of Fine Arts, around Fort Mason, and kept going to Lombard Street. It was closed for renovation, which worked out nicely for us since we got to walk peacefully down it. He drove up to Coit Tower, where there was a parking space at the base of the stairs 'with our name on it'. The view of the city was excellent and the murals by Diego Rivera were interesting.
We visited Chinatown and the Cable Car Powerhouse and Museum, then rode the Cable Car down to Market Street to pick up our airline tickets from another RTW friend, Edward Hasbrouck, author of The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World.
Continuing on, we toured the extravagantly decorated buildings in the area, including the Tivoli Bed and Breakfast, then over to Haight-Ashbury for more interesting architecture. We stopped in front of Mission Dolores before racing around the Mission District to see interesting murals on Balmy Street, and some fascinating ones at the School of the Deaf on Shotwell, between 24th and 25th. We also drove down the real "Crookedest Street in the World," which is on Potrero Hill.
Another parking spot was awaiting our arrival across the street from Tu Lan on 6th Street at Market, where we had a wonderful Vietnamese feast. Then it was off to the Palace Hotel where our last mysterious parking space was just where we wanted it to be, across from the main entrance. Well worth a visit, the impeccably renovated Garden Court was a favorite meeting and eating place for locals for more than a century. After 9.5 hours we parted company, with a fine appreciation for this city's charms and its people, and looking forward to the next time we meet.
July 25: Yosemite, California
Started out the day with a massive breakfast, including chocolate-filled croissants and hot Droste cocoa. Headed east towards Yosemite (yo-semma-tee, not yo-sem-ite), stopping at a fruit stand in the orchards to load up for an awesome picnic on the Merced River, with a great view of Yosemite Falls. Strolled through the Ahwahnee Hotel before going to Tunnel View to see the valley at sunset. Being a lifetime patron of the park, Larry's choice of the Yosemite Lodge was just right for us.
July 26: Yosemite, California
Started up the Mist Trail at 9:30am and learned firsthand how it got its name. Larry raced up the mountain, but we were quite winded after the 300m (930 ft) ascent to Vernal Falls, which has a beautiful rainbow when looking down into the valley. After resting and snacking, we found Larry under a pine tree enjoying his favorite place in the world, Emerald Lake, just upstream of the falls.
Once again, he convinced us to continue on to the base of Nevada Falls, then 300 meters higher to the top, where there's a crystal-clear river feeding this massive drop. Looking down the waterfall and watching the effects of the water spraying out left us in a trance. After lunch, we relearned another important lesson: climbing down is worse than climbing up. Our feet and knees felt every step, as we were left in the dust of Larry, the mountain lion. Our boots saved our ankles from sprains in the numerous crevices we ran into. We reached the bottom after six hours and 6.8km (4.2 miles) of hiking.
We drove around the Mariposa Groves to see the Giant Sequoias, then back through Yosemite for final views of the falls and rivers, and to watch climbers from around the world scale the massive face of El Capitan (1095m, or 3395 ft). Stopped in Sonora at the eclectic Coyote Creek Cafe and Grill for dinner, which included great, fresh bread and incredible cheesecake and chocolate mousse.
July 27: Berkeley, California
Toured the Berkeley campus with Matt and Liz, friends originally from Florida. Went up to the Lawrence viewing site to watch the fog roll into the bay and over the city, ending with a surrealistic sunset. Continuing our RTW pilgrimage, we visited Jeff Greenwald in Oakland, to receive our Ganesh Puja. He had recently returned from a ten-month RTW trip, and was just finishing his book, The Size of the World.
July 28: Big Sur Coast, California
Our driver, Larry Andretti as we like to call him, took us through Monterey, then along 17-mile Drive in Pebble Beach. To the left were herds of corporate deer feeding on the golf course, and to the right, sheer cliffs overlooking the Pacific. We stopped in Point Lobos State Park to see the sea otters, sea lions, starfish, and ocean birds, then we drove through Carmel and stopped at the Nepenthe for a burger and the spectacular view. The drive down the coast to Morro Bay at dusk was very special.
July 29: Morro Bay, California
Visited the well-restored La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, then ate lunch in the Danish city of Solvang. Toured Santa Barbara, including its Mission. Took the mountain road back to Morro Bay, passing ostrich farms on the way. We met Mark and Barbara Sharp for a dinner splurge at Thairiffic in San Luis Obispo. They would be leaving on a bicycle RTW trip in six months.
July 30: San Luis Obispo, California
Toured the magnificent Hearst Castle, before savoring a California-style salmon and tri-tip BBQ at the Sharp's. Once again, we ate too much.
July 31: Train to Los Angeles, California
Rushing off to catch the Amtrak to Los Angeles, we were sad to bid farewell to our host and friend, Larry. Our only consolation is that we will meet him on the road since he loves to travel.
This train ride is unique in that it passes through Vandenberg Air Force Base, where civilians are otherwise not allowed since rockets are launched here. It is also the only way to see the cliff-lined view of the ocean along this stretch of the coast. Six hours later we arrived at Union Station in Los Angeles where we were met by Alan, another rec.travel RTW mentor. For dinner we had a Trader Joe's chip-and-dip party.
Although we had been graced with great weather, we saw the news again only to find out that there was flooding in Dallas, where we had been just a week before. Even worse, Hurricane Erin was heading towards South Florida, where Marc's mom lives. They had just recovered from the last one four years ago.
August 1: Los Angeles, California
Headed up Sunset Boulevard to start our tour of LA. After seeing the older Victorian and California-style houses, we stopped at the Wright Hollyhock House, then drove through Beverly Hills and UCLA before strolling through the Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, where we saw the biggest koi in the world. Stocked up on more gear at the outdoor stores before meeting Miriam, another denizen of rec.travel. We enjoyed a fine meal at Marouch Middle Eastern Restaurant. Stayed up all night starting this dispatch.
August 2: Los Angeles, California
Being our last day on the continent, we were rushing around tying up loose ends. We stocked up on food at Trader Joe's, not your average grocery store. This place should be a stop on every tourists' visit, as it is truly a new concept in low-price, high-quality food. Just ask anyone in California. Alan cooked a vegetarian pizza that was loaded with fresh vegetables.
We finished packing and rushed off to the airport in record time, arriving 1.5 hours before the 2:00am flight. Saying Bon Voyage wasn't so traumatic knowing that we will see Alan in Nepal in a year. Our packs weighed in at 15kg (33 lbs) each, and fit nicely in the overhead bins on Malaysian Airlines 747-400 heading to Singapore.
Please write us in Bali at the GPO if you have the time.
Marc & Karin
August 1, 1995
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