Lake Powell is close to our previous stops and we went for a drive there close to the city of Page. Wanting to get off the beaten path, we decided to venture North to find more remote spots, following the park’s map. We ended up driving there for a couple of hours, taking the wrong road more than once!
We finally found ourselves on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. We must have driven for 3 or 4 hours without seeing even one car – not the kind of place you want to have a car breakdown in! We felt as though we were Mad Max in no man’s land between rocks, desert, sand. After hours of wondering where the hell we would end up, we got to the end of the road. According to Google Maps,we were in the water already. And this is when we realized that thanks to the drought, there was no more lake there… There are many spots at the north of the lake but not many points of access on land (only through very few and very rough roads.) The best way to explore it is by boat.
By the time we got back to the city of Page it was night time and we had to continue going. Clearly it was a bit of a fail because we didn’t even get photos while it was day time.. guess you’ll have to stay tuned for the video!
Oddly enough, we hadn’t even planned on making a stop there. But after hearing a bunch of people mention Horseshoe Bend that morning at Antelope Canyon, we thought we ought to go take a look! And thank god we did!
The best word to describe it? IMPRESSIVE! We walked for a mile to discover the gigantic rock in the middle of the canyon surrounded by a halo of turquoise water. All the more impressive was just the steepness of the cliffs we stood on. Nature once again reminded us how little we are and capturing the scene from such heights and posing so close to the edge was a little stressful… But absolutely thrilling!
After a night spent in Page, we drove bright and early to Antelope Canyon, ready for a day full of adventures! We arrived at the Upper Canyon only to find out that it cost $8 for the park entrance but then we had to pay another $40 per person for a guided tour. Our faces clearly read “WTF?!” as the woman in the booth told us that. It turned out you can’t go to Antelope Canyon without going with a guide, end of story. So much for travelling cheaply…
Hoping to find better prices, we headed to the Lower Canyon and opted for Ken’s tour – $28 per person (including park entry) – hoping it was really worth it.
Fortunately, it was more than worth it and is officially one of the coolest things we’ve done on our trip! What is really amazing is that the surface is completely flat and you can’t see anything until you spot steep ladders going underground. We went down in a small group to find ourselves 5 meters deep into the canyon. Unlike other canyons, this one is a tunnel of perfect waves of sand offering an incredible display of red, brown and beige colours, with beams of light passing through at times. It is created by water and then moulded into a smooth and dizzying zigzag of curves and narrow passages by the force of the wind. It honestly made us feel as if we’d entered another dimension.
As we visited the canyon, we got to chat with our super friendly guide and learn more about it and why it is only accessible via guided tours. It turns out the entire canyon is maintained by the people who organize the tours: they set up the ladders, clean up the water when it floods and add sand to create the path for people to walk on at the bottom. Otherwise there would only be a breach (faille check) and you would be walking with a foot on each side.
After yet another night on a Walmart parking lot (hey, it’s free!) we made it to Zion National Park on a Saturday morning. It was probably not the best idea to do it on a weekend, but something had to fall on a weekend at some point.
Based on friends’s advice we decided to take the Angel’s Landing hike to the summit of the canyon. Classified as a strenuous hike guys! It was really cool, with lots of steep and narrow ways up top, bringing quite the aerial experience! There were chains to hold on to and steep cliffs right by us. It was quite exhausting and painfully reminded us that we’re not on the best diet for exercise… But reaching a breathtaking 360 view at the top made it absolutely worth it! I even managed to hurt myself, “falling like a baby goat trying to walk for the first time” according to Steph.
All in all, we had no idea why to expect and were offered a truly scenic 4 hour hike that was absolutely amazing and truly deserved its name: Angel’s Landing. If you’re in the area, this is where you want to go. Except if you’re afraid of heights, we did see some people crawling on the floor at the beginning – don’t think it they made it too far!
About an hour away from Las Vegas hides a ghost town right by the “city” of Nelson. “City” because Nelson consists in like 10 houses and.. that’s it. When we were just 1 mile away from the ghost town, the gas warning went on. And we were literally in the middle of nowhere.. We reached the ghost town and hoped we would be able to make it back to civilization with what little we had left.
We got to the ghost town a little late in the afternoon as we had a few errands to run earlier. Being almost winter and the fact that the city is located in a hole surrounded by hills, it was quite dark. This obviously put Steph in a very good mood – ahem.
This town is supposed to be frozen in time in 1861 and basically consists in a really nice and well organized dump of cars and every single object from the past you could possibly find. There is mainly transportation but also cool tools, broken instruments, signs and other random findings that we couldn’t even figure out. This place was used to shoot a couple of films, music videos and photos in general. Well that would explain the crashed plane! This one was actually used in “3000 miles to Graceland”, a Kevin Costner movie. The interior of the main store, the only one actually in use, showcases thousands of objects, many random skulls and taxidermy – is there such a thing as rabbits with horns?
We took a walk around the coolest finds of the area, from trailers, to metal pieces, to outdoor patios with broken fridges to an old piano sitting among the cactuses. Another great location for a little fashion-like shoot!
Then it was time to drive back… We anxiously took the road with our almost empty gas tank – luckily most of the road back towards Las Vegas was downhill and we managed to get back to the city’s closest gas station with no breakdown. At least it was a good lesson for the rest of the trip: check your gas before taking the road in the desert!
Arriving in Las Vegas after spending the entire day in the desert of Death Valley is quite the contrast. You reach a hill and all of sudden a million lights appear in the horizon – especially at night! Obviously, campgrounds of Las Vegas would only accept actual RV’s, not our home made van house. So we found a very cheap hostel north of Las Vegas Boulevard called Sin City – how fitting. Being night time, we had to jump into fancier clothes and head to the casino! We walked to the Stratosphere, the closest casino. After watching tourists jumping from the top of the tower in a harness, Steph decided it wasn’t appealing enough for him: “it’s too slow! I want to bungee jump!” So we went for a walk around the casino but we were not convinced by the atmosphere and the interior decor.
We walked to the Circus Circus to find a fun setting to spend our very first gambling money! We started at the electronic Black Jack to actually learn how to play. $1 bids and a virtual dealer lady on a big screen- what will it be in 50 years? Being in front of a computer wasn’t ideal so we joined a roulette table! Now this game is pure luck, but it’s quite fun when there is a good crowd. We spent $100 in total, the amount we had authorized ourselves for the night. Once we had lost everything, the people around the table being lots of fun, we added another $20 and ended up winning $100 back! Not bad for some good times in the casino for 3 hours and free drinks – and STRONG ones for that matter (they sure know how to keep people gambling.)
The following day, we woke up with waffles for breakfast at the hostel, a great place to meet people from around the world on their own little adventure and chat about travel experiences. In the afternoon, we drove to a ghost town – which we will talk about in the next post. As soon as night fell, we were back in Las Vegas to visit the more famous part of the Strip, where the Ocean’s Eleven famous casinos are situated. We parked at the Bellagio to watch the renowned fountain light show in front of the hotel. Splashes of water dancing in synchrony to Elton John’s “My Song” is definitely must-see! We then visited the inside of the Bellagio, the Caesar Palace, the Paris, the New York New York, etc. It wasn’t exactly the same vibe as the night before. In the Bellagio’s of the world it’s fancy outfit, fancy gambling. Bids are made with $100 chips as opposed to the night before’s ridiculous $1 chips.
Being a Friday night, we got to experience the craziness of the street, the rushing of limos around us and girls wearing “bachelorette party” outfits. We explored the many floors of the M&M’s store and ended up designing our own “U.S. by us” blue, red and white M&M’s.
We knew we had to finish the night beautifully and we decided to do so with the one and only New York New York roller coaster. Well it was indeed f***ing insane!!! One of the coolest we’ve done with steep accelerations and squeaky noises that will freak you out. All of that outside with flashes of lights from the casinos and stores of the street.
After waving our goodbyes to California and selling our surfboards (no Steph didn’t cry) we took the road towards Nevada. This is where the endless roads in the middle of nowhere officially began – and it was quite a change after getting so used to California. After a quick sleep on a rest area by the highway in the desert, we drove to Death Valley!
Now this is where you want to make sure you have enough gas because we probably crossed 1 car every 50miles/80km. We took the scenic road of Badwater, feeling the heat increase by the minute as we got closer to the desert. After passing by a cute little fox and lots of driving in an incredible Mad Max like setting, we reached the desert of Death Valley at Badwater basin. This location is all the more impressive when you realize it is the lowest elevation point in North America: 86m/282ft below sea level. Totally inspired by the location and the imposing scenery, we walked in the middle of the white and dry soil for a little photoshoot! Absolutely ideal to show off our brand new rounded sunglasses! Don’t you think?
We then took a quick walk in Golden Canyon under an indescribable heat, which then led us to a well deserved stop at the visitor centre of Furnace Creek. A quick tour around the museum, a good lunch and a bit of chilling outside and we were back on the road towards Las Vegas. On our way, we stopped at the Twenty Mule Team Canyon to observe the pudding like dunes spread out in front of us. We then continued on the endless and incredibly scenic roads under a colourful sunset. Now that’s my kind of road: large, empty, straight and with incredible views – one of the few where Steph isn’t too scared to let me drive.
Back to me for the blog posts! After quite some time spent on my personal illustration project, I’m writing again for our little blog.
We arrived in San Diego, the last big city before the Mexican border, the last big city on the West Coast, the last big city in California. It wasn’t the same as other important cities we stopped by earlier on our road trip because this time we didn’t know anyone and had never been there. In all honesty, we were not taken aback by the city in itself. When we looked up things to do, it focused mainly on zoos, safaris, aquarium, sea world and things like this. We’re not into watching animals in cages so we stuck to what we knew: food, surf, longboard and movies. You’ll agree it doesn’t get better than this!
We did make a stop at Coronado Island, taking the high bridge for a nice view of the downtown on the other side. The island mainly consists in residential homes, airforce bases and a beach. After spending some time in the sun, we were craving frozen yogurt – no surprise here! We decided to mix things up and give Pinkberry a shot. It wasn’t as satisfying as Yogurtland we have to admit, especially because you don’t get to make your own… I mean, come on.
A very famous spot around San Diego is La Jolla, a great area perched on the cliffs along the ocean. It made the perfect place to go longboarding and watch some seals and paddle boarders struggling to take waves in the bright turquoise ocean. We were totally feelin’ it with our longboards, shorts and California hairstyles (=messy blonde salty sandy hair)!
We knew this would be one of our final stops on the West Coast so we jumped at the occasion of watching another double-feature at the drive-in. This one had 3 screens (fancy!) so you got to choose your theme: horror (HELL NO), cartoons or action. Obviously, we took action! We watched John Wick, which is basically the worst movie ever in terms of story – it’s just Keanu Reeves, fight, after fight, after fight, after fight. B-o-r-i-n-g. The Matrix days really are over… Right after followed Dracula Untold. Well, the story isn’t much better but it can always be fun to watch vampires fighting and biting each other right? Okay fine, I’ll admit it, Steph was asleep at the back. At least we had popcorn!
But what is San Diego most famous for? Take a wild guess. Surf of course! Steph knew he had to make the most of his time there as we were soon going to head inside the U.S. far from the ocean and his beloved waves. The good surf spots were Sunset Cliffs and Black Beach. The sunset perched on those cliffs was truly mesmerizing as crowds gathered to watch the fearless surfers paddling under the dark orange colours of nightfall.
We were just about to drive back up the coast to start part 2 of the trip: National Parks and driving to the East Coast. So we agreed a new fast food was in order and found the closes Five Guys. Now, if you don’t know Five Guys, you will be eternally grateful for this post. If you do, you know why we’re saying that. The concept? Just burgers and fries. A simple menu and fresh products. Everything made right as you order it. As soon as we took our first bite, we knew this restaurant had jumped right on top of our fast food ranking. The simple things are the best things. Their red and white decoration with vintage articles related to their business and burgers in general is nice plus! Right after, we treated ourselves to our second real movie theatre to watch the very unique Birdman. Now once again guys, GO SEE IT. It unites some of the most iconic actors of different generations: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, etc. to create a black comedy exploring the world of actors, self-image and creation. We won’t say more, just go see it. Like now.
We ended up stopping in Salt Creek, thanks to the same surf shop I was talking about in one of my previous post. One guy told us it was his favourite spot in the area because of the clear water making you think that you are in a tropical location. And he wasn’t lying: clear blue water with a really green park on the hill spread above the beach. Yes, it’s not common since we entered California to see wide and not-burned areas of green and freshly cut grass. Only where we tend to sleep, in luxury residential areas (it feels safer), or in very expensive state parks.
We first enjoyed the view with a nice lunch on one of the tables. An improved and healthy meal for people living in a car: organic baby spinach and avocado topped with 2 fried eggs. And a juicy Californian Apple for dessert. Yes, it’s almost gastronomic food for American people. But honestly, stop stereotyping for a minute: people from the whole west coast are far from the fat couch potatoes reported by Super Size me! The number of vegan and gluten free people seems to be a lot more important than the burger-or-other-fast-food fans. As long as you stay away from the malls of course!
I then dropped Maeva off at the closest Starbucks to continue working on her personal project. Already 3 days in a row that she was focused. Quite a lot for a person who is convinced to have ADD! Well on my side, I was still 100% on surf mode! So I went back to Salt Creek, for a surf session this time!
The waves were small and nicely shaped at the south peak of the beach, so I got to practice my lefts! I’m still a beginner on this side because I always go the easy way when I have a choice. Well this time I didn’t, and good for me because I ended up at sunset with some good rides! And It was time to pick up Maeva.
We then both agreed we deserved a movie, based on our respective personal achievements. We still hadn’t gone to a real movie theatre since we crossed the border, and for movie addicts like us it’s a veeery long time. And unlike our first drive-in experience, we got to pick the movie, so we chose Gone Girl. Twelve dollars per person is quite cheap when you realize that the show is only for you and 1 other couple in a huge cineplex showroom. We wondered if it was because the movie was too scary for a 10pm showtime. But we figured it was probably just because it was a long movie. And indeed, we got out around 1am and were honestly creeped out to just park randomly somewhere and sleep in your car, right after seeing some insanely freaky characters! But you should see the movie, it’s really good. And not just because “it stars Ben Affleck”, ladies please.
With Maeva now working full time on her personal illustration project, I guess I’m now the new editor in chief! Just so you know folks, you are gonna have a lot more surf stories than anything else. Part of the deal with Maeva, who is definitely less interested in surfing than me, is to spend some time on her side improving her drawing skills in order to become a famous illustrator. Who knows?! As for me, I get the two last two weeks on the american west coast to surf between L.A and San Diego. Not too bad, and the water is warm enough to not wear a wetsuit anymore, finally!
So guys, don’t be hard on me, it’s only my second post on the blog. I know Maeva has better writing skills, especially in English, which is why she was doing the blabla so far. In addition, it was really pleasant for me to read my own story in which I’m playing the main role! So you might hear my little french accent throughout the next few posts but I didn’t cheat, I didn’t “learn when I was little” as she always says when people are impressed by her native american accent!
Back to our road trip, Huntington Beach (HB) was one of the must do’s on the way south! Indeed, I came here nine years ago, in July 2005, with my good buddy Etienne. We actually spent almost a month in LA, learning English in the morning and checking out skate street spots during our free afternoons. We had mapped out a bunch of locations around LA from our favorite DVDs and first online videos to do our own grinds and jumps on those iconic spots! But more particularly, HB is where I tried surfing on actual waves for the very first time! Yes, because I did try when I was maybe 5 years old, on a polyester board in the staircase of a rental house somewhere in Brittany. Didn’t work out too well though, I broke the surfboard in two pieces! So this time with Etienne, we went in the water and it turns out it was much better! Okay we were on 9” long soft top longboards, but the summer waves were small and it was our first time. Gotta start somewhere! So here we were with Maeva, looking at the same beach and surfers from the HB pier, good times!
We spent the day in this little surf town, cruising along the ocean as well as the two main touristy streets. I even bought a swim shirt to switch from the wetsuit, a Quicksilver one of course to feel like Kelly Slater. In white though. I didn’t find a pink one, and I didn’t necessarily want to catch everyone’s attention in the water… I still fall for no reason too often. We also looked at the Duke Kahanamoku statue. The man who basically exported surf out of Hawaii when they were still surfing on self made pieces of pine back in 1912. I felt even more impressed when reading some stories about him, what a life!
After cruising around – Maeva is getting better on her longboard – it was time for a frozen yogurt! But we were disappointed to learn there is no such shop in town. However, a guy told us about a “different” place that was worth checking out: Bonzai bowl. He wasn’t really able to explain the concept of the store but looked very excited about it, so we gave it a try, and that was something! Try to picture a family size yogurt bowl filled with a fresh-fruits-frozen-smoothie topped with granola and freshly sliced fruits. Healthy, beautiful, tasty, in one word: amazing.
After this, I was ready for a surf session! Normal as Maeva would say, but we had already planned our next stop: Umami Burger for dinner (which was just 30min away driving) so we basically had 3 hours to kill.
I surfed until sunset with lots of very young-and-annoying locals who were not ready to let others catch waves, the competition was hard! Meanwhile, Maeva was tanning on the beach reading “The Power of Habits” to tell me the best parts later that night. I caught a few waves, nothing crazy but I was surfing in my memories at the same time.
After we gazing at another really nice sunset, we headed towards Laguna Beach to Umami Burger. Lots of people had told us about it, so it was time to cross it out of our bucket list. Umami Burger is a chain of gourmet burgers mainly located in California, that’s all we knew about it. So as usual we were expecting another fast food chain with a big flashy logo on the side of the road, nope, not at all. Of course we had Google Maps to guide us to the cute little restaurant with a mediterranean-surfer decoration, with waiters and even someone to seat you and walk you through the flavour of each burger. Wooh, it’s fancy! Maeva was almost feeling bad to be wearing her beach outfit with her pyjamas sweater on top because of the AC in the restaurant. Come on, it’s only burgers, you still have to eat with your fingers! Anyway, their tagline “we don’t do any substitutions” is clear enough. Every single burger has a gourmet sweet and savoury taste and they are all very unique. If you live nearby a Umami and are open to trying something not even comparable to a cheeseburger, it’s worth the drive! Be aware though, the bill isn’t nearly as low as a fast food chain, expect to spend at least twice as much.
Now that we were full, we only had one goal in mind: to have a good sleep! And to enjoy a long night, lazy morning in bed, and even a shower. So we opted for the easy solution: campground. We went to the Crystal Cove State Park campground that was close by, and as always we were shocked to discover it was $50 a night (weekday and off season), and you even have to add a loony for a shower… Welcome to California, where are the hippie times? But our decision was taken and we sure did have a good sleep!
As you can read, whether it comes from Maeva or myself, you will always have stories related to food, enjoy!