We were determined to make the most of our final few days. We had seen all the major touristy spots, so were now entering lesser known territory, passing through ghost towns and deserted roads on our way back to the coast. The experiences we’d had were enough to last a lifetime, but we wanted to keep making memories.
Leaving the world of canyons behind us, we ploughed back towards California, descending from the surprising elevation of 7000ft above sea level towards Joshua Tree National Park back in California, skirting the southern edge of the Mojave desert before reaching the Route 66 sign
Driving through a sea of Joshua Trees which the park was named after (themselves being named after Joshua from the bible) before parking up at the Belle Campground,, surrounded by huge rounded boulders, perhaps the biggest single rocks we’d seen on the whole trip. After scaling the various rocks, the perfect canvas for us to project our silhouettes onto, we watched a pre-hyped sunset paint the sky a thousand colours.
In a intense bright moonlight we calculated the many shooting stars and debated whether to sleep outside until stories of rattlesnakes got the better of us.
Driving through the town of Joshua Tree, a mecca for Arctic Monkeys fans, as they recorded one of their albums here at the Ranch de la Luna, we pulled up at San Diego’s Chula Vista resort late in the afternoon, before getting ready to hit the town hard.
After some heavy card games we headed out onto 5th avenue; the street was thronged with people of all ages spilling out into the road, drinking booze and generally having a great time. Finding a club to channel the inner boogie for a birthday.
READ WEEK TWO ‘The Wilderness’ here: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/travel-the-wilderness-years-black-bears-kayaking-and-cliff-jumping-at-lake-tahoe-and-the-wonders-of-yosemite-the-american-road-trip-part-ii/
Waking to a series of hangover groans, we checked out and headed to Silver State Beach campground situated a frisbee throw from the beach.
We retrieved the surfboards from the boot and headed out to zip across the waves between the harbour and across to near the Mexican border. Then everyone else piled in and had a go, getting shakingly to their feet.
We decided we’d hop over the border to Mexico seeing as we were so close, ordering a taxi early in the morning to get us to the Tijuana border crossing before the masses got there.
READ WEEK THREE: Survival here: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/travel-survival-death-valley-the-grand-canyon-and-vegas-the-american-road-trip-part-3-hots-up/
After a brief passport check we were through to a new country and the change was immediately apparent in its different architecture, noise and of course a new language. Marvelling at the bright colours, cocktail of cultures and women on street corners and wanting a taste of proper Mexican food, we sat down at a welcoming restaurant and ordered, perhaps stereotypically, some fajitas washed down with Coronas which went down a treat.
Then, to further enhance the stereotypes, we browsed the shops and tried on some Sombreros, ponchos and fighting masks, before returning to the USA through the ‘most crossed border in the world’.
Once back on US soil, we discovered that Tijuana had most murders per capita for any city in the world! Dodged a bullet there!
After getting a morning surf in before the others arose from their slumbers, we left the beach and travelled up the coast to La Jolia Point. Two of the lads fancied an aquarium visit so headed to Scripps, attached to the University of California – San Diego, which looks after the animals respectfully as well as the local marine ecosystem, an interesting and educational visit.
Heading back up the coast to Los Angeles, we arrived in time for an Angels game in Orange County. One of us was a big fan and had almost enough paraphernalia for us all, but as we entered the stadium an assistant got wind of our English accents and invited us to the customer relations office where we bagged a full selection of merchandise just for being British: hats, shirts, jumpers, the works. Now we could walk around the stadium like proper fans and no one would know the difference.
The Angels were playing The Indians, and we had seats in the nose bleed’ stand right at the top which gave us a good view of the whole stadium. A ‘real’ Angels fan answered all of our questions as we tried to get to grips with the rules of the game and the scoring system, but were very impressed with the speed of the game.
As is customary, we took the time to wander around the stadium, another assistant who recognised us as Brits, giving us a ball that had been used by the team earlier. Our accents had won us serious kudos here!
A great spectacle to see, and the stadium was magnificent with water features, giant helmets set at the entrance and a giant LED banner on a huge ‘A’ near the highway.
Our last full day, we spent the morning surfing at Huntington Beach, surf capital of the US. After several hours we dried off and headed down to the pier, seeing the local surfers jostling for position for the waves breaking near the pilings.
We then headed to the local Boomers to try our hand at baseball, starting at the lowest speed of 50mph as the balls came shooting out. Whenever the baseball bat connected, we felt a tremendous sense of pride, moving to higher and higher speeds.
For our last night, we pulled up at the Bolsa Chica beach, stretched all along the beachfront. Greeting us was a fittingly beautiful sunset and we all clambered on to the top of our home for the last three weeks, taking in our last otherworldly colour spectrum as the sun started to dip into the sea. After it fell over the horizon, we ‘borrowed’ some wood from neighbouring campfires that had been abandoned and started one of our own, cooking some proper smores and staring into the flames, reminiscing about the amazing journey we’d been on.
Returning the RV to the Cruise America depot was a heart-breaking experience. Having carried us over 3000 miles to 6 national parks, 5 major cities and 4 separate states, through snow-capped mountains and roasting deserts, on cliff hugging tracks and roaring 11-lane highways, providing perfect sunset-watching opportunities, waiting patiently while we went gambling, rollercoaster-riding and border-crossing, carrying surfboards and deckchairs, berthing seven snoring lads comfortably (or thereabouts), hosting multiple drinking parties and morning-after hangovers, witnessing cooking masterpieces and mishaps, countless singalongs and card hands, various ‘poo-pipe’ disasters, far too little cleaning, innumerable moments of wonder and amazement, a menagerie of wildlife and (thankfully) no crashes – it was time to say goodbye to our trusty workmule.
We practically had to be dragged away as it was sent off for cleaning, ready for the next vacationers. I trusted it wouldn’t accommodate so many great memories for a long time to come.
On reflection, I might of changed a few days around; a day less in Grand Canyon and Vegas, a day more in Yosemite and San Francisco perhaps. But having seen so many world class sights both natural and man-made, there wasn’t anything I felt I’d missed in the South West region.
Our trip had ticked all the boxes and then some: adventures, nightlife, unbeatable food and unforgettable culture experiences.
Choosing a best moment would be nigh on impossible having seen so much, but maybe the Angel’s Landing hike… or the San Franciso nightlife… or the Black Bear sighting or… the gleeful roller-coaster rides or… . Going back to Blighty would be hard, and the holiday blues had already begun to set in.