Western United States - August 2003
Washington DC - Las Vegas - Seattle - Pacific Highway 101 - San Francisco
(This page is still under construction)
Top Tip #1 - If you ever get offered it, volunteer to get "bumped" onto a later flight (especially with Virgin Atlantic.) We did this coming home from New York with some friends in 2002 and Virgin gave us free return tickets to anywhere they fly direct to around the world within 18 months issue. Hmmm - should we go to Johannesburg...or Tokyo...or Beijing...? Somehow Las Vegas beckoned and when we found out we could fly out and back from different airports at no extra cost, we tagged a couple of other places on to the holiday as well.
We had a joyous arrival at Washington - 1 1/2 hours queuing to get through customs as Dulles computer systems had crashed. No refreshments, no mobile phones allowed (so no phoning Rory's brother to tell him what was going on) and no announcements from the airport administration. At least the Americans were having to queue as well, sop we didn't suffer alone. We have yet to arrive and DC without some hold-up somewhere before we can leave the airport. This was a one-nighter to stop and see Rory's new nephew - the very cute Jason, and the chance for me to get mauled by mosquitoes, before we were put on an early plane to Las Vegas via Phoenix. The flight across the USA was about 4 hours, and very interesting. America is big. Very big. Most of it seems to be fields, very long straight roads, and funny crop circle things.
Viva Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a law unto itself. It hits you as you come into land at McCarran Airport - a line of buildings that look totally out of place with each other. A pyramid built next to a fantasy castle, next to a scaled down replica of the New York City skyline. Further down the road are a half scale Eiffel Tower, a set of Venetian canals complete with singing gondoliers, and a full-on circus tent complete with performers.
The Grand Caynon is REALLY big...
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I cannot begin to say how much this photo does not do the Grand Canyon any sort of justice. No video camera, digital camera with panoramic setting, or any other camera (even an IMAX presentation) has the same effect as seeing it with your own eyes.
Sleepy in Seattle
And so we arrived, after a another 2 hour flight, in Seattle, home of the Mariners' Baseball team, Grunge, the Space Needle, Microsoft, "Coffee"TM and Frasier. It's a bit of an odd place.
We went for a walk on our first night to find the most homeless people I've ever seen in one place, hanging out on street corners in the middle of town. I was really suprised as it felt much more obvious than the number of homeless people you might see in London or New York. I'm sure the people weren't dangerous, but it was a bit unexpected.
The Space Needle is very tall and does look a bit like someone's spinning a UFO on the top of a very long pole. It has an excellent view from the top, on a good day (if it's not raining) you can see Mount Ranier.
(Click to enlarge the image)