I've been in the USA for 3 weeks now, and we've now officially hit the road to begin our 2 month journey up the West Coast of North America! We are currently on the road to a skate event in Santa Maria.
That's what you get from driving on a 4 wheel drive only road.
It's been a bit of a whirlwind journey. The USA is so familiar in many ways, and so different in many others. They are as friendly as Kiwis. And honestly, the accent really makes me feel like I'm running around in a sitcom. Things I have learned so far:
- Everyone loves a good ol' Kiwi accent
- LA is a huge melting pot of cultures. The Mexican and Jewish influence on culture is strong
- Traffic jams in LA are the norm
- I love egg bread (challah is so good with butter)
- Americans don't really abbreviate their words
- No one understands me when I talk fast and giggle at the same time
- California is approximately the length of New Zealand's North Island.
The plane trip over was rather uneventful, but marked by beautiful landscapes. I began my journey armed with 3 croissants from the Paris Airport and 1L of water to last my 12 hour journey on Norwegian Airlines. After 8 hours, I cracked and purchased some tea onboard (darn you, low cost airliners).
I finally reached the melting pot that is LA, at 1am in Switzerland. Where do I begin?
I'll start with pickles. I went to a Jewish deli - apparently you're served pickles as an appetiser, much like salted peanuts. And they keep refilling them!
The new pickles are yummo.
After skate excursions and general exploration, we headed South to San Diego to scope out the nearby desert superblooms!
We dropped by Muirskate in San Diego! For you non-skaters, it's one of the largest longboarding shops in the world. Personally it was really exciting, coming from NZ where there aren't any specific longboarding shops.
I'M HERE TO LURK ON ALL YOUR SKATE GEAR.
We also had amazing burritos in San Diego. Given its proximity to Mexico, the burritos were amazing. Large and cheap. My travel companion, Rachel ordered a burrito that was literally bigger than her forearm. We then headed into the Anzo Borrego desert. We got there late, slept and then (attempted) to rise early for dawn runs.
The sight that greeted us in the morning was like none other. I'd never been in a desert before, let alone a desert after rains. The hills that were usually brown and cacti covered were now graced with a smattering of yellow blooms and greenery. We ate our leftover burritos and headed down for our first run.
Apparently it was a lot more brown before.
The runs were fun, but ceased early due to traffic. Many travellers had also come out in search of the superblooms.
We left and skated another road that was reminiscent of Wellington. Gorgeous and green, narrow roads with imperfect pavement.
Distracted by the view.
We later headed back into the desert to explore, clambering over the shingle and loose stones to view the numerous cacti!
There is a plant called the ocotillo - not a real cactus, but super spiky. It was in full bloom, with red flowers on their tips. You won't be able to see it in this picture, but the stem of the ocotillo was fully studded with sharp, strong spines. The plants were generally at least 2m tall, and absolutely barren for most of the year.
So many spines!
So one thing I didn't quite expect to find in the desert were caterpillars!
50 shades of green.
So these caterpillars are hardy little creatures. They measured approximately 9cm/3inch long, and their colour ranges from a bright green to a ripe zucchini (yes, that is a colour I made up). They also have a very large spike on their tail. These caterpillars pupate underground - and the green one on the left was hurriedly digging into the ground to begin that process. Less than an hour later all traces of it had vanished.
We also saw heaps of cactus flowers as we walked around, and the tiniest flowers ever.
So paradoxical - silky, delicate beauty on spiky, living fortresses.
We also explored a dried riverbed which was lined by blooms. We didn't venture too far into the riverbed due to the time of day, and the high chance of encountering rattlesnakes. Just California things I guess.
On our way out of Anzo Borrego, we happened to chance upon massive metal sculptures that were randomly placed in large fields! There are over 130 sculptures dotting the landscape, and they're all accessible by driving, but we visited a choice few. A giant dragon, cacti (ironically surrounded by other cacti), grapevines, elephants, crickets, scorpions... too cool.
Drawing on inspiration from Yowa Yowa with some casual levitation. Photo credit to Rachel Bruskoff
Escaping the claws of a giant scorpion/Rachel and Grace fighting in the arms of a giant scorpion. Photo credit: Michelle Kiba
The sun set as we departed Anzo Borrego and made our way to the Joshua Tree National Park. We got there late (as per usual) and settled down in the car to sleep.
The Joshua Tree National Park is named after the spiky yucca that dominates a good portion of the park. The Joshua Tree looks similar to the New Zealand cabbage tree, except way spikier. It is also where the Mojave and the Colorado desert meet, and the flora, fauna and landscapes differ depending which side you're on.
The Joshua Tree is also a popular destination for climbers, given the large boulders that are situated in the middle of the park. There is a lot of grip on the rocks given the high percentage of quartz contained in the rock. We went rock hopping to avoid the snakes and the sun, and to obtain better views of the park.
I sorta look like I'm sitting in an ear. Photo credit: Rachel
There were wildflowers everywhere, so much more than Anzo. There were also a great number of desert caterpillars crossing the road, and large smears on the road from caterpillars that didn't quite make it.
There were gardens of cholla cacti, also known as jumping cactus. They get their name as their spine-covered fruit easily detach from the parent plant onto a passerby, and is later deposited far away from the parent tree. I lightly kicked a cholla fruit to test how spiky it was....
Don't try this at home kids.
I discovered that couldn't actually remove the cactus from my foot, despite scraping it against the curb or the ground. It was also very difficult to pry the remaining spike from my foot. On the way out of the cholla gardens we saw a boy that looked like he had fallen into a cholla, and had the spikes protruding from his chest. So there you have it, don't mess with this cactus folks.
Spikes, spikes, everywhere!
We cooked dinner in the desert before heading off, and met a fellow traveller who was travelling in his ute, with his dirt bike. He regaled us with stories, and I even got to practice my super rusty German.
So I have a theory that travellers are able to identify their own. A romantic notion would be because the two souls are so open and so similar that the traveller is drawn to them. But really it’s probably because we’re equally dishevelled.
And finally, for the last leg our week's exploration, we visited Antelope Valley to view the poppy blooms.
Ridiculously beautiful no? The hills were swathed in these yellow and orange blooms.
Stay tuned for our next adventures on the road! Next stop, the Mojave Desert and the Grand Canyon :D