California and Lo$ Vega$

September 19, 2008 - San Diego, California, United States

I decided to put all of California and Los Vegas into one blog entry so its a long enough one - so you might want to grab a cup of tea before you start!

After crossing the border from Tijuana its a fairly quick spin on the Trolley light rail system to the Southern Californian city of San Diego. San Diego has a year round average temperature of 21 degrees C and is a fairly laided back and relaxed place with not much traffic and its really well layed out with good public transport and road networks, it also has beautiful beaches and a nice port area - all in all its a pretty nice city to spend a few days (oh yeah and it has little or no mosquitos which is a big plus for me!).

We spent our first night in the CAT hostel in the downtown area of the city, did a bit of much needed clothes shopping as some of my clothes where fairly worn to say the least from 6 months travelling. We went out around downtown that night in the gaslamp quarter. Next we headed to pacific beach part of the city to the Banana Bungalow hostel (which is a cheap and cheerful hostel with decking looking out on the beachfront - although not cheap by standards we had been used to in south america). Whilst here i met up with John Lenihan a good friend of seamus's who was in san diego on holidays and it was good craic actching up with him.

We also had a few additions to our group for two weeks starting in San Diego with friends of the lads Dave and Joanne (from Dromiskin and Tallanastown in louth) over and we met them in pacific beach - it was good craic having them over and hearing about things from home and been able to talk about  'The TOWNN' and the Wee County. We spent a few days on pacific beach and sampled some of the nightlife there. On the sunday we went to a NFL american football game between the San Diego Chargers versus the Carolina Panthers (it was the first game of the new season). I have to say it was really entertaining stuff with the home team losing going into the final quarter only to turn on the style and score two touchdowns before the away team scored a touchdown with 2 seconds left on the clock after it looked like the chargers had done enough to keep them out - this left the stadium packed with home supporters stunned into silence and few away supporters going nuts - top quality entertainment and drama i have to say - oh and the cheer leaders weren't bad either!

Next we rented a RV (or campervan to use the non american term) and we set off on a bit of a tour of california and Los Vegas. Our first destination was the glitzy gambling holiday hotspot of Lo$ Vega$! We landed lateish on the strip after a long journey in our beast of an RV (30ft long and fairly wide) Dave and Joanne where booked into the New York - New York Hotel but us being on our backpacker budget (which isn't stretching half as far with prices being nearly the same as home) we stayed in the RV in the Hotel Car Park - but with free parking and relaxed parking security it wasn't a problem.

We stayed for two nights in Vegas - the first night we where tired from the long journey and just went in and had a look around a few casinos trying our hand on a few bets as you do. It wasn't my night and i wasn't having much luck with first few bets so i called it a day for the betting. The next day we had a good look around the strip and visited the stratosphere tower and went on some of the fun fair rides at the top which basically involved going over the edge of the top of the tower or travelling at speed or dropping at speed with great views of the whole of vegas - we then went and watched the Bellagio water fountain show which was fairly impressive. During the day we also visited a few more casinos on the strip including the Paris casino with its imitation Eiffel Tower and fancy restaurants. All the while wheeling niall around in his rented wheelchair (as he had hurt his foot in san diego) and making un PC jokes about cripple coming through and how he had done his time in 'the IRAQ' and where was his parade haha!

Later that evening we went out to a club in the Hard Rock Cafe hotel and Casino. It was alright but expensive and at one stage I had to go out to avail of a Bank machine of which they have many conveinently located on the edge of the Casino floor - and on the way back through the casino I stopped off for a bit of a gamble on the only casino game I played while in vegas roulette, partly because it's easy to understand amd also partly because you can cover yourself to a certain extent by spreading your bets (e.g. put a bet on black and a bet of same value on even so if they both come in you double your money if one comes in you stay on the same money or else you lose both stakes - also if you mix the double your money bets with tripple your money bets and always wait till the croupier has set the ball running before placing your bets to eliminate to an extent his skill of making you lose from the equation this will improve your odds a bit coupled with a bit of luck and knowing when to quit you might do well. After all that it it just a game of chance so don't bet more than your willing to lose - because even if your smart its the casino's job to take your money from and they are obviously pretty damn good at it when you see how fancy these casinos are and the fact they can afford to give you free drink while you are playing). But anyways back to my story - i joined in a game only wanting to bet $20 but the bank machine had only given me 100 dollar bills so i asked to get it changed to chips intending to keep my higher value chips and not touch them. So i started to bet and since it was a minimum bet of $5 dollars i picked up a five dollar chip and started to bet using the system i said before betting on black and even one time then even and 1- 19 the next and so on sometimes making a bet on tripple your money odds like 1st third etc and i started well so only bet from then on with my winnings and as a waitress was bringing me a drink and a drink was so expensive in the night club i decided to play with my winnings for one drink and if i lost all my winnings i would just leave with my original 100 quid and have had a free drink and bit of fun in the process. All the time I played an american man beside me who was playing was high fiving me when we both won and started copying some of my bets as i was doing well and this went on with my chips going up and down before going up and up and even the croupier mentioned i was doing quiet well - it was at this point i checked my chips more closely and realised i had mistakenly thought the 25$ chips where 5$ chips as well (as they only varied in colour slightly one being red white and blue the other red white and navy) and when i counted my winnings i had now had because of my mistake $405 worth of chips in front of me - so i quickly gathered my chips and cashed them in having made 305 quid woohoo!! Them winnings coupled with my winnings from earlier in the day came to about 400 dollars plus and since we where leaving the next morning i was leaving vegas up money which i did not expect!!

The next morning we had decided we where going to make a trip to the Hoover Dam and see how we where for time to go to the grand canyon. But first of all on our way out of vegas we decided to exercise that most american of rights the right to bear arms! (to that all american experience!) So we went to a Gun Store on the outskirts of town and payed a few dollars to shoot an Desert Eagle handgun at a target - and i have to say its quite easy to be accurate with it - and it was hilarious to see the mini arsenal of weapons and bazookas on the wall of the store (like who the hell needs a bazooka to go hunting!?!) and also the other middle america NRA type characters all and i mean every single one shooting at Osama Bin Laden targets! (Ps NRA - national rifle association and not national road authority engineers in case there was any confusion haha).

We headed onto the Hoover Dam had a look at it - it wasn't as big as i had expected but was still impressive enough i suppose. We turned around then and headed north en route to Yosemite National Park (pronounced Yo-semi-tee) which was a good 8-10 hrs drive we figured - so the rest of the day we spent confined in the RV - albeit a fairly spacious mode of transport. We arrived near the outskirts of the park but still another hour to an hour and half drive away from its campsites so we found a campsite near by as it was getting late and then had a bbq. The next morning we went to the park only to find out they had no spaces anywhere in the park left for 30ft RV's only smaller ones - so we drove around admiring the views stopping at a picturesque lake flanked by mountains and forests - black bear country. I took a quick dip in the Icy cold water which shook any lethargy i had and we just had some lunch (another bbq) - then stopped a few more times for pics and to admire the views before making our way out of the park to find a campsite.

That night we had another bbq and a campfire and a few drinks in the forest with the comfort of our RV to go and sleep in - really getting back to nature haha - it was good nights craic with discussions and banter around the campfire into the wee hours.

After Yosemite we headed to San Francisco with an annoying incident along the way - where we stopped and paid to get water etc from an RV Park and had some lunch using the built in bbq provided beside the RV causing the attendant to come over and charge us another $10 for having our lunch and putting out the bbq (saying you never told me you where having a picnic thats an extra $10) Just another example of the infuriating over the top rules and regulations in the US along with Jay walking fines, skate boarding fines handed out to kids we seen, parking fines and a general mistrust anybody with a resembelance of power has for anyone they deal with. It kind of takes the shine off the country which is a very nice country and whose people i found extremely friendly.

We landed in San Francisco and just got something to eat and had a quiet drink out - and the next morning got up and seen the golden gate bridge and left (it was a bit of a stretch to far to try and fit San Francisco an the 6 days we had the RV). We headed South and stayed a night in Santa Barbara before heading off to LA and having a look around Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive its famousish shopping street (well i had never heard of it before) and we got a parking ticket for parking in a space not facing with traffic (a law we knew nothing about). Then we headed to hollywood took a few more snaps of the stars in the pavement and outside the Grauman chinese theatre. I wasn't very impressed with LA at all - its not really a very nice city and Hollywood was a bit tacky to be honest.

We headed on down back towards San Diego and stayed one more night in a RV park beside the beach in a place near Oceanside. We left the RV back the next morning with only a slight hitch of been accused of dumping sewage at side of the road which wasn't entirely true - but luckily he didn't noticed the superglued hinge on the fridge door! Needless to say we got away from that office asap.

We landed back to our more familiar surroundings of Pacific Beach in San Diego having enjoyed the RV tour but glad to be out of the confines of the RV as we had spent too much time couped up travelling distances over the length of ireland most days trying to fit a bit too much in.

Back in San Diego we just chilled out for a few days, went to the 'world famous San Diego Zoo' which was fairly good. And I also got a bit of heat stroke by lying out one morning on the beach for what i thought wasn't too long - but that coupled with walking around in the heat of the day (in what was the warmest day we had there so far) made me feel quite ill and shivery for a day or so.

All in All San Diego, California and Vegas where good craic - bit more expensive but i knew that would be the case. Next Destination was the island of Oahu in Hawaii for a few days. So we flew out on the morning of the 20th of September after saying our goodbyes to Dave and Joanne the night before who flew back to Ireland the same day.


James Kerr:
October 6, 2008
A good long informative blog! Still enjoying everything. It looks like it might turn ino a book!

October 11, 2008
we'll need to put you into therapy when you get home after winning all that cash!!!!!
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