Well! We have finally arrived in San Francisco… eventually! Our two day trip was filled… um… with some interesting experiences! The perils of driving on the right hand side of the road; our run-in with the California highway patrol; the Norman Bates Motel; the petrol crisis; and who could forget the one where they got lost even with the Sat Nav trying to get to the hockey! My god. We managed to jam a hell of a lot into a couple of days! We left Vegas on Wednesday around midday after having picked up our hire-car. Our ultimate destination was San Francisco. We were aiming to arrive in the late afternoon of the following day (Thursday), before journeying down to San Jose for a Sharks v Red Wings hockey match at 730pm that night. How hard could it be? Now take into account that I’d never driven before in the US, and neither Fi, nor myself, had any idea where we were headed!

And so the story begins…

We made the short journey to Hoover Dam. Very beautiful, and an amazing piece of engineering. There are a couple of photos below, but they don’t do justice to both the scale and the majesty of the place. After battling the traffic out of Arizonia, we crossed back into Nevada for our journey to San Francisco. Due to the roadworks taking place, this took a lot longer than expected. But in we were in no rush. We crossed the California/Nevada border with a most amazing full moon rising behind us. Beautiful county side.

Driving was a very interesting experience. After a lifetime of driving on the left hand side of the road, to switch across to the right was a bizzare one. One gets used to driving in a certain fashion. Driving on the right hand side of the car, you instinctively know where your car sits in its lane, and all the other things that keep you out of trouble. All that went out the metophoric window! As most of you will know, long road trips are very draining physically. (Our trip was the equivalent of Melbourne to Syney, give or take… no walk in the park). Couple that with the extra care and concentration required by driving on both the wrong side of the car and road, is very hard. And finally, US drivers are nuts… and the cars, freakin’ huge. Unnecessarily so. As an aside, there is a reason cars have indicators.

Anyway. So we’re driving along Highway 15. Having never been to southern California, I’m interested in seeing where we are and what is about. Probably not such a good idea. It had been a long day, and I was getting pretty tired. Apparently… “alledgely”… I’m all over the road. According to whom you may ask? None other than the Californian highway patrol. Oh, and my girlfriend! Bloody loyalty! Now, lets just say the cops in the States are a little more serious than those back in Australia. It’s spotlights, commands over the loudspeaker, hand on holsters. Let’s just say that these guys don’t have a sense of humour. They think I might have been drinking. We play the dumb tourists… no idea what we are doing and all that (which we were pretty much). They do their checks, making sure we stay where we are and all. I’m let off with a warning, thanking JC, Buddha and Eric Clapton that we didn’t get shot. Or arrested. We’re tired. Probably a good time to stop for the night.

We decide to stop in Victorville. About 100 miles or so north-east of Los Angeles. It’s dark, so we have no idea if this is a good neighbourhood or not. We find a hotel… we’re tired… it’ll do! Not expecting five star, just after somewhere clean, comfortable to rest for the night. We get to our room, and let’s face it, it’s a shithole. But we’ll get back to that. Now, we are essentially in the fucking desert, in winter. It gets damn cold at night. And the heater in the room doesn’t work. Good start. We, well Fi, goes to complain. On route, another room along the way has the door open. Pot is billowing out of the room. All well and good, except for the stoned toddler they have with them in the room. Classy place we chose huh? After establishing that the heater doesn’t work, we get a new room. Arguably an even bigger shit hole. I swear it had been months since the sheets had been washed. We go to bed clothed, using pashmina’s over the pillow cases. Fi barely slept. I spent half the evening at the window on guard, fearing god knows what. Come morning we got the fuck out of there. Fi refused to shower, I just about showered fully clothed. We’re never stopping in Victorville again. That said, I’m told I’ll look back on this and laugh. Not fucking likely!

So we are driving along, having a good time all things considered. We have a small crisis with petrol… trying to find a gas station on side roads in the middle of the desert is harder than it sounds. Small tip: in the US you have to pay for your petrol before you fill your car. First time we ever came across this! Trustworthy lot. Anyway, we travel up Highway 5, before making a detour via Gilroy and the huge outlet mall there. More shopping.

We head off from Gilroy late afternoon into San Jose/San Francisco peak hour. Cutting a long story short, we race to the hotel, check in, dump our baggage and head straight back to San Jose for the hockey. Despite some very vague directions from the SatNav system, we make it to the HP Pavillion in time for the game. It was our first hockey game. Scariest moment: the singing of the national anthem. From a country where we either don’t bother, or just mumble because we don’t know the words, this was somewhat of a culture shock. Literally, the biggest cheer of the night came at the end of the Star Spangled Banner. And here we are, one with hands in pockets and the other arms crossed looking at each going WTF? Anyway, Sharks came from behind to snap their current slump and win 9-4. Fi was disappointed because there was no blood on the ice, but we enjoyed it none the less. We slowly head back to the hotel (five star, no fucking about this time thanks to the gang in purple) for a well earned rest and a shower.