USA 2012

May 17, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Welcome - to Jan and Kaja's travel blog about our trip to the Western United States in May - June 2012. This is our first visit to the United States and we have spent the last few month planning and preparing for our dream trip, which will take us to the following states - California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada - a distance of approx. 3500 km.

We have planned and organized the trip ourselves and we have expectations of a lot of great and exciting experiences - hopefully they will be honored. You can follow our journey here in the blog which - when needed - will be updated with text and images. More pictures can be seen in the photo album USA Road Trip 2012.


Monday 21. May 2012
Then finally came the day where we should begin our journey to God's own country - it had been awaited with eagerness and anticipation for long time. We went to bed early Sunday night, hoping to get a good night's sleep before the long flight, but - just as expected - we both woke up early at 04.30 hrs. although the alarm was not scheduled to wake us before 5:45 hrs. We had teamed up with Grandpa, who was persuaded to take us to the airport.
We traveled via Copenhagen - London Heathrow - San Francisco, where we arrived at 01:50 hrs. - a total of more than 17 ½ hours of travel and a distance of approx. 8.800 km. The time difference between U.S. and California is 9 hours, local time was 16.50.
Everything went according to plan, until we went through Custom & Border Control at the airport - this was not at all geared up to receive a load of passengers from a jumbo jet Boeing 747 - it took 1 ½ hours to get through the needle's eye. During the check we had our fingerprints and photos taken for the archives.

After the long - and sometimes - tedious trip, squeezed into a narrow plane seat, standing in line was not what we needed the most.
Eventually we managed to find our way through the border control and finally we could pick up our rental car, a brand new Chevrolet Captiva V6 - rented for 3 weeks for € 600 including a full tank.

From the airport we went straight to our motel "Town House Motel", centrally located for most of the attractions we are going to see in San Francisco.
At that time we were very tired, but we held out a few hours more, before we finally went to sleep - I think we were sleeping before our heads touched the pillow.


Tuesday 22. May 2012
Up early the next day - at 06.45 hrs. we were awake and excited to get out and have a look at all the sights. Breakfast consisted of a thin cup of coffee with a piece of pastry and a banana.
The days program was largely determined from home, since we had already purchased ticket for a trip to the prisoners island "Alcatraz", which is a must see when you're in San Francisco. It is advisable to book tickets well in advance, otherwise you cannot be sure to go to the island the day you have planned.
The sun was shining from a sky without clouds and it was a beautiful boat ride across the San Francisco Bay to the island, where - on the way - we also had a view of another of San Francisco's major attractions - Golden Gate.

Alcatraz was in 1853 - during the American Civil War - fortified with artillery to protect the entrance to San Francisco. Because of its isolated location, the island was a few years later adapted also to house prisoners of war. In 1933 the island was transferred to the civilian prison system, and for the next 30 years Alcatraz housed some of America's most dangerous prisoners - including Alcapone "Scarface" and "Machine Gun Kelly".
An exciting and at the same time terrifying testimony about the conditions criminals at that time had to endure. Definitely worth a visit.

The afternoon was spent on a drive over the Golden Gate and, at the same time, use the opportunity to take some pictures of the beautiful bridge.

The bridge was completed in 1937 - it is 211 m high and 2737 m long


Wednesday 23. May 2012
We started the day with a solid American breakfast at a nearby restaurant and then we challenged our stomachs, by driving up and down the steep streets of San Francisco a la Steve McQueen in "Bullitt".

We also took a drive through the beautiful hairpins on Lombard Street surrounded by beautiful old Victorian houses.

Later, the transport was in a more relaxed pace with one of the old cable trams. A one-way trip costs $ 6 and lasts approx. ½ hour from downtown to Fisherman's Wharf.

It's also highly recommended to visit the beautiful military cemetery in the Presidio National Park, in the NW corner of San Francisco.
We ended the day with a visit to an Indian restaurant - a very hot and spicy experience.

Thursday 24th May 2012
Early morning we set course south on Highway 1 along the Pacific coast. Today's aim was Carmel-by-the-Sea approx. 200 km south of San Francisco - a nice trip, but nothing compared to what we would experience the following day. Along the way, we made stops in Monterey - where they were preparing for the annual "Clam Festival" - and Santa Cruz with the rollercoaster "Giant Dipper" on the beach.

We arrived in Carmel early afternoon so we had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful town and beach - recommendable.


Friday 25. May 2012
Started the day with a visit to Mission San Carlos Borromeo, Carmel - which should be one of the most beautiful in California.

Then we continued south, bound for Santa Barbara - on the way there were plenty of photo opportunities - which was used to the fullest. So the travel time, which was calculated at approx. 4 hours, ended up being the double, so we shortened the trip and ended up staying overnight at the Motel 6 in Buellton - just outside the "Danish village" Solvang.

About the trip we can only say - it was stunningly beautiful.


Saturday 26th May 2012
After a good night's sleep we started the day once again, with a solid American breakfast at "Ellen's Pancake House."
Then we went to Solvang which is a reminiscent of a bad backdrop for a Hollywood movie, but still interesting to see - if for no other reason to say that we've been there.

From Solvang we went for a walk on a windswept beach promenade in Santa Barbara, where we saw herons dive for fish, and we had a walk around the city's beautiful courthouse.

After that we went further down the coast directly to Hollywood, LA, where we have accommodated ourselves on Sunset Boulevard for the next 3 days.

Sunday 27th May 2012
Another day full of experiences. First we went to Warner Brothers, where we were at a VIP Studio Tour and went backstage and saw how they make movies - including the series "Friends".

After that a visit to the nearby Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

The afternoon was spent at Venice Beach.

We finished the day with a visit to Griffith Observatory and a spectacular view of Los Angeles.


Monday 28th May 2012
A relaxed day where we visited some of our many friends in Hollywood, such as Jack Nicholson, Brad Pitt, Angelina and Simon Cowell.
On a walk down Hollywood Boulevard we met indeed an old friend Marilyn Monroe, who insisted that I took a photo of her and Kaja together. The person at the center of the picture presented himself as "Scarface" and was probably Marilyns new date.

Later Kaja swung my credit card on Rodeo Drive - more and more I rely on the big win in Las Vegas :-(

Tuesday 29th May 2012
A quiet day where we said goodbye to Hollywood and hello to San Diego and new different experiences.
Along the way we stopped to enjoy the lovely weather and beautiful beaches along the coast.

In the evening we tried to get a nice picture of a sunset over the Pacific, but unfortunately it became cloudy as darkness came on, but it was beautiful anyway.


Wednesday 30th May 2012
Kaja used the morning to explore San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter with old restored Victorian houses and lots of shops.
Meanwhile, I got a really boys experience when I entered the aircraft carrier USS Midway, which is converted into a museum ship.

The afternoon we spent in the famous Sea World - a beautiful but expensive experience.

Tomorrow Wednesday we drive into the country - our next stop will be Yuma.
We are now approx. halfway on the trip and the days just fly by - it's damn scary :-(


Thursday 31 May 2012
The day featured a drive from San Diego to Yuma, Arizona - a distance of approx. 275 km. Not a particularly great distance in kilometers, but in temperature a world of difference. From comfortable 24-26 degrees to creepy 44 degrees - kind of radical change, which will probably take us some time to get used to. Reminds me of the time I was serving in Iraq.

The landscape has also changed dramatically from green and lush to barren stretches of stony plains, yet beautiful in its own way.

It will be a hot night as we turned off our noisy air conditioning, interesting how much sleep we will get.

Friday 1st June 2012
Still, it was not so bad with the heat in our room - even with the air conditioning turned off - as the temperature decreased to more tolerable levels during the night. From Yuma we set course for Sedona - a journey which didn't offer many scenic views - and, to my wifes big surprise, for the first time in our vacation, we did not stop on the way to take photos.

When we arrived though the  camera worked overtime - what beautiful red mountains there were. For no reason it is called "Red Rock Country".

Saturday 2. June 2012
Today's big experience was a visit to the Grand Canyon - one of the highlights of our vacation. Unfortunately the visibility was not quite optimal, so the pictures will not provide full justice to the beautiful scenery.

The sunset is something special, as the rocks changes color to a nice red tint.

Sunday 3. June 2012
We started the day once again enjoying the magnificent views of the Grand Canyon. Tried in vain to get the "perfect" image in the box, but no picture can do justice to the beautiful scenery - you have to go there yourself and see it with your own eyes.

In the afternoon we once again witnessed one of the nature's wonders, when we visited the Monument Valley in Utah. A beautiful sight fully comparable with the Grand Canyon - I think the picture speaks for itself.

Monday 4. June 2012
Antelope Canyon was the day's goal and it fully lived up to our expectations of seeing something beautiful and different. Antelope Canyon is located in Navajo country and is by the natives called "The place where the water runs through rocks."

The monsoon season sometimes creates flooding and then the water rushes in to the narrow passageways and over time created this wonderful piece of nature.

For $ 80 I had signed up for a special Photographers Tour, which gave more time and opportunities to take pictures and it was definitely worth the money.
Don't forget that more pictures are available - click here

Tuesday 5th June 2012
Our round trip in the U.S. canyons is coming to an end for now. Today we went north to Bryce Canyon which, despite its name, is not a canyon, but a giant natural amphitheater.

Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by wind, water, and ice erosion.
Again a very beautiful sight.

Wednesday 6. June
The morning was spent once again enjoying the beatiful sight of Bryce Canyon and take the last pictures before we headed for the "city of sin" - Las Vegas.

Later we passed a small western town with the Danish flag flying from the flagpole - not an eye was dry. Fair to be said that it was not the only flag :-)
Later we passed through the outskirts of Zion Canyon which looked very interesting for the photographer, but Kaja said stop - she was getting canyon haddock.
Late afternoon we drove into Las Vegas and checked in at our hotel The Imperial Palace where we will stay for the next 4 days. The view from our suite, is very nice.

Thursday 7. June
We spent the day and evening to explore and experience Las Vegas Boulevard known as "The Strip". Briefly, "The Strip" is a giant amusement park, but a completely different one of the kind.
Every night there are miscellaneous free shows in front of many of the casinos in order to trick people inside. In front of the Bellagio casino is a huge fountain that is choreographed so that it fits with the music played on - eg. "Time to say goodbye".

Casino Treasure Island (Treasure Island) performs a show with dancing girls who pretends to be Sirens, trying to lure sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.

They also tried to tempt me, but whether they succeeded or not - it's an open question.

Friday 8th June 2012
Another day in Las Vegas - an interesting city with many different and funny kinds of people - which you can spent a lot of time observing.
Kaja had been looking for Elvis when she had heard that he was in town and finally she found him - even 3 of a kind at the same time.

Mickey Mouse also found his way to Las Vegas, but it seems like he had been looking too deep into the bottle.

Saturday 9. June 2012
Today's absolute highlight was the concert with Celine Dion at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace - and she fulfilled our expectations and gave a terrific performance.

Afterwards Celine sent us a personal mail and thanked us for coming to the concert - she send her best wishes to all of you.
A nice finish on a holiday which is close to end - unfortunately.
Tomorrow we drive the approx. 400 km back to Los Angeles.

Sunday 10. June 2012
After a long and tedious journey, we now arrived in Los Angeles and has again checked into our hotel on Sunset Boulevard. We also refueled our  car for the last time today, at a cost of approx. € 0,79 per liter - an affordable and reasonable price. We've completed around 4.300 km in almost 21 days - it perhaps sounds like a lot, but it has only been short distances of 200 - 300 km per day and a few stretches of approx. 400 km.

Quite surprisingly, it is very limited what we've seen to my colleagues on the way - we nevertheless we found a couple of them on Hollywood Boulevard. A nice dress code, and perhaps something we should consider introducing to some of our female colleagues.

Monday 11. june 2012
Time to go back home - It has been 21 amazing days with a lot of experiences that will take some time to digest.
Our plane is leaving 19.50 local time and we expect to arrive in Denmark Tuesday at 21.15 hrs. - it will for sure be a long journey.



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