In the morning, it was time for us to leave San Diego and drive back up to San Jose. This meant an early start. The Gap Year Buddy began the drive and we were relatively lucky with the traffic, especially in LA. After a few hours we found ourselves driving through the grapevine – a mountainous area. The scenery really was something, even though it was drizzling. The mountains were snow capped and the tips were surrounded in cloud. As we finally made it through this stretch of road, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, however this time we were meant to be there and were not lost.
We kept on driving with miles and miles of nothing but farmland ahead of us until we reached an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) and needless to say we pulled over for food. After a lunch of potatoes, eggs and pancakes (a very good mix), we hit the road, this time with me in the driver’s seat. Finally, after many petrol stops and having to constantly change radio stations as we went out of area for each (we’d listened to a lot of repeated pop songs, Latino music and country), we arrived at 5.20pm. We’d started at 8am. It had been a long day but we had made pretty good time.
On Friday morning, we were up and out for a shopping trip in the Westfield mall near Santana Row. Sadly shopping was inhibited once again by the fact that we had no space in our bags and another three months of travelling to fund, however we still made a couple of semi-necessary purchases before going back to the house and getting ready for our trip to Lake Tahoe with The Gap Year Buddy’s family.
We left early evening and arrived at our hotel – the Timber Lodge – just before midnight. We had lovely rooms. We weren’t exactly ‘roughing it’ in the wilderness.
We awoke the next morning and ventured out to find that South Lake Tahoe looked a lot different in the sunlight. Everywhere, even the McDonalds and KFC, was built out of wood and grey stone to fit in with the surroundings. The mountains were covered in snow but it was still warm and the sky was clear. We went out for breakfast (my first ever experience of Eggs Benedict – yum) before exploring a little. We crossed the border into Nevada and straight into a casino – just because it was there – however you have to be 21 to gamble in the US so we headed straight back out again.
After a couple of hours of chilling in front of the TV, we went up to the lake itself. We took our bag trolley down to the lobby en route and, since you only needed two people to push it, I hitched a ride. More people should travel by bag trolley. We headed to a place called Emerald Bay that was recommended by the hotel. It was gorgeous. The lake was huge and blue. We stopped off and wandered on the sandy shore, the water was surprisingly warm but we weren’t quite up for a swim.
That evening, we had a big dinner with more of the family. It was a lovely evening that ended with us flopping in front of Marley and Me in our living area, before eventually migrating to our rooms to watch it in bed.
After a very rushed check out, that ended in me pushing The Gap Year Buddy along the corridors on the bag trolley (it was her turn), we packed up the truck and went off for breakfast and then went for a cinema trip to see the first Kick-Ass movie. It was a great film, although I had hoped to fit in my first ever skiing experience during this time. Afterwards we grabbed a Subway before heading back to San Jose.
Six hours and one stop later and we were back at the house. We popped out to pick up some Chinese food from the Mayflower Restaurant and brought it back for our last dinner in San Jose.
On our last morning in California, we went to Safeway in search of Special K (which we had become very attached to in the past few weeks) and milk and spent the afternoon sorting out money for New Zealand (our next stop) and clearing the truck of our camping stuff. I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of dealing with the mouldy bread and milk (it turned out the milk had leaked) that we may have left in the cool box. We treated ourselves to more Chinese food (a final trip to our much loved Panda Express) and after a CSI session, it was time to say a fond and sad goodbye to the family and to California.
Read about the rest of my trip:
- California Part One: the journey begins
- California Part Two: a trip to San Francisco
- California Part Three: fish, food and detours
- California Part Four: the road trip begins and stalls
- California Part Five: sea, seals and Hollywood
- California Part Six: food, glorious food and Venice Beach
- California Part Seven: animals, beaches and even more food