California Part Eight: lakes, driving and farewells

In the morning, it was time for us to leave San Diego and hike back to San Jose. We had to start early. My travel buddy started 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 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, 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 (actually a good mix), we hit the road 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 (we’d listened to a lot of repeated pop, Latino music and country), we arrived at 5.20pm. We’d started at 8am. It had been a long day but we had made good time.

On Friday morning, we were up and out for our shopping trip in the mall near Santana Row. Sadly shopping was inhibited once again by the fact that we have 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.

Lake Tahoe's redwood

We left early evening with my travel buddy’s family and arrived just before midnight, at our hotel- the Timber Lodge. 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 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 experience of Eggs Benedict- yum) before exploring a little and crossed the border into Nevada and straight into a casino, however you have to be 21 to gamble so we headed straight back out again.

Lake Tahoe

After a couple of hours of chilling in front of the TV, we went up to the lake. We took the bag trolley down to the lobby 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 turquoise. 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 with us flopping in front of Marley and Me before eventually migrating to our rooms to watch it in bed!

After a very rushed check out, that ended in me pushing my travel 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 to see the first Kick-Ass movie. Great film. 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, 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 and clearing the truck of camping stuff. I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of 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.

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