A Travellerspoint blog

November 2011

Route 66 On The Greyhound

Making our way through middle America by bus

rain 9 °C

We left big, bad Vegas at 6 in the morning and made the 6-hour Greyhound journey to Flagstaff, Arizona. The small town had a nice country feel with old fashioned buildings and little streets, which we walked through to get to our Motel just outside the centre. We were shattered from the bus ride (and from the fun in Sin City) so we spent the rest of the day chilling out in front of the TV.

The main reason for visiting Flagstaff was its closeness to the Grand Canyon, so the next day we got a 2-hour shuttle bus from the town's visitor centre to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. As its one of the 7 natural wonders of the world we were very excited, and from the moment we stepped up to the edge of the huge gorge it took our breathe away!

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The park had a number of walking treks along the rim, we decided to go for Hermits Route for about 5 miles, taking in the magnificent views the whole time. After having a bite to eat at Hermits Rest we hopped on the free shuttle back to the park centre before checking out other Routes.

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By the afternoon the weather had gone from clear blue skies to windy with luming dark clouds, and on the shuttle bus back to Flagstaff the heavens opened with hail, rain and lightning. Little did we know though that overnight the weather would change again, to snow! Whoop!

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We got a foot of lovely white snow, which made the small town even more picturesque, so we spent our last couple of days in Flagstaff exploring the local area and playing in the snow. It was certainly a surprise for us as we expected nothing but sun in Arizona!

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On Monday 7th November we caught the local bus to the town centre before catching a 6-hour Greyhound bus to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The journey went pretty quick, we actually met some nice guys on this trip which made a change from the strange characters who we have come across on the Greyhound so far!

A short taxi ride from the station and we had arrived at our motel. We had just 1 full day here so the next morning we were up early, ready to see what the largest city in the state had to offer.

If we are honest there wasn't a great deal at all to see, but we did enjoy a fantastic lunch at the classic Route 66 Diner. We ordered a milkshake each, which were the biggest milkshakes you have ever seen and they tasted soooo good. We shared some fiesta fries at the same time, and it was all we needed as there was plenty to eat.

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The next day we were packed and at the bus station ready to continue travelling east. Our next destination was Amarillo, Texas, purely for the novelty of saying we'd been (plus we wanted to walk round singing the Tony Christie song lol).

It took 5 hours to get there, and as our Motel wasn't far from the bus station we decided to walk it to save some money. However after half an hour it had gotten dark and we realised we were in a pretty rough-looking neighbourhood, of course sticking out like hell with our massive backpacks. We went into a gas station where the clerk found it rather amusing 2 english people were in Amarillo, and she ordered us a taxi. Lesson learned!

Amarillo was a quick stopover on our trip, as the place didn't have much going on. The most notable part of being there was the fact it was our 10-year anniversary on 10th November. :-) Unfortunately we couldn't find any good restaurants nearby, so we decided to save a celebration for our next stop, Oklahoma City.

A relatively short 5-hour bus trip got us to OKC, the journey went quite quick as a woman sitting near us asked us to help her with her 1-year old son who was getting restless. She passed him to us and he calmed down, funnily enough she made the most of not taking him back straight away!

Once we arrived in the city it took an easy bus ride to get to our Motel on the outskirts of town. We were staying at America's Best Value Inn, which included a free continental breakfast, so we were up early for that the next day. We headed back into the city on the bus and went exploring, starting with the National Memorial of the 1995 bombing.

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The memorial site was where the original building used to stand, and it included a garden with chairs symbolising each of the 168 people killed in the explosion. There was also a reflective pool and heartfelt messages from family members on the fence outside.

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Later on we took a bus to Stockyards City, an old western-style part of town with cowboy shops, restaurants and the worlds largest cattle market. It was here we decided to dine at the famous Cattlemen's Steakhouse, featured on one of our favourite shows, Man Vs Food.

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The restaurant opened in 1910 and is known for serving some of the tastiest steaks in the US. The biggest of these is the Presidential T-Bone steak, named by George Bush Snr when he visited Oklahoma. Phil decided to go for it (when in Rome!) while Kayleigh went for a fillet steak wrapped in bacon. The steaks were absolutely gorgeous, and along with the fries, salad and bread to go with them we were stuffed by the end. Good times!

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For the remaining time in OKC we relaxed at our Motel, whilst planning our journey onwards over a Domino's pizza (tut tut tut!) In the end we made the decision to carry onto Memphis, Tennessee.

A longer bus journey of 8 hours got us to the city of Memphis, the home of the king of rock n roll. The first day we decided to take a trip to the legendary Sun Studios, where Elvis was first discovered along with countless other artists like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

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We were taken on a 45 minute tour of the recording studio, hearing stories and classic recordings from the past 60 years. It was great fun!

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While in Memphis we had heard that the city was famous for its BBQ'd food as much as its music, so we headed Downtown to check it out. We ended up at Superior Bar & Grill on Beale Street where Kayleigh feasted on Smoked BBQ Ribs (fit!) and Phil had a jumbo BBQ Beef Sandwich (yum!), all while sipping beers and listening to the live blues singer on stage.

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Originally we had planned only to stay in Memphis for a few days, but with Thanksgiving fast-approaching travelling during the holidays was ill advised. So instead we booked ourselves into a motel for a week, which was good as we still had some sights in Memphis we wanted to see like the Mississippi River.

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As well as sightseeing we took the time to relax and make the most of not travelling, as we've done quite a few bus journeys in the US. On one day we took the Memphis Trolley (tram) to Midtown where we watched Twilight : Breaking Dawn at the cinema. Kayleigh did not want to miss it! It was fantastic.

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Its hard to believe but we're now down to the last 2 weeks of our trip! We'll try and keep you updated on our whereabouts, we're getting excited to see everyone back home for Christmas. :-)

Loads of love,

Kayleigh & Phil

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 09:16 Archived in USA Tagged grand_canyon usa memphis nevada albuquerque oklahoma_city amarillo joyryderrtw Comments (3)

Living the American 'Backpacking' Dream

Two jam-packed weeks on the West Coast of the US

snow 1 °C

Following a much-delayed 10 hour flight from Nadi, Fiji, we arrived at LAX shattered and ready to catch up on some sleep. We had booked to stay at the Venice Beach Hostel, who picked us up for free (bonus) and we headed straight for a power nap. After a few hours we were up and out, as we wanted to check out the sights of Venice Beach.

We walked down to the pier, along the promenade to Muscle Beach, the basketball courts and all the weird and wonderful street entertainers. As it was off season and the weather was pretty grim, we didn't get to see it at its busiest, but it was still cool to check out all the famous stuff like where Arnold Schwarzenegger was first spotted and where White Men Can't Jump was filmed.

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Thirsty from our walking, we decided to go for some Budweiser's and shared some chilli cheese fries, a nice way to start our trip of the US.

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The next day we were up early for the free breakfast the Hostel set out, and we got speaking to the manager, Iain, who was from Coventry. He recommended we go on a City Tour of LA, as we'd effectively lost a day due to the trouble with our flight from Fiji. We thought it was a great idea, and we were on the shuttle bus within the hour. It was a full day of sightseeing in the City of Angels, we went to Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.

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Highlights for us were seeing the Walk of Fame with over 2,000 stars names in the sidewalk, seeing the Hollywood sign in all its glory, driving past Michael Jackson's house where he died and taking a stroll along Rodeo Drive. Kayleigh enjoyed doing her best 'Pretty Woman' impressions while Phil couldn't stop drooling over the custom yellow and black Bugatti Veyron outside the House of Bijan.

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We checked out of the Venice Beach Hostel at 7am the following day, to make our way across the county to Anaheim. The main reason for this is because before leaving Fiji we had booked tickets for Disneyland, the only one of the Disney parks to be designed by Walt himself. A quick bus ride to LAX and then a shuttle to Anaheim got us to the hostel we were staying in, we threw our bags down and walked to the park (only 15 minutes away).

Once we got into Disneyland we had an amazing time, the weather was perfect and it wasn't too busy. We had a blast on rides like Indiana Jones, Space Mountain and Star Tours, watched the parade and even met Mickey Mouse (Kayleigh was so excited!) Unfortunately, the park closed at 7pm as they had a Halloween party on that night, and only ticket holders could stay in. As we had not heard about this party and there were no tickets left, we decided to leave and instead we had a look round the shops and bars at Downtown Disney.

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For the second day of Disney, we walked over to the adjacent park, California Adventure. We had another fantastic day, going on the super-fast California Screamin', the Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, A Bugs Life and the Little Mermaid ride among others. We also went to see some really good shows, Aladdin had amazing sets and a star turn from the Genie, Tron Legacy did some cool effects with lasers/lights and the World of Color lit up the whole of the park with lights and huge blasts of water. We were shattered by the end of the day, but we had bought 3-day passes so we had one more day to make the most of it!

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We went back to Disneyland for the third day, going on all of our favourite rides and some of the others we had missed out, including Splash Mountain where we both got soaked, although Kayleigh got it worse to be honest! Haha. To end it all, we watched the famous fireworks display and then the Fantasmic show, which topped off an amazing three days of fun! We're big kids aren't we?! :-)

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Our next destination was San Francisco, and we had decided to buy Greyhound passes (like in Australia) as we couldn't stretch our budget to a rental car and flights weren't flexible enough for us to see everything. We got the bus from Anaheim to San Francisco at about 4pm, and made the 8 hour journey to San Fran. We caught a cab from the Greyhound and arrived at Adelaide Hostel in San Fran at 1am, we checked into our 6 bed dorm room and crashed...we were shattered.

We slept in until 10:30am and missed our free breakfast (damn it), but after our wake-up showers we were ready to explore the city.

First up was Union Square where a lot of the big shops and restaurants are. After a bit of window shopping we continued our walking tour to China Town starting at the impressive Dragon Gate. We looked around all the little trinket stores and took a short trip to 'Golden Gate Fortune Cookies' to have a look at how they make them...and enjoy some free samples.

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Later in the afternoon we decided to endure the steep climb up to Coit Tower, built at the top of Telegraph Hill. It was tough, but we've climbed worse. Here we could take in the magnificent 360 degree view of the city and it really was quite spectacular.

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We can say this for San Francisco, it definitely lives up to it's reputation - the hills are brutal to walk up but the city is beautiful. With a vibrant, energized atmosphere after just a few hours we were already convinced that this is one of the favorite cities of our trip.

After taking in the view at the tower we made our decline (so much easier than climbing the steps up) down the Filbert steps before making our way down to the piers to the Ferry Building for an early tea...some tacos. Yum.

That evening we joined in some games at the hostel, we played 'Catchphrase', where you are given the name of an object, place or name etc and you have to describe what it is to your team mates without saying the actual word within a set amount of time. We won the first 2 rounds out of 5. Woo hoo. And with each win came a free bottle of wine - lovely. :-) By the 3rd round we had finished both bottles so it's easy to see why we did pretty crap on the rest of the rounds. Lol. It was a really fun night.

In the morning we got up at 9am to enjoy our breakfast, we met up with Brent (one of guys we had met the previous night) who showed us around the Financial District and the nearby Shopping Mall, before taking us to the right bus stop to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We chose a gorgeous sunny day to go and see one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, and after just 2 short bus rides we had arrived at the infamous bridge. The sheer size of the bridge was outstanding, and with its giant towers, sweeping cables and unique orange-red colour, it's easy to see why this landmark is such a popular tourist spot and the most internationally recognised symbol of SF.

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We snapped away on our camera and posed for a few photos before we walked to the middle of the bridge, the view was incredible with the sun shining down on the city and Alcatraz in the near distance. A great day out. In the late afternoon we made our way back by taking a romantic stroll down the coast before catching the bus back to our hostel.

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Our remaining days in SF were spent exploring the city further and relaxing, we left on Saturday 29th October bound for Bakersfield. The journey was an 8 hour bus ride from San Fran, where upon arriving we checked into a motel where we stayed for the night. Bakersfield was really just a stopover on our way to Las Vegas, which if we hadn't have broken the trip up would have been a straight 13 hours.....we didn't fancy that. So we checked out the next morning to begin the remaining 5 hour Greyhound bus ride. We had made it to the one and only Sin City. :-)

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A quick taxi ride got us to our hotel, the lovely Imperial Palace, which for the 2 night stay was actually cheaper than staying in the dorm in SF - crazy!

As it was 9pm, the strip was all lit up and we wasted no time in going out to see it. Our hotel was across the road from Caesers Palace so it was nice and central - we went to see the water fountains at the Belaggio, caught the pirate show at Treasure Island and had a go on the slot machines. We managed to win $10 so we treated ourselves to some tacos, rock n roll or what?!

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We spent the next day walking round the Fashion Show and Downtown Outlet malls, as we bought tickets to the House of Horrors halloween party at XS nightclub. Phil was chuffed to be going to the party as Afrojack was lined up to DJ and we're always partial to a good costume party.

Unfortunately for us, finding halloween costumes in Vegas was alot more difficult than we ever imagined. We literally couldn't find any good shops selling costumes all day. Luckily we had seen an advert for Party City, a specialist costume store where we had to get a taxi to. The store was pretty low on costumes but we managed to get some, Kayleigh managed to get the last 'small' womens outfit, the rest were all huge. Haha.

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We got to XS at 11pm, it was in the classy Encore resort, and the club was like something out of a music video. Apparently the place cost $4 million, it had a large dancefloor, outdoor pool area and private booths for the 'high-flyers'.

It had been a while since we'd had a good blowout, so we made the most of the party, dancing, drinking and enjoying the time together. Almost everyone was dressed up in costumes and the music was great (Afrojack rocked!), it turned out to be one of the best nights of our trip.

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We woke the next day after very little sleep and had to check out, as we booked to stay in a hostel further up the strip. With our massive bags we got the bus which was packed with tourists giving us funny looks, apparently Americans have never seen backpacks before (or they thought we were terrorists lol).

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We checked in at Hostel Cat and climbed into our bunk beds to catch up on some zzz's. The next day we were back to full fitness and went out to see the rest of the city, including the Little White Wedding Chapel, Caesers Palace, New York New York, Excalibur and the Venetian.

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In the evening we took a trip up to the top of the Stratosphere Tower which had brilliant views of the city all lit up. We had been advised to go on the X-Scream ride which flings you over the edge at the top, but annoyingly it was closed! Instead we went on the Big Shot which fired you up into the air right at the very top of the tower, great fun. :-)

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As it was our last night we decided to try our look again in the casino at Stratosphere, and after an hour on one slot machine we had won $45 from the $8 we had put in. Yay!

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The next part of our trip in the US is making our way East to New York, so far we are having an amazing time. We'll keep you updated as much as we can.

Loads of love,

Phil and Kayleigh

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 12:21 Archived in USA Tagged venice las_vegas chinatown california halloween los_angeles casino san_francisco golden_gate_bridge disney trams disneyland hollywood anaheim beverly_hills mickey_mouse vegas_strip afrojack Comments (2)

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