Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Bonneville Run 2016

So, 5 years down the track, and I'm itching to get back to the States... I've had a few changes (some of them quite major) in my personal life since the last trip, but I'm finally back in a position where I'm thinking about undertaking a big trip like this again.

The Cadillac is in Australia, although it's off the road and has been since it arrived here, and every time I see it, it reminds me of the back roads of California, Utah and Nevada.

I've got a few plans for the next trip, and I've just set up a crowdfunding page for it as well. Check it out here, and if you're feeling generous, sling us a few bucks (every cent is appreciated)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Trip Home - Part 2

This post has been a little delayed, and while it doesn't quite wrap up the story of the trip, it will cover the last flight home to Perth and our arrival at Perth International Airport.

Arrivals and Departures use the same gates at Auckland Airport, with glass passageways running around the outside of the terminal and then down the middle for arriving passengers, while departing passengers are kept in the open lounge areas

We managed to get quite a bit of rest at Auckland Aiport, after hiring towels for the grand sum of NZ$5 each and having a shower shortly after arrival, we changed clothes, had breakfast and found somewhere to rest, sort photos and charge the laptop, all without leaving the International Departures Lounge at the airport.

The flight to Perth started with a fair bit of turbulence, which didn't help Kate out much, however the Air New Zealand flight staff were quick to pick up on this and made her as comfortable as possible, which made the trip a lot more bearable for her, and probably helped the surrounding passengers more than they'll ever know.

Inside the terminal building at Perth International Airport

Once we arrived back in Perth, we saw how well the SmartGate system can work when everything is functioning properly. While we'd seen the system work in New Zealand on the way to the United States, we'd also seen the Perth system fail last year on our trip, when it was still fairly new. The system cuts processing time down to an absolute minimum by having you answer the relevant Customs related questions before you get to the Arrivals gate and then using automated systems and facial recognition to process your passport. The only downside of this system is that you don't get your passport stamped at the electronic gates, meaning that the only stamps we picked up in our passports this year were from Immigration at San Francisco. After clearing the Arrivals gate, we picked up our luggage, passed through the final Customs checkpoint and headed out into the terminal, where Kate's mum was waiting to take us home.

Night time view of Perth International

For me, the only (minor) dissapointment about our arrival in Perth was the realisation that every other airport we've passed through has nice "Welcome to XXX" signage, or in the case of Auckland, a huge carved archway, greeting visitors to the country. In Perth, we have a sign above the Customs checkpoint in a restricted area where I wasn't allowed to take a photo.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Trip Home - Part 1

Our last day in California was spent doing some last minute shopping, including our "duty free" alcohol purchases, which included full Californian sales tax but still worked out as a better deal than buying at the airport, which you appear to be able to do only once you have already checked your bags in, making it a little difficult, thanks to the current restrictions on carrying Liquids, Aerosols and Gels in hand luggage.

The hallways of the departure area at San Francisco International Airport

We also picked up a couple of new bags to fit all the stuff we've bought over the last 5 weeks, including another four pairs of shoes I bought yesterday. I'd picked up a new pair of Nike runners the day after we landed, and they've served me so well in the last 5 weeks that I went and bought another pair exactly the same. I also found another pair slightly cheaper that I liked just as much, and ended up with 2 pairs of brand new Nike runners for less than the cost of a single pair back home. The Nike purchases were on top of another shoe purchase, that of two pairs of Converse All Star Hi Tops for a grand total of US$33 at the Converse Factory Outlet store, making it a total of three new pairs of Converse shoes I'd bought for myself on the trip.

This Maori inspired archway greets visitors to Auckland International Airport

Once we'd finished shopping, we headed back to David and Nicoles place to worry about packing. I'd decided that I would be happier having an extra bag that we had to pay for, than having to leave stuff behind or repack bags at the airport, both of which we'd ended up doing last year. As a result, we went from having three bags on the flight over, to having six bags on the return flight. Thankfully, Darrell hadn't bought as much stuff as we had, and he was able to check in one of our bags for us, so we were only out of pocket US$100 for the final bag.

This is the plane that flew us from San Francisco to Auckland

We left San Francisco International around 9pm local time on Saturday night, and it's now almost 9am local time in New Zealand, and we've been here since around 4:30am, although thanks to the international date line, it's now Monday morning. We'll landing in Perth around 7pm tonight, and both Kate and I are back at work tomorrow, so we're hoping to get as much sleep as possible on the way home. Fortunately, we had a pretty good flight from San Francisco, and both of us managed to get plenty of sleep. We're also camped on some comfortable seats at the airport and planning on stretching out for a few hours here.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

We Went Shopping And Then To The Movies.

Today, we started off the day by heading out to some San Jose shopping spots. First up was the Eastridge Mall, where Kate headed back to her favourite San Jose shop, Daiso. Daiso are a store that specialise in selling products produced either in Japan or for the Japanese market.

Daiso, one of Kate's favourite stores in the US

We also headed to Santana Row, one of the more expensive pieces of shopping real estate in San Jose. Amongst other things, Santana Row has a whole bunch of upscale eateries, one of only a couple of Pinkberry stores in the San Jose area, an Oakley store and a Gucci store.

Garden art surrounding the El Jardin Tequila Bar and Restaurant

We had lunch at the El Jardin Tequila Bar and Restaurant, on the island in the centre of the street that is Santana Row and after lunch, Kate and Darrell had icecream from Ben and Jerry's, while I headed straight for the Pinkberry store for a froyo fix.

The Pinkberry store at Santana Row

With lunch (and now dessert) taken care of, we headed to the Oakley store, which is where I managed to find a couple of Oakley's Mad Scientist stickers last year. Unfortunately these appear to now be out of production, and I haven't been able to find any more since then. I ended up buying a couple of other stickers and some long sleeved t-shirts before we moved on once again.

Oakley stores are high on my list of must visit retail locations in the US, along with Converse outlet stores

Next stop was just over the road at the Valley Fair mall and the local Safeway, but all we brought home out of that excursion was a couple of 52 ounce Bubba Keg mugs. The Bubba Keg's are an insulated mug, and the 52 ounce version in particular, stays cold for a very long time, which is handy as 52 ounces roughly equates to 1.5 litres of drink. I've been on a mission to stockpile as many of these mugs as I can to take home with me, and between the Safeway mentioned above and a stop at a Target on the way back to David's place, I added another 6 to the collection today.

Iguana fountain at Santana Row

Tonight is our last full night in San Jose, and we to commemorate this occasion, we went to the local Drive Ins with David and Nicole. This particular drive in theatre features 6 screens and every screen had well over half the viewing bays in front of it taken by paying customers. They also have a rather large restaurant, bar and arcade area that appears to be shared with the local flea market (not the San Jose Flea Market, but another one).

Tomorrow night at around 9pm we should be taking off from San Francisco International Airport, headed for home, well, after a brief stopover in Auckland, New Zealand. The plans for the Cadillac at the moment involve it following us on a boat not long after, though we still have to sort the logistics of getting it from San Jose to Los Angeles and work out where the money's coming from to pay the importers bill.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Googleplex and Candlestick Park

Today we went to have lunch with David at Google's Mountain View Campus, had a brief tour of some of the buildings there and took a few photos. Photography inside the Google buildings is prohibited, but out in the publicly accessible areas it's a different story.

The courtyard outside Charlies Cafe at Google

Google's Android team are rather proud of their creation and have a set of statues on display commemorating important moments in the mobile OS's history, including an Android to symbolise the operating system itself, a Cupcake for the first major system update (appropriately named Cupcake), a Donut, Eclair and a giant cup of Froyo for subsequent releases and an oversized Nexus One, the first (and to date only) phone released by Google themselves, which of course ran the Android OS.

The Android, The Donut and Some Clown at Google

After leaving Google, we started making our way to Candlestick Park, home of the San Francisco 49ers, as we had tickets to their preseason game against the San Diego Chargers. We also made a slight detour to Palo Alto to have a Jamba Juice Smoothie. For those reading in Australia, Jamba Juice is similar to the Boost juice bars, except that Jamba Juice make their drinks in sizes that include a "Power" size, which is approximately 24 ounces, much bigger than the biggest Boost size. The wonders of the US economy also result in this 24 ounce mother of all smoothies costing quite a bit less than a similar (but smaller) Australian smoothie, at less than 6 US Dollars.

The 49ers take to the field

We then headed to Candlestick Park, as it was almost 4pm, and the gates had been open for some time. Even though the game had a 7pm kickoff, the 49ers actively encourage early arriving and tailgating at their games. They even permit tailgaters to bring outside alcohol and barbecues into the carpark and provide disposal bins specifically for hot ashes. With that said, there is no shortage of warning signs that remind spectators that excessive drinking and unruly behaviour will not be tolerated.

Anthony Dixon scoring the 49ers first touchdown of the game

Inside the stadium, there are numerous fast food, beverage and merchandise outlets wherever you turn, with beer available in aluminium bottlecans, plastic bottles or plastic cups, but no glass. If you don't want to eat in your seat, there are sit down restaurants, but we were happy eating in our seats. Especially as our seats were right in front of the Papa Murphy's Pizza outlet, which also happened to serve 20 ounce cups of beer.

Jarret Black takes a knee with 26 seconds left in the game to seal the win for the 49ers

Meanwhile, on the field, the 49ers were chasing a perfect preseason record of 4 wins from 4 games. Things were looking good with a touchdown on their opening drive, and when they held the Chargers scoreless for the entire first half, adding a field goal to their own tally in the second quarter, things were looking even better. Two touchdowns by the Chargers in the third quarter turned things back in San Diego's favour, but the 49ers came through in the fourth quarter with another touchdown and managed to shut down San Diego's final charge with about 25 seconds left on the game clock.

In'n'Out burger, not only great food, but a dining room that open after football games

After a visit to one of the larger merchandise shops at the stadium, we headed back to the Caddy and off towards San Jose, although the best route to San Jose after a 49ers game involves heading further north towards downtown San Francisco before you can get away from the traffic and head for home. By this time we were all feeling like a bit to eat, so we stopped in at an In'n'Out for a burger and some fries.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

San Francisco and Marin Headlands

Today we headed up to San Francisco for the day, visiting Fishermans Wharf first to look for souvenirs and to have lunch, before heading across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County.

The famous Sea Lion population at San Francisco's Pier 39 is significantly smaller it has been over the past 20 years, but there are still a handful around to entertain the tourists

We visited the former Nike Missile Site SF-88, in the Marin Headlands, the only former Nike Site in the United States that has been restored and opened up to the public.

For your safety, it is advised you do not climb on the big noodle

SF-88 is a fairly typical Cold War era Nike Missile site, of which there were approximately 300 throughout the United States and it's overseas bases. The site has been restored by a team of volunteers to a point where it appears to be almost fully operational, and is under the care of the Goldan Gate Park and the National Parks Service.

Not only is the SF-88 tour free, it also includes a visit underground to see the missile storage bunker

Nike Site SF-88 was constructed in 1954 and originally built for and equipped with Nike-Ajax Surface to Air missiles. In 1959 SF-88 was converted to fire the Nike-Hercules nuclear warhead missiles, which carried a payload roughly equivalent to twice as powerful as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki at the end of the second World War.

A Nike Hercules missile on the launch pad at SF-88

SF-88 was part of an 11 site Coastal Defence network for the San Francisco area, and all the missiles it housed were designed to fire at air borne targets. By 1974 the face of warfare had changed again, and the Nike missile system was no match for a fleet of submarines launching ICBM's at targets thousands of miles away. This site was shut down in 1974 and for at least the last 20 years has been in a constant state of restoration to maintain it as close to it's early 1970's appearance as possible.

Two radar units at SF-88, the one on the left is a general scanning unit while the one on the right is used for tracking the missile and it's target

After leaving site SF-88, we headed over to the local town of Sausalito for some gas and for a look around. Sausalito is home to the Bay Model, a huge scale model of the San Francisco Bay, however as we didn't leave SF-88 until almost 4:30, we were too late getting to Sausalito to check out the Bay Model.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, viewed from Fort Point

We then headed back towards San Francisco, stopping at the Marin County end of the Golden Gate Bridge to take a few photos and look out over the bay, before taking a drive around some of San Francisco then back to the Presidio district and down to Fort Point, where I had been to take photos a year ago. We had a walk around the outside of the Fort, which was not open to the public today, took a few photos and then jumped back in the Caddy.

The Palace of the Fine Arts at dusk, lighting just starting to take effect

Another short drive later and we were at the Palace of the Fine Arts. Last time we were in San Francisco there were signs at the Palace of the Fine Arts announcing an intention to restore the Palace area to it's former glory, and today I was happy to see that the outdoor part of the Palace has been fenced off to begin that restoration, even though it meant that we couldn't walk through the tall columns and under the enormous dome of the Palace. Instead, we viewed the Palace from the other side of the lake, took a few photos and then headed back down to Fishermans Wharf for dinner, although we did detour to drive down the windy part of Lombard Street, something that I've done before in the long Caddy, but I still find enjoyable.

San Francisco's Fog City Diner

Tonight we ate at the Fog City Diner, featured in the movie "So I Married an Axe Murderer" and recognisable to most who have driven along the Embarcadero as the shiny stainless steal diner with bright neon trim. The Fog City Diner is an upscale diner serving good food at reasonable prices, and we had an enjoyable night there before the drive home to San Jose.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sacramento Day Trip

Today we took a day trip to Sacramento. Sacramento is the capital city of California, and around 2 hours drive from San Jose.

The girls at Fremont coffee hut Your Coffee Cups

Our initial plan was to drive up in the morning, taking a small detour to check out a bikini barista stand in Warm Springs, spend most of the day in Sacramento and drive back in the early evening, stopping at Sonic Drive-In in Fremont on the way back for dinner. We almost kept to that schedule too, with a few small issues along the way.

Your Coffee Cups, in Fremont, California

The battery in the Cadillac let us down for the third time in the 4500 miles we've done in the last 4 and a half weeks, and we decided to replace it on the way to Sacramento, which we did outside an Autozone near Warm Springs, while sipping tasty beverages from the Your Coffee Cups coffee stands at the corner of Mission Boulevarde and Warm Springs Boulevarde. Your Coffee Cups is staffed by young female uni students in bikini's, who, asides from a $9 an hour retainer, work primarily for tips. They're also not bad at making coffee, and the owner reportedly has plans to open up more of these bikini coffee huts around the Bay Area.

A board track racer style bike for sale at SoCal

Once we'd added a lunch break into the mix, we'd managed to add almost 2 hours to our original plan of a 2 hour drive from San Jose to Sacramento, but we did eventually pull up out the front of SoCal Speed Shop's Sacramento store around 2pm. We headed inside and did a little shopping, coming out with yet more shirts, stickers and badges, and even some car parts too. Being very early in the project at the moment, it was hard for me to find anything to suit my 37 Chevrolet pickup, but I did end up buying some air cleaners to suit the small Holley carburettors often used on flathead motors. I'm currently fairly well set on using a flathead in this build, and would like to attempt to get it working with triple carbs, so I bought 3 air cleaners for the job.

The California State Capitol as seen from the street

After leaving SoCal, we headed to the California State Capitol building in downtown Sacramento, and took a look around some of the historic office exhibits. We also managed to find some maps in the gift shop showing the states of California and Nevada on the same map, and actually showing almost all the locations we've visited over the last couple of weeks.

Just one of the cars on display at Sacramento Vintage Ford

We then headed a little further out of town, to Sacramento Vintage Ford. Friends who had been here before had insisted this shop was a must visit while in Northern California, and they weren't wrong. The showroom here is huge, with several show quality cars on display, a huge gift store, a parts store and call centre and even a diner inside the showroom. Once again, shirts and stickers were a large part of the haul from Sacramento Vintage Ford and once we were finished up here, we headed for our final Sacramento stop.

Another of the display cars at Sacramento Vintage Ford

Our last stop in Sacramento was a visit to the local outlet stores, where we visited the third Converse outlet store we've been to so far on the trip. These are my personal favourite when it comes to outlet stores, as they always have a different selection of very cheap shoes on the back wall, so that's where I head as soon as we come across one. This particular Converse store didn't disapppoint, with the three of us all walking out with a pair of shoes in hand.

The Cadillac at Sonic Drive-In

We then headed for home, but with one more stop programmed in the GPS. I'd heard of Sonic Drive-In before, and in particular was keen to see their carhop service in action. Unfortunately, we pulled into the lot about 5 minutes too late to actually be able to partake of the carhop service, which involves ordering into one of the microphones placed next to each of the parking bays in the Sonic lot, and the server bringing your food out to you when they collect your payment. As it was, we had to be content with ordering and picking up our food through the drive through window and then parking in a bay to eat it, before making the final half hour drive back to San Jose.