Beyond the superlatives, California represents especially the American exoticism to its paroxysm. Renowned worldwide, California has a great reputation, halfway between paradise and El Dorado. In the collective imagination the state of California is an infinite variation on the theme of the sun, the blond sand and the surf, punctuated by high snowy and majestic mountains, grandiose lakes, primary forests with exotic species, vast desert regions, high palms and of course incredibly excessive cities.
What’s better than a Chevrolet Camaro to cross California from East to West and a little bit of Nevada.
Day 1 & 2 : San Francisco
First leg of my journey, San Francisco is the iconic city of Silicon Valley. Extravagant and surprising, this city combines the charm of the Old Continent with the eccentricity of the New World. The arrival is already a delight because it occupies a privileged site, at the end of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the bay of San Francisco. Standing in the middle of the landscape, the Golden Gate Bridge, inaugurated in 1937, hangs over the water 2.7 km long. The automobile still has its place in this city but unlike old times, the hunky American, burbling V8s have been replaced by car models found in Europe like the Fiat 500, BMW 3 Series and Toyota Prius’… The later for greener reasons of course. Here I preferred to explore San Francisco’s hidden jewels by foot, leaving the car in one of the rather expensive parking lots.
Day 3 : Sequoia National Park
What’s better than a breath of fresh air after spending two days in the city! Located about 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are side by side in east central California.
These parks are renowned for their giant redwood trees, which includes the General Sherman, a sequoia measuring 83 meters in height (the equivalent of 30 floors). It is aged between 2300 and 2700 years and weighs an unimaginable 1.385 tons… Its trunk rises 31 straight above the ground while its bark is about a meter thick! I have no doubts that General Sherman is accurately the largest known single stem tree on the entire planet. With such settings, it was idea to “cruise” in breathtaking landscapes covered with Sequoia that have been unfortunate victims to recent California fires.
Day 4 : Glennville / Death Valley National Park
Depart for the Death Valley with our faithful Chevrolet Camaro by small roads that take us through Glennville where I stop in a saloon. A little later on the way, we meet a bunch of old bikers on the side of the road. A round of beer and a world of conversation for half-hour before we return to our own paths.
After 7 hours of steep roads through other Sequoia and finally the desert, we arrive at our destination. The Death Valley National Park is one of the largest national parks in the United States, and one of the most beautiful, while also being one of the hottest and driest areas on Earth.
A hell ? Yes and no, because if the temperatures in summer are unbearable (about 45 ° C in the shade with peaks at 50 ° C) it is not the case late November or the temperatures are much softer. The Death Valley landscapes are fascinating and unique in the world. A show with incredible colors and shapes, especially at dawn and dusk. A must-visit in California … by air-conditioned car, of course! The driving pleasure is nevertheless smaller than in the vicinity of Sequoia Park because the roads are much more monotonous.
Day 5 : Las Vegas
After a good night, we leave for the gambling city, towards the small town of Pahrump in the middle of the desert. To my surprise, I come across a small garage full of cars that belonged to the Golden Age of the American motoring.
The city of Las Vegas in Nevada is a full of excitement. It is only appropriate that it is so as Vegas holds the title of being the world’s largest city of adult games and shows. It is a desert-based community in the Mojave Desert in Nevada in the form of an oasis with gambling and entertainment to attract and entertain adults after the war, especially Los Angeles residents. Everything in this glittering city has been done to a scale that is unimaginable elsewhere… Here, the Chevrolet Camaro stays docile in the parking.
Day 6 : Grand Canyon & Laughlin
After a short night, we leave to Boulder City by bus to join the heliport to take off to the Grand Canyon. Once again, we fly through beautiful landscapes. We landed in the bed of this Canyon to make a little break before returning to Boulder City.
With memories of Vegas still in our mind, we head out to the city of Laughlin in Southern Nevada. Here, casinos are the main attraction, although on a much smaller scale as compared to Vegas as the player here aren’t as extravagant as the comes going to the bigger city. Everything in sight and in touch looked and felt more obsolete. We soon realize that we are in Deep America.
Day 7 : Route 66 and Palm Springs
It’s time to join the legendary Route 66 from Fenner to Barstow. First surprise, the road is closed to Fenner because difficult to pass (bridges had collapsed according to the locals). We nevertheless decide to give it a go.
After a few miles to Essex, we came to face wit reality as it was impossible to continue further without risking a rather hefty fine. So instead, we headed in the other direction to join the I-40 to Cadiz where we can resume our trip back on the legendary Route 66.
Further on we arrive at Amboy, a once prosperous city until the construction of the motorway. There are only 4 people left and everything is more or less abandoned aside from the Roy’s Motel & Café, a small gas station with its mini shop that serves coffee.
After a short break, we continue and arrive at the last leg of our journey on Route 66: The Bagdad Café. This little bar and restaurant in the middle of nowhere has been made famous by the movie of the same name (American title: Out of Rosenheim). There’s not much left here too, with the cafe giving an almost run down feel, surviving on almost no maintenance. The mistress of this place lives on the nostalgia of the film that is most prominently known well only to the French as it won the Cesar (French national film award) for the best foreign movie in 1988.
Since we arrived late to Palm Springs, we couldn’t see much of the city. Instead with decided to give ourselves some rest and energise for the next day to Santa Barbara.
Day 8 : Santa Barbara
Located two hours drive from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is known as the home of many Hollywood and California media personalities. Stress does not seem to be there and it’s good to live there. In France, we mostly know this small town of 90000 inhabitants for its namesake TV show during 80/90s. Here we exchange our Chevrolet Camaro for bicycles, much more convenient.
Day 9 : San Francisco
Back to the city where we had started after completing a loop of more than 3000Km. A last visit, Alcatraz which finally disappointed me because the place is not, from my point of view, not sufficiently highlighted in relation to its history.
We are now back in Paris in the gray and the cold. It is now time to remember this American trip before the Christmas and may be tempt you for a future trip to Uncle Sam’s country. For now, signing off… Antoine. Instagram | Facebook.