Saturday, July 18, 2009

Viva Las Vegas!

Greetings from Las Vegas where it is every bit as mental and a lot more than we expected! We have survived our first night on the strip and only managed to lose other people's money!!Tonight we are going to try and win our fortune! We have eaten dinner in Paris, watched the gondolas sail by in Venice , bought some ridiculously tacky souvenirs and even met midget Elvis!

Since our last blog we have spent 3 days in Yosemite hiking in the heat and lolling in the waterfalls as as our reward! Our first morning we awoke to a bear right outside our tent which was very exciting until he tried to actually come in our door! Later that - day a 3 foot rattle snake crossed our path and then a deer led the way on our hike home. We saw a vulture soaring to the ground at about 300 mph and we have even spotted a coyote!

We left Yosemite and headed to Bodie - a real live ghost town in the middle of nowhere where loads of the stuff has been left as it was. It hasn't been inhabited since 1930 so pretty amazing and eerie to see all the stuff like beer bottles on the bar and the beds and chairs and wallpaper falling off the walls. Onwards from Bodie we had a 5 hour drive to Death Valley - the second highest temperature in the world was recorded here in 1913 and has only been topped by Libya coming in at 2 degrees higher at 136 f. We arrived at 10pm and the only way I can describe it is like stepping into an oven , the air was unbelievably hot and the temperature was still over 100 f at that time of night . The pool was full of people trying to cool down! The next morning we went to the general store (the only other building apart from the saloon!) with the intention of buying some eggs in order to do some scientific research (how long would it take to fry and egg on the roadside!) However it seems we aren't the first visitors to the area to want to try this and the park ranger has forbidden the store from selling eggs because they are creating too much mess on the roads!!
The highest it got up to when we were there was 125 - consequently the petrol decided to boil in the tank and for a while we thought we might actually die in the desert! We had been driving along a 9 mile loop in the middle of nowhere and suddenly we were been intoxicated with petrol fumes coming through the AC. The fuel gauge was dropping rapidly as nervous laughter rose from me and Jo! My first thought was to phone Christopher or Dad and ask for advice but not even a bar of signal on the phone so we were on our own to work this one out!
We hailed down some French tourists and asked them to go in convoy with us back to the nearest sign of civilisation , which fortunately was only 5 miles away. Once we reached there we let the car cool down and tried to cool ourselves down with bags of ice on our heads! Turning off the AC and a little rest for the car seemed to do the trick and onwards bound to Las Vegas we went (via some of the most hillbilly towns I've ever seen!) One of them even had speed boats for sale - not sure where they were going to go with them though considering we couldn't have been further from the water!

And so here we are in Vegas about to head out for the second night of gambling and general craziness!! On to Grand Canyon tomorrow for a few days to recover in nature!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Boston Tea Party and escaping form Alcatraz!!

Hello everybody! Apolgies for the delay in updates, we have been all go since we left , can't believe it's only been ten days since we left Ireland! We had mixed weather in Boston, more bad then good which wasn't a great start to our year in the sun! However we made the most of the sunny days and lounged on the beach looking like super skinny supermodels as we snacked on carrot sticks and hummus in comparison to the non-stop fried food gorging of the obese and getting-there obese Americans that came out in force for July 4th!

We now know more about the American Revolution than we know about any Irish history having walked the Freedom Trail one morning we then reinforced our learing with a Duck tour in the afternoon!We have visited the graves of all the head honchos involved in the Revolution and walked Boston city from South to North and East to West!We have also made it a priority to visit as many eating places as possible since arriving and of course have had a gorge fest in 'Heavenly Donuts' -when in Rome and all that!Jo and myselof excelled ourselves by getting through donut, muffin and bagel each all in one setting - we stumbled out of the store wobbling and giggling form the sugar rush!Thank you to Heather and Hunter for their hopitality and friendship and for making our stay on the East coast 'wicked cool'!!!

And so we are now in the much sunnier and somewhat healthier state of California! We touched down on a fabulous or shoulod I say 'beautiful' day and found our way on the BART to our hotel - first piece of independent map reading on our trip a success!We spent the day exploring the touristy spots and have both fallen in love with San Francisco - this city has everything to offer - for those of you who haven't been - get your asses over here!

Day 2 we fell on our feet when we met Frank - he will be featuring in our blogs for the next few weeks!! For those of you who don't know Frank he is a guy one of my friends from Boston knows and he asked him if he'd take us on a tour of the city. However Frank has excelled himself as tour guide and has become our new BFF! Unfortunately for Frank the recession cut him a bad deal ,but fortunately for us this means we have a full time tour guide and he is now accompanying us on our 3 week roadtrip around California. So if you're wondering who the guy is in all of our pictures for the next while that's him!

So we have seen pretty much the entire city of San Francisco and have had a day trip across the bridge to Muir Woods to see the giant red trees.On from there we drove the most amazing coastal drive and ended the day driving his speed boat around the bay at his parent's house where we completed our visit with champagne, strawberries and a BBQ as we sunned oursleves on the deck of the house that hangs over the dock - not a bad day in the life of a backpacker!!!!

We are now on our last night in San Francisco and today I successfully managed to escape from Alcatraz!! Jo and myself took the ferry out to Alcatraz island yesterday to look around and had a tour of the cell block - amazing place. Saw where Al Capone's cell was and spent 20 seconds in the pitch dark in a confinement cell. We had a lucky escape as the prisoners put in here used to have to spend 19 days in here with no light, bread and water for food and no toilet - nice!!

Looking out of the ferry enroute to the island I was beginning to get a bit freaked about the upcoming swim the following day , water was rough and looked cold and it looked way more than 1.5 miles to shore! However I tried to enjoy the ecperience and when we returned to the city I tried not to get upset by the fact that it was Saturday night, the city was buzzing and all I had to look forward to was weatching a DVD on the currents of the SF Bay, packing my race bag and getting up at 4.30 am!!!

So today started with a 4.30 am rise , I boliled some eggs , heated a power bar in the microwave (top tip form the DVD!!) and put on every warm layer I had in my rucksack, grabbed my wetsuit and walked the 15 minutes to sign on and transition - all the time trying not to panic!!! This was the first time I'd done any kind of race without someone I know by my side - a little bit daunting but done now! So I signed on, got the goody bag and headed over to get some permanent marker numbers sprawled over my legs and hand. Then it was off to find a spot in transition. I won't bore the non-triathletes , but for those of you in the know US transition areas kick ass!

I managed to get my spot by letter J - took this as a good omen! Boarded the trolley / cable car at 6.05 ( a very funny sight as trolleys full of shivering people in wetsuits headed up the main street!) Arrived at the ferry terminal at 6.15 and had to stand around in the very cold and foggy weather until 7.30. I made sure I consulted the sighting map very carefully and asked as many questions as I could! Then a flag was raised , a typically American cheer was roared and all 700 of us were hoarded onto the ferry - it was like loading on cattle! We sat on the floor in our wetsuits. I kept myslef busy for the 10 minute ride stretching and adjusting and re-adjusting my goggles, wondering if I should remove the 3rd hat I was wearing in case I overheated! Seemingly the water was 62 degrees F - which was warmer than usual so that was a good sign!

The sighting markers were pointed out to us as we went along , although we had to scrunch up our eys and use our imagination to decipher where they actually where as the fog / mist was so thick. I desperately tried to locate any recognisable and big buildings as we were warned the currect would take us right out under the Golden Gate Bridge if we didn't follow the right sighting markers - obviously I didn't want to go there as the 5 types of shark that live in these waters like to hang out there!

We reach Alcatraz island and the ferry is held in place. We are told we have 7 minutes to get everyone off. 125 people must jump off every minute , 3 at each door and there are only 4 doors. So we line up and wait for the countdown. There's a lot of 'yeahing' and 'hollering' and applauding and suddenly we're at 10 seconds, final adjustment of the goggles before the 8-10 foot jump off into the unknown. Suddenly there's a hand on my shoulder and I'm told to go , the trick is jump and swim like crazy so the next 3 people don't land on top of you. So off I go!

I was pleasantly surprised that there was no ice-cream freeze headache and the water was warmer than home - maybe 3 hats is the way to go!! I kept my building in sight and followed their instructions to the tee , as they said the current will help you if you don't fight it. Surprisingly I enjoyed the choppy water and the roll of the waves. I just kept praying a kayak wouldn't come up and tell me I had to get in a boat to be repositioned and luckily my prayers were answered and in I floated in about an hour later to the beach. Dolpion dived out onto the beach and was cheered on by Jo screaming at me.So nice to have some support , although as soon as I was out of the water I could now really enjoy the race so off I headed up towards the bridge. Great run, although couldn't see anything till the last 5 k 'cus of the fog. Not sure of results yet but really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it!!

Anyway sorry to bore all the non-triathletes with that last bit!Jo has successfully run across the bridge and back too - she felt she had to do it in order to earn her afternoon cocktails which we are about to go for!! So we will leave you for now. Until our next update xoxox