Straight for the Golden State

Welcome back, it’s a miracle you’re still here really. But that’s not important so I’ll try and stop wasting our time and get right back into where I left off. After managing to escape that encounter with the creepy girl from Iowa, I awoke in a new state! State number 10: Colorado! The views from the train were incredible as we travelled onward. There were rocky mountains everywhere, but there were also green fields and snow covered mountains, making for a very varied and fascinating landscape.

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Colorado was also the state where the creepy girl was getting off. In the morning, Hugo had gone somewhere on his own to explore the train. Creepy girl seemed to want to talk to him before she left, but clearly she was out of luck. So she ended up talking to the person Hugo was sitting next to on the train and told him to give him her number! Something tells me Hugo won’t be calling her back. During breakfast in Sandy’s cafe car, Hugo told us about what had happened after I left and it sounded like she just got even weirder with the things she was saying to him, which once again I don’t really feel right about writing here (just know it was more unnecessary intimate details…). At least Caitlin found the whole thing very funny when we told her all about it.

Breakfast in the cafe car was nice, and it was made a whole lot better by just being in Sandy’s presence. I spent most of the day just writing in my journal (which would later get turned into this very blog post). We also met some other much more normal and friendlier people on the train and ended up chatting and playing cards with them to pass the time. One of them was from Paris and another one was American but could speak french fluently.  So at one point Hugo, Caitlin and the other 2 were just chatting away in French, and I was just sat there with no clue what was going on. Maybe I should have tried harder at french in school!

Later on in the journey, we stopped at a station in Colorado which provided an opportunity to actually get off the train, stretch our legs and just generally not be on a train for a bit. The train was only stopping for about 10 minutes so we had to be quick with whatever we were doing, as if we didn’t get back on in time, then we were pretty much screwed. At this station, me and Hugo tried using one of the vending machines to get some snacks, but typically it wasn’t really working. We asked someone to come and fix it, and by the time it was eventually fixed a queue had developed and so we had to wait to get our snacks. I only wanted some mini cookies! Caitlin and Hugo had gone into a small store whilst I was waiting to get my cookies, but by the time I had finally got to the machine the train conductors were now beginning to shout in a ridiculously loud voice “ALL ABOARD!!!”. I suddenly got very panicked and decided to give up on using the vending machine and hurry back onto the train.

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^me abandoning the vending machine and running back onto the train

Typical, just as I was about to use it I had to leave or risk being abandoned at a random train station in Colorado. I just wanted some cookies! When I sat down, I realised that Hugo and Caitlin were still in the store when the call came to get back on the train! I felt pretty bad for just leaving and not checking on them before getting on the train. I get very easily flustered so being shouted at with “ALL ABOARD!”, is enough to panic me and make me not think before acting. Thankfully they both got back on the train with no problem, I just worry too much!

In the evening, we had another meal courtesy of Sandy and her cafe car. During our meal we entered Utah: my 11th state in the U.S. By this point the landscape around us was almost exclusively rocky mountains, canyons and dry plains, honestly though it was pretty cool, as in Wales there’s nothing like it at all, so I was really enjoying the views. Tomorrow would be our final day on the train, with another 2 states still to pass through. San Francisco here we come!

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During the night we passed through yet another state, state number 12; Nevada! When I woke up, we’d almost gone completely through it! From the very little of the landscape that I saw, it was yet again more desert like with not much else to it. But it’s still very different and fascinating to see. Before we knew it we were in California! (state number 13!) I’ve got to say California is a very visually pleasing state, as it’s got something for everyone. Dry desert? No problem! Mountain ranges? Sure! Lush forests? They got it! Bustling cities? look no further! Amazing beaches? it’s got it all!

It was also amazing to finally see the sea again and not another lake! Not only that, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen or been near the Pacific ocean! So I guess that’s another thing to tick off the imaginary list!

The train wasn’t actually going all the way into San Francisco, and we’d have to get off at a place called Emeryville, which was just across the bridge from San Francisco. Although it was nice to finally get off the train, I was certainly going to miss it (and Sandy of course! Who could forget Sandy!?). We said goodbye to the friends we made on the train and went outside the station to wait for our shuttle bus into the city. Not only did the bus take a long time getting to the station, but when it did finally arrive, it took an absolute age to get going as well. I think the driver just liked to talk to people as they got on the bus.

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Arriving in the city was an interesting experience as it must have been rush hour or something similar as it took forever to get across the bridge into the city centre. There was just an endless amount of cars! Once we were in at last, we now had to make our way to the hostel we’d be staying at. We figured the quickest way to get there would be by the subway which wasn’t too far away from the bus station. The stop we got on was above ground and we couldn’t see any ticket machines anywhere. The train we needed was just on the platform, so we just went straight on the train not wanting to wait for another train. I was surprised to find that on the actual subway cars there was a display thing that said how much you needed to pay which I assumed you used your ticket on. It kept beeping relentlessly which just stressed me out no end. I kept thinking someone was going to tell us off through the speakers, or in person. Luckily no one did come up to us and we managed to get off at our stop with no problem. We did. But not without a bit of awkwardness, as in order to get out of the station you needed to use your ticket to pass through the barriers. We had no ticket. We had no choice but to go up to the guy in the booth and ask him to let us through. Just as he let us though and as I walked past him he said “You’re under arrest!”

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I quickly turned my head in disbelief to face him,as he followed up by saying “gotcha” with a smirk on his face! NOT FUNNY MAN!!!

Anyway, after I’d returned to my body after briefly jumping out of my skin, we arrived at the hostel after making our way through a portion of the San Francisco city. The hostel ended up being much older than the one in Chicago, and to be honest it didn’t feel as friendly as that one either. Well actually if I’m being brutally honest, the hostel sucked! The WiFi was awful, the room had no sockets, except for 2 in the bathroom! The mattresses were paper thin , I saw a mouse in our room at one point, and you had to pay $3 to borrow a gross rental towel! But it was cheap and a place to sleep and I guess that’s all we really needed.

By the time we’d gotten ourselves situated it was around dinner time and so we went off in the search of food. We didn’t really feel like wandering around a long time trying to find food, so we just went to an Indian restaurant nearby. It was a welcome change from all the cheap food on the train. But I was a bit miffed, as I ordered a sprite with my meal and it never came! I only want small things, why can’t I just get some small cookies and a sprite on this portion of the journey.

After we’d refueled ourselves on Indian food, we felt a bit more ready to do some exploring, and let me tell you, this city is no joke when it comes to the slopes and hills. It’s just as ridiculous as you’ve probably heard. Building wise, it’s not that different to any other city, but the fact that these buildings are built on massive slopes and inclines is crazy! Some of the place names in the city were also a bit ridiculous; ‘Tender Loin’ and ‘Knob Hill’ being some of my favourites (I’m sure you should all know this by now, but I just love funny place names!). Whilst we were walking through Chinatown, we also saw what I think is my favourite Chinese restaurant name ever; ‘Dick Lee’ (the more you think about it the funnier it gets).

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We ended our little wander for the evening in Union Square, which had a giant Apple store on one end and a giant shopping centre esque building on the other side. In this building there was a Cheesecake Factory, so of course we had to go there! (Ever since coming home to the UK, I’ve seriously been struggling living in a country that doesn’t have a single Cheesecake Factory! I miss it so much!). We’d already had dinner so we only went to get cheesecake to go (which is still amazing). Myself and Hugo ended up sharing a big piece of Oreo cheesecake that we ate back at the hostel. I was still full the next morning!

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The next day on June the 2nd was our first full day in San Francisco. I awoke in our room (which was for 4 people, but there was only 3 of us when we arrived and went to sleep), to having a random person sleeping on the bunk bed above mine. We didn’t know who they were at all and must have arrived when we were all fast asleep. Caitlin and Hugo weren’t in the room either, I assumed they’d gotten up and went to get breakfast, pancakes downstairs. Just as I was about to get up, the mystery person got up and went into the bathroom and started having a shower! I was very annoyed at this, solely due to the fact that the only sockets were in there, and now my phone was locked in the bathroom away from me! I just had to grin and bear it and go downstairs without my phone and hope it would be alright.

After breakfast we decided to go out and visit the piers in San Fran and eventually make our way closer to the golden gate bridge and Presidio park. So we set off (after I eventually was able to retrieve my phone), and very early on in our walk we got to experience the more of the weird San Francisco terrain (mainly the killer hills).

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Caitlin conquering those killer hills, whilst I slowly suffer in the shade

It was very busy at the piers, Pier 39 which apparently is quite a famous one, is where we first turned our attention too. Although to be honest I wasn’t sure which one it was as all the piers just sort of merged all together along one strip. But I know we did see a really cool pier that just had a bunch of sea lions chilling on a platform next to it. We explored at our own pace, and eventually came across another pier that had an arcade museum in it, which was a rather unexpected surprise. So we spent some time there just going through some of the older arcade games.

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Being close to the sea meant that there were a lot of seafood stalls and stores, so of course that presented itself as a good idea for lunch. I was originally just going to go for a burger, but then I noticed that they did fish and chips! So it was in a way a given that I had to try it and see what it was like. Although I’m sad to report that the battered fish was absolutely tiny compared to the massive piece of cod that you can usually get in the UK. It was a bit of a rip off really. After food we kept on walking, only for me to come to the realization that the umbrella wasn’t with us! We’d taken it with us today in the hopes of eventually finding a pawn shop. The thought of having our stolen umbrella get stolen was a very perplexing and conflicting thought. Luckily Hugo knew where he’d left it; at the arcade museum. Hugo went off to go and try to retrieve it, whilst myself and Caitlin had a little wander around a gift shop. Hugo eventually returned victorious with the umbrella in hand.

We kept walking and followed a path along piers, beaches and parks. The path was also shared with cyclists who became rather annoying. Written on the path was ‘yield to pedestrians’, but apparently cyclists can’t read and would just ring their irritable bells as they approached us. It was so frustrating, and it eventually got so bad that Hugo would start yelling “YIELD!” at any cyclist that would have the audacity to ring their stupid bells at us!

After a lot of walking we made it to a rather large park which turned out to be the ‘Palace of Fine Arts’ (it sounds very grand doesn’t it). It featured some very cool ancient (but not actually) architecture which was very stunning. A fun little tidbit of info for you, this place was the first time I ever saw a wild tortoise just chilling on his own by a pond. We then proceeded to Presidio Park on the lookout for the Walt Disney museum. We got a bit lost here, even with the help of google maps we still couldn’t figure out the layout. Also I don’t really consider it a park, it was way to urban to be considered a park for my liking. It did however get us relatively close to the Golden Gate Bridge (this was the closest we were going to get), as we were exhausted by now from all the walking. After eventually finding the Walt Disney museum, we found out that admission was $30 each and decided that it wasn’t worth it, so we just ended up sitting on these weird curved chairs in the “park”. We then just decided to take a bus back to the hostel as there was no way we were walking all that way back!

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When we got back to the hostel we had to come up with a plan for what to do for the next few days as we’d only booked the hostel for 2 days. Hugo suggested we rent a car and visit a National Park and stay there for a day and night. I didn’t have any other ideas and that did sound pretty good so we ended up renting a car for tomorrow! In the evening we went to try and sell the umbrella at a pawn shop again after failing several times before. But once again we were met with failure, we just couldn’t get rid of the damn thing! The worst part was that we had to walk past the really shady part of town, with drug addict and crack heads for as far as the eye can see. I’d get super nervous anytime anyone looked like they would come up and approach us, I was very glad when we finally left there.

For food that evening, we went out to a Thai restaurant, which was very nice and all good, but was rather spoiled by the fact that at the end of the meal when I was paying, the woman asked for more of a tip straight to my face. I get that the whole tip culture is different in the U.S. than in the UK, but that just seems a bit too much and just comes off as rude. Our day ended by going to a comedy club show in a bar downtown, which thankfully didn’t require any ID to get into. I can’t recall all of the jokes, but it was very funny and all the comedians were very good at reading the audience and their reactions. It had certainly been a very busy and entertaining full day in San Francisco. But up next for us was more of California and Yosemite National Park!

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That’ll do for now I guess. The final adventure had almost come to an end, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it so far, and that you’re looking forward to the conclusion of my travels. Thanks for sticking with it! Until next time.

TTFN

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