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it's a long way from whitley bay... Hi everyone and welcome to our journal where you can see and read what we've been up to and where we're going next. We hope you enjoy it, and would love you to keep in touch with your news, and send us your comments! Lots of love, Sarah and Phil x ;)

Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Vancouver, Seattle & San Francisco

USA | Tuesday, 12 August 2008 | Views [7282] | Comments [6]

Hi everyone,

Sorry it's been a while - we've been making the most of our last couple of weeks of freedom (arrrgh - mild panic!!) and packing it all in as usual, so there's lots to tell you about again.

After leaving you in Utah last week, we decided to make the most of the National Parks pass that we'd invested in, and spent the next two days touring around the big wilderness areas of the north west - Grand Teton and Yellowstone in Wyoming.

The Teton mountains are part of the Rockies, and were named after members of a French expedition were reminded of erm big bosoms! Blooming French, bringing the tone of our blog down, tch. Makes you wonder how they'd feel if a U.S. party turned up and re-christened the Pyrenees 'lil' dunkin' donuts'...

Sarah by Lake Jenny - and Phil, trying his best to snap his ankle so we might stop a while longer...

The park really was stunningly beautiful and we had a lovely day ambling about, and hopping in and out of the car to have a look at things. For those of you that haven't had the chance to visit U.S. National Parks, they are quite different to ours, and you have to get used to doing things a bit differently. The obvious thing is the scale - so it is great that they have well-thought out scenic roads to give those with little time, like us, a taster of the best bits. And of course there is no Kendal mint cake!

The northern parks are also extremely rich with wildlife, partly to the credit of early management of human use of the parks (though they didn't always go about that in totally the right way, it has at least kept these parts of the 'wild west' properly wild). So even from the car we were able to see bison, elk, antelope, beavers, raccoons and bighorn sheep.

Bison right outside our car window

We did also manage a walk up to 'Inspiration Point', overlooking Lake Jenny - in our flip flops (raising a few eyebrows amongst the better prepared hikers!). It was a lovely walk, passing rivers, waterfalls, and of course the big Tetons themselves.

The following day we drove up to Yellowstone, which is really enormous (the circular route around it is about 100 miles in circumference!)  - so it was really a whistle-stop tour, but fantastic to get a glimpse of the main features the park has to offer. And they are features and a half!

Firstly, we had time for a picnic while waiting for the famous Old Faithful geyser to erupt - a full 7 minutes late, so not so faithful to the timetable after all. He must be getting cantankerous in his old age!

The old geezer comes to life (check out the crowd!)

Then on to the spectacular canyon of the Yellowstone river, via more geothermal features, lakes, snakey rivers, stalagmite-filled valleys... There are so many amazing things to see, but time is tight - both yours and ours! - so a small sample of pictures might be a more efficient way of sharing them with you...

Yellowstone sights

We also saw a forest fire which had started to the east of the lake, and looked pretty dramatic as clouds of smoke rose into the sky. They seemed to get it under control pretty quickly though - it seemed pretty much par for the course at this time of year. Apparently though one of the firefighters was attacked by a bear who had been woken from his slumber by the fire and wasn't too happy about it. Scarey!

Fire in the park

One final Yellowstone 'highlight' we must mention though, is that we spotted an Alaska number plate in the car park! Now this might not be the holiday anecdote that has you logging on to lastminute.com in droves, but it was pretty exciting for us because, like the big geeks that we are, we've been playing that long car journey classic 'spot the car plates from all the U.S. states' - and had had Alaska on the 'doubtful' list from the outset. So it was with some excitement that we ticked it off. Hopefully the driver of the car wasn't too perturbed by our pointing and high-fiving as we drove by...

We still have South Carolina to get for the full set - but are hopeful for a spot when we fly back east to Boston for the weekend. Watch this space!

On leaving the park, we had a beautiful drive through Montana, for a long time following the Yellowstone river through 'big sky' country, which looked especially golden and delicious in the fading sunlight. Which proved a distraction too far for Sarah, who got pulled over for a wee little bit of speeding. She got away with a pep talk and a warning from the police officer who must have had a soft spot for English blondes. Phew!

Big sky country in Montana - surely there'll not be any traffic cops round here...

Next day we had a long drive across to Seattle (about 560 miles) - which we took at a slightly more steady pace (at least until we got into the state of Washington, where the warning doesn't count-tee hee!). We got there by 4pm, in time for a coffee (of course) a look around the enormous Pike Place market and Belltown (birthplace of grunge).

From our brief glimpse, Seattle seemed a nice, offbeat sort of a place, where you'd definitely still feel at home in a lumberjack shirt and bleached out mop (as long as you didn't work at that other Seattle institution, Microsoft - we spotted some mini-Gates's on a corporate bus, looking like fully paid up members of the chinos and blazers club!)

Pike Place Market in Seattle and Sarah enjoying a celebratory wine after we finally made it to the west coast!

On Wednesday, we drove up to Vancouver for a day trip. Again we only really had a taster, but it seemed a very attractive, progressive sort of a place with lovely parks, funky modern architecture, and our favourite bit, Granville Island, home to loads of art galleries, shops, bars etc. and colourful floating houses. You can definitely see why Vancouver is so often voted one of the best places in the world to live. Here's proof that you really can't have everything though - there were hardly any tacky fridge magnets to be seen! Poor Vancouver.

Vancouver: nice parks and funky floating houses (in the foreground, the skyscrapers aren't floating...)

We stayed in Olympia, WA that night, so that we were positioned ready to start our drive down the west coast. Olympia was actually a pretty cool place, very studenty and 'alternative', with a proper small town feel, and a real small town centre - unlike so many towns we've passed through which are just one long strip of identikit fast food chains, and drive-thru everything, which make it difficult to tell where the town is (and even more difficult to see any real people).

Whinge over, Olympia was nice, and so was Portland, our lunch stop, and another trendy sort of place with old buildings, vintage clothes shops, live music venues, and other things encouraging 'walk-through' and 'maybe even stop for a while' behaviour.

Seagull - stopping for a while

The next couple of days were spent winding our way down Route 101, the coast road, through Washington, Oregon, and into California. We had a symbolic dipping of the toes in the Pacific in a nice little town called Cannon Beach in Oregon - it being a little on the chilly side for full body dipping (it is about 20 degrees cooler on the coast than inland, rather to our surprise!)

Sea, feet, chilly, brrr.

As we entered northern California we noticed the trees getting bigger and realised we were in Redwood (and Big Foot!) country and we took a side trip down the 50 mile 'Avenue of Giants' through Humboldt Redwoods State Park on Saturday morning to have a closer look.  The trees really are massive!  Many of them grow to over 90 metres and the tallest is 115.  We didn't manage to see that one but we did see the 'Dyerville Giant' which measures 113 metres and is 1600 years old.  Though unfortunately its current 'height' is more like 3 metres because it fell in 1991 when a nearby tree collapsed into it. Apparently the Park Ranger was asleep in a nearby cabin at the time and thought he'd heard a train crash!

After coming to terms with the awesome height of the Redwoods, we decided it was time for a closer look, so what better way than to drive through one?! Well they have drive-thru everything elses here (fast food, ATMs - it can only be a matter of time before they invent a drive-thru loo) so why not trees?  Here's us driving through the famous Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett.

What the phrase "only in America" was designed for

We arrived in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon and were there until Monday evening. When we arrived the Golden Gate bridge was shrouded in fog - as it famously often is, but the city itself looked gorgeous in the sun and we had a brilliant couple of days there.

We hung on by our hats (and arms) riding the famous 'cable cars' (which are really more like trams) up and down hills, so we could explore the different areas around touristy Fisherman's Wharf (back in the fridge magnet game!), North Beach (including Little Italy), Haight Ashbury (where the original flower power kids used to hang out), Pacific Heights (gorgeous houses) and the shops around Union Square.

Hold tight now those hills look steep!

The best shop we've seen on the whole trip (Phil was so excited his hair stood on end)

We also went to a ball game on Sunday! Phil had spotted that the San Francisco Giants were playing the L.A. Dodgers and managed to get  tickets online on Saturday night. It was a great game to catch, with packed stands (there is quite a big rivalry between the two California teams) and a great atmosphere as everyone tucked into their hot dogs and frozen lemondade to watch what turned out to be a very tight match, the Home team coming back from 4-3 down to win the match 5-4 in the final inning. We seem to have a knack of seeing this kind of result in far flung places - shame it never seems to work whenever we go to see NUFC...

Rounders...er...sorry Americans, we mean baseball, in San Francisco

So now we're about to make our way down Big Sur to L.A. and then we fly to Boston on Thursday for the final destination of the trip before we fly home on Monday.

It's been fantastic to read everyone's comments and really meant a lot to us and we're glad we seem to have kept you entertained - we were worried we might only have a couple of readers left by this stage, so thanks for sticking with us!  We can't wait to see everyone when we get back and it'll make up for the trip being all over!

In the meantime, stay posted for the final blog!

Love Sarah and Phil x

P.S. And don't forget that all our USA and Canada photos are over at http://journals.worldnomads.com/sarahandphilusa



Well i share your excitement to have spotted the Alaska plate-awesome, and that amazing magnet shop- what a find!!!!!

I think that is the last blog I will read on GB turf and by the time i'm back you will be back too.

When does Phil start work? Looking forward to seeing you both- do you know yet whether you will drive up to manc or borrow mums car? Don't forget to watch the olympics- Lauras first race is on the 16th at about 10am china time (7am india? midnight america?).

Take care with those bears about and no more arrests please Sarah- did they charge you for hanging out of a window under a large tree while in charge of a motor vehicle too?!? Have a brilliant last week and catch up soon, lots of love Anna, Simon and Wilson XXX

  anna Aug 13, 2008 8:11 AM


"elk, antelope, beavers, raccoons and bighorn sheep" I can see the Orange ad now ;-)

Hope you are making the most of your last few weeks! Would be great to catch up when you get back

Hope you got stuck into a foot long hotdog in true 'When Harry Met Sally' style at the baseball!



  Nick Bonney Aug 13, 2008 6:15 PM


So would we consider the last week a practice run for 'oh no, alarm didn't go off, running late, raining outside, toast/cereal/brekkie from pret?, train delayed, late for work, 7.5hrs of clock going tick tick tick, glass of wine, ok maybe 2, train home, bit late for proper dinner, facebook, tv, bed....here we go again'

Ok so there's my day, I've depressed myself nevermind you! So you didn't see Yogi bear then? You'd think that'd be on the tour hey, god damn those yanks!

PS - I washed my converse in the machine so you don't need to buy me any. Instead I'd like a Marc Jacobs handbag, George Clooney and a fairly sizeable supply of peanut M&Ms. That's ok isn't it?

By for now. PPS - London Lite did a feature on Stoke Newington Church Street tonight and there's definitely new stuff since you left. It recommended a new chippie so I might aswell coume see you when you get back so I can go check it out!

Lastly, I'm really good on who has the biggest brain now, not so good on word challenge, so Bartez, surely you'll wanna try to beat me. Dare ya!! xxxxx

  Louise Humphreys Aug 14, 2008 7:26 AM


Loved Louise's summary of what the working future holds - just book yourselves another air/train/bus ticket and carry on (but call in at home on the way)!

I dread to think how many magnets you bought in the magnet shop... one of every Route 66 sign would it be?

We've booked the first two days you're home for wall to wall stories and photos. You might have to eat twenty seven varieties of courgette and marrow recipes though, oh and squashes (which look like pregnant courgettes) - you'll soon be wondering whatever happened to all those steaks.

See you very soon
Loads of love
Mum xxxx

  Mum B Aug 16, 2008 8:16 PM


Terrific penultimate (?) blog. Glad you got to see some baseball - remind me to tell you about the backgammon I (rather desperately) watched on Danish TV.
Went to Kent v Essex in the final of the Friends Provident Trophy game at Lord's yesterday with Ray (from Bow. who supplied jellied eels) and his girlfriend Lisa (from Bromley, who swears like a trooper). Hope US airport security isn't over=zealous when it comes to fridge magnets - looking forward to seeing you both (and the collection).
So it's one last take care and onward and upward from me...

  dad Barton Aug 17, 2008 8:03 PM


Hello folks, Just seen your blog, absolutely brill. We are thinking of takeing a holiday in the U.S.A. From our Island of Lanzarote(Spain) We would like to include Nashville (Tennessee) + YellowStone to see Ol Faithfull then tour to Teton mountains ,either by car or rail if you think it too hard for me.as I'm a confident 70 yr old driver Time is immaterial up to 4 weeks. As you seem to be so well travelled i am asking for your advice. Kindest Regards Mick and Anita

  MICK HESTER May 6, 2011 6:59 PM

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