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USA

USA - Silicon Valley, California

sunny 24 °C

Just south of San Francisco is an area known as Silicon valley due to the large number of computing enterprises in the area. Paul couldn't wait to see some of the large corporations- within about a 20km radius lie the Apple, Google, Facebook and Intel headquarters. We drove past the large offices, Google was the most interesting to see with rows of Google branded bikes lining the curb.

The Computer History Museum gave us a good insight into the evolution of technology and the computer, and we ended the trip seeing a self-driving Google car! Stanford University is also in this area, and we spent a few hours wandering through it's beautiful palm tree-lined campus. We have friends living in Redwood City who kindly invited us to stay, we had fun catching up and hanging out with their cat Brutus!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged valley silicon Comments (2)

USA - Napa Valley, California

sunny 30 °C

Time for some Vino! Just an hour north of San Francisco Napa is nestled into a dry inland valley, perfect wine growing county. It was a fun day trip to visit some of the extravagant wineries in the area, but beautiful weather coupled with the weekend made it a busy day! The Napa Valley floor stretches for 50 kms with hundreds of wineries dotted along. Limos and convertibles flew by and tastings were $25 and up. The tasting rooms ranged from farmhouse style, to Spanishesque open plazas. We found a nice market for lunch - located in Napa town itself called ..... it was bustling and full of deli lunch options, perfect to pair with some tasty wine.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged napa Comments (0)

USA - Redwoods, California

semi-overcast 20 °C

The Redwoods are amazing trees. They grow up to 100m tall, can live 1-2 thousand years and are the tallest trees on earth. Some of these trees were alive dating back to 500 AD and have seen the face of the earth change. Unfortunately 98% of the Redwood trees were logged by settlers, with three pockets still preserved on the northwestern Californian coast which we visited. These areas are Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwood National State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

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There are lots of hikes through the forest, we enjoyed visiting some of the groves where clusters of the largest trees lie untouched. Another nice surprise were the elk roaming through the meadows between the forests. The drive down the 'Avenue of the Giants' was pretty spectacular, the old highway weaves its way around the gigantic trees for 50 kms. We stopped and camped along this avenue, and it was such an experience to sleep in amongst the majestic trees, we felt like miniature people, as though we'd stumbled into the land of the giants!

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged redwoods Comments (2)

USA - Crater Lake, Oregon

sunny 8 °C

It was hard to leave the rugged and beautiful Oregon coast, however after a few hours drive inland we arrived at Crater Lake, and wow what a sight! The crater is situated at 2,000 meters of altitude, and was created when a large volcanic eruption caused the mountain to collapsed in on itself. Slowly, over thousands of years the crater filled with rainwater and melting snow which created the lake.

The water is extremely pure as there are no rivers leading in or out of the lake, which gives the lake a beautiful deep blue colour. Even in May, the last month of Spring here, there are several meters of snow lining the edge road, as the high altitude causes a cool climate. We camped at Union Creek Campground, just outside the Crater Lake National Park and met a great American couple from Michigan who we toasted marshmallows (or ‘mallows’) with over a roaring fire, before spending another cosy night in our van.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged snow lake crater Comments (0)

USA - Oregon Coast!

semi-overcast 21 °C

We had planned to spend one day driving down the Oregon coast. Google maps told us it would take about 3 hours. How wrong we were... It is one of the most spectacular coastlines we’ve ever seen and we couldn’t possibly rush it!

Our first stop was Haystack Rock, a large rock protruding out of the ocean at Canon Beach, with a green mossy top covered with birds. Along this part of the coast there are many rocks eroded away from the shoreline jutting out, wide sandy beaches and lush pine tree covered banks makes it spectacular scenery all the way along. Fish and chips for dinner – yum yum!

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We camped in our van and second time around it was a lot more comfortable, and a little less cold helped too! We made our way south, checking out the views in lots of places along the way. On advice from the Tourist Info Centre we visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory – a great spot to view a cheese factory and sample some tasty cheeses for free! We couldn't leave empty handed and once we’d decided if we were getting the pepper jack, garlic or smoked pepper cheese we kept moving to the Blue Herron. This was a sweet barn-style store just so happened to be hosting their ladies night when we stopped by. We enjoyed some wine and (more) cheese tasting, along with some cute farm animals roaming about the property. Cape Lookout National Park was a super spot to camp in that evening, right on the edge of a very beautiful, wide beach with great campground facilities.

Our final day along the coast brought us through whale watching at Depot Bay, along with fish filleting on the peer, done by some very skilled fishmongers. More breathtaking views along the coast, and some rocky walks before setting up camp in Jessie Honeyman National Park just south of Florence, located on the edge of a vast 60km stretch of coastal sand dunes!

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The Oregon coast has been amazing, and the Oregon State Parks have been great for camping, well equipped and economical, especially if you enjoy waking up surrounded by nature.

Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - Portland, Oregon

sunny 30 °C

Portland is our new favourite city! It's known as Seattle’s little brother and is much smaller in size with a population of 600k. However Portland is a city in its own right and we would happily move there tomorrow!

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It is full of microbreweries and outside of the downtown core there are many little cafes and breweries scattered throughout the city’s suburbs to pop into. It is also extremely bike friendly and flat, which we enjoyed as we spent our time biking around the green leafy streets and glorious days of sunshine during our stay. Portland is also known as the city of bridges or “Bridgetown” because there are so many bridges crossing into downtown, eight in a row in fact! We cycled over a few of them, giving us good views over the city and Mount Hood, whose white snow-covered peak towers over Portland from 150kms away.

Portland was holding a NBA playoff match, which we were lucky enough to score tickets to! Portland Trail Blazers vs Sacramento Spurs – It was such an event, there were lots of freebies pre-game, including a free T-shirt for everyone, and the stadium was packed, with no empty seat to be seen! The atmosphere was charged, all the fans were cheering hard for the Portland players.

We stayed at a place booked through Airbnb, which was perfect - there are so many Airbnb options in Portland it’s a great way to stay. We also had super hosts, another young couple who have done their fare share of travelling and their house was full of artwork and other trinkets they’d collected along the way.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:22 Archived in USA Tagged portland Comments (0)

USA - Olympic National Park, Washington

overcast 10 °C

We darted up into Olympic National Park, with just one night to check it out. Wow it's amazing. Towering snow capped mountains and pine tree covered slopes. This is the National Park where the Twilight series was filmed, Lucy was in awe. We stayed in 'Heart o The Hills' campground on Hurricaine Ridge, a beautiful campground, surrounded by old growth forest trees and greenery.

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After sorting out our gear and rigging up some curtains, we spent our first night camping in our van (Franklin)! Our first night was a little rough I won't lie, it was freezing, and it didn't help Paul was hogging the only sleeping bag we have!! But waking up surrounded by nature was worth it. We were all set to do a hike the next morning and jump back on the road, when we realised we had a flat battery. Luckily a very friendly camper by the name of Charles came to the rescue with his truck. We missed out on a hike but still drove up Hurricane ridge to check out the spectacular views.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged park national olympic Comments (2)

USA - Seattle, Washington

overcast 15 °C

Seattle is a super city, only a few hours from Vancouver but it has such a different vibe. There's music in the streets, more of a multicultural feel, the first original Starbucks store and Pike Street Market! The waterfront market is a must for all tourists, and sells all your could need from fresh food to trinkets and our favorite were the old posters and maps dating back to the 1900's. We also spent a very rainy afternoon in the Experience Music Project (EMP) a Museum dedicated to Seattle musicians and current students, with an area for 'jamming' in soundproof rooms. Pretty impressive and worth the visit if you have a spare few hours.

We are very thankful to our fabulous hosts Kasey and Jon, who we met travelling in Colombia a good 18 months earlier. They live in a funky little house in the Green Lake area, and gave us so many great tips about the city and helped us plan a lot of our road trip!

We took the opportunity to ride around to explore the bike friendly city (phew, it was worth packing the bikes), and on our second night we went to the Major League Baseball to see the Settle Mariners play Kansas City in a game. There are some great stadiums in Seattle, and it was pretty fun to be inside one! We also couldn't resist sampling a cafe latte from Vivace's in the Capitol Hill district...mmmm.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 23:19 Archived in USA Tagged seattle Comments (0)

Fairbanks - Alaska

sunny -25 °C

Alaska is often referred to as the final frontier and no wonder, it is one of the northern most extremities on earth. For a traveller, what you see and experience is greatly determined by the time of year you go. In the summer it's green with blue skies, very long days and it can even be warm. Winter on the other hand is completely different, short days, ice, snow and it's cold - very cold! The main draw card for winter travel to Alaska is the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. A natural light display in the sky caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere.

The Aurora was the main driver for this trip. A trip that took some deciding on where to go and even whether to go. There are quite a few options in North America, Yellowknife and Whitehorse are both renowned viewing points in Canada. Anchorage in southern Alaska is also a good base as is Fairbanks further north. To see the northern lights, you ideally need to go between September and March, when the sky is darker. The moon position is also important, a full moon can be too bright meaning the aurora may not be seen. Therefore it's best to go when the it's a new moon. Whether or not you will see the northern lights depends on a few factors, the Aurora Borealis can vary greatly in strength. This changes dailiy, sometimes it is weak meaning it cannot be seen, and other times it's strong and therefore very bright lighting up the sky with shades of green, yellow and even red. The other factor is the weather. If there is heavy cloud, you won't see anything.

So, it's dark, extremely cold and you may not see anything. Plus the flights are expensive. Will it be worth it? There's only one way to find out! Fairbanks was decided due to it's superior position compared with Whitehorse and Anchorage and it's affordable accommodation options compared with Yellowknife. Plus the flights were on sale, I therefore booked the flight and flew from Seattle.

Was it worth it? Wow, yes. I couch-surfed at the University of Alaska which was convenient as it's the best area in Faribanks to view the lights due to the light pollution throughout the town. The university is set on top of a hill away from the city. After landing at midnight, I quickly disappeared into the night of the forest in hope to get a sight. The Aurora forecast was low however I was able to view an amazing green glow far away on the horizon, a fascinating sight. It constantly moves and can disappear at any moment.

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Day 2 was spend exploring the town, including the Chena River and Pioneer Park which is a wonderful open air museum. This was followed by a trip to the Chena Hot Springs. The natural hot springs are 60 miles away and are home to an ice museum, restaurant, aurora viewing point and the hot springs. As the Aurora wasn't out, the hot springs were the highlight, soaking in the warmth, surrounded by icy trees and rocks, staring at the ultra clear skies all with frozen hair!

The next 3 days and nights were all cloudy with loads of snow, however there was still plenty to see and do. The Animal Research Farm was great, with Elk and the huge arctic animal - the muskox! The nearby town of North Pole was also good to see. This is where Santa Claus lives, he was busy but I was able to say hello to the reindeer.

On the final night the forecast was cloudy and the Aurora strength low...so I was now thinking that that first night was going to be the only sighting I'd have. On the walk back to the University at about 11pm however, I saw the moon. If there's cloud, I shouldn't be able to see the moon...there was only one thing for it, layer up, go for a hike, stare up into the sky and wait.

After looking for about 3 hours, the cloud started to clear and there it was. The show started. It wasn't super bright but it darted from far on the horizon to above my head and dazzled for hours. Utter silence, no wind and -25 Celsius. A captivating experience, it was breathtaking. I had to drag myself away to be back at the University by 6am, to pack and walk 1 hour to the bus, to ensure I got to the airport on time. Walking fast with a loaded pack, on ice, without sleep wasn't easy but I smiled every step of the way. What an experience.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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