Friday, January 30, 2009

City of rain

Trust me the weather in Seattle is really nice when you can see it :)

Retaken with new camera Canon 5D Mark II and 24-70mm 2.8L lens
Seattle at sunset

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

West coast road trip summary

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Highlight: Death Valley National Park, CA.
Lowlight: Biting my tongue during lunch at Denny's in Roseburg, Oregon.
Best scenic drive: Pacific Highway 101, CA.
Worst drive: During the pouring rain on first day from WA to OR.
Longest drive: From Needles, CA to Redding, CA. 12 hours by myself.
Shortest drive: from Las Vegas to Hoover Dam, 45 minues.
Coldest weather: 18 F at Crater Lake.
Hottest weather: 55 F in California.
Most expensive motel: Quality Inn, 82/night at Crescent City, CA.
Cheapest hotel: 4 Queens Casino/Hotel, 20/night, Las Vegas.
Highest elevation: Grand Canyon, 7000 ft.
Lowest elevation: Somewhere along Pacific Highway 101.
Best weather: From California to Nevada to Arizona.
Worst weather: Washington and Oregon.
Scariest moment: Almost involved in accident twice at Crescent City and San Francisco, CA.
Best city: San Francisco, CA.
Interesting vista views along I-5: Mount Shasta, CA and Mount Angel, OR.
The best snack on the road: Beef jerky.
The most music listened to on the road: Preab Sovath.
Total miles for the entire road trip: 3,500 miles.

Pictures of the entire trip:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

West coast road trip - Updated

Day 3, 1/3/09: We left early in the morning and drove on Redwood Highway 101 along the Pacific coast enjoying the views of the mountains and the Pacific ocean. Occasionally, we stopped to take longer views. About 2 hours later, we drove through the Redwood National Park. It was dark inside the park as the giant trees act like a huge wall blocking the sun from reaching us. I rolled down the windows to breath the fresh air as our tiny car made through. There is a small community of people living in Redwood. We made frequent stops to take pictures including at the famous drive-through tree.


Thereafter, we continued on Highway 101 all the way to San Francisco. We arrived in San Francisco around 9pm. I almost had an accident as I was about to change the lane at the Golden Bridge. The other car was on the blind spot which luckily the driver slowed down for my car and I pulled back to my lane when I saw that on second look. That was close. We stayed in downtown and checked out the city for a couple of hours. One thing to notice, San Francisco downtown is hilly with some really steep streets. Luckily, our rental car was a V6.

Day 4, 1/4/09: We checked out early and left for the Golden Bridge. We stopped at a nice Park which has the view of the Golden Bridge and Alcatraz island. After taking pictures and walking along the Park, we walked across the Golden Bridge. Time was short. We only walked half way on the bridge and back. We had lunch at Chinatown and then got back on the wheels to the next destination. We decided to stay for the night at Ridgecrest city, near Death Valley National Park.


Day 5, 1/5/09: Death Valley was fascinating in a different way. It is a desert with sand dunes, rocks and bald mountains. No greens or water to be found. The annual rainfalls are 2 inches or below or some years none. This complete change of scenery captured my perspective, especially the sand dune where I made a long stop. I guess I could make it a substitute for the Sahara for the moment. I hiked up to the tallest sand dune and just sat there for about 15 minutes. The valley was in complete silence and serene. The only noise I could hear was my breathing.

Then, we drove to see the castle on the other side of the mountain and the volcanic crater. The sun was setting as we departed Death Valley. The dusk beautifully painted the peaks of the mountains with variation of golden color...I've still got sands in my shoes.


About 5 hours later, we reached Las Vegas. We stayed at 4 Queens Casino/Hotel on 15th floor for 20 bucks/night, a nice bargain. Soon after checking in, we went sightseeing Sin City. It's another different atmosphere where the night is full of neon lights luring people into gambling and various entertainments. And they got me. I couldn't resist the temptation. I lost 4 bucks to slot machine :(

Sin City

Day 6, 1/6/09: Our last but not least destination is the Grand Canyon, Arizona. On our way there, we stopped by the famous Hoover Dam that lies on the border of Arizona and Nevada. It's more exciting to see in person, a fascinating mega structure built during the 1930's.


At about 8pm, we arrived at Williams, AZ and decided to lodge there for the night. It was pretty chilly and there's still snow on the side of the roads. Given its remote location, I was a bit surprised when I found out that our Motel owner was an Indian (from India).

Day 7, 1/7/09: After wasting a couple of hours following our incorrect GPS navigation, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon. At about 7,000 ft elevation, it's still cold on a sunny day. Some parts of the canyon were still covered with snow. The canyon is vast and deep, about ten miles wide and one mile deep. I gazed in awe of such creation by mother nature: the layers of rocks formed millions years ago, their color variation and each chunk was beautifully carved. It looks as if the canyon was a result of the earth's crust being ripped by gigantic hands.


We stayed there until sunset. It marked the end of our sightseeing journey. For the next two days, we spent our times driving during the days and resting at nights as we made our way back to Seattle. I've brought with me many good memories and of course a lot of pictures.

Friday, January 02, 2009

West coast road trip

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With the company of my friend, Vireak, from New York, we've decided to rent a car and go for a 10-day winter road trip, starting on the New Year's day.

Day 1, 1/1/09: We drove south on highway 5, then highway 101 to Astoria, Oregon, hoping to get the best scenic drive possible. It was cloudy all the way but we still could enjoy the view. Vireak has a permit and wanted to practice his driving skill. So we switched driving. About 2 hours later, Highway Patrol officer pulled us over. Apparently Vireak's driving on the serpentine road wasn't smooth enough which caught his attention. So he asked Vireak if he had been drinking and he said "No". I tried to explain to the officer it was his first time driving since his last driving test. Not convinced enough, he asked Vireak to do Alcohol test. He passed. So the officer let us go and recommended me to drive instead. So I did.


We passed many small towns that look like a different part of the US. We were driving along the Pacific coast, enjoying the view of the ocean, when it stared to rain as soon as we got close to Astoria. We crossed the beautiful Astoria bridge over Columbia river that divides Washington and Oregon. The darkness started creeping in and the rain stared to pour more. So we decided to get back to Highway 5 and drove to Eugene, OR, which was our final stop on the day. All the way back to Eugene was the most stressful driving as the rain poured on like crazy and the visibility was low. We could hear the beating sound of the rain on our car. But we stayed alert and slowed down and eventually reached Eugene where we stayed at Motel 6 for the night.

Day 2, 1/2/09: We checked out and left Eugene around 9:30am for Crater Lake National Park. The weather was partly cloudy and sunny. We first drove on I-5 to Roseburg and then took highway 138 E to Crater Lake. We slowly ascended onto higher elevation. The temperature was getting lower as we got higher. At about 4000 ft., we were driving on snowy roads. The snow was nicely plowed, however, which made driving possible. There were a few other cars coming and going. We got to Crater Lake around 2:30pm and it snowed lightly there.

Although we could not get a glimpse of Crater Lake because of the heavy clouds, we still enjoyed the magnificent view of the snow on the mountains and pine trees along the way. It was just serene and peaceful which reminded me of my last road trip from Kansas City to Seattle.

Photo Credit: Vireak

At about 3:30pm, we left Crater Lake and headed to Crescent City, Northern California where we would stay for the night. It started to get dark soon after. As we got close to Crescent City, we drove through Redwood highway accompanied by the many huge and tall trees. They look amazing, yet intimidating. All we could see from our car's headlights were these giant trunks which make us feel insignificantly small.

For tomorrow's destinations: Redwood National Park, Nappa Valley and San Fransisco.