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USA, California

Time travel: 


Los Angeles - San Diego - Los Angeles - San Simeone - Sunny Vale - San Francisco - Merced - Yosemite NP - Fresno - Big Bear Lake - Arrowhead Lake - Las Vegas - Los Angeles.




Travel map:


Preparing to throw across the ocean.

   We went on another vacation trip with a full family. This rare opportunity presented itself to us this year and we took advantage of it with great pleasure and enthusiasm. Although for the sake of this we had to slightly postpone the vacation time: instead of the usual August-September, we went on vacation in late September - early October.
  However, first things first.
  As usual, the vacation was preceded by a long and painstaking preparation.
  Given the rare opportunity to spend a vacation with the whole family, the place of the next vacation trip should also be unusual, rare, where you don’t travel every year. And we chose Southern California in the USA. We have already been to the USA, but then, more than 10 years ago, we traveled, by the way, also with the whole family, along the east coast and Canada.
  Now the matter was complicated by the fact that a few years ago our American visa expired. But we worried in vain: a few hours of browsing the Internet on the website of the American consulate in Tel Aviv, and mostly in Russian, then one visit to the same consulate - and after a little more than a month from the moment of registering on the website of the consulate by mail, we received our passports with an American visa for another 10 years.
  After receiving visas, we began to build the route of the future trip with tripled energy. At first, we had Napoleonic plans to cover most of the US West Coast: the entire state of California from the border with Mexico in the south to the state of Oregon in the north, with the capture of the neighboring states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona to the east.
  Here I just have to say the kindest words to our relatives in Los Angeles and San Francisco. These are not just relatives, but people close and dear to us, who not only received us heartily and royally, but with their sincere and very constructive advice helped us make this trip unforgettable. I hope that all of them will also read these lines, so personal greetings and thanks to Dima, Vita, Pavlik, Rimma, Emka, Ilyusha, and also to everyone who hosted us in California!!!
  So, after intensive work with maps and guides, a huge mass of materials on the Internet, many hours of consultations with relatives, friends and acquaintances who have visited or live in America, the following travel scheme has been drawn:
- we fly to Los Angeles, take a car at the airport and drive to San Diego;
- then we return to Los Angeles and spend a couple of days here;
- then we move along the coast towards San Francisco, on the way we watch interesting sights, for example, Santa Barbara, Morro Bay, Hearst Castle;
- we arrive in San Francisco and spend a couple more days there;
- then we go to Yosemite National Park (Yosemite NP) and spend the whole day there;
- then we go to the mountain lake Big Bear Lake, here we rent a hunting house for a couple of days;
- then we go to Las Vegas;
- we return to Los Angeles, visit Universal Studio;
- We go to the airport, rent a car and fly home.
  As usual, in March-April, organizational issues began to be resolved: air tickets, search and booking of hotels, hunting lodge, car rental.
  There were predictable problems with air tickets, despite the fact that we started to worry about them quite early - six months before the date of the flight. It's all about the prices: they, like the airliners themselves, rushed up.
  We usually prefer the regular flights of the Israeli company El-Al. But this year, a direct flight to Los Angeles started at $1,500. With such a price, we "flew" far beyond the already heavy vacation budget. We began to consider alternative options: a charter, other airlines, a flight to Los Angeles with an intermediate stop. As a result, we fly to Los Angeles with an intermediate landing in Atlanta, but for $ 1,200 and with the American Delta.
  With hotels, on the contrary, everything was decided simply. Following the route, we need hotels in San Diego (two nights), San Simeon (on the way to San Francisco), Merced and Fresno (at the entrance and exit of Yosemite Park, respectively). In addition, we need a hotel in Las Vegas (two nights) and a hunting lodge on Big Bear Lake.
  This time I booked all the hotels on the website Here the choice of hotels is wider, and the prices are reasonable.
  In Las Vegas, the Luxor Hotel was booked on the website of the hotel itself.
  An option for a house on a mountain lake was found on a favorite site
  There were no problems with renting a car either. Taking into account the mountainous profile of the roads that will have to be traveled, as well as the possible need to drive on dirt roads, we ordered an SUV class car with an automatic transmission, in other words, a jeep. The choice fell on the Toyota RAV 4 from Alamo.
  In the few months preceding the vacation, we calmly, without haste, were engaged in a detailed study of the route and logistics. We did not forget about the faithful assistant and the fourth crew member - the GPS-navigator, who was called Vovka on previous trips.
  We supplied it with a new version of the IGO 8 navigator program and fresh maps of the states of California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. Also purchased several California travel guides and maps of the travel area. We prepared video and photographic equipment, as well as a mini-DVD player with a set of favorite and new discs.
  The functions among the members of our small family crew were somehow distributed naturally: everyone did what they could:
- The crew commander is your humble servant, he is also the first navigator, co-pilot, technician, tanker, loader, video and photo operator;
- First Pilot - Rosa, she is the supply manager, head of the food unit, head of the financial unit, cameraman;
- Press Secretary - Masha, she is also a translator, signalman, third pilot, second navigator, photo and video operator.

Throw across the ocean and a little about the roads of the USA

September 23-24 - Ben Gurion Airport - Atlanta Airport - Los Angeles Airport - San Diego.

   The first day of the trip, as expected, was exhausting and uneventful. Flight Delta Ben Gurion - Atlanta departed at 23.30, so, as expected, already at 20.30 were at the airport. In recent years, we have been flying quite a lot - at least once a year, and sometimes several times a year. They even got biometric identification cards that allow them to pass border control without standing in line: they swiped a magnetic card, put five fingers into the device and ... goodbye country, hello abroad! Only this time we had to take some time to renew our cards for another five years.
  We flew with a Boeing 777. Each seat is equipped not just with a screen, but with a computer with a touch display, which allows you to choose entertainment yourself: movies, incl. in Russian, music, or just watch information about the flight. They fed and watered quite plentifully and edibly. But 13 hours of flight is still exhausting. In addition, the difference in time makes its negative contribution. Already in Atlanta it was minus 7 hours.
  Arrived in Atlanta at 5.30 local time. According to American rules, when flying with intermediate landings, passport and customs control is carried out at the first port in the United States.
  So you have to first collect your luggage and go through customs formalities, and then passport control with a not very pleasant fingerprint identification procedure. It is fair to note the high level of organization of this whole process, employees accompany you everywhere and unobtrusively guide you in the right direction.
  The airport in Atlanta is huge, there are several terminals, the movement between them is subway trains.
  Then we flew on a domestic Boeing 757 flight. The flight duration - 4.5 hours - is seeds compared to the previous one.
  Arrived in Los Angeles at 10.15 local time and added another minus 3 hours to the time difference - a total of minus 10 hours, and in total on the road - more than 20 hours.
  Already without any passport procedures, we received our luggage and went to carry out the next item of the program - receiving a car. 
  It's not so easy at Los Angeles Airport. All rental companies are not located in the airport building, but in the town of Inglewood adjacent to the airport, where the shuttle runs - a special free bus from each company. We are ready for this, we leave the airport building to the bus stop. And, indeed, soon we saw a big bus pulling up with a huge poster of our rental company Alamo. The shuttle driver helped to load a lot of luggage (the bus is equipped with special luggage racks) and after 15-20 minutes we entered the pick-up and drop-off area for rented cars.
  Having stood in a short queue, we approached the counter. And then we were in for a not entirely pleasant surprise. After everything seemed to be settled and we actually had the keys to the ordered Toyota Rav 4 car in our hands, the employee, as if just in case, asked about the number of suitcases and bags. And we have as many as five of them, not counting also quite voluminous women's bags. Seeing this pile, the employee joked harmlessly, saying that either we or our things would fit in such a car.
  We are confused. On the one hand, we already knew that the trunk of the Toyota Rav 4 is small and a fairly significant part of the things will have to be loaded into the passenger compartment. On the other hand, we are not so rich that, having paid a bunch of dollars, we still endure inconvenience on an already difficult road.
  receiving a car of a higher class instead of the one ordered. It turns out that getting a Midsize SUV instead of a Compact SUV will cost us over $300, including additional insurance. The amount is significant, but not fatal for our vacation budget. And what do we buy? A more spacious, powerful and comfortable car with an on-board computer, for example, already including such a very useful function as a cruiser. After a brief consultation, we decide to upgrade.
  After reissuing the papers, we were offered a choice of more than a dozen automonsters and promised to fit a couple more. Some of them were so huge that with our average height, even after the maximum adjustment of the seat, only the sky was visible from the driver's seat.
  Finally, having tried almost all the cars, we chose an elegant silver Chevrolet Equinox: a fairly compact car for its class, all-wheel drive 4X4, with a powerful 3500cc engine, automatic transmission. The only drawback, which we, however, identified later, is the voracity of the gasoline engine.
  We load our numerous luggage, comfortably accommodate ourselves, adjust seats, mirrors, master the fancy control panel. As usual, I mount the GPS navigator close to the right windshield pillar and aim the navigator at the hotel in San Diego.
  We get out of Inglewood and here we are on the 405 highway leading to San Diego.

   A little about American roads.


Still, we have a car trip and roads play one of the main roles in it.

  We have already heard that America is a legendary automobile country, but now we have also convinced ourselves. The automotive infrastructure, at least in California, is simply amazing: everything for the car and everything for the sake of the car.
  In the US, the National Highway System has long been in existence and is constantly evolving. Relatively recently, in 1956, the Federal Highway System was created (this is my free translation of the Interstate Highway System).
  The construction of the Interstate Highway System was lobbied by the major automobile manufacturers in the United States, as well as personally by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, as a young officer, well remembered his journey in 1919 across America along the first transcontinental road, The Lincoln Highway. Eisenhower also gained insight into the German autobahns as a necessary component of the national security system during World War II, when he was commander-in-chief of the Allied forces.
  So far, the total length of this type of road is more than 75,000 km, which is the world's largest highway network and the largest public facilities project.
  This road system connected all major US cities with populations over 50,000. Many highways pass through cities, through business districts (downtown). Approximately 30% of all trips in the US take place on such roads.
  After the encyclopedic information, a few words about what interests the average autotraveller.
  First, we finally understood the difference between the terms highway and freeway. Highway is any numbered road, and freeway or, more rarely, expressway is a high-speed road that does NOT have regulated intersections along its length, for example, with traffic lights.
  Secondly, the condition of the roads is quite good, we did not meet potholes and potholes, but the road surface is far from ideal, there were enough bumps.
  But there are many roads with concrete pavement (well, the wheels are knocking at the joints of the plates!). In addition, it seems that some irregularities are of artificial origin, for example, oblique herringbone lines or transverse lines of the "washboard" type. There is an assumption that this is done for the sake of traffic safety (increasing the adhesion of the wheels to the roadway or additional noise so that the driver does not fall asleep at the wheel).
  The number of lanes on a freeway is at least two in one direction, and in the area of megacities it approaches ten (in one direction!). Road junctions are usually two or three levels, and the most difficult ones are five or six levels!
  The markings on the roads are clear, legible, ahead of time, but sometimes very plentiful (you don’t have time to read!). This is where a GPS navigator comes to the rescue. At least in IGO 8 on American maps, several functions were earned that did not work either in Europe or in Israel. The navigator began duplicating road signs and highlighting relevant ones according to the direction of travel. In addition, when approaching road junctions, road lane markings began to appear indicating the most preferred of them, again, in accordance with the direction of travel. Well, this Vovka-navigator is a very wonderful thing!
  Regarding the marking of road lanes, it is also necessary to note the presence of a special lane called CARPOOL, and it is always extreme, but it can be either on the left or on the right. At first we thought it was a special lane for motorcades, but then we came across a poster with an explanation. It turns out that this special lane is for vehicles with at least TWO passengers (including the driver). This stimulates the association of drivers traveling in the same direction, which, by design, should reduce the number of cars during peak hours. Not immediately, but then we often used this lane. And, indeed, it sometimes made it possible to bypass the traffic jam, where most of the single drivers are.
  Finally, thirdly, the general culture of drivers is high, almost any violation is stopped by the inevitability of punishment. We were convinced of this from our own experience already in the first days. And it was like that.
  In the evening we returned to our hotel in San Diego. We had to pull off the freeway onto a side road. I hesitated with the navigator and belatedly gave the command to rebuild. Our first pilot impudently and, as it turned out, recklessly, tries to change lanes to the right lane, everyone around began to honk, and after a few seconds a police patrol sits on our tail, flashing their red and blue illumination merrily, but with a menacing roar and a demand to stop. We did not immediately understand what had happened, where this patrol came from, and, moreover, they wanted us to.
  Stopped on the side of the road. Well, I think it will start now, like in films about the American police: "Hands on the hood! Feet wider!", Or in general: "Hands behind your head! Lie down on the ground!". I say to Rozka: "Don't fidget, keep your hands on the steering wheel".
  A young policeman came up, and approached from my right side, gestured for the window to be lowered and, turning to Rosa, began to speak quickly. I only understood the first word: ma'am. The tone is not malicious, but strict. Here Masha, well done, boldly enters into a conversation and explains the situation. I see how, as the conversation progresses, the appearance and tone of the policeman becomes kinder. Communication with the American police ended on a friendly note, with a detailed explanation of how best to get to the hotel and the wishes of a good journey and confident driving. However, even after such a very friendly interaction, we did not even try to deeper test the level of benevolence of the American police.
  We no longer allowed ourselves even the slightest violations, for example, with regard to the speed limit, when you sometimes allow yourself to add a dozen kilometers over the allowed ones.
  But back to our ..., that is, the journey.
  So we're on our way to San Diego. Vovka estimated the distance at 200 km and 2.5 hours of travel. By the way, as you know, in the United States, distance is measured in miles. The navigator has the ability to switch from kilometers to miles, but we did not do this, so as not to completely lose orientation in space (enough time difference!). In addition, we were lucky that the speedometer in our car had a double gradation: both in miles and in kilometers.
  Familiar names flashed by: Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, ... Vovka confidently dictates the direction of movement at difficult interchanges. And here we are pouring into Interstate 5, which stretches in an almost straight line along the coast. Vovka is silent for a long time: after all, the road is straight, not requiring rebuilding.
  The entire coastline from Los Angeles to San Diego is famous for its flat sandy beaches. They are especially attractive for surfers.
  Somehow imperceptibly in time and without stopping we reached San Diego.
  Our hotel should be in the northern part of the city and we do not need to go deep into it.
  As we expected, having entered the city, we left the freeway and ended up on the street with a continuous string of hotels. Having performed several maneuvers under Vovka's dictation (many one-way streets), we drove into the parking lot of the hotel 

  Having settled all the formalities with the settlement within 8-10 minutes, we taxi our Chevy right to the door of the room. We unloaded things and then remembered that we had already been on our feet for more than 40 hours. Only now, having relaxed, we felt the accumulated fatigue and a 10-hour time difference.
  But we are ready for this scenario. At the end of the first day, according to the program, we have an easy walk to the old city and dinner at a restaurant ordered in advance.
  Having left the hotel towards the city, after 15 minutes we were making circles in the old city in search of parking. Here, too, preparatory work was carried out on the Internet and we had the coordinates of several parking lots. Already on the second lap, we drove into a convenient underground parking lot, having received a ticket at the entrance with time. We clarified the tariff and working hours of the parking lot, made sure that it works around the clock, and went for a walk.
  We just walked around the Gaslamp Quarter a bit and headed to the Café Sivilla restaurant, which is located in the same quarter. There was a long queue at the entrance to the restaurant, but having a reservation, we proudly bypassed it and in a few minutes we were sitting at a table in a cozy hall. Excellent Spanish cuisine and equally fine Spanish wine were very welcome.


But fatigue took its toll and, having quickly finished all the dishes, we went to the hotel. On such a delicious note, we ended this incredibly long day.

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