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Sivupoluilla

The ”I’m one year late with this post” post

So, it has been exactly a year since we landed back on Finnish soil. Of course, a lot has happened during this year, as during the previous one. But that’s another story.

We took a quick and dirty 15-day road trip around California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada before flying back home. These were our final days.

Last road trip

20th of Nov 2012

There is a weird rumble in the backround – like a car parked really close to our window. I wake up from near-comatose sleep. We’ve flown into LAX at midnight, picked up our rental car, and arrived at Robin’s place at 2am. Now she enters the living room where we are sleeping and whispers ”Hey guyyyys, I’m leaving.” Wait what? ”Our alarm clock hasn’t rung yet, what time is it?” I ask rubbing my eyes. ”It’s half past seven.” ”What!?” At the same time Jonas sits up. ”Fuck… Our car….SHIT! Our car is in a tow zone.” Robin peeks behind the curtain and I see from her eyes that this isn’t good. ”Wait, there is a tow truck outside!” And at the same time I realize what the rumble was.

Panic. I give a nervous giggle. This isn’t real. This is a scene from a bad 80s Hollywood movie. I’m still sleeping.

Jonas is scrambling to get his trousers on. I jump out from the bed and run outside barefeet into the crisp L.A. morning. I see the tow truck guy stepping into his car. Our car is packed up and ready to go.

Oh no….

”WE OVERSLEPT, MISTER! WE…OVER…SLEPT!” I yell while running and trying to rub morning gunk from my eyes. He steps back down on the sidewalk and three things happen at the same time: First, I realize that we are the only car still parked on the side of the road. Second, I hear the tow guy say ”Well, it will be $229 no matter what”. Thirdly, I hear Robin cursing behind me.

Jonas runs out. He’s puffy, alarmed and also rubbing gunk from his eyes. My feet are cold. I explain the situation to him while Robin is trying to bargain with the guy. Surely he’s going to give in. She looks so beautiful this morning!

”Nope” the guys says. ”It will be $229. No matter what.”

I laugh again. So, wait. With that plus the municipal fine our ticket will be almost 350 dollars. Oh shit, LA. It’s not funny. At least the euro is still somewhat stronger than the dollar. We think that is a small consolation.

L.A. Welcomed us warmly

20th of Nov 2012

We are heading out of town exhausted by the drama of the morning. We are going to drive straight to Joshua Tree and check-in to a Motel 6 nearby. Tomorrow we are going to be climbing the whole day with a guide around Joshua Tree. With that in mind we won’t do a damn thing for the rest of the day but relax.

somewhere

 

21st of Nov 2012

Oh, Odin spare me. I am broken. I am broken by Joshua. That would be some of the meanest crack climbing I’ve done so far. Lucky for me I had the privilege to do it with an amazing guide, Felipe, who had the enthusiasm to cheer me on even tho’ I was so close to giving up. Every muscle in my body is aching. Even the ones that I didn’t know existed. I am filled with cuts and bruises that bleed. My battle scars! My stomach is a hole that lacks sustenance! But ah -alas- I am happy. Few things are as satisfying as the feeling you get when faced by multiple fears and still prevailing. Yay for me.

joshua-tree-climbing

 

joshua-tree

 

joshua-tree-before-sunset

Before we headed back to the motel we swung via Natural Sisters Cafe. They make the awesomest vegetarian dishes in Joshua Tree. When the waitress brought the steaming rice wrap in front of me, I felt like weeping. Instead of tears however I started to salivate and before no time the wrap was decorating the insides of my stomach. Aaaah….

Their breakfast omelette was also delicious. Too bad we couldn't stay longer.

Their breakfast omelette was also delicious. Too bad we couldn’t stay longer.

22nd of Nov 2012

I knew that deserts were dry (duh!) but the literal reality of it sank home today. First cases of possible altitude sickness are also part of adventuring today. Ugh. The nausea. I also noticed that today my muscles took their soreness to a whole new level. Luckily all I had to do the whole day was sit in a car, stare at the desert and wait. When we arrived in Flagstaff, Jonas took my hand and walked me to the front door of our next couchsurfing host… Who had -amazingly- cooked us some dinner, reserved one whole room for our use only and was the most wonderful company! So despite occasionally tasting blood and puke from exhaustion, the day was a success.

nevada

23rd of Nov 2012

Horrible night. My mouth felt like a vacuum cleaner. I tried to sip water – useless. It just evaporated right away. Like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom. I became slightly envious of Jonas just dozing beside me like a happy camper. Nowhere did it say that the Grand Canyon is so high that altitude sickness can actually occur. And one of the symptoms is incredibly dry mouth and skin – check. Crazy vivid dreams – check. Random nausea – check. Ugh. I’m such a weakling tourist.

23rd of Nov 2012

Grand Canyon! As soon as we arrived at the park entrance we were approached by 3 German guys who kindly enough sold their park entrance tickets to us for 15 bucks. When we actually saw the first glimpses of the Canyon there was a sense of wonder and disappointment. We were disappointed since we realized that we should have spent at least three more days in this place. At least. We were bummed out because we didn’t have the time to hike here. We were bummed out because we could no longer afford to fly over it.

The sheer mass of it is so overwhelming that we felt like we needed a lot more perspective to even remotely understand it. It’s so big that it feels like staring at a photograph or a painting. You can’t really grasp the dimensions of the thing because it blurs into the atmosphere after a few kilometers. The far ridges of the canyon are so far away that they are covered in a blue haze even without any mist. It’s just all that air between you and the other edge.

The experience left us mute. We have to return here again another time.

I’m still struggling with the aftermath of altitude sickness. My lips are as dry as the Canyon and I have a flu-like hangover feeling. To be fair, that was one of the reasons we decided not to do any demanding hikes today.

grand-canyon-and-maca

 

grand-canyon

24th of Nov 2012

Just a boring day of driving from Flagstaff towards Zion National Park. On the way we wondered why on earth people here fence everything. It’s like ”Hey, I have this huge patch of beautiful nature that I own and I’m gonna make sure that nobody ever gets to step their foot on it, because fuck you, you’re in ’Murica, tourist.” Upon regular intervals you also see signs that threaten your life just in case you didn’t get the first hint and decide to try your luck anyway. Also, the police seems to be really active. In no other country we have spotted so many police cars on duty. And they are not just driving around. They are actively making themselves known by doing random checkups and patrols.

25th of Nov 2012

Zion National Park. Oh…my…Odin. One of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen. Totally competes with the New Zealand landscape. It was unbelievably beautiful. We started on one of the most famous hikes there: Angel’s Landing.

I was still feeling the effects of fading altitude sickness. Mainly in the form of a dry cough and sore throat. I doubted if I had the energy to go all the way to the top. Halfway up tho’ I realized that even if the altitude difference is around 400 meters, it’s nothing compared to the hike to the Chief (in BC, Canada) we did couple of months back. The track was paved and wide and the ascent was a nice and relaxed stroll (well, as relaxed as walking steeply uphill can be) all the way to the first landing: Scout’s Lookout.

I was too tired and too scared to go on after that because the path turned into a death trap. Or so it seemed: the path became narrow and rocky and on the sides were sheer drops 300 meters down to the bottom of the valley. All there was holding you back from death were a few chains that acted as railings to hold on to. No thanks.

But Jonas thought it looked ”interesting” and skipped ahead like a mountain goat. Or maybe more lika mountain bunny, if there was such a thing. After a nerve-wrecking 30 minutes he came back, huffing and puffing and excited. ”The views were so amazing! And the path wasn’t even difficult! Sort of!” Apparently others struggled quite a lot in the difficult terrain or were frozen in fear and had to stop every now and then to gather their courage. Not Jonas tho. Sometimes I wish he didn’t take those kinds of risks because all I can do is sit and wait anxiously, hoping he doesn’t plunge to his death. I imagined the fall was so long that he’d had time to shout ”I love you Tiuuuuuuuu” before hitting the ground. :'( But I do love my mountain ninja. <3

After hiking back down we hopped into our car and continued our drive towards Las Vegas in the sun setting over the Utah-Nevada desert. The feeling was surreal in the car. We couldn’t believe what we just witnessed. I wish we’d had more time to do more hikes in Zion. Actually I wish we’d had more time for everything on this last road trip. We’re thinking that next time we will reserve a week for Joshua Tree, a week for Grand Canyon, a week for Zion….at LEAST! Then some more weeks for Death Valley and Yosemite and Olympic National Park and…. Sigh….

angels-landing

 

angels-landing-again

 

angels-landing (3)

25th of Nov 2012

VEGAS BABY! Blinking lights. A whole city of lights. Reminded Jonas of Playa Del Ingles on the Canary Islands. So extravagant and it never sleeps.  We booked a suite at the Mirage for historic reasons (the Mirage being one of the oldest hotels on the Strip) and because we wanted to pamper ourselves at least once on our trip. The hotel is immense. You need a map to orient yourself in the hotel-casino-restaurant-shopping-mall complex. There is a small tropical forest and pond indoors. Behind the check-in counter there is a giant aquarium with fish in all colors of the rainbow. From our Tower Suite on the 25th floor we can see the Strip with its lights and sounds. As soon as we got into our room, we were greeted with the volcano, a fire show in the middle of the Strip. Whoa! Our room is spacious and tastefully decorated. The bathroom has a jacuzzi in addition to the shower, and two sinks. I guess so both parties can groom themselves before heading out into the night. It’s definitely the best room we’ve stayed in our whole trip. Aaaand the best room we’ve stayed in ever.

Tonight we won’t be heading out into the Vegas night. We are tired from the hike in Zion and taking in the glamour of Las Vegas on top of everything feels too overwhelming. We have some gift card credit so we decide to use room service for the first time ever. Jonas is called ”Mr. Lindström” at least 15 times in 10 sentences by the receptionist. ”Excellent choice Mr. Lindström. Thank you Mr. Lindström. Of course Mr. Lindström. Will there be anything else, Mr. Lindström? Have an excellent stay at the Mirage Mr. Lindström. It was a pleasure to handle your order Mr. Lindström.”

We laugh and think it’s a shame that we didn’t record it. I grin and say to Jonas ”I could get used to this, Mr. Lindström”.

top-of-mirage

 

the-mirage-las-vegas

 

one-armed-robber

26th of Nov 2012

I CAN’T BELIEVE WE ARE GOING TO BE HOME SOON!

Later that day

A perfect morning start at a local coffee shop with veggie wraps. Good coffee just makes the prospects of the day look a whole lot brighter. The day was filled with walking around the Strip and visiting different hotels. What’s weird tho’ is that after the first ”wow” reaction we seemed to get bored with everything really quickly. The blinking lights, the beggars (that honestly ask money for beer and not food), the consumerism, the resources spent on all this, the ridiculous extravagance of it all. I can’t help it but it makes me cringe, flinch and squirm inside. Maybe I could ignore it if I had some friends here to distract me. Vegas definitely seems like a place to visit with friends…and with more money. We’ve been burning through our savings so rapidly during our trip (that LA parking ticket didn’t really help) that all we have left is scraps for Las Vegas. There are a billion and one things to do, but somehow, for us, today, everything seems just boring and pointless.

We went through the motions of Las Vegas but at the end of the day we fell into our hotel bed and turned on the TV to watch the Vegas Poker World Series.

27th of Nov 2012

Time to start driving back toward Los Angeles. We took a quick breakfast at the same vegetarian cafe as the previous morning and hit the road. We thought we’d do a couple of touristy things first however and set our navigator for Hoover Dam.

Our expedition failed big time. We took a wrong turn, saw the BACK SIDE of the dam, then drove around for a while trying to look for the correct entrance. After a while we realized we’d driven far past the the dam and couldn’t be bothered to turn around anymore. Damn dam.

Next up we wanted to see the Red Rock Canyon State Park. When we got to the park’s entrance we were told that they only take cash for the entry fee. As we had spent our last coins on the one armed bandit in Vegas and the next ATM was a 15-minute drive away, we turned around at the gate mumbling ”it’s probably just a pile of red rocks anyway. Whatever.” We were just too tired to deal with any more hurdles at this point.

red-rocks-nevada

After that it was a long 5-hour drive toward the setting sun. That would be the last setting sun in the States on this trip. And it was one of the most brilliant ones we’ve seen on this trip. Thank you America.

last-sunset

28th of Nov 2012

The last night was pretty miserable. Couldn’t sleep much since I had too much going on in my head. And after finally passing out I woke up after 5-some hours, 30minutes before our alarm rang. The last day was a stressful one as well. We still had 2 hours of driving to do before hitting LA. We hadn’t yet packed, we still wanted to visit Whole Foods one last time before saying our goodbyes and of course we needed to return our car. We totally underestimated the distance we would have to cover as well as how bad AND confusing the LA traffic could be. 2½ hours before our flight departure we were still sitting in traffic and missing exits. I was a train wreck at this point and mentally preparing my rectum for shitting bricks when we miss our flight.

After some more agonizing minutes we finally found the express lane for the airport and were able to return the car. We then took the shuttle to the airport only to find out at the check-in counter that not only had our online check-in not been registered into their system, but with British Airways you are also not able to check in two pieces of luggage per person as we’d thought. Frantic repacking ensued while the clerk at the counter did last-minute check-ins for us.

While finally standing in line for passport checks, Jonas sighed.

”See, I told you we would make it.”

That was right before the guy checking the passports said to Jonas, ”Um…dude…You don’t look anything like this guy in your passport picture.”

I gave a nervous chuckle. ”Sir, that is what you get with 10 months of traveling.”

He gave me a a bipolar-like half-joking-half-serious face and asked Jonas if he had any other ID with him.

I laughed out loud again and said ”Sir, that is not gonna make you any happier. In Finland you don’t have to renew your driver’s license photo so he is still carrying the same one he got when he was eighteen.” And also added ”But look at that cute face!” pointing at the picture on Jonas’s license.

He squinted suspiciously at the picture of a baby-faced 18-year-old on the license and then Jonas. ”Hmmm…What is your date of birth?”

Jonas could only stare at the man, saying ”Are you kidding me?” I held my breath.

The security officer looked straight at Jonas and didn’t look at all half-joking anymore when he said: ”No, I’m not kidd..” when Jonas interrupted him with his exact date of birth.

After one last glance from passport to face he let us through.

flying-home

29th of Nov 2012

After 10 hours on the plane, 1,5 hours on the Tube and 0 hours of sleep we arrived at my friend’s place in Tooting, London. After some ordered-in Indian food we crashed on his sofa for a 3-hour nap and woke up just before dinner. There’s not much more to say about our first day on European soil. The day has been a big haze.

Nov 30th – Dec 4th 2012

It’s surreal to be in London again. It feels like yesterday when we were here last time, desperately tired after 2 months of packing and preparing. And now again, desperately tired after 10 months of traveling non-stop. This time it’s bliss. I’m so anxious to get home. And secretly full of glee because my family members have no idea they’ll be seeing us in a few short days.

At Heathrow Airport we fall silent when we hear our native language again. There is actually a horde of Finnish people around us and it feels surreal. We are almost home.

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