April Highlights

Highlights_F

Yeah, so I’m a little late with this one. I’ve just been seriously full of holiday blues and not been in the mood to blog. But, I figure I’d better start writing about mine and Sheenie’s epic California road trip before all the details start slipping away. Obviously the whole thing was a highlight, I loved every minute of it, but in the interests of not keeping you here all day I’ve just picked out a few things to gloat about relive with you.

Death Valley

I’ve wanted to visit Death Valley for as long as I can remember. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. The driest and hottest place in the whole of North America, Death Valley is full of extremes. The scale and the colour of everything completely blew my mind. The Badwater Basin salt flats lie 282ft below sea level, the lowest point in the contiguous United States. Just 84 miles away from Badwater Basin (let’s put this into perspective, Death Valley is 3000 square miles) is Mount Whitney, which is the highest point in the contiguous United States at an elevation of 14,505ft. Let that sink in for a moment. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of extremes, Furnace Creek in Death Valley holds the record for the world’s hottest recorded air temperature. D’you wanna take a guess at that temperature? 56.7°C. Yeah, for real. This place is just fucking incredible.

Road Porn

You may or may not know this, but I can’t actually drive (so yes, Sheenie did all the driving for this trip single-handedly. But, yknow, I navigated, I planned the whole thing so, swings and roundabouts…). Having spent my entire life in the passenger seat, I honestly think I would be more comfortable driving in the US than I would at home – the roads just make SO much more sense. Everything’s straightforward and it’s basically impossible to get lost. The exits on freeways are so simple, and the highways… my god, some of the highways in California, maaate. My personal scenic favourites were Highway 190, which runs through Death Valley, Highway 120, which runs through Yosemite National Park, and of course the very famous Highway 1 also known as the Pacific Coast Highway.

The Permanent Souvenir

Sheenie and I have wanted to go on holiday together for years, but for various reasons it’s just not happened until now. Still, clearly it was worth the wait! She’s also never seen anyone get tattooed before, has never managed to make it down for any of the sessions I’ve had on my sleeve (which must be over a dozen now). So, what better way to commemorate the trip of a lifetime than with a tattoo?! I picked San Francisco as the place I would get it, since that’s where we would be staying in one place the longest, and decided vaguely what I wanted before I started researching artists. It’s a California quail, surrounded by California poppies, natch. When I came across Haley Adams on Instagram, I instantly knew she was perfect for the job – her animal portraits are insane. When I got in touch with her back in January, it turned out to be amazing timing as she was fully booked until the 16th of April – which was the day we were to arrive in San Fran! Meant to be, or what? Anyway, Haley did a fucking brilliant job and it’s healed beautifully.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

I didn’t have many expectations when it came to Carmel. I’d just happened to notice the name on Google Maps when planning our route, and gave it an image search ’cause it sounded cute. What I didn’t expect was how peaceful and tranquil the whole place is, not to mention fucking stunning. We sat on Carmel River State Beach for about an hour watching the sun go down and it was the best sunset we saw the whole trip. And the FOOD! My god, the food. We were only there long enough for two meals – dinner and breakfast – but it was seriously some of the best food we had out there. Carmel is beautiful, unspoilt and seems to be a bit of a tourist blind spot because we didn’t see any others. Quite possibly the Pacific Coast Highway’s best kept secret.

The Little Things

The entire idea of a west coast road trip was my ultimate bucket list item, so that’s well and truly been crossed off. But within that, I’ve also ticked off a lot of smaller things. Death Valley, for one. And I’m not gonna lie, a lot of the others are food related… Eating somewhere featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives? Check. We went to Schooner or Later in Long Beach for breakfast, and I had The Mess. Hoooly shit. Hash browns, eggs, ham, onion, green pepper, cheese all scrambled up together into what is indeed a mess, but the tastiest one ever especially when topped with fresh California avocado and sour cream. Hands down, my single favourite meal. Also up there was The Stinking Rose in San Francisco, which is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for almost 20 years; my dad went on a work trip in ’98 and I’d been longing for a piece of that sweet garlicky action ever since. Lastly, entirely not food related and also possibly slightly morbid: visiting the grave of Jimmy The Rev Sullivan. I’m a big Avenged Sevenfold fan, and Jimmy’s death in 2009 was quite possibly the most affected I’ve ever felt by the death of a musician (even more so than Michael Jackson or David Bowie, both of whom I practically worship). When I figured that we’d be swinging through Avenged’s hometown anyway, there was no way I couldn’t stop by the cemetery and pay my respects. Rest in peace, Jim ♥

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