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My Favorite Picture 1
Subject: Jurassic
Updated: July 25
My Favorite Picture 2
Subject: Squirrels
Updated: August 3
My Favorite Picture 3
Subject: Laurel & H..
Updated: July 22
My Favorite Picture 4
Subject: Hippo
Updated: July 27

Down here in this diary, you can read my daily experiences !

Monday, July 19
Off we go, taking enough time on the airport to let S&E have some fun and look around. After all, this is their first flight ever. Unfortunately this kind of flights (11 hours) are not the most suitable for building up positive experience with flying; it is so boring. Erik at least has the sleep of the innocent...Than we had the big run for customs, luggage and rental car. With in total 2 hours we did not too bad after all. Good luck with the car. A full size car had to be returned to SF. Therefore we could take the upgrade for only 3$'s per day. Now we have a very nice and luxury Pontiac BonneVille (or so). Not bad if you now that we plan to ride something like 3000km. We stay in a Motel 6 next to Disneyland, were we plan to go on Wednesday. The room is ok, not very luxury, but large and with all necessary things (like a bathroom, free modem connection and an air-conditioning). Than at twelve o' clock, in bed and try to overcome the Jetlag. Normally the first night I sleep very bad, as this night again.

Tuesday, July 20
For the first day, we planned a "little" (we did more than 100 miles...) round trip LA to get some idea of the area we are in.  Of course we started with an all American Breakfast with eggs, hashbrowns, hamburgers, ham, toast and coffee.  LA is troubled literally by smog, as we could experience ourselves when we drove up to the outlook point at the Hollywood Mountain. It is amazing to see the city disappear at the horizon. In Hollywood we we were able to play the perfect tourist, with shopping and a visit to the Chinese Theater. Just for fun we followed the Santa Monica Boulevard from Hollywood to Santa Monica (what's in a name?). Very interesting, since this road goes all the way from Hollywood, along Beverly Hills to the sandbeach of the Pacific Ocean. It takes more than a hour to drive (!!) but the impressions of this area are wearth it! In Santa Monica we enjoyed the nice climate here, little breeze from sea, sunny and thus very relaxing to have a walk on the beach and on the pier. Suzan found again here favorite animal. Not only the climate is relaxing here, it seems that also the people living here adapt to this life. The atmosphere is very laid back. We finished the day, looking around in the (shopping)streets and center of Santa Monica and having some diner. And now in bed (eleven), tomorrow will be a long one. During summer Disney opens from 8:00 till 24:00. I guess our diary will be delayed by one day.....

Wednesday, July 21
Believe it or not, we actually walked (yes, for a change, I let the car in the carpark!) to Disneyland and spent there 16 (sixteen) hours! It was for 9 years I was here; some changes, but not as much as I would expect. The Park was build in 1955 and has still a lot of original details. Problem is then that it will be difficult to stay competitive with other locations where you will find real high tech innovations. May be it is  the "old" Walt, still looking over Mainstreet, observing the park, hand in hand with his, also timeless- and- successful creation Mickey?? Still it stays a unique Park, with a very mature and own atmosphere. I will always come back to this one when possible. Although vacation time it was not that busy, so we were able to do most of the rides and shows and still have time to relax a bit and enjoy the fantasy world surrounding us.

Thursday, July 22
BIG difference today in Universal Studios; I didn't recognize it again! Same period in time as Disney when visited the last time, but this park is completely new!! Amazing high tech special effects, exciting shows and real professional ambiance. I was totally smashed! By the way, the park lies on top of a hill, the studios below. Always good for a very nice view. No need to say I had a wonderful day, not only because (what is going on??) it was quiet here as well. Fortunately Universal didn't forget where they started: pure entertainment, for example Laurel and Hardy and Betty Boop, still on display in the streets... Thanks to the zero waiting lines we did the whole park before the end of the afternoon, so we returned early to the hotel and had a nice cool-down in the pool.

Friday, July 23
We brought Suzan to a girlfriend in Beverly Hills, a fellow student during here German-course two years ago at the Goethe Institute. So Erik and I spend the day together visiting Long Beach, the largest harbor in LA. As an attraction, they exhibit there the old passenger ship named the "Queen Mary" (sorry no photo's today, but this site is showing some info) and an original Foxtrot Class Russian submarine, a Scorpion build in 1972. The Queen Mary was build in 1930 and was at that time the largest and most luxury cruise vessel. I always thought this was the Titanic, but this must have been the strong marketing round this ship lately. Actually the Queen Mary is 170 feet longer and has almost the double (!!) tonnage. Before the war this was the inter-Atlantic transportation of choice, carrying famous passengers, for example Winston Churchill. During W.W.II it was used for military transportation.  Interesting detail is that this ship has been sold in 1967, after years of operation with heavy losses (Jetplanes took over the transportation of passengers between the Atlantic), for 3,5 Mio US$. Quite a bargain in my eyes. The walkthrough the scorpion is amazing. Build in 1972 you would expect high tech and efficiency. None of that all, the submarine has no comfort at all, small beds, and two toilets and showers for 75 (!!) crewmember..... Further on the whole boat is stuffed to the top with valves, meters, old looking equipment and dinosaur communication equipment. Very special experience and atmosphere, not only because Erik and I were the only visitors inside at that time and everything was left original and most of the equipment was still "operational", so we had the opportunity to live into the actual working situation. Great day!

Saturday, July 24
No big attractions today, so we had time to do some swimming and relaxing in the pool. On our way to San Diego, I was surprised by the very dense traffic; although 6 lanes (per side!) available we had nothing than queue's and slow traffic. So we decided to make leave the freeway and go to the beach. After a few hours the traffic was much better, so we moved on to our next motel 6. At night we visited the old historical center of San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter. A very friendly street with lots of restaurants, bar, nice architecture and a very pleasant atmosphere. Of course we did some shopping and closed the day with a nice Mexican diner in one of the many restaurants. I'm sure we will have a great time here in San Diego! 

Sunday, July 25
More educational value today with a visit to the San Diego Zoo, we were told, the third best Zoo in the world. Of course it is arbitrary what measurement to take for such a ranking, but I must say this is the finest and most beautiful Zoo I have ever seen (and I have seen quite some). May be not the most complete one in regard to number of species or may be not the one with the most background information and exhibitions, but definitively the one with the most natural habitat for the animals and a very friendly surrounding for both animals and visitors. It could be that the, not unusual for USA,  setup of funding has helped. Most of the habitats are sponsored by private people or foundations and these generous people are actually listed at the location!! You will see signs everywhere with phrases like "this underwaterview has been made possible by the family xxx". Even the shows were not just for fun, but focussed on the natural habitat and habits of the showed animals; very refreshing I must say. For those knowing me a little bit more, know that I collect Hippo's, so I was very pleased to see that in stead of the normal concrete pool for these animals, they had a most natural surrounding and for the visitor a spectacular underwaterview! As usual, there are a lot of side activities in a park like this. One we liked in particular; a young woman, doing letherpainting on rise-paper. It was restricted to painting names or so, combining animals and plants into the letters used. The result is most interesting and we took one as a souvenir to this fine place!

Monday, July 26
I always thought that Seaworld was only some kind of dolphinshow. Wrong!! its is an interesting mixture of shows, educational exhibitions and some general entertainment. All based on orca's, dolphins, sea-turtles, sea lions, etc. Enough to spend the whole day (or more). In our first show, I was quite surprised that we were warned for getting wet at the first row. I actually ignored this, since in the US, normally this kind of warnings are a bit overdone (probably to wave any responsibility). I'd better not; the dolphins deliberately (well trained!!) soaked the whole audience at the first rows! Under a shower I could not got more wet... So far funny, till I found out that my (supposed to be waterproof) camera was not working anymore. I was really pissed off and started thinking on all kinds of "plans B" for the rest of the vacation. Thank God, after half a hour the camera start working again. But for the remainder of the day I looked for the more higher seats! Special was also the Shark house, where you could walk underneath the basis in a glass tunnel and watch the sharks swim aside and above you. And last but not least, Suzan's swimming with the dolphins. This was really great for her, that this feature was available here in Seaworld. My guess is that this will be her absolute highlight of this trip!!

Tuesday, July 27
It is funny to say, but if you are running a "program" like we did the last few days, it feels like a day off if you have nothing planned!! So no alarmclock to wake us up this morning.... After a slow start, we just took the car for some scenic driving. It is my experience that by doing this, you will always find something worthwhile. Also today: at the beach we just walked around on the local pier. nothing special you would say, except that this one was extended as an motel (!); must be very convenient I guess. By just following the coastline, we bumped into the Mission Adventure Park, a typical old fashioned Luna Park. The nice thing here was that they had a real old wooden rollercoaster, called the Giant Dipper, built in 1925 and in the beginning of 1990 fully remoddeled into its old glory. Even the station carries the old atmosphere. Used to today's high tech rides, we didn't expect too much from the ride; I couldn't be more wrong, this old sister gave us a dazzling ride with speeds over 70km/hour, occasionally coming loose from the rails! Big FUN. Moved on further the coast, where we were granted with a splendid view over San Diego. After the traditional (in the meantime...) shopping we were lucky to get tickets for the completely out of its mind movie South Park. For those who know the series; the movie is taking the absurd situations and dialogs from our little hero's beyond the point what I would have been expecting to be possible for an American comic movie: Fabulous!! When coming to Europe, do NOT miss this one!

Wednesday, July 28
Early birds this morning, Suzan waked us up, but probably didn't look straight at her watch. The good news was that we arrived "early" in our hotel in Las Vegas. The ride itself was (330 miles) long, but I enjoyed the wide landscape with its desserts and mountains. Suzan and Erik were were not that impressed by all this natural beauty. We used the afternoon to check out a little bit the hotel. It is amazing, but actually there is no "need" to leave the hotel at all. There are shops, bars, restaurants, casino's, play grounds, swimming pool and the incredible "Adventuredome", a large dome built to the hotel where a complete attraction park is created. Complete with water rides, rollercoaster and some spot activities, like jumping and rockclimbing, which did Suzan and Erik. We specially went to the hotel "New York New York" to do the famous ride with their exterior rollercoaster, the "Manhattan Express". This was the longest and fastest rollercoaster I have ever been in. Great tip for those with a strong stomach...

Thursday, July 29
Relaxed planning today; only the trip to the Grand Canyon was open. After a poor start (the busdriver picked us up half an hour late...) we boarded a special constructed plain with large windows and the wings on top. This of course gives a great view what is going on below! The first milestone was the Hooverdam; tiny from above, huge if you are standing on it (this will happen tomorrow). The flight gave us not only some nice views, but also a good spoken word on all the backgrounds. Funny to hear for example, that the flat top of the canyon used to be the bottom of the sea (250 Million years ago). Due too the movement of the continental plates the whole thing was pushed up. Due too the soft substantion of the rock, the canyon was shaped by the Colorado river as it is today. On our way back we had a nice birdsview over the town and could see that a swimming pool is one of the necessary features here....We closed the day with some gambling in the casino (S&E in the kids casino) and celebrated our prizes before going to sleep!

Friday, July 30
One of the 10 technological "wonders" is the "Hoover Dam". This amazing block of concrete was built in the early 30's and was finished in 5 years!! Interesting to know that the building of the visitor center (ready in '95) took 7 years.... The dam has (and had) several functions: first was to get people employed during the deep recession the US was in at that time. More lasting functions are control of the Colorado river (against flooding) and the generation of power (2000 Mega Watt powerplant). All this information was given during the tour, where we also saw the "foot" of the dam. The Dam is really huge: it is 220 meters high, 200 meters thick at the bottom and 380 meters wide at the top.  No surprise it would not fit at once at the photo.... Other point of interest is that the dam is exactly in the middle of the border between two states (and timezones!); Arizona and Nevada. In the evening I spent more than an hour behind one of the "one armed bandits". I was interested to get a feel on "how it works". I did a bit of science and found out that the machines are paying back a lot of times small prizes, like 2, 5, or 10 coins (To keep it cheap, I played the 5$cent machines...). I started with 200 coins (10$) and lost everything (that's how the machines are programmed anyway). But after playing 200 coins, you still have at least 80% left to play on with. So the feeling you get if you do not separate inserts and winnings, is that things go well, and that it will be just a matter of time to get the higher prizes (100 to 10.000 coins) or even the jackpot. Now I understand that so many people spend all day in the casino. Waiting for the high prize to come and in the meantime loosing (very slowly) their money..... I will not play this again....

Saturday, July 31
After having a huge Brunch Buffet (I'm afraid I am gaining a few kilograms here...) we (Erik and I) went to see the Red Rock Canyon. What surprised me, is that the road from Las Vegas to this area, which was a dessert road 9 years ago, was completely gone!!. Today Las Vegas has moved up almost to the Red Rock area. I Checked this later with an old map I had from my earlier trip and I found out that Las Vegas more than doubled its urban area!! Amazing this town, in the middle of nowhere, is attracting so many people (in 1920 it had 2000 inhabitants...) The Red Rock area is a good example of the ancient shaping of the Rocky Mountains. In the visitor center we had a very clear guided exhibition on how the "west" was shaped over the last 400 million years. I never knew that this whole area was sea at that time. Later on the "crustal plates" were pushed up shaping all the mountains. Red Rock shows very clear the different layers of the plates. We also did some hiking on one of the many trails, but kept it with one; it is so hot in the dessert, unbelievable!! Later that day, we walked to the Hotel "Stratosphere Tower". At this hotel, a 350 meter high tower is built, including rollercoasterrides at the top (in Las Vegas the motto is: the crazier the better, I guess). Beside this you could walk round at the observationplatform and have a wonderful view over the city at day and night (right under is our hotel Circus Circus)

Sunday, August 1
Strange start today. I was sitting behind the desk in my hotel room, writing some stories, when suddenly the building starts moving at least a 20cm !!! first I thought I had some sugar shortage and fainted a little, but this was a real earthquake. I must admit I didn't felled too comfortable at the 29th floor..... This was not the only natural violence we had today. On our way in Death Valley we saw several (smaller) twisters, from which one crossed our road only 100 meters in front of us!! The name Death Valley was given to this, by the way really "death", area, not only because it is so hot (in average 49 degrees, the consequent hottest place on earth...), but after the disastrous passage of 100 pioneers in 1849. They were misinformed that behind the mountains, closing in this valley, there was gold and silver to find. Most of them got killed in this terrible surrounding. A good view is at the Zabriskie point, named after the one who find this place later on. The valley is not something you just cross. It is more than 100 miles driving in the heat (good thing we have airco) and this was a little to boring for Suzan (??) The few times I had the guts to get out of the car, I was rewarded with wonderful views of the dessert and its vegetation. At our next Motel 6 I was granted a nice dip in the pool...

Monday, August 2
After some swimming and a good American Breakfast, we decided to drive up the mountains for some sightseeing. At the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, you can find the oldest living things on earth (over 4.000 old pine trees!!!) The drive is really gorgeous, at elevations close to 4.000 meters, the sky is immense blue, the views are clear and you can see the Sierra Nevada stretching over a distance of more than 200 km!!. Even the snowy mountains at the other side (over 50km) of the valley appeared "close by". At the other side of this mountain you can look as wide to Death Valley again. At the visitors center, we had a nice hike on the mountain. Only one mile, but I was half dead due too the thin air (we were at 3.800 meters). With the local inhabitants, the little grey squirrels, we had big fun. They are very tame and sometimes quite brutal... Very impressing day again....

Tuesday, August 3
Tough day; 300 mile driving including the 100 miles through Yosemite Park. Nevertheless it was worth it! This park is of such a beauty. High snowy mountains (the pass (!) we entered the park alone is at 3.100 meters...), wide meadow's and beautiful lakes. Specially the forests are the key thing to see here. Actually you can spend a whole week here, hiking and camping around the wilderness. We only  left the car once, to make a hike at the Tuolumne Groove. In 1929, here the sequoia trees were found. As common in these day's the finding of these huge trees (up to 100 meter high, 10 meters in diameter and over 3.000 years old!) resulted in cutting them at high pace (34% was cut away before it was stopped; it takes a few thousand years before it grows back again...) and selling the seedlings as a curiosity. In one of the the dead trees, even a tunnel was made for the tourists (yes, also in the early 30-ties there were tourists!) to drive through...Unfortunately we had no time to go see the waterfalls and other beautiful sites; may be next time...The rest of the day was a tough drive, lots of traffic and difficult roads, so I was glad to have a rest at the pool after we arrived in our next destination; San Francisco!

Wednesday, August 4
Weird weather here. At our hotel, 20 miles south of San Francisco, blue sky and sunny. In SF itself strong wind and one layer of clouds at maximum 100-200 meters high, blew in from the ocean! Plan was to do the standard tourist things today. Poor start, as we had to find out that there was a "waiting line" for visiting Alcatraz of ONE WEEK !!! Crazy and bad luck. At least the "Pier 39" you can just walk on... Although very touristic, very friendly and some nice shops where we bought some souvenirs. The waiting line at the beginning of the famous cable car line was "only half an hour" so we decided to hop on for a nice ride. At China town we got off the tram for some walking around and sniffing the atmosphere of this largest Chinese community outside China. Still lots of "original" shops, although many Chinese adapt to the tourist industry now. The contrast however between this part and the more modern parts remains high. Any how, it is fun to see it. To avoid waiting again, we walked back through the Russian Hill; the highest part of downtown SF. Specially the crossing of Lombard Street and Hyde street is known for its nice view over the harbor with Alcatraz and SF at the other side. Of course we visited the Golden Gate Bridge, I think this must be one of the most photographed bridges in the world....To see the bridge from this side, you have to drive a small road through the hills at the north side. This road took us, by the way, as a bonus, among the ocean side. I am still not sure what was more beautiful..... As I am typing this, we still have no computer connection. I think there is something wrong with the telephone line (Murphy kind of thing), so I will try to upload this through the Lobby, let's hope....

Thursday, August 5
I do not understand, that every time I am in San Francisco (ahum, 2 times now) the weather is so bad. Good that we planned some indoor activities. For Suzan and Erik we went to a Bear factory in SF, for them to "produce" their own bear.... Big fun for them and some other 50 small schoolkids; what a mess, but funny and nice result! We spent the rest of the day somewhat educational in the Academy of Science in San Francisco. Main theme's are animal life, evolution and some exhibitions on Africa (no clou why) and Earthquakes (how can it be different, with a city on the San Andreas Fault....).Very nice combination of real high science information and backgrounds (even heavy stuff for me) and some popular hands on exhibitions with easy to understand information and "playing" around; good for the kids (and for me...) So we had a relaxing and interesting day. After the Pizza and ice-creams I finally was lucky enough to get an Internet connection again, so I could finally upload the last stories!

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