Thursday, 15 September 2011


Following our midnight drive through Death Valley, we awoke in the town of Lone Pine and found ourselves surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountain range including Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. At the base of this mountain range lies the Alabama hills, a collection of ochre coloured Moore-esque rock formations that contrast with the snow peaked landscape backdrop.

We made our way up the valley, stopping off at the Owens Valley Radio Telescope facility. Similar to the VLA back in New Mexico, the facility consists of many moveable dishes that can be configured in several ways. The cover provided by the mountains on either side reduces wave interference from the nearby cities.  Further on is Yosemite, where kilometre high walls of rock rise from the valleys and waterfalls cascade from the mountaintops. A patina of sun-weathered stone has built up on the surface of the rock face, where the age and the history of the landscape can be read so easily.

After picking up our first speeding ticket we drove up past lake Tahoe and stopped off in Reno to visit the Landscape Futures exhibition at the Nevada museum of Art. The show includes a mechanical landscape representing the hydrological cycle and speculative proposals for bird sanctuaries sited on permafrost. We then crossed California to the large metropolitan area built around San Francisco Bay. A patina has formed on the clean grid structure of San Francisco as well. Areas of rich character such as Castro and China Town have been built up over many years and turn the city into a colourful hub that is a welcome break from the monotony of the cities of the Southwest. Highlights included seeing the skyline appear out of the fog as we arrived by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and the de Young museum designed by Herzog de Meuron was another example of the cultural investment made by the city.

After a few days in SF we set off south on the final leg of our journey, down the Pacific Coastal Highway or route 1. 6 weeks after leaving the Atlantic and 8000 miles later, we finally set our eyes on the Pacific Ocean. Sites along the way include the Jamesburg Earth Station, the Vandenburg Air Force Base, the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power plant and lots of oil fields. After dipping in the ocean for a quick paddle we drove on, stopping for dinner in the very Californian city of Santa Barbara, before preparing to immerse ourselves in the urban endlessness of Los Angeles.

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