Roaming Iceland – September 2017

If you have been reading endlessroaming.com you are aware that I have been blogging about Most of what I knew of Iceland was watching TV shows like Vikings or Game of Thrones. Their appearance in Euro Football, music (Bjork anyone) and of course documentaries showing how awesome the country is. I was Roaming the Globe in 2017 and in Northern England; I wanted to travel somewhere different and as Iceland is easily accessible; I planned a cunning five-day adventure across the country. Being an experienced solo traveler, I figured it best to do on my own rather than with an organised tour. This proved to be awesome, I found out there is one road or the Ring Road that goes around the country. There was not much traffic and was a wonderful way to drive listening to Iceland music on the radio. Local bands such as Sigur Ross an Icelandic was perfect car driving music.

As I was landing at a reasonable time early so rather than visit Reykjavik I thought I would venture out further towards the town of Vik 225km away. I started the car, put on Monsters of Men (Icelandic band and perfect car driving music) and headed out. The landscape was a lot of green hills and no trees, and after a few hours later I reached my first stop, the amazing Seljalandsfoss falls. After parking the car, I followed a small pathway heading towards the 65-metre waterfall, the most famous in Iceland. I followed the pathway behind the waterfall and had the rather spectacular sight of flowing water viewing the barren Iceland landscape in the distance. I was wearing a leather jacket so was kinda prepared to get saturated and being bald meant no concerns about my hair. Instead of shaving one’s head and wearing an inappropriate leather jacket, one could invest in a raincoat. As daylight was running out, I jumped back into the car and continued my drive to Vik.

Vik is a small town, there are a few restaurants, houses and hotels with a church overlooking the town. I headed to a restaurant, had myself a meal. I spoke with a few American tourists who were all “Like Wow” and then went back to the hostel I’d booked for the evening. Unfortunately, because of cloud cover, I did not get to see the Northern Lights. I later learned it’s difficult to plan a trip to see the Northern Lights because the clouds are unpredictable you can’t expect it. The longer you spend in Iceland, however more likely you will see them, my five days were not enough.

As the sun goes down for only 3 hours in September, Id gone to bed early and was awake at the crack of dawn which I think was around 4am. I drove down to Reynisfjara beach to watch the sun come up; it was bloody cold. I then cranked the tunes listening to Kaleo ((Icelandic band and perfect car driving music) and continued my drive west. The landscape was changing from green grass to rocks and more mountains and driving near the coastline. It was early in the morning, there was little traffic and I was zoning out…. AND THEN SOMETHING SPECTACULAR, Id arrived at Glacier Lagoon. I knew that I would see this, but reading about it had not prepared me for seeing this amazing sight and words can’t do it justice. The weather was heating into a nice sunny day and there I was on a crystal blue lake staring at glaciers floating on the water. It was like watching huge sky-blue ice cubes floating on a sky-blue lake. I walked the left-hand side of the lake and then down to the beach, the sand jet black and rocky with large ice blocks spread across the coastline. I found it very surreal, the first time Id been to the beach with ice cubes.

I continued my drive to the fishing village of Hofn, which was 270km distance from Vik and had some lunch. The drive itself was spectacular, endless mountains, waterfalls and greenery, abandoned buildings and churches scattered about. I snapped a few photos and then turned back. Unfortunately, 5 days in Iceland would not be near enough to do the entire island. The driving distance is 1300km, so I turned around and headed back to Reynisfjara beach. On the way I stopped past Skaftafell Glacier, but as I had no time I only looked from a distance. It was typically spectacular, a huge volcano with a river of snow running towards where I was standing. Shortly after I arrived at the beach, I looked at jet black sand and stared at the free standing sea stacks just off the beachhead. I then explored the massive arched cave, which was great for making spectacular photo opportunities of the coastline. The beach was a location for scenes from Game of Thrones, Star Trek and Star Wars, and being Icelandic is spectacular.

I finished up and then headed to my next destination, the town of Selfoss for two nights, and on the way was another waterfall, Skogafoss. The walk to the fall from the car park is a kilometre, and the waterfall is 60 metre in height. As you approach it, water spray starts to envelope you from a distance and you can get drenched when up close. I climbed to the top of the fall, there is a pathway to the right, it took some effort however it was worth it for the view of the landscape. Another waterfall completed I headed to my hostel. Selfoss is a town of 7500 people or so its claim to fame being the home of American chess champion Bobby Fischer where his grave is. While I have a passing interest in chess, I was more interested in the great outdoors. I headed straight to the local pub for a few beers but like Vik the town was quiet so back to the hostel for another early night.

Skogafoss

Gulfoss

The following day was driving around the Golden Circle, a looped road inland that covers around 300km in distance. I drove to Þingvellir national park, Sykur pumping through the radio ((Icelandic band and perfect car driving music ). The park includes mountains, rivers, lakes, volcanic fissures and small towns. After exploring the park, I headed to the Geyser Hot Springs, the area roughly 3km square with a series of geysers shooting water up into the air. The most spectacular being Strokkur spring which sprays water up to 30 metres and is boiling hot, so best not to stand to close. Nearby is Gulfoss falls and stands at 32 metres in height. The water pours into a crevasse and the river flows with so much power that it’s like standing in the rain even though you can only look from above it. The waterfall is in two stages and forms a natural triangle, best explained in the photo attached.

After my second night in Selfoss and it was then onto Reykjavik for a few nights. Id only heard good things about Icelandic hospitality so was looking forward to a few nights out after my previous early nights. There was however there one more road trip before checking into the hostel. I jumped back into the car and headed north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula (Icelandic Band FM Belfast pumping through the radio….. you know the rest). The west is very different to the south coast and not as many tourists. The highlight was the coastline with a lot of strange and creepy looking rock formations and abandoned buildings which made for almost creepy experience; it was dark, windy and beautiful to explore. Located there is Kirkjufell mountain, an old volcano standing isolated which can be climbed and stands tall looking over the coastline, springs, creeks and waterfalls below. Essentially everywhere you looked was a postcard moment. The trip north took about 2 hours there and 2 hours back. I stopped past a few small towns, all including churches, and then headed past Kirkjufell mountain with and the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, yet more spectacular scenery.

Reykjavik nightlife I could tell was full of potential, however I had the unfortunate experience of being in the city whilst Justin Bieber was on tour. The population of Iceland is approximately 340,000 and 20% of the people were at the stadium both nights watching Bieber whilst I stayed there. Iceland has so many quality bands (which Ive listed), so I found it quite frustrating that the city was quieter than usual. Not that I didn’t have two good nights out, I did. The town centre has a vibrant and bright bar scene, plenty of beer, good food, great live music and no Bieber, fortunately. One thing that I found hilarious was Icelandic locals have an Incest Dating App. As the population is low, two-thirds of people live in Reykjavik. They developed the app to ensure if you meet someone you like you can verify if they too closely related (like a cousin). You connect the phones together (like the phones are kissing), whether or the potential couple agrees is up to them. I guess Tinder doesn’t cut it in Iceland.

The city itself has many attractions, the most famous is Hallgrimskirkja Church. There are 350 Lutheran Churches in Iceland, a lot of churches to accidentally marry your cousin if you don’t check the app. This church being the largest and overlooks the city, made of basalt rock and is open to the public. The city has various outdoor parks, buildings and has more of a village feel then a bustling city. It didn’t take me long to explore so one more trip I headed out of town for half an hour to the most famous attraction in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is a spa, it’s not a natural park, built in 1976, though the thermal water comes from the springs below it. You need to purchase tickets days if not weeks in advance and if you don’t, you won’t get entry to the spring. I didn’t book this in advance so instead explored around the spring, which is still a worthwhile doing. The reason the water is blue is the geothermal plant that is next door providing the compounds that turn the water to the bright blue colour. It’s all healthy and is reputed to have great healing properties.

So that was my trip to Iceland, a country full of volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs, icebergs, mountain ranges, beaches, music and that dam bloody Bieber. It’s an outdoor adventurers dream, however, if like me you more inclined to drive than hike it’s a comfortable place to travel. In saying that some photos I’d taken took a little effort, so I wasn’t sitting on my butt all the time. There were a few things I wish Id done differently like more time to explore the north of the island. I wish to see the Northern Lights, go to the Ice Cave, see a Puffin bird up close, not be in Reykjavik during a “You know who” concert, hopefully next time. There isn’t many people about once out of Reykjavik so you can also get a true sense of isolation, the occasional conversation with a local or tourist. However, the Icelandic people I met were friendly, hospitable, passionate about their country and also have a quirky sense of humour. I very much enjoyed my time there an hope you enjoyed the read.

Roaming the USA – Reno to Yosemite

If you have been viewing my website at endlessroaming.com you would learn I have been blogging and photographing about my 8-month road trip around the earth in 2019. This is the ultimate stage, my 4-week road trip heading south towards Las Vegas (later home), but first would be Reno “The Biggest Little City in the World”.

I headed out of Boise early in the morning, worse for wear after a late-night taking the city; a 7-hour drive to Reno along routes with limited traffic and broad clear and empty landscapes. Highway 95 onto 80 was not the most exhilarating of adventures, even though with no cops in the area cruising between 80 two 100 miles an hour was kinda fun. I drove it to Reno and checked into my casino mid-afternoon with the scorching sun and desert heat kicking in.

Now Reno to the uninitiated has a populace of a quarter-million, the downtown area comprising casinos much like its bigger cousin Las Vegas to the south. The reason Id come here was I’d visited previously on a weekend and had a wonderful time. It’s also a cheap city (see the previous blog regarding the $AUS vs. $US dollar) and with budget accommodation, diners, pawnshops, antiquing and of course beer. It was midweek, the casino Id booked looked very similar to the others. With not much action happening, just the modest throng of gamblers sitting on slot machines spread about the area and slouched over video card poker machines at the bars.

Thomas Flyer

Id booked 2 nights, so I had one complete day to see what I could see; my first destination was the National Car Museum to check out the broad array of motor cars they had on display. Most of these automobiles were from the 1930s and earlier and includes the renowned Thomas Flyer that won the 1908 New York to Paris Car Race. After an hour peering at automobiles, I wandered to the Mid-Town area to shop in a few of the antique clothing stores with an amazing array of clothes and costumes. The store owner revealed that Burning Man Festival was starting on the weekend and sales had been superb. I purchased a few retro items and on impulse booked into a tattoo studio to get some ink done. The artist finished up a few hours, so I headed back to my room having enjoyed the day.

 In the evening I dined at a casino restaurant, hunched myself over a bar and played video card poker, speaking to the occasional American tourist hunched over their machine. After half a dozen complimentary beers and having a slight buzz in my head, I went to check out the neon that is Reno Downtown. Much like inside the casino outdoors gave me a sense that time has remained still in Reno. Old casino signs surrounded me lighten up in translucent colours painting the streets including Reno’s famous street sign. They painted these 1960s-70s style buildings in neon lights so Downtown was nicely lit. There were some homeless walking around and a few tourists, but I felt like I was on the city alone, it was a peculiar sensation feeling alone. I appreciated the curious sense (maybe it was the beer). Reno midweek wasn’t anything like Reno weekend from my past visit here in 2012, or maybe Burning Man had swept the crowd away. After a few hours, I headed back to the hotel, bought a sandwich and zoned out in front of the TV.

The following day I was back on the road for a small distance drive to Lake Tahoe for the evening. As it was a short distance, I got off the Interstate and headed up the mountains to a ghost town “Virginia City”. Now my terminology regarding Ghost Town is abandoned which Virginia City isn’t, there it means haunted. Built-in the 19th century it’s an old mining town made up of Victorian buildings culminating on the high street. It was very touristy though there weren’t many tourists, the place had a Wild West looking appeal to it. There were plenty of store fronts draped in antique flags and tourist stores selling merchandise such as antiques, street signs (which I love) and boiled lollies. I walked up and down the high street to the deserted railway and graveyard, took a few pictures and after a few hours continued onto Lake Tahoe.

I loved Lake Tahoe even though I had only one night (I want to go baaack). The drive is over the Sierra Nevada which had fantastic views of the valley below and plenty of sweeping turns which I love. If you have been reading my blog you would be aware I’d been driving for about 3 week.  If you don’t know by now I love to drive fast and including cornering. Once over the top, I continued the drive through the forest which is dense (no sign of the lake) and then arrived at the central street heading into town. The California summer was in full swing so as soon as I checked into my hotel I was down to the Lake for a swim and suntan, another favourite thing of mine.

Lake Tahoe is around 500km in diameter, you can’t see the other side of it, to me it was more an inland sea. There were plenty of people on jet skis and kayaks swanning about the area, after a few hours I walked to my hotel. I then headed to the downtown area. Being Nevada there were lots of casinos which I avoided, I went through the ski like resort complex where most tourists were hanging out, purchased a few graphic t-shirts. Then headed to a local bar for corned beef (yum) and chatted with every friendly person at the bar. I was then directed me to a Tiki bar on the lake shore to suck down a few suds and watch the sunset; it was beautiful. I said adieu to my new mates and headed off to bed as I appreciated I’d be going tomorrow.

Up early the following morning and earnestly looking at the Tiki bar I headed out again for my next destination, Yosemite National Park, I was staying positive. Now I love Yosemite, Id visited there as a child with my parents and back in 2012 where I stayed in the park overnight. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be staying there this time so I had the whistle-stop tour of Yosemite, 5 hours in and out starting at the Western Entrance to the park. Heading up the scenic mountains, I used my trusty National Park Season card and was into the park, along with thousands of other visitors. I won’t go into what a special place Yosemite is as words can’t describe it. The distance from the park entrance to Sentinel Dome and back was roughly a 6-hour turnaround. In the park, I looked at the amazing mountains, landscapes, didn’t see much wildlife as I believe tourists may have scared ground animals off, bought graphic t-shirts. I drank a coffee, sandwiches were excessively high so went hungry, took selfies and then drove back out, better described in pictures.

Yosemite is best described in images

I then continued my drive onto Mammoth Lakes where I was staying for the evening which I’ll cover in the next blog highlighting through Nevada and its Ghost Towns. The last few days have been full of the long-distance road hauls, casinos, tattoos, shopping, the beach and epic Yosemite better described in pictures than with my haphazard grammar. Id found the closer I was to Las Vegas, the sadder I was feeling as my 2019 Roam around the globe was coming to its eventual end. Hope you enjoyed this read, Ill have a new blog out soon and as always feedback is welcome.

Roaming the USA – Heading to Yellowstone and Flipping a Coin

If you have been reading my website at endlessroaming.com you would be aware that I have been blogging and photographing about my 8-month road trip around the world in 2019. This is the final leg, my 4-week road trip in the North West of the USA. It was now headed into Yellowstone National Park and then would need to work out which direction to head afterwards.

I was up early in the morning and hopped down to the kitchen for all the best a Motel 6 has on offer, unlimited coffee, creamer (which if you are unaware is a somewhat revolting white powder substitute for milk), flapjacks, eggs, and Coco Pops, this was a healthy start to the day. I finished and jacked up on sugar and caffeine I filled up the car with petrol and headed towards Yellowstone National Park. For the unaware there are five entrances to the park, I was coming in from the North East Entrance which is widely regarded at the most scenic of the entrance points. I knew this as it was my second visit to the park, the first being in 2012 when I stayed in Yellowstone for an evening. This time around I wasn’t so fortunate and would be staying at a yet to be determined location.

The drive into Yellowstone is visually spectacular, first driving through a few small towns along the way where deer were occasionally crossing the road. I then started to ascend the Beartooth Mountain Range, the tallest of these mountains being Granite Peak at nearly 11,000 feet. The Beartooth Highway measures 68 miles in the distance and is regarded as one of the most majestic drives in the USA. There was virtually no traffic, the highway full of sweeping turns etched on the side of these mountains and a seemingly endless amount of stop-off points to take in the views. I crossed over the border from Montana into Wyoming stopping off to look at the mountains, lakes, and wildlife. After 3 hours or so I came to the end of the road at the National Park entry point and using my season pass I purchased at Glacier National Park (see https://endlessroaming.com/2020/01/14/roaming-usa-in-and-around-glacier-national-park-montana/) and drove on into Yellowstone.

I continued driving and when the road I was on intersected with a much more popular Easterly entrance point road the traffic and tourists moving about the area dramatically increase. The traffic slowed down as tourists were crossing road taking snapshots of the wildlife, so I pulled over by the side of the road and joined in. First I saw a large herd of buffalo, and as the day progressed there were dear, horses, moose and lots of birds, also a few wild bears though I could not get up close enough to get a quality photos and walking closer to the bears is considered dangerous apparently.

I joined the sloI joined the slow-moving convoy pass through the Lamar Valley and after a few more hours made it to the NPS Centre at Grant Village and decided on having some morning tea. I purchased myself a graphic t-shirt, had a coffee and mapped out my day which at this stage was up to roughly 6 hours, I was running out of time. When staying in Yellowstone a few years ago this was the Village Id stayed at, it’s a large resort-like complex with wooden buildings, a supermarket, bar, restaurant, and huts. I very much enjoyed my previous stay as I had a lot more time to take in the park but unfortunately, this time around the Australian dollar was low against the American I couldn’t afford to book it again. As I was on a tight schedule I finished up my caffeine fix and continued on my way.

Planning Yellowstone is easy, just follow the loop, I headed west to the Norris Geyser Basin and joined the enthralled crowds walking on platforms overlooking the massive geysers, some blowing off plenty of steam, others just bubbling away with lots of orange and blue colours reflecting within the pools. There was also plenty of dead plant life, appearing frozen from all the salt and sulphur in the air, it was a strange smell. I then headed onto the Lower Geyser Basin, yet more geysers, walkways, and tourists milling around the place. Back in the car and I then drove to the famous Old Faithful. Old Faithful was surrounded by tourists, the geyser is scheduled to erupt between 44 minutes to 2 hours and can shoot up to 180 feet in the air showering the spectators on a windy day. It’s a pretty awesome sight and a major drawcard for the park.

By the time I watched Old Faithful erupt it was mid-afternoon and it was time to decide as to which direction I would take on my road trip which would finish up in Las Vegas. I had two ways to go, the first being south past the Grand Tetons to Jackson’s Hole an onto Denver then west or second through the state of Idaho to Reno Nevada then south. There were major drawcards to both routes, I have driven through Denver, Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon previously and knew this would be a more expensive and a longer distance trip. I have also visited Reno and Yosemite previously but had not spent any time in Idaho, so nonplussed I flipped the coin and it came up Idaho, so that’s the way I went. I exited the Western Entrance to Yellowstone, watching wildlife grazing on the wide-open plains and headed towards Idaho Falls.

On the way I passed the impressive Grand Tetons to my left, Ive visited there previously including heading up a cable car to top the top of the mountain (a story for another time) and it was a shame I couldn’t visit again. By the time I reached my hotel I worked out I’d been on the road for 12 hours total, so of course, after check-in, it was off to the pub. Idaho Falls has a small downtown area, I was staying one side of the river and the downtown was the other side, in between are the Waterfalls, there was no height to them but there are many and with parkland on both sides of the falls makes for a lovely evening setting. After walking around the falls I headed straight for a boozer, I found the people to be very friendly and after a few hours was taken on a pub crawl through the quiet streets. I proved to be a novelty as not too many Australians make it this way so there was a fair bit of accent mimicking going on. Not sure when I got to bed but woke up quite late the following morning.

Idaho Falls

Worse for wear I continued on my drive through Idaho stopping past Twin Falls, it seems that Idaho has a lot of waterfalls, Twin Falls are located in a State park on the outskirts of the city. I descended into a canyon and wow, there they were, unlike Idaho Falls they are tall in size and there are more than two (or twin) running off the Snake River Canyon. I was truly impressed with the size of them, the park with its canyon, freshwater swimming, and greenery made for a great way to spend the day swimming and hiking through the canyon. I spent a few hours there recovering from a lack of sleep due to Yellowstone and beer enjoying the sun. Refreshed after a swim and a nap it was back in the car for a few nights in the next and onto my next destination, Boise.

Twin Falls

Boise proved to be excellent fun, with a population of nearly 230,000 people, it was the bBoise proved to be excellent fun, with a population of nearly 230,000 people, it was the biggest city Id visited since leaving Spokane a few weeks previously. The downtown area was calm during the day and then fired up at night with plenty of bars, restaurants, outdoor promenades and at the centre of the State Capital building. I spent days walking the Boise River Green belt, a large parkland with plenty of trees lining the river and heading downtown checking out interesting merchandise including purchasing a few old American road signs and T-Shirts to pack in my suitcase for the trip back to Sydney. The evening I met local people who were more than happy to show me the sights of the city, I proved to be as much of a novelty in Boise as I was in Idaho Falls. It’s rumoured that Australian accents are popular in America, my experience within tourist cities such as LA, New York, Seattle, this isn’t the case, Boise, however, my Aussie twang seemed very popular.

Green Belt Park
Boise State Capital

After a few days, it was time to long haul it to my next city, Reno in Nevada. It had proved to be a wonderful week, driving the epic Beartooth Highway into Yellowstone and experiencing the wildlife, geysers, surrounding forests and environment with. Then there was the excitement of flipping a coin to see where to next and I feel fortunate to have visited Idaho, not necessarily a destination for a lot of foreign tourists. I loved the waterfalls and also the friendliness and laid back cities that Id visited. If you would like to go somewhere not so typical then Idaho is a fantastic option, whether it’s in the north like the town of Sandpoint (see the previous blog) or in the south such as Boise, the state is well worth exploring and, I hope to get back there one day. Hope you enjoyed the blog, I’ll have another out soon(ish)

Australia and its Fires

As a nature lover, I have been horrified by what is happening during the Australia bush fire season. I consider myself to be a travel writer and rarely engage in political discussion but I have found myself distressed with what has gone on within the county but also all the discussion, exaggeration and slandering that is currently going on. I prefer to be objective with practical solutions, every action has a consequence, these are my 10 points for both Australia and the Globe.

  1. Australian Government should complete cost analysis in removing coal from Australia’s energy mix and the effect on the cost per household, this needs to be known because right now all Australians benefit from coal
  2. Ban the smelting of aluminium, it takes up 15% of energy production in Australia, the industry workers involved should be compensated and re-skilled.
  3. A sensible discussion around the use of nuclear and hydrogen power as alternatives to coal, wind and solar are currently incapable of generating baseload power. It would take up to 30 years to introduce nuclear power within Australia if the discussion started now, look to France for example as a successful and safe nuclear-powered nation.
  4. Australians are frequent flyers and an increased tax on jet fuel to drive up ticket prices will lead to less plane travel, this can lead to alternative modes of transport, the ie introduction of major high-speed rail transport between cities
  5. Ban diesel cars now and phase out fuel-only cars and its place duel fuel cars and eventually electric. Australia is a big per capita carbon emitter because of coal and also the use of cars due to distances in Australia, let’s look at alternate transport public transport within the cities, the introduction of Light Rail in Sydney is a good example
  6. Clarity around the “Climate Change” argument, the simple statement “Climate Change is Real” is vague, something like “Human Heating Planet” HHP is far more descriptive, also disingenuous politicians when discussing climate will have to make the distinction
  7. Remove the exaggerating from the argument, it’s not the hottest the planet has ever been but the hottest during human measurement going back to 1880, also denying excessive carbon use today has not affected weather is in complete denial of what is going on
  8. Stop publicly slandering people that choose to make a stand, Greta Thunberg shouldn’t be derided because she has taken action, Australia fires is also a catalyst and its now a global discussion
  9. More coordination between the Australian States and the Federal Government regarding bushfires, the Royal Commission is a good start, also funding to Local Bush Fire Brigades should be discussed.
  10. Don’t overestimate Australia’s place in the world, Australia has the world focusing on it at the moment, this will change. If Australia were to choose and ban coal exports it’s not Australia’s place to dictate to the rest of the world but hopefully, follow our example. Australia is derided already globally particularly in SE Asia (ex Asylum Seekers), Actions Count, Not Words.

And the rest of the Globe

Look to those who are the biggest global emitters of carbon, China, US, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Canada round at the Top 10. Australia may pursue all these changes as suggested but if other countries choose no action then what is the point. It’s up to leaders to have a more informed and respectful discussion and the first action is removing all exaggeration and slandering from the argument. Every country has consequences and knock-on effects on climate change and all these issues need to be understood

PS Come and visit Australia, despite some “exaggeration” in social media circles, the entire country is not burning, our land and forests, for the most part, remain untouched. It’s a beautiful country, go and visit affected areas such as the North and South Coast of NSW, Gippsland and Kangaroo Island, it would be most appreciated

Roaming the USA 2019 – Bend to Spokane

If you have been reading my website at endlessroaming.com you would be aware that I have been blogging and photographing about my 8-month road trip around the world in 2019. This is the final leg, my 4 week road trip through the USA and now heading for the town of Bend and further west. If you wish to catch up on my first post “Roaming the USA” you can refer to the following link 2019 Seattle to Portland.

Spokane Waterfalls

Now usually when I head somewhere I like most people tend to plan whats ahead so as to get the most of my adventure, however I decided not this time. My final destination was to be Las Vegas for my flight back to Australia and I had a few weeks of car rental to make it there. The night before picking up the car I spoke to a few people in a bar in Portland and one mentioned something that caught my attention, the Bend Brewfest. Bend is a town Id not heard of so I quickly Googled some images, it looked like a nice enough place so I booked a hotel through my favourite discount hotel app, Agoda TIP use Agoda there is no substitute, much like Skyscanner should always be used for booking flights. The following morning I headed to the airport to pick up my car and after some arguing about not wanting to pay for a car upgrade I went and picked up a brand new Toyota Camry and was on my way. TIP if the car rental counter is almost insisting that you take an upgrade on a car that you don’t want don’t pay for, more often than not when you go into the car park to choose your vehicle, the “upgrade” car will also be available at no extra cost… in my case it was a Toyota instead of a smaller Kia.

Detroit Dam

I was now on my way to Bend and heading through some amazing mountain and forest roads passing through beautiful Oregon. The drive was 4 hours or so and included stopping off at the spectacular Detroit Dam for morning tea. I checked into my cheap hotel on the edge of Bend and walked into town. It was around midday and the Brewers Fest was well on its way already so I decided to walk around town before joining in the revelry. The towns estimated population is 100,000 and is named because of the Deschutes River that “bends” around town. I walked across a bridge there were hundreds of people sitting on tyre tubes floating down the river, it looked pretty awesome and a great way to relax. I then headed into the downtown area, unfortunately I had only one night in Bend due to the cost of the hotel and the festival but could already tell I wished I had time to stay longer. Something had caught my eye; it was a Boxing Kangaroo flag handing outside a bar.

It was now 2pm and probably a little early to start drinking but I hadn’t seen a Kangaroo flag in a long time and was curious as to it was being displayed so prominently outside a bar in the middle of Oregon. Thee only person indoors was the publican, I sat down, ordered my favourite Australian beer and a meat pie which was on the menu, this was all truly surreal. It turned out that the publican was from Bend and had met his Aussie bride a few years ago while traveling in Australia and this is where they’d decided to settle. It was a great pie, good beer and conversation, not too many Aussies came through Bend, at least in the summer, and there was a few Kiwis (New Zealanders) living in town so rugby union was quite popular. I wished I could have stayed at the bar longer but it was now time for the festival.

Bend Brewers Fest was fantastic, it mixed in all things I loved, outdoors, foreigners (Americans, I being the foreigner) barbecue, live music and beer. I purchased my beer tickets from the concession stand and wandered around the tents “sampling” the many beers available. Over the course of the afternoon I started to develop a taste for “sour” beers which very much tasted like ciders which I enjoy and after more sampling I became involved in plenty of conversations with foreigners….. I mean Americans. This involved dancing around to live music and playing bizarre carnival games that I dont understand and wont explain, fanbloodytastic. A few locals adopted me and insisted we leave the festival early so I could see some of the nightlife, unfortunately I didn’t get back to the Australian bar however Bend’s bare scene was really enjoyable. We headed to a bar that was a series of creepy halls and hidden rooms, it was a maze and easy enough to get lost in. We then sat outdoors in the beer garden by a fire pit and I ended up talking to more friendly locals. I said goodbye to my new friends who dropped me off at my hotel, I now love Bend.

The following morning, I was hating Bend, too much sampling 😊, regretfully I got in my car and headed to the Waffle House for some cheap greasy breakfast and then drove west with the stomach rumbles. A good hangover is a sign of a good night out and I was feeling rough that’s for sure. I drove towards Mount Hood which is Oregon’s highest point at 3,429 metres and towers over the lush green forest and mountains below. I wasn’t feeling in shape nor the mood to attempt scaling the mountain so I parked below it, admired the view and drank a gallon of water, my hangover was starting to improve and with such a view how could it not. My drive continued west to the spectacular Columbia Gorge, an 80-mile canyon along the Columbian river forming the border between Oregon and Washington State. There are a series of bridges crossing the Gorge as well as freeways hugging the river on both sides. There were plenty of stop off points to admire the river which was as seemingly as busy as the road with logging ships, cruise boats and windsurfers. There were also trains logging cargo and people, the entire gorge appeared bustling with industry, maybe like the wild west once did and is also very busy and beautiful, its very difficult to describe.

Mt Hood

There are so many distractions along the Gorge but something odd did catch my eye, Stonehenge. I crossed once again over the river and drove up to “Stonehenge”. Maryhill Stonehenge was dedicated on 4th July 1918 to the people who died in World War 1 and construction was completed in 1929. In my opinion this was a very “random” tourist attraction to come across, particularly an historical site with so much reverence that was over 100 years old. Like the original Stonehenge its a series of rocks in a circle however in this case much better condition with far lesser tourists. It stands atop the gorge and makes for a great viewpoint over the valley, river and activity going on below. I was really starting to appreciate my unplanned road trip as I would never have thought of coming here, there is something to be said about word by mouth from local people…. at beer festivals. I then continued driving along Columbia River until the road and river diverted heading for the town of Walla Walla, for no reason other than I liked saying it out loud, “Walla Walla”.

Stonehenge
Columbia Gorge

I pulled into town, checked into my hotel and went for a swim in the pool and then had a nap. Walla Walla has a population of 45,000 and the downtown area is quite small, its located within in a large rural farming area. There was live music going on in the street, it was a Sunday night, however and the bars seemed to be pretty quiet. The last bar I proved quite popular as visiting Australians really weren’t common. The publican gave me a few beers, I taught locals how to say “G’day mate” and “She’ll be right” which no one could master and was invited to a house party by a few locals, however the festival and night previous had gotten the better of me so went to bed early. Feeling refreshed in the morning I hit the road, driving through a seemingly endless series of back roads surrounded by wheat fields as far as the eye could see. A crop duster flew over me and waved its wings while I was parked taking a photo of these fields of gold. I then accidentally came across the Palouse Falls State Park on the Palouse river. There was no one about, I went for a quick swim in this spectacular setting and continued on.

Quiet Walla Walla
Fields of Gold
Crop Duster
Palouse Falls State Park

I drove through some seemingly abandoned towns and more fields, eventually reaching my destination of Spokane where Id decided to stay two nights. The hotel was relatively cheap and in the downtown area so I figured might was well take advantage of the good location. Spokane has a population of around 220,000, the nightlife proved to be relatively quiet but it was good to give beer a rest and admire the city. The Spokane river runs right through the middle of town and has a series of waterfalls and bridges that cross over. I went on a cable car ride to get a better view of the waterfalls and in the evening walked around the series of parks in the town centre taking photos of the purple (lilac) sunsets, the reason why Spokane is referred to as the lilac city. My full day of not driving was mostly spent in the park, walking about shopping, eating some quality Taco Bell, and admiring the mid century commercial architecture of the downtown area.

Spokane

Next up Ill be heading further west towards Glacier National Park and then south to “yet to be determined”. I’ve really been enjoying this random road trip, Id met some great people, appreciated lot of picturesque scenery, sampled plenty of beer, and was getting really excited about what was to lie ahead, it was only day 5. I hope you all had/have a very Merry Christmas and make the most of the up and coming new year, hope to have another blog out shortly and fingers crossed maybe make it overseas again late 2020.

Ps apologies if I start or tend to overuse words such as picturesque, beautiful and spectacular to describe views, I’m not that descriptive and the USA is proving to be picturesque, beautiful and spectacular.