On the road. Still in California!

California is cool, I could totally live here. We've been here now quite some time and still enjoying it very much. It's mostly sunny, warm and has a cool atmosphere. California is also very socially responsible and you can find so many cool fair trade cafes, shops and so on. A lot of organic products available and specialized stores. People are quite conscious of their impact on the environment and world. You can have a very cool lifestyle here.

We checked out Beverly Hills and saw all the big mansions. I have to admit - Beverly Hills is very beautiful and has pretty landscaping. Real estate prices are astronomical of course, but it is a statement to live there. The way the city and houses looked there would be Dubai's wet dream. A lot of houses have tall stone walls around them, so you can't really see most of it - but thats understandable. We also went to Rodeo Drive (probably one of the most famous high-end shopping districts in the world), bought a lot of stuff and dined in a spectacular Italian restaurant with Bruce Willis and Brittany Murphy.
LA is so damned spread out (I mean the greater LA) that even though we spent there 4 days, we couldn't see that much. So we prioritized and spent most our time in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and a bit of downtown. Traffic is quite crazy and people drive recklessly on the city highways. I prayed a lot while driving those.
On the picture above you can see the view from the hills of Hollywood to the city of LA. The camera didn't capture it well, but it is so possible to have an amazing view. One side of LA is on the hills (you might have heard of the forest fire there recently) and the rich people live there to enjoy the view.
We did quite a few typical tourist things and went to Hollywood Boulevard to see the stars. I am not quite sure what I was expecting, but actually Hollywood Boulevard is just a street with shops, cafes, residential buildings.. and its not even a fancy street. So it was kind of cool that this normal street has those stars and people walk by without paying any attention (except for the tourists).
We spent a day in Malibu which is a posh small city just next to LA (you can still see LA across the bay). We hung out on the beach and drove into the mountains there to camp. I can understand how living there can be fun with all the spectacular views and small mountains.
Even though our map said we could camp up on the hills in Malibu, the signs there said we could not and we had to drive into a public park and pay 25$ in order to camp with a bunch of other people in a organized park. Some of these state parks look so lame and you have no privacy there, I wonder why anyone goes there in the first place.
The next day we went back to Hollywood to the Universal Studios to see how the movies are being made and to have some fun. Universal Studios is mostly a movie theme park with roller coasters and movie characters, but you can also take a 45-min tour in the area where they actually shoot the movies and even learn a few new things about the movie world.
Next stop was in Santa Barbara to see the soap opera people. Most of our time was actually spent next to Santa Barbaba where Sarah's sister Lily was in the organizing team of a hippy green music festival. It was definitely a worldview expanding experience. First of all I had never seen thousands of hippies all together and at first the event seemed like a freak show to me because of all the unorthodox clothing they wore. Everything there was socially resposible, beer cups were made out of corn, energy came from solar panels and so on. People were painting, playing music, there were green living workshops and lots of cool stuff.
Our next great destination was San Francisco and we drove on the famous highway 1, which goes along the coast of the Pacific and has amazing views. There were many places where you could see seals on the coast... really cool. There was also a whale watching point, but we didn't see any at the time.
The coast views were quite breathtaking. We camped 2 nights in the wilderness on our way, once we went quite some ways into the inland and the second time we noticed a trail going into the forest while driving. We stopped the car, packed our stuff and wandered into the forest. It happened to be a redwood grove (redwood is kind of a mix between a fir and a pine, one of the tallest trees in the world) and it was amazing. There was even a waterfall. We saw deer walking by our camp fire and in the night we heard many additional animal sounds. I have seen so many wild animals here its not even funny. Rabbits and squirrels are like everywhere.
The further we went from LA, the colder the weather got. Same with the ocean - it was so cold that after having out feet in the water for 3 minutes they went numb from the cold.
San Francisco - so far the coolest city we've visited. Arriving to San Francisco was also a re-union for me with a long lost pal. We were hosted by Tony, who was in the MC of AIESEC in Estonia long time ago. We hadn't seen each other for 4 years. Every night was full of cool and interesting conversations. San Francisco is extremely hilly - you can see how the road goes in the picture above. And its like that everywhere!
San Francisco has a working public transportation system with buses and cool trams. My favorite feature was the cute houses of San Francisco. I felt so much like in Europe. And the city was very tight and close together like European cities which I liked.
We hung out in Chinatown, downtown and many famous and cool parks. The city is just full of parks and has the largest man-made park in the world as well. It is also very liberal, very socially resposible. I was offered to buy weed 2 times, one of the sellers gave us their business card even. San Francisco has a large Asian community and a lot of Asian restaurants which we enjoyed. Some of our best food here we ate at Eritrean and Carribean restaurants. That much variety in food is something I like a lot.
This is the view to San Franciso over the bay (after crossing the Golden Gate bridge).
Golden Gate bridge was cool, we took a lot of pictures like real tourists, but... the aura surrounding it was greater than the bridge itself. I guess its like that most of the time, I have felt so many times before when visiting something that people speak a lot about (Taj Mahal, Burj Al Arab etc).

We both enjoyed San Francisco a lot, maybe I did a bit more as it was not so warm :) Mark Twain had once said that "the coldest time I've ever experienced was the summer in San Francisco" :)

Currently we are in a small town called Stockton, east from SF to visit Sarah's brother-in-law's brother's (Blake) family. Blake is a winemaker and we have already learned so much about wines and wine industry, its quite fascinating. In an hour or so we're off to see his winery and to taste some:)

After that we'll be going outdoors again and spending quite some time in the Yosemite park, see the Sequioa National Forest and then - Las Vegas.

On the road. Reporting from California

We have been on the road for quite some time now, and we're loving it. We're having so much fun and it has been a cool adventure so far.

After leaving Sarah's uncle's house we started to drive through the mountains towards Arizona with the aim to spend the night in the forest somewhere (in the mointains). We rarely (if ever) know where we're gonna spend the night before its a couple of hours until it becomes dark. All most all the time (except for one night) we have managed to set up our camp (or find a hotel) before it gets dark. In the cities it wouldn't matter, but it matters a lot in the outdoors.
New Mexico continued to greet us with magnificent views. Beautiful mountains we're almost always in sigtht.
In the city of Alamogordo we went to see a live auction - man that was cool. Just like you see it on TV, mumbling real real fast. I couldn't understand most of it. Picture above is taken right in front of the auction shack.
This is a picture we see often (above). Road, road, long road.

This is the kind of landscape that was prevailing in New Mexico. Mountains and hills, no forest, almost desert (and there was desert at times also), bushes here and there.
Finally we reached the mountains we wanted to go to. This area is called the Gila National Forest. It is very, very beautiful and from on top of mountains the view is just amazing (the picture above is taken from a top of a mountain). The mountain we chose for camping was about 3000 meters high, highest I've ever been. We parked the car on a vista that had a small car park and found a hiking trail. We packed the necessary and hiked into the forest. As it started to get dark, we didn't hike very far and started to set up our camp. We had a nice fire and cooked good food. It was quite cold - maybe 5..10 degrees Celsius. Boy were we in for a surprise in the morning.
In the night when we were sleeping in first started raining and then snowing also. We climbed into the same sleeping bag to keep ourselves warm and covered the entrance of the sleeping bag so it wouldn't snow inside. We do have a tent with us, but before entering the forest it seemed clear and we didn't want to carry it.
In the morning when we woke up we were totally covered in snow and ice, as was the forest. It kept on snowing. It was freezing. Climbing out of the sleeping bag took a lot of courage.
Finally we managed, packed our bags as quickly as we could and started to walk back towards our car.
The view to the snowy mountains was beautiful. When walking with all the hiking gear, it wasn't cold anymore either. Luckily neither of us got sick, so all is good and it was just a day to remember.

I have seen more wild animals here during my trip than in last 10 years of my life. Deer, elk, rabbits, jackrabbits, small desert mice and what not. This deer on the picture was maybe only 5 meters away from us. You also see quite many dead animals on the side of the roads, as I have learned road kill is common here.
This colorful mountain (and many other next to it) was initially (and still somewhat) a mystery to us. Did the nature paint the mountains? Later we discovered there was a silver mine in the middle of the mountains, so the colorful gravel is probably waste from digging into the mountains, so they pile the gravel on top of them. Looks cool.
When we entered Arizona, this was one of the first things we saw. The view was (once again) breathtaking. Check out the road. We drove on small curvy mountain roads a lot during this trip.
In Arizona we decided to spend the night in the Apache Indian Reservation territory. We didn't know exactly how the reservations work, but when entering it we saw a sign that said camping, fishing and hunting requires a permit. So we started to look for a place to get one, first found a police station, but no one was there. Then we found a wildlife recreation center or smth, but they were closed also (it was Sunday). As it was getting dark and we needed to find a camping spot, we decided to camp here anyway. There was a lake nearby and we decided to drive over there to camp.
The lakeside had an official camping site which we used. The weather was warm and the sky clear. We set up a fire (see above), made really good food and enjoyed the view. It was very beautiful, the Apache land. The night sky was also clear and I hadn't seen so many stars for a long time. In the morning we slowly started to pack our stuff, checked out the ducks swimming in the lake and were generally enjoying our time until a local ranger suddenly came. Of course we didn't have a camping permit, so we got into trouble. We explained that our intention was to get a permit, just everything was closed. He had to report us anyway so we told our story in detail, he checked our personal data and issued a ticket. The amount of the fine was to be determined by the tribal court. So we had to drive to the capital of this reservation, San Carlos, to go to the tribal court to get our punishment. In the tribal court we got both sentenced 160 dollars each at first, which was later reduced to 80 dollars per person after we explained story. We took it as a donation to build up the glorious Apache nation.

The reservation was very interesting. Naturally all people living there were Apaches. It was a rather poor community, small municipality buildings, shops with empty shelves (reminded me of Soviet Union), small residential houses. Everything seemed small and poor, but very interesting (we were talking about how we'd like to have a cultural exchange program with the reservations or smth). I was wondering which language do they speak; all pictures and signs at a school (made by children) were in English, so schools work in English. We heard many older people speak Apache language, so at least the older generation knows it. All the official business in the tribal court (even between the Apaches) was conducted in English.
Finally we said good-bye to the Apache people and drove on. Road sides had a lot of cacti like the one on the picture above. That one had holes in it and birds were living inside it.
Day before yesterday we reached California, stopped by the Joshua Tree National Park and yesterday arrived to Los Angeles. Boy we're loving it! We chose Santa Monica as our first destination here (I'm typing this from our hotel next to the beach of Pacific Ocean). It is so damn cool here and very beautiful. The energy is very different here. It's carefree, fun, happy and active. People here are generally beautiful and fit. I almost didn't see any fat people at all. There is a lot of eye candy for both sexes.
View to the Ocean Drive. Its very, very pretty.
This is the beach. After checking out of the hotel, we're going to hang out there.
Streets of downtown Santa Monica. Again, very cool and enjoyable. We had a lot of fun.


During our trip I took some videos on some of the prettiest places. Here they'are:\

On the road. In New Mexico.

Today is the 3rd day of our road trip. So far so good! We see a lot of road (as seen on the picture below), but the landscape that surrounds it luckily varies a lot. We've seen fields, plains, desert and forest so far.
The trip has been very enjoyable. I've seen old(er) and new kind of American buildings, many small towns (population between 1,000 and 10,000), cool plants, large skies (larger than I've ever seen) and emptiness (in the desert). I've seen wind mills producing renewable energy next to oil wells. That's kind of a weird sight.
We made it to the Roswell UFO museum - it was cool, but smaller tha I expected. Now I am convinced that what happened there with the UFO crash was a government cover-up :) Roswell as a city has a lot of character - cool 1960ies style buildings, a lot of alien-theme cafes and restaurants. It was weird to me that when entering Roswell the city sign said "Dairy capital". Trying to brand itself in a 2 different ways at the same time is no good!
We see a lot of endless roads which is kind of cool, romantic, longing and at time disheartening.
New Mexico is different from Texas (to me). It is more mountainous and the landscape changes more often. Look at this cool hill on picture below! We drove by many like this.
You can see mountains in the background. That's where we are right now.
We are currently in the Lincoln National Forest, visiting Sarah's uncle and aunt who live in the mountains, in James Canyon. We saw a herd of deer yesterday next to the house and 4 elk this morning. Very cool! We also drove around in the forest lst night on ATV-s (four wheelers). Nice entertainment.
Under the pinetrees you can spot our car - Honda Civic. Very small compared to the great outdoors!
This is what I see right now when I look out the window. After finishing this post we will go for a hike in the forest! We don't have a strict agenda nor tight schedule, we do what we want and check out all the cool places. The best kind of trip.

Let the trip begin!

Tonight I'm sharing my culture with my people here by cooking Estonian dinner and tomorrow the month-long journey across the country starts. Road trip! I have heard that USA has so many breathtakingly beautiful places, that I can't wait to start. Before that I will have the chance to attend a NBA play-off game (Spurs vs Nuggets).

I'm gonna give you an overview of where we're going by showing some maps. MapQuest allows you to make route maps with up to 10 destinations, so I'm providing you with 3 maps showing our route along with key landmarks where we're gonna stop (we'll stop in a lot of places, but won't list them all here). Here's the first map:
We start from Austin, Texas and continue to San Antonio, going through a German settlement Fredericksburg, then crossing over to New Mexico where we will go to Carlsbad (that has awesome natural caverns for us to explore), Roswell (checking out the aliens) and Cloudcroft where Sarah's uncle lives. We'll continue to a place called Truth or Consequences (its really called that!) and end up in the state of Arizona where we'll first go to the Apache indian reservation.

After visiting the Apache people we'll stop here and there in some national parks in Arizona, avoid the major cities (to save time as they're not so cool anyway) and head out to California. First stop will be in the famous Joshua Tree National Park. After that we'll continue to Los Angeles, check out Hollywood and other local places of interest. After LA we'll move on to Santa Barbara to see the soap opera people and check out the rich folk (apparently Santa Barbara is the city of rich people). Next destination is San Francisco and we'll drive the famous highway 1 on the coast and admire the beautiful ocean view. Half way we'll stop at some camping places. After SF we'll visit a California winery to enjoy some wine (Sarah's brother-is-law's brother has one). Next stop is Yosemite National Park (I've heard its one of the most beautiful places in the world), followed by Death Valley national park. Death Valley! Mwhahahah!
The third part of our journey goes from the Death Valley to Nevada - Las Vegas. Here I'm gonna earn my first million. With money in my pocket, we'll jump back to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon. After seeing the wonder of the world, we'll head north to Utah and check out the amazing Zion National Park where I have heard we will feel really small as the nature is so big. Utah has the biggest sky in the world as well, they say. We'll sleep under the stars to make sure. We'll check out a couple of other cool places in Utah and move on to Colorado that has over 50 mountains that are over 4200 meters high. We'll visit the famous cool city Boulder and the capital Denver. After doing other cool stuff, we'll start heading south, back to New Mexico to visit some more national parks and indian reservations. Alas, all good things must come to an end and then its time to go back to Austin, Texas.

Total length of the trip: 5451 miles (8770 kilometres)
Total hours driving : 97.5 (approx)

I'm gonna try to post during the trip whenever I can (when I get to the internet). As I plan to spend majority of the time outdoors in the wilderness, I might not happen too often, but you never know.