This is the last blog of my cross country road trip adventure. As sad as that is, I am so lucky that I get to go home to Hawaii, where the fun is essentially limitless and I will get to enjoy an endless summer and get my fill of free diving, hiking, surfing, and beaching it up. Anyways, since I last blogged it has been quite a few days, but the exhaustion really started to kick in and all of my “free time” was filled with more adventures, or sleeping. The second day at Vegas was much more fun. After the initial shock of the craziness and bright lights, we recuperated with a day of outlet shopping and hanging out next to our awesome pool. In the evening we prepared ourselves for the crowds, and went to Fremont street, which was a much more pleasant experience. There was so much to look at, so many unique people, but was much less overwhelming. We went to dinner at the California Hotel for a delicious dinner (even though I ordered a breakfast omelet. Dessert was the best ice cream cone ever at a Hawaiian favorite, Lapperts. I got a coconut ice cream swirled with delicious fudge and macadamia nuts. YUM. We headed to a nearby hotel casino to give gambling another try. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, and pressed random buttons until we lost our money. No grand beginners luck but it was a pretty fun experience. Once we lost about $20, we headed back to the main street to walk around the crowds and gawk at the half naked (maybe even 90% naked) street performers. At 10:00 there was an amazing “show” that displayed amazing visuals along the entire ceiling, as they blasted music. It was a very cool sight. Fremont street also has “Slotzilla” which is a huge zipline over the road, I tried to sign up but the line was just too long. Nonetheless I enjoyed watching people zoom overhead, soaring over the massive crowds.
The next day was another very interesting drive to California. We drove through the vast and hot Mohave Desert. We saw the tallest sand dune in North America, which is an ecosystem I had never experienced before. The drive through the desert was definitely not a main road, but was a lot of bumpy and curvy driving. Although it was long, it was the only way for us to get to Joshua Tree National Park. This park is known for its unique rock formations, ideal for rock climbing. The joshua trees were also and incredible sight to behold. These trees looked like a mix between a cactus and a palm tree, and grew to be pretty massive. This park didn’t take very long to drive through, so we took a few pictures and continued on our way to Palm Springs. Once we checked in we were pretty exhausted. I am pretty sure we didn’t do any sight seeing, but found a Panera and then passed out. The next day was actually pretty relaxing, and we were able to hang out in the room, nap, pack up my belongings to ship to Hawaii, and then we went to a movie. We saw Finding Dory, which is a movie I would HIGHLY recommend, no matter who you are. It was sweet and moving, and I even found myself teary a few times. After the movie we finally explored downtown Palm Springs. Although it was HOT (over 100 degrees), this area was super cute, with a lot of visitors, amazing restaurants, and affordable shopping. I found a store where all the clothes were under $17, and made in the USA, so I finally bought myself some new clothes, which was a first in a pretty long time. We went to a delicious authentic restaurant, had a yummy pineapple Dole Whip for dessert, than headed to bed. The next day involved cleaning out the car a little, and heading to our final destination of Long Beach, California. But first, we headed directly to Huntington Beach, the surf capital of the US! I loved this little beachy city, and we laid out on the beach, wandered around the pier, and walked around a street fair that was taking place. It was a lovely beach day, ending at a little brewery where we had a yummy dinner.
After the beach, we drove less than an hour to our hotel, which was actually a historic ship called the Queen Mary. Once we checked in, we walked around the ship for a little bit, and discovered that they offered guided tours, we went with the ghost tour. It wasn’t especially scary, but our guide recalled true happenings he experienced on the ship, and others encounters with “spirits” onboard. I don’t especially believe in that type of thing, but turns out we definitely had some kind of ghost in our room. We stayed in room A126. It all was fine and dandy until Mom went to the shower, leaving me alone in the bed room. This is when I began hearing a knock on the wall. I automatically ran into the bathroom, not even considering going outside to see what it was. My mom brushed it off suggesting it was a water heater due to the shower. We slept with the lights on, and the TV on at night, to try to make me feel better. But throughout the night, at least once an hour, the tapping/knocking noise would continue on the wall, waking both of us up. The next day, when the sun was up in the sky and I felt a little less jumpy, I tried to investigate. I went out into the hallway to see if there was anything out there that could be the culprit of the noise…nope. I returned back into the room and jokingly knocked twice on the wall, right where the noises originated from. There was immediately a response, a mimic of the knock I had done. My mom and I looked at eachother as I questioned outloud what was going on, and the wall responded with one final and loud noise. I took a photo of the wall, and went to the front lobby to ask if there was any sort of heater behind it that could be responsible for the noises we both heard. After discussing with other workers and their manager, they figured it was an old electrical box, but was no longer functioning. He told us that we should not be hearing any noises at night, that wasn’t normal, and he offered us a new room, which we gladly accepted. Fortunately for us, that was the last of our “encountered” plus, we were upgraded to two king beds instead of two twins…they must have felt bad!
Our last day in California was spent on the incredible Catalina Island. We caught the 5:30 AM shuttle from out hotel to Catalina Express, where the company recommended that we arrived an hour before our scheduled boat ride. We got there just before 6:00, and inquired if we could take the earlier shuttle instead of waiting. It was all fortunate timing and we ran to the boat terminal and jumped on the boat right before it departed. Catalina Island is about a 1 hour boat ride from Long Beach, but is fully worth it. The island is amazing, I have never even been to Europe, but it reminded me of what I would expect a little Greek island to look like. We had breakfast at a local restaurant, and then took in the beautiful view of the vibrant and colorful store fronts contrasting against the clear blue sea. We walked down a little pier where I asked about scuba diving in the area. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to dive in the kelp forests of California, and somehow, by some miracle, I was able to make this dream a reality. There wasn’t even an opening, but they called up some workers and were able to squeeze me in before my ferry departure in the afternoon. Despite a pretty long wait (which I didn’t mind because I was taught about the unique ecosystem, was introduced to the dive site, and got to hear stories from Catalina locals. My dive ended up being a one-on-one, which is extremely lucky. I had a blast, it was unlike anything I have ever done in my life. I have done some pretty amazing warm water dives in Hawaii and Turks and Caicos, but this was so different. I wore a 7 mm wetsuit, booties on my feet, as the temperatures were in the low 60s. It was so worth it though. Most the diving in warm reef ecosystems, everything you are looking at is below you. From reef fish, to crustaceans, to coral, all is underneath you. Diving on Catalina Island was amazing because there was something to look at everywhere. The kelp forests were massive, and made me feel so tiny. They were also teaming with life, something I never would have expected. I saw a huge (1 foot across) crab, in which my divemaster, Jeff, picked up to show me. One of the highlights of the dive was when I came across three HUGE seabass, which are known to range from 300-600 lbs, the size for a golfcart. It was incredible, they went not even an arms-length away from me, checking me out. When they realized I was harmless they circles and came back even closer. It was thrilling! I was also to see 3 different shipwrecks, each of which had so much life living on them. From colorful nudibranchs, to incredible beautiful seaweed. It was like an alien world down there, and I enjoyed every single moment. It definitely made me realize how much I want to return to California for a dive trip sometime in the future. I loved it under the sea. As soon as I submerged, the world around me stilled, I calmed down, forgot all my worries, and was in a trance of awe. Under the sea is truly where I am happiest.
After Catalina, Mom and I returned to Long Beach, where after a bumpy/windy ride, we explored downtown. It was Father’s day so it was extremely crowded and hot. We got a bite to eat and a refreshing pineapple frozen yogurt, and headed back to the ship. After a little rest, we explored the massive ship once again, and then ate at an onboard restaurant.
The next day was a little stressful, but I won’t go into too much detail. Our largest dilemma sounds so silly, but we had to burn off gas in my car. We literally ran it with AC on blast, trying to get the car to a quarter tank, a requirement to ship the car. As an environmentalist this clearly hurt my soul, so we tried to siphon the gas out of the tank. A task apparently illegal for auto shops to do, so after calling about 10, we were on our own. We ended up buying two different siphon units, and failed a lot. We were in the parking lot of Kmart forever, with a kind man trying to help us out, even that didn’t work. My car is just way too good on gas! We drove to matson, the company shipping my car to Hawaii. The line was so long, and it probably took us over 2 hours to figure everything out and have an employee inspect my car. After letting it run that entire time, the gas still wasn’t at a quarter tank, but (classic) the man didn’t even look to see what level the gas was at, so we worried for nothing. Oh..I forgot to mention, the companies website states that if the gas tank is over ¼ full, it would be a $400 fee, and I did not want to pay hat silly charge. Eventually everything worked out and we took an Uber to our next hotel, right outside of LAX. Our driver was super kind and helpful, and we got to our hotel and checked in. We had dinner in the restaurant in the hotel, where the staff was extremely nice and friendly. It was great. The next morning we took our hotel shutter right to our terminal, and now currently I am miles in the sky corssing the great Pacific to get home.
It has been a trip of a lifetime. I am so happy I used this free time to spend valuable time making precious memories with my mom. We drove over 5,000 miles through 22 states. All the way from the Atlantic to the pacific. We saw the nation’s greatest national parks, saw incredible wildlife, and did some amazing hikes. My mom and I got together so well, it was the perfect amount of time, and I am ready to get settled in at home and start searching for a job. It was the perfect ending to my college career!