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Old 25th June 2014, 09:14   #1
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Default Exploring California - One weekend at a time...

Hello Guys,

This is my first travelogue, so please bear with me as I try and capture unforgettable experiences during my recent visit to US, California. Also there are not so many cars in this travelogue as there are snaps capturing places, which is entirely my fault as I was just ogling at cars but not alert enough to take pics . Also some of the pics were taken from my iPhone and some from a Nikon D5200 so you will find Images quality varying from downright junk to 'can live with it'

A little background: I moved into a new role with an online retail giant about six months back with its head quarters in San Jose, California which meant sooner than later I was going to travel to meet my business partners. This plan materialized recently in 3rd week of May. I had already visited Chicago with my prior company and found really stark differences between the two places. Where Chicago stands for Architectural Splendor and rich history, California state reflects the new age, the rich yet casual attitude, swanky cars, costly basic pleasures ( a good meal, good house ). You can really feel it is home to some of the most successful enterprises and pretty successful people. My office parking lot had about 5 to 10 Teslas and alteast about 20% or more cars like Porsche, Mercedes S Class etc and the Lexus and Acura's were very common. Let me digress and paste here a picture of the new Honda Civic's dashboard design which I liked immensely. This just curves around the driver. Not sure if Honda already does this in its India line up, If not it should. I would buy the car just for this.

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Planning for my trip had to be done in a hurry as I got just 10 days advance notice. I ensured I had maximum time off with my month long trip including one long weekend (Memorial day), One weekend where I had taken three days off to make it a five day long vacation and two regular weekends in which one of them was at Salt Lake City, Utah . Even the weekdays were pretty eventful as sun sets close to 9:30 PM and we have a good 4 hours to explore the city.

First weekend was the perfect start to my trip. My brother who stays near Chicago flew down and we went on a scenic drive on the pacific highway to Big Sur. The highway has the pacific ocean on one side and beautiful countryside / mountains on the other. We had rented an Nissan Altima from Hertz which was very spacious, had enough power to really accelerate fast (Given I am coming from a Chevy Beat Diesel in India).

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We also went to a place called Mystery Spot. It is basically a hut on top of a small hill that is built at weird angles so as to cause optical illusion. I was standing upright in the hut and w.r.t the floor, I was at an angle giving an illusion of me being able to stand in an inclined position. The tour guide was pretty amusing and showed us how to do a super man, spider man etc. Recommended if you visiting California.

The next day we visited San Francisco. As you enter the city, there is a huge suspension Bridge called the Bay Bridge, not to be confused with the original San Francisco suspension bridge. Highly recommend visiting the pier as there is a carnival like atmosphere and you can also watch large Seals basking in the Sun. The food options and restaurants on the pier is a heaven for Sea food lovers.

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The San Francisco Bridge and its view from various view points are a sight to behold.

The Next week end, we went to Yosemite national park. I and another colleague leased a Chevy Impala for this trip again from Hertz. The drive was very beautiful and the destination more so. I will let the pictures do the talking.

Yosemite Falls

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Vernon Falls - Its a 4.5 Mile total trek to get to this view.

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The view of the valley from Glacier Point

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The next weekend was spent at Salt Lake City as I was attending a training. The city is very different from California. There is a downtown area which contains a handful of high rises but other wise the city is surrounded by mountains, is very sparsely populated. My office in Draper didn't have another building in sight. Snow capped mountains greeted us when ever we looked out of the window.

We leased out a Chevy Sonic and Nissan Versa during our stay here. Both cars are nothing to write home about. The Nissan had done only 8K miles, but still struggled to get past the 60 MPH.

Capitol Building

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View from the Capitol Building

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Park City - A small town that had tons of bikers visiting it. Also was home to Winter Olympics in 2002. Beer, some fine food and a small queer town like this : A perfect day !

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Something very unique: A 30 mile drive from the City and suddenly you are in snow capped mountains.

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Salt Flats : a 30,000 acre dessert with a layer of salt on top.

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Old 25th June 2014, 09:52   #2
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A visit to California is incomplete with out LA and Vegas and my next weekend was 5 days long and perfect opportunity to do this. My brother again flew down from Chicago. We leased a Chevy Impala with less than 1K miles on the odo.

The first day we started from San Jose on I-5 and 6 hours later we were in Los Angeles. We visited Warner Bros studios (VIP tour) and Venice Beach the same day and Griffith Observatory and hollywood walk of fame the next and started for Vegas around 2 PM.

Warner Bros Studios.

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Original costumes from the movies are preserved here.

Trivia : All the cars in the Dark Knight series were actual working models that were designed specifically for the movie.

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Venice Beach.

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Walk of Fame and Hollywood Sign

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Drive to Vegas.

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Casinos in Vegas. We visited the Palazzo, Venetian, Caesar's Palace, Bellegio, MGM Grand and Stratosphere (Where we were put up). Vegas is surprisingly cheap when you are not gambling. However the fun is in gambling so we ended up shelling a good amount

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Next morning, we drove to the Hoover dam and Grand Canyon - West Rim.

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This bridge is a functioning highway with a max speed of 55 MPH.

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The Skywalk is a bridge that hangs from the canyon with a glass floor. A nice experience. However the grand canyon - west rim was very expensive and the folks there try and squeeze every penny out of you for simple things like having photos taken on Sky walk etc.


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Vegas is also home to establishments that let you experience exotics like Ferrari, Audi R8, Lambhorgini s etc for a steep fee. This typically starts $300+ for a 5 lap ride on a BMW M5 and can go to as high as $ 700.

We didn't want to blow that kind of money so we went to Battlefield Las Vegas instead where you can try out actual weapons used in war. I took the Modern Warfare package to satisfy the CoD gamer in me. I tried 25 rounds of AK 57 and M4 each while my brother tried 25 rounds of the SCAR and one other rifle. total cost $220. Its worth it.

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Parting Shot : Vegas Night Life

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Old 25th June 2014, 11:19   #3
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Default re: Exploring California - One weekend at a time...

Awesome pics @charanreddy. Thanks for bringing my memories back. I've visited most of these places and its a nice flashback

-Ravi
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Old 25th June 2014, 15:10   #4
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Default Re: Exploring California - One weekend at a time...

Seems like the Yosemite Falls is very famous among tourists. A friend of my studying in SanFran shared a few pictures a couple of months back, and the place looks beautiful.

Glad you got to see the Scooby Doo minivan.

Did you get to see / shoot the Dark Knight cars?

Also, those guns, WOW!

Last edited by parrys : 25th June 2014 at 15:12.
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Old 25th June 2014, 15:26   #5
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Default Re: Exploring California - One weekend at a time...

@ Ravi : Yes. These will stay with me for a long time to come as well

@ Parrys : You bet. I spent the maximum time at these beasts. Couldn't help but appreciate Chris Nolan's dedication. He conceptualized these vehicles and instead of using CG, built vehicles that actually work. The tour guide told us that Chris location always shoots at locations and never in studio. Here are a few more pics of the batmobile for your viewing pleasure.
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Old 26th June 2014, 16:23   #6
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Default Re: Exploring California - One weekend at a time...

Nice Pictures. You took me back 7 years when the bay area was my home. The attitude of the people of California is something unmatched with other parts of the US, you will always feel at home. I realized it when I started visiting other parts of US. Driving the weekends in the California is pleasure for variety of reasons, first the cars : you get to drive all orgasmic cars, be it a Pontiac or a Mustang, you can rent it. Next, the scenic drives (for e.g. 17 - Santa Cruz highway).
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Old 27th June 2014, 12:36   #7
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Default Re: Exploring California - One weekend at a time...

Nice travelogue and pictures with good composition.You explored way more in few weekends than most residents would explore in few years of stay :-).

IIRC from "extras" on "Dark Knight" BD, only the helicopter that gets entangled in cables was a scaled replica, rest all the vehicles were life size working models.
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