Saturday, December 3, 2016

Not quite done...

We fly out of LA for an en route pause on Hawaii’s Big Island and guess what Bruce does?

He leaps into Hertz and asks if they have a Nissan Rogue.

He can’t quite bear to be parted from a Rogue. Not yet. Just a tiny bit more. Do they have one?


It's new. It's silver? Do you like it, says Bruce. He does.

Now it is the silver Rogue. He is happy.

She is just like the olive

green Rogue but silver and younger.

So we’re back on the road.

We’re staying in the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort - it is massive. It has 62 acres of gorgeous coastal land with gardens and pools and wildlife. It is so big it has a boat and a rail service for moving guests around the

property. But we go driving.

Bruce has been here many times before and he has much he wants to show me. He has climbed the massive Mona Loa volcano from sea level, almost died up there falling into a lava tube but, thin air and all, made the mighty climb and recalls every inch of it. He won’t be doing that again. He’s

not 20 any more.

But he can show me all these volcanoes and describe the flora, fauna and geology.

Thus, in our shiny new Hawaii Rogue, we plan a pilgrimage across this most exotic of islands through lava fields and volcanos to the lush, rain-drenched town of Hilo and back along the jungle-lined coast road with its myriad gorges and waterfalls, and Bruce is happy because he can be behind the wheel again - just eke

out a little more road tripping before our grand adventure is over.

He does not need to convince me of the primal glamour of Big Island. It is not like anywhere I have been.

These pitch black lava

fields. The blackscape of the land. And the vibrant soft camel-coloured grasses which adorn it in happy tufts - the one plant which really loves this inky rock scape. I am fascinated. We look at an old cross-country trail, complete with lava tubes.

It is harsh and rough underfoot.

Donkeys were the way to go in the early days and there are signs along the road warning of roaming donkeys.

We make forays to the town and the shops, saving a special day for the cross-island adventure. The day arrives misty and wet and, by the time we are in the middle of the island, drenched in rain.

This is not unusual says my Hawaii Meta-networks Brainstormer mate, Tom Elliott, who lives on the wet side of the island.

He is planning to meet up with us for lunch in Hilo, a plan which does not eventuate in the pouring rain and with Tom’s services being suddenly needed for the retrieval of a beached, endangered whale.

The cross-country saddle road between the two highest volcanos has improved significantly since Bruce first was here but we encounter road works, miles and miles of bucketing potholes and rock piles which one day will make the road agreeable. But not today. It is slow, slow going. But fascinating, seeing the way the massive boulders of lava have to be manipulated. The vegetation changes as we cross the island,
from the dark aridity to wonderful exotica, strange jungle-like ferns and wonderful ground-cover creepers and flowering plants. I get very excited by them and beg Bruce to stop the car so I can get thoroughly wet in efforts to grab a couple of photos. Cars hiss pass us at scarily high speeds.

The closer to the coast

we get, the lusher and more exotic the vegetation until we are in suburban Hilo all of which seems to be one big botanical garden.

It’s a lovely town.

Thanks to Tom’s advice, we find the Hilo Bay Cafe for lunch. It is an elegant fusion place, set upstairs with views of Hilo Bay. The bay is misty and soft rain

continues, but we choose to sit outside on the balcony with the fresh air and handsome view.

Lunch is stunning. The rain eases. I see a wild mongoose among the rocks below. All is good.

We drive back along the coast road which is a wild luxury of lush and luscious tropical verdancy. Winding, vertiginous roads, bridges crossing precipitous inlets and gorges, all dense in

huge-leafed undergrowth.

Fantastic waterfalls cascade down sheer rock faces. We follow an inland road to get a close look at one of the falls. It is quite a long trek through agricultural land and areas of tall-tall grasses.

We find the waterfall just as the skies open up again. An unfriendly

guard demands a $5 parking charge. We are just having a look, not staying or taking the gorge walk, we say. $5 says he. We cut our losses, take a photo and slush back across the bright green plateau past flourishing horse and cattle properties and back to the coast.

Every inch is beautiful.

And so is our hotel. It is a world unto itself with a number of restaurants and shops and lots of pools as well as lovely

views and a dolphinarium which gives people a chance to swim with dolphins. Most exquisite of all is its seawater pool which is a bay within the hotel grounds. Sea life comes and goes with the tides. The bay is alive with fish of all sizes and types from vivid tropical breeds to large, slow silvery fish. And there are green sea turtles
which meander around amid the swimmers and snorkelers.

We loll by that pool on the sun lounges which have their legs in the water.

We loll on our Makai-Guests-Only sun lounges by the big pool nearest our rooms. One loves to feel a bit exclusive, albeit there are sunning spots and pools aplenty for everyone and the hotel also allows the locals to enjoy its facilities. That is another characteristic I have loved about this place.

I drink cucumber mai tais at the fancy fish restaurant on the high promontory and yet more at the lovely Japanese restaurant. The cucumber cocktail is my new fancy. Elegant, light, fresh - moreish. And we both fall in love with

the Waikoloa Village breakfast buffets which feature congee and kimchi and fish and rice as well as the usual western sweet and savoury breakfast foods plus the best papaya in the history of the universe.

Our lagoon suite is very spacious and we love it - until the renovation work gets going in the rooms

above. This drilling and hammering makes siestas impossible. Hilton seems unable to move us but compensates us by removing all of our breakfast costs. It is not really enough, since the rooms are uninhabitable when the drilling is full-on. I could make a massive fuss but, oh, end of the trip…

I do implore them not to rent out our rooms again until the work is done.

This hotel, which once was a Hyatt, has the most spectacular art collection. Walking its long open-air passages one enjoys an extensive gallery of oriental art treasures. Hundreds, maybe thousands of glorious antiquities and art works adorn the walls, the corridors, and the gardens. There are some European works in the mix,

emphasising the cultural influences involved in the development of Big Island. But, significantly, this is an Asian and Pacific collection of immense scope and value. I go seeking more information on the works, assuming there must be a big glossy catalogue but no. In fact the staff seems surprised at my zeal. They let me have a quaint little DIY guide to the collection. It is as underwhelming as the art is breathtaking.

I never tire of walking past the giant Chinese urns, the ceremonial Islander drums, the fierce masks and idols, fetishes and carvings, the puppets and costumes, the huge protective gods, the whimsical ones, the great and glorious Buddhas and Quan Yins, the Japanese

warriors, the Ganeshas and Bali demons, the fabulous bronze dogs, the delicate embroideries, and the very fine paintings. I feel privileged to be in this place which has been devised and adorned with such extravagant expertise.

The hotel turns on large and lavish luaus each week and we fork out the huge $150 or something each

to secure priority seating and see the show. Our seating turns out to be front row and the evening comes with as many tropical cocktails as one can possibly sink. The drinks just flow and flow. And a vast repast is laid out across the huge open-air dining area. There must be over 500 people here. But there is plenty of food. I shuffle along with my priority queue and pop samples of this and that on my plate but it is not really great food. It is a spread for the masses and its big plus is that there is enough for the masses. Would you like another mai tai? A fairly tired old Hawaiian compere MCs the show. He is a bit of a crooner and sings a few numbers, rattles off some well-worn shtick about Hawaiian customs, has us all stand up and hula and introduces the performers who are to do traditional narrative dances as well some spectacular fire dances. Oh, and the Hawaiian cowboy (paniolo) dance, my particular favourite.

It is a hard-working commercial show. I’ve seen luaus with more cultural integrity but this is good fun on a grand scale with a gloriously hospitable staff.

Oh, my, how those mai tais just keep coming. Hawaii has definitely won my heart. Bruce always knew it would.

There are so many unique phenomena thanks to its newness and isolation. I am just getting to understand them all. The chickens of Kauai are one. Now I meet the cats of Big Island. Feral cats, handsome gingers and calicos, who cohabit peacefully in that black lava world. The hotel tolerates their presence and has its own feeding and neutering regime, staff say. They are very polite cats. Not tame but co-existent.

Six days on Big Island pass like a blink.

Too fast for poor Bruce who just wants to go driving, driving, driving in the silver Rogue. And then, oh, no. Rogue separation all over again.

This lovely car must be farewelled.

The road trek is over. Wheels become wings. It's up, up and away and back to our great white cat.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sweet San Diego - looking out to sea

The Pacific! Here it is.

San Diego is the last moment of leisure on the mighty road trip. Six months gone? Already? Phew. I have been a passenger for six months? Right around the USA. How did I do it?

Bruce and Siri Google, with her pleasant Aussie accent, found the way and I documented it. Little notepad, iPhone camera to the ready. It has not always been easy to grab snaps from a moving car. Sometimes I was so excited taking notes that I forgot to try for the snap. Commitment to the blog has, however, forced me to be attentive and to have an extremely focused role in the passenger seat.

A zillion blessings to the iPhone's resources and my 6-month AT&T phone contract. I loved my US phone number: 650 255 1881. And that it made messaging cheap and easy along with unlimited local calls and a small quota of internationals. It is eminently superior to any form of global roaming - and, indeed, I have been scorched by those in the past.

How did we manage before the iPhone? We had Bruce's huge, comprehensive USA road map in the car with us - but we have never had cause to open it. The world was at my fingertips. So literally and miraculously. Thousands of invisible companions and advisors have been waiting, eager to recommend or forewarn. While Google explains strange landmarks and signposts out there in the landscape, Google Maps makes suggestions, or NOT, for places to eat in backwater towns along the road. In one mid-sized country town we had already parked the car outside the supposedly most popular lunch spot among the town's locals when Yelp reviewers yelped out warnings about cockroaches on the rest room walls and a chef spitting in the soup.

We sped off in relief to find a dependable national chain restaurant - Chilis, Panera Bread, Cracker Barrel, Denny's, Arby's, Red Lobster, TGI Friday's, Iron Skillet, Maccers...

These are fast food at a consistent standard of good. They feature clean rest rooms, too. They are a traveller's wonderful chum across the USA. One learns a lot about such places in 6 months. Similarly with the hotel chains - which chain has gone up and which has gone down. La Quinta, which we have loved in the past, has lost its sheen. I suspect it is in the new cult of emphasising facilities for children - and pets. Travel in the US is now very pet-friendly and, after the odd doggy-smell room, we learn to avoid the pet-friendly hotels. We learned to like hotel chains with points systems and soon have earned lots of points with Marriott and Hilton's H-Honors. We learned to like Trip Advisor, Expedia, and, but also to note that not all hotels respond well to their reservations. In some cases it is clear they assign lesser rooms. None the less, when the chips are down and one is in dire need of a last-minute room, Expedia is simply stunning and I trust in it.

We stayed in 59 hotels around the country and if there is a common problem, it is probably the standards of wireless Internet. It is uneven and, of course, insecure. Some places impose extra charges. Some places have systems which don't actually reach all the rooms. In two instances, we could only connect by standing just inside the door or in the hall. It would be hilarious if it were not so absurdly frustrating. In one hotel we had to sacrifice a really lovely room with a fabulous city view and be moved to the rear of the premises to get functioning Internet. They did give us a big discount to go with the inconvenience so all was not lost. It shows that not everyone who books into a hotel is dependent on high connectivity.

Some of the inconsistencies with communications in assorted lodgings have put me behind with self-imposed deadlines for this blog. I need a certain oomph to be able to upload photos to Blogger.

There also have been odd computer glitches with my elderly MacBook Air - and they continue to plague me. One just has to be fatalistic and, as Joan Didion so wisely philosophised, play it as it lays.

We have slipped into a gypsy lifestyle on the road. It has been as if there was no beginning or end but just the state of mobility, the Rogue and us, hotels and us, the road ahead, the next adventure...

Suddenly, here is the coast. The Pacific. Australia is out there.

And San Diego is our nitty gritty, the place

where we have truly to rationalise the luggage and make ourselves air travel ready. No more hotel luggage trolleys laden with food bags, cooler bags, plastic bags, bedding and stuff. We have to shed. We have to send stuff home.

I've chosen our San Diego digs carefully. They have to symbolise all good things and all practical things. I am not

disappointed when we arrive. The sun is just setting and the super moon is rising over Mission Beach. The Capri by the Sea are beautifully-appointed condos right on the foreshore path. We are on the second floor corner where we can see the180-degree stretch of beach and sea
and some of the golden sunset burbs. We can hear the waves crashing onto the beach outside. They slam down in a determination of full moon high tide. The weather is perfect. We throw the windows open to sleep in the pristine sea air and the sounds of the surf.

Of course, condos are always a bit idiosyncratic. This one requires an electronic pass to move about the building, the grounds, and catch the lift, but a

key to get into the condo itself. The condo is equipped with everything one could need and B makes an express trip to the grocery so he can cook our ritual spag bol comfort meal. While watching the football. The Patriots lost. Oh well they don’t lose many.

I’d like to say we are

doing lots of interesting cultural things in San Diego but we have been here before and we are at the end of a massive lot of doing a massive lot. We’re a bit road weary and I am still not in the greatest health. Shingles are mean.

We perform the traveller logistics. We assess our excess. We shop for the last-minute thing. We pack and post overweight. We cull our car travel equipment - the chiller bags, the bedding bag, the extra

pillows, our little travelling pantry of seasonings and oils and honey and pickles...

We go for walks around lovely Mission Beach, fascinated to find that the local jetty is in fact a sort of hotel with rooms right on it and over the water. We walk the backstreets as well as the beach. We take our folding chairs out for the last time and sit on the beach in the sun. It is a hard sand beach and with the super moon, it is having very high tides.

There are workmen out from before dawn every morning grading the beach and building breakwaters around the lifesavers’ station. All that grazing and bulldozing does not leave a lot of shells or life on the beach - just masses of funny little flies which like to sit harmlessly upon one’s self.

We get into the joy of sunrises and sunsets making this just a couple of beach bum days. The local people turn out to

be ritually devoted to those special times of day on the beach, carrying yoga mats and wee chairs to sit alone along the beach in the tidal swish of sunset. Some burn incense.

They make a beautiful and serene picture, a heavenly human enhancement to the aesthetics of the fading day. We hover on the sands, sharing their meditative spirit as part of the last throes of our great Sa Trek freedom spirit.

Goodbye open road. Goodbye beautiful American skies.


But there is another goodbye to be had, the hardest one of all for Bruce.

Our very last stop on mainland USA is at a Los Angeles airport Marriott hotel whence Bruce returns the olive green Rogue to Alamo.

She has done 14,150 miles (23,000 km) through all sorts of terrain and conditions and she has given us not a murmur of trouble.

We have not scratched or dented her.

We gone through some astonishing car washes with her. We love how

she sparkles in the sun when she is green clean. We have just spent a lot, a lot, a lot of time with her. She has been our cocoon home, the one constant factor in a travelling lifestyle.

She's where we hang out hats, where I have my seat cushion to give me a little extra height and support, where we keep our daily drinks supplies and the little pantry of travel snacks - the adored Chex Mix, fruit chews, liquorice, peanut butter cookies...

And, as her driver, Bruce has grown very attached to her.

The moment he hands her over at Alamo, he goes into Rogue

withdrawal. Poor boy spends a restless night worrying what he has done with the car keys which have been on or beside his person for six months.

He looks contentedly at the map he has kept throughout the trip. He has marked off each stopping destination only after we are stopped and lodged. His plans have worked well - driving only for a few hours on each driving day, driving only in daylight, of pausing for long enough to get to know the places we visit...

It has worked well.

From coast to coast, it is now done.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The last great road

The roads bristle with purposeful traffic and insane visual distractions shouting a last strident look-at-me as we make our way out of Last Vegas. From fairy story turreted castles to rather elegant mule silhouette public artwork on the 10-lane highway, it just keeps defining itself as no ordinary town.

As we hum across the big flat sprawl of residential Vegas, I’m thinking beehive. Those commuter suburbs accommodate a vast population of workers who keep that buzzing city turning over. Just croupiers, dealers and waiters alone, not to mention the army of maids cleaning the hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms.

We pause at Henderson for petrol before heading through new road constructions out into a stark desert plain dominated by powerlines.

It is a bit unloved looking although the power pylons do their best to look grandiose.

Little tufty bushes are the meagre groundcover with fabulous mountains in the distance and a massive solar array which looks like

a big, black sheet across the landscape.

Cars and caravans are dotted out on the plain in large cleared expanses. I can’t quite work out why. Do they do speed tests out here? Race quad bikes? Fly drones?

More solar arrays out there and what looks like sagebrush. Rather elegant and sophisticated power lines lead off into the distance looped from pole to pole.

The sun is hammering on the car.

Mist hazes the panorama. Occasional rude-looking little knobs of cactus dot the plain. Small yuccas, too, increasing in number as we drive west.

There are mountains on both sides, creosote bushes now on the land, and joshua trees increasing in number.

Glorious primitive contorted sculptural creatures they are. This landscape is turning truly majestic. It is like a well-established desert garden complete with rocks and sands and pebbles.

We pass a little town with the quaint name of Searchlight tucked in

amid all this beauty.

Prominent in the town is Terrible’s Roadhouse. One just has to wonder.

Liquor stores, a casino, boats, advertisements for honey and jerky - and Searchlight is gone.

Now Route 95 heads out beside sharply serrated distant mountains, a ribbon of road heading straight for the horizon.

No more joshua trees on the land. It looks a bit scruffy out there.

We’re at 2550ft elevation a sign informs us. Oh, and what a neat little town approaches.


I never saw a town name like that. Huh?

I reach for Google and discover it is the southernmost town in Nevada and it is a three-state town and hence name = California, Nevada, Arizona.

It has an airport and was set up as a fly-in town for pilots and their families.

Almost immediately a sign welcomes us to California.

The road narrows and presently has many dips. Five miles of dips. Sigh.

But the arid-lands vegetation has improved. There are little yellow wildflowers, white trumpet flowers, chollas in bloom, yuccas.

This is good habitat for snakes and lizards, says Bruce. Jack rabbits and ground spiders, too.

Rings of mountains continue out

there and the road is a bit on the treacherous side with lots of trucks.

For some blissful reason, when a junction appears, the trucks all go one way and we go the other. Cheering to have the road to ourselves.

Signs advertise pistachios, stuffed olives, and avocados.

We swing back onto Route 40, the old Route 66. And it is truck hell all over again. They are end-to-end.


A town called Needles. Hoardings, trees, mini storage, roadworks. Oh, my god, they are repairing the most hideous damage to the safety rail. Something ghastly happened here.

We pull into the Needles Maccers to gobble something down and use the facilities.

I try a McDonalds breakfast burrito, Ugh. Was I mad? Never again.

An arrow points to the Desert Information Centre.

Look as we may, we can see only desert.

Mojave, says another sign. It is a big desert. We must have reached the edge of it.

There’s a caravan park with eucalyptus trees.

Low scrub, greeny brown bushes.

Ocatillo cactus start to appear. Bruce is delighted, albeit sad they are not blooming. They are pretty stick-like. But the chollas are blooming. They look haloed in the light. Gorgeous.

Mountains are still out there, line after line of them, jagged silhouettes.

We pass the Chemehuerin Indian Reservation with its casino. The road is really busy.

We check out the radio which tells us that we need to buy a gun now while we still can. Every person must be a first-responder, the gravel-voiced jock lectures us. This is radio There are new guns out which are curved to fit around the body. We all need one in the event that something happens. You have to be able to take care of yourself. What is the most effective gun? It’s the one you have with you.

The land is still flat, vegetation stunted but there must be a watercourse out there, since there is a line of trees.

There are also lots of rocks. It looks like an Aussie gibber plain out there.

We turn onto 95 south. A funny little junction. Its 24-hour garage and motel is for sale. We wonder what life would be like running such a place in the middle of nowhere, for this is indeed, a nowhere sort of place. Not even a daisy chain of trucks is to be seen. Just open road.

Eventually a fenced yard of caravans and junk turns up. It has prominent security warnings. It looks so unncessary out here. No one would want the protected contents.

There is an Indian settlement nearby, dwellings dotted about the landscape. They don’t like to crowd each other, these native Americans.

The landscape reminds us of the areas around Port Augusta at the foot of the Flinders in South Australa. Arid. Sparsely settled.

Then a sign announces: Deer Crossing.

The Colorado River Community is announced with mountains close, rugged and mighty.

Lost Lake? How do you lose a lake?

The vegetation of dense low scrub and winding, undulating road suddenly gives way to an area of massive cultivation. Hidden Valley is lush and green and irrigated.

But over there by the edge of the mountains, I can see sand dunes. What fascinating landscape.

And now a big, beautiful river, palm trees, The Water Wheel Resort.

We follow the winding ribbon of water, incredulous that we are suddenly in some sort of river resort area. There’s a jet ski high up on a pole. River shacks. A river community. It’s the Colorado River. Mini storage. Of course. There’s a boat for sale at the roadside and a caravan park called Paradise Point which does not look at all like paradise.

Here come the river crops. The Palo Verde dam. Cotton crops. Rice crops. Alfalfa fields. Huge cubical stacks of baled alfalfa.

Another riverfront community. This one called Hidden Beach Resort.

At the town of Blythe we turn onto the 10 west interstate.

Blythe is a town of palms and more palms. Big, relaxed, a desert rural town. Solar panels. Crops. Green alfalfa bales waiting in the fields.

We turn onto California 78 west and realise we are plum in the middle of a California food bowl, the Imperial Valley. Lush farmlands. Brassica crops.

Ripley, a tough working agricultural town, a huge ploughing machine producing clouds of dust out in the fields.

We’re on the back roads

of the Imperial Valley - big irrigation canals, chocolate brown ploughed fields. The town of Palo Verde is not just sleepy. It is comatose. The life is on the land. Serious working farms. No animals, though.

A gate bears the label. The Other Side. Hmm

The landscape rolls softly. There are still mountains out there. The sky is soft blue, very pretty, with just a sleek streak or two of cloud. I see mica glinting from the soil. It is dry and barren, otherwise.

A sign warns that speed is enforced by aircraft.

I’ve seen a few of these around the country. Never saw any aircraft, though. I reckon it’s a bluff.

Ah, cactus are beginning to reappear on the landscape. We must be hitting that sweet altitude spot they love. Chollas and ocatillos. Bruce is purring at the sight.

And now a huge cyclone fence materialises. An alien sight out on these vast desert plains. And things are growing more alien. Behind the security and clear signs of excavation and rearrangements of the land the name Vista Mine is posted. I Google madly. My suspicion is confirmed. This is a bloody great gold mine. Vista Mine otherwise
known as Mesquite Mine is one of the largest gold mines in the USA.

It’s one of those great ironies that gold is a pretty thing but gold mines really quite grotesque.

As we speed on our way, we pass one of those completely mad people who cycle alone across the vast no-man’s land of wilderness America. Fat little panniers, hunched intensity from the lonely laboring rider way out here in the Mojave Desert.

He does not look up. I wonder what he’s thinking. Next breath, next breath.

I see sand dunes again. Big ones. There’s a little settlement called Glamis. It touts itself as The Sand Toy Capital of the World. Who knew?

The toys turn out to be

dune buggies. They are all over the place and the massive dunes are patterned by their tracks. For miles and miles. But only on one side of the road. The other side is virgin dune. There is a certain environmental sense to that, I suppose.

These are most imposing dunes. Sensational. Or should I say sandsational.

We pass a little town of trailers lined with cheerful flags - and lots of buggies.

Proper name is Glamis

Dunes but it is also known as North Algodones Dunes Wilderness north of the road.

And now, heaven help us, we’re beside the Salton Sea.

It’s a salt lake.

This wonderful road forges forth back into agricultural territory. Pecan and date orchards.


Stockyards belonging to the Mesquite Cattle Traders.

Our progress has been slowed by a lumbering chain of caravans. Not that we mind. This is wonderful country.

However, we are not sorry to find that they branch off onto another road. They are not going to San Diego.

Bruce announces that it is 88 degrees F outside. We have had pretty gorgeous weather throughout our six month road trip. Bruce hoped it would work out that way when he planned the route - taking the cooler northern states in the peak of summer and leaving the hotter southern states to the moderating temperatures of autumn.

It’s snowing today in New Hampshire, he gloats, where we spent seven lovely days in August.

We are now surrounded by impeccable farm lands. Fields and crops. Neatly husbanded. There are cotton bales and alfafa bales in the fields. A date farm.

We are very close to Mexico, says Bruce. We turn on the radio and sure enough, radio Mexico all over.

We enjoy some cheerful Mexican music and identify the California Coast Range as the mountains appearing ahead of us - crops on either side of us.

We cross the San Diego County Line and turn onto California 111 South.

Flat open road. Massive stockpiles of alfalfa bales are stacked by the roadside.

Billboards start appearing. Date Shakes. Local Honey. Local Olive Oil. Local Dates.

This is El Centro, says Bruce.

Nearby Indio is the date capital of the USA. We’ve been there before many years ago.

The road is good. Lots and lots more alfalfa bales and even some hay are stashed in mountainous blocks.

Fields now are of solar panels. The landscape is drying out.

We’re at sea level and we are back to bare undulating desert around us, reminiscent of the Badlands of South Dakota, but covered in bike tracks. There are a lot more people out here, I suppose.

A wind farm and then another. Giant turbines on the top of a ridge of mountains, rolling slowly.

Now a mountain which seems to be made entirely of boulders. Spectacular formations. Perilous as we climb into the range.

In among boulder hills, cactus are growing.

Giant electricity pylons are taking the wind power across the landscape. I love these gracious, grand pylons. They are pretty ladies in metal lace.

More cactus, cholla now. More rock pile mountains. Jacumba.

Our petrol is low. There have not been too many services out on the Sonoran desert.

Bruce swings off the road at the first petrol sign he spots but no big modern petrol station is to be found.

It is still a bit back of the beyond. Finally I spot the petrol station. It is something from the 1930s. A crude bowser beside an even cruder shed of a store.

I don’t like the look at all.

But Bruce says petrol is petrol. It’ll be fine. We also need a loo.

This turns out to be not so fine.

He is given a key to open the magic blue door to the filthiest stinkiest lavatory I have seen since Yugoslavia 1971. Bruce says it reminds him of Mexico. You’d love Mexican loos, Sa.

I upend a ton of sanitiser and gingerly cope.

A few minutes down the road of course we spot a shining, gleaming, you-beaut modern servo. Oh well.

And down the road it is. We are at 4000ft and descending.

There’s a river in the valley within a lush corridor of cottonwoods. No hint of those glorious golden leaves. No one has told them about autumn over here in the west.

As we reach a valley, we reach also a Border Patrol point.

Lots of official vehicles lined up. Lots of officers spread about. Traffic in a bottleneck. It feels very

serious. No, we don’t need to pull out our passports, says Bruce.

They are looking for illegals. We don’t fit the profile. When our turn comes, a dazzlingly handsome young man in uniform simply smiles and beckons us through.

On the other side of the mountain we hit a landscape of dense shrubs, pale rocks, and pointy hills with pointy pines.

We pass the Viejas resort and casino, a brown place if ever one there was.

And lots of signs of habitation. Pencil pines and mission-style buildings. Sycuam Indian Reservation with a lovely lake and handsome properties. We’re still descending. 1000ft now. 84 deg outside.

White fences. Horse properties. Low sun.

Here comes lovely San Diego. The place in the USA whose climate is most like Adelaide's, the place in Australia whence we come.

It is our last road trip stop. A special one.

Come on Siri Google. Lead us to our digs on the shores of Mission Beach.