Heading East!

Following on from our recent trip through Central America, our car is now back in California. We shipped it back with Bob and Thelma Howells' Landcruiser and both cars are now parked up in the garage just north of Los Angeles.

Two Landcruisers ready for the next big trip

Over the next two months my car will be checked over and serviced ready for the drive we have planned across the States. We will head up into Eastern Canada and then back into the US, driving south through Maine and Vermont to our finish in Upper New York State. Our leaving date will be in the last week of March and the trip is planned to finish on the 27th April.

My next blog will give full details of the trip including the places and people we aim to see and visit.

Latest news

With just over three weeks to go before we head off on our great trek across the United States, my ace motor engineer, Chris Cooper, has flown out to California to check the car over and carry out any work that is necessary. He is combining a week in the sun with a bit of work!

He's taken with him the latest electronic wizardry to boost the power output of the Landcruiser. With the added weight of the extra fuel tank, sump guards, security cage etc., the car struggles when we hit long inclines or need to overtake a truck on a hill. This electronic box of tricks boosts the brake horse power by about 10%. It can be switched on and off at will, so that fuel economy should not be too badly affected. It will be interesting to see how much the performance is enhanced.

We've more or less finalised our route which will take us across California, into Arizona for one night and then into Colorado for four nights. We will be staying in Vail as the guest of Jim and Leejun Taylor. There is a link to Jim's website on the right hand side of this page. The site has many great photos of the various rallies he has entered. From Vail we head south into New Mexico and Santa Fe. Then on into Texas where we will be staying with friends from the rallies, the Crouchers and the Nelans in El Paso, and Ahmad Fakhr in San Antonio. I'll give more details of the route later on.

We leave London on the 19th March, which will give us over a week to do all the final preparations. Another adventure is about to begin!

'T' Minus Nine and Counting!

Just nine days to go till we head off from Malibu, California on our trip. We leave London this afternoon on the BA flight to Los Angeles, hoping that we have taken all the clothes we need for temperatures ranging from minus 15C in parts of the Rockies to over 30C in the Southern States! Still, any shortages we can make up for on the way. Unlike some of our trips we are not in a third world country this time and shopping won't be a problem as we head east.

As far as I know the car is now fully serviced and ready to go. All we need to do is repack everything - spares, tools, camping equipment for roadside meals and hopefully not overnight sleeping and our clothes.

Bob and Thelma join us in four days time for a few days in the Californian sun and then we leave on the 28th March.

I'll start posting photos as soon as we get going.

California and nearly ready to go.

We arrived in California on the 19th March and have spent the last few days getting ourselves over the 7 hours of jet-lag, as well as checking the car over and making sure we have all the spares and equipment we need, not only for the trip across the States, but also for the tour of India in October.

Bob and Thelma arrive this evening from London and we will have three days here in California before we head for Arizona next Tuesday.

Yesterday I went to the local (Santa Monica) AAA offices (Triple A as the Americans call their auto club) to discuss the route and see what help they could give us for the trip. I came away with a detailed route itinerary as well as guide books for all the states we will be driving through. Three carrier bags in total!!

The weather here is simply glorious after a couple of cloudy days, and one rainy day.

The evening sky just after the sun had set looking out over a calm Pacific Ocean at Malibu, California

Tuesday 27th March - Off at last!

After planning this trip for nearly six months, we left Malibu, California this morning at 6.15am. The early start due to a long drive of over 550 miles to Sedona, Arizona and also an attempt to miss the Los Angeles morning rush hour.

After yesterday's cloudy and drizzly day, it was a relief to set off with clear skies and a beautiful sunrise over the Santa Monica mountains. We decided to avoid the centre of Los Angeles by driving north to the 101 freeway and then south to the junction with the 405 freeway and then to drive north-west to join the Interstate Highway I15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

After two hours we stopped at Victorville, a town on the edge of the Mojave Desert for a typical American breakfast of eggs, bacon and hash browns. Great breakfast but not very good for the waistline!

Enjoying breakfast 'American Style'

Wendy then took over the driving for the two hundred miles across the desert to Needles, a town on the Colorado river near the Arizona state line. Glorious desert scenery with cacti, rugged mountains and wonderful wide open country. The Interstate Highway makes the driving very easy and even though there were plenty of 'big rigs', overtaking was never a problem.

Needles is situated on the Colorado River and we think must be named after the mountains nearby that look like giant needles. We then decided to take a 20 mile detour to visit Lake Havasu City, famous because an American industrialist decided to buy London Bridge and rebuild it on the edge of Lake Havasu. It's certainly very strange to see an icon of London in the middle of the Arizona desert!.

London Bridge 6,000 miles from 'home'

Myself, Bob and Thelma with London Bridge behind us.

A last shot of the bridge with the cars in the foreground and a London Double Decker bus adding to the surreal nature of the place!

Three more hours of heading east brought us to the outskirts of Flagstaff. The town is located some 80 miles south of the Grand Canyon and is famous for its astronomical observatories. These are located high in the mountains which have very clear air and make for very good observing. We then turned off I40 for the 30 mile drive south to Sedona. A very beautiful drive down Oak Creek Canyon with towering cliffs of vivid red rocks on either side of the road.

The stunning red rocks near Sedona.

Sedona is a very popular tourist location and all the way into the town on either side of the road there were hotels and campsites.

We have two nights here in Sedona so tomorrow we can explore some of this beautiful scenery before we head up into the Rockies.

Wednesday March 28th - Sedona, Arizona

It was a good idea to start the trip by having two nights in one place. This meant there was no need to pack things away for another long drive and so this morning we were able to have a late breakfast and then see what we could organise for our day here in Sedona.

Looking at all the activities available we plumped for the obvious, a two hour off-road drive in a Hummer! The weather is really quite cold here at the moment and so as we headed off for the tracks leading into the mountains just south of Sedona I felt decidedly chilly sitting in the back of the open Hummer. The drive took us through National Park areas with wonderful scenery. Our driver, Steve, took us along quite rugged tracks, though both Bob and I were disappointed that the terrain was not that difficult for the Hummer. Still, it was a fun drive and the pictures below show us with the marvellous Arizona countryside.

The amazing US Army Hummer.

We were dropped back in the centre of Sedona and had a good Mexican lunch before driving to a small town outside of Sedona, Oak Creek Village. Once again we drove past the stunning red mountains that ring Sedona. They are very impressive and as the sun started to set the colours of the rock went from a sand colour to deep red. I hope the photos below do justice to these wonderful mountains.

We finished off the afternoon by doing some shopping and then planning our drive for tomorrow. We aim to visit Meteor Crater which is about 30 miles east of Flagstaff and then head north through the Painted Desert (Navajo Indian territory) and on to Monument Valley. From there we drive through the south-eastern corner of Utah before reaching our overnight stop in Durango, Colorado.