The density of sights here in the Southwest of the U.S.A. is really impressive: despite the still enormous distances (although not quite as extreme as in Texas), there are one or even two new highlights every day. Nevertheless, it is always interesting how different the national parks in particular are – both in terms of visitor numbers and in terms of the landscape.
At the “Salvation Mountain” lives a large peace community in ancient, run-down mobile homes. One of them has decorated a 15 meter high and 45 meter wide mountain made of straw, clay and car tires and decorated it with a huge “God is Love” lettering. Old, painted cars and other creative art artifacts are all over the place. Crazy, but a very special mood and above all very authentic.
The Anzo Borrego State Park surprises with a palm oasis in a deep canyon as well as bizarre, deeply eroded sandstone formations and quite challenging off-road slopes. More than 100 metal sculptures have been set up in the middle of the desert, which create great photo opportunities. In the afternoon we drive through the Imperial Valley around 60 meters below sea level with huge irrigated fruit and vegetable areas and palm trees in between… if this morning we got reminded of the wadis of the Arabian Peninsula in the rugged, desert-like mountain scenery, we now think we are in the Jordan Valley between Jordan and Israel… the landscape changes so quickly here.
While the acclaimed Joshua Tree National Park is nice, the trees and rock formations of the same name can also be found in various other places around here, and most importantly, it’s far too crowded here for our liking: whether it’s the New Year’s Day or the closeness to the greater Los Angeles region? In any case, after inspecting the most important sights we quickly move on: a storm is coming up with extreme winds so that we cannot spend the night lonely in the pampas as we usually do, but instead have to look for a pitch that is reasonably sheltered from the wind. We park sheltered next to an abandoned church and unexpectedly find ourselves opposite the legendary Roy’s Cafe on Route 66.
The weather at our subsequent stations is going crazy: In the beautifully lonely Mojave Desert, known for its extremely hot temperatures, we get snow overnight and in the Death Valley – one of the driest places in the world – we have rain after a sunny dream day. This then turns into snow overnight in the absolutely worth seeing, but relatively unknown, Alabama Hills on the west side of Death Valley. The next morning we have a bright blue sky and the mountains around us are fabulously white, in the foreground the bizarre granite rock formations with their many arches – a unique sight!
Spontaneously we decide to pay a visit to Los Angeles: more specifically, the interesting districts of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Venice Beach. Greater L.A. has incredible proportions and no real center. In Hollywood you can see and feel the ubiquitous film industry everywhere. Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive are all clichés, but are still well worth seeing and the well-known Venice Beach has long since seen better days and seems to have become the center of the drop-out community living in scrapped mobile homes… It smells after „Grass“ in every corner and the ubiquitous “No-Overnight Parking” signs take on a meaningful meaning for us for the first time.
Santa Barbara north of L.A. is again a beautiful, healthy and upscale world. Actually, we wanted to drive the well-known and beautiful Pacific Coast Highway No. 1 via Big Sur and Carmel to San Francisco. But torrential rains, landslides and flooding – which to this extent we have not even seen during the rainy season in Africa – make us change our plans. We are glad that we can make it to San Francisco due to the numerous road closures, put on the new tires that we shipped to a friend there, and look for a safe long-term parking space for Shujaa while we go back to Europe for our yearly travel pause. On one day we still manage to drive halfway south along the well-known coastal road no. 1, which is well worth seeing. We have a nice meal in pretty Carmel and visit Clint Eastwood’s former farm.
Then it’s time again – we get on our plane for our home stay in Europe… in the pouring rain of course.