On the road again...

After nearly a week of LA driving, I was quite looking forwarded to hitting the open road with minimal traffic and doing the speed limit for more than just sporadic bursts. For the most part this wasn’t the case, thanks to convoy after convoy of semi trailers but having multiple wide lanes made it bearable.

We headed up the #5 through plenty of vast open plains and rolling hills to Bakersfield. Apart from the scenery there wasn’t much else, even the gas stations were slim so make sure you have plenty in your tank before heading off.

Valley Plaza Mall - Image courtesy of Bakersfield.com

Bakersfield was on the pit stop list for two reasons, the first being the Valley Plaza Mall off highway 99. The locals may not think much of it but it’s a great one stop mall with a lot of your favourite stores with small city prices and sales.

Three Footlockers, two Journeys and a Champs get the ball rolling for sneakers while there’s Mainland Skate for skate and surf gear. Purely by coincidence there is also a Wetzel’s Pretzels 😉

The major retailers are what you would expect, Target, Forever 21, JC Penny, Macy’s and Sears.

The second reason for our stop is of course it being Nu-metal band Korn‘s home town and the renaming of a small street for them. There was surprisingly little info online about this but that didn’t deter us from driving around in circles. Be warned though, creeping slowly through back alleys and circling empty carparks and service entrances WILL lead you to being tailed by police. Thankfully we weren’t driving a white Bronco, things could’ve ended quite differently otherwise. So we came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t there anymore. Further research however shows the town may have backed out on the renaming altogether or maybe some kids just taxed it. Either way, best not to waste your time.

I could probably go ahead and add a third item to the list and that would be the hot rod meet up at a small shopping center that we passed on the way in.

After Bakersfield the only other major stop is Fresno. With time slipping away from us we decided to “stay on” instead of “get off” (yes it’s a Speed reference :p ). From the freeway it all looks pretty same-y as you pass the small towns peppered through out the darkness with fields of carparks surrounding strip malls, all under the glow of fluorescent lighting makes for some eerie moments in the dead of night.

The lanes will lessen and the traffic will thin and you will finally arrive at the little mountain town of Oakhurst. Roughly about 4-5 hour drive but with stops and traffic you’re looking at closer to 7-8.

Travel tip: If you pull in to a town/city for a pit stop it is best to fill up as there are no gas (petrol) stations accessible/visible from the freeway.

Oakhurst - Yosemite NP in the distance

We stayed at the Best Western review here for a few hours sleep before heading up and over the mountain range of Yosemite national park.

Staying at Oakhurst may save you a few dollars and some time off the initial drive but it does mean it’s a little longer to get to the park the following day. However if you play your cards right, its not that bad. It’s a given that the warmer months are when the park is at its busiest, so choosing an off season date will avoid some traffic and crowds, but generally you’ll want to leave yourself about 2hours to get there from Oakhurst, just to be safe. The distance isn’t that much but once you get to the mountain roads it will be slow moving thanks to inconsiderate drivers/sight-seers that don’t pull over to let traffic pass. Restrictive speed limits don’t help much either.

Travel tip: The entrance is still about 30-45min from the valley floor. When you arrive, make sure you have cash for the park entrance fee which is $20 per vechicle. Motorcycles, bicycles or if you’re travelling on foot its $10

Next up is the Yosemite national park, darn tootin!

Milpitas 2011 – Great Mall
Yosemite 2011 part #1 – LA to Oakhurst via Bakersfield
Yosemite 2011 part #2 – Yosemite National Park
San Francisco 2011 part #1 – Arrival
San Francisco 2011 part #2 – Shopping – Haight, Downtown SF
San Francisco 2011 part #3 – Chinatown
San Francisco 2011 part #4 – Japantown
San Francisco 2011 part #5 – Alcatraz
San Francisco 2011 part #6 – Fisherman’s wharf, Golden Gate Bridge

Complete Yosemite 2011 photo gallery here
Complete San Francisco 2011 photo gallery here

Hollywood sign

Even though you’ve probably already caught many glimpses of the sign from around town (and destroyed in countless movies), there’s nothing quite the same as seeing it up close and personal. There are plenty of places recommended on the net but nothing gets you closer than Canyon Lake road (There is no (legal) physical access beyond this). The road is easy enough to find on a map or via GPS. A slow drive through winding residential roads, you will come across a clearing on your left with plenty of place to park but go a bit further up where the road ends and it becomes a little one way street to get that little bit closer. This is a no parking area so you will have to park elsewhere and walk. Remember this is a residential area so show some respect and don’t go parking in/across driveways, unless of course you “live there”.

Photo tip: If you have a 200mm+ lens handy, you’ll fill the frame with the sign nicely. If not, a wide angle will capture some of those rolling Hollywood hills.

Farmers Market LA

Farmer’s Market

It’s the place where Walt Disney sketched out plans for Disneyland and where James Dean had breakfast before forgetting how to drive, the LA Farmer’s Market.
LA Times has also listed these markets as one of the best places to spot celebrities. While we didn’t catch any in their relaxed habitat, possibly because we were there before noon, by all reports it’s a popular spot for meetings and “alternative” foods (that being not from the 5 basic American food groups of meat, cheese, salt, sugar and grease) and subsequent veritable gold mind for idolisers. Personally if I wanted to see someone that gets paid way more than me for doing way less I’d just look up at the tiers of managers above me :p

If celebrities aren’t on the menu then getting there early is the best way to go. Any time before 11am and its rather quiet. There’s ample covered and uncovered parking, unfortunately validated at only a select few stores (not even the by the big retailers like Nike!) but don’t sweat it, couple hours is only a few bucks.

Outside the actual fresh food section is an open air mall with a cinema and the clothing and “body” shops that would cater to -that- crowd. A Nike store sneaks its way in amongst the designer labels but sticks to the down the line active wear for the tennis instructor you’re trying to impress or the paparazzi you’re trying to fool. A large 2 level Zara store is close by for that last minute wardrobe change before your next “I’ve got a good feeling about this one” audition.

Inside its like your everyday fruit and veg market with fixed fixtures, no fresh food laid out on the ground for us! For those that have been to the fresh food markets in Coorparoo, Brisbane, it is very similar, but in a semi open air location. As with all good markets of this type its covers anything and everything, stuff you’ve never heard of before and stuff you probably wished you didn’t. Especially when it comes to some of the weird meat/fish products. Plenty of eating to be done as well, with countless hot and cold food stalls. Want to lapse back into a diabetic coma? Just take a glimpse at the dinner plate sized stack of pancakes covered in chocolate sauce and icecream and topped with a bacon heart attack, just in case you get cold feet heading into that coma.

Souvenir stores line the outer ring of the market stalls, some with slight variations of style/products but generally the same thing and generally with the extra “locality tax”.

If however you are craving a bit of show biz authenticity you may be lucky enough to catch a live filming of a news clip or entertainment program brief like we did. Mario Lopez (yes the token ethnic kid from Saved by the Bell) was there doing a bit as co-host for entertainment news show Extra. Complete with latex thick make up and Liquid Paper white teeth looking more like the young Jeff Bridges in Tron, he was none the less entertaining and the process (and numerous takes) interesting to watch. If you caught the episode, try and spot me in the crowd throwing up gang signs 😉

Mario Lopez at Farmers Market LA

While we were here, we popped over the road to the Peterson Automotive Museum, that’s next!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here