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Just Under 250 kilometers Between Us and Mexico! (Arriba! Arriba! - Speedy Gonzales)

We've reached Joshua Tree National Park, and we're writing these lines in surreal surroundings. We've seen a lot since we left Canada on July 3, and we’ve shared all of it with you. Here again, the landscapes are grandiose, straight out of a National Geographic film or documentary. Americans come across as somewhat arrogant, but one must admit that they know how to show off their natural gems at an affordable price. The National Park System is impressive both in its efficiency and the tools and services available to visitors. It's a far cry from the lukewarm approach of Parks Canada or SEPAQ, despite the improvements made in recent years. We also have gems in Canada and Quebec, but one needs to pay a visit with Uncle Sam to get some innovative ideas about how to run things!

Well, now that my editorial is over, let's get back to our itinerary. It's been over three weeks since we published a blog. We've been pretty busy and have done quite a bit of driving since then. We last chatted when we arrived in California in early September.

Since then, we've travelled the Golden State from one side to the other, with a few mechanical problems. A flat tire on Labor Day, not too far from Sacramento, caused us quite a few problems. Having an emergency road service, I thought we'd give it a try, and a crew was dispatched to fix everything. Perfect, no need to use the spare tire....that should have been great news!

The crew in question arrived more than 2 hours later, and what a team it was! A mechanic of Indian or Pakistani origin, unfriendly, who couldn't speak a word of English, and his sidekick, a toothless racist who probably took part in the Capitol insurrection and was not afraid to express his views. You can imagine how much fun it was to be caught between those two! Let's just say the repair was done, but our patience was stretched to the limit.

The next day, one of the motorhome's slide-out awnings failed, completely wrecked. I had to remove it, perched precariously on the roof (no, I don't carry a ladder!). What a mess!

Then, as we were passing through Oakland and San Jose, we went to a Mercedes-Benz dealer for regular maintenance (we've covered over 12,000 kilometers to date) and to have the #$"/$?*&?!# speed sensor on the right front wheel repaired, as it was still acting up. We got great service from manager John, who's a Rush fan and thinks everyone in Canada lives in or around Toronto... Unfortunately, a surprise awaited us with the content of our entire closet strewn about everywhere in the motorhome. The technician was likely too vigorous in his test drive. Of course, our Rush apostle washed his hands of it, which was disappointing, but the sensor was changed under warranty, so that's something!

Enough talk of mechanical mishaps. There's more to come, I expect, and in Spanish, it's going to be epic and spicy, I'm sure.

Health-wise, we're fine. Stephanie and the two amigos caught a cold, but nothing serious. Otherwise, we're looking into getting vaccinated, as cases of COVID are increasing considerably with the new EG.5 variant. A lot of people are wearing masks in California.

Before telling you about our stops and visits, dear readers, we've booked our accommodations in Costa Rica, where we'll be staying from December 10 to January 4 with Patrick (Stéphanie's brother) and Jacinthe (our sister-in-law) and their menagerie, Megan, Gabriel and Olivier, and maybe our beloved Michel-André will join us too (renew your passport, big guy!). We have rented superb houses and condos for our Costa Rica stay, all thanks to Jacinthe who spent countless hours scouring the Costa Rican rental market.

What have we seen in the last three weeks that deserves your attention? Well, too much for this blog! But I will try to summarize the highlights.

First of all, we fell in love with San Francisco.What a beautiful city! It's true that the problem of violence and homelessness calls for caution. There was no way we were going to take the RV there, fearing we’d be the victims of theft. So it was by Jeep that we toured this superb city and rode across the Golden Gate Bridge. Another bucket list item checked off! On a beautiful Friday, it was great to see people changing on the side of the road into their wetsuits, boards in hand, to go surfing in the Pacific Ocean. We'd move there tomorrow morning if we could!

Another bucket list item checked off! On a beautiful Friday, it was great to see people changing on the side of the road into their wetsuits, boards in hand, to go surfing in the Pacific Ocean. We'd move there tomorrow morning if we could!

We then climbed CA 140 to get to Yosemite National Park. After seeing Yellowstone, the Badlands, etc., we didn't think we'd see anything better, but we were wrong. At times, we wonder how we'll negotiate reality and routine once we get back home in June 2024. It was funny to talk to a Quebec woman visiting Yosemite and touring the national parks with her RV, who echoed this same questioning. I'm running out of synonyms, but it's just incredible to see what nature has done with Yosemite. From the grandiose falls to El Capitan and Half Dome as well as the Sequoia forests, there's too much to see.

A word about the Mariposa Grove Sequoias, over 500 mature trees often a few thousand years old. Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove's oldest and largest, is almost 3,000 years old (209 feet high, 96 feet in circumference). The sequoia is the oldest living thing on earth, but it's heartbreaking to see that many sequoias were partially burned in 2022 by the forest fires that are a constant threat. These trees live in the high Sierra Nevada (5,000 - 7,000 feet) and you have to climb and climb on a road that doesn't always have protective barriers, so take it easy!

And then, as luck would have it, we found a California state campground (Broome-Thornhill) on the coast near Malibu, where we could camp right on the beach and have a piece of the Pacific all to ourselves! Pelicans and dolphins passing quietly in front of our campsite. It was sumptuous to drive along Route 1 along the coast and end up at a site sandwiched between the Malibu hills and the Pacific (I don't know about Pamela Anderson, but I found the water cold...). I'll let the images speak for themselves.

It was hard to leave the Pacific coast and head for Anaheim to spend a week visiting Disneyland. The experience of driving from Los Angeles to Anaheim on the freeway is quite unique. It is fast flowing traffic but gets quite jammed despite being 6, 7 or 8 lanes wide. Anaheim is a surprisingly beautiful city. Of course, we were staying in an RV resort not far from Disney, but we did wander through neighborhoods that were tasteful without being posh. You don't have to go far, however, to get the measure of chronic homelessness, even on the doorstep of Disney's opulence. Stéphanie was ecstatic, as were the two boys. I'm not a total Disney fan like my love, but I do enjoy seeing my family happy. The boys had worked hard in their textbooks to earn this stop. It was fun to see Disneyland in all its Halloween finery in the reasonable California heat.

I'm not going to do a "TED TALK" on Disneyland, but it has to be said that the world of Star Wars, Galaxy's Edge, is something to see. There are, of course, "immersive rides", but simply walking around and seeing Star Wars come to life in front of you, with the staging of key characters, the reproductions of space vehicles like the Millennium Falcon, the geek details inserted all over the place - in short, you can spend hours, even days there 😊

Stephanie went with nostalgia, visiting "It's a Small World" and "Tiki Room" among others, but her smile never faded despite our 12-14 hour days wandering from one end of the two theme parks to the other. Needless to say, the boys didn't touch the ground, and went off on their own to do the rides that were too intense for us. That said, I really enjoyed not having to carry them around in a carriage or in our arms, as was the case the last time we visited Walt Disney World in Florida.

So, before I say goodbye with this blog, I can assure you that the desert is hot and dry, even in late September. Joshua Tree is where the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet, and as the sign says on arrival, "Don't die today" is the best warning of all!

N.B. Joshua Tree is not a tree, but a plant belonging to the Yucca family. Its biblical connotation comes from the Mormons who settled in this region and who drew a "resemblance" between the shape of this plant and Joshua with his hands raised to heaven imploring God.

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