NOV 19, 2015 – Since I had decided to start my roadtrip through US National Parks in Las Vegas, I felt like I almost had to spend a night there. The city is a caricature of the American mentality – everything is possible if you got the cash, bright and shiny is beautiful, and fake is okay. In Vegas, you’ll find lots of fake boobs, lips, and people in general, but also a fake Eiffel tower, fake streets of Paris, and a fake statue of liberty. And many shopping malls have a fake sky to suppress people’s urge to go outside (and stop spending money). I stayed at Stratosphere hotel, which saved me the entrance fee to the city’s highest observation tower. In the evening I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana show, which was a very impressive mix of many art forms: Apart from good circus artists and funny clowns, the show featured crazy stage settings and good live music, and everything was blended together to feel like a coherent narrative. Later that night, I walked through the Strip and visited the Mandalay Bay hotel, which had a good rock cover band playing. Overall, I didn’t notice that it was a Wednesday night – Las Vegas is always alive. Nevertheless, I was glad to leave it the next day, and not have to walk through mazes of slot machines and shops any longer. (As a sidenote, my total investment in gambling amounts to $2.)
NOV 18, 2015 – After a relaxed night on the Amtrak train, I arrived in San Francisco on a Saturday morning. I met my friends Andres and Müge there, and stayed in their flat on Stanford campus for four nights. Having been in San Francisco before, I was happy to discover some areas less crowded with tourists, such as Mission district. I hadn’t visited Alcatraz before, though, so I went there with Müge on a weekday. The prison island is managed by the National Park Service, which does a good job at preserving it and making its history accessible to visitors. From my visit to San Francisco in 2011, I remembered the impressive Chinatown, which is home to the largest Chinese community outside Asia. There are entire streets full of Chinese grocery stores, butchers, bakeries and the like. Some of the employees there hardly speak English, which can make shopping in this Chinatown feel like a trip to another continent. On the other hand, there are also streets with souvenir shops and Chinese arts & crafts stores, which clearly target the tourists. Of course I also visited the campus of Stanford University, whose architecture and abundant palm trees give it a Mediterranean feel.
NOV 13, 2015 – I spent four days in Portland and stayed with Matty and Kimberly, whom I met on my US roadtrip in spring 2011. Portland was interesting to me because of its open-minded people, high density of microbreweries, large cultural offering, and because it is reportedly a hipster capital. The city is a lot smaller than Boston, but nevertheless I was glad to have a bicycle because most of the interesting places are not in the center. One of the most inspiring things is the “City Repair” movement, where people break the city anonymity by creating meeting spaces at street intersections in their neighborhood.
PS: Sorry for the late post, I had to recover some of my photos from a corrupted memory card and still have a bit of a processing backlog.
NOV 10, 2015 – The cold season has arrived in the Idaho Panhandle. I spent ten days at my friend Ryan’s house 12 miles north of Priest River, ID, and only one day was sunny. While Switzerland enjoyed uncommonly warm spring weather way into November, temperatures dropped below freezing here, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. We went hiking twice and spent the rest of the time cutting and splitting firewood, starting to insulate Ryan’s house, cooking, baking, eating and drinking. I also tried out the new running shoes I had acquired in Seattle – the area is full of nice forests and trails. My train to Portland was reportedly delayed 13 hours, so I decided to take a flight from Spokane instead. In the meantime, I made more detailed plans for next week’s National Park roadtrip, which I am really looking forward to.