". . . we were on the edge of the desert, somewhere around Barstow . . ." when we began to wonder exactly whose idea it was to drive to Portland via Vegas! The plan was to head out east for a couple nights in the casinos then north to Portland via Salt Lake City & Twin Falls, Idaho. We'd return to LA through the Redwoods, Napa Valley, San Francisco & Santa Barbara- a 2000 mile round trip, in a week!
Las Vegas is more surreal than I could ever have imagined-nowhere does fabricated over the top decadence like Vegas.
We stayed at a quiet little place off the strip- the sophisticated & understated Hard Rock Hotel!
The casino CCTV must have observed me standing in a corner to make this drawing -I was soon surrounded by 3 burly security men checking what I was noting down in my black book. When they saw I was merely sketching the most senior said "pretty good . . ." and they left me alone.
Vegas to Portland is a long drive-especially if you make a 4 hour detour into the desert to see the Grand Canyon-only to find it 'closed'! The changing landscape we saw across 800 miles was impressive. We stopped in Salt Lake City, Utah-it was freezing there but those Mormons sure keep a nice, clean town. We saw a lot of exotic road-kill along the route and travelling hundreds of miles meant it was only a matter of time before we killed something. Thankfully it wasn't a raccoon or a deer or a bison but a hapless pigeon who met his maker when our radiator grill struck him at 90mph!
Rolling into Portland we instantly fell for this charming city. Despite the rain & mist the town has a relaxed vibe to it that you instantly warm to. The lovely folks at LAIKA had set up a tour of the studio for us-we were gob-smacked by the detail of the sets & puppets for Coraline. Many thanks to Patrick, Chris, Jan, Tony and everyone for making us feel so welcome.
On the way down to San Francisco we took a breath-taking route through the great Redwood Forest and the Avenue of Giants. We also found the 'Chandelier' or 'Drive-thru Tree'-it's 2400 years old!
After that it was on to San Francisco down through the vineyards of the Napa Valley. . .
The steep hills of SanFrancisco give the city a unique character but they're hard work!
Of course while in San Francisco we had to visit PIXAR! I did my Ronald Searle presentation for an appreciative audience & then we were shown around by our welcoming hosts Daniela Strijleva and Ralph Eggleston.
That was the last stop on the tour-we were pretty exhausted after so much travelling & visiting friends & studios. On the last night we relaxed in Haight Ashbury before hitting the road next day back to LA.
Back in LA on the last weekend I hung with my old buddy from Uli's studio Leo. We went down to LACMA- I was keen to see their Picasso collection.
We spent a recreational last day in LA hiking up Griffith Park with Amid Amidi. We toured the observatory before Leo led us up a treacherous route to the summit of mount Hollywood. We braved the threat of rattle-snakes, mountain lions & Amid's moustache to see the incredible view from the top.
The 'Theme Building' restaurant at LAX is currently shrouded in scaffolding while undergoing renovation work. I flew back to the UK on the 7th December after 3 weeks of countless sights & experiences. I saw as much as possible & met more people in that time than in a normal year back home. America was good to us - I'll be back . . .