Pursuit of Happiness

After our memorable passage in Las Vegas and a very short night, our next stop was Zion  National Park. Some of us could handle the lack of sleep better than others and yes, some were a bit hungover. Therefore the Hoover Dam, which is only a half an hour outside of Vegas, looked a bit less impressive to some. After a cafeine break at Starbucks, the fallen had resurrected and we were ready for Zion, little did we know that all hell would break loose just hours later.

Zion (not the city from The Matrix)

So all was well when we entered Zion, the friendly park ranger (some aren’t) assured us that we could see the majority of the cool stuff before dusk. So full of newly discovered energy we started the first of our hikes, towards the ‘waterfall’. When we arrived at the fall, we were overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of this place. We took a moment to let it all sink  in (pun intended) and then set sail towards the next point of interest. When it started raining we first welcomed the refreshness, cause it was smoking hot. What we didn’t wanted was the freaking thunder and lightning. Offcourse none of us were prepared for this downpoor. We had to make a run for shelter, except Silke, who seemed to relish these conditions, it was just a stroll in the park for her. Rain was falling really hard now, streets got flooded, children were crying, Liesbeth was freezing, it was sheer bloody panic. (I may have exaggerated there a little bit) Unfortunately this meant that we had to turn back and cut our Zion trip short. After a longer sleep than usual, we felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle Bryce Canyon. At our first lookout point we were sadly reminded of the arrogance of the French. At one of the most beautiful vistas we’d encountered on our trip, some French woman plainly uttered these words “Ca ne me dit rien”. Needless to say that we were Godsmacked by that comment. Or as Stefanie would say it “Ta Gueule”.

Awkwardness

After Bryce our next stop was Page, this was a gateway towards Antelope Canyon, Horse Shoe Bend and Lake Powell. When checking in for our 2 day home in Page, Klaas was responsible for our worst awkward moment of the trip (so sorry you guys). He made the mistake that Americans possess some sort of intelligence. He thought wrong. The dude at the registration office clearly had set his sights on a career in stand up comedy, but will never get there. Next morning we had booked a tour to go see the Antelope Canyon. One of the must see things on our trip. We had the privilige to have a guide all to ourselves and when Silke discovered that Josh (the guide) was a Indian rapper (he’s not bad at playing the flute too), she couldn’t wipe that smile off her face all day (she just has a thing for hip hop). In fact, this gave her the courage to be brave. At Lake Powell, she wanted to swim towards ‘Lonely Rock’. For those who haven’t been to Lake Powell, Lonely Rock stands right in the middle of the lake and for a normal human being this would take at least 45 minutes to swim. Silke thought it could be done in 15 though, luckily Klaas and Antony talked some sense into that girl. But Silke just couldn’t let it go, all she thought about was, touching that rock which stood in the middle of the lake. Because this urge became unbearable, she went looking for other options, enter Kyler Hopper. Silke had noticed that a boat was very close to shore and 2 guys were occupying it. She put on her bold shoes and simply asked if those men could take her to the rock. Because this is America and not Europe, they invited us on their boat and took us out for a spin. What happened next was nothing short of awesomeness. We all jumped off a 5m cliff, Silke got to touch the rock and then to top things, Kyler pulled out his wakeboard (no pun intended). We all had a go at it, but only Liesbeth managed to stand up and ride that board. She then later admitted that she took wakeboarding lessons a long time ago, but she doesn’t remember it that well. Sure didn’t look that way Liesbeth, but impressive of her nonetheless. Afterwards Antony made sure we had another awkward moment when he and Kyler had a weird manhugshakehands moment.

The epic conclusion

After stops at Arches NP and Mesa Verde NP, it was finally time for the big one, The Grand Canyon. For all but one it was the first encounter with this wonder of nature. The sheer size and scale of it, is beyond anyone’s imagination and one can just admire and absorb this place. For those of you who are planning to visit the Grand Canyon, Nos Klatos recommends the Bright Angel trail hike.
Afterwards our next stop was Lake Havasu, a lake right in the middle of the desert. What we found there was something that no one could prepare us for. Being Western Europeans we are used to mild temperatures between 10 and 20 degrees. At Lake Havasu, we had to face more than 45 degrees. Needless to say that we just melted away. Luckily Lake Havasu is watersport heaven, so we decided this was the perfect place to have some Jetski fun and fun it was. But jetskiing isn’t the only reason why Nos Klatos will never forget Lake Havasu, this is the place where we first saw The Dark Knight Rises, the epic conclusion to the trilogy.

Be sure to tune in for the epic conclusion of our trip.

     

     

     

     

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All we do is win

Yosemite was the first national park stop of our entire journey. Some of us felt that this was the real start of our adventure … into the wild. Although after checking into our hotel in Mammoth Lakes it felt more like the start of a jet set lifestyle. Our room could easily be called a suite and the pool/hot tub facilities were more than welcome after every single one of us thought that the national parks ment a slow wifi connection and almost no comfort. Boy were we wrong.

The past couple of weeks our main visits were to the big cities which made our first encounter with Yosemite National Park even more amazing. Being surrounded by only nature made us feel little but oh-so fantastic. With a swim in Tenaya Lake and a hike with wildlife views we ended our first afternoon in Yosemite. Our second day was an early start, knowing that we almost had to drive three hours – special thanks to Klaas and his early morning driving skills – to get into the Valley. An effort for some us but defenitaly worth it if we’d knew what was going to happen that day. Deciding that we’d walk part of the Valley was not exactly the easiest way out – it was around 34°C – but probably one of the best decisions we made. Cause this time around … best things were saved for last. We hiked out to the Yosemite Falls with low hopes for the waterfalls since rangers told us that due to a dry winter there wasn’t a lot of water in the Valley. Let that now be exactly what made these waterfalls so amazing. The fact that there wasn’t a lot of water made it possible for us to climb the rocks – sketchy at times, especially the climbing down part – and swim towards the waterfall so that we could stand right under it. These are moments and experiences that are hard to explain cause no matter how hard we’d try there is no way that anyone who wasn’t there would understand it. But pictures might seal the deal.

As stoked as we were by Yosemite we were totally ready to hit the road for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. At least that was until we google mapped one last time the exact route from Mammoth Lakes to the entrance of the parks. What we thought would be a two hour drive suddenly seemed a five to six hour drive, because there were only two entrances to the park. Two entrances that were on the entire other side than we were. Which ment we had to drive about six hours to the park and another five to our next hotel. But once arrived in the park and a few hikes with breathtaking views and the most enthousiastic and in some ways weird ranger that we ever encountered we can easily say that the long road was worth it.

Leaving the woods and green valleys behind us we made our way into Death Valley; abonded landscapes as far as you could see with amazing color palettes. Being from Belgium these are landscapes that we only know from the movies, television or magazines. Now to see these with your own eyes was simply flawless. To end our day in Death Valley we stopped by a ghost town close to the town we were going to stay that night, not knowing that the town we were staying at, Beatty was going to look more like a ghost town than the one in Death Valley. The town existed for 80% out of trailers and RV parks and the more we entired the town the more nervous we got to find out what place we were going to stay at. Almost every hotel/camping/rv park had the same name so we mixed up our place with another one. One that looked like a scene straight out of a horror movie and while we were already making plans on what to do if we’d had to get out of this place as soon as possible we found out that we were at the wrong place – thanks to the super friendly owner of the ‘not so good looking rv park’. While he explained that we had to be at the big hotel with palmtrees and that we couldn’t miss it we suddenly got super excited about how our place was going to look like. And yes, we definitely had ourself the best place in Beatty; one again pool and hot tub included. Beatty might be a weird looking town but we did found ourself the second best pizza place ever there: KC’s outpost saloon and eatery.

The rainfall from the night before made it impossible for us to enter most parts of Death Valley due to flooded areas the day after so we had to cancel some of our plans and head straight to Las Vegas. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel which wasn’t exactly the best hotel we’ve ever been at -mainly cause you had to pay extra for everything you wanted to do, think about entering the paradise pool – but maybe that had something to do with the fact that Timbaland was the host for the weekend at the hotel.
They always say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…so same story with us. Although we can tell you this; luck was definitely on our side during our gambling night in Vegas!

 

  • Antony confuses bus shelters with parking exits.
  • Stefanie realised that climbing down rocks with wet shoes is NOT a good idea
  • It DOES rain in California during summer
  • Liesbeth had to show her ID almost every other minute in Vegas
  • Klaas is the most hardcore driver of us all
  • Due to the heat some restrooms in national parks spread the worst smell ever
  • Silke was very close to meeting Timbaland
  • The Belaggio was as amazing as we all expected it to be
  • Nos Klatos took over the Apple Store in Las Vegas // we managed to install our blog as the homepage on every computer, which gave us our visitor record of 226 in one day. So to all our Apple newcomers : WELCOME!
  • Klaas his iPhone is being a non factor in the States

      

     

     

     

     

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The Road to Neverland

When a waiter shouts out “You again?” when entering a restaurant you know that you are  cultivating a serious addiction. After our obsession with Yogurtland’s Frozen Yogurt aka Froyo and Starbucks’ Frappoccino (Iced Cappuccino which Antony accidently picked up at the airport simply by ordering coffee with the funniest name), we hitted some other fixations in San Fransisco… and we hitted some of them pretty hard.

The Cheesecake Factory

Silke and Antony wanted to share their sweet thoot cravings for cheesecake with the Nos Klatos party. Little did they know that the Cheesecake Factory was there to turn their perception of the culinar world as we know it around. For a grand total of three times we faithfully waited in line for 45 minutes in what must be the most crowded restaurant we’ve ever been to.

While we grew fatter and fatter, we had to come up with alternatives and solutions, wich lead us to the next set of hooks.

The Go Pro

The Go Pro is a little camera that you can mount on about almost everything and must be the greatest gadget in the modern world. Right now we’re making our decisions about where we are headed based on where the Go Pro leads us to shoot some stunning footage.

American Trampoline Dodgeball

This is our most recent and by far biggest fetish. After a match of bowling in an uptown San Fransisco neigborhood, we hitted a place called the house of air. The house of air simply is a former storehouse that has been renovated to cover the floor with trampolines back to back. Once you enter the Trampoline Dodgeball court, no sport will ever be the same.

After our stay in San Fransisco we headed for Lake Tahoe. Happily trading our occupied Big City Life for the road, we felt as if our adventure finally had begun. Relieved that we shut the gates of mordor behind us, we found that corporate america was chasing us as our first stop at Lake Tahoe required a 5 dollar fee simply to gain access to the beach.

Apart from that uncool setup, Lake Tahoe offered us breath-taking scenic views, blue skys and the sun burning hot on our skins. Our hotel was located on top of a mountain, which functions as a ski-resort during wintertime. We saw several signs that told us ‘don’t suprise bears’…. To tell the truth, peekaboo’ing wildlife isn’t really our thing.

Since we left our penthouse apartement in San Fransisco, the Jetset Lifestyle is what we signed up for. Today we started our day at the pool, relaxing in the sun. In the afternoon we traded that pool for the beach (cheap bastards as we are, we found one that didn’t require an access fee by driving twenty minutes further down the lake). At night we hitted the hottub with a bottle of Malibu.

A journey is like a marriage. Travelling in group means being married to one another for a short time. So it safe to say that the learning curve on all things marriage was pretty steep. They say that marriage is give and take; you’d better give it to her or she’ll take it anyway.
These are the little things that frustrated us in eachother from living close together:

– Silke her failed attempts to catch just about anything we threw in her directions.

– Silke and Klaas had to trade in there ‘European names’ for the real thing since no American can prononce the names they got from their mamma’s and pappa’s. After a mix-up on their coffee cups at a Starbucks drive-by we now call them by their new American ‘trucker-friendly’ names: Silcoo and Calls.

– ‘Social media kills social reality’. Since Liesbeth is the only one in our party with no iphone she doesn’t have anything on her hands in the quiet moments. She found that traveling with wifi-addicts sure is alot of fun:

– When we first enter a new appartement the first important question is whether there is a WIFI-connection setup or not.

– Checking in at a hotel doesn’t happen anymore trought the lobby, but first takes place on the foursquare app (as does every check in; from restaurants to monuments and everything in between that can stoke your facebook-friends’ jealousy.

– ‘Bedtime’ doesn’t mean that we all go to sleep, but usually envolves taking our     iphones for another 60 minutes of sweet talk under the sheets.

In a reaction to these phenonemons, Liesbeth unfollowed us on all social media platforms.

Tomorrow our party continues at Yosemite National Park, which name stays unpronounceable to many of us (Liesbeth cultivated the worst accent on this one). We will keep you updated…

     

    

     

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Don’t Stop Believing

Let’s start where we finished last time…our last day in Los Angeles.

Sunday, July 1st. Euro cup finals. With two of our Nos Klatos members being huge soccer fans we had no other plans that day than finding a place where we could watch the game live. In our case, with the time zone difference, that ment at 12pm. An odd Mexican bar in Venice Beach seemed the perfect spot to do that. We had our predictions ready and after changing seats for at least four times we were more than ready to get our Euro vibe alive. Luckely, for some of us, we also had the X Games Street Skateboarding Finals on one of the television screens. With Spain winning the finals 4 to 0 against Italy, Klaas and Silke their day was already more than perfect and while Sheckler took silver in X Games we could leave LA with a good feeling.

Driving along the Pacific Coast away from Los Angeles we all got excited for the adventures that would come our way. And the change from a big city to a small town came just in time. Santa Barbara is like this really cosy, cool surftown just outside LA. The vibe that goes around in this city is one that goes straight to the heart, a feeling that we’re going to cherish. After 24 hours at the city of Santa Barbara we moved a little bit up to El Capitan Canyon (still located in Santa Barbara), a nature lodging campground. And as we drove past the entrance we accidentaly arrived at the El Capitan State Beach, which is up untill now the best thing that has happened to us. An amazing beach with zero tourism. Epic lightning and breathtaking views that filled our hearts with joy. While walking along the beach we saw wild dolphins swimming only a few feet away from us and with that some of us ended our stay at the beach with a sunset swim session. Although there were moments that we felt like Jack Dawson hanging on that door in the water, it was more than worth it.
While arriving at the campground none of us has ay idea what to really expect of it, but with a campfire, swimming pool and premade BBQ-meals we felt like we arrived in heaven.
And with late night evening talks around our fire we all agreed that the past hours were just perfect.

With a bit of pain in our hearts we left our little magic place the next morning to cruise along Big Sur to end up in Santa Cruz, where we would encounter our first couchsurfing experience. At the beginning we weren’t exactly sure if Klaas had really booked through couchsurfing or if he had mistyped and ended up at cocksurfing but all together they were pretty relaxed people that made sure we had a great place to stay at. July 4, 6 am, we were all planning on going to embrave to waves at Santa Cruz but with one of us feeling sick, the fact that it was raining and that the waves weren’t really good afterall, Antony ended up being the only brave soul going for a surfsession.

The weather over at Santa Cruz made it clear to us that there was no reason to stay any longer so around noon we said goodbye to our couchsurfing hosts and moved up to San Francisco – with a legendary stop at In-n-out Burger and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts – Our second place we booked through airbnb.com, a 2 bedroom penthouse with skyline views. And I have to say … gosh this place just looks picture perfect. So right now we’re kinda feeling like multi millionaires – or at least some of us. Knowing that the first day that we arrived here was the fourth of July we had one plan for that day in San Francisco : see the fireworks t the Golden Gate Bridge. The fireworks weren’t all that spectacular and the songs that went along with it were kinda nerve-racking but it still was a great way to start our San Francisco adventures…

Adventures that included the long hike over the Golden Gate Bridge, Alamo Square, The Palace of Fine Arts, Alcatraz… and back-to-back movie nights.

  • We can’t deal with uneven numbers …
  • TATSU !!!!
  • GoPro is now among us!

    

     

     

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Touch of Venice

It’s safe to say that being in California isn’t really productive towards writing a blog post… but with a bit of delay here is how the rest of our stay in LA has looked like.

After waiting an hour in line, for one of the most awesome amusement parks it has to be said, we finally entered Six Flags California.
If you’re from Belgium, like we are, you have one medium spectacular rollercoaster and that’s it. In Six Flags California, this is not the case, it’s just one sick coaster after the other.
If you ever have the opportunity to go, remember these highlights Goliath, Batman the ride and ‘wait for it’ TATSU.
Tatsu is really the best coaster we ever had the privilige to ride. As the promotional booklet states: ” The Fastest, highest rollercoaster in the world”.
A shame then, that two of us went home early because of something that happened on the ride before. All was well when waiting in line for this one, yeah sure we had to wait like forever to go on, but spirits were high, the atmosphere was good and the humor was awesome. Little did we know that things would go bad for two of us. The ride I’m speaking of takes places on water, a wild river to be precise. We should’ve known that something was about to happen, because our boat had number 3 and as this is an uneven number, it apparently brings misfortune. I’m quoting a member of our group on this one. For some reason the thought of getting wet, never occured to us, but the inevitable happened. Liesbeth and Silke made their first mistake by sitting next to eachother, making them both vulnerable and susceptible for something that they wished never happened. As the ride went along and the river got wilder, the boat suddenly turned and Liesbeth and Silke went ‘Headlong into the abyss’. A massive wave of water went over the boat, but this ‘Tsunami’, as we began to call it afterwards, hit Liesbeth and Silke the hardest. They were soaking wet and this is not an understatement. The fact that the rest remained unscaved and the expressions on Liesbeth and Silke’s faces were enough to give the rest a memory that they’ll never forget. If you do the math, you know that they were too wet to wait in line for the next ride, the Tatsu. After we convinced them that they haven’t missed anything, a white lie, we all went to Mozza Pizzeria. One to remember if you’re ever in LA.

The next day was Conan O’Brien day. As you may know, you can get stand by tickets to go see the taping of Conan’s show. All you have to do is, go to Warner Bros Studios at 8am, wait two hours, get your number, wait for 2 hours, eat and drink something, wait for one hour, get to know lovely Russian ladies (read: annoying bitches), wait for half an hour and then you know if you can get in or not. It gets really frustrating when you’re told that you’re in, which was followed by an outburst of sheer excitement and enthousiasm, only to be told a minute later that you’re not. Thank you very much fat, ugly, badly dressed, blond women. The fact that we didn’t get in was courtesy of the Russians (that’s why we call them bitches, to be precise, it’s possible that they actually are really nice persons, but you can catch our drift)
Thank God that this isn’t Stefanie’s first trip to LA, she had the perfect back up plan. Farmer’s Market (google it, if you want to know what it is, it’s 2am while I’m writing this and I’m to lazy to explain) and afterwards the Standard Hotel Rooftop Bar. Write this one down folks, cause this rooftop bar is in the middle of downtown LA and the view and atmoshpere is amazing. The cream of the crop were these amazing egg like waterbeds, that gives chillaxing a new definition.

In Santa Monica we decided it was time to spoil ourselves. We all, but one, bought really cool, colorfull, old school, tiny skateboards. Which are amazing to just cruise around Venice.

Oh and before I forget, to make you guys all jealous, we went to the X-Games yesterday.

       

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California is always a good idea

After a twelve hour flight from London to LA – in what must be said, a horrible aircraft – we were ready to discover some treasures of the Californian lifestyle. At the moment we are located at Camaran Street, Marina del Rey, “where the road ends and the beach begins”. It’s right next to Venice Beach and with a 15 minute walk you can play your heart out at the famous Venice basketball courts. Major thumbs up to Airbnb for hooking us up with this place and it’s superb owner Connor. There’s not a chance in the world that you’ll be able to find a better hotel for this price. So it’s safe to say that we recommend this way of travelling to everyone.

First full day in LA … and we were far out some of the most obvious tourisst out there. With a program filled with things like the Kodak Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard, Griffith Observatory and Bel Air we have been going exactly where the guide maps tells us where to go. For some of us the main activity of the day has been searching for celebrities, unsuccessful so far. Although Silke is sometimes convinced she saw troups of celebrities in and out of our their cars. Liesbeth went pretty hardcore into it with resulted in running into a bench while looking for famous people. While the searching went on we also had our best stop of the day – Yogurtland. There’s no way that we can describe the feeling, the taste, the perfection of this snack but we can say that this is one of the things you have to try for yourself before you die. Bucket list item!

A great homemade dinner made by Liesbeth and a late basketball session at Venice concluded our first day in Los Angeles.

  • FWY = Freeway
  • The button in an airplane located on your arm-rest is NOT an ejector seat
  • The world famous basketball court in Venice Beach has been broken down – hopefully for restoration only
  • The Superbowl is NOT held at the Hollywood Bowl – cause yes, people should know that
  • X Games tickets are not the easiest ones to get your hands on

       

    

       

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Where our adventures take us

In exactly one week we’ll be trading Belgium for the United States to start our journey in Los Angeles, the movie capital of the world. Not to start an acting career or to find for each one of us a manager. Not to spend all our money in Beverly Hills or try to get our name on the Walk of Fame. But to find a real story behind the picture of Los Angeles that has been created by society. To get in touch with reality, to experience what Los Angeles really is about. To see behind the mask, to see the real beauty of an amazing city with amazing people. To hear their stories and tell ours and to take a part of that experience along with us. To walk the beaches in Los Angeles, to play basketball in Venice, to party hard in Hollywood, to drink cocktails at rooftop bars, to surf Cali waves, to see amazing nature and for a moment – to live the life of the rich and famous. The rich and famous in our heart that is. To leave our mark, our star … not in the concrete but in someone’s heart, in someone’s mind. In our hearts.

To live our own story. To live our own dream.

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NOS KLATOS goes to California

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain