On Sunday, Victor and I went skydiving for the first time. It has always been in my bucket list of things to do as an adventure seeker, and I always liked the feeling of free falling on a roller coaster or a drop ride. I call it a stress reliever. I wanted to do bungee jumping too but skydiving seemed more fun!

I researched and found the cheapest one around here, called Parachute Center, near Lodi, CA. It was only $100, and no reservations required, which is quite surprising. However, Sunday was a cloudy day, and we were afraid that the weather would not hold up and we are not able to jump. But they were still open and we went anyway. Another setback was my car needed a tire change but fortunately I found a place to change it in the morning before we set off.

We reached the place at around 1.30pm and within 30 minutes we were getting ready. There were no long instructional videos, no frills, just a single piece of paper to sign. The place is like in a warehouse/hanger, with many lockers storing the parachutes. While waiting, someone shouted that they need an ambulance. I was slightly alarmed. Apparently a single jumper veered off-course and got stuck in a powerline across the freeway. Woah…what a good sign.

After a short wait, we went to the gear-up room, where our instructor came to help us wear our harness and give us basic instructions. My instructor even better, he said he will give me instructions on the plane. Our photographer/videographer also met us. They will jump with us and help us take photos and videos. Mine had a Canon DSLR and an oldschool DV camera mounted on his helmet, while Victor’s guy had two GoPros, one for video and one for photos. (It turned out that his video was better quality than mine.)

After a while, the plane landed and it was time for us to board the plane! They really packed the plane to the brim, with everyone sitting facing the back of the plane chest-to-back, with our instructors behind us. The photographers all sat on the floor near the door. During the flight, my photographer took a video and asked me if I have any last words. No, I said. Haha. The plane flew in circles and took a slow climb up to 13,000 feet, or about 4000 meters. And that’s almost the height of all the clouds on that day. The plane actually flew through the clouds and it was all white around us, but they found a gap in the clouds, and the door opened. The moment has come.

Sometimes I think that I am scared of heights. But I think I am not really scared of heights, but I am more afraid of falling and not having a safety net. Skydiving IS falling and has NO safety net. Haha. (except the parachute of course.)

A couple of people went before me and then it was my turn. We had to squat because the ceiling of the plane is pretty low. The photographer went out of the door, one hand on the side railing, to be ready to capture me coming out. Then he jumped. Then my turn, “Ready, set, go” and off we jumped.

“Ahhhh” I yelled. My expression was priceless, so says a Facebook friend. The instructor said most people forget to breathe so just yell. Yelling is stress-relieving anyway. The first few moments of the jump was the most overwhelming and most intense. It was like, wow I’m really jumping off a plane into nowhere. Wow this is really fast. Wow, this is amazing. Free like a bird.

The free fall was really fast, lasted about a minute. It was so fast that I didn’t realise it was over. During that time, the photographer flew around me to take photos and videos. At one moment, he grabbed my hand to link up and get a close-up shot. (He told me about this before we jumped.) After that he left because he has to land earlier to take a photo of me landing. I tried to keep smiling for the camera, but because the wind is so strong, it causes my cheeks to puff up and make me look weird and funny in all the pictures. haha.

I didn’t know that the instructor pulled the parachute until after a while. I felt an upward surge and I was like “Woahh” and I thought we were flying upwards. But it was the parachute. Haha. The instructor did a few quick turns to make me feel dizzy, but also just for fun. After that, it was a slow and gradual ride to the ground. The view was mostly grape farms, but it was still spectacular. I asked what if we land in the farms, the instructor said it never happened before. Haha.

We landed by sitting down on the grass. I guess it was a safety precaution to prevent people from breaking their ankles. When I stood up, my legs felt a bit jelly.

The whole experience finished in less than 2 hours. We collected our DVDs and CDs from our photographers, who each had like a little locker with their computers and burning devices. It was an amazing experience, thank God for we were safe and sound, and I want to do it again!

The Quest Across The States

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For my grad trip, I travelled across 13 states from Pittsburgh, PA to Redwood City, CA, through 10 national parks, clocking 5700 miles (~9170 km) in 20 days, from 23 May to 11 June.

Day 1 (Thursday) – Pittsburgh to Chicago

The first day was spent driving from Pittsburgh to Chicago. What was meant to be a 7 hour drive became a 10 hour drive because I wanted to avoid the tolls on the turnpikes. It turned out that I ended up on a 60mph road in Indiana. And everyone says you can’t speed in Indiana because the fines are $1000. Driving west is pretty interesting though, because it seems that the sun has set but the more you drive, the more light it remains. It is also interesting to cross the time zone line while driving to Chicago. As with most big cities, the drivers are more aggressive as they drive 70mph on a 55mph freeway. That’s why they have 375 traffic deaths a year according to the info ticker.

I reached the Airbnb place which was hosted by a Chinese lady. Because I arrived late, I slept on the sofa instead. But the next day she transferred me to a private room in another house. The neighbourhood is mostly Chinese because it is near Chinatown.

Day 2 (Friday) – Chicago


I took the Chicago elevated ‘L’ subway to downtown for breakfast. The Chicago subway train is similar in design to the NYC ones but it has few carriages, usually about 4. I think that the loop design around downtown is very thoughtful and well-designed. It is also interesting to see rusty tracks through the skyscrapers, compared to the polished concrete of our MRT.

I ate red velvet pancakes at supposedly the best breakfast place in town. After that, I walked along the shores of Lake Eric and finally reached the famed Millenium Park, with the sci-fi looking Cloud Gate sculpture as the centerpiece. It is very cool and photogenic, and the reflections are distorted, making it seem like another world. After that I walked across the Chicago river. Every big city needs a river and a bay, doesn’t it? Then I walked along The Magnificent Mile, which is their Orchard Road. H&M never fails to tempt me haha.


I ate Chicago hotdogs for dinner before going to the top of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears) for sunset. The view is comparable to the Empire State building, just that I think NYC’s architecture is more interesting.

Day 3 (Saturday) – Chicago

I went to Chinatown for dim sum breakfast. Surprisingly the dim sum here is pretty good because they have Liu Sha Bao (Liquid Custard bun) and it is quite authentic. Too bad nobody to share more food with me. After that I went to downtown to watch a memorial day parade. They had soldiers, armored vehicles and high school kids in uniforms, their version of national cadet corps. And of course there’s some LGBT representations and also a random guy preaching the ministry of condemnation and judgement through a loud hailer. Wish he can preach more grace though.


I decided to buy something from Craigslist so I made a detour to meet someone. And then next attraction was the Navy Pier. It is their mini amusement park along the lake. Nothing much though. In the evening, I went to old town to watch Second City, an improv and sketch comedy show. They are pretty famous here and all their shows were sold out. Their sketches are actually pretty funny and the improv is comparable to the ones I saw at sxsw.

Day 4 (Sunday) – Chicago to St. Paul


On Sunday morning I woke up early to drive to the outskirts of Chicago to attend Willow Creek Community Church in South Barlington. It is one of the pioneers of the megachurch movement. As expected, they have a huge campus, albeit nondescript, with a 7000 seater auditorium, cafe and even a mini food court. And the joke is, they have a lake, not a creek haha.


The next stop was the Illinois Railway Museum, which has supposedly America’s largest collection of trains. They have a pretty impressive collection of locomotives and carriages in their barns, from steam engines to streetcars. They even have joy rides on some old trains. I took the Nebraska Zephyr, which has a cool observation car at the end.

At about 3pm, I left to begin the 6+ hour drive to St Paul, Minnesota through Wisconsin. Along the way I ate dinner at an uniquely Wisconsin fast food restaurant called Culver’s. They have Buttermilk burgers and milkshakes. Pretty cool.

Finally at about 10pm I arrived in Inner Grove Heights, a suburb south of the twin cities. The Airbnb host was a nice Indian couple and they had a big king bed for me. They offered me supper but I was too tired.

Day 5 (Monday) – Minneapolis to South Dakota

The next day before I left, the host’s husband offered to heat up the goat curry for my breakfast plus Indian coffee Over the meal, I told them about Singapore and why I like Indian Food. They were then inspired to visit Singapore in future. The couple then drove me to a park by the Mississippi river.


My first stop in St Paul, MN was to visit the Cathedral of St Paul, a gigantic Catholic church. I also walked around the city to see the state capitol. As with most American cities, it suffers from urban diaspora.


After that I drove to the other city, Minneapolis to visit the Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony Falls. There is a lock in the river, the first time I see one, and it is actually managed by the army engineers. The lock helps barges and boats to travel down the river bypassing the falls, pretty interesting. I also drove around downtown and that reminded me of what I studied in geography class: the sky bridges. They connect many buildings in downtown and allow the people to move around in climate controlled sky mall, escaping from rain and snow. Singapore should have some of these!


Next stop was the chain of lakes and then I decided to give my car an engine oil change at Jiffylube as there was some memorial day discount. They were pretty fast. Lastly I went to Mall of America, which I also studied in my class. The mall is so huge that it has a Nickelodeon amusement park inside. It is amazing.


Finally at about 7pm, I drove 5 hours to Mitchell, South Dakota, which is my rest stop at a motel 6. The cool thing is the speed limit on the interstate here is 75mph!

Day 6 (Tuesday) – South Dakota

I had breakfast at Perkins, biscuits and gravy hmhmm. After that it was another 3 hours drive to Badlands National Park. The cool thing was when I crossed from central time zone to mountain time zone, and there was a sign on the interstate that says so. But I am still in the same state!


Badlands reminds me a lot of death valley with the dry valleys and hills. I did a couple of hikes, the door and the notch, and also climbed up a rocky hill. However the weather threatened to rain, so I could not stay for sunset. In the end, it rained and I drove out to Wall, SD where there was a famous Wall Drug store which kept advertising along the freeway just now. They have 5 cents coffee which is really funny and cool. And everything is wild west themed. They even have a tiny chapel in the store.

For dinner, I drove to a mall to Rapid City, SD for a cheap fake greasy Chinese food fix at the food court. But better than nothing right. The Caucasian server asked me where I am from. Haha.

After that I drove around motels to see if I could use a discount coupon. But they were mostly full. Fortunately I found Foothills motel, which was not listed under Expedia but they have pretty good rooms at only $39. So I stayed there for the night.

Day 7 (Wednesday) – South Dakota to Wyoming


In the morning, I drove to Mount Rushmore. As usual, the movies make the rocks look much bigger than they actually are. The faces actually look pretty small in the distance. And there’s no way to hike to it, only slightly nearer from the bottom.

Along the way to lunch at Custer I saw a sign for Crazy Horse. It is apparently also a sculpture carved out of rock, but this time by Native American Indians of one of their heroes. It seems like a direct competition to Mount Rushmore, pretty interesting.


After lunch I drove to Jewel Cave National Park, another attraction in the black hills. I paid for a 1 hour plus tour of the cave with a ranger. We have to take an elevator twenty storeys down which is really cool. The cave is lighted up for the tourists, otherwise it will be pitch black. According to the ranger the caves are so long and huge that they only managed to explore less than 10% of it. It is amazing. And each exploration expedition lasts up to 4 days and they have to take out their own trash, and human waste…

At about 5pm, I drove 5 plus hours to Cheyenne, Wyoming which is at the border of Colorado. This was when I first noticed one of my tires had lower pressure than usual. On the way, I ate Taco John’s for the first time. Their grilled stuff tacos are pretty good. At night, I decided to save money and sleep in the car at the rest area at the border of Wyoming and Colorado, which was one of the newest and nicest rest areas I have been. There were a few RVs and trucks parked there overnight too. It is tough to sleep in the car as there is not enough space to stretch my legs.

Day 8 (Thursday) – Colorado

The next day I drove to Fort Collins, Colorado for a nice sumptuous breakfast in a small cafe. After that, at the visitors’ center, I asked for advice on visiting the Rockies. According to them, the roads might still be closed because of thick snow. Got me a bit worried. I-70 TO Utah goes through the Rockies at 11,000 feet through a tunnel and there was some congestion, and if there’s bad snow, chains are required.


I decided to drive up along highway 34 anyway and see what it is like. It was still pretty warm and nice at Estee Park, one of the entrances to the park. I decided to take a break from driving and took two shuttle buses to Bear Lake, one of the deeper parts of the park. Because of the higher elevation, it is actually starting to snow there. I was a little underdressed for the weather. But anyway I decided to hike around a bit to a small waterfall before taking the shuttle bus back.

At 4pm, I started the drive to Grand Junction, Co through a scenic byway to i-70. At the mountain pass, there was a tunnel through the continental divide, and then after that it was steep grades all the way down. Indeed, it was wet and snowing at the top, although pretty light and still drivable.

I had Thai food at a Chinese restaurant in the middle of nowhere at Silverthorne. It was some fake thai curry noodles. But at least they had bubble tea. I walked around into another drinks shop and talked with the cashier and he said he was from Cambodia. Wow. All the way from there.

Finally at 11pm or so, I reached Mesa Inn at Grand Junction.

Day 9 (Friday) – Colorado to Utah


In the morning, I ate the hotel breakfast, charged air into my tires, which seemed fine, before going to Black Canyon of the Gunnison about 90 minutes southeast of Grand Junction. It is also a canyon formed by a river, but the rocks are black. It is magnificent in its own way. Not Grand but Black.

After that, I drove through another scenic byway through the Grand Mesa National Forest. It was not worth the extra hour detour though. The forests are beautiful and has icy and snowy lakes due to the higher elevation. Other than that, nothing much.

I ate Golden corral for dinner, my first time in the buffet restaurant. Pretty cool, like college dining hall style.


After dinner I drove up the Colorado National Monument to think that I could watch sunset there. But alas, all the views are facing east. So the sun sets behind the ridge. In return, I had some nice golden-hour colors of the canyon and the city. Was not that bad. Wished I had more time to explore instead of just touching and go.

After that it became dark and I drove like 2 hours across the border to Utah. This was when I was considering between staying in a hotel or sleeping in my car again so that I could watch the sunrise. In the end, I chose the latter. I parked in an empty gravel lot in the middle of nowhere, next to a closed gas station. However. For some reason, I couldn’t sleep well and kept waking up. Finally at 4am, I decided to drive to Arches or Canyonlands for the sunrise.

Day 10 (Saturday) – Arches and Canyonlands


To my amazement, when I woke up, my rear left tire was bloated and visibly deflated, although not fully flat yet. I was very worried if it will last. I drove to the nearest gas station 5 miles away to pump some air. It looked better but I am sure it is still deflating. Based on the GPS data, there are some auto shops in Moab, Utah, which is the nearest town about 30 miles away. I decided to bring it to a shop in Moab after sunrise. Drove to Arches National Park instead of Canyonlands since it is nearer. I can hear the tire still hissing while watching the sunrise. I was too worried to enjoy the sunset fully, kept praying that the tire could last. Finally I drove down to have breakfast, just next to a tire repair shop. When it finally opened at 8am, I brought my car in. Miraculously, the mechanic simply removed the tire and patched it on the spot. Thank God. No replacement was needed. Thank God that it wasn’t an instant puncture, otherwise I will be stranded in the middle of nowhere!


After all my worries were eased, I drove back to Arches to do a 3-mile round trip hike to the famous Delicate Arch, the most photographed arch in the world. I also saw the Balanced Rock and the Double Arches.


In the afternoon, I drove to Canyonlands. At this time, the heat of the sun and the exhaustion was killing me. It was scotching. I got sunburnt just by driving the car! My left hand is more tanned than my right hand as it is nearer to the driver’s seat window. Took a short break at the visitor’s center before driving to the various overlooks on the Island in the Sky. I would say that Canyonlands is like miniature version of the Grand Canyon. Many small canyons formed by the same river Colorado, and the Green River. Not as impressive, but scenic in its own way.


I decided to leave early at 4pm as I was tired and it was still a 4+ hour drive to Salt Lake City. Along the way, I had dinner at Green River at the highest rated place on Yelp. I reached Salt Lake at about 8pm. Salt Lake is just like any other big American metropolis: big roads, many lanes, heavy traffic. Nothing special about it at first glance. Nothing “Mormonish” about it.

Finally I arrived at my Airbnb host at Cottonwood Heights at 10pm. It was a nice big house. She told me she is a Mormon and I asked her a few questions about her church and stuff.

Day 11 (Sunday) – Salt Lake City


On Sunday, I woke up early and the host cooked nice omelette and hash browns breakfast for me. It was delicious and it was very nice of her. I drove downtown to Temple Square to attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir weekly broadcast at 9.30am in the Tabernacle. It is an interesting dome-shaped building with seats like pews, and a huge organ in the background, with the choir and the symphony orchestra in the foreground. It was a short 30-minute program, with the choir singing a few hymns and songs, and a short inspirational message, which was apparently pre-recorded. I would say it is not exactly a church service, since there was no Bible preaching whatsoever. However, there are many Mormons and visitors present, probably about 50-50. It is apparently the world’s oldest broadcast.


After the broadcast, there were tour guides standing outside speaking in various languages. They are known as “missionaries”, i.e. Mormons from all over the world who come here to Salt Lake City to volunteer for a period of time. During the tour, I actually spotted one or two ladies with the Singapore flag with their nametag, but I did not manage to chat with them. The tour brought us to the Assembly Hall, and to 2 visitors centers and also around the Temple. However, the temple is a sacred building and only Mormons above 18 years old with the “right standing” can enter it. The visitor centers display what is inside the temple, about the gospel, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith. At the end of the tour, the missionaries tried to preach a little bit of the gospel and ask people to believe in Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon.


I spent quite a few hours in the visitor centers, as they are pretty big with quite a number of museum exhibits. I also watched a 70-minute film about Joseph Smith, and got to know about the history and how and why he founded the Mormon Church. Interestingly, they believe in baptism by proxy, probably because his elder brother died earlier, and a few other unorthodox beliefs. I also visited the other buildings, like the gigantic 21,000-seater Conference Center, which is supposedly the largest front-facing auditorium in the world. Very impressive indeed. Trumps any other megachurch easily. I also visited the Church History Museum across the street.

This was also when my friend Joel asked me if I wanted to go Yellowstone National Park. I took a long time to decide because I was a little tired, wanted to rest, and I am not sure if my car can make it to the end. I was feeling unrest about the car mostly.

At the end of the day, I went shopping at some nearby shopping center and then I drove 2 hours to Wendover, the border of Utah and Nevada, and spent my night in an Inn there. At night, we were still contemplating whether to go Yellowstone or not. We even considered renting a car. Initially, I said no, because I was tired and feel not at peace about it. After all, I always think that I should leave something unexplored so that I can return with my wife and kids in future. Haha. But finally, I decided that I would go fix the car’s wheel bearings, and my friend will fly to SLC the next day immediately.

Day 12 (Monday) – Salt Lake City

I spent the day at the mechanic who fixed my piston and wheel bearings. I felt vibration more than usual, hence I thought I need to fix it since it was known to be wearing out 6 months ago. I went to do my laundry in a laundromat nearby while waiting. Haha. The mechanic fixed my steering wheel wobbling problem, and but there is still vibration. In fact, it seemed worse. Well, I continued anyway. Waited for Joel at a shopping mall and then drove to the SLC airport to pick him up. I brought him to Temple Square for a short tour before driving an hour up north to our motel for the night.

Day 13 (Tuesday) – Grand Teton


We drove through Idaho, had some awesome potatoes of course for lunch, in a small town called McCammon. Then through Jackson, WY and finally reached Grand Teton National Park, en route to Yellowstone. The only thing was it was too cloudy and the sun was setting, hence the colors were not very vibrant in our pictures. We were debating whether to do a hike or not, but realized there is probably not enough time. We drove through the scenic route through the lakes, and up the Signal Hill for a nice panoramic view, and down to Jackson Lodge for dinner. The Lodge is a nice hotel apparently built by Rockefeller, and it has nice huge bay windows overlooking the mountain range.


After dinner, we drove to our lodge, Hatchet Resort. It was a nice long heated cabin, pretty comfortable, with everything you expect in a motel. Not too cheap though since it is 40 minutes from Yellowstone.

Day 14 (Wednesday) – Yellowstone

In the morning, we ate breakfast at a grill in our resort. After that, we drove to Yellowstone, finally! Our first destination was the West Thumb Geyser Basin, right in front of the huge Yellowstone Lake, the highest altitude lake in the world. It is our first exposure to the hundreds of geysers in the park. We saw some hot springs, mudpots and geysers. After that, we took a 2-mile hike up an overlook hill to have a nice view of the whole Yellowstone Lake.


Next destination was Old Faithful. The famous geyser is predictable and erupts every 90 minutes or so. Everyone sat there eagerly, waiting for the geyser to sprout. There were some false alarms, and then splash, it erupts into a 50-metre high fountain. Pretty amazing.


After that, we spent a few hours walking around the geysers in the area. There are so many! Some are unnamed. We saw a few erupting in the distance. We even walked past two bisons which were like 2 metres from the boardwalk! We walked towards Riverside, another famous geyser, which is also predictable. It is also the most picturesque one, because of the river and the forest in the background. We waited for like 20 minutes past the predicted time, and it finally erupted! The cool thing was because the sun was shining at the correct angle, we could see a small rainbow in the fountain depending on where you are standing. Very impressive. After that, we saw a few more hot springs before driving to another area.


The next area was the midway geyser, which has the largest hot spring in the world. It is actually more like a lake which is continuously vaporizing and smoking. We then drove to the next section, which is the fountain paint pots area. More geysers. After all there are about 500 geysers in Yellowstone, of about 900 in the world. At the end of the day, it got a little boring because the geysers all look the same after a while.


However, the huge vapour rising created a nice “natural haze” effect for sunlight and lighting. It is pretty in the golden hour to see the smoke rising with the orange sun. After the sunset, we drove out to our accommodation in West Yellowstone, Montana. On the way out, there was a congestion along the road. Then, the ranger told us there were bison. True enough, there was a herd of bison walking on the road and we had to drive carefully past them.

We settled in a nice Best Western Inn, and we decided that we should stay for one more night in the inn because Yellowstone has so much to see and cover!

Day 15 (Thursday) – Yellowstone


Best Western has the one of the nicer free breakfasts in motels because it has hot stuff like a small egg omelette and biscuits! We drove to the Canyon Village area for our first stop. I wanted to try to hike Mount Washburn, which is not an easy hike. We drove to the parking lot, and we walked about 1/4 of the way, and decided that there is too much snow on the trail to continue. It was not really that cold, but somehow a lot of the snow on the trail has not melted, and it is very hard to walk on the snow uphill without the right equipment. We gave up and turned back. Nevertheless, the views on the hill were quite impressive already. We could see abit of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in the distance.


The next stop was to drive to the Grand Canyon’s north rim. The canyon is very beautiful, with yellow rocks on both sides. Maybe that is how Yellowstone got its name. We stopped at almost every lookout point, from the Upper Falls to the brim of the Lower Falls to the Inspiration Point. We also drove to the south rim and walked down this long flight of steps, almost 25 storeys down, called Uncle Tom’s Trail. It rewards you with a nice frontal view of the Lower Falls. We also went to the Artist’s Point, where I though I heard some Malaysian/Singaporean accent from a family. Haha.

After the canyon, we drove to Mud Volcano, which is another smaller area with a few mudpots and geysers. It is not as impressive, after a while they look the same, which probably explains why there are less people there.

Towards the end of the day, after having dinner at Canyon Village, we decided to drive a loop around through Tower Falls. Tower Falls is quite disappointing, just a small waterfall viewed from a distance, nothing much worth travelling all the way there for. We then drove towards Mammoth Falls, and we saw a small grizzly bear along the way! It was a bit dark though. At Mammoth Falls, we managed to see some elk, both male and female. It was not my first time seeing elk, since I saw some in Point Reyes before.

Day 16 (Friday) – Yellowstone


On retrospect, it was a good decision to extend a day in Yellowstone. After all, we have not covered everything in 2 days. The last day, we went to the Norris geyser basin area. There are always bison along the way. At Norris, more geyers and mudpots and hot springs. I was getting a little tired of walking around them already. After that, we drove north to Mammoth Hot Springs. It was a little more interesting, because the hot springs flow out of fountains and they look like those fengshui rock formations. They are also very colourful, with orange, blue and white rocks, like Igloo. Another dry spring, called Liberty Cap, looks like Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat.


After saying bye to the elks, we left the park, driving back through West Yellowstone, Montana and all the way south to Pocatello, ID, where we spend the night in a Rodeway Inn.

Day 17 (Saturday) – Idaho to Reno, NV 

This day was a long day of driving, about 9 hours in total. We drove two hours west to Twin Falls, ID for brunch. And then it was a long and grueling 7 hours through the Nevada Desert to Reno via Elko. It was hot, really hot, and doesn’t help that my car doesn’t have a/c. We found an interesting Taiwanese restaurant in Reno for dinner. It was surprising authentic and good! We actually walked around the Circus Circus casino which was just a block away, and we saw one of those free Circus shows. Pretty fun to walk around the casinos, makes me feel like I am in Vegas. We then drove a little south to stay in an Extended Stay inn.

Day 18 (Sunday) – Reno to Yosemite

In the morning, the hotel did not provide good breakfast. So we decided to drive back to the casinos to have…buffet brunch! We ate at Flavors in the Silver Legacy Casino, next to Circus Circus. It was pretty worth it, $12++ for brunch with all the breakfast stuff, some lunch, seafood, and desserts, and even champagne. The most awesome meals ever. I realised that only Singaporeans are crazy about buffets, because some Americans detest them.

After the meal, we watched another free Circus show before starting the drive down Highway 395 to Yosemite National Park. It took us longer than expected, the distance is not long, but the mountainous roads make the travelling time longer. We reached the Yosemite east entrance on Highway 120 at 5pm, but it took us another hour or so to reach the valley. It is pretty interesting to enter Yosemite from the high sierra side, since I have never been through there before. The elevation is higher and it is colder, and less touristy. There was a nice lookout point at where you could see the back side of Half Dome Rock.


Finally, when we reached the valley, I brought my friend to Bridalveil Falls. At this place, it was a little deja vu as I have been here before. Coincidentally, we met two Singaporeans, of which one is actually Joel’s friend. After photo taking, we went to Tunnel View, which my friend thought was not as impressive as he thought.


After Tunnel View, we went to the Lower Yosemite Falls. It has slightly less water now because it is in the middle of June. Nevertheless still pretty. We then drove to Curry Village where we had a tent for the night. During dinner at the pizza place, it seems like I spotted two other groups of Singaporeans from the way they dress and the Singlish coming out of their speech. Haha.

Day 19 (Monday) – Yosemite

We woke up early as we wanted to enquire if there are still tickets for the one-way tour up Glacier Point. We had a nice breakfast at the Curry Village dining hall, where I spotted one of the groups of Singaporeans. I spoke with them, and found out that they are from NTU and are on a grad trip. Haha.

We drove to Yosemite Lodge where we boarded the $25 tour. It was a nice guided bus ride up to Glacier Point and the driver-cum-guide explained to us a lot of things about the nature and animals of the park. Apparently you can play dead to the bears in Yellowstone but you cannot play dead to the bears in Yosemite because you’d be dead after that. Also, even though Yellowstone is the first national park, Yosemite was the first state park and then became the 3rd national park. They say Yellowstone stole the glory first.


At Glacier Point, it was an impressive view of the whole valley and Half Dome. I have never been here before. We were debating whether to take the longer 8-mile panorama trail or the shorter 4.5-mile trail to the valley. We decided to take the shorter one as we still need to hike in Mariposa Grove later. The trails offers sweeping views of the valley and the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls as we descent. There were some people trying to climb up too. Must be much much tougher. Took us about 2.5 hours to reach the bottom. Not too difficult, nice cool weather as it was cloudy.


After a lunch snack with our snack bars and tuna, we went to Mirror Lake, which I have been to before. However, it seems prettier this time. The photos I took on my phone turned out pretty good that my friend says looks like Eden. The weird thing about Mirror Lake is that the actual reflective part is at the far end, and many people at hanging out at the less-reflective part at the south end. Perhaps they have not seen the actual reflection and are deceived…

We walked around the loop through the Happy Isles, and then finally took the shuttle bus back to our car as our legs are aching already.


We drove down the mountain to Mariposa Grove, which I think is a must-see. There, there are Giant Sequoias (pronounced as Sir-choirs) trees, which I always think look like the giant trees in Lord of the Rings and Narnia. I still vividly remember the last time I came 3 years ago, it was not snowing, and then it snowed and I had some nice snow pictures.

This time, other than the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel, we hiked a little further to see the Faithful Couple and the Clothespin trees. And then, the sun set and we have go head back. But we clocked the most amount of walking today, 25,000 steps with almost 25 km of walking!

After a long day, we had dinner at some random Chinese restaurant in Oakhurst, CA, before driving to an inn in Merced, where we spent the night.

Day 20 (Tuesday) – Back to SF Bay Area

We had In-n-out (what else!) for brunch at Tracy, CA and then we went shopping at the premium outlets in Livermore, CA. Managed to get some Coach bags at 65% off. Amazing. After that, we met Victor for dinner at fb before parting ways. My friend flew back to Pittsburgh, while I finally settled in at my friend’s house in Redwood City.

After 20 days, I got a little bit tired of travelling and just want to go home…but…I’ve to sell my car first.