Time for some last remarks from the summer in California

As I started writing this blog post I was already leaving California. It has been an amazing summer all in all.
I made a little homage to the Finnish taxpayers who made all this possible:

I hope everyone understands this as an artsy project and is not offended in any way. I just wanted to show I really appreciate the opportunities I get in Finland and also that I understand these opportunities are more than normal. We’ve had an ongoing joke with the Finnish guys from Startup Life, when I “invited” them to have lunch or dinner in Stanford, that it’s all tax payers money. And it is true, that’s how the scholarship is paid. Just wanted to say thanks!

And I wanted to update on what I did for the last 10 days in California before finally leaving:

San Francisco with Tiina and Mikko

We spent a little time in Mission to get Tiina’s belly pierced and more exciting went to see Alcatraz. Well, Alcatraz, famous it is for sure. Located nicely, too. And it does have the reputation that no one ever escaped. That’s not entirely sure though. However, it was nice we went there. Even though I’ve seen worse prisons in my life (well, at that time they weren’t called prisons but concentration camps but essentially Alcatraz is not very different in terms of imprisonment conditions, at least from some of them). So Alcatraz was worth the time spent there, very nice views towards SF’s downtown and the Golden Gate.

3 days in the Vegas craziness

Then last Tuesday I flew to Las Vegas (people only call it Vegas in the US). I kind of knew beforehand that I wouldn’t like it very much but I just wanted to see it as I was already quite close to it (it’s 1.5h flight from SF – that’s close in American measurements). And there I was, in the complete craziness of Vegas: casinos all over (I admit that I didn’t gamble), blinking lights on the streets, fountain shows with music (yes, really!) and just tons of other crazy things. At some point I started writing thoughts on “Learning in Las Vegas” (a little homage to the famous book “Learning from Las Vegas” – a must read for all architects and urban planners).
The Vegas buffets are awesome and I also went to one Cirque du Soleil show. That was great!
It’s nice I’ve been there once in my life but I really do not need to go back to Las Vegas anytime in my life (well, research purposes might be a valid excuse).

The Grand Canyon

Next I rented a car from Las Vegas and drove towards the Grand Canyon. It’s a 5h drive through beautiful nature. I stopped by Hoover Dam, a water power plant built since the 1930s at the Colorado River, which for decades marked the only point to cross from Nevada to Arizona. Driving through Arizona, slowly leaving the desert and getting higher and higher up was also really enjoyable. I found a couchsurfing place 1.5h away from the Grand Canyon National Park. So on Saturday I could finally go to see the Grand Canyon. My host had warned me that there are far too many tourists and I should rather take another trail and skip the Grand Canyon all together. I’m really happy I did not listen to her. I did a 6mile (about 10km) hike from the south rim of the Canyon downwards towards the Colorado River. Change in elevation about 800 m and I admit that when I was down there after 2h I was a little worried weather I would get up all that way before darkness. But the way back wasn’t as bad as expected. I could have gone down a little more (the canyon is 1500m deep at this point, it’s a 2 day trip with sleeping at the Colorado river, starting either from south or north rim of the grand canyon. That’s on my To-Do-List from now on!).
The next day we planned on a hiking trip near Sedona with my host family but unfortunately some hurricane came over and brought a lot of rain. Actually Arizona is not an area where hurricanes appear often. This was rare.

Driving to Joshua Tree

I decided instead to start my way back already and booked an airBnB place in Joshua Tree (California, near Joshua Tree National Park, a desert National park). Well, the rain followed me and my 5h drive turned out to be 10.5h long. I was about 40min away from Joshua Tree when the first road was closed due to flooding so I had to go about 100miles backwards and then a huge circle around that area (there are only few streets anyways, and most of them were closed). That really wasn’t a great experience! I’ve learned about erosion in geography class but this was the first time I really saw it: tons of mud on the streets…

The costal road up to San Francisco

Since it was still raining the next day I decided not to go to the Joshua Tree National Park, as hiking in rain and mud isn’t really fun and instead went up to the costal road towards San Francisco with a longer stop in Ventura and smaller stops in several other places. I found an airBnB place in Arroyo Grande and stayed for the night. That was really a great place, one could see the dunes and the ocean just from the host family’s terrace!
The next day was my last day and I took it really slowly: I stopped once an hour for at least 30min, and enjoyed the costal road at its best. It was sunny in one moment and cloudy in the next. I took tons of pictures! In the evening I met my house director Doel in Stanford before I said goodbye to all the StartUp Life Finns. A very perfect ending for a really awesome summer!
Thanks Aalto!
Thanks California!
Thanks sun!
Thanks Stanford!
Thanks people!
Thanks Finnish Taxpayers!
This summer was worth all of it!