Weather report from Death Valley. It is hot! And I do not mean what my fellow
citizens consider hot, i.e. 30°. In Death Valley, the temperatures creep up
over 50° at times. But around 45° during the day in the summer is pretty
Plains near Death Valley National Park. A fun land!
Why would a Dane wish to travel into this area? I am not sure, but I was not
the only one. At a Shell pretrol station, I met a group of Danish people. When
I first spotted them, I had a hunch they were Danish. I know how to spot Danish
people abroad. Then they began speaking, and I was confirmed in my suspicion.
The car is warm, but not as warm as it is about to be.
But I did not manage to answer the question, because they mostly wanted to know
why and how one would bring a car on Danish plates to North America. The heat
that the area is known for made me curious. But mostly I wanted to see how my
car would manage the heat in the valley.
How can this brush manage the heat? It does not have air condition.
The short answer is: The car coped. Even if at times, I got nervous as the
coolant heat indicator kept creeping towards the red line. But the coolant is
one temperature, the other is the oil temperature, and that is the true
indicator of overheating.
The temperature of the coolant fluid. Yeah, it got hot. But notice the oil
temperature remains steady.
There was a sign instructing drivers to turn off their air condition, because
it might cause the cars to overheat. Remember, while the air condition may cool
the interior of the car, it does not cool the engine. Indeed, it might actually
heat the engine. If you wish to force a cooling of your engine, you can use
the heater. Simply turn it on full heat and full blast. This will help cool
down the engine, if your coolant system is otherwise broken.
The outside temperature climbed up to 50 degrees Celcius. The button next
to the hazard lights button is the climate control button.
However, my coolant system is not broken. I have installed new engine coolant
fans. A new coolant liquid container. And I have replaced the regular coolant
fluid with Evans waterless coolant fluid, meaning that the coolant fluid can
tolerate far higher temperatures without expanding like water does. This
prolongs the lifetime of the coolant system, as it endures less pressure, even
while driving in Death Valley.
Full speed past these rocks.
Death Valley itself is a sight to see, but boy is it hot. And it quickly gets
very uncomfortable, where you do not wish to stay outside for long. You park
the car, run out, take a few photographs and then get back in the car and crank
up the air conditioning. When you are going downhill, that is.
Death Valley is more an experience than a sight to be honest. Hence why I focus
more on the experience than the imagery I saw. One might wonder how any life
grows here, but I also wonder why I did not see more cars parked on the side of
the road, surrendering to the heat. 
I did see some cars with an open bonnet, and some very sweaty
driver standing next to it. Although, I have only seen one car on fire, and
that was back home in Denmark. And that was a Citroën C5! Hilarious.
When you see the name 'Yosemite', you might be keen to think it is pronounced
'yos-might'. But since English is dumb, that is not how it is
pronounced.  As Wikipedia points out, it is pronounced
yoh-SEM-it-ee. I mean, Americans maintained the 'e' sound at the end of
'Yosemite', but apparently forgot it at the end of 'coupé', they pronounce it
like 'coop'. Amazing that they do not pronounce 'résumé' 'resume'.
Wet meadows in Yosemite.
But regardless of how Americans pronounce words, they have an incredible natural
beauty. And Yosemite National Park is another location like this. I met a
hitch hiker - from Poland - on my drive through the park, and it became clear to
me that people would spend weeks if not months in the park. I did not spend an
entire day there.
I must make a confession. I did not see as much of Yosemite as I probably
should have, but I do not regret my trip there. But mostly this was on my way
from Reno to the next's day location. But it would be a mistake not to see
Yosemite on my way. On my way to Fresno of all places.
The smoke. It is everywhere.
And I had the fortune to meet a friendly Pole, who apparently comes here quite
often. Hearing from people who visit the park and hike around the park, was
more interesting to me than seeing the park itself. Plus, she got to finally
see a car from the old world again. A little bit of home.
The car hiding in plain sight.
As with near Lake Tahoe, the national park was also covered in smoke due to a
nearby forest fire. I have yet to actually witness one, and I hope I do not
have to. Besides, near Los Angeles, I do not believe there are a lot of trees.
You may have heard about the US state of Virginia. But did you know that they
named a city after it in Nevada? True story. They called it... Virginia City.
United States Postal Office in Virginia City. Postal offices have become a
rare sight back home, but not in the United States.
Virginia City was a mining town. And not just any mining town, it was a silver
mine. And it was booming. For two decades during the 19th century, Virginia
City was the largest city in the US West of the Mississippi. Then San Francisco
took over. Then they had a little accident in 1906. And today, Los Angeles is
the largest city West of the Mississippi.
Old Washoe Club in Virginia City.
Today, Virginia City is but a tourist trap. Filled with pretend Western-like
atmosphere, where its decline is almost sad to behold. The United States
actually have plenty of history, but the quality of their showcasing of said
history varies greatly from place to place.
Back home, we mostly know Bonanza from some advertisement for a children's
drink back in the 1990s.
I am not entirely sure why I am spending an entire entry talking about Virginia
City, because its current incarnation does not stimulate enough content. And
yet, this place is exactly the kind of place I wanted to experience. A true
American tourist trap, where there might be a genuine affection for the past.
My tour guide insisted on a picture of me in jail. I was more fascinated by
the cheap bars they had used. Do not worry, I got out.
Perhaps if they had not modernised the town, it would have worked a lot better
as an outdoor museum. But Americans cannot help themselves and modernise. And
they do not do modernising well.
After having stared at classic vehicles for a few hours, we decided to go to
nearby Lake Tahoe to sort of squint at it. Because wildfires in the area was
making the skies quite smokey.
Smoke over Lake Tahoe.
During winter, this area - and I use that term very generously, and vaguely -
saw a lot of rain. Rain means plant growth. And plant growth means fuel for
the fire during the summer. And thus, forest fires are cropping up all over
the Western United States and Canada.
Fun fact: There is a lake behind the brush in the foreground.
Indeed, after I left British Columbia, I kept hearing on the radio how the
forest fires were picking up, and basically all the areas I had driven around
there were now going up in flames. As if I had left some sort of hellish
scorched earth in my tracks. Full transparency, my car has Michelin and
Goodyear tyres on front and rear wheels, respectively.
Looking down from a rock.
So far, I have not seen an actual forest fire, as I have tried to avoid them.
But the smoke is real. And I did not get a good look at Lake Tahoe. I hear it
is pretty. I will have to take their word for it.
Looking over at Crystal Bay, from California. I think, the state border is
not an exact one around here.
Speaking of things I will have to take their word for; the California-Nevada
state border. As the settlers and whatnot made their way out into the West,
the rolled out big pieces of paper, where upon geographical landmarks were
drawn. And looking upon this paper - which was sometimes described as a 'map' -
the powers that were, decided to draw some fine straight lines around the
Californian Lake Tahoe, somewhat visible through the smoke.
I mean, why spend money on having survers go out and check what the local
topographical situation is like when you can just draw easy to draw lines on a
piece of paper (i.e. map)? Only problem is that at some point someone will have
to actually survey that line, which may cut through some rather difficult to
cross terrain. Such as Lake Tahoe. Unless you have a boat.
A road cutting through the forest by Lake Tahoe. This time definitely in
California. You can tell by the lack of casinos.
So California send such an expedition out to clarify the border, and lo and
behold, they managed to survey the border 800 metres to east. Effectively
giving California more land. So some buildings were built near the border,
thinking they were in California, but then it turned out they were in Nevada.
The forest around here is quite young, since it was cut down to build the
mines in nearby Virginia City.
At least in Europe, we settle border disputes the old fashioned way that people
can agree on.
R.E.M. sings "all the way to Reno" in their song about being a star, or becoming
one. While it is unclear from what location the person in question originates,
driving to Reno will always be a bit of a drive, regardless of from where one
starts. Unless one is already in Reno. Or Sacramento or Carson City. Or some
of the several other locations somewhat nearby, of which most people outside the
area have not heard.
Panhard et Levassor was a French automobile manufactor established in 1887.
In 1891, they showcased (and later patented) the Systéme Panhard which
consisted of four wheels, front-mounted engine with rear wheel drive, with a
radiator in front of the engine. This may not seem radical now, but this layout
became the standard for the next 30 years, and the front-mounted rear-wheel
drive layout would be dominante in Europe until the 1970s and in the US until
A 1896 Panhard et Levassor at the National Automobile Museum in Reno.
But actually, this new standard approach to building an automobile may not have
been Panhard's and Levassor's biggest achievement. When automobiles began
becoming a thing, all these vehicles were built to measure. Panhard decided
to build cars without a customer, and instead sold them as standard vehicles.
In short, they created the first production cars. This was around 1895.
The term 'dashboard' or 'dashing board' comes from a horse carriage, to
protect the driver from the horse's dashing.
Additionally, these two entreprenuers wanted people to get excited about cars,
but also to see how reliable they were. A lot of people today, think of
automotive racing as purely a competitive sport for entertainment, but up until
almost the 1950s, racing was used to promote vehicles and their reliability to
the general public. In 1895, Levassor came first in the Paris–Bordeaux–Paris
Trail of 1178 km, which took him 48 hours.
A proper rotary engine.
It is not without reason, that a few petrolheads have managed to get quite an
interest in Panhards. Panhard continued to innovate in automotive technology
up until 1967, when they were absorbed by Citroën. You may have seen John
Peterson before, because another petrolhead that is interested in Panhard is
Jay Leno, who has a video about his Panhard wherein Mr Peterson also makes
Non-skid tyres, obtained the functionality by simply stating it on them.
Manufacturers should just have written 'safe' on their cars rather than
invent airbags. At some point, I presume, people caught wind of this.
He showed me the National Automobile Museum in Reno, which is a collection of
cars, that was previously owned by a wealthy man, as it so commonly is over
here. Well, at this point, I might argue everywhere. The Harrah Collection, as
it is also known, have generously donated some of the cars to pay off the wives
and ex-wives of Mr Harrah when he passed away.
Why is the windscreen gone in the painting? I think we all know why.
Windscreens were hard to paint. Glass, how does it work!?
It was quite an impressive collection, but quite frankly, I just want to see
more Citroëns, and the collection was a bit short on them. I am too biased, I
live in a Citroën bubble, where I can only recognise Citroën's greatness. These
are the exact issues that they warn us about, that websites are appealling to
one's views and you will not hear the other side of the story.
Well, at least I got to hear about Panhards. And some Stanley steamers. And
some early American innovations. Yes, there was a time when Americans used to
innovate. Crazy times.
Rendezvous in Saratoga Springs, New York (not to be confused with Saratoga
Springs in California, which is quite near Santa Cruz) may be the largest
Citroën event in North America, but it is not the only one. I also had the
fortune to attend Lon Price's Citroën event in Santa Cruz at his garage.
Citroëns prefer Total oil. Not that I have used Total. For the record, the
Xantia prefers 5w/40 oil, which is not that common over here.
As luck would have it, my friends also turned up briefly for this event, and I
gave them an opportunity to see some classic Citroëns and talk to the kind of
people who are interested in them. And there was quite a variety of people,
from a Ukranian who had grown up in French occupied Austria to a Californian
who had never been to New York City despite being over 60.
It is always fun and games when Citroëns meet up. And do not spill their
LHM all over the place.
The day after the meet, Lon Price offered to change the oil on my Xantia,
because I believe he is one of the few people in North America who would be
interested in attempting that. I had brought an oil filter with me, and while
we were working on the car, he commented on the state of my drive belt.
Comment: Not good.
Quite a line up for this smaller event in Santa Cruz.
Fortunately, I had also brought a drive belt. Yes, I had been quite proactive.
In a span of three hours, we had the oil changed, the drive belt replaced and a
seal on a rear sphere replaced. And my Xantia was good for another 15,000
kilometres. So far, my Xantia has travelled 10,000 kilometres since its arrival
in Port Newark.
Of course, since we had to remove the ECU to replace the drive belt, the car did
drive a bit unusually for few hours. And it seems to settle when I park it now,
but that should solve itself as the ECU gets used to being driven.
Thank you again, Lon Price for the service on my car. And I know he appreciated
the opportunity to work on a Citroën he had never worked on before.
So far, I have not had a reason to mention the fact that professionally and as
a hobby, I work with computers. I am a software developer. Now, cars are also
a hobby of mine, as you might imagine. But so are board games, video games,
roleplaying games (tabletop), history, politics and writing.
The view from Stanford Foothills, looking down at the San Francisco Bay. Try
to avoid going there when it is really hot, like we did.
During my time at university, I studied computer science. And while I still
work back in Copenhagen (when I am not driving around North America), at least
one of my friends from that time had been employed by Apple. What was doubly
nice about this, is that I finally got to speak God's own language again:
Two tourists taking pictures of a wildlife advisory.
I stayed in Sunnyvale in this region that has obtained the nickname 'Silicon
Valley', even though it does not have this name officially. The valley, the
name refers to, is Santa Clara Valley. And while the chip-making industry that
gave the area its name have moved out of the valley in previous decades, there
is still a lot of sand, of which silicon is a major component.
Me explaining something. With my fist. This may be the first picture of me
on this journal so far.
My friend, who worked for Apple,  invited me and his wife, who
were also there for this month, to eat at the Apple campus. Now, I do not know
how much I can reveal about my experience from this facility, but I will reveal
this much: Apple has not figured out to manage queues. That food court was a
Look at that handsome dashboard! Oh wait, I am in Silicon Valley, should
probably show some images of that.
One would think that a company like Apple would be able to solve something like
queueing. I know the British have not, but they are proud of queueing. And I
believe solving queueing means getting rid of queues, or at least reducing their
I got the opportunity to have a picture taken of my Xantia in front of the
main Apple campus on Infinite Loop.
After enjoying sightseeing seeing Apple and Google compounds (and other tech
industry names), we went to the History of Computer Museum. This was a pleasant
surprise, actually. My friend and I both feared a gimmick, but it was laid out
as a regular museum, focusing on a thematical history, so it was chronological
and thematical at the same time.
A DVORAK keyboard. From a better time. I think, I did not live in the
Silicon Valley is a strange place. I guess I can understand why similar
industries mingle in the same area, but it always yields a strange sense
observing it. It is sort of like Las Vegas, an incredibly sight, and - if you
really have nothing to do there - quite an odd one. Like a picture just
slightly out of focus.
You may think I have been very critical of US infrastructure, and while there is
plenty to be critical of, there are things I like. For starters, I like the
route number assignment system. Routes with odd numbers run North-South and
routes with even numbers run West-East.
I also like that signs are pretty clear on when you are reaching a new route
(there will be so-called junction signs) and the signs will show you which
direction on that route you are heading (North or South, or West or East).
Indeed, speaking of signs indicating roads or streets are great. It is very
easy to spot which road you are meeting at any junction.
Some beach along the West Coast.
So why are there both a highway 1 and a highway 101? Well, the former of these
two is a California route while the latter is a US route. But even though the
routes are on two different levels,  they avoid giving the
routes the same number when in close proximity. And in the US, they are not
shy of re-numbering routes (the famous Route 66 no longer has the number 66).
From highway 101, you can switch to highway 1, which I assume is the older
route, and parts of highway 101 used to be 1. Highway 1 is a lot more winding
than 101, most of which is dual carriageway.
I met an MG near Eureka. And I also met its owner.
I stopped in Eureka along the 1, where I met two others interested in classic
cars including Citroëns. Even though the Xantia is not yet a classic, it gets
quite a bit of attention amongst these people. Perhaps primarily because it
has made its way so far, but also the suspension spike people's interest. Not
on the roads, mind you - they would not know - where I do get a lot of looks
from other motorists.
The Carson Mansion in Eureka.
Another thing I like about US roads is that their exits are numbered according
to the distance from the beginning of the route. The only unfortunate aspect is
that distance is measured in miles, but the principle is good. This means that
long distances between exits can yield quite a number of missing numbers amongst
the exit numbers.
But it also means that you can use the exit numbers alone to know the distance
to your exit, if you know on which exit you are leaving. Now if only someone
knew what a mile was, it would be incredibly useful.
Rocks along the West Coast.
I particularly enjoyed highway 1 compared to highway 101, because of its far
more challenging roads. Not as challenging as roads I have driven in Europe,
because Americans' lower threshold for a hairpin turn is a lot softer than
Just one rock. Ignore the other rocks.
Of course, the views continue to impress. And also gets me feeling a bit
nervous at times, because crash barriers are not that common in the US as they
are back in Europe. You better be awake on these roads.
Swirving roads along 1.
It has been a lot of fun driving along these roads. And while I do have a
dashcam in my car, recording my driving along these fun roads, I must admit that
reviewing these videos, they do not look as impressive as it was driving on
these roads. Always disappointing getting told by your own evidence.
When we think of the United States back in Europe, we often think of its
politics. We may think of the stereotypes that we portray them as, and that
US citizens on occasion confirm. And if we are trying to think of it as a
travel destination, the first thing that spring to mind are its large cities,
like New York City or Los Angeles.
But the United States mostly contains non-city. Indeed, at 9,798,320 km², the
contiguous United States + Alaska is just shy in area of what is recognised as
Europe at 10,180,000 km². But with Europe containing 742,452,000 people as of
2013 compared to C-US+AK's  307,416,900, more than double, Europe has
far more density, both in population and in urban areas.
These are trees in the United States, specifically in California. These
trees are not redwood trees, but they are nearby the Redwood National Park.
That is not to say that Europe does not have much nature left, but rather that
the United States can offer a lot more. It also means that doing a road trip
in North America means you will find yourself driving for days on end, without
really seeing much of interest.
Driving along the West Coast, particularly in Northern California and in the
Bay Area, fog is a common sight, particularly in the morning.
It comes as no surprise to me that the concept of national parks largely
originated in the United States, Australia and Canada. New found tracks of
land, that had not had centuries of history to cultivate most of the land
already. National parks as a concept would later their way to Asia, Europe
Highway 101 passes through some of the redwood forest, but not the parts that
are technically part of the national park. Fortunately, there is a scenic
alternative to the 101.
And as such, I found myself in another national park in North America, this time
the Redwood National and State Park, named after the trees that make this park
famous. I am usually not a big hiker, and I certainly do not have the equipment
appropriate for hiking, but in this park, I wanted to walk a trail.
Several times on my trail, I found old logs maintaining their form enough to
maintain a recognisable shape and even carry their own weight. But due to the
tree's death, its insides had been composting away, now allowing for new tree
life to grow in its place.
'6.3 km' the sign said (yes, it actually also had metric), I should be able to
walk that in 40 minutes. I should soon learn how wrong I was. And particularly
how badly planned this was as I forgot to bring a bottle of water.
The most predominant characteristic of this national park was trees.
So far, the lowest temperature I have experienced over here - and keep in mind
this is the summer - have been 10°C. But in this park, it was a consistent 28
degrees. Fortunately, there was a lot of shade inside a forest, but not enough
from keeping me slowly dehydrating, particularly as the trail climbed higher
than the highest point in my home country. 
Most of the benches along the trail were cut outs of trees. Some were simple
cut outs like this, others were fully realised benches where the trace of the
log had been removed.
Over one and half hour into this trek, I was becoming delirious, questioning my
mental situation and whether life had always been a forest. Had I only imagined
my life up until this point? I could not fully recall when I had entered the
forest. Or if I had entered at all.
Some debris were blocking the trail. There was a lot of hints around the
forest of past weather having knocked down trees.
Coming down the ridge that went through the park, I lost my footing and then my
balance, and soon my face met the ground. I considered for a moment to stay in
this position, until I felt my body slowly sliding down the ridge. As I got up
and carried myself through - this time maintaining a slower pace - I soon heard
No, I had not been some cave man living in the woods. And soon I was reunited
with my car. And while my car was ready to go - as it always is - I was not.
I would go on a trail again, and I would love to come back to this national park
with friends. But next time, I will bring some water. Remember that when you
They say Americans want three things out of a road: No traffic, no nonsense and
no bends. It is just unfortunate that a lot of their primary routes (which they
may refer to as 'highways') fulfils none of these requirements.
Driving down the West Coast of the mainland United States, you will note the
lack of these three aspects. While you have a decent chance of finding several
kilometres of no other traffic on these roads, some slow moving camper van or
mobile home will eventually be in your way.
Looking through my windscreen on Highway 101. The satnav hanging in the
windscreen has its UI appropriately in Danish, and you may notice that it
tells me that the local speed limit is 89 km/h.
But in a sense, that is OK, because the view from this road is something you
want to enjoy. So rather than looking for a way to overtake these slow moving
vehicles, just find the nearest appropriate spot and pull over. There will
likely be an excellent view.
Look at these houses on the Oregon Coast. They too have a great view, maybe
even a view of me taking a picture of them.
The problem with the second requirement - no nonsense - is that none of their
roads fulfils this aspect. There is always some nonsense to US roads, as I have
discovered. It is hard to a finger on, but they never seem quite as sensible as
European roads. But I may just be biased because of my belief in European
supremacy when it comes to infrastructure. And we have had a lot of
infrastructural challenges to overcome in Europe.
My Xantia looking at me as I am taking a picture of it. Always maintaining
the same expression.
Some primary routes in the United States will to a significant degree confir
with the American motorist's third and last desire: No bends. However, a
coastal road - like US 101 - does not. The topography of the area forces the
route designers' hands and - even though they really want to just built
straight roads - they are forced to add bends.
Which is a problem, because this is why these roads also violate the first
requirement. US motorists are not keen on bends. Particularly not if they are
driving a larger vehicle, which most of them are.
The southern part of the Oregon Coast is known for its dunes, seen here being
upstaged by a sign.
Of course, my car was built for roads like this. These are the kind of roads my
car long for, which is why I always end up catching up to other vehicles on my
travels on these roads. I recognise that these roads are American roads, but it
is a shame that the same people - who I will consider the owners of these
roads - are not able to fully experience them. For that, they will need a