Sat 28 June a 11:30 flight from Heathrow to San Francisco. While in San Francisco we stayed at Hotel Zetta. Voted as one of the top ten 'tech hotels' in San Francisco by CNN, but I was a little underwhelmed. We started our trip with a little shopping - Nike town, Banana Republic, the usual suspects. We had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory... All very 'Big Bang Theory'!

Sunday 29th June I started the day with a 15km run taking in the San Francisco Pier Run and the Ferry Building and the Ballpark Nike+ top routes.

We had breakfast at Moz Cafe then passed through a Pride Parade on Market Street whilst on our way to pick up the tram along Powell & Hyde. We walked across Geodelli Sq and Fort Mason to the start of the 28 bus route which took us to Golden Gate Bridge.

After walking right across the bridge to Marin County we headed back to catch the 28 bus to Golden Gate Park. We walked through the park, passed the Japanese garden and picked up the tram back into town. The driver wouldn't let us on at the front so we couldn't buy a ticket - luckily we managed to walk through the barriers at Powell Street station and avoided a fine! We picked up a couple of things in Gap and went back to the hotel - we didn't even bother going out for dinner.

Monday 30th June We had breakfast at a little place at the bottom of Powell Street. I popped into H&M to buy myself a baseball cap and avoid getting burnt! We walked to the Transamerica building via Union Square and China Town and then on to the Coit Tower.

We walked to the waterfront and along the piers, having lunch at Bistro Boudin - a classic Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl - classic San Fran! We walked further along the waterfront and back to the hotel via the Transamerica building.

We had dinner at a Mexican in the food hall of a shopping mall just around the corner from our hotel.

Tuesday 1st July I once again started the day with an 8kn run from the hotel, along Market Street, to the Ferry Building and the AT&T ballpark and back.

We returned to Moz Cafe for breakfast then headed back to SFO airport to pick up our hire car and begin the drive to Yosemite. We made a mandatory stop at the Livermore Outlet stores. Tammay made an unusual mistake with her navigating that ended up taking us on a 60 mile detour on the I108 past Strawberry rather than along the I20. We ended up arriving in the park after dark and checked into the Awanhee.

Wednesday 2nd July We made it to Cathedral Beach for Sunrise and were rewarded with a fantastic view of El Capitan. We returned to the Awanhee for breakfast and then tackled the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail, visited the Ansel Adams Gallery & the Village Store.

Bridalveil Falls basically consisted of a small trickle of water. We saw a crazy woman turn up and complain about the lack of water - I wonder if she called in at the visitor's centre to fill out a comment card...

At the Swinging bridge there were lots of kids jumping from the bridge into the river. We went on to Cook's Meadow, Sentinel Bridge and watched Sunset at Valley View.

Thursday 3rd July I was feeling too lazy to go for a run so we instead completed the Valley Loop Trail - 12 miles in the blazing heat - spotting a snake along the way (much to Tammay's dismay). Most of the points of interest were in the first third of the trail. We stopped for lunch at Cathedral Beach and made our way back to hotel for shower and afternoon tea.

We went back out for sunset, first stopping at unnamed vista near Camp 4 on the Valley Loop then watched sunset from Tunnel View.

Friday 4th July I started the day with a 5.3km run in the valley, from the Awanhee to Curry Village. After breakfast we drove out of the valley, stopping at Tunnel View to take in the view one last time.

We checked in at the Narrow Gauge Inn, just outside Fish Camp and called in at Tanaya Lodge for lunch.

That afternoon we drove along Glacier Point Road and stopped at Washburn Point for a less traditional view of Half Dome. We could also now see Vernal and Nevada Falls - locations we had hiked to on our visit to Yosemite in 2005. Our next stop was Glacier Point - just a short walk from the car park and we had a good view over the valley. Our final stop of the day was Sentinel Dome and a short but steep hike to the top for sunset. At the top of Sentinel Dome is a Geoffrey Pine. The tree died during the drought of 1976, but remained standing until August 2003.

Saturday 5th July Tammay's birthday! We drove into Mariposa Grove (within the Yosemite park) to see the giant sequoia trees. We completed the upper and lower grove hikes. As we left the Yosemite park we passed a mile-long queue of cars waiting to enter.

We picked up Robert from Fresno airport and drove him to a "SuperSuds" in town. Two kids gave us directions to a nearby supermarket and when they realised we were from the UK, told us to "get out of Fresno!" We checked in at Wuksachi Village & Lodge where we also had dinner.

Sunday 6th July A lie-in and a leisurely breakfast. Whilst driving to the big trees trail we saw three bears - a mother and two cubs - which had caused a large traffic jam on the single lane road. We stopped at the museum then took the short "big tree trail" around a meadow.

After lunch at the hotel we went to Crystal Caves for a tour.

Monday 7th July I started the day with a 4.7km run along the roads near the lodge. We made our way into Sequoia National Park to see the General Sherman - reportedly the largest tree in the world. From there we completed the Congress Trail.

After lunch at the lodge we completed the circuit round the Crescent Meadow and went on to climb to the top of Mora Rock.

That evening we had dinner back at the lodge - there really was nowhere else to eat!

Tuesday 8th July We headed into Kings Canyon, stopping at the visitors centre. We drove along the scenic byway and went to Zumwalt meadow to walk the loop trail. We also took a side hike to Roaring River falls.

Along the way we passed a couple who thought there was a bear near the trail. I impressed myself by spotted bear tracks along the path. Met up with other hikers. We had only missed the bear by a few minutes!!

Drove back to Sequoia taking side route to panoramic point along the way. It was our last terrible dinner at the lodge!

Wednesday 9th July Drove from Sequoia National Park to Death Valley. We watched with some disbelief at the car's temperature gauge slowly headed north, reaching 49C!! After checking into the Furnace Creek Ranch we had dinner their cafe.

I was struck by ferocity of the heat beating down on us from the roof tiles above the veranda. It had been many hours since the sun had set but a full day in the baking heat had taken its toll on the tiles - it was like standing beneath a patio heater! There was a stark warning on the playground equipment.

Thursday 10th July Tammay and I woke early to catch sunrise at Badwater Basin. After breakfast back at the ranch (we had the buffet which wasn't great) we went back out for a drive with Robert.

We drove across the salt flats. We made a large loop from Badwater Basin to Shoshone where we had lunch at the Crowbar Cafe. We (and our car) made it to the top of a view-point over Death Valley.

Friday 11th JulyTammay and I got up early to watch sunrise from Zabriskie point.

We drove to Rhyolite, a ghost town just over the border in Nevada.

A place we were keen to visit was The Racetrack, a salt flat where rocks are blown around by strong winds, leaving trails. We spoke to a ranger about the quality of the roads out to The Racetrack and he advised us to only attempt the journey if we had a true 4x4 off-roader. Our Ford Explorer was a big 4x4 but it was no off-roader. After a lot of deliberation we decided to go for it. It was about 60 miles from Furnace Creek to the Ubehebe Crater and this is where things got interesting. We took the right turn off the volcano loop track and started out on the Ubehebe Crater Road. It was a further 27 miles along Racetrack Valley Road to The Racetrack. The gravel track was so badly washboarded that I ended up driving at walking pace in an effort to stop the car shaking violently. I soon realised the 60 mile round trip would take us around 12 hours so I had to either speed up or turn around. I changed the settings on the 4x4 and put my foot down. I was really worried about damaging the suspension on our car and being left stranded many hours from civilisation. With the temperature approaching 50C (120F), and no hope of any mobile reception, I was concerned. Clearly we had a case of bottled water in the boot! During the drive we passed only one solitary vehicle.

It was good to finally reach Teakettle Junction, a point that Robert had remembered from a journey many years earlier. From there it wasn't too much further to Racetrack Playa. We spend a couple of hours out on the playa, making sure to drink plenty of water. By the time we made it back onto the black-top it was starting to get dark. I was totally shattered on the drive back to Furnace Creek.

Saturday 12th July We completed the drive to Las Vegas, dropping Robert off at the airport. Tammay and I left our car with valet at the Bellagio and went in for lunch, gambling and a final bit of shopping before our flight back to Heathrow that evening.