Finally the time had come to leave Taiwan and continue on to America for the start of my road trip with three of my good friends, unfortunately the weather had other ideas. It seemed that in addition to the typhoon wreaking havoc on my beach time in Taiwan it was also to delay my flight from Taipei to Manila, making me miss my connecting flight to LA by half an hour. Alas I was to spend 24 hours in Manila instead of arriving to LA the night before my friends. If I had an idea to visit Manila beforehand I certainly didn’t after my brief stay, the Manila I saw in the drive from the airport to my hotel was utter chaos, and when I arrived at my hotel it was armed with guns and dogs. I had a view to use the time to explore the city but instead utilised having my own hotel room after two weeks in hostels, and after swimming all day and stuffing myself on complimentary buffets I finally jumped on my flight that night bound for Los Angeles.
After a surprisingly pleasant flight with Philippine Air I arrived at our apartment and enjoyed a glass of wine with my ladies before hitting the hay. I didn’t get to see much of central Los Angeles last time I visited so was keen to see the sights. After collecting our behemoth of a car we drove down to Venice beach for some lunch and wandered down the boulevard. Later that afternoon we drove to the Griffith observatory to see the aerial view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.
The following day Hilary and I gleefully drove to Universal studios for a day of geeking out. Most people go to Disneyland but as Hilary and I are both too weeny to go on proper rollercoasters and are more nerdy about films we decided on Universal Studios. I giddily walked through movie sets and enjoyed very geeky rides like the simpsons ride and was super stoked to finally be able to go on the Jurassic Park ride. For anyone who doesn’t know I am unusually obsessed with the Jurassic Park movies and was stoked to finally get to go on the ride with my new JP t-shirt.
After our brief stint in Los Angeles it was time to hit the road and head up to the Madonna Inn hotel located north up the California coast. The Madonna Inn is a quirky hotel boasting multiple themed rooms in a kitschy faux fairytale setting. We had booked the Jungle room which came with a shower decked out in a cave with a flowing waterfall. I devoured a deliciously smoky steak at the outrageous restaurant, followed by the big band playing accompanied by watching some amazing swing dancing. It was a very quirky hotel and well worth the expense and detour.
Next morning we were back on the road again bound for San Francisco. This was the start of understanding truly how huge the undertaking of driving the route we had chosen. Although we left before midday we didn’t arrive to San Fran until about 10pm that evening. We did stop off on the way and see a seal colony, spotted some whales, and ate some west coast chowder.
It was lovely to return to a city that I had loved so much last time and with friends to enjoy it with. The city is as great as I remember, but this time I went to a few more tourist spots that I hadn’t visited last time such as Lombard St (the windiest road in San Fran), the Mrs Doubtfire house and the full house house. San Francisco is such a beautiful city to walk around and the food is just incredible.
As much as I loved San Francisco I was very much looking forward to our next stop at Yosemite national park. I have really started getting in to hiking and was looking forward to some beautiful landscapes to ramble through and test out my new hiking boots. As was becoming our custom we spent countless hours in the car getting to Yosemite, but once we arrived all strains of the long drive were forgotten. Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, the sheer magnificence of the beauty is jaw dropping. We had booked to stay in tents that were very rustic to say the least. Having only a short time in Yosemite I made the most of it by hiking through the gorgeous forest (keeping an ear out for bears and mountain lions) and swimming in the river. As it was the start of autumn it was quite dry and therefore dusty, and of course having a bush fire close by didn’t help but still absolutely worth it. I would love to go back for a week and spend time hiking throughout the huge national park.
Next morning we settled in for another long drive to Las Vegas through the Death Valley, the hottest place in the world. The landscape could not be more different from the lush pastures we had just left, it was very beautiful in a very post apocalyptic way. We had time to stop off at one of the many abandoned ghost towns along the way, and finally we arrived that night to Las Vegas. Although Vegas had never been hugely on my list we thought it would be a fun stop along the way. We booked a room at the New York, New York hotel that replicated all of New Yorks famous attraction with the addition of a rollercoaster looping around the hotel. We decided to hit up one of the famous all you can eat and drink buffets to stuff ourselves silly, followed by my meagre attempt at gambling on the slots. I tried three dollars on the walking dead slot and lost it all, at least it wasn’t more!
We had had plans to visit the neon graveyard of all the vintage Vegas signs but alas it was booked out, so we spent the day lounging in the hotel pool under the shadow of the rollercoaster. I spent my final night in Vegas wandering through the various ridiculous themed hotels such as the Luxor (Egyptian themed), the Excalibur (knight themed) and Caesars (Roman themed). Vegas is an adults Disneyland, it’s the only city I have been to where you can legally walk around the city with alcohol in hand. It was a lot of fun but now that I have been I don’t think I would need to go back.
After Vegas we had booked a historic house in the small town of Flagstaff in Arizona, which was a welcome reprieve from Vegas. It’s lovely to spend a couple of chilled out days when travelling, and Flagstaff was the perfect spot. We drove over to Sedona for the day, and stopped off at a local river swimming spot where you could slide down the rocks in to the pool below. The landscape in Arizona is so beautiful with the red rock juxtaposed against lush trees, I would love to have spent more time going for hikes (in the morning to avoid the intense heat).
After another long drive we arrived to Santa Fe for a couple of nights, known for its Tex Mex food and gorgeous adobe style houses we nestled in at a great BBQ restaurant that also had karaoke where I smashed out an amazing rendition of Paranoid by Black Sabbath, hurting my neck in the mean time with head banging. I visited the Georgia Okeefe museum and got to see her beautiful landscape paintings up close which were absolutely gorgeous.
After yet another brutally long drive and a night in a road side hotel we arrived in Austin. It was so great to return, I absolutely love that city. The people are so friendly and the food is so good! We went to a natural spring pool that had crawdaddys (fresh water crayfish) swimming around in it, and then went to a very hip dive bar afterwards. I want to live there.
The next morning it was time to move on to our final destination and longest drive to New Orleans. All of us were a little worse for wear when we set off for the eight solid hours of driving, and rolled in to to town around 5pm bleary eyed but looking forward to seeing the city. After a brief chillout we headed in to the city for some charbroiled oysters swimming in garlic butter. We wandered down the notorious Bourbon St and watched the revelers throw beads off the balconies, eventually settling in to a quiet bar to watch the revelry. I was so happy to be back in the city I had so loved last time. The next day we walked around the French Quarter, nomming on beignets (french doughnuts covered in icing sugar), and booked a ghost tour for that evening. We tried to enter one of the famous cemeteries but unfortunately you can now only enter on a tour group. We consoled ourselves with eating a po boy (poor boy) sandwich and heading out again for the ghost tour. This was my second ghost tour as I had been to one last time I visited and it was worth the revisit as they say New Orleans is one of the most haunted cities in America. My favourite part was when a guy cycled past on his bike blaring the ghost busters them song.
The following day was our last full day in America so we decided to go on a swamp tour through the Louisiana bayou. I had desperately wanted to do this last time but was limited with time. We breezed through the swamp on an air boat and the host attracted gators by throwing marshmallows in to the water, he even managed to get one on a gators head. The driver suprised us by bringing his own pet gator along that we got to hold, he was surprisingly soft. For our last night in the US we went to the beautiful garden district for dinner before turning in for the early flight to Mexico.