In 2011, my girlfriend, my mate and I completed an incredible road trip around the western USA – this is our story.
In my previous ten blogs I’ve written of the road trip I took with my mate and my girlfriend around America and in this final instalment it all ends in New York.
The following day was my 79th and final day in America. I took the subway (so much cheaper than a cab I had by now learned – $2.25 can get you from one side of New York to the other as you only pay again if you go up and leave the subway and try to get back on; you can change trains as many times a you like for free) from Rockaway Parkway station to Ground Zero to wander round, something I had always wanted to do. It was very moving, particularly as this was the week before the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
I had been on my own just long enough to go a bit mad by now and decided to see how many policemen (there were a lot about) I could record saying “I love Fresh Air”, Fresh Air being the student radio station I am manager of. To my delight, one of them did but made me point the camera at the ground and use it purely as a microphone. I then went up to nine other policemen and a pretzel vendor around Ground Zero and asked them to do the same, but many believed it was a major protocol and security issue and would not do it. It did not go down well when I insisted that one of their colleagues had done it and at one point I genuinely thought I might get arrested for telling them what they could and could not do.
I then proceeded to do as many New York sightseeing attractions as I could in two hours as I wanted to get back to JFK airport early to make sure my luggage was there (the website had said it should be). First I went to Battery Park and saw the statue of Liberty before getting the subway up to the Met Museum.
You’re supposed to pay a donation and I would happily have done so but the line was massive and I was on a tight schedule so managed to sneak into the Egyptian Wing and blitzed round in fifteen minutes. I walked across the rather lush Central Park, learning and guessing my way without a guidebook around New York as I went, as I had only briefly been to Times Square once before.
Next up was the Natural History museum and more ridiculously long lines to donate so I snuck in once more and this time saw the whole thing (one day I’ll return and give sizeable donations to these places, I promise!) I saw loads in 25 minutes (I was still conscious of getting back to JFK to find my case) from the Native American plains exhibitions of the places I had recently driven across to the world’s biggest dinosaurs.
There were some pretty sweet skeletons, I tell you. My highlight of the day was when an American pointed at Megalocerous (sic?) and shouted to the young boy next to him who was maybe eight years old “hey son, check out f*cking MOOSE DINOSAUR!” Amazing.
I got two subway trains and an Air Train from 81st street back to JFK and was immediately grateful I had left plenty of time. My case was in terminal 2 not terminal 3, something they had failed to tell me. Fortunately they are right next door to each other but there is still a 25 minute wait to get my suitcase. Eventually I get it and head back to terminal 2 and take my flight back to the UK.
I’ll never forget the road trip as long as I live. In the end it was 2,828 miles through 123°F heat and four time zones and six states – California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and briefly even Colorado and New Mexico. So after one night in Northern Michigan, two in Detroit, two in Chicago, two in Los Angeles, one in Malibu, one in Big Sur, one in Santa Cruz, two in San Francisco, one in Yosemite with no bears, one outside Vegas, one at the Grand Canyon, one in Tuba City, one at Lake Powell, two in Vegas, two more in LA and one in Brooklyn, New York, the travelling adventure was over. It’s hard to pick highlights but I’d have to say Yosemite was the most beautiful, Death Valley was the most exhilarating but maybe Lake Powell was the best because it just had to be seen to be believed. As did the other two I have just mentioned.
It didn’t bother me much but it had occurred to me at the start of the road trip that the guide books generally talked of heading south down the Pacific Coast Highway and I had expected to enjoy the west coast the most out of everything we planned to do. The reason we drove north up the west coast and did that part of the trip first was because we wanted to meet our mates in Las Vegas at the end of August. But in the end, much as I loved the west coast to bits, it was when we headed inland after San Francisco that the adventure really began and we started to do things that will genuinely live with me forever. On paper, lots should have gone wrong but because we had a loose plan on dates yet were flexible, everything just worked. Everyone we speak to on either side of the Atlantic has been amazed by how much we crammed in and I’m genuinely proud of the trip and how we got to see real life America as well as all the sights. It was always the parts of America we didn’t expect to be great that were the best.
There’s tons I didn’t even mention in these blogs like the incredible snaking Colorado River (a quick Google image will show you just how mindblowing it is, but in real life it’s even more phenomenal). All in all though, it was the trip of a lifetime.
I’ll leave you with a teaser of the video I put together of our trip – Enjoy