There is a great affinity between man and the open road. One of our greatest driving dreams (my brother and I) was a road trip from New York to Los Angeles, stopping at most of the “must-see” destinations along the way. Here is a summary of the highlights from that epic trip that spanned 11 days, 10 states, 9 hotels, 8 major landmarks/attractions.
- Hollywood misconceptions
All our USA knowledge was based on what we’ve seen onscreen. We quickly learnt to forget everything we think we know. People in New York are friendly, the police are helpful and the attractions are much smaller than they appear on the big screen – Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, the Empire State Building and the Willis Building – not to mention the queues to get in! We visited the Grand Canyon, which was not a barren field of red rock but rather a green gorge.
- Second place victory
I always try to partake in an official run whilst abroad. I specifically search for races with finisher medals, having been stung in Vienna with a medal-less race. I signed up for the 9/11 Heroes run, which fell on Arafat day (meaning I was fasting). I was dismayed to discover the medals were for placement (top 3) only. Whilst everyone had two moments of silence for 9/11, I uttered quick prayers to be in the top 3. Luckily, my prayers were answered and I finished 2nd!
- Running dream denied
My second running dream and first road trip stop was Philadelphia, to run up the Art Museum Steps made famous by the Rocky movies. However, a huge crowd with police in every corner awaited us. Turns out President Obama was giving a surprise rally, crushing my dreams in the process – I did pose by the Rocky statue though!
- Intricate road system
I finally understand why Americans are terrified of driving in Kuwait! The road system in the US treats lanes as law, as opposed to street decoration. Solid lines and dotted are different, they do more with less road space. You quickly get in the habit of driving on the right, overtaking from the left, driving the speed limit and paying attention to where you end up at a traffic light, lest you find yourself forced to go where you did not wish to go. Bringing me to my next point….
- The Arizona Almost Arrest
Twice we had altercations with the law on this adventure. In South Dakota we found a ticket on our windshield. As it turned out, we were parked facing the wrong direction. The lovely hotel manager called up the station who sent an officer over, who after finding out we’re out-of-towners, cancelled said ticket! The second offence in Arizona, I overtook a trailer and barely squeezed back in my lane, to my misfortune, the car heading towards me was the police. I stared in horror in my rear-view to find the lights turn on, and the cop pull a 180 to follow me. Fortunately, I was able to talk my way out of it, because the cop was understanding and I admitted my mistake immediately.
- Hollywood X Two
Mankind’s creativity seemed to have run low in naming areas by the time they got to the West. Names were recycled and reused, in several places. I became aware of this after booking a hotel in “Hollywood”, which turned out to be in Florida! We found this out when we were 4 hours away from California!
- Broke beyond broke
The problem with a cashless existence is, you get to a point where your credit card reaches its limit. There are no warnings, one minute you’re happily paying for food, the next you’re unable to buy clothes because payment was declined. You realize just how big the USA is when you’re frantically trying to find someone to physically come to your aid, however they’re all at least a 4 hour drive away. We lived the American reality of sleeping in a car between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, due in part to two booking mistakes – wrong location (above) and wrong dates. A call to my wife saw her book a hotel on our behalf, putting a roof over our head!
- A friendly face
A lot happens on your credit card you are not aware of. Rental car companies withhold amounts in case of damage to their car, hotels withhold amounts in case of incidentals. Fortunately, our return flight was from Chicago, and a dear uncle drove all the way from Michigan (4 hours, each way!) just to see us for an hour or so, that was my salvation as my credit card was declined again despite my request to pay cash.
In the end, we ended up having one glorious adventure, with twists and turns. Everyone we met, strangers at first and friends seconds later, applauded our adventure and mentioned how we were living the dream they hoped to achieve someday.
Don’t delay, live your dream today!
Photography by Dani Dubelaar.