Los Angeles – New York
Twenty-five days road trip from Los Angeles to New York took me on the journey where dreams are made of and a lifetime inspiration. This dream journey had taken me through mega cities, along grand highways, crossing mighty deserts to amazing grand wonders.
Journey in Brief
The Great American Southern road trip is a journey of a lifetime. This journey started in Los Angeles, the “City of Angels” and ended in New York, known as the “Big Apple”. This twenty-five days tour packages takes me through Los Angeles, USA and sixteen other destinations in USA. The best thing about this Grand Southern journey is, I get to see many American destinations along the way. Taking the coach tour with Contiki Tour Company which caters for young travellers between the age of 18-35 age group not only given me the chance to explore America but it was the best way to scratch my travel itch and in a most fun and economical way to see America. Travelling through the USA doesn’t get any grander than this. This sprawling adventure will take me from the glitz of Vegas through the gob-smacking Grand Canyon, the smooth jazz and intoxicating charm of New Orlands to the sun-soaked party scene of Miami. Welcome to the Great American Road Trip – the open road has never felt so good.
Like every child’s dream, my childhood dream was to visit America one day to see some of the most famous iconic places – from Hollywood Walk of Fame and Disneyland, New York, the city that never sleeps to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s hometown and many more. When you think of blockbuster movies, famous country singers, actors and actress, America comes into mind. Known as one of the most powerful and greatest country in the world, makes America one of those countries you want to visit. My ambition was to explore America in a most fun way. Taking a good coach trip with Contiki was the best option as I travelled in comfort.
Arriving in Los Angeles
Arriving in Los Angeles in the early hours of the morning from Australia, I found myself drifiting around the airport trying to figure out my movements as soon as I stepped out of the terminal. This was the beginning of my first real taste of what big cities are like in America. I could feel the nerves running down my spine. I was totally blown away with everything around me. I found myself in a unfamiliar environment in a different country and place. It was crowded, hectic, actively busy and with totally different road rules and directions felt like, I was watching a movie in an outdoor theatre. Finally, I got myself into a cab and headed to my hotel located in Anaheim, Orange County, not far from Disneyland and other major attractions. This was my first solo trip and I was super excited. While is Los Angeles for couple of days, I had time to explore the City of Angels. I had time to visit Universal Studios, Disneyland and checked out LA live entertainment venues.
Los Angeles to Las Vegas
To kick off the day, we set off early, leaving the famed city of Angels, Los Angeles and headed for Las Vegas for two-days through the Mojave Desert. This was the beginning of my American dream. A straight forward drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas was approximately about four hours, but with so many curiosities and quirky sights to discover along the way, we departed early to do ourselve a huge favour by allocating lots of time to stop at few places worth seeing.
Life on the road can get a little one-dimensional. I didn’t want to reach 40 and have to say as I’d done was lookout the window of a tour bus and get drink.Bruce Dickinson
Going south, leaving the quaint but modern city of Anaheim, we passed by some green cities and counties of Southern California, and gradually replaced with the view of browning roadside scenes and later slowly turned into a barren landscape, punctuated by isolated town centres located at the middle of the desert. With a quick stop at Riverside before reaching the bucolic city of Barstow where we had lunch at the historic Barstow Station. After thirty minutes, we were back on the road again along the vast Californian desert. The scenic barren landscape seems to go on and on forever. We passed through many thriving and lively town centres in the desert and many old ruin towns that are abandoned. Despite on what appears to be an inhospitable desert, life goes on to some people living in the areas there.
We continued our journey along the Mojave Desert until our eyes were met by the very first hallmark of Nevada’s civilisation – casinos. We finally reach the city of Las Vegas with neon lights flashing everywhere. This certainly welcomes and reminded us that we have arrived at the gambling capital of the world. The coach had panoramic windows that offered excellent view of both sides of the road to the passengers and our cameras never stopped rolling. On arrival, we had the quick cruise down the iconic strip and check out the Vegas signs before stopping at our motel. Yes, I was in Las Vegas, Baby! With ultimate two days of fun activities, we cruised around the bus and experiencing only Vegas can provide. As we dance away, this was the perfect way to bond with my Contiki family, Vegas style. This city is built virtually on desert land is in the state of Nevada and is known as the ‘Sin City’. Having time to all to myself, I had to run to a tight schedule to fit in all of Vegas’ weird and wonderful charms. Travel the world in a day, taking in the famous Bellagio fountain, a Venetian gondola and even an Egyptian pyramid, all whilst staying firmly within the city. Feeling romantic? I Stopped by and see one of the many Elvis impersonators for a shotgun wedding ceremony, and even get hitched yourself…(joking). At night fall, I lived like a baller while I cruised along the ‘Strip’ in a party bus. Later, l witnessed the 24-hour party scene first hand when I head out for a night.
Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
Leaving the glittering lights of Vegas behind, we headed for something even more jaw-dropping, in search of one of the ‘Seven Natural Wonders of the World’ and into A
rizona’s high country – the Might Grand Canyon. Along the way, as cruised the historic Route 66, we made an impressive stop at one of the most historical viewpoint in the Southwest, Route 66. Here for photo opportunities before continued our endless view of arid landscapes and passing through more desert towns before reaching Grand Caynon National Park.
Here, I get to explore this place, which I heard so much about. WOW! No trip is complete without a stop at this mgiht Great Canyon, one of the world’s most recognisable natural wonders in the world and the pride of Arizona. As soon as I laid my eyes on this super special place, I wanted to give Mother Nature a well-deserved high-five. This natural wonder was mind-blowing and to experience the grandeur of one of the earth’s natural wonders was incredibly beyond. Been more ambitious and want to spend my day feeling a part of the wilderness, I took a very long return hike down Bright Angel trail to Plateau Point. Here, I was contemplating life, existence, and the immense size of the Grand Canyon. By far, the most spine tingling experience at this natural wonder was taking a chopper ride through the UNESco World Heritage site. I get to see the birds eye-view of Grand Canyon in all its glory from above. The Grand Canyon is magnificent from any angle but one thing for sure, I will never forget, my first glimpse of the canyon, whether it was from a walk along the rim or the ultimate bird’s-eye view overhead. This was the spot spine tingling experience I ever had. From sunrise to sunset, the mighty Grand Canyon has left me breathless.
Grand Canyon to Cortez via Monument Valley
With the beauty of the Grand Canyon imprinted on my brain forever, leaving the might Grand Canyon, was undoubtedly one of the difficult place to leave, even though I was in the early stages of my ultimate American road trip. Soon, I was on the road again to one of North American’s another most iconic landscape – Monument Valley. Along the way, we past some Wild Western landscapes towards, this monumental place which has an iconic cluster of sandtones buttes and I got the chance to visit the Monument Valley Tribal park.
This valley located in the state of Utah is part of the Navagjo Nation. Monument Valley profoundly looked so sacred to me and what an amazing place it was. To me, this is probably the most iconic destination in the American Southwest after Grand Canyon and perhaps the most famous example of the classic American West landscape. Monument Valley has been used as the set for countless Western movies, including the recent remake of The Lone Ranger. It was time to immerse myself in the native culture, where I joined the guided jeep tour of the Navajo Reservation and backroads. It was an experience that myself and many travellers will never forget. As I marvel at the sight of towering bittes and mesas which dominate the awe-inspiring landscape during the day and when the sun goes down swap campfire stories under a blanket of stars.
Monument Valley to Cortez
From the dry landscape scenery of Monument Valley, we cross the state of Utah to Cortez in Colorado state, where we had an overnight stay in a motel before continuing the to Albuquerque.
Cortez to Albuquerque via Durango
The following day, we continued the road trip to the city of Albuquerque in the state of New Mexico with a stop over in the town of Durango, Colorado’s adventure capital for fun activities. Durango, an old mining town, where terrain is rugged, the trees are abundant with ever changing colours of the native trees foliage. To have a feel of this adventure capital, I went on a thrilling adventure rough jeep ride to the mountains to view some of the snowy mountains of Colorado. We crossed rivers, creeks and through rough pathways before reaching the top. The views from the top was incredibly very rewarding. I found Durango is the way of life for great outdoors, a place where you keep your adrenaline pumping.
From the thrilling adventure capital of Colorado – Durango, we continued the road trip and headed south to Albuquerque in the state of New Mexico, a land of enchantment. Albuquerque is famously known as the capital and home to the world famous International Balloon Fiesta. Each year, thousands or even millions of hot-air enthusiastic come across the world to display their hot-air balloons with different shapes, colours and sizes that fills the sky. The scene was quite spectacular to witness. To join in the excitement of this annual hot air ballooning extravaganza, I had to sacrifice myself to be out of bed before 4am to witness this hot-air balloon spectacular. It was time to soar high above Albuquerque and I was totally speechless. What an incredible sight to view from above. This is one of the most spectacular displays of sound and color in all of aviation. The most stunning part was witnessing the sunrise as it emerges over the mountains and shines it brightness onto our waiting faces. It was just glorious feeling and a great joy in enjoying the views.
Albuquerque to Amarillo via Sante Fe
After the thrilling hot-air balloon flight, we headed back to the hotel and by 9am, we were on the road again to Amarillo in the state of Texas with a stop in the capital of New Mexico state – Santa Fe, an two-hour drive from Albuquerque,
Arriving in Santa Fe, we had a taste of culture taking us back in time. Sante Fe, famous for its sunbaked earthen brick buildings that stands out from the bright blue sky has a unique character with the influences from Mexico, Spain and Native American culture. Santa Fe, is truly a melting gold pot of culture. It is also known for old historic town and beautiful mountain landscape. For art lovers, Santa Fe is for you. Here we, took time to see all the interesting styles of architecture. Had a visit to Canyon Road, home to art galleries, cultural treasures such as hand-woven Navajo rugs, historic adobe buildings a vibrant restaurant scene. My highlight was visiting brilliant food-tasting stalls and markets. Here, I got the chance to taste different variety of regional food and spices on offer. It was an experience like no other.
After few hours of tasting the spicy and exotic foods, we continued our journey across the state which is larger than some countries – Texas, to funky Amarillo, situated in the Texas Panhandle where we spend the night there. This is where we get to experience the real taste of true Americana style, a place where eternal glory awaits for anyone that can finish a Texas size steak (gigantic Texan steak) in an hour or less. This incredible place is where many folks make their way into this massive restaurant, serving nothing but steaks only.
Amarillo to Dallas
On the following day, we left Amarillo in the early hours of the morning before sunrise and hit the road again to Dallas, in the state of Texas. This city is home to Oil Tycoons, rich ranchers, a thriving tech industry, and of course the Dallas Cowboys, also known as ”America’s Team”. With all that, Dallas is one of the places, I always wanted to visit, not only to see the Dallas Cowboys but where President Kennedy was assassinated. The next day, feeling like an investigation, I visited the 6th floor museum where I learnt more about the assassination of President John F Kennedy and trying my hand at figuring out ‘whodunnit.’ Walked along the very road that President Kennedy took on the motorcade when he was assassinated in 1963. As I set foot on this very place, it was very spooky. I could feel the shivers running down my spine and bone-chilling moments which totally made me very uncomfortable. It was thrilling to feel that you still feel the presence of what happened in the past, even in present moments. I couldn’t leave Dallas without seeing the Dallas Cowboys stadium and the game. It was just incredible.
Dallas to Memphis
The following day, we left the state of Texas and headed for our long drive to Memphis in the state of Tennessee, passing through the states of Kanas and Arkansa. After many hours of driving, we finally crossed the Mississippi river as we were about to hit Memphis, the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. As we drove into our hotel, we could feel the vibes of blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll music from every corner. With all that in mind, we visited Sun Studio, where many great names in music have passed through since the 1950s. That evening, we strolled up and down along Beale Street where the electric atmosphere kept us entertained for hours as we listen out for some of the best blues music in town.
There was more to Memphis than just music. The following day we paid a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum located in the former Lorraine Hotel and visited the place where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. No visit to Memphis is complete without a visit to Graceland, home to my childhood idol, the late king of rock ‘n’ roll – Elvis Presley. I had the chance to get close to both exterior and interior of his Graceland home, including his final resting place where the eternal flame still burns. Today, thousands or even millions of fans and visitors take their journey to pay their respect each year. Many visitors come dressed in Elvis Presley costumes and shed tears. It is remarkable feeling that his presence is still felt today and never gone.
Memphis to New Orleans
The following day, we said farewell to the rock ‘n’ roll state and the home of Elvis Presley and say a big hello to New Orleans in the state of Louisiana, home of gumbo stews and all that Jazz. This place is the place that every music lover should visit at least once in their life. When people think of New Orleans, French Quarter comes to mind. This place is where you get to experience the nightlife with no end to it. It is an amazing and exciting place where you never want to leave this 24-hour nightlife.
I headed into the enchanting French Quarter to experience this lifestyle. I could hear the real deal at Preservation Hall, before tucking myself into some classic and delicious Southern cuisine. For me to stop eating local cuisine likes of gumbo and jambalaya, I went on a night dinner cruise down the Mississippi river on the old river paddle boat – where jazz and blues music entwined. I then made a beeline for the notorious nightlife of Bourbon street, where almost anything goes. I get to taste the live music and bar culture that New Orleans has to offer to its visitors. With the Caribbean and European fusion food, live and non-stop Jazz music from every turn, I could feel the real taste of New Orleans lifestyle. It creates a vibe that is never too easy to walk away from it and truly New Orleans was a place full of life and is an experience I won’t forget in a long, long time.
New Orleans to Orlando via Kissemenee
From the exotic nightlife of New Orlean’s French Quarter, we headed further to the west coast to Orlando, in the state of Florida. Orlando, once a farming town but it has gone through transformation where it is one of the most visited place in the state of Florida. It is home to Walt Disney World and now known as the Theme Park Capital of the World. The choice of visiting various attractions and activities to do is endless. Whatever I decided to do, it was always a ripper of a day. Whilst visiting the place, I decided to spend most of my time visiting various theme parks from sea-world to animal world. What a thrill it was, having fun that seems no end to it. However, if you haven’t visited Kennedy Space Centre, you haven’t been to Orlando. A place where I get to experience, learn and see the works of human to explore other planets.
Orlando to St Augustine
From leaving one city to any another city in the state of Florida, we continued our journey north of Orlando along the west coast to the city of St Augustine, where we spent a night there. Like in all longer travels, especially when you are on the road, with many late nights, early rise and constantly on the go have contributed to me, being unwell. I spent most of time in my hotel room. With the help of antibiotics, I felt much better and by afternoon I took a stroll along the waterfront.
St Augustine to Savannah
Leaving Florida state, I headed to Savannah in the state of Georgia. By then, I was feeling much better, in time to explore the city of Savannah. The city sometimes referred to as “The Hostess City of the South” is the oldest city in Georgia and has a long colourful history that attracts millions of visitors each year. Without too much strenuous activities, I mainly focused on lazy activities and exploring the parks which were beautiful.
Savannah to Raleigh via Charleston
From Savannah in the state of Georgia, we continued our drive further north up the west coast to Raleigh in the state of North Carolina where we spent the night there. Along the way, we had a stop in Charleston in the state of South Carolina before arriving in Raleigh.
Raleigh to Washington D.C
We left Raleigh in the early hours before the sunrise and drove through the state of Virginia, District of Maryland and into Washington DC, the social, cultural and political hub of United States of America. This place is the very core of USA’s political world and it is packed with museums, monuments and history that are important in the country. From the Smithsonian Museums to the Lincoln Memorial and been the culture vulture, I was in my element here. This is the great way to see Washington DC and truly a fascinating city with some much to see and do.
Washington D.C to New York City via New Jersey
Leaving the capital behind, we headed to New York with a stop over in New Jersey and Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, we had our own movie moment with a climb up the famous ‘Rocky’ steps, Rocky statue and a visit to see Independence Hall and the symbol of American Independence and the Liberty Bell before taking a bite at Philly cheesesteak for an early lunch.
Upon arriving in New York, we were taken into the bright lights of New York, known as the Big Apple. It was my final stop on what has been one heck of a journey. The next day, it was time to explore this vibrant and exciting city that never sleeps. It was time to get up close to one of the world’s most recognizable icons, the Statue of Liberty. It was time to take off at my own pace and discover more of the ultimate big city. I got on 2 wheels in a fun optional guided tour and peddle your way through Central Park, New York’s heart and “lungs” and through some popular haunt’s hidden spots and learnt all about this iconic green space. To get familiar with New York’s various flavors and I stepped into its global kitchen. I tried some hand made pasta in atmospheric Little Italy and authentic noodles from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in bustling Chinatown. I picked up a bagel and some salami from a deli and bought an authentic American hot dog from a street stand. I had a ball and had a great time exploring New York’s vibrant and diverse neighborhoods up close. I even soaked up the bohemian feel of the former center point of the folk movement, Greenwich village. This hub of alternative culture still has a buzzing street life and cute, sidewalk cafes. I took a walk through stylish Soho and check out its hip, funky boutiques, the warehouse district and its trademark iron architecture. Shopping-wise, New York is one of the world’s hottest cities and a leading trend-setter, so I got some tips from information centres on where to go for the latest fashions. I am into the hit show “Sex and the City”, didn’t want to miss my chance to find out more. Above all, State Empire was incredibly amazing and it is a “MUST DO” if your visiting this great city. I splurge along Fiftth Ave, hit the top of the Empire State Building.
Farwell Dinner & Home
This action-packed road adventure took me right across the Southern journey from LA to New York and it was the absolute way to see America. This trip hits some of the great “Must-Sees” of the USA, even though some stops were only for a night and didn’t get much time to see everything. The road tour was filled with beauty and thrilling adventure with variety of optional activities to enjoy. An amazing trip, visiting so many great places was definitely an experience that I will never forget. It has given me a great insight of this great country. Taking this road trip meant life becomes a highway. It was hectic, tiring and many times exhausting, yet rewarding and great way to see America.
Resting on my seat on Qantas flight back to Australia, I kept thinking about my road trip from Los Angeles to New York. I have visited a total of 16 states and made memories that will last a lifetime. Though sometimes, the slow road was the only way to go. Hitting the road from Los Angeles to New York with other young travellers, I have experienced pretty much everything you can imagine in between. I hiked the mighy Grand Caynon, through the hills of Tennessee, across the plains of Texas, danced the tango in New Orleands, hit the casinos in Las Vegas and explored the thrilling mega city of New York. There was always something new and exciting in every American cities and states. I never had an experience so good that I have trouble believing it was real. Well, it just shows how amazing this American road trip really was. Yes, cruising down the highway, taking in on the stunning views and waking up in a new destination every few days were real inspiration to me.
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