Up until we reached Arizona, our time in the United States had seemed like a rather touristy affair. We’d spent three weeks in LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas, and even San Diego with its more laid-back attitude to life had a bit of a polished sheen to it. Knowing that we wanted to reach New Orleans at some point in the future, we decided the best route to take would be a fairly straightforward one; ie travelling by as direct a route as possible instead of criss-crossing back and forth via aeroplane all across the country. And so, somehow on our Great American Roadtrip-Without-a-Car, we ended up in Tucson, Arizona. Within the US this is a rather well-known city, but personally I had never once heard it mentioned until I opened our Rough Guides book and did some light reading; most visitors to North America will naturally go to the big cities on the East or West Coast (basically LA and New York with a few others thrown in for luck), so I was none the wiser about this intriguing location my friends, and let me tell you not knowing anything about a place can really lead you to being pleasantly surprised and downright happy to have found it.
We arose at the crack of dawn in our hostel in Downtown San Diego and walked to the train station in the pitch black darkness and pouring rain, which led me to the realization of two things. Firstly that my waterproof jacket was in actual fact not waterproof, and secondly that 6.30am is one of my least favourite times to walk about in the pouring rain. I was soggy, I was cold, I didn’t even have a hood and upon entering the station the animal I most resembled is a drowned rat. San Diego, Schman Diego, it was freezing. Thank God I had the promise of a magical journey on The Coast Starlight to pull me through that dark time. Continue reading
So here it is, you guys: the beginning of the America trip, in all its glory. Neither me nor my boyf had ever even been on a long haul flight before, yet there we were, planning three months in America without much of an idea of a route other than that we were starting in Los Angeles and finishing in New York. The whole thing was a series of rollercoaster rides, but let’s kick things off with rollercoaster ride number one: entry to the New World. Aka, America. You know what I’m saying. Our feelings about leaving England were possibly not too dissimilar to those lovely folks who set sail on the Mayflower back in the day- possibly but not probably. The one key difference is that we travelled by plane as opposed to massive giant ship. We were excited, we were nervous, it was INTENSE.
Helped with the medium of smileys, here is a blow-by-blow account of our journey across the pond.
Between the ages of approximately eight and fourteen, I was regularly made the Official Chief Navigator in my Dad’s car. It was a job I took very seriously, because in those days my friends, GPS navigation was not a real thing; it was all about the A-Z Atlas. This was a job that involved real skill, not just the ability to talk to Siri.
I would look up our destination in the index, find it on the grid, pencil an ‘x’ (because we all know ‘x’ marks the spot), on our end goal and then attempt to determine a suitable route for our adventures. On quite a few of these adventures my dad would suddenly announce, ‘I don’t believe it…we’re lost!’ Turns out I might not have had such a strong hold on those real skills as I believed at the time.
But my point here is that all those times we got lost meant more fun, the discovery of new (way more scenic and pretty and interesting) routes, and set me up for life in the belief that getting lost- if you follow the Rules of Getting Lost- is always a good thing. Even if it feels like a bad thing at the time, you’ll probably learn something from it 😝