Camp was over and done with, and the moment we had been waiting for had finally come. Our all-american road trip to some of the greatest cities and natural wonders the US has to offer. As there were 5 of us, a Mustang was off the cards, but a 4×4 was next preference and did the job nicely.
First stop was San Francisco, with a 7 hour drive up the coast from LA. We had been told that the California coastal road was so slow it would take us 6 extra hours so we sacked that off, but still got some lovely coastal views! We made one stop at the lovely little town of Danish-inspired Solvang. It looked just like you would expect an American interpretation of a European town to look. Pancakes and omelettes on the patio of an Olde-styley restaurant, a few snaps of some pretty buildings, and we were off.
San Francisco reminded me of Bristol on our drive into the city, colourful wonky houses and lovely views. We had found some cheap central accommodation which obviously turned out to be dodgy as hell, but it did the job. Starving, we explored Chinatown and found a nice restaurant with extra large portions of sweet and sour. My friends from home were in San Fran for a one night crossover so we headed out to a local sports bar for a few bevvies of very strong measure. We were tempted to go out but they had a 5am flight and the drive had tired us out so we decided to save it for the next day!
The most important activity on our agenda was planned for the following day: cycling the Golden Gate Bridge. After coffee and a pastry we wandered the harbour taking in the views of Alcatraz and the seals, and then made our way to a bike rental shop. I was the only loser who wanted a helmet. Soz guys for not wanting to die, I look cool alright. Now I hadn’t cycled in a while but I thought I would be alright… turns out San Francisco has many many hills of deathly nature. By the time we made it to the bridge my legs were already dead! However the views from the bridge made everything worth it, the breeze as we cycled across felt amazing, it was beautiful! I obviously almost crashed many times because I was too focused on staring at the views instead of at the people in front of me. I never realised how long the bridge is, we needed a long break at the other end before we made our way back!
With jelly legs we dropped the bikes off and stopped at the famous Boudin Bakery for a sourdough bread bowl. Omgz so much breads and yummy soups. None of us wanted to move for a while after that day, but we got our predrink on because we had to experience the San Fran nightlife! Turns out that was one we maybe could have passed on… Don’t get me wrong we had a hilarious night, but Mondays in San Francisco are like Christmas holidays in student towns. Even our taxi driver couldn’t recommend anywhere that might be busy. We tried a few bars, attempted to request songs that made DJs hate us, and actually got very drunk ending with me trying to feed Dan dollar dollar bills and eating tin foil. “Don’t listen to the plate, listen to the burrito” – Joy’s drunk mantra to live by.
Our trip took a turn for nature next; we had booked a yurt on the outskirts of Yosemite (which actually turned out to be far less rustic than we thought, plugs and wifi and everything) for one night only to explore the beautiful national park. It was a disgustingly hot day, even hotter in the yurt, so we drove straight out to Yosemite and found a short hike to the falls. In case you hadn’t heard, California is in a long drought, so the falls actually turned out to be a formation of rocks. However the plus side of this meant we could climb up the non-water-falls to the top and get amazing views! (Plus some very instagrammable shots, obvy).
The best part of this day was when we found a little pool at the top of the rocks, and decided to strip to our underwear and have a swim. It was such fresh cool water, a welcome respite! Of course I then had the whole dungarees with no knickers fiasco to deal with (how does this always happen to me?) but definitely worth it. One mightily annoying thing about Yosemite is the sincere lack of directions on how to get out of the place. Everything is one way so unfortunately we ended up on the complete opposite side of the park to our yurt. This might not seem like such a big deal except that the park is 4 hours across, so we had a veryyyy long drive back. We made the best of it and bought ciders and four locos for the road, blasting out our fantastic road trip playlists and looking forward to leftover sandwiches at the yurt. Oh the luxury traveller life…
With an 11 hour drive on the cards for the next day, we decided an early morning start would be best. The route to Grand Canyon took us through Yosemite again, and once we had gone past the falls, we came into some of the most amazing surroundings I’ve ever driven through in my life. It was actually surreal, so peaceful driving at 6am with vast mountain faces on either side and openings into beautiful lakes, trees all around, emotional tunes in the background. I felt like I was in one of those car adverts. For reals. The beauty was short lived as we emerged into the neverending desert. This drive was actually fun because it felt like literally driving into nothingness, no cars, no buildings for miles. Some roads were so bumpy it felt like a rollercoaster and we almost did a little poo but then we were back to straight desert plains. Finally we saw the lights of vegas, but sadly this was not our final point, just a Denny’s pitstop and 4 more hours driving to Arizona in stormy rains!
The only thing that could have made that day more tiring was our hotel having no record of our booking. Oh wait, that happened. We actually found it hilarious because we were so delirious, oh life. Finally they sorted us out and we had the best sleeps. Sadly the weather wasn’t in our favour for the big Grand Canyon trip, which we should have expected after the thunderstorms. No rain thank goodness, but no sun either which meant that the famous red glow the rocks have was not so glowy. However this in no way made the Grand Canyon less epic, it is literally the most vast hole you can ever imagine. Much scary teetering over edges and pretending to fall down. Didn’t die, yay us. With a tight schedule we only had a morning to take in the Canyon but that satisfied us, and then we were off to Vegas!
Vegas was the pinnacle of our trip as we were reuniting with all our camp buddies. We arrived at the Golden Nugget hotel and prepared for ‘shit shirt’ night. Actually GREAT shirt night. We explored the old strip, where we were staying, before dinner at a fabulous Irish bar (standard). Irish nachos, you da best. We had many car bombs, cocktails by the hotel pool, and then moved on to a club with dutty tunes where we danced out the remainder of our night. The next morning we returned to the scene of the Irish crimes and actually went for more booze and a shepherds pie at 11am. It’s vegas baby. One thing about vegas: it is HOT. Pool all day all day was all our hangovers could deal with, and it was a great day.
That evening some of us had tickets to see Zedd which was muchly exciting. We took our bottles of vodka to the main strip (travellers on tour in Vegas, what you saying) where we got to see the Bellagio fountain show and I decided my calling in life was to be a fountain show coordinator. Seriously, so cool. Aoife was almost kidnapped by Superman but we rescued her and found some street music that required much booty dancing and creating hilarious videos. On to Zedd which was in a fancy hotel open air pool and bar, so we switched between dancing like maniacs at the front of the crowd and sitting by the pool with our feet dipped. Still raving, of course. We are feet in the water.
Our final day in Vegas was a lot more chilled as we realised how poor we were (except for one of us who decided to blow $300 in the casinos). Destiny and I had our final Denny’s lava cake date, a very sad time. We went souvenir shopping and observed many crazy naked performers on the strip. One thing we didn’t do was get a Fat Tuesday.. next time! I actually enjoyed Vegas far more than I thought I would, I mean sure it was tacky and crazy but I kind of loved that. We made it an absolutely great time.
All of that in one week – mental, and probably far more road tripping than normally recommended, but I wouldn’t change a thing! Driving across the vastness of the USA was intense but so much fun, with great company and fantastic tunes. Dan may not have agreed during the times we decided Britney Spears was the way to go, but I’m pretty sure he secretly loved it. We saw some amazing national parks and had crazy fun times and I would do it all again!