People travel from all over the world to visit the USA. It’s vast and offers everything for everyone. With the exception of a few of the major eastern states, I have seen very little of what the country has to offer. I suppose it’s the “I live here therefore I can always go there” sort of mentality that has led to this. Before setting off on an extended trip around the world it only seemed right to take some time to appreciate what’s on the home front. The best way to do this? A mega western road trip.
When it comes to road trips in the USA the choices are endless. The classic – and likely a rite of passage for anyone who sets their sights on driving around the USA in a Ford Mustang – is exploring the wild wild west. We did just that.Over the course of 2.5 weeks we drove a whopping 1963.3 miles and clocked 48 hours 19 minutes and 30 seconds behind the wheel of the car. That’s a lot of petrol, tunes that span the decades, and pit stops that warrant individual vacations. Here are some of the highlights:
We touched down in Sin City after a short flight from Atlanta. We were only here for a long weekend, but managed to cram a good bit in to do it properly. Based at the Venetian Palazzo, we explored the Vegas Strip in all its (drunken) splendor. Highlights of the trip include seeing Celine Dion perform her 1000th show at Caesar’s Palace, experiencing an X-Rated version of Cirque Du Soleil, and taking the Mustang out to the Grand Canyon. While nothing that happened in Vegas actually needed to stay in Vegas, a good time was had.
Check out Destinations // Las Vegas for a closer look at this pit stop.
//DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Heading northwest we made our way through Death Valley National Park. DVNP is one of 58 National Parks in the USA and the first one on our road trip. The park is vast and spans more than three million acres! You can easily spend hours driving between the various things to see and do. We did a bit of research and created a route that allowed us to see a majority of the popular sites (like Dante’s Peak and Badwater Basin) with very little backtracking. Be sure to bring some water and get ready to crank up the AC – it’s hot. After our visit we made our way further northwest switching desert views for lush, green and mountainous landscapes. Our destination? Bishop, California. We stayed at the Holiday Inn & Suites – which was not only the perfect location for walking to local bars and restaurants, but also for heading onwards to Yosemite National Park.
Check out Destinations // Death Valley National Park for a closer look at our route through this national park.
//YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
As far as national parks go, Yosemite has to be one of the best I’ve been to. Rambling rivers, peaceful meadows, brutal granite massifs and hiking trails galore – if you haven’t been, make sure you get there someday. We entered the park via the Tioga Pass and planted ourselves in the park for a couple days. Walking through redwood groves, watching climbers scale El Capitan as we picnicked on the meadows, and trekking the Mist Trail (Destinations // Mist Trail) to Half Dome were just some of the highlights. We stayed at the newly opened Rush Creek Lodge which was the perfect setting to rest our heads and reflect on our days in the park.
Check out Destinations // Yosemite National Park for a closer look at how we spent a couple days at this national park.
Just a few hours drive from Yosemite, we headed into San Francisco. Having been on the go for a while, the city was a great place to slow down the pace and relax a bit. We spent ages trying to figure out how the street parking worked, checked into our AirBnB in Russian Hill and relaxed with a pizza (and beer). Over the course of the weekend we caught up with friends, checked out some of the highlights of the city such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Castro, and did a day trip to Napa Valley (Destinations // Napa Valley). I was quite drawn to San Francisco and look forward to my next visit.
Check out Destinations // San Francisco, California for a gallery snap shop of this pit stop.
//PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY
After a long weekend in San Francisco we packed up, put the top down and headed south along California’s Pacific Coast Highway. If you want miles and miles of cliff hugging and winding roads, sleepy sea-side towns and vista points galore then this is the mini road-trip for you. There are multiple cities along the way to break the trip up. We decided to overnight in Carmel-By-Sea (Carmel Firelight Inn) and Morro Bay (Bay View Inn). Whatever you do, don’t try to do the trip too fast or you will miss out. This long stretch is really all about the journey.
Check out Destinations // Pacific Coast Highway for a closer look at this road trip and where we decided to stop.
Our final destination along the Pacific Coast Highway was Los Angeles. We opted to stay with a friend and used this long weekend to reconnect – making this pit stop a very special treat. As the city offers its visitors lots to do, we came up with an itinerary that allowed us to see it properly over the course of a couple days – including a trip to Universal Studios (because I am a big kid). My impression from the city is that people either love it or hate it. While I didn’t fall in love with it, it helped build out the appreciation I have for the US and scope of what it can offer those who visit it.
Check out Destinations // Los Angeles, California for a closer look at this pit stop.
Pulling up to LAX and handing in the Mustang keys was tough. The power, convertible top, and seat chillers (yes…chillers for you back and bum) made the road trip a special one. It was the vehicle that allowed us to traverse miles leading to a new found appreciation for the US.
It may not be as exotic as or full of history like other global travel destinations, but make sure the USA stays at the top of your travel lists. It will take multiple trips to experience the beauty of this vast country. Our trip to the West is only a snippet of possibility when venturing the land of the free and home of the brave. It was the experience I needed to get mentally ready for extended travel and prepare for our new journey.
(TIP: The USA is full of National Parks. If you plan to see a few on your own trip, be sure to get a National Park annual pass. The price will be cheaper than paying individually at each of the parks and the best part is, you can assign two drivers to the card. This allows you to give the card to someone else when you are done with your road trip (or keep it and go back).