Reflecting on the Great US Road Trip
It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been eighteen months since myself, my mate James, and our red Mustang undertook the five week Great US Road Trip that took us from San Francisco all the way to New York.
It had been the culmination of months of planning and years of daydreaming and it was amazing.
We saw breathtaking national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Park, drank entirely too much in Vegas, Austin, and Nashville, explored San Diego wine country, visited some Nevada ghost towns, wandered the streets on a New York walking tour, hiked Muir Woods, and so much more.
Even though we saw and did so much, it only left me hungry for more.
As amazing as that five week itinerary was (and you can see the five week US road trip itinerary), there were some unfortunate last minute cuts that I sorely wish we’d had the time to include.
Today, I thought I’d highlight those places I’m sorry I missed on my Great US Road Trip.
The Unfortunate Few
#8 – Napa Valley, California
Ever since I lost my wine virginity in the Hunter Valley, I’ve been just a little bit obsessed with wine tours.
Where is Kait and I took a boozy Sunday drive through the vineyards around San Luis Obispo and then Hogg and I doubled down with a sun-drenched day of debauchery in San Diego.
Since then, it’s rare an evening goes by where Adventures Around Asia and I don’t split a glass and/or bottle of fine red wine over dinner and Netflix.
Looking back, I really wish we’d been able to make the side jaunt out to the Napa Valley to experience the US’ premier wine region.
While the idea of paying for tastings is alien to me as an Australian, I’d have liked it if only for the experience.
Why I Missed It: With ten days out of our five week itinerary already devoted to California, we just couldn’t justify the detour out to Napa and Sonoma to sample some wine.
Why I Wish I Hadn’t: The wine! The scenery! The opportunity to take a dawn hot air balloon ride over the Napa Valley was one I was sad to miss.
#7 – Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, Utah
Leaving Utah out of the itinerary was an extremely difficult choice.
Some of the images I’d seen online from Utah’s National Parks were just breathtaking, and time spent photographing and/or hiking through Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park would have been a fantastic second course after revisiting the Grand Canyon.
Unfortunately, tacking on what was essentially a two day round trip to get up to the parks and back was just not feasible on our tight schedule.
We ended up replacing the duo with a visit to the definitely worthwhile Petrified Forest National Park, where I got to see the Painted Desert that inspired Joshua Kadison all those years ago.
Why I Missed It: Utah was just a bit too far out of the way. If the Grand Canyon was a detour – Utah was a complete reroute.
Why I Wish I Hadn’t: I’ve always wanted to hike and photograph the canyonlands and the like. Next time!
#6 – Denver, Colorado
For a coffee drinking, craft beer swilling, leftist hipster like me – it seems almost criminal that I haven’t made it to Denver yet.
With Portland and Seattle being some of my favourite places on earth and Austin getting major cool points during my visit, I was determined to pay a visit to the Mile High City this time around.
Unfortunately, with our ‘smiley face’ shaped route taking us from San Francisco to New York via the south, it would have taken a pretty sizeable spike up into the heart of the country to make it possible.
Why I Missed It: Denver just wasn’t on the way to anywhere else on our itinerary, especially with its focus on southern states like Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
Why I Wish I Hadn’t: The hipster in me is just heartbroken that I couldn’t sample some Colorado craft beer.
#5 – Asheville, North Carolina
When we were looking for a way to break up the 10+ hour drive from Nashville to Washington DC, we were a little stumped.
With all due respect to that side of the country, there weren’t exactly a bunch of options leaping out at us.
Enter Asheville, the city with arguably the best Twitter game I’ve ever come across.
As I exchanged tweets with this plucky little mountain town, I became more and more convinced that we’d need to swing by and spend some time in this hipster and foodie friendly Blue Ridge Mountains haven.
When push came to shove though, we realized we had to make the trip in a single day and couldn’t afford a stop.
We had to content ourselves with Subway and Twizzlers, but Asheville is 100% on my list next time.
Hell, Lonely Planet recently listed Asheville as the #1 destination in the United States for 2017!
Why I Missed It: Time was too tight to add another day to our itinerary, and so we had to do the ten hour drive without a single break.
Why I Wish I Hadn’t: It’s a foodie town with a craft beer scene, plenty of art, and a beautiful backdrop. It’s basically my idea of heaven!
#4 – Memphis, Tennessee
When it came time to decide where to stop off in Tennessee, we were surprised to find ourselves spoiled for choice.
While neither of us would consider ourselves to be country music fans, the opportunity to wander the honky tonks and drink with corn-fed country girls was tempting.
On the flip side, we’re both die-hard pro wrestling fans, and Memphis is one of the last true bastions of that lost art form outside of the WWE.
Then there’s the fact that Memphis is the birthplace of rock & roll and the home of Blues music. We’d both have loved the chance to enjoy some live music that was a little closer to our tastes than the twang of country music.
We looked long and hard at Memphis and Nashville hotels and tour operators ahead of the trip, but in the end, I pushed hard for Nashville and we didn’t regret it. Music City was a hell of a lot of fun.
Why I Missed It: It came down to Nashville or Memphis, and Nashville was a little closer to DC for our long drive north.
Why I Wish I Hadn’t: The old school wrestling, the blues bars, the Rock & Roll hall of fame, and more delicious BBQ.
#3 – Everglades, Florida
I had the chance to cycle the Everglades back in 2012, but I’ve always felt that our few hour stop in the Florida Everglades didn’t do the vast wetlands justice.
Far from it: if Archer has taught me nothing else, it’s that I won’t be a man until I have the experience of jetting through the swamp on an air boat drinking beers and shouting at alligators.
I’d have also liked the chance to explore more of Florida as a whole. The state is bigger than some European countries, and a little beach time would have been a godsend ahead of the chilly weather we encountered in DC, Philly, and NYC.
Why I Missed It: Florida was just a bit out of the way as we turned north at Atlanta.
Why I Wish I Hadn’t: I barely scraped the surface in my previous visit.
#2 – Boston, Massachusetts
When it comes to major US cities, Boston is the last big one to have avoided me.
I made it to New York, Chicago, Seattle, LA, Miami, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and DC on my visit to the US in 2012.
I checked off San Diego, Austin, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Nashville on my Great US Road Trip.
Somehow, I’ve still never made it to Bean Town and the land of the world’s most awesome accent.
It’s not just the fact that the New England was a bit too far north of our final finish point (New York), I also didn’t want to rush through a city with as much history and beautiful architecture as Boston.
With multiple blogging friends calling the city home, I know it’s one I’ll eventually make it to. When I do, I’m sure I can pick their brains for the best Boston hotel deals and places to hang out.
Why I Missed It: Our finish point in New York meant Boston would just be a bit out of the way.
Why I Wish I Hadn’t: Do I really need to tell you why you should visit Boston?
#1 – Lake Tahoe, California
The hardest cut to make might surprise some of you, but the decision to cut Lake Tahoe from our itinerary was a real kick in the guts.
Our original plan had us starting in LA, making up way up to San Francisco via San Luis Obispo, and then heading to Vegas via Lake Tahoe, where my Shadows of Africa colleagues Jake & Stacy live.
The opportunity to catch the tail end of ski season would have been amazing for a wide-eyed country boy like me. The most snow I’ve ever scene is the inch deep dusting my hometown in rural Australia gets every other winter.
We’d have enjoyed some fine Californian hospitality staying with Jake & Stacy, so it would have saved us money on Lake Tahoe hotels, and we’d have had two gregarious local guides to show us the bars and restaurants of this happening little mountain town.
Why I Missed It: The Super Bowl made it impossible to find accommodation in San Francisco, so we had to switch things up and start from there and head south.
Why I Wish I Hadn’t: I’ve always wanted to try my hand at skiing, and Lake Tahoe is home to some good friends.
There’s always going to be more you wish you’d scene or places you wished you’d spent more time in.
I wish we’d made it to New Orleans a week earlier so we could have participated in Mardi Gras.
I’d have loved to have more time in places like Austin, New York, and San Diego so we could have explored more.
It would have been amazing to have an extra few weeks so we could have circumnavigated the country instead of cutting things off halfway.
But there’s always next time…
What cities and sights remain on your US bucket list?
Have you ever had to make last minute changes to an itinerary and leave something amazing out?
Featured image courtesy of Fred Moore