Friday, October 8, 2010

So Long, and Thanks for All the Gas

Usually we buy a car to have it for everyday use. But it's pretty unusual to buy a car just to have vacation. Because it's the most vital part of the plan. If it's a road trip it firstly requires a car for sure.

I always dreamed of going abroad. Going far far across the Atlantic. Where the "people from the movies" live and where's the center of the world, as they say. But when I flew to The States I started to experience the real America. America that will stay in my memory as beautiful country with loads of great people!

Day #1-10

Our goal was to get from NY state to California and back again. It was only us, me and my brother Ruben, and a Chevy Malibu, our faithful companion. The official starting point was Ithaca, NY, where the Cornell University is and my brother studies. But before the long trip a serious business of shopping had to be done. Wall Mart, K-Mart, Wegmans, Target - all these famous names. But a shop is a shop - no matter if it's in America or not. Just that they don't have Milka chocolate and Viki chocolate cream. And no bottles for a liter and a half. Either they like really big stuff or cheap small things that are just a waste of money. Are crazy these Americans! (as Obelix would probably exclaim if he'd known about this country). The last thing on to-do list before leaving Ithaca was a short trip with thousand horses-empowered Suzuki GSXR1000. It was most fun and speed-testing somewhere in the middle of nowhere felt great.

Our first stop was Niagara Falls. Tourist-crowded place was worth seeing, especially Cave of the Winds - a place just under the falls where all the water falls directly onto people. Afterwards we drove towards Cleveland and we didn't have an idea where we'd sleep the night. We thought finding a camp will be much easier - but we had to ask few people first - and that without any result. Google saved us - it calculated the nearest camp on our phone. ... We arrived at the camp - and it was full ... of mosquitoes. "Quickly in the tent, I can't stand being outside!"

Corn Palace
In our first days we visited some distant relatives in Ohio. It's great to see accordion and even listen to some Slovenian tunes in America. At Bob's house (this part of family is also related to astronaut Ronald M. Sega) I ate my first BLT (bacon-lettuce-tomato) and we had sweet corn directly from the field. World is so small that we went to sleep at Rudney's place - a guy I met in Rome and is actually from Brazil, but studied in Canada and will come to Slovenia one day. World is a village!

The Giant
Cleveland was dead. Sunday in Cleveland - don't think about it.
Chicago was alive. And it had a giant reflective bean in Millennium Park. Worth seeing.

On the way with the car we had to drive through endless fields of corn, but every now and then the excesses of Americans made us laugh: we stopped at a place where they said they have a fossil of a giant - 7' big American giant. Of course it was fake, but it was funny that for decades people actually believed it was an actual fossil. We continued with our way and laughed.

What we also learned in our first third our this trip is also that it's always "the best and the biggest". We fell for this kind of advertising quite few times, but it was a good material to have a laugh so we weren't bothered. So we saw Corn Palace, a giant, Town 1880 and many more.

Yellowstone National Park: eagles in natural beauty of wilderness, buffalos on the road proudly showing-off, geysers, blue, green, yellow - yes, yellow stone. So we've found it. Cloudless sky, forests, valley like thousand years ago, Mammoth springs, amazing waterfalls, Old Faithful, bears, deers and little chipmunks (or whatever that was running across the road). Colors, a quarter of a rainbow, hot springs and animals everywhere. It really is a wonder of nature.

We continued our way towards Salt Lake City with a lot of mormons and salt in the desert. So we arrived on famous U.S. Highway 50 - The Loneliest Road towards California. Hours and hours of driving and not seeing anyone. Desert! But something so different awaited us next day: San Francisco and millions of Chinese!

Inception - a movie we saw in SF

Day #11-20

Driving in San Francisco! Even though it was Sunday there were more cars on road than in a whole week in Ljubljana. Of course, it has a population of two Slovenias, not surprisingly then. We took a boat tour to the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and the guy who drove us was most fun. When we passed Alcatraz and saw other people by the shore of old prison our guide exclaimed on the loudspeaker: "Look at that prisoner. He's been here for years, haha. Good luck!" Guide was also interesting because he knew Slovenia quite well - he's been to Ljubljana and Bled and some other places in Slovenia too. Amazing, but these Americans actually know much more than we think they do.

The first impression on the West Coast was: it's freaking cold here! And so we also got to hear the famous quote: "The coldest winter Mark Twain ever spent was summer in San Francisco". It's really not far from the truth.
Right after spending time in SF we drove to Yosemite National Park - another greatly preserved nature park. We finally got to see the biggest trees in the world. Giant Sequoia! I felt like the dream has come true; I and Ruben were so amazed by these giants that we lost track of time. The walk through sequoia park was quite long one way ... but we forgot we'll have to walk the same distance back to parking lot. It was around eight in the evening and sun was quickly going down. We had few more kilometres to walk back to the car and every time we saw a sign how much is it back to the parking spaces it seemed like we hadn't progressed a bit. We didn't have anything with us and we almost hardly saw the path in front of us. What about the bears? What about giant trees that wake up in night and ... It was all crap what we were thinking, but we would really be blind in just few minutes. The only option to follow the path would be to take a photo just in front of us with flash light, study it and progress for a little bit. But we caught the last bits of day to see the glowing lights of park space where also our car was. Lucky Lukes!

On West Coast we had our first traditional American burger in little city called San Luis Obispo. We usually had pasta every day in the evening where we settled down and made a tent, but every now and then we also tried something "traditional". American cuisine - soooo interesting. Burgers!

Frozen Joghurt
As I was writing in one of my previous blogs that Taizé is a magical place - I got a proof of that thousands of miles away from it again. In Los Angeles we spent time with Missy, a great gal I met in France in 2009. We had so many great moments together. Yes, I saw Hollywood, the walk of fame and Kodak Theatre, but I had much better time with Missy, Jehan and Marie. They taught us that "In 'n' Out" burgers are the best, that you HAVE to eat Mexican food and that frozen yogurt is something different than ice cream. We swam on Venice beach (actually just I got my ass wet, all the others were fancy and were tanning)  and saw Saturn from observatory on the hill from where you can also see the famous "Hollywood" sign. Everything went right and having locals to guide you in a city that big was just he best advantage we could think of.

On our trip in America we visited two amusement parks: one in California (Six Flags Magic Mountain) and one in Ohio (Cedar Point). Both were great fun, but Cedar point is much more diverse and also seemed bigger. But the most fun would probably if they'd build a big slide down the Hoover Dam - a concrete arch-gravity dam that impounds Colorado River and is 221 metres high.

Hoover Dam

Las Vegas is an instant-love city. But parking places are free. +1
Grand Canyon could be bigger - but only on a much bigger Earth. It's really gigantic! And second best canyon (Polo Duro Canyon) shouldn't have a name "canyon" in it's name compared to this one. No wonder it's called "Grand" Canyon.
Santa Fe
Santa Fe is the most beautiful little city in The States. It's full of artists and it's full of life. Not cars.

I was really happy to see Arizona Meteor Crater with my own eyes. Another dream come true, definitely! The feeling of being in a way connected to the outer space. It was just one simple rock that fell on this lonely ground in Arizona; and yet it was like we were touched by something unknown. Something extraordinary. And this is a miracle for me.

Day #21-30

We made quite a long detour from the path we decided to follow - to visit our relatives in Fountain, Colorado. It's a nice big family with five kids and we felt like being at home again. And we played Wii with the kids!

All the way on our trip we saw interesting signs. We saw church named Broken Arrow Chapel, there was a sign "Slow children" in every camp where we were (of course, little fat kids must be slow and you should watch out for those), we saw a sign that we should drive 65 miles per hour (like 100 km/h) on interstate and we saw a sign "the oldest church in Colorado" - and it was hundred years old. We Europeans just can't understand them.

As we continued our trip on Route 66 (Travel my way, that's the highway that's the best, Get you kicks on Route 66!) we had fun watching all the "interesting" stuff that lies along the way. Things like round barn aren't there to impress - just to stop by, see the sight, drink a soda and drive away. But there were some amazing "stop-by"s on the way - like Cadillac Ranch (a bunch of Cadillacs stuck into ground, painted by people visiting the place), The Big Texan (eating a 72oz steak brings you free meal - you just have to finish it in an hour) or a place with more than 400 different soda drinks. We drank chocolate soda and cucumber soda, OMG!

One of the nicest detours was visiting Fort Reno's cemetery. Maybe it seems weird, but it was the loveliest day and the cemetery was so neatly kept we actually adored it. It's a cemetery for WWII soldiers and in this middle-of-nowhere town it was the most peaceful moment of the day.  

After we saw an arch in St Louis (totally boring city; or maybe we got wrong feeling, because there was a baseball game at the moment and we couldn't even find an ice cream man selling something to tourists) we drove to Louisville in Kentucky. There we visited a distant relative Brooke who welcomed us into her home where she lives with her father. The funny thing was that this time we actually prepared what to tell when the question "How are we actually related?" came out. And it felt great to actually know these complicated steps of explaining such a distant relations. I and Ruben rode her championship-league horse and had fun with her little pet rats. It was great to visit a "cousin" from America.

And so we were slowly getting nearer and nearer to our starting point in Ithaca, NY. A day before I had a flight back to Europe we arrived in New York City. Exploring this city with feet and car is impossible. Too big for walking, too crowded to drive. So subway got in use. There you can see so many people that are totally nuts (there were two guys, one with radio and one break dancing in the middle of train). Seeing Times Square is an amazing experience and hardly comparable to looking at it in the movies. It's much more grand seeing it in real. Thousands of people, hundreds of big flashing screens and never empty. Never. The last dream come true was definitely seeing an original Broadway musical - The Lion King. All I can say about New York - it really seems like the center of the world.

So we drove 23 states in 30 days. That was a long trip!

I  L O V E  A M E R I C A !

I see America now as a land of beauty and opportunity. Experiencing it in just a month on such a broad scale was a perfect way to see just the good parts. But I still believe it has much more good to show. Yes, you usually eat very big pancakes for breakfast and use much more gas than in Europe, but you get used to size. Small cars? Forget it. History? Not much of it. But you can still find good old drive-in theatres (with Eclipse playing). We drove each day around 4-6 hours, some days none, because big cities required big time. We were listening to Terry Pratchett's Discworld audio book and Ricky Gervais How to audio podcast and had fun driving. Following some instinct for the way wouldn't be the best idea, so we had a good book called "Road trip USA" which gave us ideas and directions where to go and what to see. Camping was best fun - and also the cheapest way to survive the night. Looking through the car window was always impressive - seeing endless fields, big forests and empty deserts gave me the feeling of freedom. Looking at such different landscapes felt great because it was always something new to see and we didn't feel like we'll be stuck in one "country" forever. United States of America is a diverse country and having that advantage it can attract so many different people. Where will I go to live when I move there? I'll become a squirrel and just live in some park. It's the best!

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