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Nomads on the Road - Road Tripping Across the USA!

USA | Wednesday, 4 January 2012 | Views [2512]

Ian Slater is the boss man of the claims department at World Nomads and recently returned from adventures on the road. 

Where did you go?

I travelled around the west coast of the US. My trip started in Vegas via a connection in San Francisco. Everything you hear about Vegas is true, it never sleeps and I found it to be totally different from day to night. It showed the best and worst of western society in terms of entertainment and indulgence. You have to walk the strip at night to appreciate the structures and lights, no wonder it can be seen from space! 

Vegas proved a great base to see magic sites like the Grand Canyon (to put it into perspective, I was 2m from the edge and couldn't see the bottom and it was several hundred metres wide, definite vertigo moments). On the drive there you can call through Hoover Dam. In many ways, seen one dam seen them all but the technology behind the concrete cooling process is amazing. Also on the drive is a little town called Dolan Springs. This town and the locals are forever etched in my memory. 

One of my goals for the trip was to drive the 2 iconic drives of Route 66 and Highway 1. Being a lover of driving, this was a must. I hired a mustang for this to get the feel of the open road in an american muscle car. 

I took Route 66 through the desert en route to Anaheim just out of LA. The temperature only hit 101F in Baker where the worlds tallest thermometer is. I was hoping for something more extreme (a detour to Death Valley would have solved that) but it also proved hot enough.

Anaheim became the base for the next fortnight. Here I took in all the major adventure parks including Disneyland, California Adventure Park, Universal studios, Sea World. I missed out on 6 Flags and Knotsberry Farm this time round but will be back for those one day as they have the best rollercoasters. Nothing like being a big kid again. Plus I got to see a major league baseball game where I had a bud and chilli dog to fit in with the locals. 

From base camp I was able to head down to San Diego with a short drive and took advantage of this several times. Once for an NFL game - to see tailgating first hand and classic American culture at play was an eye opener. I have never seen a set up off the back of a pick up that included a fridge, bbq, lounge and tv complete with satellite dish where the east coast games were being watched. This was almost the norm. Also just out of town was the San Diego Safari Park which was originally set up as a conservation park. It was extremely impressive the way it was done and you could have been on the savanna plains or the juggles of Asia at times. This became my new favourite zoo / animal sanctuary, taking the place of the Singapore night zoo. 

I left base camp for 3 days to fly up to San Francisco. I had 3 goals here, firstly to have clam chowder out of a sour dough bun, secondly to go to Alcatraz and thirdly to ride the streets of San Francisco after the memory of the show from the 70's. Tick to all 3. Alcatraz was amazing, I still get shivers remembering back to the visit, especially spending time in pitch black solitary confinement. It is easy to see why so many movies / books / stories / folklore are inspired by the place. To see a place associated once with violence and inhumane treatment (even when not a gaol) that is now a conservation park is inspiring. And the ferry ride across provides a piece of magic with views of the Golden Gate bridge and the Bay Bridge, both masked with patchy fog on the day just added to the experience. 

The drive back to Anaheim took 14 hours along Highway 1 and was a long tiring day but totally worth it with the surrounds going from dairy farms to beachside resorts to alpine forests to open plains. A must do on the trip is Hearst Castle, the history inside that place is amazing and the location is one of a kind. There is something special about the workmanship of 700 year old tapestries and 500 year old chairs and 300 year old ceilings that were hand carved and have been preserved and look brand new. No expense was spared. 

Other stop offs along the way included Carmel (but I didn't see former mayor Clint Eastwood doing his Dirty Harry impersonation), and after taking a wrong turn in Santa Barbara I thought I was in a scene from the show Cops

Best cultural experience

It is hard to say there was just one. Its true that everything in America is big and you experience that everywhere you visit. However the experiences that stand out for me were:

  • Alcatraz, to consider the families of the prison guards living there as well as the indian occupation post closure as well as its initial role in the protection of the San Francisco bay

  • San Diego safari park, the conservation focus and education programs are a cut above and to be so close to rare and dangerous animals is absolutely awesome
  • Tailgating in the carpark of the NFL game, you have to see the setups some people have to believe it
  • Concert's in LA, as a lover of music, you have to see the LA scene and to see where some of the big bands started was amazing, maybe the bands I saw will be massive one day and I'll be able to say I remember seeing them when...
  • Walking the Vegas strip, words cannot describe the opulence here
  • Seeing the Grand Canyon, its very difficult to put into words but you can't help but be impressed with the work of a million years of water

3 tips for other travellers

  • Get a navman / tom tom if you plan on driving, especially to know which lane to be in on the web of freeways
  • Southern California adventure pass will save you significant amount of money of multi park access
  • Stop off in the little towns when travelling on the freeways, there are little gems everywhere

What was the highlight of your trip?

 
There were several, namely driving Route 66 and Highway 1, visiting Alcatraz and the San Diego Safari Park, and mixing with the locals in the general store in Dolan Springs.

What makes you a world nomad?

In many ways it was in my blood from the time I was born. My parents met on an outback adventure way back, both being avid travellers all over the world and every chance we had growing up, they would pack the car and head off somewhere which was easier than trying to manage kids on a plane (we ended up driving from Sydney to Perth once).

The many trips a year were not just about getting to a new destination, but rather exploring it to find out what it was all about and seeing what we could find on the way. My father always instilled in me the glory of adventure and this has meant I’ve had the chance to travel all over Australia and explore some regions overseas. This also means I am constantly thinking about the next adventure so my journeys are far from over.  While my last trip was more of a tourist focus, I’m currently looking into the Kakoda Trail and not just for the adventure but also for the significance it has to this great land of opportunity we live in.  

There is always something to explore and experience and while ever I am still breathing, I will always have a plan for a new adventure.

Related Articles: 

Nomads on the Road - Yael in the Middle East

Notes from Japan - A World Nomad returns home safely

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