The great America roadtrip: aka lots of deep fried things and saying ‘Murika’

Four weeks, two more countries, six states and way too many donuts – from Los Angeles to Vancouver, and then all the way back down again; it’s fair to say we slayed the famed American road trip.

As expected in a country of this size, the US is as diverse as it is loud, obnoxious, and horrendously PC. I say this, preluding the fact that I’m about to heap praise upon it people for being some of the most wonderful I’ve ever met. I don’t know if it’s just the East Coast, or if we just happened upon every single nice person in America the days we stepped out of our hotels, but it was quite a shock. Here we were, expecting gruff, beer-swilling, hotdog inhaling men and women with outrageous political views, ready to tell us 567 reasons that their country was the best on earth. It’s not that I was anti-American, don’t get me wrong, it’s just the fact… they’re so loud – you know? I’d met over a handful (a solid sample size to come to an informed conclusion) and had not been eager to see any of them ever again. Was it just the awful Americans that traveled? Was there a prerequisite in everyone getting a passport that asked if they could sufficiently represent their country as loudly and obnoxiously as possible? Did all the nice ones stay put in the Land of the Free and the Brave?

When the idea of an American road trip seems good in theory, but in practise results in 5000km of cabin fever

Whatever it was, I was happy to strike off all prior judgements of my fellow Americans. These guys (at least the ones we ran into) will absolutely go out of their way to help you by any means possible. We were also lucky enough to have an American with us for this leg of our trip (Caitlin: Murika’n translator and chauffeur extraordinaire). Read: Caitlin organised a full 21-day itinerary for us where we barely had to breathe for ourselves. Through the incredible generosity of strangers all over the east coast, we managed to travel from LA to Vancouver (all 2000 kilometres of it) via San Francisco, the Redwood Forests, Portland and Seattle. Because we really agree with slow forms of torture, we then set off back down the way we had came – for a 2700 kilometre trip to Tucson, Arizona, via Idaho, Las Vegas and Phoenix. One of those legs meant 14 hours in a car in a single day. But because this epic American road trip, an initiation of sorts, was also punctuated daily by gorging on foods that would likely be illegal in any other country – we persevered. Set to a sound track of Taylor Swift, the Memoirs of a Geisha audiobook and Tim McGraw, here are the highlights of any American East Coast roadie.

Footnote: I never, ever, ever want to hear Taylor Swift’s voice again in my life.

Los Angeles:

Hollywood, but Ryan Gosling nowhere to be seen

Our first impression of the City of Angels, and America as a whole, was kind of a rude shock. Like waking up from a dream where you’re in South America and suddenly you’re surrounded by yelling, obnoxious Americans and a malfunctioning Indian taxi driver. The reality was, as we stepped off the plane to our shuttle, we’d stumbled into the vehicle of likely the most dysfunctional of all incomprehensible shuttle drivers, and a van full of arrogant, mean Americans – who, prior to arriving back to LA, must have been at a baseball game where their beers must have sloshed all over them, as their hotdogs fell from their claws and got stomped on, as their team just lost the World Series by one run (not that we’re dealing in stereotypes here). The outcome? Like much of the rest of the world, we decided Americans were just mean old weirdos that we could safely continue to make the butt of all jokes.

Thank god for Manhattan Beach.

Where are you Ryan?

Our next days were spent sunning ourselves on the beach while it was snowing in New Zealand, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous (Steve Nash blatantly checked out my ass at the gym*, and a man whose latest small screen credits are as a disabled paedophile who raped his niece took us out for lunch**), getting lost in the Hollywood Hills trying to find that huge sign visible from all angles from the city – and of course eating our own body weight in delicious, deep fried goodness. Michelle also got sting by a bee on the beach and had to hail the hunky lifeguard for help. It was just like Baywatch.

*I was working out at the gym for a solid hour, hogging the mirror as a jacked dude behind me attempted to also use a sliver of the mirror as too many donuts (probably also just hard-wired poor form) helped me butcher everything from dead lifts to lunges to planks. My friend, who worked at the gym, excitedly ran up to me afterwards to ask if I realised who the guy was, and responding to my blank expression with a squeal of “Steve Nash!”. For future reference, he’s not a country singer.

**Caitlin’s uncle is an actor; his most notable roles being in Weeds, Austin and Ally and he was apparently even in Armageddon. Fear not, we didn’t just seek out the handicapped killer from Criminal Minds and suggest he buy us lunch. However, we were considerably happier we watched his turn in the series after he plied us with beers and burgers.

San Fransisco:

The most awful pose I’ve ever seen

When the road trip finally began, and after too much money was spent at our first experience of an Outlet Mall (it’s fair to say we had a brainfade as $3 tops appeared before our eyes. What was supposed to be a quick stop on the way to the beach, turned out to be a lengthy stop on the way to the beach, which eventuated in the beach never happening), we’d made it San Fran, more commonly known as the home of the Tanners.

All the usual touristy things were done – the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf (aka the most amazing clam chowder of life), and Halloween pumpkin carving, before we couchsurfed with a functioning alcoholic, and then (possibly the highlight) – arrived at a bar in the ‘gay district’ (is that a thing?!) for the final of the World Series. Fittingly, the San Fransisco Giants won, and a party erupted in the gay district of America’s gayest city. As expected, it was colourful, over-the-top, and by far the most fun we’d had in any of the Americas.

Oh, what was that? We glossed over the fact we slept on the floor of a couchsurfer’s home who tried to get three women drunk the moment we stepped through the door?! Never. But, on that note…
No alarm bells went off when we arrived and he poured three stranger women with varying levels of strange accents a glass of wine at 4pm. No alarm bells went off when he came home later that night sloshed, having just been kicked out of a Halloween event for some reason or another. No alarm bells went off when more wine was poured and the Jägermeister shots came out on a casual Wednesday night – despite vehement protestations.

When the alarm bells started going off was when the Whiskey shots came out on a normal Wednesday night. And the bourbon shots. And the second bottle of wine. And we’d stopped drinking about three shots ago.

When you’re trying to make your pumpkin ‘different’

The next night when we got home from the World Series, the poor guy was passed out on the couch, beer in hand, with a bottle of tequila and four shot glasses set out in front of him. While we’re sure he probably waited a decent amount of time before doing all four shots himself in our absence, we’re glad we missed this one.

Portland, Oregon:

All protestations of bursting jeans were ignored in favour of peanut butter donuts

Craft breweries, pathways strewn with vibrant red and yellow leaves, Halloween in Murika, Voodoo Doughnuts (where it’s quite acceptable to create bacon topped-dessert), Salt and Straw ice cream (where it’s quite acceptable to produce a stuffing-flavoured ice-cream) and ever-expanding jeans as we ignored all nutritional advice and filled our insides with sugar and grease.

Because we are also very mature 23-year-olds, our please to go trick or treating were answered when our host allowed us to saunter on down to an elderly woman’s house, dressed haphazardly like witches (or three haggard 30-somethings after a big night out) to try our luck at the American tradition of trick and treating we’d heard so much about. After 23 years of my own mother disallowing us to ask strangers for candy on Halloween because “we’re not American”, you can imagine how much excitement had built up to this moment.

Bucket of candy in hand, we walked away from that startled old lady’s house knowing two decades of anticipation was worth it. So was the progressive Hershey’s-induced weight gain over the next 3 days.

But because we are easily impressed, what we loved most about the hipster heaven that is Portland, was probably the mini city of food trucks located in the middle. We love a food truck, and a dozen of them serving slightly different variations of more or less the same thing is even better. Our dining companions were stoked it took us two hours to decide on a simple gyro.

Seattle:

The first-ever Starbucks

It rains there. A lot. Apparently there was a time where the sun didn’t come out for three whole months. Normally, the obvious ‘why would anyone live here’ would be warranted, but this, after all, was home to Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital. And that’s reason enough for anyone to move to a city; I’d relocate houses for Derek Shepherd.

Aside from searching high and low for any sign of the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, the Space Needle, the eclectic Pike Place Market (where you’ll find the first-ever Starbucks, which looks exactly like every other Starbucks) and Fremont were solid contenders for the second-coolest thing in Seattle, still anticipating stumbling upon the most famous hospital in America.

But alas, as the night drew clearer and our search turned up no new leads, we finally set about asking people on the street how to find Meredith.

Of course it’s filmed in LA.

 Vancouver:

A short jaunt up from the lying capital of America, sits a wonderful world of friendly locals, the best grilled cheese of life, swing bridges, and excellent sushi – all run by an affable chap named Tim Horton.

Vancouver Island is a beautiful way to while away the day, as is Capilano Suspension Bridge (which is not, in fact, a swing bridge – as the voice over the loud speaker barked at me as I jumped emphatically in the middle of it, sending tourists to grasp onto the sides for dear life. Why you would want to visit a 140 metre-long bridge set 70 metres above a coursing ravine if you’re scared of a little wobble, or heights as a whole, is beyond me).

If you’re hungry – don’t go past Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck. Molten, cheesy goodness.

Twin Falls, Idaho.

Our insides weren’t mad about this at all

Went there for a night between ten hour drives. Saw the supermarket. Good baby carrots in Idaho. Better continental breakfasts.

Disclaimer: a continental breakfast in NZ is a box of Kellogs cornflakes and a piece of stale toast; if you’re lucky, you might get a spread. Continental breakfast in America is up to and more than biscuits and gravy, pastries, cereals, waffles, fruit, toast and five types of coffee.

Murika.

Vegas:

When you get so excited about being in Vegas you can’t even take a normal photo

She needs no description. Her reputation really does precede her. Vegas is, as expected, just a big ostentatious display of wealth, sex and bad decisions. People walk down the street during the day with an open bottle of vodka under one arm and an “escort” under the other. Yes, both these things are legal on the streets of LV.

Going into this with only an order not to be married by an Elvis impersonator from my parents, was actually setting the bar pretty low. Luckily, (mostly for you Mum) we managed to avoid the extreme end of the debauchery.

There was drinking, and partying at exclusive night clubs and gambling (won $20 on roulette, lost most of it in 5 minutes off a slot machine. Blew on some dice of a stranger who proceeded to lose $500. Murika.) – but when we woke up on our last night with our dignity still relatively intact and no stag lost on a hotel roof – we were kinda relieved.
And actually kinda disappointed.

Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona:

“Do I just hold you?”: If Jack and Rose happened at the Grand Canyon, instead of the Titanic

The Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Sedona and finally Caitlin’s hometown of Phoenix. A lot of red, and quite a lot of dust – but even more beauty and rugged wilderness.

If you’re going to experience a football game, by all means go to one in Arizona. These people love football more than deep-fried things, which is quite the statement.

For starters, the pre-game is effectively a mini amusement park that pops up right beside the stadium, every game. These guys just park these massive, hugely decked out trailers on the grass outside the stadium and get wasted. Because you can’t drink on the actual stadium grounds. So they do it 10 meters from the entrance.

The day we realised we were American in another life

Walking around with a 30 pack of Bud Light under my arm, I felt like I finally knew what it was like to be Murikan. And they sing and they cheer and there’s the band and there’s cheerleaders and there are more commercials than there is game time – and basically it’s the single greatest sporting event known to man.
And as we sauntered around the rows and rows of trailers and drunk Americans, we managed to talk our way into games of beer pong, and another weird one that just involves throwing a beanbag into a hole. But mostly, people just wanted us to say “deck”.

After three weeks of the East Coast, I’m now bound for the West – and Michelle is bound for home.

I’ll just be heading there a little fatter, alcohol-poisoned, saying things like “trash” and “trunk”, and liking the Kardashians a little more than I should.

Murika.

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