So back on the road... From LA I set off up the pacific coast highway towards San Francisco. The road and the coastline are well known for their spectacular views, you can only really cruise along and enjoy them though because its fairly busy. Put your foot down for more than a moment and you'll be right behind someone pootling along.
Before getting as far as San Francisco I cut inland towards Yosemite National Park. Its packed with people but still spectacular, this is Yosemite Valley.
I made the drive up to Glacier Point, which was under heavy road works at the time. First off road experience in the USA! This is the view of the famous half dome...
I even managed to drag myself from the car long enough to hike up to the waterfalls. The Yosemite falls are all in various states of dried up at this time of year.
Final hike of the day was to see the giant Sequoia trees. The tunnel in this one is a product of early tourism attempts.
Time to introduce the star of this section of the trip. A 2009 Ford Mustang. To be honest, if you bought one (in Europe at least) with your own money you'd never forgive yourself. But it makes a half decent GT car. Mainly because the large engine and cruise control. Not to mention the best bit of the car, the 6 CD MP3 changer with satellite radio! Handling? Er, no. Anyway, the pic is taken Utah at the Bonneville salt flats. When I was their they were busy setting up for an upcoming race event.
Next stop I was back into the National Parks. The Grand Teton range is maybe the most photogenic of all places I went in the states.
Coming from the south you drive through the Grand Teton park to get to Yellowstone. If you like smelly pools of bubbling mud this is the place for you. Obviously, while there you have to go and see Old Faithful erupt.
Traffic jams are a problem in the parks. Bison control is questionable. This bad boy was in no rush.
The north east end of the park is the most spectacular in my opinion. There are great sights at every turn, waterfalls...
... more waterfalls....
and Yellowstone lake. The sun was setting, and the photos don't really do it justice. I still had another 4 hours to drive though. During the drive I hit a huge thunderstorm.
Time to head east. Leaving Wyoming I took a detour to go and see the Devils Tower national monument. Native american legend goes something along the lines of 2 girls being cornered by a wolf. They prayed for god(s) to save them and the ground shot skyward so they were safe. Then they became stars I believe, which I assume is a good thing :)
The same day I also dropped into Sturgis, home of the famous biker rally. It was already long gone by the time I got there. It's a fairly unremarkable place really. Nothing to really mark it out as a great place for having a rally.
Although it is in the Black Hills area, which takes us on to Mount Rushmore. It's quite big in real life and you can get up close to it. I'm not sure why but I've always wanted to go. One annoying thing about the national parks and monuments system in the US is that they always seem to give you a weeks access for 10-25 dollars. When you only want to look around for a few hours and move on it is a tad on the pricey side!
Interstate 90 stretches right across the top(ish) of the states to Milwaukee. I drove along it pretty much uninterrupted for 3 days. The third day, the run into Milwaukee was over 500 miles. It's strange to arrive in a big eastern style city after being in the less populated north west. Most of you reading this will probably have guessed that the reason I went to Milwaukee, is that it is the home of Harley Davidson. Their new museum is not bad if somewhat overpriced. These two bikes seemed the most appropriate to include, replicas of those used in the classic road movie, Easy Rider.
Time to head south. The east coast is way too busy to visit unless you have to in my opinion! First stop was Indianapolis. Famous for the Indy 500. The Hall of Fame is OK, but the best bit is getting taken for a lap of the track. OK, so its by bus but you get the idea!
From Indianapolis, I headed for Nashville. On the way you can visit the town where all Corvettes are built, and check out the museum. I'd like a stingray, a bit like this one...
I'm not really into country music but hey, when in Rome. So I tried to educate myself at the Grand Ole Opry House.
After that it was time for something I am into. A pilgrimage to Lynchburg, Tennessee, the home of Jack Daniels Whiskey.
This is the original building where Jasper 'Jack' Daniel ran the distillery. It was run from here until as late as the 1950's. No free samples on this tour though, prohibition is still alive and kicking in these parts!
Continuing south, I stopped in Talledega near Birmingham, Alabama, for a track tour of the Tri-oval superspeedway. I got a one on one tour which was good, I got to stand in victory lane, if i could have got the mustang in there it would've been a better photo! Talledega is the fastest track in NASCAR, and the only one to ever hold a race with no caution flags due to accidents. Remember, speed kills!
Final stop heading south was New Orleans. Some people call it the most northerly carribean city. It's a strange mix of carribean, american and french. Although the french quarter as it is now was built by the spanish. Confusing. It's famous for the balconies etc shown below. But it really comes alive at night, along Rue Bourbon, where there is live music on every corner!
My route west from New Orleans took me through Dallas and on to Amarillo in just a few days. Near Amarillo the Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest in the USA, and would be my canyon of choice for this trip. Unlike the Grand Canyon you can easily drive a nice road down into it and have a look around.
Although I don't think its as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, its still pretty big, and it makes a change to be able to get away from the crowds of the big name attractions.
Continuing west, roughly along the lines of old Route 66 I took a detour north to see something which was always a top priority and should be part of every all american road trip. Monument Valley looms out of the heat haze like a true western icon should.
No less impressive close up. You can imagine coming across this place when it was unknown and there were no roads here.
Dropping back south to Flagstaff, the scenery continues in the Sedona area. The red rock strata makes an impressive scene against the deep blue sky.
From Flagstaff its an easy cruise along to Laughlin, Nevada. Like a mini Vegas, Laughlin was my base to relax for a few days before the final stretch back to California and LA. My hotel was shaped like a paddle steamer....
and justifiably so since it backs onto the mighty Colorado river.
After soaking up some sun LAX beconed. This is pretty much the end of the trip. On the USA leg, I drove 7150 miles using 257 gallons of fuel at 27.8 mpg and an average speed of 57 mph. Mustang, The Mother Road and blue skies.
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