Saturday, January 12, 2013

From sea to shining sea

From sea to shining sea went we....

In 54, days, hardly stopping for breath, we traveled 30,000 miles (see, I'm measuring like an American now!)

Texas- Arkansas- Mississippi- Tennessee- Louisiana- Florida- Maryland- Virginia- Massachusetts- Connecticut- New York- Arizona- Nevada- California.

From the subway to the sky, we traveled by plane, car, bus, train, trolley, ferry, airboat, bicycle and foot.
From Venice Beach in Florida, across the country to Venice Beach in California
From the Southernmost point of the USA at 0 ft above sea level to the Grand Canyon at 7000ft
From the density of Manhattan to the emptiness of the Mojave Desert
From the mania of the Interstate to the tranquility of the Natchez Trace Parkway

Along Beale St, Bourbon St , Duval St, Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard and Rodeo Drive.

We're fatter but fitter than we've ever been. Geoff ran through the streets of Austin, down the Riverwalk of New Orleans, along the Southerly border of Key West, through Disneyworld in Orlando, around the National Mall in Washington and Central Park in New York (and he hiked the Grand Canyon with Sophie!).
We walked the length of the Brooklyn Bridge and the breadth of Disneyworld, Disneyland and Manhattan.

Washington war memorial
We ate alligator and pulled pork, po'boys, sloppy joes, grits, collard greens, plantain, fried green beans, queso, key lime pie, lots and lots of chicken fried chicken and bagels.

We drank a fair bit of iced tea, root beer, Budweiser and very cheap bourbon.

It was hot enough for me to swim (88 F in Key West) and cold enough to get Geoff out of his shorts and into his thermals (24 F at the Canyon).

We were hustled ($10 for a shoe shine in NOLA) and conned ($60 for tea leaves), road raged and abused by a taxi driver (he so didn't deserve a tip) but mostly we were welcomed and were happily surprised by the warmth and friendliness of the American people.

We paid $450 for a hotel room one night in NYC and $45 including breakfast (and taxes) in Melbourne FL. It was cheaper to eat out there than it is to cook at home here. So we did.
The shopping was crazy, Nike shoes for less than $50.

By the time we left we'd sorted the difference between nickels and dimes and almost collected an entire set of quarters from each of the states.

We ice skated in DC, shot guns in Key Largo, rode bikes in the National Mall.
Twice we were enveloped in human traffic jams.
We drove at 80mph (130k) on the i35 and were passed by trucks as if we were standing still.

Subway blur

We 'went early, stayed late & wore orange' with $90 000 passionate Longhorns fans in Austin and watched a game of NBA in NOLA.
We saw more Starbucks in the USA than there are houses in Mortlake.
We encountered countless homeless people and we stood outside the gates of the White House. We ogled the grand antebellum homes in Louisiana and wondered at the endless brownstone apartment buildings in NYC.

Visiting the Obamas
We had a $100 lunch at the Oriental in NY (thanks kids) and $2.50 lunch boxes from Walmart in lots of places.
We shopped at the Quincy Market in Boston, the Farmer's Market in LA, Macys, Bloomingdales, Saks, Walgreens and Whole Foods.
We held wild alligators and were bitten by fish!
We fell in love with squirrels.
We stopped noticing the sirens.

We celebrated our first Thanksgiving and our coldest Christmas. We learned to say 'Y'all', and 'Baahston'. I loved the different American accents but I also came to appreciate our own. The Aussie accent sounds so sweet when you're away from home.

We took 2000 photos - on our iPhones!

Every day was a new adventure and every day we had to pinch ourselves to remind us that we were still in the real world.

Living out of suitcases in such close confines for so long, we all got along remarkably well. It was family memory making at its best.

New Year's Eve at the Grand Canyon

My top 10 trip highlights, in no particular order;
  • The Washington Mall- history in a nutshell
  • Kennedy Space Centre
  • Visiting the graves of the Kennedys, Elvis, Paul Revere
  • The World Trade Centre site
  • Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Fireworks at Disneyworld
  • The red rocks of Sedona- I'm still not sure I believe they were real.
  • Key Largo- Islamadora
  • The New York subway- constant entertainment and transportation at a reasonable price
  • The Everglades- wild alligators!
  • The Longhorns football game ( I know that's 11 but all that passionate patriotism can't be ignored)
  • The Natchez Trace Parkway ( yeah, yeah, that's 12)
  • Phoenix and the desert (I could go on and on)
  • .........and the sunset over Santa Monica on our last night reduced me to tears

America is a beautiful place and it's people are friendly and inviting. The flip side is that the country is self combusting (and as a consequence ripping up our ozone layer at an alarming rate) with gross consumerism and use of fossil fuels. The things that people can use to kill themselves and other people  (cigarettes, alcohol, fast food, guns, cars, tanning salons!) are ridiculously cheap and accessible. Those things are so much more expensive in Australia that we tend to think twice about using them. On the other hand, life saving medical care and decent housing in the US is expensive and the economy is in trouble. I was a tourist in the US, not a judge but it  did seem obvious to us that taxing the bad stuff might help people access the good stuff. Just an observation.

It's true that being overseas increases your appreciation of what we have here. I loved the USA and I can't wait to go back for another visit but I was very glad to get back to human sized portions, fresh salad, coloured money, $1 coins, speed limits, bike helmets and vegemite!

Thanks to everyone who followed our trip and commented here or on Facebook or Fodors. It was great to have your company and your feedback :-)


  1. "From the subway to the sky, we traveled by plane, car, bus, train, trolley, ferry, airboat, bicycle and foot."

    "The shopping was crazy, Nike shoes for less than $50."

    "We had a $100 lunch at the Oriental in NY (thanks kids) and $2.50 lunch boxes from Walmart in lots of places."

    Are you saying that because you were in the US it was acceptable to help rip up the ozone layer for two months with your flights and cross-country use of fossil fuels; with your shopping; and with the $2.50 boxed lunches that probably cost ten times that in resource use to produce for Wal-Mart, but now that you are home it is somehow acceptable to criticize the US?

    Sorry, but the ending of your travelogue wasn't necessary. I followed your travels from nearly the beginning, and am just plain disappointed.

    1. Victoria,

      There are so many things wrong with this comment I could write a novel. but I'll keep it brief.

      Are you really suggesting that, despite having repeatedly praised and demonstrated her admiration for our country throughout this blog, in order to offer even the most slight criticism-by-comparison at the conclusion of her travels, Kwaussie and her family needed to cross the country on a solar-powered buggy and eat only food they harvested themselves?

      I shouldn't have to tell you that in modern society, Victoria, those options are not feasible, and even those opposed to factory farming and outsized carbon impact must, gasp, buy food that comes from that system or fly on an airplane at times. Kwaussie certainly doesn't seem to have done these things any more than is necessary or normal. The idea that, having done these things, we should completely disregard her observations is absurd.

      So absurd, in fact, that I suspect you're just using these criticisms as a smokescreen for the fact that, in reality, you simply don't like an outsider criticizing your country. I submit that this nationalist mode of thinking, by no means an American invention, is wrong, wrong, wrong. In this world, however, we all have much to share and learn from each other. Next time you visit another civilization, I suspect that you might even, when all is said and done, have a suggestion or two on something it could learn from us. I can only imagine how you'd shake your head when someone dismissed your comments as you have Kwaussie's.

      Kwaussie, I've enjoyed following your travels on the Fodors forum from the beginning. I appreciate that you kept your blog travel focused but also welcome this dose of perspective upon your return home. I'm glad you had a wonderful trip and hope you will visit us again soon. (And when you do, please give Los Angeles another chance! There is a reason 18 million of us call the region home. Avoid areas where tour buses roam, and you'll find one of the most vibrant, diverse and dynamic cities in the world.)

  2. No smokescreens, JB. Everyone who knows me would laugh uproariously at labeling me "nationalistic," as well. In fact, I am a US citizen, but currently living in "another civilization" outside of the country for work; I am experiencing the differences between the two countries daily. Could it be that you, coming from a region of the US with a pretty hefty smog issue, might be just a touch sensitive to criticism?

    An Oak Ridge analysis of data collected by individual countries via the UN shows that the US and Australia are ranked closely in terms of their gross carbon emissions, with Australia producing slightly more. I, too, most enjoyed following their trip, and their commentary on my home city. Kwaussie's final comments were simply a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

  3. It was only today that a friend pointed out these comments to me. So absorbed with getting home and back to work that I missed seeing them myself!

    I'm sorry you didn't like my summary Victoria. As JB points out, it's just an observation from my time spent in the US. I'm not a pot and I'm not calling anything black, just observing what I see from my perspective. I loved America and I enjoyed experiencing everything about it, including the things, that in retrospect, I believe are bad for your country and our world, like the guns, the cheap booze and cheap airfares. I enjoyed them so much that I'm glad my own country puts taxes and controls on them to help me curb my enjoyment. I don't see how that's a criticism of you?

    Anyway, I also loved finding out that most Americans are friendly , globally minded people with a great sense of humour, so thanks JB. I will most certainly be back to California. I think next time we'll go there first and spend enough time to get off the tourist route. Really want to see San Fran & San Diego properly, Yosemite and the big trees up north.....Just thinking about it makes me anxious to get back sooner rather than later.