It’s time for my biennial trip to the US and this time, I’m going to make the most of it. Ten states, three national parks and ten cities. The ultimate US road trip spanning from Miami to Seattle and we only cheated a little bit!
Let’s address the cheating before anything else. So it we didn’t exactly drive all the way from Miami to Seattle. We drove from Phoenix to Seattle and the first leg of the trip was done by multiple flights. Despite what my research told us, driving all the way from Miami could be done, but hiring a rental car under the age of 25 for 20 days would have equalled a hefty sum that neither of us could afford, so flying ended up being the cheaper option for at least half the journey.
If you’re thinking of driving all the way from Miami to Seattle, don’t listen to the haters, you can do it! But maybe set aside at least another week (four weeks in total) and wait until you turn 25 if you’re a child like I am. Those rental cars are expensive, dude.
Day One: After a seven hour flight from Oslo, I finally made it to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After checking into my hostel at 11pm, I crashed.
Day Two: The day I discovered Uber. I ubered from Fort Lauderdale to Miami Beach at 10am – my driver thought I was crazy. “Nobody goes to Miami Beach this early”, he said. I explained I wasn’t going there to party, but to look at the art deco buildings and get some culture. He probably thought I was really weird after that.
Once checked in, I went to the beach and wandered around the streets. To my surprise, I didn’t have to go looking for the art deco buildings – they were everywhere!
I took an Uber to Vizcaya Mansion and gardens and spent a couple of hours there, inside to avoid the rain. Apparently Miami is rainy in the summer time – who knew? (Everyone apart from me, apparently). Once the rain cleared up I hopped on another Uber to Wynwood, my favourite area of Miami.
Unlike Miami Beach, Wynwood is cool. It’s full of street art, galleries and vegan food – some of my favourite things. If I ever return to Miami, I’ll stay in Wynwood and never leave. I bought some vegan cupcakes from Bunnie Cakes and ate at GLAM vegan for tea. Both of which, I’d highly recommend, if you don’t mind paying a pretty steep price. Unfortunately, everything is hella expensive in Miami.
Day Three: 5am start to catch a coach to the Keys. This day didn’t exactly go to plan. Not only was I almost abducted by a paedophile (story coming soon), I almost missed the coach when the Dunkin’ Donuts in Key Largo took almost twenty minutes to serve me and two other people. I only wanted a black Americano! “What’s that?” the girl behind the counter asked me when I ordered. “It’s a black coffee,” I responded. The barista in me was ready to jump behind the counter and make it myself.
Unfortunately the most disappointing part of the day was entirely my fault. I had booked a tour with the Turtle Hospital and was really looking forward to it. I didn’t realise the hospital was located in the Marathon Key and not Key West – where our tour was heading. Oops.
Whilst in Key West, I had six hours to explore. It sounds like a small amount of time, but I managed to visit the Ernest Hemingway House, Cuban Coffee Queen (twice), the Key West Lighthouse, Mallory Square, the Southernmost point and Fort Zachary. It rained for the first four hours, then when the sun came out, the weather reached highs of 35 degrees and my English self couldn’t handle it so returned to sit on the air conditioned coach early. A bit of a mistake considering we were stuck in standstill traffic on the Seven Mile Bridge for three hours on the way home.
Day Four: Day four was spent wandering around Miami Beach – namely the beach itself. I ubered to Fort Lauderdale early to catch a flight to New Orleans.
I arrived in New Orleans around 7pm and after the sun had set, I began to explore. The fact I did this worried my airbnb host’s neighbour greatly. “Be careful!” she warned, assuming, like my Uber driver in Miami, that I’d come to New Orleans to party. Nope, just come to be a nerdy culture vulture. I walked to Jackson Square and back then decided to get an early night.
Day Five: I woke up early to get breakfast at St Roch Market – an urban market with plenty of stalls and good vegan options. I loved it so much, after returning to my airbnb to meet Jess (whose flight had just arrived), I went again for lunch.
We went to the Voodoo Museum and the Museum of Death, wandered around the French Quarter, then on our way to the Garden District, stopped at Seed for tea – another vegan place I’d recommend if you’re in NOLA. After stopping by the Lafayette Cemetery No.1, we Ubered to Jackson Square to catch the sunset over the cathedral.
Day Six: Airport day. We flew from New Orleans to Austin with a hefty layover in Atlanta. Once we arrived in Austin, we got our first rental car and drove to Counter Culture – probably our favourite vegan restaurant of the entire trip and if you’re ever in Austin, you have to try the mac and cheese balls with ranch buffalo sauce because it was amazing.
Day Seven: Early morning start to drive to Hamilton Pools – if you’re planning a visit, make sure to book online. I booked a couple of weeks in advance because it was a morning weekday but if you’re planning on visiting on the weekend, holiday or evening, you’ll probably need to book a couple of months in advance. The same is required for Jacob’s Well.
The Hamilton Pools were simply gorgeous. As we drove from them to Jacob’s Well, we didn’t think it could get any better but we were wrong. Jacob’s Well, though small, ended up being incredible and we spent several hours there.
At sunset we watched the bats at Congress Bridge and after bats came the cats. We drove to the Blue Cat Cafe – a vegan eatery with adoptable cats, most of whom are rescues from Hurricane Harvey. The cafe itself has been victim to a lot of controversy, since the location is on stolen, gentrified land. I was made aware of this after the fact and although it is an unfortunate situation, it didn’t stop the cafe from being a cute visit.
Day Eight: Ma burthday! First, we visited the Texas State Capitol and then we met up with a couple of Jess’s friends for lunch and did an escape room. We won, obviously, we’re kind of fab at escape rooms. After that we were off to the airport to fly to Phoenix where we adopted our second and last rental car of the trip, whom we named Patricia.
Patricia, Jess and I drove to Green New American Vegetarian (the most typical name for a vegan restaurant I ever saw) – again, if you’re ever in Phoenix, make sure to stop by because it was delicious. However, the vegan dessert shop next door, Nami, really made the place special. I got soft serve, a s’mores brownie and a peanut butter cup. Why? Because you’re only twenty-four in Phoenix once.
Day Nine: Our original goal was to spent the day at the Grand Canyon and rest for the night in the city of Flagstaff. However, once we realised this would mean circling back on ourselves, we decided to first drive through Sedona and stop by Slide Rock State Park – this ended up being a bit of a tourist trap, so I can’t say I’d recommend it.
The Grand Canyon was perfect. It’s one of those see it to believe it things, because the photographs don’t do the place justice. We made sure to stop by all the viewpoints on the journey from Phoenix to the Canyon, because Arizona is just one of those states that’s too pretty for it’s own good.
After the Grand Canyon, Jess let me drive Patricia! This was my first time driving on the right side of the road and an automatic. Considering I’ve only been driving for ten months, I’m surprised she let me drive at all, honestly. There were no crashes and we didn’t die, so all in all, it was a pretty successful drive, made only more successful when we stopped by the side of the road to do a mandatory road trip photoshoot with Patricia.
Day Ten: There’s a severe lack of vegan food around these small national park towns in the middle of America. We managed to find a diner that served hash browns, black coffee and toast and boasted about having the ‘biggest darned homemade cinnamon roll you’ve ever seen!’ and for $5 dollars, Jess had to buy it. Yeah, it was huge. Bigger than my head, but probably not twice as big as my head.
Thankful for the big breakfast, we hiked the Navajo Loop and the Peekaboo Trail totalling six miles together. This was probably the hottest day of the trip, (the weather app told me it would be 8 degrees celsius so I wore all black and a jumper!) so I’m glad we decided not to do a longer hike. Bryce Canyon itself was beautiful, you only need to look at the pictures to see.
Day Eleven: Another active day spent kayaking. This was my first time doing any kind of water sport (other than swimming), so I naturally managed to get stuck on the wrong side of the river bank for a while.
On the way back we tried some of Utah’s famous soda drive thrus. Though the concept is wacky, soda drive throughs are very popular amongst Mormons who don’t drink alcohol.
For tea, Jess’ friends took us to their favourite veggie restaurant, Ginger’s Garden Cafe in Springville. It was very good, especially as Utah isn’t exactly famous for exceptional vegan food. It ain’t Portland, let’s just say that.
Day Twelve: Goodbye, Utah, hello Yellowstone! This day was mostly a driving day. We passed through four states and posed by the signs for Idaho and Montana. The sign for Wyoming ended up behind knee-height and located inside Yellowstone National Park so we didn’t bother with that one.
Finding a geyser inside Yellowstone is almost like finding an art deco building in Miami Beach, you don’t need to go looking, you’ll just see one sooner or later. The same with deer, elk or bison. We saw one bison slowly trudging down the right hand lane of a road with a mile of traffic behind him. This was made only more amusing by the fact that bison can run up to 30 miles per hour.
We saw the famous Prismatic Spring from below and a dormant old faithful. We waited about ten minutes before giving up and wandered inside the visitors centre, only to see the time for the next predicted eruption – an hour after sunset. Yep, it wasn’t happening, we’d try again the next day.
Day Thirteen: First stop, the visitors centre to see when the next predicted eruption would be for Old Faithful. An hours time, good. This means we’d have time to stop by the Biscuit Basin before struggling to find a place to park Patricia at Old Faithful. The eruption itself was cool, but not that cool? It wasn’t worth the crowd, the wait or the hype, but it is certainly an example of nature at it’s finest.
After Old Faithful, we hiked the fairy falls trail to see the Grand Prismatic Spring from above. Apparently it’s one of Yellowstone’s most famous secrets that the Spring is more beautiful from above, but I’m not sure I believe it. It’s kind of gorgeous from the ground, too, in my opinion.
We then drove to Norris Geyser Basin where I did a short mile long hike. There was an option for a six mile hike, but at this point the temperature was dropping rapidly from high 30s to single digits. The rain felt like ice and the clear blue sky turned to dark grey rain clouds. The Norris Geyser basin looked more like a film set for a dystopian future where Donald Trump destroyed the Earth, especially with the vast amount of dead trees everywhere. That should be a title for the next blog post: What’s with all the dead trees in Yellowstone?
After Norris came the artists paintpots, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Hayden Valley. Plenty more geysers and bison later, we returned to our motel where we ate pizza. The lack of vegan options in Yellowstone wasn’t a surprise. Thank goodness you can always ask for a cheeseless pizza at any Italian place.
Day Fourteen: Goodbye Yellowstone! Because we’re off to Boise, Idaho. We didn’t have long to explore Boise and tripadviser didn’t have many things we wanted to do, so we watched ‘It’ at a movie theatre. It made me want to visit Maine, honestly, and now I’m planning the next road trip around New England. We ate vegan food at BBQ 4 LIFE – a mac and cheese toastie with dark chocolate and raspberry sauce. How disgustingly American does that sound? It was actually good.
Day Fifteen: We left Idaho in the smoky wasteland of Oregon. I say ‘smoky wasteland’ because there was an unfortunate amount of wildfires going on. I originally wanted to visit Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, but all the roads leading there were closed. I think that might have been victim to one of the wild fires. Next time, Oregon, next time.
We ate tea at Blossoming Lotus – a hip vegan place. So very Portland, if you can imagine it. Then we stopped by the world famous Voodoo Doughnuts, ate them at a park, then we returned to our airbnb to hang out with the pugs that lived there.
Day Sixteen: We decided to daytrip to Salem to visit Oregon State Hospital, a mental health museum and set of the movie, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’. This actually ended up being very interesting and a cool thing to do if you’re ever in Oregon’s capital.
When we returned to Portland we visited Pittock Mansion. This ended up having disappointing views of Portland from above because of the wild fire smog that engulfed the city. We returned to the city centre, had lunch at Vtopia Restaurant and Cheese shop (I’d definitely recommend the fancy mac and cheese!), visited Powell’s City of Books – I bought myself a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone so I could spend the plane journey home listening to the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone audiobook and read along with the Sorcerer’s Stone to spot the differences. Nerd alert. We had some of the world famous Salt and Straw ice cream then hung out in the hip Alberta District.
Day Seventeen: After getting brunch at Back to Eden Bakery, we hit the road to our final destination: Seattle. We ate lunch at Plum Restaurants and discovered that Seattle is on par with New York price-wise. Long gone are the cheap days of New Orleans. Oh well.
Day Eighteen: We made the most of Patricia in the morning and ventured to Bellevue Botanical Gardens and downtown, then to Kirkland Beach. I treated myself to some vegan Ben and Jerry’s despite the bad weather.
Day Nineteen: We got an uber to Seattle’s Public Library then walked up to the Space Needle and explored Chihuly Glass Museum. From there, we walked to Kerry Park to see a view from Seattle from above. The view was great, despite the rain. It’s Seattle! If it’s not raining, you’re doing it wrong.
Later in the day we explored the gaybourhood, Capitol Hill and ate instagrammable vegan ice cream at Frankie and Jo’s. Oh, we got a Starbucks too. Because Seattle.
After that we Ubered to Redmond (very pricey Uber) to meet up with friends. This is where I discovered Washington’s state law does not accept foreign driving licences as a form of ID to enter bars. I understand but it’s a bit silly not letting me (a twenty-four year old) into a bar when I left my passport an hour’s drive away in Seattle and don’t even drink. Fortunately we did find a place that let me in and we all played mini-golf.
Day Twenty: Goodbye USA! I spent $70 in LAX on food. Yeah, LA takes the cake for most expensive city and I didn’t even go there.
All in all, it was the coolest trip. I can’t wait two years till my next visit to the USA. New England, I’m looking at you.