Road trip - Summer 2009
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4 of us did a 6 week road trip around the states.
We flew into Vegas for a couple of nights, was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The casinos were good fun and some of the hotels were pretty impressive. We spent most of our time in the days just wandering up and down the strip and looking in the hotels. Two of us went to gamble in the Bellagio pretty early in the morning seeing as we were up anyway. It was a good idea for newbies at it like us as the croupiers were really helpful and didn't mind explaining to us everything we were doing wrong. We went back in the evening but most of the nicer hotels put their minimum bets up quite a bit and as we were on a budget we stuck to the cheaper tables but still a great experience and I actually managed to come out on top.
Drove to the Grand Canyon for a night and then on to Phoenix, Arizona. The Grand Canyon was very impressive but we got caught in some very heavy rain which made everything pretty slippy. It was amazing how quickly visibility dropped once it started raining. We would have liked to walk down one of the trails to the bottom but couldn't because of the wet. We didn't really see much of Phoenix but just relaxed aroud the pool, tried horse riding and went to Warped Tour. We also all tried wake boarding/ water skiing, it's really hard to get the hang of but good fun, everyone ached like hell the next day. Unbelievably hot!!
From there we drove on to Austin, Texas (stopping a night in Fort Stockton). Austin was nice, across the bridge there's the "upcoming area" which had some nice small restaurants (but very busy), clothes shops etc. Visited the state capitol building and saw the 'Owl' building' which looks pretty cool at night. We went out on the 3rd July (big night out with the 4th July holiday the next day), we just stuck to some of the busier bars (on 4th street, I think) but it was a good night out.
Carried on to Dallas, Texas. Dallas was really nice, much bigger than I expected. Although it's kinda split into different areas a little drive away from each other - Dallas, Addison, Irving, Fort Worth. We went out in Addison on our first night, 4th, to a sports bar for dinner and then another place for a few drinks. We were disappointed how quiet it was on the 4th July but were told most people go out on the 3rd and stay in with their families actually on the 4th. In Dallas, we went to the 6th Floor Museum, the builidng JFK was shot from. It was really good, we all learnt a lot from it and it even covered the conspiracy theories about it a bit. Fort Worth was interesting, it was like a little rodeo town with the largest honky tonk in the world, Billy Bob's, there's lots of snack vendors and things but best to eat outside of it if you want a proper meal. There was some very nice steak houses in Fort Worth and lots of places to buy cowboy stuff, should you wish to, in FW or Dallas.
Drove up to St. Louis (stopping a night in Miami, Oklahoma). St. Louis was nicer than we expected, we'd heard it was pretty rough but we had no problems. We did, however, get seriously warned not to cross the river. It was quite a long wait to go up the arch but definitely worth it, the view was incredible. Looked around the old court house, where the Dred Scott case took place in 1847 and 1850. We went to see the Cardinals stadium (baseball) and the Rams stadium (football). We ate out in the Italian area of the city (the Hill), it was a really friendly place and the food portions were huge. We also went to the budweiser factory for a tour (free samples!!).
The next stop was Chicago, Illinois. Chicago was my favourite place. It had such a busy yet relaxed atmosphere. It was kinda like New York but less based around tourists (no street sellers etc.) Going up the Sears tower was cool, they have glass boxes that stick out from the building so you can go out in them and see all the way around as well as down. We had dinner one night in the Hard Rock Cafe (same as all the others around the world so probably could have picked somewhere better). Despite the internet saying 30mins it only took about 10/15 mins to drive from our hotel into the centre of Chicago and parking was easy. Saw the 'Cloud Gate' structure in Millenium Park, although the weather wasn't really good enough for a day in the park. We drove out to Oak Park to see Ernest Hemmingway's childhood home and museum, which was surprisingly very interesting. We also went to see the Bears stadium (football) and the Cubs stadium (baseball).
Went to Nashville, Tennessee. This was one of my least favourite places but two of the others (who claim to be into country music) would say it was one of their favourites. It was very small and kinda run down looking but if you are into country music it's probably very interesting. We went to the Centennial park which was nice and saw the full-scale replica of the greek Pathenon. We went to the Country Music Hall of Fame (kinda pointless if you don't know anyone). We then spent the rest of the day in a bar watching a live band. We had a nice dinner and then went to the Wild Horse Saloon for the night. The band wasn't particularly good but the atmosphere was really good. Everyone was friendly, a group of 18 year olds heard us talking and came over to speak to us when they realised we were english, they were really nice and just wanted to chat about how different it is in England to America (very different to an 18year old who still can't drink over there).
Carried on to Atlanta, Georgia. Went to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site,saw the house he was born in, visited the museum about him, visited his tombstone and saw the eternal flame burning for him. It was all interesting but didn't learn much about him that we didn't already know. Three of us went on a tour of the CNN building which was really good, you got to see into the news rooms and things. We found downtown Atlanta a little scary at first, there's so many homeless people and they all try to help you so you'll give them some money. But you soon get use to it, if you try not to look lost you get a lot less attention and they're all friendly anyway.
We spent a night in Savannah, Georgia. Suuuch a dull place! We were told by lots of americans that we would love it because it was so pretty and quaint but it wasn't. It just looks like any english seaside town (well village more like). It did have some very good seafood restaurants but apart from that all you can do is wander up and down one street buying tack and fudge.
We finally arrived in Tampa, Florida where we spent our last 2 weeks. We were all so tired by then that we really needed a break. We spent the 2 weeks doing your average holiday activities: sleeping, sunbathing by the pool, sunbathing on the beach, eating out and drinking cocktails (Chilis definitely a favourite for margaritas and nachos!). We went jet skiing which was awesome, except one of the group cracked the bottom of theirs and had to pay $600 dollars but it was their own fault none of the rest of us had any problems. We went to see a baseball game at the Tropicana stadium, Tampa Rays against the New York Yankees. We went to Busch gardens and Adventure Island water park which were both good but we had to leave Adventure Island early because of a storm. We also went shooting which I hated at first, it's sooo loud and pretty scary but I went back a second time and ended up really enjoying it.
We flew back into London, changing in Philadelphia. It was a really long trip and the 4week road trip part was exhausting but the 2weeks relaxing in Florida balanced it out and it was definitely worth doing!