This past July, I had the opportunity to help my roommate Antonio, bring his car to Boston. His car was located back home, in California. This meant we had a cross-country road trip on our hands.
Driving across the country has been a dream of mine for a long time, so of course I was down to co-pilot this adventure. We were making the trek in 6 days, which is a pretty fast pace but slow enough to make a bunch of stops along the way.
With my bags packed, SD cards cleared and rolls of film ready, I hopped on the plane and headed westward.
La La Land
This was my first time visiting the west coast so there was no more iconic location to see California than in Los Angeles. Our visit included the usual stops the Hollywood Hills, Griffith Observatory, LACMA, Santa Monica Pier and the Getty Center. I've only ever seen some of these places in the movies so we had to check them out in real life. While I didn't see any famous people, everyone walking around may as well be famous, because of how well they dressed.
I definitely see the west coast appeal. The weather was the perfect kind of sunny and the atmosphere was youthful and energized. LA traffic is real and has not been understated. Found that out the hard way and I struggle to see myself in the sprawling city because of it. I can count the number of times I've seen the Pacific Ocean so a quick sunset visit to Santa Monica pier bumped that up. The Getty Center stood out especially because of the incredible views and the unique architecture that held the art museum.
Little did Tony know, he was going to be my model throughout the trip. Finding incredible spaces and light over the trip meant I needed to take a few portraits and Tony was the only consistent human with me. I think he learned to love it by the end.
West x Southwest
Our route was mostly determined by sights to see and so it meandered, wrapping up and down the country a bit.
Day one of driving brought us through a couple of landmarks including Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, finally stopping in Flagstaff, AZ for the night. It was a bit of a bummer swinging through Vegas in the middle of the day because you couldn't see the lights, but stepping outside and it being over 110 degrees, convinced me I wasn't made for the dessert.
The landscapes we passed through were unlike anything else I've seen in the USA. “Beautiful” quickly became the new normal as we continually passed interesting rock outcroppings, rolling hills and endless desserts. Riding through the Rockies left me speechless. I've never seen mountains this big and certainly have never passed through them. Snow capped peaks in July ran one after another.
The absolute highlight on the trip was the Grand Canyon. A happy scheduling accident allowed us to see the park at sunrise and it left me without words. The sun slowly lighting the deep canyon brought the space to life. Tears filled my eyes to see this incredible wonder.
A stop at the Four Corners was the last major landmark as we left the west and headed for Colorado Springs. A city in the mountains was a unique experience for me, growing up in the east where mountains are sparse and not nearly as high. It's incredible to see the mountain peaks above all the buildings, looming and powerful. Grabbing coffee in Denver was definitely not enough time in the city and tops my list of places to return to.
With the Rockies in the rearview mirror we entered the plains of the Midwest.
Midwest (or Chicago's suburb)
The Midwest was the biggest surprise of the trip for me. Stereotypes and expectations had lead me to dread the entire day spent passing through Kansas. But I was wrong and the Midwest is not a flat as I had been lead to believe. Instead we were met with the rolling green prairie, big clouds and galloping wild Buffalo. We even saw a dozen wild zebras running about, which was pretty confusing. Apparently someone's private zoo had closed and the zebras were just set free to roam the grasslands.
Kansas City was a warm and quiet city that proved to be a wonderful place to stay the night and get some great barbecue. Unfortunately we arrived on Sunday so most everything was closed which just means I will have to go back.
A quick stop in St. Louis provided a small break as we headed to Chicago the next day. The Gateway Arch was worth the stop.
Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the States and I seem to find myself there multiple times each year, something I'm not sad about at all. This was Tony's first time to the city which meant the required visit to the Bean and some deep-dish pizza (yes we ate a whole pizza by ourselves). I was able meet up with a new friend, Christian, for a quick tour and portrait shoot as well. This proved to be a very fun Chicago stop.
Check out Christian’s shoot here!
Return to the East
The last two days were familiar territory for me, having made the drive a few times from Chicago to Boston via Buffalo. There were fewer landmarks to check out which, pushed us along to Buffalo quicker.
It was great to be home and show Tony the things which are so familiar to me. My family met up with us and we visited Niagara Falls. We had a big meal at home, which of course had to include wings (they were created in Buffalo after all). It’s quite amazing to know that this one path had connected our two homes.
As we pulled into Boston on the final day, I really couldn’t wrap my mind around everything I had just seen and experienced. The pace of our trip was pretty brutal but the views were breathtaking. It was so much; I’m only really processing the trip now, months later.
This journey provided so many opportunities to see old and new friends. Each familiar face was a special blessing as we moved through unfamiliar territory. We are so thankful for the many wonderful people who hosted us, even if we were sleeping on their couch for just a few hours.
I couldn’t have made this trip without Antonio. Not only was he a solid driver but also great company to pass the many many hours with. (And we didn’t even get on each other’s nerves). The long road allowed us to deepen our friendship and build lasting memories. I wouldn’t have wanted to share this trip with anyone else.
Overall, we only got a taste of each place so I will absolutely be going back soon. As someone who loves traveling, I have spent so very little time exploring my own country. The US is so big, with so much more to see, and I will see as much as possible.