When I told people that I was gonna drive alone for 14 days across the country, I got a wide array of responses. But after throttling 5984.3 miles ask me if it’s worth it, I’d say every goddamn second of it.
The monotonous regularity of my work which drove me nuts, the absence of any landscape other than long stretches of blue/green waters with no waves (thanks to the shallow Atlantic) and my inability to live consistently (or rather stuck) at a place for more than 2 years have made my road trip inevitable. I was initially planning on inviting my friends to join me on different legs of my journey but in a snap I said to myself I’m gonna do it alone. To this day I wasn't sure why I decided so. Thus I answered the true calling of my soul’s grieving — get on the road and liberate yourself.
What follows is a photo blog of my journey…
And so it began on April 5th, 2014 at around 1 pm. There was excitement that I’ll be driving my own/favorite car, Mustang GT, and doing my favorite thing of visiting new places, experiencing and doing new things. And then there was teeny bit of curiosity that I might be driving myself crazy for being alone most of the time. With those feelings I zoomed on Florida Turnpike destined for Atlanta to meet my best friend, Pavan. The drive was kind of a relief because I now know for sure that I was gonna leave the flatland for good. Miami is a great place to visit over weekends to bask in the glory of the world’s best beaches and make your palate dance with some exotic Latin American cuisine but to live in it for more than 2 years just bores you to death especially if you’re a person who likes exploring places around. On that positive note I reach Atlanta.
Atop the rotating Sundial Restaurant with a glittering view of Atlanta
There is no better feeling than spending time with your close friends. Running late to find open restaurants, conversations and almost doing stuff that cannot be spoken loud. 2 days of good times.
Day 3, Destination: Kansas City, MO - It was early morning start and I was welcomed with pouring rain. After traveling 6 hours, I stopped by a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Illinois to have lunch. After eating I was checking in in Foursquare and the name of the city reminded me of a cartoon I used to watch when I was 8 years old at 4:30 pm everyday. It was the hometown, on earth, of the Man of Steel, Metropolis.
That’s the entrance to the town
A museum dedicated to him and almost every store has a decor of him
It was quite an excitement to see a town really dedicated to Superman and very shop decorated with his novelty. I was as excited as when I was 8 years old watching that cartoon. It was a fun filled hour.
Finally 9 hours later I saw the first rays of sun. With all the breaks, it took a whopping 15 hours to reach Kansas City from Atlanta! Day 3 was the most tiring leg of my road trip. But thanks to SPG reward points I literally was a VIP for the night at the hotel.
Day 4: Rapid City, SD - Another early morning start and only an hour into my drive I encountered the beauty of Nebraska.
I was told that Nebraska would be full of beautiful corn fields, if only I had visited during the right season.
Now to a preplanned stop: Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska, a prehistoric museum of dinosaurs and reptiles. The specialty of this place till September is that it hosts the replica of the largest snake known to have ever lived, Titanaboa. The first sight of the snake was even more astonishing than the documentary I saw on Netflix. Snakes are the only animals I’m shit scared of and the sheer size of it was just overwhelming…
The dear snake eating an alligator in the picture
Smile please… Not. I couldn't resist going beyond the railing.
On that exciting note my journey resumed towards Rapid City. My worst fear of being alone and bored finally comes true after 4 days of my journey. I was so bored with nothing to see on the way and with no mobile signal that I started talking to myself about things that I see on the side of the road. I started counting haystacks, livestock and swans I saw on the road. A pleasant surprise was “Good Girl Gina” (if you’re a Reddittor) appearing on Ramada’s billboard (http://i.imgur.com/QBidyry.jpg).
Day 5, Exploring Badlands National Park and Mt . Rushmore
Guess this picture pretty much sums up Badlands
My badass car thru Badlands
This is my least favorite of all national parks I've visited so far. I would sincerely suggest skipping this if you've visited Death Valley and Grand Canyon. It’s like a mediocre mixture of them both. But if you wanna check it off of your to-do list then don’t waste a lot of time here.
Filled with disappointment, I piped down my hopes on Mt. Rushmore but to my surprise the sculpture mildly blew me away. It’s so crisp and nicely done, made me wonder why a lot of people don’t really care about it. May be because it’s not natural or too far away from the civilization we prefer? The place was so peaceful and surroundings were so serene and green. I would highly recommend this place. If this was somewhere near Yosemite or Yellowstone, it would've been a much popular site than it is now.
Trying hard to get along with the Presidents but they just don’t “focus”
Presidents, why so serious?
Day 6: Bozeman, MT — Google Maps gave me an interesting choice to take either the Interstate where food and gas are abundantly available or State Route where I have no idea what surprises I’m in for. But I thought the choice was obvious, State Route 212 it was. The route wasn’t bad at all except for the number of dead animals on the road. But the surprising part was the number of hellos and smiles I got from strangers while was passing through the small towns on the route. It’s so true that small towners give utmost importance to the little things in life. Such friendly people. I compare it with how people treat in the most tech-savvy place on earth, the Bay Area, where people hardly even make eye contact.
First view of Crazy Mountains. Really bad pic, I took it through the windshield
A better pic probably except for the overcast weather
My first proper view of Yellowstone just before the end of the day
Day 7: Jackson Hole, WY through Yellowstone National Park — The place I was eagerly waiting for has finally arrived. Although only 20% of the park was open it was enough to get me excited and it did not fail to deliver.
The clichéd pic of the entrance arch
All the while I was in an excitement that I will be walking on North America’s largest caldera and active supervolcano. The only constant thought was what if it starts to erupt when I’m here? But once I stepped inside it, I got lost in it’s beauty.
Mammoth Hot Springs
The craziness of it’s landscape. A legacy of how earth was during it’s formative years
Some crazy snow formations
No matter how many different things you see in Yellowstone, nothing beats the sheer beauty of Lamar Valley. This is the only place in my entire trip where I stopped the car and just sat there staring at it. My pictures don’t do justice at all to the place. To see with your naked eye is a whole different experience.
First glimpse of Lamar Valley
Melting Yellowstone River
Baronnette Peak towards the northeast end of Yellowstone
Sadly I missed the bears and elks but got some animals on camera.
This is one sneaky bastard, really hard to get him to pose for a picture
These guys are everywhere in the park
And ended the day at Yellowstone with this beautiful sunset
Now that I’ve missed 80% of the park because it was closed due to winter, I’ve decided to visit the park in every season. Next stop winter 2014. After almost getting a speeding ticket, I drove through Idaho. It’s quite beautiful even at night and almost near Jackson during the dead of the night I got the first and only glimpse of Grant Tetons
A moonlit long exposure shot
Day 8: Salt Late City, UT — The only thing on my mind during the entire ride was to max out the odometer on my 4.0L 8-cylinder (V8)s Mustang GT on the Bonneville International Speedway, a place best known for setting speed records on land. But there was one problem, a freakin’ commercial was shot on the speedway because of which it was closed. And the car used for that commercial was a Mustang GT! Sigh! But that did not stop me from driving on salt.
Ain’t snow, just salt
Another beautiful sunset over salt
Tires stuck in the damp ground
Nothing’s an adventure without something going wrong, right? Yes, it cost me $250 for ignoring the signs of “Don’t drive on salt except on speedway”. A good lesson learned to always check when driving on suspicious land. Thank you salt flat.
And this is something you’ll probably never see in your neighborhood. It ain’t rain but salt flying in high speed winds. That salt flew onto the road by the time I reached there and I drove through it realizing it’s salt only at the last moment.
Finally ending an adventure packed day with salt in moon light. It’s kind of sad to think that these flats were once part of a huge lake of whatever remained of the present day Great Salt Lake.
So long Bonneville until next time when I actually drive on your speedway.
Day 9: Moab, UT — A 3 hour smooth ride south-east from Salt Lake City will get you to a place which lies atop a salt bed, believe it or not, which was the result of a sea evaporating over which sandstone was deposited giving it’s famous rusty red color. The beautiful Arches National Park. I don’t know if it sounds strange but US-191 is actually built on Moab Fault. ON a tectonic fault! I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like that!
And then there are arches everywhere
North and South windows
This one’s outside the park
And then the middle finger was shown. Not subtle, Arches.
Up yours too..
But Moab has more to offer. If you’re interested I highly recommend checking out the dinosaur tracks and fossils. If you’re a fitness freak then there’s a 3 mile hiking/biking track to see the fossils.
After an exciting day, ended up for the night in one of these beautiful adobes. And it’s a struggle to survive -6C in a sleeping bag. Those were tough times <mildly shakes my head>.
Moab Under Canvas
Apart from it’s natural beauty, Moab also has some exotic food. My dinner: cactus tortilla for amuse-bouche and a bison for entrée!
Day 10: Page, AZ — Traveling is never complete without good food and meeting new people. On my way to Monument Valley I stopped by an unknown town called Blanding in UT where I sat down with a couple of ranchers over lunch in a local restaurant. We talked about life in cities and towns and how much they like living in their ranches with all the space and time they get over a Navajo bread burrito, one of the best breads I ate.
For anyone who remembers the famous scene form Forrest Gump where he stops running. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKKmzmeU5-0).
Antelope Canyon. This pic was taken during my previous trip
After 10 days, tire started to kick in and I slept so early that I missed a planned photoshoot of Blood Moon. The biggest disappointment of my trip. But at least I get meet a German at the bar where we talked about beers and his trip to America and how different Germany is from America.
Day 11: Bryce Canyon National Park
Another beautiful sunset outside Bryce Canyon
Day 12: Las Vegas through Zion National Park — Zion is a haven for activities like biking, hiking, swimming and rock climbing. I’ve seen people in wet suits and swimming fins with rock climbing gear and people with hiking poles going into the narrows. Ultimate adventure destination for beginners. FML, I do none of those. Time to start, better late than never.
Half way up a hill
My stay at Vegas wouldn’t have been more boring. It’s hard to get into the Vegas mindset after traveling for more than 10 days through nature’s beauty.
Day 13: Lake Tahoe, Day 14: Fremont: I finally arrive at my destination after a night at the beautiful Lake Tahoe.
Some miscellaneous pictures
Mexican Hat in Utah
Tell me which way to go
Fork. A small beautiful town in Utah
It was one hell of a road trip. People say a lot about traveling but the best thing this road trip did to me was refreshing my perspectives about life, moments and career. I’ve done several road trips before ranging from 800 miles to 3200 miles but none has satisfied my yearning for travel like this did. Helped me energize and get excited to get onto reality, meet old friends, make new ones, start new work and live in a new place. To me the road is the answer for my calling, it has always been. As the old saying goes: “You can always make money but you can never make time”. Just make time and get out prowling onto the world, it has a lot of surprises for you.
So many moments to cherish: my conversation with ranchers about life, small talk with a German about beers and cultures, eating Bison and Cactus, surviving -6C in a tent, my stay at a beautiful house via AirBnb, the smiles and hellos I got from small towners and above all, beautiful nature. Am I gonna do it again? Hell yes, a road trip is my love song. But this time across countries. Peru — Bolivia — Chile, maybe? Do it alone? Never ever.“Happiness is only real when shared”