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Around the US in 18 days

Sriram Karthik Akella Monday, November 18, 2019
Around the US in 18 days

I am back home after 3 weeks, 6 states, 8 cities, 4 hotel rooms, 6 flights, 3200miles (5150km) of drive and according to my phone, 1500 photographs.

I grew up in the Middle East living in Kuwait. I go India quite often i.e., almost every year. I even visited the South East Asian countries- Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand.I did not see many differences between these countries in the overall lifestyle yet I experienced the uniqueness of each country.

The US, however, being in the west is quite different.

The planning for our trip started back in Jan’19 with me and my dad planning for the three-week trip.

We booked the tickets to Seattle, WA via Amsterdam on 3rd June.

So, here’s my tale of what we did from 7th-24th June in the USA.

June 7 - Arrival in Seattle.

Our flight reached Seattle at 3 pm and my uncle came to the airport to welcome us. Though we were exhausted after the 20-hour journey, I was filled with contentment to meet my cousins after 4 years. We went for a walk later that day and dozed early!

June 9 – Seattle, WA to San Jose, CA

We started our day early, reached San Jose at 08:30 and met our relatives at the airport. On the way home, we were to choose what we wanted to do for the day. We could either go on a long drive to Point Lobos State Park which was about 75 miles from their place or head to an airport near their home to get a ride on my uncle’s Cessna. However, we had to take turns for the ride as the plane can only accommodate 4 people. Though the aircraft plan was very exciting, we choose the first idea as the all of us could spend time together. As soon as we reached home, we had our breakfast and set out! As it was a Sunday, the traffic took us around 2 hours to reach the park.

The park was nested along the Pacific and was full of hiking trails. Point Lobos is a marvellous place for those who love nature walks. The sparkling clear blue water and colourful flowers left us with a new perspective of beauty. Being a person who has an interest in photography, I took a lot of pictures that day!

We had our lunch in the park, then completed two more trails and started to our next destination, Carmel, a small city 10 minutes away from Point Lobos.

We had our evening snacks at Carmel and were all tired by 6 pm.

Once we reached home, we started chalking our plan for the next day. My uncle guided us on what and how to make the most out of the hop-on-hop-off tour in San Francisco. He wanted to take us there but he was leaving for Tokyo early the next day. We had a great chit-chat post dinner.

June 10- San Francisco

We were dropped off at the Caltrain (California Train) station at 10. We took the 10:45 AM train to SFO, reached there by noon and took an Uber to the first point of the hop-on-hop-off bus station. I really liked the hop-on-hop-off concept. Buses on these tours are continually driving around defined routes and visitors can use their ticket to jump on (hop on) at any stop and can get off (hop off) at whichever stop they choose. San Francisco is a small city with an area of less than 50 sq.miles which made it easier for tourists like us to sightsee most of the metropolitan in one day.

We bought Ghirardelli chocolates for our friends as that was what San Francisco is famous for.

We hopped-off at a lot of places incl. Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, Financial District, etx.

We had coffee at Starbucks and reached the Caltrain station to get on the bullet train to San Jose by 6 pm. We reached home at 8 that day.

June 11 – San Jose, California - Las Vegas, Nevada
In the morning, we departed from San Jose Bay Area, driving to Las Vegas. It was a 520 mile (836 kilometre) journey and was estimated to take around 10 hours with an every-2-hour break. Along the way, we saw dramatic changes in sceneries from coastal mountains ranges to the Central Valley. We reached Las Vegas at 7 pm and checked in to Excalibur Hotel & Casino. We had our dinner at Mirchi, a South Indian Restaurant & spent the night at our own leisure by exploring the Vegas Strip.

June 12 – Las Vegas, Nevada – Grand Canyon – Page, Arizona

We started from our hotel in Vegas early that day as we had to drive another 370 miles (595 km) that day. It took us 5 hours to reach Grand Canyon National Park and as it was sunny, we were drained after a 2-mile trail walk. Grand Canyon is considered one of the wonders of the world. It was carved over 17 million years ago by the Colorado River. We then headed over to Page, a city in Coconino County, Arizona. We stayed in there that night as it was only a few miles away from Lake Powell & Antelope Canyon - the places we had to visit the next day.

June 13 – Page, AZ – Lake Powell - Antelope Canyon – Horseshoe Bend – LV, Nevada
In the morning, we left Page and ventured to Lake Powell. We took a cruise on the lake in the morning. Lake Powell is a beautiful reservoir along the Colorado River amid the vast desert areas of Utah. This man-made lake in central Arizona is the second largest reservoir in the US. We then continued to Antelope Canyon. One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Southwest is the Antelope Canyon. It is a sandstone formation formed by flood and rainwater. It is really amazing to see the natural formation! And trust me, it is much more beautiful than its pictures. The sunlight on the canyon reveals an amazing palette of colours- orange, red, gold, grey and white. I took more than 100 pictures there. Then, we continued to Horseshoe bend, a curve in the Colorado River, about 5 miles from Lake Powell. The magnificent wide-angle view of the colourful canyon and the tight curve was worth a visit! In the evening, we returned to Las Vegas and stayed in the same hotel as the previous day. We had covered a distance of 300 miles (480km) that day.

June 14 – Las Vegas, Nevada – Los Angeles, California
After long, we were allowed to start our day a little relaxed. We woke up at 10 and went to the lobby of the neighbouring hotel by noon to catch the shuttle bus to Los Angeles. However, since the bus was late by half an hour and we reached there early, we waited for quite some time. It was a 250 mile (400km) drive to LA that took us around 6 hours. The shuttle dropped us at Rowland Heights from where we took an Uber to Anaheim. My dad and brother went for a swim at our hotel while me and my mom went to Target (Sultan Centre of Kuwait) to get some milk, bread, etc. as we were going to stay there for the next four days and also, yayyy, my uncle, aunt and cousins from Seattle were arriving the next day.

June 15 – Hollywood @ Los Angeles
The initial plan was to hire a sedan for the day and drive to LA which was 30 miles (48km) away. However, the Enterprise showroom across the road was shut that day by the time we went there, hence we had to think of an alternative. We started at around noon and reached Griffith Observatory in an hour. Once we reached there, we were very impressed by the view it had to offer of the surrounding area. We were able to see the Hollywood sign from there, but it wasn’t close enough to get good pictures from. We then proceeded for lunch. After lunch, we went to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. In short, it was lit! The street has a lot of interesting places to visit, such as Hollywood Wax Museum, Madame Tussauds, Chinese Theatre, Dolby Theatre, Guinness World Records Museum, etc. and the sidewalk of the street is embedded with stars & celeb names. As it was already nearing 6, we had to come back to our hotel.

My cousins reached the hotel at 9ish pm and we then had our dinner. Post dinner, my dad and my uncle got into the job of booking the Disneyland Tickets while the rest of us took a tour of the hotel.

June 16 – California Adventure Park
All of us energised to go to Disneyland woke up early and left our hotel by 7:30 AM. ToyStory Parking lot was half a mile away from our inn. We parked there and took the shuttle to the Park which was 2 miles from the parking lot. We decided to go to the California Adventure land that day out of the two Disney parks in Anaheim. As soon as we entered the park, we were surprised to see that the crowd was not as much as what we expected, plus it being on a Sunday! Probably everyone expected the park to be crowded and no one turned up. We spent around 10 hours in the park that day and had our lunch there itself. We went to a lot of rides in all of the lands, which incl.:-

After dinner, we went back to the park at 9:30 pm to watch the World of Colour show at 10 pm.

World of Colour in Paradise Pier is a fountain show of colourful lights.

June 17 – Santa Monica Pier, California
As we didn’t plan much for the day but had a few options in mind, we had to take a call in the morning. My dad suggested that we go to Santa Monica and we were all okay with that. We started at 11 am and it took us 90 minutes to reach the pier. We spent around an hour there while my parents got a caricature of themselves drawn! We then had our lunch at Subway, McD and then started our drive back home. We experienced the great USA traffic that day! It took us 3 hours to cover a distance of 45miles (72km). Once we reached the hotel, we decided to go shopping for jackets at Target.
June 18 – DisneyLand Park
We were all set for our second day in Disneyland and first in this park. On Tuesdays, the park opens one hour early and that hour is called the “Magic HOUR”, so we decided to go there early. As planned, we reached the park at 7:30 am. The rides we went to that day were: -

However, us, kids liked California Adventure park more than Disney Park as it was much more thrilling.

June 19 – California Adventure Park pt.2
It was going to be our last day in California for the trip. However, we had the entire day as our flight was at 11:15 pm. We could either go to Disney Park or California Adventure Park. We opted for the latter. We woke up at ease and started by noon. We decided to go to the rides we enjoyed on the first day. Therefore, the day was spent with some of our much-loved rides such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster, Radiators Springs Racers, etc. We came back to our hotel at around 5 pm and started to the airport by 6. On the way, we were all conversing on how well our week in California was. Though we spent only a few days with our cousins, it was hard to say bye to them after reaching the airport. This is the toughest part of any vacation.

June 20 – New Jersey
We reached Newark Liberty airport at 7:30 am and my aunt had come to pick us up. Their house at Kendall Park was 35 miles (56km) from the airport but the rainy weather and traffic took us more than an hour. We had our breakfast and relaxed for a while. Since they had a pool table and table tennis table in the basement of their house, my dad and brother played there for a while. After that, all of us went to a Bed Bath & Beyond Store in their locality. We dozed off early as we caught jet lag due to the 3-hour time difference between the coasts.

June 21 – Niagara (day 1)
We had booked a 2-day tour to Niagara Falls, NY. The pick-up point was at Edison, NJ.
Cave of the Winds, Niagara is 400 miles (650 km) away from New Jersey. We were lucky to be there during summer as Cave of the Winds on the New York side of Niagara Falls is open only then! It is an attraction which allows visitors to walk along pathways on the river at the base of the American Falls. Before descending into the Niagara, there is a show on how Nikola Tesla harnessed the power of the falls to create alternating current. There is also an outfit (ponchos & souvenir shoes) given to tourists before we descend 175 feet which help to keep us dry.
We had dosas for dinner and reached the hotel at 11 pm.

June 22 -Niagara (day 2)
The day was started real early. We were in the bus by 6 am and headed to our first destination, Old Fort Niagara. It is a fort at the mouth of the Niagara river. The history of this fort dates back to the 18th century and it seems that it remained an active military post well into the 20th century.
We then proceeded to the Maid of the Mist, Niagara. Maid of the Mist is a famous boat ride that gets passengers up close with the falls. The Maid rides right into the mists over the edge of the falls.

We were very close to Ontario, Canada during the ride!

After the ride, we headed straight to Parsipanny, NJ. My uncle had come to pick us up from there.
We spent some time chatting after dinner and snoozed!

June 23 – New York!
We woke up late that day. We started to New York post-lunch at 2 pm. We first headed to the Statue of Liberty which is 37 miles (60km) from Kendall Park. We took the boat ride to Ellis Island and Liberty Island, where the statue is located. We even saw the NY Skyline from there.
We then proceeded to Manhattan to visit Times Square.
Most of the roads in Manhattan were closed by the police that day as there was a high wire walk show that was going to be held there. As we were not aware of the details, we didn’t wait long for the show. We took some pictures there and went to an Indian restaurant for dinner.
As Kendall Park is 2 hours away from Manhattan, we reached home at midnight.

June 24 –JFK to Kuwait
We didn’t do much that day as we had to leave to the airport by 5 pm for our flight at 10 pm.

On the flight back home, I tried to cheer myself up by thinking of things I don't like about the US, but I came up with a really short list.
Until next time, Adiós USA!

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Express your comment on this article

Burhan Ravat
Monday, February 17, 2020
Thanks for sharing all informations.
You have not mentioned in your experience that you had taken some tour package or you did this tour by your own?
Can you please suggest if Tour package is better or our own arrangement?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Deepak - It is an audio device given to visitors (for free) once you purchase a ticket for a ferry to Liberty Island. Once you press a button on the device, it gives out detailed information (in a lot of languages) of the facts related to the site you are at.

Monday, November 25, 2019
What device is hanging in the necks of all family? Pls. elaborate this device. What for it is used and where it is available at what price?

Thursday, November 21, 2019
Excellent write up... Very detailed indeed... Way to go... Keep rocking dear.... Sky is ur limit...

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Amazingggg!!!!!!! Well written and descriptive article!!
Keep up with such interesting stuffs

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