Highlights of Driving from San Diego to Miami
Since Jez and I first met we've had on our bucket list to do a road trip across the States and finally we got to do it! There were so many highlights from our three weeks travelling the 3,400 miles but we've sifted through our memory bank and these are our top 15 "must do's" (in our opinion!). There were soooo many other amazing memories and places but these were our absolute favs. Starting from west to east (highlighted in green), San Diego to Miami.......
So we had 10 glorious days in San Diego visiting our amazing friends and their bonkers little family! Downtown, Old Town, La Jolla, the beaches, hiking Torrey Pines are all amazing but for us it was San Diego's Balboa Park . The stunning gardens, architecture and of course Spreckels Organ Pavillion. We quickly realised that the USA loves "the biggest" "the oldest" "the first" etc so this houses the "world's largest pipe organ in a fully outdoor venue" and it is massive!
One of the things that made this journey so epic was that we managed to hire a truck! We actually were really lucky (or clever!) and booked a car the night before but when we arrived they only had trucks...turns out economy cars are not popular! We were able to score this sweet truck (we named Winston) for the same price as an econony car! It also wasn't that different in fuel consumption, thank you Enterprise! It was a real novelty compared to the small cars we drive in the UK and definitely contributed to experiencing the all American road trip!
Stopping in Tuscon for one night we then headed for the natural phenomenon of White Sands National Monument. The landscape was so dramatic and out of this world! Its white sands are not composed of quartz, like most desert sands, but of gypsum (mineral) and calcium sulfate that was washed down here from the mountains.The drive through it is stunning and there are areas to walk into the dunes.
Stopping in El Paso was a nice surprise. We went to the El Paso Museum of Art and wandered around the city but we absolutely loved watching the sunset from the El Paso Scenic Drive.
We also tried "Couchsurfing" for the first time which was an interesting experienced....especially when we were really late to arrive and wanted to buy a quick bottle of wine, as a thank you for our hosts giving us free accommodation. We swung into the nearest store and all we literally looked at was the price and the type of wine and grabbed a bottle! So on presenting said wine to our hosts I totally died inside and wanting the world to swallow us up when we heard the host say..."Ménage Á Trois.....that's an interesting choice.....is there something you're wanting to tell us?" glowing, probably a hot red, I suddenly replied without thinking "we thought it was hilarious, must be our British sense of humour!"(yes we blamed being British,sorry!). To which they just looked at us a little bemused.
We then completed our longest stretch of the journey, 7.5 hours to San Antonio a really beautiful and relaxing city. We loved exploring the Blue Stars Art Complex with it's quirky galleries, stores and a great coffee shop but our highlight was the The River Walk through San Antonio though obvious it is well worth walking! The river winds through the whole city with coffee shops and restaurants dotted along the river. It's stunning.
The lure of the big cities with lots of attractions, nightlife and culture took up a lot of our road trip but after hitting LA, San Diego, El Paso and San Antonio we were really craving the "small town feel" and headed out north west of San Antonio to find some small town Texan charm and found the seriously charming pretty towns of Gruene, Brenham, Chappell Hill and Burton! As we are not American we had on our bucket list "to eat amazing pie in an authentic diner in an authentic American town"-tick! Thank you Must Be Heaven in Brenham, your pies were the absolute nuts! www.mustbeheaven.com. We also then visited the stunning town of Saint Francisville in Louisana. The town is so pretty it has been used in lots of films. The feel in small towns is so different and the people were so welcoming, kind and friendly!
Next on our list was to visit a plantation so we headed to The Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site. We went on the tour around the house which was so interesting. We were left with really ambiguous feelings as the place was stunningly beautiful yet it was a sobering reminder that all of these plantations only existed from the dehumanization of thousands of people who became slaves.
There wasn't much mention of this in the tour, the focus was more on the family and the property however, for us, it was a stark remembrance of why we need to keep fighting for equality of all people and the comforting awareness of how much the the world can and has changed. We also visited the outside of the Myrtle Plantation .
Next was New Orleans......need we say more but YOU HAVE TO GO to New Orleans!!! It was incredible. We wandered the whole city until our feet were sore and then the pull of another venue to see another live band made us forget the pain and we danced into the early hours! It feels like every shop, restaurant, cafe, bar and hole in the wall has live music exploding out of its seams and then there's more music in the street...the place literally sings! We went to Fritzel's, The Jazz Playhouse, The Spotted Cat, Preservation Hall, Tipitina's, Bacchanal and DBA's and the streets (yes these are a venue in themselves!) We ate vegan hot dogs, Po Boys(famous type of sandwiche) saw a transgender protest, watched a man make insane music out of a washboard (Chaz and The Tin Man https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyVb16-r8dk) and danced pretty much the whole time! If you want to find life in all its rawness, all its beauty, in all its blooming creativity, go to New Orleans! If music isn't your thing visit St Charles Avenue and Magazine Street to see the incredible houses. Another beauty we discovered was The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Park. It is a beautiful park with incredible contemporary sculptures.
We then hopped through, only stopping in Navarre to break up the journey, and landed in the incredible city of St Augustine. It is said to be the oldest settlement in the USA which bizarrely most Americans don't seem to know (strange as they love the oldest, biggest, widest etc!)It has stunning Spanish colonial architecture and we loved our stay at the Art Deco Florida Motel just outside of St Augustine. We were able to use their free bikes to cycle around the Festival of Lights (literally the whole city is covered in white fairy lights from the end of November to the Beginning of February, it's stunning!). The city is so so pretty and we were lucky to be there when this celebration was on.
Driving on we stayed in St Petersburg another funky smaller city (great murals!). Then we visited friends in Port Richie and zipped through Sarasota on our route down to the Everglades to do an airboat tour.
We decided to do the tour from Everglade City as we heard it was less touristy and man did that pay off! We ended up having a private airboat tour with www.evergladescity-airboattours.com. The speed of the airboat was immense, the scenery astounding and we got to see alligators!
We then rounded off our mammoth journey with 3 nights in Miami. With its incredible Art Deco architecture, beaches and night life we were really spoilt but for us the highlight was visiting the Wynwood Walls. Miami is full of amazing street art and there is a concentrated specific area for incredibly talented street artists. Wynwood Walls is a definite must in Miami.
Lastly some other incredible things we loved experiencing that were also solid highlights. Firstly we need to mention the beds!!! lol! It seems to us Americans buy great beds! A real highlight for travellers! All beds were amazing apart from one terrible terrible nights sleep in a danky freezing cold trailer with a hard mattress, no duvet and moist pillows.
Also as we aren't from the USA we would definitely say to visit their humongous grocery stores and gawk at the supersize everything and the billions of choice!
Lastly, and this one only works if you are British, enjoy feeling like a celebrity when people hear you speak! We literally had people in a diner come over to talk to us just because we had a British accent! Women were swooning over Jez, at a deli counter in a supermarket, asking him to repeat the words "tomato and cucumber" whilst gathering colleagues to listen (much to my amusement as I've never seen Jez so popular with the ladies!).
Basically we had a blast! We'd encourage anyone to do it! It was incredible! If you want to see more of our photos or videos please go to:
www.lettucefindpeas.com/photo-albums for photos
www.lettucefindpeas.com/videos for videos.
Here is our itinerary we would recommend doing this over 4-5 weeks minimum as it was pretty rushed but still one of the best experiences we've had travelling! Road Trip across the USA...tick!
Total hours driving 47hours 45mins (excluding toilet, food, photo stops and hunting down supersize snacks)