Oh say can you see…

America in tweets

I recently returned from my three-week road trip across the US. One day last week I summarised my thoughts on the trip in tweet form. For those who don’t follow me on twitter or didn’t see the tweets, I thought I’d set them out here as my review of the US.

San Diego, really nice: Tucson, definitely worth a visit, great scenery; Phoenix, a 16 lane highway? Really? 16?

LA, we didn’t leave the freeway; SF, lovely and great shopping in Hayes Valley but the worst disregard for the homeless I’ve ever seen.

Coastal Highway, very pretty; redwoods, very big; Seattle, really really nice. Seriously, why doesn’t this get more attention? Great place.

Grand Canyon stunning, especially at dawn as colours soak in; Montana, there’s a lot of Montana. It’s the Hotel California state. Endless.

Jackson, most patriotic; Wyoming, rugged landscape; Yellowstone amazing; Glacier really pretty, exceptional too. US has great national parks

Vegas, didn’t need the extra day. Restaurants shut surprisingly early. Chicago, best food on the trip, attractive city, good for walking in.

Chicago also had the only bookshop I saw on the trip. I wasn’t looking for them, but most places you don’t need to seek them out.

In all seriousness I saw more open carry handguns (is Walmart so dangerous?) than bookshops.

Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yellowstone, Seattle and Chicago among highlights. Haven’t listed everything of course.

Food mostly awful to mediocre, and insanely huge portions. Took to skipping meals.!Amazed anyone isn’t fat.

Ate in a McDonalds that only played Christian Rock; ate chicken fried steak with biscuits and gravy; ate many, many hamburgers.

Saw only one classic diner, and that was intentionally retro. Casinos seemingly everywhere. Fireworks on sale at every national park border.

Vegas, everybody having fun except the people at the tables. They look like they’re losing money. Slot people look dead.

Gathering around a craps table not nearly as fun as it looks in the movies. Mostly as in movies people are winning, in Vegas they’re losing.

It was a great trip, and Seattle and Chicago in particular really are worth a visit (it’s hopefully obvious that the national parks merit a visit). Still, while a long holiday is good, it’s also good to be back. Of course, being back does mean I have hundreds of emails, missed blog posts, articles and whatever to catch up on…

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Oh say can you see…

  1. The Pacific coast makes for a great scenic drive. Glad you had a good trip. Interesting observations about bookshops, and incidentally I have a very difficult time when it comes to eating in restaurants. Most restaurants don’t seem to know what vegan is–there are exceptions of course esp as you travel North to Oregon and Washington which are more vegan friendly

  2. The bookshop thing is probably chance. I wasn’t looking for them, but most places you see them anyway from time to time. Different streets and no doubt I’d have seen more. Still, it was odd.

    Vegan, yes, I basically survived on burgers so I can see why that would be an issue.

  3. Glad you had a good break, Max. It sounds amazing. I missed your tweets, so it’s good to see them collected together here. Seattle is great. I’ve been there for work (ages ago now) and have fond memories of it.

  4. Welcome home! I am technically a dual citizen, American and Canadian, but I have not been into the US in almost 14 years and have no intention to go back. The gun mentality and their irrational tax laws for people with the misfortune to be born on the soil have kept me away. I have lived in Canada since I was 3 after all.

    Your comments about Montana made me chuckle (I live due north of that state). My Brooklyn born and raised mother was shocked at the barrenness on her first visit west. The food is obscene. I recently returned from South Africa where, at least in Cape Town, I found restaurant food to be amazingly affordable (for me – especially compared to where I live), pleasantly light and in reasonable portions.

  5. What a fantastic trip! I’d love to go to Seattle.

    I’ve been to a few of these places. I agree with you on San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Vegas, Grand Canyon, the redwoods, the PCH and the food. (It’s even worse when you’re French)

    I didn’t see any bookstore in Chicago but lots of signs “handgun forbidden” on shops’ doors. Very odd for a European. I guess you haven’t paid a visit to the mythical City Lights in San Fransisco.

    It’s nice to have you back and good luck with the pile of emails.

  6. Jacqui, we wished we’d had more time there; a definite highlight.

    Rough, there’s certainly a lot of nothing there, and the food was astonishing. How can a country so rich eat so badly? Particularly when other parts of the country don’t have nearly the same issue? It brings out the scale of the place.

    I’d love to go to SA, not likely any time soon though.

    Emma, I saw tons of those signs too. At first I assumed they were some kind of joke, then I saw enough of them I realised they weren’t. Bizarre.

    We tended to find the Mexican food the best. Biscuits and gravy you clearly need to grow up with, which is true of many country’s local dishes to be fair.

  7. Agreed – Grand Canyon! A big fan of the Arizona landscape.

  8. Wow, you got around! All that in three weeks? Sounds like a terrific trip; sorry about the food.

    The national parks really are what James Bryce and/or Wallace Stegner suggested: America’s best idea.

    The gun mentality, on the other hand, is America at its very worst, a pathetic substitution of the illusion of force for any faith in intellect and personal agency, trailing behind it thousands of victims.

    Good to have you back.

  9. There’s definitely some amazing landscape literary. The drive into Vegas was remarkable, huge mountains and extraordinary scenery, none of it for some reason mentioned in any guide we’d read.

    Scott, it was great. The food wasn’t all bad by any means. We found a great breakfast place in San Diego, we ate well in SF (a great burrito place, an excellent burger place in Hayes Valley and a German outdoor pop-up-ish place also in Hayes valley), and the food in Seattle and Chicago was good.

    It was outside the cities we really struggled. At one point we found ourselves in a town in Montana where the only restaurants were these really grim looking fast food places, many of them not even hugely clean, so we went to a local Walmart and it was vast and had oceans of stuff but it was all really bad quality, really bad, much worse than the couple of other Walmarts we’d popped into along the way. We saw some of the fattest people on our trip in that town, and I don’t think it was a coincidence. There was nothing healthy to be seen anywhere.

    In the interests of full disclosure by the way, the UK also has generally fairly terrible food.

  10. I did a road trip like this many years ago – Atlanta to San Francisco and back to Atlanta, in 3 weeks – a fantastic experience. I agree about the food, we ate so much fast food and take away that we rolled off the plane when we got home. The sheer vastness of the country is what stays with me, plus the very real cultural differences and prejudices we found between (say) the south and the west coast.

  11. Yes, the scale is unimaginable until you see it. We haven’t really done the South yet, that’ll be another trip. I imagine it will be quite different, as you say.

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