When I was in the USA, I used an app to track where I went, as I did in India. This was primarily for geotagging my camera photos but it gave me a map showing everywhere I went to and how far I travelled. The total distance was about 11,800km, similar to my India trip.
I packed light again, my rucksack never exceeding 10kg. I didn’t take my man-bag this time. Instead I bought a runner’s backpack, which weighs nothing until you fill the two litre water pack in it. That was handy for the hiking part of the trip and also for the morning runs I did in some places, including two parkruns.
Light luggage is convenient for getting on and off planes quickly since you don’t have to check-in any cases. Air transport, in the US, is the equivalent of trains in Europe since there is no extensive train network.
The first two weeks of my trip were spent hiking with a group. We started in San Francisco, flew to Las Vegas then went to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park for a stunning hike up Angels Landing. Upon flying back to San Francisco, we picked up a mini-van and drove to Yosemite, where we hiked the formidable Half Dome. After some sightseeing and gentle hikes in Yosemite, we went to Kings Canyon National Park and to Sequoia National Park to admire and, in some cases, hug the magnificent sequoia trees. Our return journey began along the west coast, first in Pizmo Beach, on to Monterey before reaching San Francisco.
After San Francisco, I left the hiking group and travelled from west to east on my own. My only plan was to reach New York City but I didn’t know how I was going to do this. It reminded of interrailing across Europe when I was much younger.
In San Francisco, I met someone and asked him which places to go to between the west and east. He said, people on the coast called everything in between the “flyover states”! That was harsh. In the end, the in-between city I choose was Austin, a place I had heard was welcoming and could get around without a car. And I wanted to experience Texas.
In hindsight, the cities I went to picked themselves once I’d realised that travelling by train (my preference) was going to take too long.
I had to go to Los Angeles and see Hollywood. In LA, I was speaking to a waitress who came from Chicago and she wrote me a list of places to go to in Chicago, if I went there. Again, I felt, later, that I had to go to somewhere as iconic as Chicago, if only because of the architecture and the Obamas. Chicago may have been my favourite US city, perhaps because I knew so little about it.
There are many iconic places in the USA; it’s impossible to see them all on a two-month trip. So much of the USA comes to me from film and music. Even now, I think of the places I didn’t visit: Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Washington or even popping across to New Jersey from New York to see where Bruce Springsteen hung out. And I haven’t even mentioned national parks, such as Yellowstone. These and others will have to wait for another time.