The first time I visited San Francisco, was when I was road tripping during 1995 with Robbie and Barry, two South African friends. Unbeknownst to me, my future wife treaded a similar path a few years later. We were both hoping to rekindle some of those times, but this time together with some twins.
Ronelle had bypassed San Fransisco on her previous trip and I was really excited about showing her some of the places I had visited. Unfortunately, this time, San Francisco, didn’t live up to expectations, but we did manage to see a few sights.
We were all pretty happy to get going, this time on a three week road trip, driving through Big Bear, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and on to Atlanta to visit Emily, one of Ronelle’s best friends from Rhodes University.
As I’ve mentioned, the US is a fantastic place to road trip. It’s also one of the most picturesque countries to travel in, as each state offers something completely different and the road system lets you drift from place to place without much hassle.
Travelling with kids is tiring; as you don’t get much personal time and they need constant attention. Europe, in particular, tired us out, as we did a lot of travelling, caught up with friends/family and rarely spent more then five nights in one place, for four months.
We both agreed that we needed to find a place to rest up for ten day or so and get back to some normally, we found that in Big Bear, famous for its skiing resorts during the winter season.
We drove South about 500 miles from San Francisco to reach Big Bear. There is something to be said about driving through the Mojave dessert, tunes playing, kids happy and the open road. It’s an uniqueness that I haven’t found road tripping in any other country and one that is incredibly enjoyable.
Big Bear is the quintessential skiing resort town, ski hire companies, surfer looking dudes and filled with wood cabins, most deserted as it was off season. We found a beautiful place in the middle of an outer village and settled in for ten fantastic days of watching movies, braaing and just enjoying a break from our travels. After ten days, it was time to get on the road and continue the adventure.
Both of us have been to the Grand Canyon before, but it really is something that you could see a few times in life. It’s so vast and beautiful and changes every hour of the day. It was great re-living some fantastic memories of when we were on the road earlier in our single lives. Having said that, last time we were there, Ronelle and Emily slept in her car and I slept in a forest to save some money. How times have changed, as we booked into the local Holiday Inn.
From the Grand Canyon, we headed to Las Vegas, the home of opulence. We ended up staying in the Golden Nugget, a monstrosity of a hotel with 3500 rooms and a swimming pool with a built in aquarium, so you could swim with the sharks, without actually swimming with the sharks.
Vegas is crass and common as you could imagine, with bikini clad croupiers dealing Black Jack around the pool, to massive Moet and Chandon cocktails at ten bucks a pint. There is not much more to say about Vegas that hasn’t already been said. It’s one of those places that you have to see to believe.
Vegas is slowly increasing other parts of their tourism industry and has some amazing shows throughout the day and the night. A friend of mine organized tickets to Mystére, Cirque De Soleil’s show on the strip. It was the kids introduction to a large live performance and they were really blown away with all the lights, acrobatics and explosions.
Vegas is one of those places that everybody should see at least once in their lives, but four nights is sufficient to get a taste of how not to live your life. Thankfully our friend Emily invited us to her place in Atlanta for a taste of the real America.
Atlanta was amazing. It’s a large City with a small town atmosphere and the Southern hospitality is second to none. We ended up spending ten nights at Emily’s and it’s an experience that will stay with us for a while.
Emily works at the CNN headquarters and gave us a personal tour of how CNN works and showed us the studios. It was an amazing experience, especially as it was with a staff member and we got to see parts of the company that aren’t normally open to the public.
Atlanta is also home to Coca Cola and in true American tradition; you can visit the Coca Cola World, which we duly did. We also visited the Aquarium, which is possibly the most opulent place to keep fish that we’ve ever seen. The “dolphin show” was akin to a Hollywood block buster, with a male choir, choreographed explosions, with dolphins ducking for cover. It’s certainly an experience, but I think that aquarium aficionados would not have approved.
Although we didn’t initially plan it, we ended up spending Halloween in Atlanta. Halloween is so American and it’s such a part of their culture. Try telling South African kids that you walk around the streets at night, knock on doors and people give you sweets, whilst everyone is dressed as their favorite character. Kerala didn’t believe us until she actually got her first haul of candy, then, they switched on their cute faces and the loot came pouring in. This was an experience that they will forever remember.
Our road trip and visit to the US was longer than expected, but still too short. America is a fantastic place to travel and Atlanta certainly stole our hearts. We’ve added it to the growing list of “we could live there”
Then it was off to South America, a place that we’ve both never visited, but heard a lot about..