One of the main draws of going to UBC for me was the prospect of travelling and getting the chance to see more of North America. Having just returned from a month long road trip down the west coast of the US, i can say that it was without doubt one of the best experiences of the year abroad, and indeed my life!
Vancouver is perched just an hour from the US border making travelling across extremely easy. We set off in an absolutely jam packed hire car from Vancouver and headed straight to the border amid nervous chatter about I94’s and Visas and ESTA’s….I am in no position to be giving any kind of advice on any of these, so I’ll just say it all went swimmingly and we crossed over!! Once over the border we headed south for Seattle to pick up our ride for the next month – a 30ft monster of an RV. It was huge. Excitement and chatter about the next 30 days was soon replaced with a nervous silence as it dawned that we would be driving this. At this point i hadn’t driven a car since leaving the UK 9 months earlier, and this was not a car. It was essentially a modest lorry. Not to mention we would be driving on the wrong side of the road through a handful of the largest cities in the US. Im still not entirely sure how it came to pass that the RV company (Cruise America) had rented this out to six 21 year olds for the month, but we weren’t about to ask, so we gladly took the keys and cautiously inched out of the car park (needless to say hitting the curb turning onto the main road). Happily however it turned out to be significantly easier to drive than any of us had anticipated, and we managed to get through the entire month without any scrapes or bumps….more or less.
First stop on our trip was Portland, which turned out to be an incredible city. Its fairly small and to be honest I hadn’t really heard much about it before visiting but it was packed full of cool interesting spots – everything from markets to breweries. And there are a lot of breweries! We managed to see a great deal cycling around in our mini peloton, complete with myself and a friend attempting to keep up on our skateboards. On from Portland we drove to lake Tahoe and then onto Yosemite. Both were absolutely breathtaking. We were even greeted with a dump of snow – for which none of us were prepared having brought bags stuffed with shorts t-shirts and flip-flops. The snow also brought with it some fairly precarious driving conditions, and we were relieved to see out the drive to the safety of a campsite.
After a couple of days of hiking around Yosemite we moved onto San Fransisco – and yes, it is as hilly as everyone says. It turns out San Fransisco is not the sort of place to go for a casual wonder unless you are extremely fit. That being said there is plenty to do and see, and it is a quite spectacular place – just go with a plan, and you may be lucky enough to avoid finding yourself staring up the sort of hill you might require crampons to ascend in order to reach your hotel. After San Fran we drove down the coast stopping at various beaches and towns along the way. Needless to say the views were incredible. In particular the coastal highway – ‘Big Sur’ is truly unforgettable and is well worth spending a day on. After a couple of days surfing and sun bathing, and having acquired a range of tans from moderately brown to outright burnt, we moved inland towards the Grand Canyon.
Driving through the desert listening to fleetwood mac with canyons spanning to the horizon certainly completed the picture of a real american road trip. Having lived in our little metal bubble for 30 days however, we were beginning to settle into life on the road before all too soon we handed the keys back in Las Vegas, and miraculously accepted our full deposit! It was a truly unforgettable trip, and one that i could not recommend more strongly to anyone coming to UBC, or visiting the West coast for that matter.