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Old 27th May 2017, 15:55   #1
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Default Michigan to California : Drive of a Lifetime

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I've talked about this trip in 2 other threads I started so after finally collecting all my thoughts and pictures, it is time.

Backstory

I recently graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and wanted to finish off my stint in the US with a nice long road trip, much like I've seen a lot of people do. I wasn't sure what my parents would think of it or even allow me to do one but I definitely had the means to go on one since I still had a ton of miles remaining on my Ford Fusion lease, 30,000 miles to be exact which meant I could do the trip back there and back at least 5 times over.

My parents told me that I wouldn't be allowed to go alone since long straight highways can get really boring which can lead to sleepiness and accidents but if I could find a friend who would be willing to accompany me to California then I could go. But it was tough to find a friend when everybody was graduating with me and either already had holiday plans or was joining the workforce. There was also the problem that I was taking off from California and if a friend came with, then they would have to find their own way back to Michigan.

So, my parents said that if you can't find a friend and still want to do this trip then my mom who would be in East Lansing for my graduation would just accompany me on the rest of the trip. Even though my definition of a vacation is much different than my mom, I accepted the compromise so that I would be able to go on the trip.

The number of days we spend on the travel was variable since I was in the process of trying to sell and transfer the lease of Ford Fusion and just rent a car for the trip. There were 2 people who I undertook the process of lease transfer but were declined by Ford Credit to overtake the lease. I might detail what happened exactly in my Ford Fusion thread but it's much too complex and long to cover here. Regardless, I packed up all my bags and was waiting to hear from Ford on a decision on Friday morning. As soon as I heard that the second person was also denied, I took a quick decision to start our journey right then and there and cover quick ground so that we could have a whole day as a head start.


Day 1 - East Lansing, MI --> Indianapolis, IN --> St. Louis, MO - (12/05/17) - We started our journey from East Lansing at around 1:30pm and decided to drive all the way to St. Louis to sleep for the night since I wasn't personally interested in walking around big concrete jungles. We had a family friend who extended us the "Friends and Family" discount for all Marriott properties which can lead to about 10% to 50% off the normal price, for which we were very thankful.


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We started from East Lansing around 1:30pm

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First pit-stop of the Journey

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  • We drove through Indianapolis stopping for Dinner at a local spot "Mimi's Meatballs" that was known for their food and then drove right on to St. Louis to crash for the night.

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Settling in St. Louis for the night

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St. Louis skyline as well as the Lucas Oil Stadium

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Old 30th May 2017, 17:09   #2
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Day 2 - St. Louis, MO --> Kansas City, KS --> Salina, KS - 13/05/17 - We woke up early and decided to cover St. Louis by lunch and Kansas City by Dinner and settle in Salina by nightfall. In St. Louis, due to the small amount of time we had, we chose on two spots.


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The car looking stunning in the right amount of light, from outside our hotel window.

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  • First we went to the Laumeier Sculpture Park which has a ton of abstract outdoor and indoor sculptures. Unfortunately, we were unaware that there was a temporary/flea market that was taking place in the park that day with people selling trinklets and all the outdoor sculptures were cordoned off.

    After this, we drove by the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch. There was no parking nearby and it was already 1pm so we decided to just circle it a few times to see it closely instead of getting down and walking around.

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  • Next, we stopped at one of the most famous restaurants in St. Louis, Pappy's Smokehouse which is famous for their smoked meats. Their specialty is beef and pork but we decided to try their smoked chicken platter with 2 sides which was still amazing! They offer different flavored BBQ sauces (Spicy/Sweet/Tangy, etc) that you add on top of your meat. I also loved the fact that they made their coleslaw in vinegar instead of the usual mayonnaise base. But as luck would have it, we had to wait almost an hour in line to try their food since a lot of people from a baseball game in the stadium next door were pouring in. Do try if you're visiting St. Louis!

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A view of St. Louis from the outskirts of the city

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The super-straight up and down rollercoaster highways to Kansas City

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Since it was already 6:30pm by the time we got close to Kansas City, we decided to skip it so we could get to Salina by a decent time.

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  • We decided to drive right past Kansas City to the mid-sized but unimportant town of Salina for the night because the drive from Kansas City to our next destination which was Denver was almost 9 hours. St. Louis to Salina was only 6 hours which was still an easy drive and Salina to Denver was only 7. During the whole trip, we tried our best to keep driving time under 8 hours since after that people get bored, tired, cranky and overall unpleasant.

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Old 30th May 2017, 17:29   #3
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Day 3 - Salina, KS --> Denver, CO - 14/05/17 - Another day of much except travel. The roads between Salina and Denver were arrow straight with a speed limit of 80mph. So it was cruise control mode with listening to some good music.



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Starting the day of with a hearty breakfast of Waffles and yogurt with fruits.

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and a smile

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Windmills galore

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Endlessly straight stretches of road

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Entering Denver

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Denver Skyline

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Sports Authority Stadium

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A teaser of what's to come

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  • Had some good old spicy Indian food for dinner at a small local restaurant before settling in for the night.

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Old 30th May 2017, 17:40   #4
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Day 4 - Denver, CO --> Pikes Peak, CO --> Royal Gorge, CO --> Colorado Springs, CO - 15/05/17 - If you haven't noticed, before today we were making fast progress toward our final destination but my major goal with this trip was to explore the mountains of Colorado, so for the first day we would be travelling only in the North-South direction!



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The whole trip took inspiration from my research and this thread I found http://www.speedhunters.com/2015/09/...rophy-megarun/ , thanks to which I was able to find some real hidden gems

I'm sure every true petrolhead has heard of the Pikes Peak hill climb that takes place annually at the Pikes Peak in Colorado. Here you can check out one of the fastest laps up the hill



The day started with us leaving for Pikes Peak since it closes fairly early at 4:30pm. There was an entry fee of $30 for one vehicle + 2 passengers. Additional passengers would be charged extra as well. Was given some advice regarding sticking to the speed limit and using my brakes sparingly and utilizing engine braking instead since the descent from the hill can obliterate brake pads in a few minutes.

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The road is a total of 35 km one way with speed limits ranging between 15mph (25kph) to 35mph (55kph) and constantly curving.

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Its not part of the actual highway network and is a closed off tourist attraction and which is the reason for the extra toll which is charged right at the beginning.

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The best time to visit the mountain is indeed in May since it's not too cold, and not too warm. The annual hill climb takes place sometime end August at which time the Hill is closed off to the general public.

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Later in the year, past September, the Hill is also closed off for the winter since there is too much snow to handle.

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The best way to describe the weather here at this time of the year is that the air and the ground is extremely cold but the direct sunlight is extremely warm, so in an extreme case, you could potentially get frostbite and sunburn at the same time!

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Sometimes you can get stuck behind other extremely slow moving vehicles but since there is a double yellow line, one is not allowed to overtake, it you still want to drive spiritedly, best to pull over in a designated area and just wait for the traffic to clear.

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Thanks to the additional toll people pay at the bottom of the hill, the condition of the road is excellent!

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This was the first time my mom saw snow in the US and was thus quite excited!

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There is also a tram that can bring you up the mountain if you don't want to drive or don't have a car. Would recommend coming up any way you can. The sight is truly one to behold.

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I thought Panoramas were the best way to capture and replicate the beauty that lied in front us but they still fall short. It is truly something that needs to be experienced first hand.

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Closer to the top of the mountain, there were also people that were skiing! It is beyond my understanding what a skier would do once they land on grass or rocks!

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Old 30th May 2017, 18:19   #5
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Day 4 continued.

We took a lot of pictures since it was a very picturesque area. My mom will often take pictures of clouds even on our way to work in Jaipur so she was obviously overwhelmed with the beauty of Colorado and I had to back up her pictures twice in one day and that is with a 32GB capacity iPhone!



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We found zero traffic on our way down and stuck to 2nd gear so as to not put stress on the brakes.

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Tried to capture the beautiful winding roads in a panorama

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The lake at the bottom of Pikes Peak. This is also the water supply for part of Denver. The water was crystal clear and there were also people fishing from the edge of the lake. I wish more places in the world could be dual purpose like that.

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Next we headed to the Royal Gorge which is a river valley with a bridge suspended over it. It is quite a long bridge and made mostly of wood and so no vehicles (except official) are allowed. It took us around 1 hour to drive from Pikes Peak to Royal Gorge.

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The bridge was built in 1929 with additional like trams and a sky coaster being added in this past decade.

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The whole area was actually destroyed in a Forest Fire in 2013 but with the bridge still intact, the whole area was rebuilt in under a year and was open again by late 2014.

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While we were there, the Tram was not functional due to some technical problems and thus we got a discount on our tickets with the promise that if the Tram starts working again while we are there, we can ride for free!

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Funny sign on top of the bridge that made me giggle

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Pack of Mustangs galloping along the highway. Would it be called a Herd? Maybe.

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On the way back from Royal Gorge, I found another road called the Skyline Drive. It is a single lane, one-way road and very well named! No runoff area and no real purpose to exist other than a great drive!

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Old 31st May 2017, 08:41   #6
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Day 5 - Colorado, CO --> Hartsel, CO --> Aspen, CO - 16/05/17

The next destination in our journey was Aspen which is very well known Ski mountain. Now I have no clue how to ski but it is supposed to be one of the most picturesque places in the world so why not?

I could've taken the highway and saved maybe 1.5 hours but decided to take the back roads (read: state highways) and the view was one of the most amazing I had seen throughout the trip. We were cruising slowly at 50mph and were absolutely mesmerized.



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I am over the idea of covering as much ground as quickly as possible on my holidays and would much rather slowly enjoy experiences as they come my way. The sage advice of "Don't focus on the destination fool, enjoy the journey" is something I hold sacred, unfortunately much too often when travelling we pull out our phones and forget to enjoy the beauty that exists around us.

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We passed through this valley between the mountains and me and my mom had a little discussion on how soon we will be moving here. There was no GPS or cell phone service so I stopped at a small shop and asked for the name of the town which was "Hartsel". Population: 500 people.

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The faithful and reliable companion.

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Such a beautiful sight! An absolutely straight back road rolling through the hills with no traffic anywhere to be seen and phone connection either! Haha

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Since we were going to leave early the next morning, we wanted to at least cover something in the Aspen area. We ended up going to Maroon Bells which is a lake settled between 2 peaks. It was getting dark and the park was "officially" closed but you were still allowed to go in as long as you put $10 in the donation box which off to the side.


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Old 31st May 2017, 08:54   #7
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Day 6 - Aspen, CO --> Park City, UT - 17/05/17

We left early from Aspen and made our way towards Park City. I did my research and found a few nice spots on our journey and this time again we stuck to mostly back roads. There was no cars to be seen on the road and there was light rain which made the area even greener.



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The national highway system is quite boring but an excellent and no-stress way to travel around the US. One of the reasons why american cars rack up way more miles much quicker.

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We passed through a town called "Dinosaur" which had funny street names. This was again a find from the SpeedHunters article.

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A lake we found on the way and we just had to pull over to stretch our legs and enjoy the beauty.

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There was a thin layer of snow settled on the landscape and it just made it 5x better!

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Not sure if this car will ever die or act out on me.

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Don't have words to describe this one. But it would be such a dream to live in close proximity to something like this!

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Any car or any object for that matter would look great in this backdrop. Really looks like CGI or something someone photoshopped. Haha

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We stayed at a Marriott Ski Lodge and were really tired so just ventured out for an early dinner at a local Tapas place and caught up on sleep. I would not really recommend the Ski Lodge again if someone is going to Aspen since it less of a hotel and more a timeshare property where owners put down money when the property is being built and can then access it for a certain amount of time every year. I had to park the car 3 kms away from the hotel and had to take a shuttle back. The on-property parking was reserved for high ranking members of Marriott Rewards and I essentially had to park at the long term parking lot. Makes sense if you're spending 3 months there but not if you're just there for the night. I did end up having a reasonable argument with the manager about the parking situation and they agreed that since I was there just for the night, they were willing to make an exception. So after coming back from dinner, I moved the car back into the hotel on-site parking.


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Old 31st May 2017, 09:22   #8
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Day 7 - Park City, UT --> Las Vegas, NV - 18/05/17

Now refreshed with adequate sleep, we started making our way towards Las Vegas early in the morning.



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Just so many beautiful clean lakes in the area! My name Jalaj means Lotus and I was named as such since I was born in the city of Lakes (Udaipur). I think I might have a certain unexplained attraction to lakes.

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No traffic early in the morning. Yay!

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As DJ Khaled would say, "Another One!"

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Breathtaking views, and breathtaking views.

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Wait, did I somehow teleport to Switzerland?

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These places are like hidden gems inside of the US. I've never heard a single tourist mention Colorado or Utah as a place of interest. It's always New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. The United States of America has much more to offer, as long as you're willing to go off the beaten path and put in some driving effort.

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On my way to Las Vegas, I saw one of the highest speed limits posted, some which I was completely unaware of. I saw speed limits as high as 85mph (135kph) but people often take those speeds as what the slow lane should be following, the fast lane was moving at at least 100mph (160kph). But even though something is legally allowed, nature does not always cooperate.

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We say some heavy downpour mixed with ice which unfortunately led to overconfident people sliding off the road. We slowed down significantly and then took the safety decision of pulling off the road till the rain+ice slowed down. As we were entering the off ramp, we saw a Cadillac Escalade completely spin out. People often get a false sense of security when driving a 4x4/AWD SUV in adverse weather conditions and sure it can help in the snow, but ice is just no match.

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Traffic Etiquette was just wonderful on this route. Slow trucks stuck to the right most lane and were having a little trouble climbing up the steep hills.

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As we got closer to Las Vegas, we saw the landscape change from Mountains to Deserts.

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With sharp inclines came sharp declines, and it was very thoughtful of the Highway Authority to build run off areas for the trucks (or cars in an extreme case) whose brakes would fail. There were steep upwards ramps along the road at the end of the sharp declines that one can use to slow down their speeds in an emergency if required.

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After arriving in Las Vegas at around 3pm, the first thing I did was drive the Porsche 911 GT3 at SpeedVegas but I've covered that in a different thread as mentioned below.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/intern...peedvegas.html

I personally have no interest in Vegas Night life but Mom wanted to go out so we went for a walk around the Strip and then had dinner at The Wicked Spoon in Las Vegas. They serve small portion of various different kinds but to be honest it was really overrated, the quality was just okay for the price ($42/person) and I would rather go to the Bellagio Buffet (went there in 2012)



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Old 31st May 2017, 10:48   #9
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Day 8 - Las Vegas, NV --> Angeles Forest, CA --> Los Angeles, CA - 19/05/17

We left Las Vegas quite early in the morning and started making our way towards LA. Now I've heard a lot about the bad LA traffic and was in no mood to meet it so I booked a hotel 30 miles outside the main city area. But still I had heard of Angeles Forest from the YouTube channel "One Take" by Matt Farah where he showcases peoples' modified cars by blasting them through Angeles Forest. So decided to go through Angeles forest and then turn around as I'm getting close to LA.

It was serene to pass through the Forest and we never saw a single car heading the same way. We had bought some Tacos before entering the forest and stopped at one of the picnic spots to eat before continuing on our way. Saw a few BMW S1000RR's heading the other way and just echoing through the forest.



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Entering the Angeles Forest!

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Would you believe it if someone told you that this was 1 hour away from the big bustling traffic-laden city of Los Angeles?

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Mountains and Valleys galore. Just a little barren this time around.

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Always taking a break for a good picture opportunity

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Tunnel time! If only I had a Ferrari here.

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Lightspeeeeed!

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An Enthusiast's paradise!

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They should think about actually closing these roads down for some fast-paced action similar to Pikes Peak, only problem being that these roads are still part of the highway network and it could be a nuisance to the general public.

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Always gotta be careful of people hiking through these roads.

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Finally near LA we caught up with traffic. Everyone was actually driving quite aggressively and so decided to calm down and stick to back of the pack .


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Old 31st May 2017, 10:56   #10
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Day 9 - Los Angeles, CA --> San Francisco, CA - 20/05/17

For the last day we made our way towards our final destination San Francisco! We started early, drove on fairly boring highways,and reached our destination by 2pm.



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Apple Orchards along the highway

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There is a huge cattle industry in California which has it's own stinky problem. The air was noticeably different to the rest of the trip.

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A canal flowing through under the highway

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Very Symmetrical

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This was going to be my last fuel stop with the Ford Fusion and it was an emotional one. Took some photos of us for memories.

Michigan to California : Drive of a Lifetime-img_4626.jpg

The last goodbye before heading off to the Ford Dealer :'(

Michigan to California : Drive of a Lifetime-img_8875.jpg

Having to go through the pain of calling Uber once my car was gone :'(


There was a trip to Lake Tahoe in a Chevy Camaro V8 on the last day which also has its own thread

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...455-hp-v8.html

Last edited by jalajprakash : 21st August 2017 at 12:57. Reason: Correcting image orientation
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Old 31st May 2017, 10:58   #11
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Final Reflection of the trip

Now this was such an amazing trip, I'm not sure I'll be able top this in the next few years. Life is short so never stop doing what you love! If you ever get the chance, would highly recommend that you do this route as well. If I ever get the chance again, I would like to retrace this route in the company of good friends and more enthusiastic cars.

I do miss the Ford Fusion a little. It was the perfect commuter, very relaxing and reliable. A fair amount of fun for having 32MPG and all the safety features possible. And it completed 3500 miles with no drama, it's only requirement being fuel. I have the VIN number saved and will track it's journey through CarFax as it finds new owners and new roads to travel. Will take some inspiration from the car to keep moving forward no matter the conditions thrown at me.

A final parting shot of the odometer, encapsulating the Epicness of the last 9 days.

Michigan to California : Drive of a Lifetime-img_4633.jpg

We should enjoy the world as much as possible as soon as possible because we never know when it all might come to an end. Even though I have my reservations on being able to do better than this trip, me and my friends are already planning a driving trip through Europe!

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Old 22nd August 2017, 09:04   #12
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!

Hat's off to your Mom's spirit man. My folks have always been big on road-trips too and we've had many memorable ones. But I don't think they'd ever have the appetite for a drive from Michigan to California. This is one for your memory bank .
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Old 22nd August 2017, 11:41   #13
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This is just fabulous Jalaj!

Flooded back memories from my stay in the States as a student, much like yourself. My buddies from grad school and I took a road trip from Austin, TX to San Francisco, CA and with time on our hands, decided to (un)cover bits of Utah and Colorado along the way. Let's just say, it was a detour worth every extra penny we spent (and then some)

And to top it, my brother was once based out of Indianapolis and I visited him a few times. So for me, your travelogue was almost a homecoming of sorts!

I couldn't agree more with you, by the way. The United States is so much more than it's cities - you know the usual suspects like NYC, SFO, LA, Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Vegas, Philly, Boston etc. etc..

Only if you just care to venture...this country has so many hidden gems to unearth!
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Old 22nd August 2017, 17:43   #14
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Well written travelogue and beautiful pictures. It is not many a young person who would prefer to go on a car journey with a parent; admire your patience. I belong to the parent category and our car trip with our son from LA to San Francisco on PCH (California 1) and then onto Death Valley-Las Vegas-Grand Canyon and ending in Phoenix was an amazing week. The 3 of us enjoyed the drive thoroughly.

You should try the Pacific Coast Highway sometime between LA and SF, it is not at all boring. It is amazing. Some portion of PCH was closed due to landslides, so we had to take a detour.

Look forward to a Key West drive from Florida next time.
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Old 22nd August 2017, 21:14   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SajiNSalin View Post

You should try the Pacific Coast Highway sometime between LA and SF, it is not at all boring. It is amazing. Some portion of PCH was closed due to landslides, so we had to take a detour.
Absolutely second this. 101 isn't that exciting but the PCH has some incredible views, not to mention small towns with some really nice food.

Amazing trip, glad you had a great time. Way to spend time with your mum.
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