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Old 26th June 2019, 12:57   #1
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Default Exploring the United States of America

A Family Trip to the United States of America

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This travelogue is about the trip I made along with my parents to the United States of America. We visited some parts of both the East coast as well as the West coast from the 23rd of May to the 8th of June 2019. I am writing this travelogue on my way back home, what else can one do in a 12 hour long flight anyway? So here it goesÖ

It all began when a very close friend of mine invited me over to his place for both of us to explore the States. I wanted to visit the states for some time now, so I was fine with it. I applied for my visa and we decided that I would visit him in the month of November 2018. I got my visa application procedure started in July last week, got an appointment for September 1st week. September came I got the visa. I was all set to go to the States in November.

However as luck would have it my friend decided to fly back to India in November and he also mentioned about his new job being very time consuming and he would only be able to spend the weekend with me if at all I come. Now I didnít want to roam the entire country solo at least not this time. My parents too wanted to visit the States so I asked them if they would be interested and without a second thought they said yes!

I applied for their visas, they appeared for the appointment some where in October 2018 and got their visas.

We now had to first fix the dates of our travel and the start as well as end point of the trip. We decided that we would like to visit San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington DC and New York; thereby covering all the major cities in the States. We realized we would require at least 15 days to cover these many places. We would be able to take that much time out from our schedule only in May-June months. Once the dates were finalized and we had a rough idea of the trip I booked the tickets.

The final plan was as follows:
Land in San Francisco on the 24th May 2019 stay there for 2 more days then drive to Los Angeles via the famous Pacific highway 1. Stay in LA for 3 days and reach Las Vegas on the 31st of May 2019 driving through the Mojave desert and Death Valley national park. My friend would meet me in Las Vegas on the 1st of June 2019 and we would celebrate my 26th Birthday in Vegas on the 1st. We then drop the rental catch a flight to Washington DC stay the night there leave for Niagara Falls stay the night and then again leave for New York. I would be driving almost 3000km in 15 days!

Special thanks to Distinguished Bhpian Karan561 who helped me tremendously in planning the trip. I cannot thank you enough for how much you have helped me!

I made an excel sheet describing each day and tried to jot down as many details as possible.

Once the flight tickets for Mumbai-San Francisco and New-York-Mumbai were booked, I then booked my flight for Las Vegas to Washington. I decided to go with Southwest airlines as they were the only ones offering 2 checked in bags per person for free. Word of advise for all those planning to fly in the US, all low budget airlines will charge you for checked in baggages in addition to the ticket price. Each checked in luggage will cost you any where between 75$-150$ so please beware and check the terms and conditions before booking the ticket.

Countless hours were spent on researching about the places of stay, rental car prices and on what to do at those places.

For West Coast Car rental I decided to go with Sixt USA, them being new in USA were offering farely aggressive prices. I booked a premium SUV for 8 days for approx. $1100. Which I felt was a good price.

For East Coast since Sixt didnít have a rental centre I decided to go with Enterprise rentals.I got a small Luxury SUV for ~440$. I used the site Kayak.com to compare rental car prices offered by all the companies.
None of the rental car companies mandated an International driverís license but I had carried one to ensure I donít face any issues at the end moment.

Last edited by dean5545 : 5th July 2019 at 14:41.
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Old 26th June 2019, 13:11   #2
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Fast Forward to May 23rd we were all set to leave on our trip to explore the United States of America. A trip I had been planning for the past six months. More than being happy I was anxious about how my parents were going to find the States. This was my first international trip with them, yes we had never taken an international trip together, it was either my parents going or just me!
Finally after almost 20 hours of flying we reached San Francisco.

San Francisco:
I had read a lot about this city and had seen it in a couple of movies as well. All of you who have played GTA San Andreas will come to know where the game makers found their inspiration. The hilly streets, the trams, the old houses everything had a charm. I can go on to say that this was my favourite city of all the cities we visited. New York comes second. This city has so much character, so much history. I was truly overwhelmed by it.

The Golden Gate Bridge
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The San Francisco Skyline
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We were staying close to downtown. Our mode of transport here was Uber. Our Indian app works just fine only you need to add your credit card details.

We visited the Fishermen’s Wharf, Pier 39, Coit tower, Ghiradelli square, Chinatown, Crooked street, Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge and some other attractions. We skipped Alcatraz island as my parents didn't find the idea of visiting a prison quite appealing.


On the way to Fisherman's Wharf
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Fisherman's Wharf of San Francisco
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Fisherman's Wharf going retro
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This is how a typical street looks in the hilly region of San Francisco
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The Library of San Francisco I think(Correct me if I am wrong)
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A Yacht Club
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The Golden Gate Bridge
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Bay Bridge
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Boudin Bakery; making sourdough bread since 18th century!
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We ate at the historic Boudin Bakery’s Hotel on the upper deck which gave a beautiful view of the pacific ocean. Tried a few cafes too, the food here is truly amazing. We had 2 Indian restaurants right opposite to our hotel so we did not miss Indian food at all.

On the third day I was supposed to collect my rental from Sixt at the airport. We caught an Uber and reached there. A brand new 10,000 miles done BMW G05 X5 40i was waiting for us! (I don’t know what is it with Sixt and me, 2 years back I had booked a BMW 440i in Munich, when I reached there they didn’t have it so they upgraded me to a F15 X5 30D. Here too I got a X5 40i.)


The first time I laid my eyes on her
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The BMW X5 40i boast of a six cylinder twin turbo petrol engine producing a whopping 335bhp and 500nm of torque. It did 0-60mph in about 5.5 secs. That thing moves and how! All I had to do was to gently nudge the gas pedal.
However there were a few downsides most of which can be attributed to the poverty spec of the car I had, like the ride wasn’t supple, it was a bit bumpy, the seats were fake leather, there was no HUD, in the 1100miles I had it, it showed me a fault alarm for wiper malfunction and it was always a task connecting Apple Carplay.


After getting the car we did what every tourist in San Francisco does, we went to crooked street, the worlds most crooked street. My advise to you guys would be to give this a pass, it takes 30-45 minutes just to reach the spot because of all the tourist traffic and the experience is very mediocre, you just keep your brake pedals pressed that’s it. I found the hilly roads of San Francisco a lot more fun to drive on with the X540i. Boy, does that car move!

We then headed to Twin Peaks just to get accustomed to LHD after so many years. It was a short drive and the pictures of the skyline got from there was truly rewarding. We reached hotel and parked the car at a nearby car park which costed me $35! Hotel valet was charging me $76 for a single night parking.

All those planning to rent a car in the USA do remember that parking is very expensive in almost all touristy places. I paid an average of 35$ a night on parking. In Washington and New York I paid around $47 per night for Parking.
Some pics;

Enroute Twin Peaks
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A panaromic view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks
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Next day was supposed to be the highlight of our trip today we were going to Los Angeles via the world famous Pacific Highway One passing through Carmel, The Big Sur, Pfieffer Beach, The Hearst Castle and the Irish town of Solvang. It is a drive which rewards it’s drivers with magnificent Vistas at every curve. There are so many designated Scenic points on the way where you stop and take photos. We took almost nine hours for the 480miles stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I was exhausted after driving so much but it was well worth it!

Some pictures enroute Los Angeles on the Pacific Highway:


The Machine
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The Man
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The man's father
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If you look keenly you will find the world famous
Bixbie bridge
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The Pacific ocean coast
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Last edited by dean5545 : 7th July 2019 at 17:43.
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Old 30th June 2019, 19:09   #3
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Next City:
Los Angeles:
We were now in Los Angeles, California, The city of Angels and the birth place of Hollywood. We did all the touristy things one could do like go to Beverley Hills, Hollywood Boulevard, Santa Monica Pier(highly overated!). However the highlight of this trip was the visit to the Universal Studios, Hollywood. One should definitely not give this place a miss. It’s such an amazing experience! We went two days after the Memorial day so we had to wait very little time in all of the shows and rides, also the tickets were the cheapest.

Some pictures taken at Universal Studios:

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We then visited a very old Cruise line which is docked at the Harbour in Los Angeles, known as the Queen Mary. My parents always wanted to be on a Cruise ship so I thought they should definitely see this cruise. They have tours about it’s engine room and the glory day’s which told us about the Ship’s past as Cruise liner as well as a World War 2 troop Carrier. At one time the Ship carried 16,000plus men against it’s usual capacity of 2,500 as a cruise ship.

The Queen Mary;
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We also visited the Pacific Aquarium right next to it. We got to see a lot of fish and mammals like Sea lions, Sea otters, Penguins, Jelly fish etc.

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Any one from Mumbai will feel at ease driving in LA, our driving style is pretty much the same! A friend of mine who learn’t driving directly in Michigan has vowed that he will not drive in Los Angeles ever due to the driving manners !

But even in this rush and commotion I could find an orderliness. People didn’t eat up the fast lanes. The Fast cars overtook the slow ones without honking to give way and at the intersections they would allow alternate cars to join in. Something which is very much lacking on our Indian Roads, we seldom think about the other party.

Our stay in Los Angeles was now over. We then headed to our next stop Las Vegas. We drove through the Mojave desert, Death Valley National Park towards Las Vegas. The views on that stretch are to die for. I will let the pictures do the talking. This again was about a 450mile drive.

Some Pictures from the drive:

Tanking Up:
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Enroute Death Valley:
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Las Vegas:
We had reached the sin city of the United States. Since it was my Birthday I had decided to stay at a good hotel so we decided to stay at the Bellagio. It was a wonderful experience, they gave us 75$ per day worth of credits which we could use in any of their hotels. The rooms as such were not that great, I felt they may have put us on an old wing of the hotel which requires renovation as you feel it is now showing it’s age.

The Bellagio in all it's Glory at night:

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View from our room:
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Hoover Dam:
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Night Strip View:
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Met up with my friend the next evening we cut a cake we bought from the cheesecake factory which was heavenly! My friend and I then went ahead to explore the nightlife. I tried my hand at gambling and won 20$! I decided to call it a night after that.
The next day we just sat in our room doing nothing as we were tired of continuously being on the run since the past 10 days almost.
Tommorow I was supposed to return the X5 at the airport and catch a flight to Washington DC. It was supposed to be a hectic day.

The X5 hauling all our luggage to the airport!
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Old 30th June 2019, 19:52   #4
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Washington DC and Niagara Falls:
As said earlier I had booked a direct Southwest Flight to Washington Baltimore Airport however on Sunday afternoon I got a mail stating that my flight is cancelled! I got the shock of my life as I had very little time to spend in DC as it is and any change in dates would mean that I would have to book another hotel as well. I saw my options and then figured out that there was a connecting flight from Las Vegas to Washington DC with a halt at Chicago. This flight would land at Ronald Reagan Airport which was just 15mins from the hotel. I rescheduled my flight to this one we were set to go.
I changed my rental car reservation as well. Fortunately didnít have to pay any extra charges.

We reached Ronald Reagan Airport around 7.00pm and headed to the Enterprise Rental Service. There, a brand new X3 30i awaited for us. I was supposed to meet a college friend of mine at 8.00pm at the hotel. So we dumped all our luggage in the X3 and headed for the hotel.

Parked at the entrance of the Hotel:
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Reached the hotel, checked in and a few minutes later my friend also arrived. It is always a pleasure meeting college friends after a long time, especially in a foreign land. We then headed to an Indian restaurant named ďRasikaĒ which was without a doubt the best Indian food we had in our entire trip. Highly recommended!

Tommorow we were supposed to visit a few Memorials, the White House and head out to Niagara Falls in the afternoon. If there is a city which I think I should have spent more time, then itís got to be Washington D.C. There are a lot of museums and memorials worth visiting. However since we were short on time we had to breeze through everything and head for Niagara Falls.

Lincoln Memorial:
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Washington Memorial:
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Whitehouse:
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Supreme Court:
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The drive to Niagara Falls was very mundane there aren't many scenic vistas around, so you get bored easily. What caught us by surprise were the Semi-Trucks. These trucks are insane! Some of them overtook me at 120kmph that too with full load and on an incline! Imagine our Indian trucks doing that.

Enroute Niagara Falls:

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Tanking up the X3 30i; it was quite frugal gave me around 28-30mpg
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Niagara Falls:
We reached our hotel around 9pm. Here too I was supposed to meet another college friend of mine. We had a nice chat and then retired for the day.
Niagara Falls was once again very beautiful. I just couldnít get over the fact that Canada was so close to us. The US-Canada border was literally a stones throw away!

The bridge connecting the 2 countries:
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Hello Canada!
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We stayed at the Sheraton Niagara falls, which was walking distance from the Niagara falls entry point. We had breakfast and off we went to experience the falls! My friend who is working in Buffalo had certainly built a lot of hype around the falls, Happy to say the place does live upto to it's expectations.

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We took the famous Maid of the Mist Tour which is basically a Ferry which takes you pretty close to the Waterfall. We are all handed Plastic Raincoats to help keep us dry.

There is a constant debate about which side of the Niagara Falls is more beautiful, guess Iíll have to go to Canada to find that out.

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We were done with Niagara Falls by 11:30am. We came back to our room, freshened up a bit and then left for our trips final destination, We were heading to New York, actually Brooklyn.

The X3 along side the Jeep Compass Trail hawk.
Exploring the United States of America-img_1359.jpg

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Old 5th July 2019, 11:25   #5
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New York:
New York Skyline:
Exploring the United States of America-img_1376.jpg
How can a US trip be complete without visiting New York?
As mentioned earlier New York was my second favorite city after San Francisco in the entire trip.
New York is a costly city to stay in, the hotel room rates were around 25,000-35,000 for a decent twin bed room. So I decided to stay in Brooklyn which was a bit cheaper. Travelling up and down Manhattan was not at all a problem due since the subway was right next to my Hotel.
We reached Brooklyn at around 8.30pm. Got all the luggage off the car, checked in and called it a day. The next day morning I tanked the X3 and returned it back. My road trip was now officially over. Truly a wonderful experience overall.

We visited all the touristy places in New York like the World Trade Centre(there are 5 of those), The Oculus: a mall, The Top of the Rock observatory, Wall street, Raging bull, The Statue of Liberty, Central Park and lastly the Empire State building.
The Oculus
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Inside the Oculus
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9/11 memorial:
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World Trade Centre:
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Raging Bull:
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Times Square:
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View from Top of the Rock and Empire State building Observatory:
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Another picture of the New York Skyline:
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Statue of Liberty:
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A closer look at the Statue of Liberty:
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Central Park:
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John Lennon Memorial:
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The place where John Lennon resided and was shot at:
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The Empire State Building I feel is what displays Manhattan’s true spirit. The 102 storey building was build in 1 years time! That is a magnificent feat, that too which was achieved in the 1930’s. At the peak of construction it is said that rate of construction was one floor a day!

My only grouse is that I couldn’t see the night skyline of Manhattan, because the Sun sets at 8:30pm in the summer! My parents would want to go home way before that!
Our trip was now coming to an end, or so we thought!



Surprise Stop!
We left our hotel in Brooklyn for the Airport in the afternoon itself. Apart from a hick up due to one baggage having extra bag, the check in went normally. We boarded our flight SQ-25;Singapore Airways flight from New York to Singapore with a 2 hour stop at Frankfurt. This was a really long flight ! So long that I finished writing 2/3rd of this travelogue on the flight itself.

We landed at Frankfurt airport, where we had a "technical stop" as told by the airlines. We freshened up at boarded the flight again . We were supposed to reach Singapore at 6:50am and our connecting flight to Mumbai was at 7:40am. However the flight status monitor now showed us the flight landing time as 7:15am. I got a little worried because there were chances of us missing the flight but I thought to myself that since it's a connecting flight may be the airline staff would help us. We landed at Singapore airport around 7:15am, there was still time to make it I thought to myself. However as soon as I switched on my mobile I had a whats app message from Singapore airlines that my flight was rescheduled and further details would be mailed to us.

As soon as we got off the plane we came to know that we had been put on the flight back to India on the 7pm, 11th June. It was just 10th June early morning then! So we had almost 2 full days in Singapore.
Singapore airlines gave us hotel accomodation, food and visa for 2 days as the flights were running full.

After a 3 week long holiday, all one wants is to go home not on another holiday! But since Singapore airlines were paying for it we were not complaining.

We checked into our respective rooms to freshen up and went out to explore Singapore in the afternoon. We did see some prominent places however we were so terribly jet lagged we couldn't keep our eyes open.

Some pictures from the outdoor excursion:
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We went to the Jewel at night and it truly is something worth watching.
Next day I decided to rest, while parents went shopping since my father didn't have any extra clothes with him as our luggage was to be transferred Mumbai directly. Come afternoon, we had our lunch and boarded our flight back home in the evening and with this our trip to the USA ended!


A big thank you to all my friends who made time and came to meet me. You guys clearly made my day!

Special thanks to my school friend Dhruv for initiating this crazy trip idea and for the invitation letter to be shown for the visa.
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And lastly my parents for believing in me and coming along with me.

Hope you guys enjoyed reading the travelogue, I tried to make it as concise as possible. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me.

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Old 7th July 2019, 18:52   #6
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing, Denzil!

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Old 8th July 2019, 06:02   #7
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Covered a lot of USA within one post.
Well done !!!
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Old 8th July 2019, 13:38   #8
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Great travelogue of my 2nd favourite country (after India ). Thanks for sharing, man! Got tempted after seeing pics of the fun you had and have initiated plans to visit USA in September or October.

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Originally Posted by dean5545 View Post
My parents always wanted to be on a Cruise ship so I thought they should definitely see this cruise.
You must take them on a cruise, preferably by the Royal Caribbean. They're the best when it comes to holiday cruises.
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Old 8th July 2019, 15:44   #9
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Always a pleasure going through a USA travelogue & thanks for including enough pics of the cars as well.

Both the BMW X5 & X3 are great companions to have on such a long driving holiday

Seems all of you enjoyed a lot, primarily your dad.

Thanks for sharing.

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Old 8th July 2019, 17:31   #10
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Nice travelogue and good pics. I have lived and worked in almost all the cities you visited, including Singapore(except for DC and Vegas) and have seen each one of the places you visited in your trip. So it was nostalgic to go through the pics, especially the ones from NY.

Covering so many large cities with in a span of 15 days is a very ambitious plan and you have pulled it off nicely by optimizing your time to the max extent. Otherwise each of those cities take atleast a week to go thru thoroughly.

You are right about Crooked street. The fun of driving in SFO is in going through the sharp inclined roads going almost vertically up or down and not through the Crooked street. I have seen that even the most modern cars without the hill control feature roll down slightly when you are moving up from a stop.

NY hotels and in general city is so expensive and the trick there is to book a hotel on the other side of Hudson in NJ near a train station and probably book a flight from Newark Liberty instead of JFK.

BTW, have you stopped over in Death Valley National Park or just went through that route on your way to Vegas. There are some surreal places in Death Valley around Furnace Creek and Bad Water basin areas.
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Old 8th July 2019, 18:25   #11
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Originally Posted by mchandra13 View Post
Nice travelogue and good pics. I have lived and worked in almost all the cities you visited, including Singapore(except for DC and Vegas) and have seen each one of the places you visited in your trip. So it was nostalgic to go through the pics, especially the ones from NY.

Covering so many large cities with in a span of 15 days is a very ambitious plan and you have pulled it off nicely by optimizing your time to the max extent. Otherwise each of those cities take atleast a week to go thru thoroughly.

You are right about Crooked street. The fun of driving in SFO is in going through the sharp inclined roads going almost vertically up or down and not through the Crooked street. I have seen that even the most modern cars without the hill control feature roll down slightly when you are moving up from a stop.

NY hotels and in general city is so expensive and the trick there is to book a hotel on the other side of Hudson in NJ near a train station and probably book a flight from Newark Liberty instead of JFK.

BTW, have you stopped over in Death Valley National Park or just went through that route on your way to Vegas. There are some surreal places in Death Valley around Furnace Creek and Bad Water basin areas.
Most the streets in SFO are at steep incline and also most of the intersections have Stop sign. So, it is real strain on the vehicles moving up the steep incline to start moving forward from being stationary at each junction. I shall share SFO only in my next T/L shortly. Currently, Seattle Glass Museum is in progress.

Last edited by Amrik Singh : 8th July 2019 at 18:26.
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Old 9th July 2019, 19:13   #12
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Covered a lot of USA within one post.
Well done !!!
Thank you.

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Great travelogue of my 2nd favourite country (after India ). Thanks for sharing, man! Got tempted after seeing pics of the fun you had and have initiated plans to visit USA in September or October.
Glad you liked it! All the best for your upcoming trip

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You must take them on a cruise, preferably by the Royal Caribbean. They're the best when it comes to holiday cruises.
I'll look it up for sure. Thanks for the recommendation.

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Always a pleasure going through a USA travelogue & thanks for including enough pics of the cars as well.

Both the BMW X5 & X3 are great companions to have on such a long driving holiday

Seems all of you enjoyed a lot, primarily your dad.

Thanks for sharing.

Your welcome Karan. Without you this trip wouldn't have been possible.

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Nice travelogue and good pics. I have lived and worked in almost all the cities you visited, including Singapore(except for DC and Vegas) and have seen each one of the places you visited in your trip. So it was nostalgic to go through the pics, especially the ones from NY.
Glad I could bring those memories back. You are a lucky man to have lived in so many beautiful cities. I envy your job.

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Covering so many large cities with in a span of 15 days is a very ambitious plan and you have pulled it off nicely by optimizing your time to the max extent. Otherwise each of those cities take atleast a week to go thru thoroughly.
I did spend a lot of time planning what to do and what not to do.


Quote:
You are right about Crooked street. The fun of driving in SFO is in going through the sharp inclined roads going almost vertically up or down and not through the Crooked street. I have seen that even the most modern cars without the hill control feature roll down slightly when you are moving up from a stop.
The BMW with it's creamy 6 cylinder turbo petrol was clearly fun on those streets. What a hoot to drive!

Quote:
NY hotels and in general city is so expensive and the trick there is to book a hotel on the other side of Hudson in NJ near a train station and probably book a flight from Newark Liberty instead of JFK.
I will keep it in mind next time.

Quote:
BTW, have you stopped over in Death Valley National Park or just went through that route on your way to Vegas. There are some surreal places in Death Valley around Furnace Creek and Bad Water basin areas.
I just drove through Death Valley as I was falling short on time.
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Old 9th July 2019, 20:45   #13
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Default Re: Exploring the United States of America

It seems you have missed the fun at Las Vegas.

I will share a Photologue of my visit to
The Sin City - Las Vegas in 2017 .... shortly
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Old 11th July 2019, 06:03   #14
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Awesome travelogue and it must have been fun Xploring with such capable machines and good roads. I wish to do the same someday.
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Old 11th July 2019, 08:20   #15
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Awesome travelogue and it must have been fun Xploring with such capable machines and good roads. I wish to do the same someday.
Good Machines and Silk Smooth Highways - No Doubt
But
Highly Restrictive Speed Limit.
Max 70 MPH ... yes, you can go 10 MPH above, in case traffic conditions favour.
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