A few years ago, Flight Centre customer Justin Alexander from Swan Hill, Victoria embarked on the adventure of a lifetime travelling through California, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho on a great American road trip! He was so touched by the experience he even decided to get a tattoo to remind him of his encounter with a pack of entrancing howling wolves in the Grand Teton woods.
It’s hard for Justin to pick a the most exciting activity of the trip; between the glitz of LA, the epic expanse of the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam, the thrills of Las Vegas, and the beauty of Yellowstone National Park. But if he had to choose, Justin says it would be camping in the Grand Tetons.
"One night at 3am exactly I was woken up by a wolf howling right beside the tent, then the one wolf finished and it sounded like five or six others all started right beside the tent. The noise was one of those sounds that is chilling but also amazing at the same time, as it’s not something many people get to experience. After hearing it I decided to get a howling wolf tattoo with mountains in the background."
As for the most relaxing part of his trip: “Road-tripping through the mountains and the natural beauty of Yellowstone. Or the bus trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas or from Vegas to Grand Canyon – you can really sit back and take in the scenery. The Arizona and Nevada desert really has an aura about it,” says Justin.
So you want to do an all-American road trip and want to know the one thing that’s really going to make your jaw-drop? For Justin it was “The sheer amount of wildlife. We were in Yellowstone for about four days and saw about 10 bears. The distance that the mountains go on for is amazing and the sheer height of them is unbelievable. The most surprising thing though was probably the contrast in the desert of Arizona and Nevada; parts of the desert were both green and rocky. At one stage we were in 40 degree heat looking at a mountain with snow on top of it.”
Justin's Grizzly Yellowstone Experience
“We wanted to do a hike into Yellowstone instead of camping in the designated camp areas, so the Park Ranger made us watch a bear survival video first, which the last piece of advice was “fight back” [laughs]. The ranger was pointing out different camping spots on the map (typically three or four kilometres from the car park). There was a sheer look of horror on her face when we chose a spot that was 18-kilometres into Yellowstone!"
"We then received a receipt to put on our vehicle, so the rangers could check the cars and know where we were camping, so if we weren’t back to our car by the allocated day they knew to come in and start looking for us, or the bear that may have us! At the start of the hike, about two-kilometres in we came across a fresh bear print in the mud, and at around five-kilometres we came across a dead deer carcass. At this point we started to wonder if the hike with all our camping equipment on our backs was really worth it, but we finally got to our camp, set up and hung the food from the tree. We tried to ignore the bear scratch marks at the base of the tree and slept with one eye open throughout the night."
With so many highlights along the way, here are a few of Justin’s favourite experiences:
- The sport in Los Angeles
- The great sand of Santa Monica Beach
- The bus trip across to Vegas from Los Angeles (and the 1.5 hours it took on the bus to get out of suburban LA)
- Las Vegas - the city which never sleeps: playing Black Jack for seven hours and only losing $3
- The sun being up when we left the casino
- The bus trip across from Vegas to the Grand Canyon via Hoover Dam (and the fact the bus drivers work on tips, ours didn’t keep quiet for much of the trip he was so informative as we went along)
- The views of The Grand Canyon and walking for a few kilometres along the edge of the Canyon
Tips & Tricks
And some advice from someone who’s been there and done it before:
- Take time to stop in the little towns, every little town in America has a reason to make you stop whether it be a museum or the friendly locals
- Buying a car versus renting one: We bought our own car for $1,200 and sold it for $900 coming home. So $300 for seven weeks was a lot cheaper than renting a car
- Don’t restrict yourself to a schedule: We had no idea from day to day where we were planning on being, so if we found a great place we could spend longer there
- We camped most of our trip or stayed in backpackers
- If you come up with a great photo idea – do it – they’re memories you will keep forever
- Don’t be afraid to experience new things
The trip was Justin’s first time to the USA, but he says it definitely won’t be his last.