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An epic 20-day long US road trip

2023, West Coast USA

Aditi and Amit with BMW convertible
Us with Ms. Cruise

Embarking on new adventures is always thrilling, but there's something truly magical about hitting the open road. For us, road trips hold a special place in our hearts, igniting a sense of freedom and a deep connection to the world around us. That's precisely why, when we set our sights on the United States, there was no doubt in our minds—it had to be a road trip!

Picture this: The wind tousling your hair as you drive across the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, the breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Coast Highway unfolding before your eyes, the high of navigating through the bustling streets of LA, the serenity of the vast Nevada deserts, the awe-inspiring journey around the magnificent Grand Canyon, and the electric energy of vibrant nights in Las Vegas. Our twenty-day road trip across the West Coast of the United States encompassed it all.

Join us as we share our unforgettable journey, where every mile was filled with wonder and discovery. Consider this blog nothing less than a road trip planner if you plan a holiday in the US.

Excited to read about our road trip? You may also like our other blogs:

Milestone #1: San Francisco

Aditi @ Powell Street
Powell Street

Our adventure kicked off in the city of San Francisco. We picked up a sleek BMW 4 Series convertible (which we named MS. CRUISE for our trip) from SIXT at San Francisco International Airport.

At the SIXT counters, the check-in process was a breeze, and soon we found ourselves with the keys to our sexy ride. After loading up our luggage, we were all set to go.

BMW Serier 4 Convertible
Our sweet ride

Pro-tip: Wondering how much we could fit in Ms Cruise? We managed to snugly fit one medium and one carry-on hard luggage bag, along with a couple of smaller backpacks, with the top down. As for the larger suitcase, it found a convenient spot on the back seats. If you have any questions about boot space or need packing tips, feel free to drop a comment, and we'll be happy to assist you.

After leaving the airport we headed straight to San Francisco. During our stay here, we explored the Fisherman's Wharf, visited Alcatraz Island, rode a cable car, and strolled through Union Square.

Since Aditi loves shopping and we had heard a lot of good things about the premium outlets in San Francisco, we drove to the quiet little town of Livermore. It is a 40-minute drive from San Francisco and it is unimaginably beautiful. We do recommend visiting Livermore if you are in San Francisco.

Milestone #2: The Golden Gate

Driving on Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

After immersing ourselves in the charm of the city, riding the iconic cable cars and exploring its breathtaking sights, we were ready to hit the road.

Our first stop on this journey was none other than the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. As we planned to embark on the renowned Pacific Coast Highway road trip, we decided to start from the northernmost point of this picturesque route. Driving in from the north, we made our way through Sausalito, catching glimpses of the majestic bridge from a distance. It was a moment of pure excitement as we cruised across the Golden Gate Bridge, and just as if on cue, a light rain began to fall, casting a magical aura over the historic structure.

(Interestingly, as I write this, rain is falling in Delhi, reminding us of the sweet memories on the bridge.)

Continuing our journey through the sunset district and Pacifica, we continued towards the Pacific coast. We had our fingers crossed, hoping for the weather to clear up as we approached the coast, as this was our one chance to experience one of the best drives in the United States. Finally, as we reached the town of Montara, the scenic drive truly began.

(By the way, if you have some spare time, make sure to check out Montara State Beach, a serene beach known for its wildflower bloom during the summer.)

Now, how do we put the beauty of the Pacific coast into words? We are going to give it a try but you must be there to feel the true magic of it.

The Pacific Coast Highway or the California State Route 1, hugs the rugged coastline of California, offering panoramic views of the vast Pacific Ocean on one side and majestic cliffs on the other. The scenery is nothing short of awe-inspiring, with each bend in the road revealing a new screen-saver-worthy view. Imagine cruising along the highway with the wind in your hair, the salty ocean breeze caressing your face. You will be forced to stop multiple times on this drive to admire the beauty of the Pacific. The Pacific Coast Highway is not just a drive; it's an experience that imprints itself on your soul. The sense of freedom that comes with the open road is liberating.

Milestone #3: Carmel-By-The-Sea

Pacific Coast

After driving for around 3 hours and making numerous pitstops, we were closing in on our first point of interest. We stopped at Monterey Bay, a scenic town on the Pacific coast which is famous for diverse marine wildlife and seafood. We wanted to spend some time here as the town has a very peaceful vibe. After spending some time walking around the Old Fisherman’s Wharf (you can spot sea lions from the docks), we continued to Carmel-By-The Sea. But if you have time, Monterey Bay has lots of exciting things to offer, such as:

· Monterey Bay Aquarium

· Whale-watching tours

· Cannery Row

Carmel-By-The-Sea was our choice to spend the night before continuing our journey towards LA. The town is made up of fairytale stuff. It is a picturesque village that captivates visitors with its timeless charm. You can stroll through the storybook-like downtown, where fairytale cottages, art galleries, and quaint boutiques beg you to explore. But after a hectic day and a long drive ahead the next day, we retired to our bed early.

Milestone #4: Big Sur and Bixby Bridge

Aditi @ Bixby Bridge
Bixby Bridge

The next day, fueled with early morning excitement, we embarked on the next leg of our US road trip along the magnificent Pacific Coast Highway. Unfortunately, the weather didn't play nice that day, treating us to frequent showers. However, we were looking forward to our next stop: Bixby Bridge. Miraculously, the rain stopped just in time and we had the prime spot all to ourselves, allowing us to capture countless pictures and soak in the surreal views.

Pro-tip: Our favourite place for snapping photos was on the right-hand side of the road (while driving south). Alternatively, if you cross the bridge, you'll discover another fantastic spot that provides a great view facing north.

As the showers returned, we hopped back into Ms Cruise, continuing our journey towards Big Sur. This road trip was turning out to be one of the best drives of our lives. With winding roads and torrential rains, it felt as if we were transported into a realm of pure magic. As we traversed the Big Sur campgrounds, our phones lost network signal, and the roads grew quieter. It was as if we were lone travellers navigating through a rainforest, untouched by human presence. Despite the chill in the air, our hearts were warmed by the anticipation of our next destination.

Milestone #5: The Dutch town of Solvang

After a scenic three-and-a-half-hour drive, we arrived at the charming little Dutch town of Solvang, also known as the Dutch capital of the US. Stepping into Solvang felt like stepping into the Netherlands once again. We wandered through its streets, savouring Dutch delicacies. If you are here, make sure not to miss out on the world-famous Danish pastries that are an absolute treat. And of course, we couldn't resist capturing some incredible pictures, check them out below.

One of the highlights of our Solvang adventure was a visit to the renowned Emu and Ostrich ranch called 'Ostrichland.' We couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience this firsthand. The ranch is spread across vast grounds, allowing the birds to freely roam as they keep a keen eye on visitors approaching with food. The ranch charges $1 for a bowl of feed and the staff is extremely helpful. Armed with a bowl, we were greeted by a lineup of curious ostriches at the fence. It was a truly amazing experience, getting up close to these magnificent creatures and admiring their beauty.

Pro-tip: We found it pleasantly surprising that Solvang has banned smoking in public places and is a smoke-free town.

Milestone #6: Hollywood

Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood Sign

After a tiring day, we finally reached our destination: Los Angeles. The San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway had come to an end, but our journey was far from over. We checked into our hotel around 4 pm, exhausted, so we decided to catch some sleep. After we woke up, we were eager to answer the call of the iconic Hollywood sign. Jumping into our car, we set off to the best spot to see the Hollywood sign i.e., Lake Hollywood Park.

Pro-tip: If you drive up the road from Lake Hollywood Park, you'll stumble upon a spacious area where you can capture fantastic pictures with the sign as your backdrop. You can find the exact location here: You can thank us later!

We spent our next three days exploring the wonders of the city of angels. If you want to learn more about our incredible time in Los Angeles, check out our other blog post linked below.

Milestone #7: Grand Canyon

Welcome to Arizona Sign
All hyped up for Grand Canyon

With our unforgettable California road trip now behind us, we set our sights on the next destination: The Grand Canyon. Since it is a long 8-hour drive (excluding pit stops), we left LA bright and early at 5 am, while the sun still lingered below the horizon. While we drove through Cajon Pass, the morning mist engulfed the highway, creating a magical view for us.

Driving through Cajon Pass
Cajon Pass

As we ventured further inland, the landscape transformed rapidly, giving a new colour to our US road trip. The desert greeted us with a warm, sunny day and crystal-clear skies. For drove four continuous hours, journeying through Barstow until we finally made a pit stop in Kingman to refuel both our car and our growling stomachs.

Pro-tip: Rest areas are scarce along this route, so remember to stock up on water and snacks beforehand. Safeway in Kingman is an excellent option, conveniently located midway along the route.

After grabbing a quick bite at Starbucks and ensuring our car was fueled up, we pressed on with our adventure. The next significant town on our path was Williams, where we made a turn towards the Grand Canyon National Park. Finally, after nine hours of exhilarating driving, we arrived at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Boy! What a sight it was. We stood there in awe, marvelling at the sheer grandeur of this natural wonder.

We visited the south rim although there are three other points that you can visit at Grand Canyon. Since the canyon is huge, all these points are well spread out and the south rim is the best option for first-time visitors.

For more detail on Grand Canyon and our time there, make sure to check out our full blog post by following the link below.

Milestone #8: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

After an incredible day at the Grand Canyon, we eagerly set off for our next destination: Antelope Canyon. Keep in mind that Antelope Canyon is located within the Navajo Nation, which means access to the canyon is restricted, and guided tours are mandatory. We had booked our tour with Dixie's Lower Antelope Canyon Tours for 11 am.

Timing is crucial if you want to witness the true magic of slot canyons, particularly the lower Antelope Canyon. As the clock approached mid-day and the sun stood directly overhead, beams of light streamed through the narrow openings above, illuminating the canyon's depths. This interplay of light and shadows creates a mesmerizing spectacle that has made these canyons an Instagram sensation. Our tour started on time, allowing us to discover the hidden beauty concealed beneath the earth's surface. The tour lasted for an enchanting hour and a half, leaving us with memories to cherish.

Don't forget to check out some incredible captures from our visit to the lower Antelope Canyon. Trust us, the canyon is a visual treat!

For a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about Antelope Canyon, make sure to check out our detailed blog post. There is also a juicy story there about how we almost missed our tour.

Although we were mesmerized by this experience, we had another landmark waiting for us. Just a 20 mins drive from Lower Antelope Canyon is another natural marvel: The Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe Bend offers a breathtaking spectacle curated by the Colorado River. As we approached the overlook, the mighty Colorado River revealed itself, carving a magnificent horseshoe-shaped curve through the canyon. With the sun casting its golden glow upon the scene, we couldn't help but capture the moment with our cameras. Horseshoe Bend truly showcases the unparalleled beauty of the American Southwest.

Horseshoe Bend at Page
Horseshoe Bend

Milestone #9: It’s Vegas Baby!

Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
Its Vegas Baby!

We had already covered a long distance on our journey, but the most thrilling part was still awaiting us. Saying goodbye to Arizona, we set our sights on Nevada. We drove from Page to Las Vegas, passing through Kanab and Colorado City. Driving along the Veterans Memorial Highway, we crossed the Utah-Arizona border and found ourselves in a mesmerizing valley. Majestic mountains framed the landscape on both sides, while the gentle flow of the Virgin River accompanied us alongside the highway. If you're a fan of good drives, make sure not to miss this one—it's truly remarkable.

Driving on Veteran's Memorial Highway
Veteran's Memorial Highway

It took us approximately four and a half hours to reach Las Vegas, although the last leg of our journey was a bit frustrating due to heavy traffic. For the final thirty minutes, we crawled along in bumper-to-bumper congestion. Thankfully, our spirits were lifted when we arrived at The Palazzo, the most luxurious property on the Vegas Strip. Stepping into its lavish embrace, all our weariness seemed to disappear.

Over the next four days, we fully relished the vibrant atmosphere of Las Vegas, experiencing all that this dazzling city has to offer. If you're curious to learn more about our stay and the things we did, be sure to check out our blog post linked below. We've even created a comprehensive four-day itinerary to help you make the most of your Las Vegas trip.

Milestone #10: Bakersfield

As our incredible USA road trip neared its end, we had a long drive ahead of us from Las Vegas to San Francisco. This journey takes about eight and a half hours by road. But with an afternoon flight awaiting us in San Francisco, we decided to split the drive into two parts. Although our hearts yearned to stay longer in vibrant Las Vegas, we knew we had to finish our journey.

Continuing along our route, we were greeted by rolling hills and lush agricultural fields as we approached our overnight stop in Bakersfield. The air carried the pleasant scent of fresh crops, while the vibrant colours of the farmland painted a striking contrast to the arid desert we had left behind.

Arriving at our destination and checking into our hotel, we faced the daunting task of packing for our flight. It turned into a night of strategic packing, as two determined travellers utilized every inch of space in their bags. Let's be honest, squeezing so many belongings into such limited space can be very challenging. We found ourselves weighing our bags, contemplating whether items should be checked in or carried on, and stressing over the smallest details. Have you ever panicked over a missing piece of clothing or jewellery that you were certain you had already packed? We've been there too!

But eventually, we managed to get everything in order for our flight back home, allowing us to finally enjoy a well-deserved night of sleep.

Milestone #11: San Francisco Airport

We were getting emotional as we left Bakersfield for the last four hours of our epic US road trip. There was a touch of bittersweet nostalgia as we reminisced about the unforgettable moments we had experienced throughout our long journey, travelling almost 5000 km on US roads.

With San Francisco on the horizon, we recounted the incredible sights, the memorable encounters, and the adventures that had shaped our road trip. The last hour was just filled with laughter, joy and a sense of accomplishment that came from this trip.

Finally, the time had come to bid farewell to our trusty companion, the faithful Ms Cruise, that had carried us through the adventure. It was a delight driving this beauty and it’ll always have a special place in our hearts. We dropped off the car at the airport and said our goodbyes to Ms Cruise!

As we stepped into the airport, a mix of emotions swirled within us—fulfilment for the incredible road trip we had completed, a tinge of sadness for its end, and a sense of excitement for the memories and experiences that would forever remain with us.

SF airport with Cloud waterfall in background
Can you spot the cloud waterfall?

From the sun-kissed shores of California to the breathtaking wonders of the Grand Canyon, our journey had taken us on a captivating adventure through the diverse landscapes and vibrant cities of the United States.

So, whether you're planning your road trip or simply seeking inspiration, we hope our journey has ignited a spark within you—a spark that fuels your desire to explore, discover, and embrace the extraordinary. May it lead you to uncover hidden treasures, forge unforgettable connections, and create your own travel story that will be cherished for a lifetime.

In the end, we would like to share some information that may help you plan your road trip to the US. You can always reach out to us by dropping a comment here or DM us on Instagram.

Our full drive route with pitstops:

SF->Livermore->SF->Montara->Monterey Bay->Big Sur->Solvang->LA->Barstow->Kingman->Grand Canyon->Antelope Canyon->Las Vegas->Bakersfield->SF

Map of US road trip
Driving route for the road trip

Our High level itinerary for this road trip:

· Day 1-5: San Francisco

· Day 6: Livermore

· Day 7: Carmel-By-The-Sea

· Day 8-12: Los Angeles

· Day 13: Grand Canyon

· Day 14-18: Las Vegas

· Day 19: Bakersfield

· Day 20: San Francisco

Until we meet again on the road, keep chasing those horizons and never stop exploring. The world is waiting, and your next adventure awaits.

Happy Driving!


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