AMERICAN SUM­MER DREAM

From NYC to LA and Ev­ery­where in Be­tween

Oi Vietnam - - Front Page - Text and Images by Josh Hob­son

FOR AS LONG AS I CAN RE­MEM­BER, I have al­ways wanted to travel to the US. When I was grow­ing up in the UK I would spend the week­ends with my grand­par­ents. While there, I re­mem­ber watch­ing films like Smokey and the

Ban­dit, For­rest Gump, Home Alone and many other clas­sics that por­tray the beauty and ex­cite­ment of that coun­try.

Ac­tu­ally, my grand­fa­ther was a big­ger in­flu­ence on my fas­ci­na­tion with the US. He was in the Mer­chant Navy and spent a lot of time trav­el­ing to North Amer­ica. When­ever I vis­ited on a week­end, my grand­fa­ther would sit down be­side me with a scrap­book that held his dear­est mem­o­ries: pic­tures of sailors work­ing and hav­ing a good time, ma­jes­tic views and fa­mous celebri­ties.

My grand­fa­ther told me how he met Frank Si­na­tra in a jazz bar in Chicago af­ter sail­ing through Lake Michi­gan. An­other time, he man­aged to get a pic­ture with the en­tire New York Yan­kees right af­ter a game. The stories that he told made it seem as if he was the luck­i­est per­son on earth. I would sit there for hours, lis­ten­ing to ev­ery word.

The best piece of ad­vice my grand­fa­ther told me was: “Make sure you travel. Make sure you travel of­ten. Ex­pe­ri­ence the world. Don’t set­tle for ‘home’. Home will al­ways be here, it doesn’t change. It never does. Go and see what the world has to of­fer you.” I live by those words now.

Plan­ning Planes, Trains and Au­to­mo­biles

Be­cause of my grand­fa­ther's stories I wanted to travel—feel what he felt, stand in lo­ca­tions in his scrap­book. So, as soon as my friend Jono and I had our exam timeta­bles, we planned our routes around the US. We de­cided that while we were there, we wanted to try as many forms of trans­porta­tion as pos­si­ble. We planned routes on planes, trains and au­to­mo­biles.

We were set to fly into New York on June 16, stay for five days be­fore tak­ing a Greyhound bus to Atlantic City. From AC, we would take an­other bus straight to Wash­ing­ton D.C. Again, and like many places we ar­rived at, we would stay there for an­other five days. We were to

take the train to Philadel­phia, af­ter a day trip to Bal­ti­more.

We saw a cheap(ish) train from Philadel­phia to Penn State. The prospect of going to Penn State wasn’t one that ex­cited Jono, how­ever, I man­aged to per­suade him that it would be sweet. It is a col­lege town af­ter all. We had both men­tioned how we’d like to en­ter a ‘frat’ party. We de­cided that from Penn State, we would travel to Ohio State. That way if we failed in Penn State, there was an­other chance in Ohio.

An 11-hour coach jour­ney would see us leave Ohio and head for Chicago. By this point we knew that we would be ex­hausted from all of the pos­si­ble par­ty­ing, junk food and long hours on the road. We de­cided we’d stay in Chicago for eight days, which would give us enough time to re­ally ex­plore the city. More im­por­tantly, though, to get back the wind in our sails.

Jono and I then planned on trav­el­ing to San Fran­cisco. The prospect of a lengthy car jour­ney was cut short when it was re­vealed the main rea­son we wanted to do it—Route 66—had been, in part, shut down. Jono and I, there­fore, de­cided to fly. I have to ad­mit we saved 28 hours, ac­cord­ingly to Google Maps route plan­ner.

From San Fran­cisco, we fi­nally de­cided to drive. We would drive to Yosemite Na­tional Park and camp for a few days. I wish we had planned for how cold it would be at night. Thank­fully, there were many shops to buy blan­kets upon ar­rival, in case you’re won­der­ing.

The penul­ti­mate leg of our jour­ney would see us con­tinue driv­ing from Yosemite to Los An­ge­les. Driv­ing in the US is the eas­i­est thing I’ve ever done. Ok, driv­ing on the wrong side of the road is some­what scary… at first. Nev­er­the­less, driv­ing an au­to­matic car on straight roads; se­ri­ously can’t fault it.

Last, but not least, we would then take an­other Greyhound from Los An­ge­les to San Diego. We planned to stay in San Diego for a week, but we ended up there for two. We’d read so many re­views about San Diego’s laid­back at­ti­tude and it sounded just the place to rest our wan­der­lust bod­ies and minds af­ter a great ad­ven­ture. You may be won­der­ing why we stayed in San Diego for a week longer—and quite rightly so. Los An­ge­les was a dis­as­ter, so we left af­ter a day...

So there it was. A sum­mer in the US planned out for my friend Jono and I.

New York City, Chicago and San Diego

We ar­rived in New York City and were taken aback by how sur­real the at­mos­phere was. It was as if all of my grand­fa­ther’s pic­tures were com­ing to life and I was the main fo­cal point. He used to tell me, “When you get to New York City, on a clear day, you have to watch the sun­set from the Brook­lyn Bridge. If you do one thing in New York, it has to be that.” This had been drilled into me. I drilled this into Jono. The sun sets over the Man­hat­tan sky­line. The view is breath­tak­ing. I re­mem­ber see­ing films with sim­i­lar scenes in them when I was a child. It was as if I were in a movie. Jono and I fell silent. For that mo­ment, we were at one with our­selves. The si­lence broke shortly there­after.

“We’re here!” said Jono. We had ar­rived.

Un­de­terred by the lack of celebrity spot­ting, we con­tin­ued on our trav­els.

Chicago was the next place I had been ex­cited for. I’m a big jazz fan. I love Frank Si­na­tra. I love mu­si­cals. The Blues Broth­ers, etc. Chicago, well, it’s the best place if you love jazz. There’s a lot of his­tory and cul­ture from Chicago, and it’s hard to com­pare it to any­where else I’ve ever been. As we en­tered Chicago, we saw the sign for Route 66. When you hear things like ‘Route 66’ men­tioned your en­tire life, and then you sud­denly see a sign for it it’s special. Chicago stood out for me, not be­cause of the cul­ture and jazz el­e­ment, yet, but be­cause of the kind­ness of the lo­cals.

Be­fore en­ter­ing Chicago, we had read about how the city was a dan­ger­ous place. We ex­pe­ri­enced noth­ing but the con­trary. We ar­rived anx­iously think­ing that we may be in trou­ble at some point in the city but how wrong were we. When­ever we were lost, lo­cals would come up to us and ask if we needed help. At bus stops or train sta­tions around the city, strangers would start a con­ver­sa­tion with us. Give us rec­om­men­da­tions for places to visit and eat. We loved Chicago.

The last city to stand out city on our trip was San Diego. Af­ter a gru­el­ing few months of trav­el­ing, sleep­ing in hos­tels, eat­ing junk food and a dis­as­trous time in Los An­ge­les, we were ready to re­lax in San Diego for two weeks be­fore fly­ing back to Lon­don.

And did we re­lax… San Diego stands out for one sim­ple rea­son. It feels like a com­pletely dif­fer­ent uni­verse to the rest of the US we vis­ited. Where New York and San Fran­cisco were quite fast paced and frantic, San Diego was chilled. The peo­ple were friendly and laid­back. Unlike LA, ev­ery­thing was rel­a­tively af­ford­able too.

Un­known to Jono and I, we had de­cided to book a hos­tel in the Hill Crest area. We stayed for two weeks at a place called Zoo Hos­tel. It was fan­tas­tic. The own­ers took us to Mex­ico for a night to party in Ti­juana with the rest of the hos­tel’s guests. There were other peo­ple that were there for a few weeks, too. Over the course of that two-week pe­riod, we made friends for life. Friends that we shared mem­o­ries with.

Jono and I cre­ate our own scrap­book. We cre­ated our own mem­o­ries. Our own feel­ings. One day I hope that I can show my grand­chil­dren my scrap­book. I hope they fol­low in my foot­steps, as I did with my grand­fa­ther. I will be of­fer­ing them the same ad­vice he of­fered me.

New York City Time Square

Chicago Wil­lis tower

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