The big 3-0: The final few days..

Welcome back my dear readers! It has been a while! Ironically I’ve been pretty rubbish at blogging for most of the pandemic – you’d think with more time I’d have found it easier but no.. Weird, right?

Anyway, those of you following along on this journey have read countless posts on this particular series – from the early planning stage to the farewell to the rubbish summary in the immediate aftermath of the trip.

The next step of blogging about the trip was determining the “right way” to relive it. I have a habit of rambling and my concern was that breaking it down by location would see an enormous post on destinations such as New Orleans or San Francisco and then a four word post about other parts of the trip, so in the end I decided I’d post a day-by-day retelling which has worked well (I think).

However now that we’re approaching the finish line I’ve been conflicted on whether to stick to daily posts for the last few days or just wrapping this up with one last post – I’m leaning towards the latter.

I was asked many times after this trip “what was the highlight?” or “favourite place?” or whatever but I sincerely loved every minute of it. The end to this trip was just as special as the start of it and it was quite nice to wind down for a few days before heading home. Given I’d be landing in England on Monday and returning to work on Tuesday after an entire month off, it was quite nice having that downtime at the end of this trip.

That said four days in Moses Lake of not doing much won’t make for particularly exciting reading so here we are! One final post to wrap this trip up!

Moses Lake History
Moses Lake, Washington

After leaving San Franciso, California on Monday morning we’d made it back to Moses Lake, Washington on Tuesday evening. I wasn’t flying home until Monday so in spite of everything I just said about a relaxed end to this trip being nice, I would have loved to have had a few more days traveling and extended our travel right up to Sunday night.

However Haleigh teaches and some genius decided sending the kids back to school on a Thursday after 3 months of vacation would be a good idea and lead to a really productive two day first-week back. Consequently we had to cut our traveling short and make sure we were back to Moses Lake on Wednesday at the latest.

In hindsight I do actually believe it worked out for the best but before this trip I was probably more bitter that the schoolyear’s calendar was so inconvenient for me (that’s not the first thing they consider?) and that I’d lost 4-5 days that I could have been traveling instead.

Anyway, we woke up on Wednesday morning back in familiar surroundings and Haleigh was off to school – last minute preparations for the new school year!

I had the choice of staying in bed or joining Haleigh and getting a small glimpse of the school life from the “other side”. I’d only ever experienced school as a young student – you turn up on day one and everything is in place. That’s obviously the same for the teachers, right?

Washington School
An American classroom!

Well let me shock you right now – apparently there are no magical school fairies that do it all! It’s actually teachers and other school staff that are the ones going in before the school year to get things set up for the year! Who knew!?

After grabbing breakfast (pancakes) at one of our favourite breakfast spots in Moses Lake we headed on over to Haleigh’s school and I got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of teacher life! I met various other teachers and administration staff over the next couple of hours – one little academic family working their own magic.

The main reason I’d tagged along was to hope I’d be of some use. Given that my time in the US was running out I figured the sooner Haleigh was done, the sooner we’d be out of there and spending quality time together so I helped where I could before Haleigh was satisfied that she was all good to go for tomorrow!

We grabbed a late lunch but didn’t do too much with the rest of our afternoon – I think we may have even napped! A little later our focus switched towards dinner and we decided we’d return to another Moses Lake favourite – “Rock Top” – a restaurant downtown and also host of mine and Haleigh’s first proper date roughly a year earlier. It’s a nice place with nice food so it’s always somewhere we enjoy visiting.

On this particular occasion they seemed to be having issues with their beer availability. I ordered a particular beer with my dinner and then two minutes later my waitress returned to to say they were having some issues and that particular beer wasn’t available.

No bother I thought as I ordered a different beer instead but then a couple of minutes later she again returned apologetically telling me that wasn’t available either – nor was any other beer – but she’d personally buy me a cider for my troubles.

I’m not much of a cider drinker but who am I to turn down a free drink? It was a sweet gesture and one I appreciated – infact I probably tipped better than I normally would do (still generous) so I guess it balanced out a little. It was a good reminder of why this place had proven to be a favourite though with some great service despite the problems they were having with their stock!

The next day it was “back to school” and this time I had no desire to wake up early. As Haleigh got herself ready for the first day back, I snuggled up under the duvets and basked in the cozyness of a nice, warm bed.

I didn’t really end up going back to sleep but certainly made the most of a lazy morning before pondering what to do with the day. I’d been to Moses Lake before – twice infact and it’s not a big town, there isn’t an awful lot to do. Nevertheless I didn’t want to sit around the apartment all day on my own so I figured I’d have a wander, grab some lunch and maybe catch the football if I was lucky enough.

One of the unique things about returning to such a small place is that the differences between visits perhaps seem more noticeable. On my walk in to town was this apartment complex which had been pretty much nothing when I first visited (Sep 2017), construction when I returned (Feb 2018) and something glimpsing more of a finished product (Aug 2018) come the time of this trip.

Moses Lake Development
Moses Lake, Feb 2020 – there was nothing on this land on my first visit!

The rest of town seemed much the same. I noticed a couple of new statues that I hadn’t seen previously but otherwise it was business as usual in Moses Lake. I popped in to my favourite little coffee shop and ordered myself some tea and took my “usual” spot by the window.

Following on from some tea I decided to go grab lunch at a favourite bar from a previous visit. It has a nice atmosphere, a lunch menu and more importantly a bunch of TV’s so I was hopeful I’d be able to watch some Europa League football which kicks off at 8pm in the UK and would make perfect lunchtime viewing.

Sadly it seems no US network has picked up coverage for the competition so I settled for some lunch accompanied with some beer. The food was good, the atmosphere as friendly as ever and to my surprise I was even recognised!

“I remember you! You’re the guy from England with the teacher girlfriend..”

Or something to that effect anyway. I have to say I was a little surprised by it. I’d only been to this bar once – six months ago – so to be remembered was a real sign of how few out-of-towners a place like Moses Lake attracts. Brits are certainly few and far between so I was subjected to a taste of the “rockstar” lifestyle – remembered and welcomed. It was an experience that added to the feeling that I was at home here. I’m very much a “big city” person but small-town life definitely comes with its perks.

MidwayPubMosesLake

I could happily have stayed in that bar all day but I thought better of getting too drunk and made my way back to the apartment for another relaxed evening with Haleigh.

Friday started pretty much as Thursday had. Haleigh’s alarm went off in anticipation of the school day and as she got ready, I once again snuggled up and had a little more sleep.

I didn’t really have any idea of what to do with my day, however as it was my last full day in Moses Lake for quite some time I figured I’d go make the best of it and again made the trek downtown.

I decided to wander a little further today and find somewhere new for lunch. I’d never noticed it previously but this restaurant / bar popped up on Google Maps and I was intrigued enough to check it out.

“The Hangout” as it’s called looked anything but from the exterior. It didn’t give off the impression it really wanted to be found and as I walked up to the doors I did ponder if it was even open – there was no inkling of what laid beyond the front doors.

It was a weird little place. The “stay away” exterior vibes didn’t really change as I walked in with pretty much every head turning towards the door to give the intruder a look.

“Were we expecting anyone else?”

I must have been 30 years younger than anyone else inside, staff included, and certainly felt like I stuck out a bit – that’s before I’d even opened my mouth. I took a seat at the bar and gave the menu a quick glance before ordering myself a burger.

Hearing the English accent came as a bit of a surprise and caused another “rockstar” moment! Brits always seem to be welcomed with open arms in the US – particularly in tiny towns such as Moses Lake.

A guy at a stool sat to my left took a bit of a shine to me and actually welcomed the company. Its standoffish exterior and interior did a fine job of scaring away the Instagrammers hunting photogenic spots but once you got past the appearance, it was actually a pretty friendly place and you could tell customers and staff alike all knew eachother and in some cases probably saw eachother daily.

My new friend was reminiscing of his youthful trips to England and how much he was fascinated by all things London (Kent included). I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that London didn’t stretch quite as far as Kent but it was still a pleasant experience and nice to have the company whilst enjoying my lunch.

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I didn’t stay beyond lunch. I wanted one last stroll by the lake before heading home and then took a detour via the local museum on the way home. I’d been to the museum before (Sep 2017) but it’s free to visit and I was hopeful that the exhibit would have changed by now.

Fortunately it had and I was treated to an exhibit on Bigfoot, Sasquatch and a few other bits and pieces that made for some interesting reading. It’s not a huge museum but for a freebie it’s worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Moses Lake (why would you be?).

Bigfoot!
Proving my innocence!

Happy that I wasn’t going to be mistaken for Bigfoot on the way out, I called it a day and made my way back to the apartment and soon afterwards Haleigh was home. We decided we’d go out for dinner for our final night in town and chose to visit Rocktop’s partner restaurant – “Michael’s On The Lake”.

Michael's On The Lake

Unsurprisingly given the name, it’s a restaurant that sits overlooking the lake and offers some pretty views. We timed it pretty well as we got to enjoy most of the sunset whilst we ate – a perfect setting to end our time in Eastern Washington.

After dinner we went and played some bowling. I managed my best round of the trip (Portland, Klamath Falls & Moses Lake) which was rather unfortunate as Haleigh also bowled her best game which would have probably beaten me on any other occasion.

and that was that for Moses Lake.

Haleigh bowling

The next morning I woke up fairly early. With Haleigh still sleeping I packed up the last of my bits and prepared myself for another Moses Lake farewell. I knew I’d be back at some point but it’s always tough leaving when you feel so at home somewhere.

Before this trip I was worried I might end up feeling homesick but the reality is that I could have stayed much, much longer. I was in no rush to be going back to work and reality. Nevertheless it had to be done – time was almost up.

We grabbed some breakfast before hitting the road and making our way Westbound towards Seattle. The realness of the situation had hit! It was the third time I’d had to say goodbye to Washington and it just got harder every time it reached this point of a trip. I knew I still had the rest of the day to enjoy with Haleigh but the fact that we were going to Seattle meant I knew time was nearly up.

The music didn’t help.. Our self-created playlist seemed particularly cruel and had synced perfectly with the occasion. On came the next song with lyrics of “Jason’s going home and you’re never going to see eachother again..”

Admittedly it might have been something a little more subtle than that but it was certainly something tauntingly cruel that only helped ram hope the point that I was leaving. We ended up having to make a stop somewhere close to the Colombia River to get some fresh air. The tears were streaming as we got out of the car but a pretty view helped get our emotions back in check – it was too early to be sad!

Washington!

We hit the road again with Haleigh suggesting we stop for lunch in Ellensburg – a college town in central Washington. She really wanted to revisit a restaurant and we figured we could also check in on our friends Maddie and Cassie before going home.

As it was it seems the restaurant was closed for the holidays and Maddie and Cassie were ironically in Seattle having taken a friend to the airport so I didn’t get a chance to see them before heading home (our fault for winging it last minute!).

We ended up heading downtown and grabbing lunch elsewhere, plus checking out a couple of stores downtown before getting back on route to Seattle. Ellensburg is the last major stop on the East side of the mountains, once you get past Ellensburg the scenery really begins to pick up. It’s a journey I’ll never tire of – particularly as a passenger able to just take it all in and admire the views.

Washington

Soon enough we’d arrived at our hotel for the night. I wasn’t actually leaving until tomorrow but I had an early morning flight so I figured it was convenient to be staying by the airport for my final night in the US.

We didn’t end up venturing in to Seattle itself. Had we not been to Seattle before we might have reconsidered it but I don’t think either of us felt like doing much and just wanted to enjoy our final few hours together.

After a bit of relaxation our focus switched to heading back out for dinner somewhere. A quick look on Google suggested this Thai place would be a good place to check out. Unfortunately we drove over there and finding somewhere to park was impossible which was when we spotted a Cheesecake factory across the street.

Rather than struggle to park we crossed over and ended up eating at the Cheesecake Factory instead – a second on this trip after San Francisco.

Much like in San Francisco it was really busy. I’ve seen mention of them in TV shows and things but they’re a fairly big deal in this part of the world. I could understand the wait in San Francisco given the time and day and central location but this was nowhere really – it’s clearly an American favourite with a host of options to take your fancy.

Unfortunately we weren’t sat with the best of company and ended up next to the most obnoxious guy which spoilt the atmosphere a little. On the plus side some of the members at his table seemed equally displeased with his company so at least we weren’t stuck with him for the evening haha. The food was good and we made the best of enjoying our last meal together for the foreseeable future. After another tasty meal and dessert we headed back to the hotel, chilled out for a bit and got ourselves an early night. A 7:40am flight meant an early start to the day!

The alarm started going off at silly-o-clock. Rather stupidly I was flying home from Chicago. I’d flown in to Chicago on day one and for a multitude of reasons I thought it made good sense to just book a return flight home but in hindsight that was a mistake.

The second I booked the flights I seemed to instantly regret that decision and should have just flown home from Seattle. It’s the second multi-city US trip that I’ve done this for and I regretted the inconvenience on both occasions. In 2017 it robbed me of a few more hours in Dallas and on this occasion it robbed me of a little more time in Washington with Haleigh.

Seattle Art
Seattle artwork at Seatac Airport

Haleigh came with me to wave me off at the airport, extending our time together by a few more minutes but eventually it was time to separate. We said our painful goodbyes (yet again) and I made my way through to the other side and breezed through security.

Sidenote – the Seatac staff were particularly cheery on this day so that was something at least!

Reversing the cycle of the holiday, I ended it as I started it. On day one I kicked things off with a pre-flight beer or two and despite the silly time in the morning I did likewise here.

Unfortunately the task of finding a bar that was open was a little trickier at Seatac than it had been at Heathrow. I eventually stumbled upon one but despite being a pretty busy airport, the bar was relatively empty. I thought you Americans liked a beer? I think it further highlighted what a drunken little island we are – you’d find any good Wetherspoons airport bar back home packed no matter the time of day!

After a couple of beers I figured it was time to go and find my gate. It was at this point that I noticed the TV’s behind me had been showing the English afternoon football and I’d needlessly been checking for updates on my phone – oops!

Soon enough I was boarding my flight to Chicago and back in the Windy city. I had a mini layover, probably three hours or so before I’d have to be back at the airport so I was in two minds about going in to the city. I wanted to but I also realised I needed to eat and with a 30-40 minute journey each way I pondered if it was even worthwhile.

First things first, I figured I’d try my luck at the bag drop off point. I didn’t want to be lugging my suitcase around with me but to my surprise they were happy to check my bag in extremely early so going in to Chicago was that little more tempting. Nevertheless it didn’t seem worthwhile to go all that way given I wouldn’t really see anything and the only plan was to eat. I’d also avoid any mishaps so stayed at the airport and made my way through security.

It actually took quite a while getting through O’Hare’s security but given I had all of the time I wasn’t too worried – it was actually pretty appreciated on this occasion as I knew I’d be fairly bored for the next few hours anyway. Eventually I got through, found a little shop and bought some postcards to take home with me before switching my attention towards getting something to eat.

I opted for a sit-down pizza place and to my absolute horror, they had no Chicago-style pizza on the menu!

We’re in Chicago!! How can you not have Chicago-style pizza on your menu? It was a travesty! Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means my favourite style of pizza but there should be laws against such wrongs in the world!

In the end I grabbed food elsewhere which wasn’t a much better choice really. The food wasn’t great, service was rubbish and topped off by a waitress deciding I needn’t receive any change. I waited a while for her to return but to no avail. I didn’t particularly want the change because who really wants loose change in a foreign currency to take home after a trip but nevertheless it was a sneaky move – one way to ensure you receive a generous tip I suppose.

The rest of my time passed pretty quickly. Given I was at the airport for so long it felt a lot shorter. I popped in to a bar but only seemed to have time for a couple of beers and I was then boarding.

The trip was over – reality was near! I landed in London and knew it was “back to work” tomorrow.

Nevertheless, what an experience! It’s undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever done and despite a blog series that never looked like ending at one point, I don’t think I’ll ever adequately summarise what a special summer it was. Thirty days spanning six states with countless faces and memories – what a celebration!

I know at some points it seemed like I wasn’t doing much but I suppose that’s the perk of longer travel. I had the right balance of busy and time to wind down and it was just an incredibly perfect trip that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

If you made it to the end (even of this post alone, let’s be honest I like a ramble) then thank you! I still don’t know that I really did the trip justice but I feel really grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to embark on this adventure.

Thank You!

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts I’ll link all of them below – from start to finish but next up on the blog? Travels from a trip other than this one! Stay tuned!

Jason

P.S – see all of the posts for this trip below
The big 3-0!
The big 3-0: Update
See you in September!
The big 3-0: a terrible summary
2018: A travel round-up
The big 3-0: Day one – Chicago bound
The big 3-0: Day two – exploring Chicago
The big 3-0: Day three – Minneapolis
The big 3-0: Day four – Why I visited Minneapolis!
The big 3-0: Day five – New Orleans!
The big 3-0: Day six – The real New Orleans!
The big 3-0: Day seven – Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Washington
The big 3-0: Day eight – Exploring Poulsbo!
The big 3-0: Day nine – Wedding day!
The big 3-0: Day ten – To Portland!
The big 3-0: Day eleven – the actual 3-0!
The big 3-0: Day 12 – Oregon City and Portland
The big 3-0: Day thirteen – Walla Walla bound!
The big 3-0: Day fourteen – Walla Walla
The big 3-0: Day fifteen – The family BBQ!
The big 3-0: Day sixteen – the Vegas finale!
The big 3-0: Day seventeen – Back to Oregon!
The big 3-0: Day eighteen – Exploring Oregon’s coast!
The big 3-0: Day nineteen – California pit stop!
The big 3-0: Day twenty – San Francisco bound!
The big 3-0: Day twenty one – San Francisco begins!
The big 3-0: Day twenty two – San Fran continued!
The big 3-0: Day twenty three – Alcatraz!
The big 3-0: Day twenty four – Where to?
The big 3-0: Day twenty five – the return to Moses Lake!

The big 3-0: Update

I’ve had an influx of new followers lately so first and foremost – welcome to you all! It has been a little while since my last post as other things have taken priority but I hope you’re all doing well.

If you’ve been following along for a while you’ll recall that I posted about the early planning process for my summer plans. To recap; I’m attending a wedding on the 5th of August in Washington State and then turn 30 on the 7th of August. Two reasons to celebrate gave me two reasons to make this a summer to remember – I wanted to make this a big trip and therefore I’ll be spending 30 days in the USA! Thirty bloody days! Crazy!

My previous post was speaking about what my early thoughts of planning such a big trip would be, so if you’re planning something similar you can give that a read here: The big 3-0!
However I’m now closer to having a finalised itinerary and I wanted to provide you with an update on what the plan is looking like.

My dates have been relatively set for some time. The date of the wedding has changed a couple of times but all have overlapped with my original plan to fly to the US on July 28th and get home on August 27th (flying home overnight on the 26th).
These dates meant I could attend the wedding, celebrate my birthday and also make the most of August 27th being a public holiday in the UK – i.e one less day of annual leave used. It meant I could get 30 days in the US with only 20 days taken off work which was pretty ideal!

So with the dates confirmed all I had to do was decide where I’d be spending them and who, if anyone, would accompany me. Easy right?

This plan has changed several times over for several reasons. I’ve considered visiting pretty much everywhere across the States and looked in to visiting parts of Canada too but nothing has been particularly set in stone. My only definitive plans were to visit Washington for the wedding and make my first visits to Portland and San Francisco. I’ve been pretty flexible beyond that. So here goes!

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USA bound!

Chicago: July 28th – July 30th
I’m starting the trip off solo in Chicago. This was somewhere I’d thought about visiting but then as the plan developed disappeared from my itinerary.
However flight prices were decent and Chicago O’Hare’s airport was a decent base to get around the country for some of the other places I was considering.

I was debating whether to spend two or three days here dependent on where I’d be going next. It now looks like it’ll be two days.

Minneapolis: July 30th – August 1st
For a 30 day trip, perhaps surprisingly stop number 2 was one of the last pieces of my “”jigsaw”. I’ll be honest and say this wasn’t somewhere I’d given too much consideration in visiting. I knew I wanted to go to destination number 3 on August 1st but was having trouble deciding where to go between Chicago and stop number 3.

I’d considered Minneapolis but it wasn’t towards the top of my list and wasn’t a “bucketlist” city for me to visit. However this week my beloved Tottenham Hotspur announced they’d be returning to the US and playing in Minneapolis on July 31st.

I’d booked my flights to Chicago well before the announcement because I had no intention of planning my trip around Spurs. With that said I had kept this particular date open and it’s just happened to work out that I’m already in a neighbouring state. It’s not a long journey from Chicago so was a pretty logical second stop.

SpursUSA
Potentially country number 8 watching Tottenham!

New Orleans: August 1st – August 4th
Having friends in the US always gives me something extra to think about when planning a US trip. For this particular trip I was keen to try and visit two of my penpals, Crystal (Florida) and Sam (Alabama). I was fortunate to meet the latter in Nashville last year but we’d yet to successfully meet up with all three of us!

Given their locations the easiest meeting point would be somewhere Southern and somehow we got on to the possibility of New Orleans. I still want to visit both in Alabama and Florida but I was sold on the idea of NOLA pretty instantly. I’m hoping I’ll get a nicer welcome in the South than I did in Georgia or Texas (you’ll have to wait for those stories).

This has been on my list pretty early on and the only thing left to decide was how long I wanted to stay here. I’ve opted for 3-ish days.

Washington
Me, Haleigh, Cassie & Maddie!

Seattle: August 4th – August 6th
As mentioned abovve, the wedding is on the 5th so this was a no brainer. It’ll be my third time in Washington though so I’m happy flying in to Seattle on the 4th and leaving just after. I’ll definitely be back to Washington in the future anyway.

I’ll be watching Cassie and Maddie get married and meeting up with Haleigh too! From this point onwards I’ll have Haleigh joining me for the adventure!

Portland: August 6th – August 9th
As soon as I knew I was traveling to the West coast for a wedding I knew I had to find some time to visit Portland. It looks like a great city and I have a few friends locally that I’m hoping I’ll catch up with. I’m a little gutted because my time here doesn’t overlap with a Timbers game but it’s still somewhere I’m so excited to visit. It’ll be a cool place to celebrate my birthday too!

Moses Lake: August 9th – August 10th
Me and Haleigh are driving down to Portland after the wedding and then we’ll be driving back to Washington together before the weekend hits. I don’t know if we’re specifically going to Moses Lake but I figure we’ll probably have a day at “home” to relax before the adventure continues!

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Moses Lake, you’re so pretty!

Walla Walla: August 10th – August 13th
A return to beautiful Walla Walla. I visited here in February and it was somewhere I grew quite fond of – the mountain views certainly helped! Haleigh’s family are hosting their big annual BBQ on the 11th which means we’ll end up spending the weekend here before getting back to the adventuring.

Oregon Coast: August 13th – August 15th
Back to Oregon! San Francisco bound, we (Haleigh) will be driving down the coast and visiting places such as Lincoln City, Newport and wherever else along the way. It looks pretty and gives us a chance to see more of the state and a chance for Haleigh to revisit some places she hasn’t been to for a while.

Redwood National Park: August 15th – August 16th
It’s still a long drive to San Francisco from Oregon so I was conscious of stopping somewhere and this seemed like a suitable choice on route. Whilst I’d love to see some of the bigger parks in the US I still think this will be pretty cool.

San Francisco: August 16th – August 20th
This has been high up on my list of places to visit for a long time. I’m so excited to finally be making my first visit to San Fran this year. We have four nights here which should give us plenty of time to see a lot of what the city has to offer. After the wedding this was probably the part of the trip I was most excited about. Seeing that Golden Gate bridge in particular will definitely be a “pinch me” moment.

Bend: August 20th to August 22nd
A visit to Bend (Oregon) breaks up the return drive from California to Washington and gives us an opportunity to visit a friend too which we were both keen to try and squeeze in to the trip. I don’t know if we’ll spend one or two days in Bend but it’ll be nice to make a stop here.

Moses Lake: August 22nd to August 25th
I’m anticipating Haleigh might be back to work on the 23rd so we’re aiming to get back “home” the day before. After three and a half weeks of traveling it’ll be nice to relax for a day or two. If Haleigh doesn’t have to work we might end up going elsewhere but we’ll see.

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Spokane, Washington

Spokane: August 25th to August 26th
A necessary stop to start making my way home. I went to Spokane last September and it was a nice overnight stop, I’d be fine with a brief second visit. Spokane’s airport is small but meant I could directly reach my next and final stop.

Chicago: August 26th
Departure day. I looked at various flight options but in the end decided I’d fly to and from the same place, so back to Chicago I go! At the minute I’m suggesting I’ll arrive and fly home on the same day but this might change, we’ll see.

Anyway, there you have it! Six states, several cities, one wedding and one 30th birthday spread across 30 days!

This isn’t the absolute final itinerary and there are probably still going to be some slight amendments but for the most-part this is a good glimpse at where I’ll be heading this summer, which is now exactly 100 days away!

If you have any recommendations for any of the above please give me a heads up. With the exception of Washington State, these are all new states that I’m visiting so any tips are much appreciated!

All the best!

Jason

The big 3-0!

1988 – a year of many historic moments. Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway, Liverpool were the champions of English football, Celine Dion won the Eurovision song contest, George Bush won the 88 US presidential election but most importantly was the birth of an English baby boy on the 7th of August. I was always a bit of an early riser as a kid so typically I was two hours early to deny myself the perfect birth date of 8/8/88.

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Even as a baby I was thinking about holidays!

 

Fast forward 29 years and that little baby is quickly approaching his 30th birthday! Thirty!
Those 30 years have taken me to some incredible places. For starters I was born and grew up in London so life began in one of the best cities in the world, certainly my favourite anyway. I’ve since been to the likes of New York City, Sydney, Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam and many many more destinations. I can’t deny I’ve done a lot of traveling but it would be easy to forget I didn’t really start taking traveling seriously until 2013.

I was lucky growing up that I had been on family trips, the odd school trip and then had annual one week holidays of my own in 2011 and 2012 but going into 2013 I’d barely scratched the surface of all there is to see on this planet.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I really started focusing my efforts in to traveling more. So barely five years! People often suggest traveling is for your 20’s, if that was the case I’d arrived pretty late to the party! I’ll let you in on a little secret though – you can keep traveling at 30 and beyond! I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true! I’ve seen it with my own eyes! Apparently they don’t confiscate your passport on your 30th birthday!

So with that shocking revelation in mind, the planning for my own 30th is underway. On the 3rd of August I’m due to attend a wedding on the West coast of the USA, with a 30th birthday four days later how could I not spend it in the US? The timing was perfect and there’s so much of the US I still want to see – particularly down that West coast! A big adventure was on the cards.

I floated the idea with my boss at work about taking a longer trip and asked how much time I’d be able to take off in one go. I optimistically put forward the idea of four weeks and I’ve had the OK this week!

If it comes to fruition this will be the biggest trip I’ve ever taken and is therefore going to require a lot of planning! I’ve done a couple of multi city breaks before, including in the US, so I’m not a complete novice in this area but it’s a little daunting nonetheless.
Here’s an insight in to the early stages of planning a trip like this.

Itinerary
One of the most important decisions of a trip like this is obviously deciding where you want to go!  You don’t necessarily need a finalised list but a draft list of destinations so you can start planning everything else out is helpful. The more flexible you can be the better but it’s also always good to have some set destinations in mind to help map out a route.
So stick a little pin in Seattle. That’s locked in to the itinerary for the wedding and gives me somewhere to either start my trip or aim to get to later on in the trip. Having other “must visits” will help plan out a route. Portland and San Francisco tick that box on the West coast and from there I’m pretty flexible. If everything goes to plan I’ll have 30 days in the country so the possible destinations can spread right across the country. Seeing more of California is certainly one option I’ll explore but similarly I have a number of friends in the US and I feel like that could dictate some of the destinations I choose to visit.

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USA, I’m coming back for you! 

Getting around! 
Thirty days in the USA very much screams “ROADTRIP!!!” – what a perfect opportunity for that bucketlist item many people dream of. Road-tripping across the USA definitely has its temptations. Travel the famous Route 66? Maybe! I’ll just rent a car and see where the road takes me!

However there is one tiny little flaw to this almost perfect plan – I can’t drive. Unlike in Europe, traveling the US without a car is a little more challenging but I’ll be making good use of what available transport there is. The AMTRAK train line, greyhound buses and potentially even domestic flights dependent on the distance should get me so far and will still help me reach some incredible destinations.

Personally I love this part of the planning process as you have to weigh up the cost and convenience of getting from destination to destination. Do I go from A to B or B to A? B’s actually too expensive so what if I go to D? Well if I’m going to D maybe stop at C on the way? Oh, flying to D is actually cheaper. Or you could get an overnight bus to E which would mean one less night’s accommodation to pay for. Decisions, decisions, decisions!

 

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Flying might be an option to get around the US!

Accommodation
This will likely play some factor in which destinations I visit too. Hotel prices in the US are quite expensive. Some cities are of course worse than others but it could be a factor between visiting one place rather than another. This is the area of the trip I’ll certainly be looking to cut costs. Aside from the occasional ‘treat’ I’ll probably be steering clear of hotels and exploring hostel and AirBnB options instead.

I’m also hopeful that I might have some US based friends I can stay with along the way, if I’ve got somewhere I can stay then the probability is I’m going to make more effort to visit!

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I love New York City but accommodation prices are crazy!

Objective
Something else to think about is what I actually want from this trip. The USA is huge which also makes it incredibly diverse. On previous trips I’ve been to Disneyland, I’ve been to small college towns and I’ve been to crazy cities like New York City. They’re all completely different type of trips. The US is so diverse as a holiday destination and has so much to offer, just deciding what type of holiday you want is a dilemma in itself. Do I want to concentrate on visiting cities? Could I squeeze in some beach time or visit one of the US’ many national parks? Is a Disney / Universal trip a possibility? I’m often attracted to big cities but with a much longer trip in mind perhaps mixing it up a bit is the better way to go!

Company
My last big thing to think about at this early stage is who is joining me on the adventure. I enjoy solo travel but I’m also thinking about who I’ll be spending time with whilst in the US. Would anyone come with me? Which US based friends do I try to visit? Do I see them in their hometown or might they meet me somewhere? Even if it only ends up being for a portion of the trip opposed to the entirety, it’s an important aspect to think about and plan for.

On a related note – that road trip I joked about? If there are any willing drives / adventurers then step right up, I’m more than happy contributing towards “gas” costs.

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At the baseball with my Washington favourites in September

Budget
I didn’t want to completely omit a mention of this but at the same time it’s a little early to accurately budget at this stage. It’s an important part of the trip but probably comes in the next part of the planning stage. You can budget an estimated amount based on accommodation per night, spending per day plus return flights to the US but really it’s very much guesswork at this stage.

The budget really overlaps with some of the above stages once I’ve started “connecting the dots”.
At the minute my only definitive “dot” is Seattle with much more planning to do!

Anyway that rounds up the early planning stages of the big 3-0 celebrations. Stay tuned for updates on how the planning goes and hopefully I’ll soon have a final itinerary!

I’d love to hear your input. How did you celebrate your 30th? Where should I be looking to visit? If you’ve planned a longer-term trip of your own I’d appreciate any tips you have.

Or maybe you’re just tempted to tag along? Get in touch!

All the best!

Jason