So I took a week off, packed the luggage, corralled my family and boarded the plane at JFK for Oakland, CA.
To cut a long story short, we did the following in a week and a bit:-
NYC - Oakland, CA - Sacramento - Lake Tahoe - Reno, NV - Virginia City - Las Vegas - Sedona, AZ - Ludlow, CA (I expired in the middle of night on Interstate 40 crossing Mojave Desert and stopped at a tracker's motel in the middle of nowhere) - Carmel - Napa Valley (Napa - Calistoga - Yountville) - San Francisco - Oakland, CA - NYC
I can do without going on driving for some time now.
Upon our return to Oakland Airport, a lady at Hertz checked the car's mileage and pronounced our trusty Ford Taurus to be retired, to be sold on second-hand market at discount.
Some observations from the trip:-
1. NYC is the friendliest city in America.
People are forced to live in close proximity of each other in NYC. As a result, people communicate with each other with much more ease than Americans from any other places that we have visited (although, for New Yorkers, it may be for the sole purpose of staking their claim to their respective personal spaces).
We went to see rodeo in Reno and managed to spend the entire evening without speaking to strangers. (Perhaps I should have gone to Gay Rodeo, as a colleague suggested.)
I guess they are shy.
And they do not realise that they are being rude when they say
"I don't understand your accent."
Whatcha talkin' 'bout, yer lard-ass hillbillies!
2. Obesity is a big problem in America. It is a bigger problem out there in the Wide Wide West.
I have decided not to show a photo in support of this observation for fear of litigation.
3. Generally speaking, people in casinos rarely look happy.
4. Purpose-built resort establishments, like the one we stayed in Sedona, put too much stress on you to relax and enjoy, ultimately defeating the original purpose.
There is nothing else to do and hotels do not make money unless their guests move from one organised activity to another. Soon, one feels as if he has checked into an institution (which it is, a kind of).
We have come to a conclusion that we do not much care for this kind of resort. We would rather sit by a river, on beach, in forest etc. doing nothing without paying "resort fees".
5. People do not sweat in Arizona.
The strength of sunshine is such that sweat evaporates immediately upon surfacing, leaving salt mark on one's skin.
Whilst on the topic of Arizona climate, it is a mystery that Doc Holliday managed to die of TB wearing wool clothing in Arizona all year round. It may be that he was sleeping in sweat-soaked clothes at cold desert nights.
6. You do not find Starbucks in the places where people do not appreciate and see the point of paying extra dollars for coffee with foreign-sounding names (like "Frappucino" or "Arabica" beans... so foreign... possibly related to terrorists... I mean the name contains the word "Arab"...)
On the other hand, you can find Chinese restaurants/take-aways in the most remote areas.
We had a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant, "House of Chan", near Kingman, AZ, Interstate 40/US 93 junction. We were served by a mainland Chinese girl who apologised for the poor quality of food due to certain ingredients being unavailable in the neighbourhood. True to her words, my hot and sour soup had been made with western style vinegar and was horrible. Still, local sheriff was enjoying the buffet lunch on offer there.
7. Only tourists swim at beach at Carmel. Local residents are far too old to engage in such dangerous activities.
8. In Napa Valley, watch out for drink driving. Not just your own but others' , too.
I had a couple of hairy moments.
9. San Francisco's China Town is a tourist trap.
Chinese people got rich and moved to the suburbs.
My wife stopped an elderly Chinese couple on the street and asked for a good restaurants in the area. They replied "We eat at home."
We missed Hong Kong there and then.
10. America is huge.
Like, I didn't know. But I definitely felt it driving across only three of 50 states.
I want to see more. But I would appreciate somebody else driving next time.