Last month, on the first of June, my lovely Irish parents flew into the States! For the first time in a year, we were finally reunited! I was so glad that my parents made the big trip across the Atlantic to see me - but in fairness, this was no ordinary holiday. One month, eleven States, six National Parks, nine major cities and two Irish parents. Take a look inside the holiday of a lifetime and all the craic in between!
After collecting my parents in Chicago, we all piled into the car and headed east for Kalamazoo. It was amazing to see them and catch up on everything that had been happening at home. We spent 6 days in Kalamazoo, visiting with my boyfriend’s lovely family, taking trips to South Haven, visiting the Biddy Murphy team and getting to know my day-to-day life. They were so thrilled that I have so many wonderful people in my life here and they enjoyed getting to know all of them! We also visited the Gilmore Classic Car Museum. For all those who have never been, GO! It’s amazing. The museum houses over 400 cars that are perfectly restored. My Dad was a mechanic when he was a young lad so he was in his element! It was one of the highlights of the holiday!
After spending some time in Michigan, we packed up the rental car and began our journey south. First stop: Indianapolis. There, we took in the city and enjoyed visiting the Indiana War Museum which was full of really interesting artifacts. It was quite an experience. Having only one night in Indianapolis, we quickly hit the road again. On our way down south we stopped off in the cutest wee town called Glendale, Kentucky! It was so sweet! The town was tiny and full of old wooden western style buildings - like the ones you see in old western movies! Each building was full of cute antiques and old odds and ends. It was really lovely. 10/10 would recommend!
Next stop: Nashville, Tennessee. Although we didn’t plan it, we arrived at the best imaginable time. Both the Country Music Awards and the final of the Stanley Cup were taking place in the city that weekend. The town was BUZZING. The streets were packed with people and music poured out of every bar. I asked my taxi driver what time the basketball match started. He let me know that the Stanley Cup is actually ice hockey and laughed at me quite a lot but in my defense, it was 109 degrees! Who, in their right mind, would have thought that ice was even on the same planet at that point! Haha! We visited the Grand Ole Opry one morning followed by a spot of shopping in town. Dad got the opportunity to live out his dream and get a real Stetson hat in Nashville while Mother-dearest went out and bought herself the boots which they say are ‘made for walking’.
On wards to Memphis, Tennessee! Home of my Dad’s hero, Elvis. Of course, we had to visit Graceland. It was really interesting but definitely a different experience for my parents. Having grown up listening to his music, watching his films and generally seeing most aspects of his life, it was surreal to be standing in his living room. Dad always dreamed of meeting Elvis and spoke of the day he found out that the King had passed away. It really did send shock waves around the world. The tour was fascinating and we also got a chance to see his planes. Afterwards, we headed into town and got some great food while listening to a blues band. It all felt like a movie!
The halfway point: New Orleans, Louisiana. I was so delighted to be back in NOLA, having visited many times before. My best friend is from New Orleans and we were so delighted to get the opportunity to stay with her and her amazing family. We took the ferry across to the city and visited the War Museum and of course, took a trip to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. My friend’s Dad was a fantastic tour guide and showed us all of the sights. All too soon, it was time to head to the airport for part 2!
Las Vegas! It was hot. It was unimaginably and worryingly hot. 120 degrees to be precise. We spent those couple of days indoors. My Mother managed to burn her dress on a wall when leaning against it for a photo. The elastic in the dress shrivelled and balled up. It was insane! But don’t worry - we got the Las Vegas experience. Cocktails, slot machines and a show! We went to see Cirque du Soleil. Of course that was incredible too. On our last morning in Vegas, we headed to the RV rental place and picked up our new home for the remaining 10 days.
The next 9 days were a blur. On our way out of Vegas, we visited the Hoover Dam and then headed for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. No movie or photograph has ever or will ever do it justice. It was truly breathtaking. After a quick bite to eat and a visit from his fella, we headed for Bryce Canyon and arrived there at about 2AM. Thankfully we had a day or two to take in our beautiful surroundings before heading for Zion National Park. This was probably my favourite place that we visited. It was simply stunning. The red rock faces and winding roads - it was all beyond description. However, it did set the tone for the remainder of our driving experience. Long, winding, narrow roads over cliff edges. Hair-raising stuff.
Next on the agenda: The Great Basin National Park. This National Park is the least visited National Park in the US. This did not surprise me. The drive was long and varied between dead straight flats to winding mountainous driving with little or no towns to stop along the way. The town at the entrance to the park was named Baker. It was tiny but very cute. The Great Basin is worth a visit though as it is one of very few certified Dark Parks in the world! There was absolutely no light pollution so we could see all of the stars including the milky way! I’ve never seen anything like it!
The next day we hit the big drive! 450ish miles from Baker to Lake Tahoe across route 50 - America’s Loneliest Road. That is no understatement. The road was incredibly straight, like all of those roads you see on the front of National Geographic magazines. There as one town on the way which was absolutely tiny. It was quite an experience though and we kept track of every other car we met on the 400 miles across - 37 cars. Finally we arrived in Lake Tahoe quite late in the evening.
The next morning we woke up to some unusual guests outside the bathroom! I literally couldn’t believe it! Mama bear probably wasn’t far away so we kept our distance. My parents were in pure disbelief. They were a long way from County Mayo! It was pure surreal to feel the heat of the sun and swim in the lake (which was Artic by the way) and be also surrounded by snow covered mountains, which we got to walk in when we headed for Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
For the last few days, we took in the giant trees of Sequoia National Park and marveled at how incredibly old they were. It was so beautiful. We then headed into LA where we spent the last two days. We were staying in Santa Monica so we spent time walking the pier and exploring the surrounding area. We also took the time to visit Hollywood and see the stars on the street. Soon, it was time to say goodbye again!
The trip flew past. It was so wonderful to see the country and to spend time with my parents after spending so much time apart. It really was the adventure of a lifetime and I’m so glad that we got to see so much. They’re back in Ireland now reading this I’m sure! (Don’t worry Mam, I’ll be home in a few weeks! Haha)! Let me know what you think of our journey! Is there anything we missed along the way? Have you been to these places? Let us know down below!
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