West US (2012) - Holiday of the Great Hilarity Dreamland
Updated: Oct 1
Date: July 7, 2012
Team: Fam + Adam (cousin)’s Fam (Special Guest: Uncle Gary and Aunt Ping)
Duration: 15 Days
Type: Road Trip
Agenda: Las Vegas - Los Angeles - San Francisco - Spokane - Seattle
Wish You Were Here - Avril Lavigne
Innocence - Avril Lavigne
Live My Life - Far East Movement
La Mer - Charles Trenet
Hips Don’t Lie - Shakira
MOT (Movie of the Trip):
Mr. Bean’s Holiday (Even since then, I watch this movie every time when I travel abroad)
The memoir from my deep mind:
“This is America! Really!? I am in America now? It’s not China anymore?” Yep, it was my first time going abroad. And where we were heading was even the most powerful country in the world - the United States of America. At the Shanghai PuDong Airport, I had no idea what was coming at that time. By just getting on and off an airplane, a brand new world was brought in front of me. Every time we mention America, I always flashback to every second and minute of that trip in 2012. My heart seems placed there forever, because I think the western lifestyle, society and environment is what I truly dream for. In fact, I found a singer, a rock queen from Canada before our trip. Her name is Avril Lavigne. I fell in love with her right after I saw her on the Internet. Later on I’ve been following her and listening to her songs, and started getting interested in western people. Plus I was already into western style food. The coincidence and the timing of that trip is just perfect. After stepping onto the land of the USA, it didn’t take long for me to get used to everything there. On the other hand, it took me a while for me to get used to China when we came back. Yes, I am pretty sure that I am into it. It’s a kind of feeling that I cannot control or easily describe. Also on the return flight, tears came out of my eyes. After we came back home, I wasn’t in a mood to do anything as my heart was still there, even when I went back to school. After we got back, I switched my Chinese traditional breakfast (steamed bun, congee, crackers) to western breakfast (bread, bacon, eggs). Then switched Chinese songs to English songs on my playlist. Because of that, I spent around half of the year coming up with an English name for myself - Disco. Two years later, due to me being crazy about freedom and exploring the rest of the world, I gave myself a middle name - “Disco Flye” was created! In fact, after the trip, I encountered my favorite teacher in my middle school. Her name is Sophie and she’s from England. Even though it’s a bit weird to like a teacher as a student with such a big age ratio, there’s no fakeness in it at all, I was completely honest about liking her and she’s my type. After that, my classmates started laughing at me. They said I am not interested in video games, basketball, or even girls at that time, instead I am into the US, a freakin country, am I a psycho? They were thinking I have become a traitor to our country who likes other countries, and started calling me “American” or “Son of America”. I was sad, I was thinking for a very long time about whether it’s my fault. In the end, I didn’t give up on this dream, even though I don’t think anybody could understand me. That trip, in 2012, was my life-changing experience. Alright, I think I can say more of these, but I guess it’s more than enough. Let’s rewind this journey and start it all over again —
Photo gallery of Las Vegas, Nevada:
That year, we flew for 10 hours from Shanghai to San Francisco, then transferred to Las Vegas. Once we landed, it was daytime. We rented a Toyota car. I was so happy because it was my first time sitting in such a huge car with 7 seats. After that we met with our relatives, Uncle Gary and Aunt Ping, who were living in Vegas at that moment and kind enough to let us stay in their house for a couple of nights. Even though it was a pretty common house in the US, it was still pretty luxurious for me at that time. We were in there barefoot on the carpet. It was very clean, casual, and convenient. On the first night, I slept on an air bed for the first time. It felt very comfy until I fell off in the middle of the night haha. The next morning we ate some bacon, that’s when I started to love bacon, and even American breakfast. Then Aunt Ping took us to take a tour in Las Vegas, a casino city built in the desert. (Here's Uncle Gary and my dad):
The casino in Vegas:
As I entered the casino, I immediately felt an entertaining vibe. The place was dark and most of the light sources were from the casino machines. Suddenly, I saw a lady strip dancing on a tiny stage. Was this what a strip club looked like? Nah.. She was wearing clothes, we good. Technically, it was illegal for minors like me and my cousin Adam to enter the casino there. Therefore, we left the adults for the casino fun and went to a cafe to chill. After that, I was surprised my dad had won more than $100 by playing cards. He was also a newbie at the casino but wow. Later I realized the card game they were playing was just “24 pts” smh… But honestly I was really into this entertaining atmosphere. That day I even tried to sneakily touch and control the slot machine, but nothing happened because it required coins. I was so silly.
The buffet meal at the casino: (Tastes better than it looks!) And by the way, you don’t say “WC” in America when you want to ask for a toilet because they won’t understand, say “toilet” or “restroom” instead.
The Vegas cityscape at night (from Stratosphere Tower):
That was the rooftop of the casino we went to after the dinner. They even had some intense rides, a drop tower and a coaster with a cutoff track. I’d never been on a ride that high above the ground, that was fantastic, thank god I have no fear of heights. And speaking of that view we saw that night, it was the most modern, gorgeous, shiniest landscape I’d ever seen.
The Strip, a super famous street in Vegas filled with models of world-famous attractions (sorry there ain’t many pics):
Time to head to the second city!
2nd stop: Los Angeles, California.
Santa Monica Beach: (Finally I saw the Pacific Ocean with my eyes. There was a famous pier next to us, it even had some rides on it. “Bean” 1997 was filmed here)
This was our motel in LA, it was my first time staying in a motel and it easily became my favorite stay in the US. Loved the vibe!
Next day, we went to Universal Studio Hollywood and finally saw the real movie magic. I wasn’t a movie guy at that time and all I cared about was rides. Surprisingly USH combined them very well:
Later that day, we headed to the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd and saw a bunch of celebrities’ footprints, handprints, and their iconic stars on the floor. Over there, we even watched a movie - “Men in Black 3”. The theater was almost empty. Because we ran out of energy at USH, me and Adam fell asleep during the movie until the last ten minutes. It was unfortunate but I think it counts as an achievement - watching a movie in Hollywood.
The following day, July 11, was the most exciting day - Disneyland! We went to the California Adventure session. However, we realized there weren’t many intense rides in there except for the roller coaster and the ferris wheel that could move around. So the adults from our families were a bit disappointed. But! That day me and Adam were riding the coaster like insane. There were a lot of people in the line for the coaster, then we luckily found another line. This line needed us to use the elevator to enter and it was labeled “Single Rider”. I didn’t know what that meant as my English was awful, but basically this line allowed us to fill the remaining seats on every coaster ride, as most people came as a group or a family. “Single Rider” line only had a few people and it was super fast to get to your turn. During that day, we rode that coaster 11 times. At the end of the day, it wasn’t even enough. I have not broken this record on any ride in the world. (Until November 2019)
Next day, we left Los Angeles, and started driving along the west coast line. Next up, San Francisco. It was going to be a long ride. On our way, we passed by Santa Barbara:
And we visited by far my favorite town in the world - Solvang:
Just like Avril Lavigne said in her song, “It’s so beautiful it makes you want to cry!” It was a uniquely designed windmill town. It had such a peaceful environment and I enjoyed it very much. I bought some hot dogs and ice cream over there, as well as sending a postcard to my grandparents at home from the USPS office. At that moment, I realized many architecture in the US focused a lot on colors, and their styles were also meant to be different from each other, I guess…
Next day we stopped by Hearst Castle (including our lunch and a guided tour) and passed by Big Sur and Monterey:
A great advantage of road trips - whenever we see a beautiful spot, we can always stop by and look.
After 2 days, we arrived at the 3rd city: San Francisco, California:
Speaking of SF, I think I have to mention some of its globally well-known stuff. That’s right, SF’s architecture also has a unique style. My first impression of this city was, damn so many hills… But what’s impressive was that they filled up those hills with houses. So.. is this a coast city that’s built on hills? Just taking a guess…
In a very foggy early morning, we drove up to the famous twin peaks. (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was filmed here).
SF City Hall and Union Square:
Next, we drove to the one and only - Golden Gate Bridge. (A film location for tons of movies and shows)
Lombard Street, again a huge shout out to the designers:
And here is the unique cable car in SF. From what I heard, men need to stand on the side step and spare the seats inside for ladies. It still felt awesome:
SF Night Challenge #1: Lost in the City. (Yuh we got lost for around 3 hours, it’s pretty self-explanatory, but no photo sorry..)
Visiting University of California, Berkeley:
The famous Fisherman’s Wharf in SF. I had the most juicy crab in my entire life there:
Lastly, let’s talk a bit about the climate in SF. Even though we went there in summer, it was still kinda chilly and people there were wearing hoodies. Why is that the case? Well, others told me that SF has the classic oceanic climate, which mixes up the fresh air in the city and the seasonal wind from the ocean. As the coldness meets the heat, that’s why we always encountered fog in the early morning and at night. That brings us to our next story.
SF Night Challenge #2: Danger! The San Francisco Fog is a Killer!
After heading out from the Fisherman’s Wharf, our original plan was to drive out of the city and go to the next hotel. During the drive, we noticed something strange. First, fog slowly appeared on the glass of our vehicle and we thought it’s just the temperature differential, so we turned on the heater in the vehicle and hopefully it would go away. Getting to that hotel required us to go over some hills. As we started driving to the hill, we realized something’s not right. The fog was getting heavier and heavier. Then we started to think this may not be the normal fog, it might be steam fog, which existed in the air and we weren’t able to remove it. There’s literally nothing we could do but to deal with it and continue to drive. The route was uphill with almost no streetlight on the sides. As time passed on, I felt it’s just us on the road. Then my mom, who’s currently the driver, finally spoke up, “No, I really can’t, I can’t see anything, the steam is too strong.” Suddenly, we saw two shiny eyes on the right side of the road staring at us. We got scared for a second until we realized it’s just a deer. It’s very common to see wild animals like this in the US, but it’s not very nice of them to jump on us in the fog like this, sheeshh.. Eventually, my mom stopped the car because she was not able to continue to drive due to the poor visibility, which I would say only about 2 or 3 meters. All we could see was just gray air in front of us. Even the spotlight could not save us from it. Then my dad got off the car and tried to inspect the route for us. We waited for a second and saw him coming back with a pale face. He told us we were lucky we stopped here because there’s a sharp turn right in front of us, and most importantly, there’s an edge on the side. If we drive straight up, we would definitely fall down the hill. We all started getting chills and took a deep breath. Then I also got out to check around, immediately, my body felt surrounded by water drops. These drops were so tiny and light that they seemed flying around, that’s probably what this steamy fog was made of. It’s also kinda chilly. However, I could only see some of the route and the grass in front. Before I wanted to go and check the edge, my mom called me back immediately. However long we waited for, the fog just couldn’t go away. Because of that, we had no choice but to turn around, go back to SF and stay for one more night. On our way back downhill, we encountered a group of people on the sideroad. They dressed like firefighters or something. They pulled us off and warned us to be cautious of driving on the hills as one vehicle already fell off the hill over here. We got chills once again. If my mom didn’t stop there, it might happen to us as well. Luckily we reached the hotel safely. Thank god we survived this that night. But overall, it’s an intense chapter of our trip, and we being alive is all that matters. Alright, time for the next stop!
(At this point, only 65% of the trip was done, but we already passed the major ones, I’ll roughly share the rest of the trip from now on).
Continue driving along the coast line, we stopped at the Redwood National Park:
And more spots we passed by (Newport, Kennewick, Cannon Beach, Portland):
Here is a cheese factory we took a tour at, I learned a lot, to be honest.
Found my favorite fast food restaurant - Denny’s: (And the waiter was very excited to take a photo with us)
Finally, we arrived at our next city - Spokane WA, where we reunited with Uncle Gary and Aunt Ping, who also owned a house in this city. Surprisingly their house was on the hill. There was no one living there for a while, so the interior looked a bit old. However, there was some entertainment on the second floor. Over there, I taught myself how to play table pool. It was kinda easy, honestly haha. Then Uncle Gary taught us how to make Mexican tacos. That night, it was my first time making a bed on the floor. It felt very nice actually.
Hanging out by the Spokane River:
The water rapids and classic car exhibition in Spokane:
Last but not least, heading to our final city - Seattle, WA:
The Museum of Flight in Seattle:
Then we went to Lake Union Park. Chilling and watching some locals playing with rubber rope (anybody knows what this activity is called?) We were swimming in the lake for a bit before we went for our last dinner, which we chose at Denny's once again! After dinner, we encountered a tornado, oh sorry, it’s just a cloud shaped like a tornado. We don’t see that kind of thing often.
That is it, the journey to the west US is over. This journey is full of passion, tension, dream, freedom, and so many words I can use. In the end, we flew back to SF and were ready to transfer back to Shanghai. At the airport, I took the last selfie with the sunglasses I bought over there in America. At that moment, I had decided that I will buy brand new shades every time I go to a new country in the future. Why? I have no idea either.
It’s a pain to say goodbye, but I knew I would be there again. Life goes on, so let’s move on to the next journey - Xiamen/Kinmen