When I found out my family’s car needed to be driven from New York to Los Angeles I immediately jumped on the opportunity. I’ve been around this monstrously large country on more than one occasion.

Generally, I stick to the cities. Call me crazy, but I like driving fast on interstates, eating at diners, leap-frogging from one city to another. Is there a more equalizing and meditative experience than driving on a highway, late at night? When you’re focused on those white stripes you could be in Montana or Naples and you wouldn’t know the difference. The only hint is what language they’re speaking at the next gas station.

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BUT, I took this particular opportunity to explore the other part of America, away from the cities. The small towns and the national and state parks that make this country so wonderful and diverse. You can’t have one without the other and this summer I wanted to indulge in the slower side of life. Plus, I wanted to see bison. The (very) approximate itinerary was this – New York City, Badlands, Yellowstone, Oregon Coast, Los Angeles. But, what I was REALLY excited for was everything in between, and America did not disappoint.

Wave Throw Blanket

First, I drove from New York City to Cape Cod (I know, not exactly small town Middle America, but isolated enough and I’d always wanted to go). Living in New York City for many years I’d become familiar with the beaches of the city and Long Island. Cape Cod felt similar, but more hearty. The trees looked like they could survive just a little bit more, and the people followed suit. I’d love to go back.

After winding through New York, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, I finally ended up at Badlands National Park. I really love the movie Badlands by Terrence Malick so I felt pretty well prepared for what I was going to see. Turns out though, they didn’t even shoot the damn movie there. They shot it all in Colorado! It was probably for the best though, because the Badlands were by far the craziest thing I saw all trip, and I think my incorrect expectation only enhanced that experience. It’s the most alien landscape I’ve seen, perhaps only rivaled by the salt flats of Utah.

At the risk of trivializing this majestic place…Yellowstone is truly the Disneyland of National Parks. There are so many amazing exploring opportunities and hidden treasures. The sheer size of it would take months or years to cover. I had one night, so I think I probably need to go back here as well.

I didn’t think finally hitting the west coast would be such a refreshing experience, but those oceanic sights and sounds really did something to me. Driving down the 101 and 1 from Oregon was an amazing way to finish the trip. But now, back in Los Angeles, I’m itching for another adventure. Any ideas?

Photos by Jonathan Chu and Maya Richardson

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