Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Perfectly (Un)planned Road Trip

This post won the Runner Up prize for 'The Perfect Road Trip' Contest in Indiblogger.

Ambi Pur Perfect Road Trip - Runner-up


Time : sometime in May 2013
Place : My Facebook Page, Chat

Me : Hey, we are planning a California trip in July..u joining?
Praveen : which places in California?
Me: That's not decided, need to plan.
Praveen : okay, I am ready, how many people?
Me : From here, only me and Simi, u can call ur friends..
Praveen : ok, let me see..Hey, in California there is a road, some highway 101, I believe with the sea on one side and a cliff on the other,,why don't we plan a road trip?
Me : ROADTRIP !! Definitely  DEAL !
Praveen : Great, I'll get the details from my colleagues, they had been to a road trip through the same place recently.
Me : okay, great.

The Trip

RoadTrip !

Don't know what's with that word.The word ignited us to plan things fast.As we(me and Simi) stayed in New Jersey, we had to book air tickets to California well in advance to get better deals. Praveen was in Oregon, nearer to the destination.
We stopped chatting, got into a call and started deciding the places to cover.In no time, everything was planned,July 2, reach San Fransisco, rent a car, drive to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas !! A road trip of around 1400 miles !

As I told Simi about the road trip plans, she too was very excited.I couldn't really sleep with excitement, the thought of the trip.That's when my mobile beeped.A message from Praveen.

'Do u have US driving License?'

I replied,'No, and you?'

'NO '

First action Item : Apply for License.

2 months to go..The Road Trip is still ON ! 


Paveen's cousin and family, namely Raj, wife Vinitha and kid Aarav also marked their interest in joining the trip and hence the total count increased to 6.

2 months later
July 1

To get a whole idea of the plans, Raj made a call to Praveen,'Hey, so have you planned all the places we would be visiting?'

Praveen: hmm..almost...

Raj: Okay 3 of us to drive right, me, you and Nithesh

Praveen: No no, we both don't have license !

Raj: What?? And you planned a road trip?

Praveen : You know, time really flies, we did not get time to apply for license, but if you want we can drive..

Raj : No thanks, I'll manage !

July 2, Night

We all met at the San Fransisco International Airport.It was on our way to the hotel that Praveen asked the cab driver about the places to visit in San Fransisco.

'Dude, we are going for sight seeing tomorrow and you are checking which all places to visit just now??', Raj asked Praveen as soon as we reached the hotel.

'It's all part of the planning, the taxi drivers here will know about the best tourist locations..Why simple google it and waste time when we have an option like this..I have noted all the places he told, and we'll go there ', Praveen smiled and looked at me

'Definitely, planning the places in the end is part of the plan', I said.

'Okay, what about the vehicle for the trip?From where do we collect it?', Raj enquired.

'Praveen, you booked a vehicle right?', I asked.

'Me? No, I haven't booked..Haven't you booked??'


All of us were busy googling vehicles for rent that night.We needed a 7 seater car and much cars of that category were not available.

We were not sure what to do.If we did not get a car for rent, all our plans would go for a toss! Praveen came up with a plan."You know what, they won't display all the cars online.We will go to the airport tomorrow.There you have all the rental companies.There we will find something or the other."

"Very good idea!", I supported Praveen not because the idea was too good, but we had no other option. Another reason was that when informed about the trip in the beginning, Raj had asked us to do all the planning as he was very much busy with his work.We had agreed that and as we were busy being lazy, nothing was planned !

"Okay, we'll go to the airport tomorrow and see if we get a vehicle..lets hope for the best"

Of course, hope is what gets us going.A life without hope is a life without life. So we all bid good night and hoped that the hopes become reality..

July 3 Morning

We called a taxi to the airport. Praveen was discussing the places to see in San Fransisco with the driver on the way.His idea was to compare the places with the ones he got from the other driver the previous day and shortlist the common ones.We reached that airport and there were a lot of car rental offices there, and there were big queues in most of them.All of us stood in different queues.It was Praveen's queue which moved faster and while he spoke to the executive, we all joined him. A Dodge Journey was available, a 7 seater and we did not hesitate to quickly book it.The payment was done and the keys were given to us.

We all ran towards the basement where the car was parked.Eagerly we passed through each car parked there. Ours was on X 22. T, U, V , W and there it was X - 22. A white Dodge Journey. Cool ! It looked good from the outside and we were all pumped up by the mere sight of it.

The Dodge Journey 

'It looks cool !', siad Raj as he smiled ..

"All because of the perfect planning..", said Praveen

"Exactly, the Road trip is ON", I said

Raj stared at us for a moment before we all got into the car and started the trip. The first plan was sight seeing of San Fransisco.

The presence of a child is always good to break the ice between adults. Aarav's presence in the group really helped for that. He was very active and that helped better in our overall communication.It never felt like me and Simi were meeting Raj and Vinitha for the first time.

We found a place to park the car at the Pier 15 and decided to walk from there...Lots of photos were clicked, we enjoyed the place, had a sea food lunch and then went for a cruise. A cruise which rounded the  Alcatraz island and the Golden bridge. The cruise was an awesome experience and it was an open boat which sprayed sea water into it and on a hot day it was chilling in there.

After completing the cruise we walked back to the car and went to the twin peaks.As the name suggest there were 2 hills, which again was on a higher surface. When climbed on top of it, the whole city could be viewed.With that view reflecting in our eyes, we could say that we have seen whole of San Fransisco.

LA, view from top..That's Golden bridge to the left
(Click on images to enlarge them)
LA, view from top

That great view put an end to the first day of our tour. Excellent views, relatively less tiring day compared to day to come.As we reached the hotel in the evening, everyone were charged and awaited the next day where the real Road trip began...the 6 hour drive to Los Angeles !!

July 4

We all woke up early and were in the car by 9 AM all set for the drive.The whole idea was to enjoy the drive with not many stops in between so that we could get enough time to enjoy the places we visit.The first trip decided was the Big Sur. We entered Highway 101 and continued the journey through the straight road.

"Aren't we going to the Mystery Spot?", Simi asked.

"Mystery Spot?What is that and where is that?", Raj asked.

"It's a place where they say that gravity is defied.It's a famous spot, and it is on the way", she replied.

Raj set the destination in GPS as Mystery spot and said, "As per GPS, to reach the Mystery Spot, we have to take a deviation and it is some 25 miles away, which means the total deviation is around 50 miles..but it's okay.. we'll go there..but no additional pit stops..The next stop will be Big Sur"

We all agreed and took the exit to Mystery spot. Praveen was busy in his mobile for a while and finally broke his silence,"There is some problem..We were supposed to go in a road by the sea.But when I look the map, Highway 101 is not by the sea."

"And you know what?", I replied to Praveen, "When I had checked the map, Mystery spot came on the way, no deviation was required from the road we were supposed to go"

"Does that mean there is any other road?", Praveen asked.

"May be, but I don't know the name of the road"

The road to Mystery spot was a narrow one.We doubted whether there really was such a spot there..The narrow road leading to the spot itself seemed mystery.As soon as we parked the car, Praveen yelled, "Got it ! We were supposed to go by Highway 1. And this Mystery spot is on the way.We had made an error by going through Highway 101.If we had continued that, we would have missed driving by the sea.But luckily by choosing to visit the Mystery spot, we are back on track."

The mazes of the unplanned trip somehow started falling in place. We entered the Mystery spot to find the hidden mystery. Though we were unable to solve the mystery, we indeed had a good time there.As the officials there said, the mystery of the mystery spot is not yet solved, else it would be named the solved spot.
We had a tea from a store inside mystery spot and the biggest mystery was how they made the tea and what prompted them to name it 'Indian Chai'!

After the Mystery Spot visit, we continued our journey through the newly found Highway 1.By selecting the new road, the time required to reach our destination had increased from 6 to 8 hours as per the map, that too without any stops .. !

The Highway 1 road was indeed awe striking.Deep blue sea to the right side and lush green mountains to the left.It is a view never to be missed.We stopped on the way only once and that too for just 5 minutes and quickly clicked a few pictures.As decided, the next stop was Big Sur where we planned to spend some time in the beach.It was later that we came to know that the whole area is known as Big Sur and it was not any specific spot as such.We stopped at a nearby beach and played in the chilling beach water.After having loads of fun we continued our journey to Los Angeles.

          Highway 1 views

'There are couple of issues we need to address', Raj said while driving, "One is that as this Highway 1 is a single lane road in most of the places and is full of turns and curves, we are taking more time than expected."

"Okay, and the other one?"

"The other one is that we are running out of gas.We need to find a gas station quickly. There is no mobile network in this area, so both these problems cannot be addressed using our mobile phones !"

The second issue was a bit frightening; running out of gas at that moment meant the whole plan, er  lack of plan will go for a toss.But then there was something called optimism which made us believe that a gas station would appear soon. The gut feeling came true after a dozen miles.A gas station was found.We also got someone to ask for a faster way to reach Los Angeles. 'Travel 40 miles and take an exit to Highway 101', we were told. 

Highway 101 - Here we come again.

Vinitha then drove the car for a couple of hours, giving Raj some rest.It was 8 PM, it was not dusk yet, and we still had 3 hours of drive left. We drove through a Mc Donalds and got some snacks on the way.As Raj took back the driver's seat we were an hour away from entering the city.We could see fireworks all over the city.It was July 4, the American Independence day; so there were grand fireworks in multiple places.As we were quite away from the city we could see many of them.

"They are welcoming us with fireworks", I said.

"Our planning is awesome, if we had entered the city earlier, we could have seen only the fireworks in one place, now we are able to see multiple fireworks !", Praveen said.

Los Angeles city in the backdrop of fireworks welcomed us !

 We checked in at 11 PM.We had to wake up early the next day for Los Angeles sight seeing. But instead of going to sleep, we instead got special permission from the hotel manager to use their swimming pool and spa  at that time and ran into to pool.Midnight in the swimming pool. The trip had really made us crazy. And we loved that craziness !

July 5

In Los Angeles, the only plan was to see that famous 'Hollywood' sign, and by noon we had to start to Vegas and reach Vegas by night.In Los Angeles we booked a bus tour, which would take us there and also show other places like the house of Michael Jackson, the Playboy mansion etc. We took that tour and covered all those places.The tour got over by noon, then we had lunch and started off to Las Vegas.If time permitted we would roam around in Vegas.

The road was good with not much traffic, I played the DJ in the car, Simi, me, Praveen and Vinitha competed playing Fruit slice to see who fared better. Aarav played some bike game in i pad, and we all got envied by the way the two and a half year old played. Raj as usual was driving !

We reached Vegas by 7 PM, checked in to our hotel, got fresh and took a walk to the heart of the city. We could see all kinds of people there, saw lots of casinos, strip clubs, a whole colourful city fully lighted up, fully high.The traffic created due to people walking was far more than the traffic on road and we could only move very slowly. One interesting thing we saw was the long long queues in front of pawn shops, which almost summed up Vegas.We walked and saw the city for more than 2 hours and returned to our hotel.

Again, we had to wake up early the next day, for destination Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon.

July 6

By this day, all of us in the car were more close to each other.We did not need songs in the car to kill time, we talked about various topics like film, sports, current affairs with our limited knowledge, shared stories, jokes etc..We also planned to take a movie based on our road trip, that would be after we won a jackpot the very next day from a casino.It was almost a 6 hour drive to Grand Canyon. We saw Hoover Dam on the way, and reached Grand Canyon post lunch.After spending some time at the Grand Canyon, we started back to Las Vegas.There were lots of activities like rafting in Grand Canyon, but we missed those as we were travelling with time in our hands.

On the way back to Vegas, we all appeared to be bit gloomy as the next day would be the last day of the trip.We though planned to extend our vacation if someone got a jackpot. It was agreed that if someone in our group wins a jackpot it, will be shared by everyone.Imaginary plans of what to do with the jackpot amount were also discussed !

It was late night when we reached back Vegas and quickly entered our hotel rooms.We did not try to get permission for the swimming pool this day, as it was way up on the 24th floor and we were too tired to go there.

July 7

There were two plans for this day. Plan A go to a Casino, win  a jackpot and extend the vacation, and Plan B, if we do not get a jackpot, return to our homes. Praveen's flight was the earliest one and was scheduled at 7.00 PM and we had time till 6.00 PM to decide our fate.

We saw people playing with thousands of dollars, and obviously we weren't among them. We played till evening with the limited fund we had allowed for ourselves and in the end, ended up being.......

Leave it, not revealing how much we won, what I can tell though is we were at the airport by 6.30 PM.Returned the car and went back home in our respective flights.


Vacations are always cool, so was this one.We all had a great time, saw many beautiful places, shared lots of jokes, travelled more than 1400  miles, but more that the miles, its the smiles we shared that count.. and that's something which will always appear on our faces whenever we think of this trip. Probably lack of planning itself was what made this trip the perfect... The Perfect Unplanned Road Trip !

looking back, it's smiles that remain...

This post is submitted for 'The Perfect Road Trip' Contest in Indiblogger, supported by Ambi Pur.



  1. Great read da....keep posting your US experiencs... :-)

    1. Thanks..wil definitrly try to jot down everything :)

  2. Wow! Some fun trip this was! And yes, unplanned trips are so much more fun than the carefully laid out itineraries! :)

  3. Wow!!! Very nice to read ... One of our favorite trips too..