July 2012, I never traveled much during my years in the US, except for a couple of trips along the two coasts where I stayed with friends and their families. It’s a vast country and everything is so far apart that it’d only make sense to travel if you can drive. I’m not a fan of driving. And I didn’t feel safe hitchhiking in the mainland either. In July, as I was getting ready to move back to Vietnam permanently, I thought here might be my last chance to try out the famous concept of an American roadtrip: open road with endless paths and opportunities. In Hawaii, you can’t roadtrip. You only drive around (literally). Col wanted to go as well and would take care of the driving. So out we flew, equipped with an edition of National Geographic North America Adventure Road Atlas borrowed from Nancy, a second-hand national parks annual pass I bought from a fellow Hale Manoa resident, a floppy one-person tent purchased at 50% off ($15) from Sports Authority, and lots of sunscreen. We landed in Oakland, where Col’s sister and a bunch of my friends from college lived. I had forgotten how chilly the mainland could be, so one of our first stops was a thrift store for me to pick up a sweater, and a cowboy hat. Our rental car came through Costco travel, a black Kia Rio, the smallest size and most fuel efficient available. And we hit the road. Did we know where we would end up? Only for the next day. And that’s the beauty of a mainland roadtrip. Each morning, we woke up and looked at the maps to see which trail we would hike and where we would drive to after. It was a bit of trouble in the beginning when we were still in California because all the parks were packed and there was not a single space open at campsites since reservations were made weeks, if not months in advance. But still, not held down by routines and itineraries, we felt free.

Yosemite National Park, car camping

what to do when you can’t find a campsite

Yosemite: Yosemite national park, hiking, cliff  Yosemite national park, hiking, cliff

Yosemite national park, hiking

Yosemite national park, hiking, cliff

Yosemite national park, hiking, waterfall


Sequoia national park, giant dead sequoia tree root

Dead giant

Sequoia national park, giant sequoi tree

Living giant