Hello L.A., bye bye Birmingham

After more than 6 months in Alabama, the work was done and I was ready to say farewell to the University of Alabama in Birmingham. I packed my stuff as in the song - Hello L.A., bye bye Birmingham

The good thing is that for the journey to the west coast I was not alone. A long time before I invited my family to come and visit me to make a dream come true – to do our version of the famous "Mother Road" Route 66. After a long time debating and planning, I was very happy that they could make it. I didn’t see them since I left Latvia. Also, this Christmas I celebrated for the first time without them. It was a great reunion!

My family stayed the first couple of days in Birmingham. I showed them my place, the city itself, and then we started our trip. As I mentioned the trip required some good planning – not only to find good offers from rental companies, where to find cheap motels, but also to see some interesting things on the way in a short timespan!

We started on a Saturday morning and went this route:
Birmingham > New Orleans > Houston > San Antonio > Carlsbad Caverns (NM) >Roswell > Albuquerque > Kayante, AZ > Grand Canyon > Kingman, AZ > Los Angeles

It was neat to see the Big Easy / New Orleans again. It’s a great city where everyone should go at least once in their lifetime! The Oak Alley Plantation is also a must, especially to try the mint julep, find out more from the era of plantations and slavery in the South. It’s history, you know.

Photos from New Orleans, Louisiana

Houston was more beautiful than I expected! I loved the Mark Rothko Chapel (one of the most peaceful places to go in the world), the campus of Rice University where my friend has studied history.

San Antonio has a Mexican style. Beautiful buildings and I appreciated the time spent at the Alamo church to find out more about the history of Texas.
Not to forget- every night we stayed in a different motel. On the road you can always find something for not too much money. Surprisingly for us, Texas had a lot of them with owners of Indian origin. Don’t ask me why there and why motels, but good service for not much money.

Photos from Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana (right corner); Mark Rothko Chapel (left corner), Houston and Alamo, San Antonio in Texas

Carlsbad Caverns and actually all New Mexico left a very surreal impression. The desert, the emptiness, and lack of civilisation in some ways. It was beautiful, but also very lonely and sad. I had from time to time the scary thought that it would be terrible to run out of gas in such an empty place (something like from the movie Babel, if you’ve seen it and know what I mean).
Carlsbad caverns were fantastic! Thanks to my colleague at UAB, Ashish, for the tip! I felt like I was in a National Geographic documentary and I fell in love with geology again.
Roswell was a strange place. You can see a lot of green aliens/UFOs everywhere because it’s one of the most famous places in the US where people have seen them. The waitress in the restaurant was also a bit not-from-this-world, because she thought that we will need special assistance from her because not everyone could understand our accent. Ok 🙂

Kolāžas1Photos from the Carlsbad caverns  and Albuquerque, New Mexico and a diner between Rosweel and Albuquerque

Albuquerque is unique. It’s a mix of Native American culture, the beauty of surrounding mountains; but it’s also a very artificial neon lightful on the Central Ave from the time of Route 66. You can see a lot of drive-ins like what one associates with America starting from the 50’ties till today.
After driving through Albuquerque we went up north, in the direction of Shiprock to get closer to Monument Valley. As it turned out Shiprock belongs to the Navajo Nation and is famous for not having any motels or hotels close by…What?! And we came all this way to find that out! 🙂

They have a semi-autonomous Native American-governed territory occupying portions of three states – New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. AS we found out later (we googled it), it is the largest land area assigned primarily to a Native American jurisdiction within the United States.
We were still in New Mexico and it was getting late, we were tired and we didn’t know where to go to find a motel. We stopped in many shops asking for directions but without positive results. We almost felt like we were not welcomed here. In the grocery stores there were mostly only Native Americans working and maybe I’m exagerating but they gave you a look that said – strangers, what are you doing here. As we found out later they don’t sell alcohol in this reservations, because of the dramatic abuse of addictive substances among the native populations. Although I have heard about some genotypes who have problems with alcohol-metabolizing enzymes, this was something new for me.

Thanks to my friend Nat who helped us out by searching for places to go from home and gave us directions to go to Kayante, Arizona on the same night. That meant 1.5 h more driving, but what else could we do? When we finally arrived in Kayante, we were more than happy to go finally to bed.
Next morning we drove 20 minutes and saw the movie-famous place – Monument Valley. I remembered one of my favorite movies – Forrest Gump. Take the time to listen to his talk…isn’t it neat where he wants to go back? I was happy that my direction was this time west toward the still unknown 🙂

USA1Photos from Monument Valley and Grand Canyon, Arizona and a piece of Utah and one photo also from Route66 sign in NM.

Later the same day we went to the Grand Canyon. No comment can do it justice. You just need to see it.

Kingsman was for us just a place to stop over between the roads to L.A. and Las Vegas, where we decided where to go, how much time we still have. We decided that we were more than enough saturated with all what we had seen so far and also tired of driving, so we decided to go directly to L.A.
California welcomed us with a lot of sun and added one more hour to our day. We had crossed two time zones already! The way to L.A. showed a different kind of desert than in New Mexico. In my head I imagined that this could be also the road to Las Vegas, because we all have heard that it’s a gambling, great show, fast wedding paradise in the middle of the desert. “The black hole in the desert” as it’s sometimes called. But now we wanted finally to see the ocean, to see the end of the famous Route 66. 

The first place we made a stop in L.A. was the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It was the idea of my sister who is an architecture student in Germany. Now after studying a bit she knows the guys who have made some famous buildings. She wanted to see the famous Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry's work. I like it. It's definitely a place to go for a concert and I will do it while I'm here. After a walk through downtown, we decided that's it's finally time to finish our road trip of the century. Where else when not at the ocean?

It was Santa Monica we chose; the sun was already gone but the color of the sky was still warm. It was Friday evening and we went almost 3000 miles to be here. We jumped and gave hugs of happiness. Thanks to my family who made this trip happen and BAFF who made it happen that my family had the reason to come and see U.S. with me. This trip definitely gave another perspective and tought us a lot.


California, here we come!!! My Internship at UCLA could begin.

I should write about it soon, but I don't see any comments, so I will first wait for some feedback from you guys 🙂 Would you like to read more?