Lets go for a drive, Eh!

As much as I wanted to be an intern forever, all good things come to an end.... So, I did the next best thing and drove to Canada  😎

My Boeing internship had come and gone. Now unemployed, 3000 miles from home and with a 14 year old SUV. I decided to throw a tent in the back of my truck and drive across the United States ALONE.

2017 eclipse. 1 day before departure

With a 5500 mile drive, I planned on seeing Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Chicago, Niagara Falls to name a few. This trip made Miami→Cali look like a walk in the park. I said my goodbyes to my California friends and set off to the unknown.

When driving across America alone, you come to learn allot about yourself. Inanimate objects become close friends and the radio your only company. No cruise control and marginal A/C made the drive that much more interesting. As usual I documented the entire journey on Snapchat.

My first stop was Los Padres national forest. I thought it would be cool to spend my first night on the top of a mountain camp sight called Campo Alto. Winding up mountain roads I arrived and felt immediately isolated.
8,250ft elevation

Friendly deer
I took a few hours to walk around the mountain top and took a nap. Then decided that I wanted to bounce and hopped back into the car. As I started the long drive down the mountain my car BRAKE warning light lit up. Half panicked, I descended the mountain with a careful grip on my emergency break. Not really understanding why, the BRAKE warning light was intermittent so i decided to ignore it. I knew that I was properly downshifting and not riding my brakes so I figured I would live.

Next day I headed to Monterrey Bay in California. Spent time seeing the Monterrey Aquarium, and took some crazy pics at Point Lobos state natural reserve.
Hopping around a random beach

Point Lobos

Point Lobos was really neat, the cliffs and beaches were all painted across the landscape and the trails winding though them were some of the best hiking in my trip. Blotches of bright flowers overwhelmed sections of path and the distant howl of fat seals loomed across the cliff tops.

I have always wanted to see Silicon Valley so I made my next destination the Museum of Computers in San Jose. I can't find any pictures on my phone from this day....  I literally spent 5 hours reading all of the different exhibits about the history of computers and software. From the beginnings of abacuses and calculators, to the enigma machine and IBM card punching. The way that technology slowly morphed into silicon wafers and created Silicon Valley is a testament to American engineering. 

Google was only a few blocks away, I grabbed a skateboard out of my trunk and skated to their campus. Nooglers were everywhere jumping on shuttles and going about their day. I checked the kit kat sculptures and the Google Store before skating back to the museum and happily driving out of San Jose mega traffic.

Leaving San Jose, I opened the GPS and searched for Yellowstone National Park. 14 hours away.... This would be the first long leg of my journey. The drive was incredible. I drove across remote California landscape (getting lost a few times) and even found a highway where the speed limit was 85! Took a pit sop at a truck station and realized people where gambling! I looked on the map and realized I was in Reno Nevada, an odd border state with a coy similarity to Las Vegas.

Arriving into Yellowstone National Park, I underestimated the magnitude and sheer size of this unique national park. Driving onto a super volcano evokes a range of mixed emotions. I only hoped Yellowstone wouldn't erupt while I was there...

Arriving into a national park as famous as Yellowstone required careful planning. With summer crowds the park receives a million visitors in the month of July alone. Hoping to camp for a few nights, I found a promising camp ground in the center of the park which accepted first-come reservations. Knowing competition would be fierce I arrived into the campground at 4AM. The entire park was covered in a dense fog with visibility near 0 in sections of my drive. Arriving to the campground at 4am, I couldn't help but feeling that I was being watched. Shortly thereafter a massive bison casually graces past my car through the fog.

The ranger station opened and I was enthused to be the first in line. I reserved two nights and planned to spend 3 days. I prepared a bowl of oatmeal for break feast and set out to see Old Faithful. Old Faithful is famous for it's incredible reliability. Roughly every hour the massive geyser explodes with a reverberating power.

The Old Faithful site was littered with boardwalks and biking paths. Meandering through an assortment of geysers, the variety and quantity of geysers was astounding.

Endless trails to explore

A breathing formation

Temped to jump in until you realize its 200degF

Colors mixing in a spring
I spent the next two days wandering throughout the national park. At this point the BRAKE warning light on my car became consistent. Shuffling through my car manual, I discovered it was most likely because I had low brake fluid. A quick top off in a gas station got me back in business!

Most epic sandwich I've ever eaten

Grand Prismatic Spring - Largest spring in the United States

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone - I hiked to this overlook in sandals, haha
Yellowstone falls was EPIC. The canyon and falls were immense. The sound alone evoked a combination of violence and grandeur. Check out this clip I shot.

Feeling satisfied with Yellowstone, I began the journey towards Mount Rushmore. A relatively short 8 hour drive had me arriving before sunset. Mid drive I recall stopping for gas on an old state highway. I lowered my windows for a brief moment as I went into the mart for a snack. Not 5 minutes passed before I returned to my car to discover it was swarmed by huge flies. I lowered all the windows and gunned it onto the highway. Thankfully the swarm was sucked out of the windows and all was well.

Mountain Goat at Mt Rushmore South Dakota | Flickr - Photo ...I arrived into Mt Rushmore and was greeted by a white awkward mountain goat. Undisturbed he just stood there and munched away at his grass. I parked in the large garage and walked into the monument. The park is very well designed and featured a number of exhibits/theaters dedicated to the history of the monument, sculptors and presidents. As the sun set a park ranger hosted a presentation of the featured presidents. Before illuminating the monument she invited all veterans to share her stage and thanked them for their service. The image was powerful and a reminder to the freedoms that we take for granted.

Veterans raise and salute the flag before illuminating Mt Rushmore

Thereafter the ranger illuminated Mt. Rushmore and completed the presentation. 

Next morning I plugged Chicago, IL into my GPS and began a 13 hour slog. This destination would be of a totally different nature.  Before departing California I scheduled an interview with Northrop Grumman in Illinois, knowing that their site was along my route to Canada. The weather was warm and welcoming as I spent the first day wandering around Millennium Park and took an obligatory selfie with the Bean. 

How I discovered Chicago parking

Chicago Bean
Back at a hotel, I needed to transform from a scruffy road warrior to a trustworthy engineer for the next day's interview. I used the remaining time to cram my C++ programming notes for any hard interview questions. The interview went smooth and I was excited to hear back. Being an Electrical Engineer, I wanted to join the band wagon and transition into Software Engineering. Software Engineering being an explosively growing profession, promised a combination of challenge and skills that I was very drawn to. I ended up receiving and accepting an offer.

Onward to Canada, I prepared a passport and cleaned my car as I approached the border. Upon arriving to the border the patrol agent inspected my passport and interviewed me. Knowing that I looked particularly suspicious (who else drives into Canada alone from California with an SUV full of luggage), I thought I would get an interesting reaction. The agent was puzzled but nonetheless let me through and I officially completed my goal of driving from California to Canada! 

Strange signs populated the highway with "km/h" and I wondered if any of my credit cards would be accepted at gas stations. Thankfully they were and I arrived into Niagara Falls, Canada. I booked a particularly plush hotel to take a bit of time to relax and enjoyed tourist watching. The area is very developed with a number of gimmicks and attractions.  

Canada on the left, America on the right

Tourist on the left, cliff on the right

Wildlife in Niagara Falls

Falls on Falls
Feeling refreshed from my time here, I was excited to finally start heading south and towards Miami. Before that though, I had to make an important pit stop in Virginia.

Meet Abdullah,
His favorite topics include Hash Maps and Soccer. He balances his free time between playing Fifa and writing his new EP. As my roommate during internship, Abdullah and I shared the same sense of humor. We explored San Deigo together and both learned a great deal from each other. Abdullah is an incredible Software Engineer and has an impressive grasp of data structures and algorithms.

EP album cover - Coming out soon
He graciously invited me into his home in Virginia and hosted me through many museums and exhibits in Washington, DC. We ate great food and he invited me to a middle eastern wedding. The time with friends was a very welcome change to the monotony of driving. I spent roughly three days in Virginia meeting all of Abdullah's relatives and really enjoying the company. With his expert parallel parking skills, the time we spent in Washington, DC was well spent.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
With the end of the weekend I decided to make a push to Miami and end the journey. A 13 hour drive, I awoke at 6am and arrived at 11pm. A sigh of relief knowing that I survived the 5000+ mile drive was well earned. 

So, Why did I drive across America alone? What did I learn from it? And why is Canadian gas measured in liters?

Well, I think I did it because it was something that scared me. Being alone is something that can paralyze people. Proving to myself that I could be independent on an epic journey has given me a new sense of self-resilience.

Shout out to Connor for giving me his old camera after mine broke. I couldn't have taken these awesome pictures without it! Thank you Connor!