The USA has so much to offer . . .

Our elder daughter Hannah and family live in St Paul, Minnesota, and since 2010 we have visited them each year, until 2019.

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, our plans for travel that year and the next were well and truly scuppered. In 2022, Hannah, Michael, Callum, and Zoë came over to the UK for a fortnight.

But, at the end of May, Steph and I will once again be heading westwards to Minnesota. And we’re really looking forward to being in the Twin Cities once again. No road trips this time, however. We are just going to take it nice and easy. We’ve not done too bad over the decades in visiting many parts of the USA that I guess will be unfamiliar to the vast majority of US citizens.

Steph and I first visited the United States almost 50 years ago. We were on our way back to the UK from Peru, via Costa Rica and Mexico, and transiting through New York (JFK) for a flight to Manchester (MAN). That was also our first flight on a Boeing 747.

After we moved to Costa Rica in April 1976, my work travel took me through Miami a couple of times a year, as this was the most direct route for flights to various Caribbean islands.

Then, in July 1979, Steph and 15 month old Hannah joined me on a conference trip to Vancouver, and we stopped over for a couple of nights in San Francisco. We returned to Costa Rica via Edmonton in Canada (where my elder brother Ed and his wife Linda lived) and Madison, WI with a side trip to visit a potato research station at Sturgeon Bay, 185 miles northwest of Madison.

On the Edmonton-Madison sector, we had to pass through US immigration in Minneapolis-St Paul (MSP). Little did we realise that the Twin Cities would become Hannah’s home nineteen years later.

Then, in March 1981, after I had resigned from my position with the International Potato Center (CIP), we returned to the UK via New York, spending a couple of nights there and seeing some of the sights, like the Empire State Building.

Steph and Hannah at the top of the Empire State Building, looking out over Manhattan

During the 1980s when I worked at the University of Birmingham, I made only one visit to the USA, for a conference held at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, just after I’d recovered from a bout of glandular fever.

However, after we moved to the Philippines in 1991, I traveled to the USA quite frequently on work trips, but with little time for any tourism.

In 1998, Hannah transferred to Macalester College in St Paul, MN to complete her junior and senior years, and then stayed on for graduate studies at the University of Minnesota. So whenever I had to travel to the USA, I usually planned my itinerary through MSP so I could spend a weekend or more with her. Hannah married Michael in St Paul in 2006, and is now a US citizen.

Since 2011, our road trips have taken us right across the country. Links to those trips can be found at the bottom of this page.

To date, I have visited 41 of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, but I have transferred flights in Nevada (Las Vegas), and on one flight from Tokyo to MSP, there was a medical emergency and the plane landed in Anchorage, Alaska.

In the map below, tourist hotspots (and not-so-hotspots) we have visited are shown with blue markers. Click on the marker and there will be a link to a blog post and/or a photo album.

Towns and cities have rarely been the focus of our trips, but there are some, with red markers. And the yellow ones show cities I visited primarily on business (mainly scientific conferences).

Although we haven’t traveled much in the Deep South, nor some of the Mid-West states, our coverage elsewhere has been pretty impressive, coast to coast. The USA has so much to offer in terms of diverse landscapes: coasts, rivers, deserts, forests, mountains, caves. You name it, the USA has it. Here is just a small selection of some of the places visited since 2011.

The coastal giants of northern California

No description, no photograph, no video can prepare you for a face-to-face encounter with the tallest trees on the planet. Towering as much as 300 feet or more overhead, and living often in excess of 1,500 years, the coastal redwoods of northern California are a sight to behold. Awe-inspiring! Sequoia sempervirens is truly a marvel of the natural world.

Steph and I recently vacationed on the Oregon coast for a week, and then took four days to travel south to Crater Lake and through the redwoods national park of northern California before flying back to the Twin Cities from Sacramento. We’d visited Crater Lake just the day before the redwoods, and although it’s ‘unfair’ to make a comparison between Crater Lake (‘spectacular’) and the redwoods (‘awesome’), if I had to choose which one moved me more, I would have to plump for the redwoods.

My original plan was to overnight in Brookings (just north of the Oregon-California state line), visit the various national and state redwood parks, return to Brookings for a second night, and then head south to Sacramento. What was I thinking about? In any case, once I was in the USA, I did a little more online research and discovered that access to some of the tallest trees in the Redwood National Park had been closed to vehicles, and that some of the more spectacular sights were to be found further south in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the Avenue of the Giants. So I was easily able to change our hotel reservations, spending the first night, as planned in Brookings, and the second at Garberville, some 205 miles south, and about halfway to Sacramento. It was a good decision.

If you ever get chance to see the redwoods, a good place to start is the information center in Crescent City, along US101 (the Redwood Highway), on the south side of the town.

The staff in the information center couldn’t have been more helpful and pleasant. They gave us several brochures, and advised on the best sights and routes. While vehicle access to the Tall Trees Grove (much further south) was now restricted, they encouraged us to visit an ancient stand of redwoods in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, just a few miles away to the northeast. In fact we’d passed the northern access road to this park as we entered Crescent City. And in particular they recommended we visit Stout Memorial Grove, reached on a dirt, but easily passable track (especially if you have an SUV as we did). Stout Memorial Grove, only 40-some acres in extent, has some fine old redwoods. Had the long-term fate of the redwoods not been recognized early last century, the forests would have been logged out and destroyed. The early settlers in this part of California had no vision for the future, and must have seen the redwoods as an inexhaustible resource. How wrong they were.

Moving on south, we took the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway as a diversion from US101, through Elk Prairie (where we actually saw some elk), and on to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, dedicated by former President Richard M Nixon to former First Lady and wife of President Lyndon B Johnson.

US101 is not called the Redwood Highway for nothing. As you drive along, you move into and out of various stands of these magnificent trees (as you saw in the video above). But just south of Scotia, there is an opportunity to leave US101 for a while at Exit 674, and take CA254 for the 31-mile scenic drive Avenue of the Giants (a clip of which is shown at the beginning of the video). The two-lane highway meanders through the trees that ‘took no prisoners’ when it came to determining the road’s route. Driving slowly along the ‘Avenue’ was just a memorable trip, a delight. And here are some of the memorable sights of that awe-inspiring day.

Then we rejoined US101 and rolled into Garberville, which lies just south of the south entrance to the Avenue of the Giants, for our penultimate night on this once-in-a-lifetime OR-CA road trip.