Hawai’i – The 39th, and final, State

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Despite officially being the 50th, and last, state to be added to the Union (60 years ago yesterday actually – Happy Birthday Hawai’i State!) Hawai’i has an even greater honour now, being the 39th and final state I visited during my journey across the United States.

After nearly 3 months, over 12,000 miles of driving and 10,000 miles flying the Rainbow State ended a trip I had been dreaming of most of my life. Sadly I was not able to visit all 50 states in one hit, mostly due to the sheer cost of travelling the states.

The difference between the USA, where it cost a rough average of £40-50 per night, compared already with some of Asia, such as Japan and South Korea which have so far averaged accommodation around £15-20 a night, in addition to travel costs, food prices and hidden charges such as “resort fees” mean the money has certainly disappeared quicker than expected!

On the plus side it means I have an excuse to return in future and do some more exploring.

The one thing that has remained true throughout the journey has been the kindness and friendliness of all the people I have met, from the staff at hotels and attractions to random members of the public who stop just to have a chat. It is something I have never really experienced in the UK and it took some getting used to, for example having a happy conversation with someone stopped at a traffic light who just wanted to say hello as I walked past because they liked my T-Shirt!

Unfortunately spending so long in the USA has also highlighted some of the ways they are so different from us and make you miss home. The biggest thing which hit me was the shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas where 22 people were killed and 24 injured in about 6 minutes around 1040am.

It was only a few weeks since I’d been in a Walmart in El Paso myself and highlighted how easy it may have been to get caught up in something like that.

Unfortunately these shootings aren’t even rare;

As of July 31, 2019, 248 mass shootings have occurred in 2019 that fit the inclusion criteria of this article. This averages out to 1.2 shootings per day. In these shootings, 979 people were injured and 246 died (for a total of 1,325 victims).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States_in_2019 (Emphasis mine)

I have, however, thoroughly loved the time I spent in the country and I am happy to say there was only 1 occasion where I met someone who didn’t greet me with a smile (a very unhappy security guard who did not appreciate me cutting through his parking lot when walking back to the hotel one night in Texas).

I have driven through some of the most beautiful places including The Arches National Park, seen some incredible sights such as the amazing SpaceX rocket launch and booster landing, and been lucky enough to experience unique opportunities for example being flown across Alaskan glaciers in float plane. It is impossible to pick a favourite but these moments will stick with me for life.

I have also learnt enough about American Presidents to last me another lifetime!

It was with a growing sense of nervousness, then, that I boarded a plane towards Tokyo, Japan and left the familiarity of the USA behind. No longer would I know the language (my two words of Japanese being sufficient to say “Hello” and “Thank you”), be able to read the signs (“左に出る”?!) or get help from people when I am lost.

Thankfully the amazing people at Google made this easier than ever. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amazed at the way it can direct you not only to the train station but let you know which train, platform and even recommend the best carriage! Then the Translate app which allows you to hold the camera up at any text and it will translate it in real time, it is a life saver.

I am also humbled by the people of Tokyo. A massive city of over 9 million and yet they are all polite and welcoming. We may not speak the same language but you can feel their respect and desire to help. I have only been here for 3 days and I already love the people and culture.

I only have a few more days left in Japan before moving on again and I look forward to seeing what awaits…

4 Days in the Florida Keys

For a while I had the dream of driving a convertible through the Florida Keys. I cannot remember where this desire came from but figured this adventure was the best opportunity to do it!

At the end of July I packed up my things again and headed out in my 5.0 litre Mustang (have I mentioned the Mustang before?) to see the Keys, a collection of islands linked by road US 1. The night before I had rapidly Google’d ideas to plan out activities for every day.

The first realisation is that the Keys, although islands off the Southern coast of Flordia, do not have many beaches. The surrounding reef system prevents any big waves and the shallow floor around the islands means beaches are not formed.
The second thing I realised is that, like a lot of America, the vast majority is privately owned with no public access. If you want to stop and explore you are very limited.
The first day was disappointing as everywhere that looks fun to walk around is fenced off with strong warnings of vehicle towing and prosecution for trespass.
There was one pleasant surprise in the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary which is free to the public (although they do ask for a donation), a charity which looks after injured and ill birds. They had a selection of birds including pelicans, owls and hawks which was fun to walk around.
It was around this time I realised my next mistake. Travelling in July in Florida is very uncomfortable! It is mid-hurricane season and the weather was extreme. Temperatures started at 35c each morning rising to the mid 40s by lunch with high humidity. After a few hours you would have the daily thunderstorm before everything heated up again. It was so hot that walking into the water felt like walking into a bath.
All this together made walking around or having the roof down in the car were unbearable at times! In the end I think I spent more time with the roof up and the AC on than making the most of the convertible. I did discover the joy of air conditioned seats though.
The next day, still feeling despondent about the situation, I drove to one of the middle islands, Big Pine Key, and it’s neighbour No Name Key. These islands are the primary home of the endangered Key Deer. As you could probably tell by my Instagram feed not only was I fortunate enough to find one it was friendly enough to say hello and pose for hundreds of photographs and even nuzzle my hand before wandering off back into the undergrowth.
The next day I returned to No Name Key and found families of deer who grazing at the roadside. Once again they are friendly enough to approach and give you a sniff before deciding you are not food and walking off. If you ever go you stand the best chance of seeing them around sunrise or sunset. Having tried being outside in the midday sun I can fully understand their desire to avoid it!
I then carried on South to the last island, Key West, which holds the Southern Most Point of the Continental US, only 90 miles from Cuba. After the mandatory photo next to the monument I ventured off into town and came across the second highlight of the Keys, the Butterfly and Nature Reserve. This beautiful tropical conservatory holds hundreds of butterflies of different species, a variety of birds from the parrot-like to two flamingos, and even a turtle or two. It is a truly relaxing place to sit and appreciate nature. I am still trying to work out how to have a garden like this at home!
One thing that also stands out about Key West is the free range chickens that roam the island. With no natural predators they have taken over the town.

After my time on the Keys I headed back towards Miami to return the car and take a plane for the next part of my journey. Along the way I saw signs for the Everglades Alligator Farm and decided to stop. I am very glad I did. They have hundreds of alligators from tiny babies to 16 foot 50 year old adults. I took an air boat ride through the everglades, learnt how to catch an alligator (a skill I do not want to put to the test) and saw a host of unexpected animals like bobcats and emus.

Finally I made it back to civilisation and rested up before my flight the next day. I was due to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Anchorage, Alaska stopping overnight in Seattle, Washington (a place I had the good fortune of visiting only a few months ago so didn’t need to stop properly in) and decided to save money on accommodation for the night and sleep in the airport.This was a truly stupid idea.

There is no where to sleep in an airport, the seats all have arms to prevent you laying down, the floors are cold and hard, constant announcements on the tannoy and I couldn’t even rely on coffee to see me through as Starbucks closed overnight. In the end I was awake for about 30 hours before finally getting to my bed in Anchorage and falling into a long sleep.

I am writing this having spent the day seeing what Anchorage has to offer. It is a small city and the Downtown area is very easy to walk around, a rarity for America which seems to enjoy making walking almost impossible at times The city is surrounded by the Pacific ocean to the South and mountains around the rest. The scenery is beautiful. I am hoping to visit the countryside tomorrow. I only have a few days here before flying off again to more tropical surroundings.
I have found the key to avoiding home sickness and loneliness from travelling on my own is to keep busy. With that in mind I have been trying my best to fill the whole day with activities. What I have also found, however, is that this constant “doing something” together with having to pack and move almost every day has resulted in a feeling of exhaustion and homelessness. A feeling I have decided I need a holiday from!

I have updated My Journey So Far and have now passed over 7500 miles on planes, nearly 12,000 miles driving and have walked over 100 miles and I am only 2 months in!

Go for launch!

Watch in high definition on full screen on mobile where possible

Today I was lucky enough to witness a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-18 with a Dragon capsule to resupply the International Space Station.

The amazing thing about SpaceX is they reuse the rockets by having them land after takeoff. It is like watching a missile aiming towards you that suddenly stops and hovers before landing. Then you get hit by the sonic boom!

This is definitely the highlight of my trip so far

Travelling Solo

Selfie of me with backpack on

On July 12th the first chapter of my adventure closed and a new one opened. Around 5 in the morning I dropped my Dad off at JFK Airport and began the solo part of my journey.

I knew this day had been coming and had been excited about starting off on my own. I was not prepared for the weight of emotion seeing him walking into the terminal as I drove away. I hadn’t realised how much I had enjoyed spending time with my Dad over the last month and how lonely it felt becoming aware that I did not know any one else on the continent.

I had been in this position before when I travelled Australia with a friend over a decade ago and my plan, when she went home for uni, to continue on my own had lasted less than a day before I was changing my flight plans to get home!

I was determined this time to prove to myself that I could manage on my own. The first few days were hard, it is funny how even when you are not necessarily talking to each other all the time it is comforting to have someone with you.

After a couple of days sorting out rental cars and dealing with cancelled travel plans I made it to a hostel in Philadelphia. Here I met a few brilliant people who showed me that I could make friends and enjoy travelling on my own. It was just what I needed.

Exploring Philadelphia was fantastic and there is a lot of history in this city, from Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed to the Museum of Art where Rocky ran up the stairs in the movie! I highly recommend a visit if you are nearby.

From Philadelphia I travelled through Ohio, Kentucky and other states through to Georgia and visited some amazing sights such as the Smoky Mountains National Park (which I fully intend to return to and do properly over a longer period of time) before arriving where I am writing this in Florida.

The last two weeks have helped confirm to myself that I am able to travel on my own and still enjoy things. I have been very privileged to have this opportunity and I am excited for what comes next.

Today, for example, I am in Cape Canaveral eagerly awaiting the second attempt at a SpaceX rocket launch, the first being cancelled yesterday due to thunderstorms. Looking out the window it is unlikely to happen today either but that is part of the fun!

However I would also like to thank my Dad for joining me on the first part of the trip, for putting up with my annoying habits and indulging my silly requests and overall supporting me to do this adventure in the first place. I could not have done it without your backing. Thank you.

I will leave you with an image showing the journey so far, it amazes me how much of this country I have seen but also just how much I have driven right past! Check out the My Journey So Far page for more information about where I have been and how.

If you are interested in following the journey I also encourage you to follow my Instagram which is updated a lot more than this blog 🙂

Drones and The USA

The first drone video – Rural USA from Above

Before leaving I decided to treat myself to a new toy, a DJI Spark drone. I hoped to film lots of exciting things as I travelled across the states both to help me remember what I have done and also to share with you guys what is happening.

One thing I didn’t count on was the restrictions in place to prevent drones being used!

No Drone Zone sign at Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls – No Drone Zone

I knew places such as New York City and Niagara Falls would likely restrict use but it turns out to also be banned at all National Parks, most State Parks, within 5 miles of an airport, near any school, prison, police station, hospital… Well it turns out you can’t really use it anywhere!

What this means is I haven’t had anywhere near the opportunity to use it that I was hoping. I have tried to put the best examples of where I could use it into a short video at the top of this post.

I will continue trying to use it wherever possible whilst also trying to avoid being fined or arrested – the whole purpose of this trip being to Escape Custody after all!

Let me know what you think of the video, any suggestions are always welcome as this is my first attempt at editing something like this together. I already have some ideas for what I would like to do next.

Whilst writing this I have now made it as far as Texas. If you are interested you can see a map of my journey so far at https://escapefromcustody.com/my-journey/ along with some facts about my progress.

Eye in the Sky. Also check out the sporty Kia that has done nearly 6,000 miles!

O’ Canada 🇨🇦

Canadian border control booths

Canadian border control

After New England we swapped cars and headed off to Niagara. It turns out most of the large rental companies are happy for you to drive across the border to Canada and currently as long as you cross and a land border rather than fly in there’s no need for any Visa or paperwork aside from your passport.

The drive from New York to the border was stunning, like the rest of the North East. It had been raining almost nonstop throughout the trip so far and this was the first long leg with sunlight!

Wherever time allows I’d been setting the GPS to avoid freeways to try and see a small glimpse of small town America and I highly recommend that if you do a similar trip. You get so many more opportunities to stop, see sights and see things you’d normally miss.

It was about 8 hours to the border and I had worried there would be delays and a long interrogation to cross but we drove straight up to a checkpoint booth, similar to the old Dartford crossing tolls, handed over the passports and confirmed we weren’t importing any firearms or weapons, paid the $3.50 toll and off we went.

Border Agent: “Have you got any weapons or firearms in the car?”

Dad: “No, we’re English”

Border Agent: “Yes, but you have been in America”

Once acoss it was plane sailing to the hotel. We stayed at the Radisson with a view of the falls, I don’t intend to review every place I stay but this hotel was fantastic and no more expensive than some other budget places we’ve stayed with an incredible view.

Sunrise over Niagara Falls from hotel room

Taken from the hotel room at sunrise

Walking down to the falls it is impossible to describe the falls properly. They are awe inspiring. There’s plenty of spaces to stand and take photos and videos but I have to credit a certain Mr Scarsbrook who convinced me to do the boat experience.

On the Canadian side is a boat called Hornblower and the famous Maid of the Mist is on the American side.

It’s a tourist trap, it’s silly and you get very, very wet but I’m converted, you can’t come here and not do it.

Thank you Reuben!

Over summer there’s a fireworks display every night and after that it was time to get some sleep before heading back to the USA the next morning.

We travelled back through Ontario heading west to avoid the longer route going straight back in to the US and crossed back into Michigan by Detroit. It is sad the contrast between Canadian border control and the Americans, it was much more accusatory and threatening coming back in. And it cost $5 to get back in!

Nevertheless we were allowed back in, thankfully, and continued westward.

Maid of the Mist next to the falls

Dad and me on Hornblower

Fireworks over Niagara Falls at night

Border sign to USA from Canada at Ambassador Bridge