Interview: Duncan D’s Road Trip Through America, Part 2

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Traveller: Duncan is an old friend from high school who travelled through the US and Canada for six weeks this summer. In Part 1 of his interview we discussed Denver’s marijuana industry, free booze in Reno, and why Salt Lake City is so creepy. Keep reading Part 2 for his thoughts on camping beside massive redwood trees, legal weed in Washington, and the coffee scene on the West Coast.

Mel: All right, so where are you at this point in the trip?

Duncan: After Reno we drove to my cousin Jeff’s place in San Francisco to pick him up.

M: Is San Francisco as expensive as everyone says it is?

D: Rent is definitely expensive. Everything else had… normal city prices, I guess?

M: San Fran has great food, what did you guys eat?

D: We had In-N-Out burgers! Definitely good fast food, I would get it over McDonalds any day. It’s not a gourmet burger, more of a greasy cheeseburger. They’re also super hipster about their coffee, we had some really good coffee there. One of my favourite places was Trouble Coffee. There’s no menu there so you can’t really tell what they have without asking, but I had toast and coffee. They also sell whole coconuts and oranges there because apparently you can survive solely on coconuts plus a source of vitamin C. It was a great experience, I loved it. I also went to Blue Bottle and Phil’s coffee shops.

M: What did the three of you get up to while you where there?

D: We walked around a lot, it’s a really nice place to visit. If I was offered a job that was located in San Francisco, I would definitely take it. We did the tourist thing too and visited Pier 39 and saw the sea lions and went to Lombard Street, which is the really steep street. It kind of sucked because there were so many people. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge – there are a lot of nice parks on the other side of the bridge and we did some hiking around there.

My cousin was studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music there, so we hung out with a lot of cool musicians. We also saw the original Grateful Dead house, which is also in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. It’s not a museum or anything, it’s just a normal house that people live in with a little sign in the window so people know they’re there.

M: That sounds like a pretty chill trip, did you get up to anything crazy?

D: There was a bar that had $1 margaritas for an hour each night! I don’t even remember the name of the bar, but it was so good and packed with people. I feel like something embarrassing happened that night, but I can’t remember. We also did a bit of a pub-crawl in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood.

M: Where did you go after San Francisco?

D: We drove to Santa Cruz and down the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s so gorgeous there. They had some people selling fruits and vegetables there and you can buy a whole bag of avocados for $1!

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M: That’s like… ¾ of the price of one avocado in Toronto.

D: Yeah, it was great. The whole Pacific Coast Highway was amazing to drive along because you’re right beside beaches the whole time. 

M: Could you see visible signs of California’s drought while you were there?

D: Absolutely. A lot of things looked browner than we were expecting. This was mostly in Southern California though. In San Francisco there’s constant fog. They actually named the fog Karl; he has his own Instagram account.

M: Did you make any pit stops between San Francisco and Los Angeles?

D: We went for a hike in Bug Sur Park, which was cool. We stopped at a place called Morro Bay for a night and I had amazing fish and chips there. Oh, I forgot to mention Rufus! Rufus is a giant stuffed dog that Jeff won playing ring toss at the boardwalk. He barely fit in our car, but we took him everywhere with us. Like from this point forward he’s in at least one photo everywhere we went.

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Rufus the Dog

M: Where did you stay when you finally got to LA?

B: We stayed with Rob’s godmother Cynthia who’s like the coolest lady I’ve ever met. Like she’s 60 and lives in West Hollywood and her neighbours are Juicy J and Josh Groban. I didn’t even know who Juicy J was until I met Cynthia. She also knew everyone we came into contact with in West Hollywood; restaurant servers, lawyers, everyone.

M: I feel like that’s a really eclectic combination of neighbours to have. Did you like LA? I feel like a lot of people find it sort of gross and seedy.

D: Honestly, we didn’t even go downtown, we were in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood the whole time. We did go to Venice Beach, which was pretty touristy, but still really nice. I feel like Venice Beach is the beach other beaches are modelled after.

L.A.

L.A.

M: Where did you guys go eat and drink while you were in LA?

D: Our first night there the three of us went to the Troubadour and randomly saw Mother Mother, which is funny because they’re also Canadian. After that we went to the Abbey, which is a gay bar.

M: What did you three straight males get up to at the Abbey?

D: There were a lot of straight girls there too! And we met these two other girls who were about to leave on a road trip the next day and one of them fell of the table she was dancing on and an ambulance had to come.

M: Really?!

D: Yeah, they had to kick everyone out while the paramedics came in. She luckily turned out to be okay. West Hollywood is a lot of fun though, we had a great time that night. We got back to the loft at 4am and tried making pasta, but because California has so many earthquakes, everything had latches and whatever so it wouldn’t fall out of the cupboards and off shelves. We were too drunk to figure it out, it’s a complicated system. We spent the next day recovering at the beach.

M: Is everyone beautiful in LA?

D: Yes, absolutely everyone. Or at least everyone in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

M: Was there anything in California you wanted to do but didn’t get a chance to?

D: I really wanted to go surfing while we were there but we didn’t have a lot of time and it can be pretty expensive. There had also been an oil spill recently, so when we were walking along the beach in the water there was oil on our feet; it was gross. But I would definitely do it the next time I’m in California.

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M: Where did you go after you left LA?

D: We headed to the Grand Canyon. When we were driving through Arizona I saw an actual cowboy on the way there. Like he had the hat and boots and a pistol on his belt. Except he was filling his pickup truck at the gas station instead of on a horse, but whatever. I would’ve taken a picture if I wasn’t scared of him maybe shooting me.

M: Did you ever feel like you were in any real danger when you were on your trip?

D: No, not in any of the places we visited. Everyone we met was friendly and the Arizona cowboy was the only person with a gun that we saw.

M: Is the Grand Canyon as beautiful as everyone says it is?

D: Well we arrived there in time for the sunset and then we woke up early to see the sunrise before going for a 12-mile hike, and it’s so beautiful. While we were on our hike it actually started to rain and hearing the thunder echo was crazy. Even just looking at the Grand Canyon – it doesn’t look real, it looks like a painting. It’s something you really need to see to appreciate. If I went back to the Grand Canyon, I’d probably want to go camp at the north rim where it’s less built up and has fewer tourists.

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M: Where did you guys drive to from there?

D: We went to Lake Tahoe, which was gorgeous. It made me wish I had lots of money because it’s very resort-y with the fancy boats and ski hills, but we camped just outside of the main town area. We rented kayaks and paddled around the lake. We went on a really good hike there on the Van Sickle Trail. We also went on a pub-crawl and ended up at a bowling alley. Yeah, you sort of just go to Lake Tahoe to be rich and do stuff. I’d definitely go back if I had more money.

M: Did you head north up the coast after Lake Tahoe?

D: We did, and it’s such a beautiful drive. We saw some really nice hills and scenery on the way to the National Redwood Park. The redwoods are amazing and huge and we got to camp right beside them. We only stayed one night, but I would love to go back there and do some hiking.

National Redwood Park

Redwood National Park

M: What other stops did you make on the west coast?

D: We kept driving north along the Oregon coast and went through Portland. 

M: You guys didn’t stay in Portland at all?

D: No, we camped on a beach outside of Portland and met some other people doing the same thing. That beach had the best skipping stones. We did drive into Portland to get brunch because that’s what everyone says to do. We went to Broder, which has really great food and coffee. The whole trip really got me into coffee. But even though we didn’t stay in Portland long, we spent the next week in Seattle, which is a really cool city to visit, especially since we had friends there that we could stay with.

M: What is there to do in Seattle?

D: Lots! Our friend Saruhan was a really good tour guide and brought us to a bunch of places with really good food and to a lot of different coffee shops. We went to Slate Coffee Roasters and they had a menu item called the Deconstructed that has a little bit of espresso, a glass of local milk that was probably the best milk I’ve ever had, and the third glass is the two of them mixed together as a latte. There’s a lot of gentrification in Seattle – I think it’s because of the corporations there. But it’s still a lot cheaper than San Francisco. There’s definitely a movement to save Seattle culture because all of the people moving there to work.

M: Did you guys get to the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market?

D: We did, except the original location is no longer there even though they call the one at Pike Place the ‘original one’. Starbucks in Seattle is sort of like Tim Horton’s in Ontario, maybe one step up. It’s definitely the utility coffee drinker’s coffee.

M: Marijuana is also legal in Washington, how was the scene different than in Colorado?

D: It’s hard to say. The place we went to in Seattle was a bit more relaxed and they had a menu where you could look at all of their strains and blends. But they had a bunch of different products like sodas and lube and stuff. It definitely seemed a bit more capitalistic in Washington than in Colorado and maybe a bit less controlled as well. The sodas were amazing and their cookies were fine, but not as good as the chocolate bar in Colorado.

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M: Seattle was the last American stop on your trip, how was coming back to Canada?

D: We drove into Vancouver and thought border security would be really tough because we were travelling in from a place that has legal weed, but they were really chill and welcomed us back home to Canada. I have some family in Vancouver so we stayed there for a few nights. There’s so much to do there, especially outdoors. We went paddle boarding in North Vancouver, went to Stanley Park and did Pitch and Putt which is like mini-golf but bigger. I love Vancouver, I would move there.

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M: I would move there too, I love Vancouver.

D: I feel like it’s lower energy than Toronto but there’s still so much to do. Plus it’s beautiful to look at and there are mountains and beaches. It’s hard not to love Vancouver.

M: Where else did you stop in Canada?

D: The only other place we stopped in was Calgary. Oh and Vulcan, Alberta! It’s a totally Star Trek themed town. It’s so weird, probably because neither of us are super into Star Trek but still felt the need to visit. We got some really funny pictures though. It’s a really small town and they have one huge festival a year called Vul-Con. We also did some hiking around there and then headed home to Toronto!

M: What do you wish you had known prior to the start of your trip or what would you change if you did the trip again?

D: I would’ve made the trip either longer or shorter. I would’ve liked to spend more time in a bunch of places like the Redwoods or the Grand Canyon or go surfing in California. The trip turned out more expensive than I had anticipated; I ended up spending about $2500, which probably isn’t so bad for six weeks. We could have saved a lot more money by camping more often than staying in motels. But overall we had a really great trip and I would love to do it again.

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