In the summer of 2014 we sent two best friends on a road trip of a lifetime across the United States. Part One took them to California…..but now they’re moving on.

Jaun Antoine

He approached us with his idea through our contributor page and we loved it, if you have planning an amazing trip or have a story to tell then shoot us a message here

Published

March 06 2015

This part of the story is one of pain, perseverance, more straight roads, flatlands, gas stations, junk food, energy drinks… it goes on.

We were heading for the Deep South, and the only way for us to get there was by a long drive through several states. Firstly it was 10 hours into deep New Mexico where eventually we pulled over to sleep in the car just outside Albuquerque. There was no point us getting a motel as time was running low and we wanted to get going. 4 uncomfortable hours of “sleep” at a truck stop then we got going again.

“WELCOME TO TEXAS THE LONE STAR STATE” we were greeted as once again we were staring down the barrel of another straight road with nothing to look at. We then proceeded to drive for a further 20 hours…20 hours!!!

We drove through Amarillo…Claude…Fort Worth…Dallas (we drove past Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was shot) and eventually we had made our way into the state of Louisiana.

After driving for a further 8 hours through swamplands, bayous, the towns of Port Allen an Baton Rouge we finally reached our intended destination. New Orleans, the home of cajun food, creole people, voodoo traditions and the birthplace of jazz. Yes New Orleans.

Diary entry: September 5th-

Finally we’re in New Orleans…at 3am!! We drove past the Superdome where all the people had to seek refuge during Katrina. We started driving around town looking for a motel and there were none anywhere. Eventually we saw the London Lodge Motel…it sounded like an omen…it wasn’t!

Creole and the birthplace of jazz

The less said about this motel the better, what i will say is that the cockroach that crawled up my leg when i was trying to sleep seemed to quite like it there…as well as the rest of his friends!

Once we’d laid our weary road worn bodies down on stain-marked wire wool-like linen for a few hours it was time to go sample that creole vibe. You can truly feel the energy of NOLO in the air, it’s almost electric. As we walked the curbs of the famous French-Quarter, it seemed like we had gone back in time. The architecture a mix of Haitian, British colonial, and French, almost like chateau’s built on a budget, and if it weren’t for the modern signage and neon, we truly could have been back in the early 1800’s. There’s an eeriness about the buildings…you can sense the debauchery in them, you can almost see the ladies of the night hanging over the balcony, bosoms pouring out of period corsets and draped in trinkets. What’s most strange to see is the water marks that have stained them, as a result of Hurricane Katrina. It brings you back to modern times quickly once you notice.

New Orleans was beautiful, music is EVERYWHERE, drums thump down every street, pulsing and setting the tempo for your body, you can literally be carried on through by the beat. Everyone was hustling like businessmen. It has a great historical culture, we educated ourselves at the Louisiana State Museum, there was a rather poignant moment when we walked into the room of one of the exhibits, and right in front of us was an auction block. People kidnapped from their world and taken to the new to be offered up as slaves to whoever bid the most money, paraded atop this 6ft wooden platform then destined to a life of servitude to “masters”…so sad to think how many people stood there and had to face that kind of inhumanity.

Once again, low on time, we had to head for that lonely road again. We went and got a taste of Gumbo, easily one of the best meals I got to taste. Darrell being the sophisticated palate of the pair of us agreed too; we smiled satisfied and rolled on out of town.

Memphis, Tennessee

Diary entry: September 7th-

“We’re in Memphis! Only a 6 hour drive from NOLO, easy compared to the 40 hour journey from Vegas! We checked into a Super 8 motel downtown. Chilled for a few hours then headed to Beale Street. It’s basically the blues capital of the world. BB King’s blues club is on the corner, down the road is Jerry Lee Lewis’ bar…watched a blues band playing in BB’s after getting so classic southern BBQ food…got a phone call from Dina, says she in Nashville three hours away and is coming to see us! Ha! Brilliant!! 3 hours later she strolls in, “It’s me Dina” she says. Haha. Missed this one, good to see her again…”

Great to have our third member back with us for adventures and laughs. Together we drove into town and got to visit Graceland, my granddad would have been proud and jealous! I was raised with Elvis ringing in the background so it was great to see his home. The decor looked like it had been chosen by Liberace! We went on his plane “Lisa-Marie”, we saw the pink Cadillac, the jumpsuits, and everything in-between.

Straight after, I suddenly remembered that Memphis was where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was at The Lorraine Motel, which wasn’t far from Beale Street. Being one of my heroes, i had to go pay homage. The whole building had been beautifully converted into the Civil Rights Museum, and traced the whole history of the struggle. The room that Dr King was staying in, and the balcony on which he was shot, was all untouched from that very day back in April 1968. The whole museum is a great testament to all those people who fought for injustice and inequality.

We went for a quick beer afterwards back on Beale Street, an amazing blues band were playing. The guitarist saw Darrell and I, assumed we were in a band together, and asked if we wanted to play, we politely declined…then he came down into the crowd, asked me again, how could I say no now to being asked a second time to jam with some genuine blues cats?! I did it, a bit rusty at first, but I got into the swing of it soon enough. It was pretty cool to be playing the blues on the same turf as the greats like Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf.

Dina had to head back to Knoxville as she was using her dad’s car (she was supposed to drive it back home from Nashville when she decided to come see us!) so she hit the road. We followed not long after. We were Nashville bound – the home of country music.

Dina got tired of driving by the time she got to Nashville, so instead of carrying on to Knoxville, she waited for us! It was late, we checked into another motel and crashed out.

Both me and Dal had been looking forward to visiting Nashville, both being big fans of Jack White, and we wanted to make a point of visiting his famous (to those in the know) Third Man Records. A colour-schemed, record-selling, photo-boothing, vinyl pressing paradise! We only had 1 full day to see Nashville as we had planned to visit Dina’s hometown of Knoxville for a decent amount of days, so we made the most of it…

Diary entry: September 9th-

“Nashville is awesome! We head down to Third Man records, its perfect. Good music playing, beautiful rock n roll girl behind the counter spinning the records, all colour coded in black and yellow. Jack’s done good! The old “voice-o-graph” vinyl recording machine is here too, and working! Neil Young recorded his whole album in this tiny box…i decided to go for it. I got in the booth and record one of my own songs “even the devil wont wanna buy my soul”. Gotta be a blues song if I’m in the south right?! Sounds so cool…we then drove over to the Johnny Cash museum. Great to see all his stuff like guitars, lyrics etc: hard to follow Graceland though!…went for a few beers after, met an MMA cage fighter who liked our accents. Nice guy! Then met a guy who met Jim Morrison! Told us a couple funny stories then we headed on our way, again…..”

Knoxville, Tennessee

There was an actual soundtrack to this town, it was sung by everyone on pretty much every night out. A traditional bluegrass song called “Rocky Top” as sung by The Osborne Brothers. It’s a Tennessee University anthem for their Football team.

Effectively, this was a homecoming for us. Knoxville is Dina’s home town, she’d told us countless stories and shown us infinite videos of all her antics alongside her rather lovely friends. She had been talking about this moment since we were back in LA so we’d been looking forward to this for weeks! We decided we were going to spend 5 days in Knox, we had a lot of people we were due to meet so we wanted to make sure we didn’t have to rush anything. We decided to get another AirBNB apartment, and the one we got was nice. It even had a pool! The owner left us a note saying “Welcome to our home! We’re really happy you chose our place to stay. Please help yourselves to coffee…as well as that, we’ve left you some creamed cheese, some bagels, a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne, and 2 ripe tomatoes from our garden!” so strange to read that, but hilarious at the same time. Lovely hosts!

So on our first day, we went to the Old City, which had an English pub. The Crown and Goose. Instead of getting a pint (they rarely serve pints in America), we opted for some tea. How delightfully English of us! Darrell had been looking for a proper cup of tea since the first day we landed, he was so happy after that first sip. If ever there was a life content, it was then in that moment written all over his face. We checked out a massive vintage shop called Nostalgia, and then headed over to a record store and got a couple of 180gram gems.

On this night we finally got to meet Dina’s friend Albert and his infamous mum Adonna. Two huge characters and lovely people who, when they came through our front door, were brandishing a bottle of vodka, and a walking stick that was actually a working taser! Only in America-again!

Over the next few days we met everyone, Kirstie, Hope, Christa, Bekah, Emily, Sarah, Joe Maples, and even Layla…the list goes on. We had become the talk of the town, the two London boys who had started a minor dance revolution in the clubs of Knoxville. This isn’t a lie either! Sassyann’s, Carleo’s, Southbound…we danced them all.

We broke bread together, we drank together, we joked together and we danced together. Dina and her Knoxville friends couldn’t have been nicer. True southern hospitality.

Diary entry: September 13th-

“Dina came and picked us up and took us over to Albert and Adonna’s. They’d cooked us all some chilli and some homemade pizzabread. Good eating! Hope was there too. Once we’d finished eating, Adonna gave Dal a manicure, no idea why. Haha. We all headed over to Doc’s to watch the T.U game then went to another sports bar called Roosters…we went to Carleos and then Wagon Wheel and we danced the night way. Two guys with long hair in skinny jeans, surrounded by guys in cowboy hats! Strange! As like everywhere else in America, everyone was so friendly…”

On our last day in Knoxville we all met up again and went into the centre of town, Market Square to be precise. There were about 10 of us and we were all wandering through the square with a huge speaker blaring out music while we all danced along…it was the middle of the day. A group of Roller-skaters didn’t take too kindly to us unfortunately! Especially when we put the Darth Vader theme on to them marching along on four wheels!

This was a rather sad day for Darrell and I. Not only was it time to say goodbye to all our new Knoxville friends, but we had to say our last goodbye to Dina. She’d been with us for large parts of the trip, and without question was an equal part of our adventures. A true friend for life and one of the craziest people either of us had ever met. It was a real shame that she couldn’t come with us for the final part of the journey.

The Last Leg – New York, New York

One last final drive, a gruelling 13-hour cruise through the night as we said goodbye to Tennessee and headed up to the Big Apple. Around 9am we could see the Manhattan skyline in the distance. Outlined by the rays of the sun, we got our first glance of the Freedom Tower. It was set to be a pretty intense last few days.

We had checked into another AirBNB apartment, a tiny little pad in Queens, the suburban side of the East River, at Ditmars Boulevard, the end of the N-Train line of the Subway. As exciting as it was to be in New York, it was also starting to sink in that we’d be heading home in a few days, and that the great road trip would be at its end. We made sure we went big for our last few days!

We walked constantly. Our days were spent walking around Manhattan, visiting the tourist spots of Times Square, Central Park, taking in exhibitions like the Bodyworks, and basically absorbing the atmosphere. I’d been hoping to meet a rude New Yorker like in films, yet once again everyone we met was so nice.

On our first day we made sure we went to the ground zero memorial. The foundations turned into Black stone fountains that descend into the ground with the names of all the victims etched into the granite. As you’re looking down into the hole, it’s strange to think what was happening in that exact spot some 88 floors up in the air. Then you turn around and the majestic Freedom Tower greets you, looking like a humongous piece of art built in glass. Bigger and better. Intense.

We also made sure we ventured down into Little Italy. It was the “Feast of San Gennaro” when we visited and the streets were alive. Food vendors selling hot dogs and pretzels, cigars, ice-cream, the smell of the finest Italian food the east coast has to offer was wafting through the air. We ate well and had a couple of drinks while we watched a doo-wop band. 5 old men, easily into their 70’s, dressed in matching suits and singing the hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. A nice touch.

Diary entry: September 16th-

Dina had set us up to meet one of her best friends, a lovely girl named Danielle. She arranged to meet up with us in Chinatown. Bless her, coming to meet two strangers just because her friend asked her to! She took us to an awesome little speakeasy called Apotheke, all exposed fixtures and dark corners. Some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had, topped off by some music. An amazing brass band just jamming out with the whole crowd around them singing and dancing…..we head home about 5.30am…at least the Subway is 24 hours!

Over the next couple of days we managed to tick off a few more things, we saw the Statue of Liberty, we went to the top of the Empire State Building and we even managed to go to a baseball game, the New York Mets. Some friends of mine from back home had friends out in America, they got in contact with us and asked us along. Ben and Lee, 2 brothers who lived in Venice Beach but had decided to spend a month in NYC. The match was more of a spectacle than either of us could have imagined. It was like a mix of sport and pantomime. Sing-alongs with the crowd, dance-offs, presenters on the screen doing competitions, and then cheerleaders shooting t-shirts out of high-powered air guns into the crowd! Quite an experience and a nice way to spend our last night in America, taking in America’s favourite pastime.

Diary entry: September 18th-

Woke up ridiculously sad, neither of us want to leave…headed to Greenwich Village in the morning, got Dunkin’ Donuts and a coffee and walked into Washington Square, people chilling, people busking, walked around the village a bit and we saw the Cafe Wha, home to historic performances by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. We headed back to Queens to finish our packing, shower, and prepare to leave…somehow we’d messed up our flight bookings so I’m on my own until the connecting flight in Philly. So I head to Newark Airport while Dal heads to LaGuardia…as I sit here writing this, waiting for my flight, I’m truly gutted. We’ve had the most amazing time, met some greets people, and have had some of the craziest adventures we could have hoped for. The kindness, friendliness, and positivity of the people we’ve met is inspiring…for now, this is it I guess…we’ll be coming back soon though I’m sure…

It’s another cold, wet, and dark November night in London. Streets lit by dim lamps hovering over corners, misguiding feet into puddles and the mist in the air dampening all the leftover enthusiasm the summer time had to offer. It all seems so long ago now, but taking the time to write down our memoirs of a moment in time has momentarily brightened up a typical winter night in England. Side by side we took on the American road and made it, by the skin of our teeth at times, but ultimately, in a way we both could rightly feel proud of ourselves. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Not a day goes by when we’re not talking about something we did or what we’re planning to do on our next adventure. Maybe it’s us just easing away the drain of being back in the daily grey, humdrum mundanity that is always so easy to get sucked into, but I’m sure we’ll both be talking about it for a long time to come. And whenever I may find myself drifting along into that social purgatory where I’m feeling starved of adventure, I’ll remember how alive I felt out on the road with my buddy, and I’ll put my headphones in, and listen to Bob Dylan sing those words again, and let it revive me.

“OUR BATTERED SUITCASES WERE PILED ON THE SIDEWALK AGAIN; WE HAD LONGER WAYS TO GO. BUT NO MATTER, THE ROAD IS LIFE” Sal Paradise, On The Road – Jack Kerouac