Olivia Mackinnon

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after my recent trip to the United States, it’s that taking the path less travelled is always the best option.

It’s incredibly easy to always go off the tourist maps and play it safe, but then you see what everyone else has always seen and where’s the fun in that?

So on the last leg of our six-stop American tour, we decided to leave the jets at the airport and explore the open road. My partner has had his eye on a Mustang, one of the truly American vehicles, for a while – so we decided to hire one and after a few whirlwind days on the Las Vegas strip, make the trip to the sunny streets of Los Angeles in style.

 

Once we picked up the car from Las Vegas airport, we were in awe of how beautifully sleek and shiny she was. My appreciation for cars grew tenfold in that moment (and then promptly shrunk back once we returned the keys in L.A).

The Mustang was a dream, both inside and out. She had luxurious leather, a roof that glided back with ease, leaving a suitable ‘Thelma and Louise-style’ vibe – and enough grunt to let you know that this was going to be fun.

Once we loaded the car and set the GPS, we were instructed to be on the same road for pretty much the entire 3 hour and 51-minute journey; the I-15 S. The most trying part of our launch was remembering to stay on the right side of the road, all puns intended.

While gliding along the highway, for the first time we noticed how beautiful Las Vegas really is, away from the bright lights, clicking cards and slot machines. It’s all blue skies, fresh air and enough warmth on your skin that you just feel happy. It made me think that I’d love to come back and explore this place beyond the boulevard.

We passed a few must-sees during our drive on the I-15 S, including the world’s largest thermometer – no big banana, but well worth a photo! What I liked most was the all-American diners and the towns that sat between Vegas and L.A; towns like Barstow and Baker, which feature signs up and down the highway, trying their darndest to tempt you off your path and into their unknown, in-between world.

 

We were almost tempted into Bob’s Big Boy, a traditional American diner in every sense of the term but had caught an American disease called ‘Starbucks-obia’ (a case of serious addiction to Starbucks drinks) so we made a beeline for the ‘Bucks instead. The coffee Frappuccino (light whip) is the cure for any dessert boredom that may strike a few hours into your drive. And while my partner opted for a McDonalds meal from across the road, I chose one of the Starbucks lunch packs that are so brilliantly put together, I just couldn’t resist. Mine came with a cheddar and a brie cheese, crackers, sultanas, nuts, and apple slices. After two weeks in the U.S, I just couldn’t handle another cheeseburger.

After our pit stop, it seemed as though just 20 minutes later we were entering Los Angeles. I could almost smell the magic and the pollution in the air.

My advice to others wanting to mimic our journey? Try to arrive in Los Angeles well before 5pm. For all of its positives, the big negative about that wonderful city is the traffic. It’s worse than Sydney when it comes to public transport. Everyone drives because there is next to no public transport. Which of course means that the ‘freeways’ (which, let’s be honest, are never free) are a nightmare between 5-8pm. So, be sure to leave as soon as you secure the wheels.

But the tip I’m even more insistent you follow? Do this. Don’t fly, you miss too much ‘real America’ – and you don’t get that kind of raw, off-the-beaten-track beauty unless you travel way, way into the South. Oh and p.s. – make sure the car is GOOD!

Things to know about driving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles:

  • Be prepared to wait. Everyone goes to collect their car from the airport at the same time, so be prepared to wait around an hour. We found Dollar car rental to be a particularly long wait.
  • Time your trip well. Try and arrive into L.A. Before 3-4pm, or after 8pm. The traffic is too crazy on the freeways during peak hour. Either don’t stop during your drive or leave later.
  • Spend a little extra on a car you really want to drive. The mustang was definitely a ‘bucket list’ experience for my partner.
  • If you want to be healthy, take your own lunch. There aren’t a lot of healthy options en route.

Olivia Mackinnon is Senior Digital Content Producer for Sydney’s KIIS 1065 Kyle & Jackie O Show, when she’s not travelling the world she’s busy finding the best new and fun places to eat, drink and play in Sydney.

Instagram: @oliviakmackinnon Twitter: @OliviaMackinnon

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.