If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife
I’d thank my lucky stars to be livin’ here today
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away
And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA
– Lee Greenwood
Friday 1 December
Los Angeles, California
Well, this is it. Forty-two days traipsing around America, seeing the best of what this country has to offer – great cities, world-famous wilderness areas – comes to an end here tonight in Los Angeles.
They’ll be calling us to board for the 14-hour flight in a few minutes, back to reality. I’m a little flat, because we’ve been planning this big trip with my parents for a good eighteen months and now it’s all over. I look at it in some ways, and it seems like the trip went by in the blink of an eye. In other ways, it feels like we’ve been here a lifetime. Going back to work Monday is going to be rough.
I feel like I’d be less melancholy if we hadn’t gone to Chicago. With so many friends there, it’s hard to leave, and it gets harder each time. At least I’ll be back – sooner rather than later. I’m glad to report that mum and dad have had a wonderful time here, which makes me very happy. It was great that they could meet all my friends over here, and put faces to names and stories.
We got going early this morning, up at 5:45am and on the road by seven. It was a smooth commute from Arlington Heights – what a great house we had! – to Midway Airport. We ate breakfast at a Chicago White Sox-themed diner before heading west. It was a smooth flight with another amusing cabin crew, and because we’d paid for expedited boarding, we were able to get on early, and sit together. The five-hour flight went pretty quickly.
In Los Angeles, we hired a car and drove out to Santa Monica. Fittingly, it was where we started our trip forty-two days ago, and going out there for a meal at Bubba Gump’s on the iconic pier has become a real tradition for Nathan and I. The big servings steel us for the long flight home.
After eating, we walked along the pathway between Santa Monica and Venice Beach, stopping for an ice-cream as the sun dropped spectacularly below the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t quite as amazing as the sunset we witnessed at Ocean Beach in San Diego on the second night of our trip, but it was a beauty nonetheless. In the darkness, we headed back to the car and went back to LAX for our flight.
Our flight home, though booked through Virgin Australia, is a Delta flight, and unfortunately Mum, Dad and I are seated separately for the journey. We’re all going to be in middle seats, but isolated. Not how we wanted to end things, but it could be worse: at least we’re getting on the plane.
So it’s time to go. America, you’ve been amazing once again. I love visiting here, and I doubt that’ll ever change. What a trip this has been: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Yosemite, Las Vegas, Denver, Colorado Springs, Washington D.C., Gettysburg, Lake Placid, New York City, Ann Arbor, and Chicago. My goodness, we’ve covered some miles and seen some amazing things.
Thanks to my folks and Nathan for putting up with me for six weeks. Great to see this country with my parents for the first time and with one of my best mates for the umpteenth. It’s always fun. It will always be fun.
Until next time, America, be nice to each other.