“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac
For those of you that don’t already know, me and Joe booked our trip across the USA with Trek America – a guided tour company. If i’m being completely honest, a guided tour didn’t really appeal to us initially; we’d had visions of driving down the West Coast in a convertible, stopping whenever we wanted for as long as we wanted.
And then reality hit.
For a trip the size that we wanted (2 months), it was going to be too costly (think car rental costs, car insurance, motel fees, petrol, as well as spending money); there was no way we were going to manage it within our budget unless we significantly reduced the amount of places we wanted to see – which we were not prepared to do!
Our travel agent actually suggested Trek America to us and gave us the brochure which was packed with temptation. Trek America offers such a wide variety of tours from 3 day mini trips to an 84 day trip to 50 states! We found a tour that pretty much would let us see everything on our list, and at a much more reasonable price! There was one downside for me though…
This was not part of the convertible-cruising-down-the-coast-looking-super-tanned-and-having-a-great-time vision.
However, Joe convinced me it would be an amazing experience to camp in the US and we would never be able to see all of these places if we didn’t compromise a little… so we booked it!
26 states in 48 days New York – California – New York – in one big loop!
After our 2 nights in New York we made our way to the ‘custom’ hotel which is recommended by Trek America to stay there the night before as it’s where you start the tour. The hotel, Hilton Newark Airport, as the name suggests – was very close to Newark Airport, has really reasonably priced rooms with super comfy beds, and a swimming pool – bonus! Most of the Trek America tours start very early (7:30am meet for us), so unless you want to get up at 4am and travel, I would suggest you stay at the custom hotel the night before. There’s also a breakfast buffet included in your room price so if you’re doing a camping tour like we did, then it’s nice to squeeze in as many luxuries as possible before you go!
A 7:30 meet in the hotel lobby and we were (slightly awkwardly), introduced to our fellow trekkers! A quick tour brief going over rules and regulations (and what to do if you encounter a bear), and all 14 of us were loaded onto the bus and our suitcases packed into the trailer (fondly named Terry the trailer).
In our group we had Erin and Georgia from New Zealand, Danielle, Jess and Helen from Kent, Emma and Pam from Chester, Neil and Vicky from the land of the seas (they’d been travelling the world for a year and prior to that, had travelled the world working on cruise ships), Izzy from Cambridge, Laura from Birmingham, myself and Joe from Nottingham, and our driver Peter from Minnesota! – a lot of Brits there!
Our first stop of the day was Walmart to stock up on supplies (for me the essentials were crisps and a pillow!). I’d recommend not taking a pillow with you, and buying one in Walmart – I got mine for $7 so about £4 and because I bought it out there, I didn’t waste any space in my suitcase/ have to carry it around the airport with me!
On your first day with Trek America, the group gets split into smaller groups which each have their own roles; cooking, wash-up duty, and van-cleaning duty, you alternate these roles every night between groups so the work is always distributed evenly (and helps avoid arguments about whose turn it is to wash up). As a first night treat, our tour guide Peter offered to cook his famous ‘Tortilla Soup’ for us (amazing), and he sauntered off to grab the ingredients whilst most of us got lost in the food maze that is Walmart.
After a quick lunch at a cute picnic spot (think Yogi Bear), we headed to a Winery.
The Winery was actually gorgeous; a farmhouse with fairy lights strung across the beams on the roof, and a sleepy dog occasionally waking up to greet new guests. They had a deal on where you received 6 samples of wine for $3 (basically free), and was quite a nice way for everyone to get a little tipsy and break the ice!
A little merrier than when we had arrived, we headed on to our very first camping spot – Sampson State Park, which used to be a Naval training facility so as we pulled up there were old planes scattered throughout the site – pretty cool for a campsite!
Then I learned how the American’s camped; there were electricity plugs EVERYWHERE. Just popping up from the ground on a post!
I could deal with this kind of camping.
Another thing I had been panicking about was the tent situation. I’d been imagining an argument between me and Joe, pouring rain soaking us and the tent whilst we tried to thread poles through material, and inevitably, me in tears with Joe telling me he’d just do it himself.
I couldn’t have been more wrong!
The tents are so easy to put up and there is no threading-through required! If you’re not a camper like me and are worried about this side of Trek America – fear not. It’s honestly really simple and 10 minutes later we were celebrating our tent success with a beer and cider!
After a delicious dinner of Peter’s Tortilla Soup, we had a few drinks around the campfire before heading back to our ‘rooms’ for the first night’s sleep in a tent, ready for Niagara Falls the next day.
Trek Tip: The one thing I didn’t do and some others did which was genius, was to keep the big plastic bag the pillow came in, and then when chucking the pillows in the trailer, they never got dirty whilst in their protective cover – mine was quite grubby by the end of the trip.
Thanks for reading!