United States

Things that went wrong during our US road trip

With hearts full of excitement and a lot of preparation, we started our much-anticipated 5 week US road trip. We envisioned unforgettable sights, thrilling adventures, and cherished memories. And while all those things happened of course, little did we know that our journey would be a rollercoaster ride. Our road trip was filled with unexpected challenges and, simply put: bad luck. In this blog post, we recount the tales of our adventures and misadventures. We also want to remind you (and ourselves) that no matter how good you plan everything, things still can go wrong. Here are all the things that went wrong during our US road trip, in semi-chronological order.

The saga of the broken suitcase

Our adventure began in San Francisco, where we could not wait to begin our road trip. However, fate had other plans for us. On the very first day, one of our suitcases came completely battered out of the plane. When we say battered, we mean it: a broken zipper, one wheel missing, bruises everywhere. This left us with no choice but to purchase a new one. The unexpected expense of € 105, coupled with the hassle of finding a replacement so early in our journey, were already mentioned in our US Budget Breakdown.

Limited rental period

A couple days later, we went to pick up our reserved car in San Francisco. We needed this car for 33 days. To our surprise, Sixt informed us that their maximum rental period allowed was only 28 days. This unexpected limitation forced us into a scramble to find a second car for the remaining week of our journey.

Not only did this increase our final rental costs (we secured a really good rate), it also resulted in a time-consuming procedure. We had to drive to LAX a week before our return flight to return the first car (after 28 days). Then, we had to choose a new car, pick it up, and travel back to Los Angeles. Only to then return the second car at the airport six days later. Our last week in the US was one with a lot of lost time and some logistical challenges. 😳

Accommodation woes (part 1)

Our road trip was not without its share of accommodation hiccups, as you’ll notice further down this blog post. When we arrived at our hotel in Santa Cruz, they gave us the wrong room. Rather than the kingsize bed and jacuzzi we booked, we got a room featuring two queen beds and, more importantly: no jacuzzi. Determined to not let this mistake ruin our 1 night there, Kelvin mustered the courage to ask for the correct room. The hotel clerk apologized, and after 15 minutes we got the correct room! Don’t let your dreams be dreams. 😉

Yosemite’s unexpected closure

Nature’s unpredictability became apparent as we made our way to Yosemite NP. A few weeks before we started our road trip, we noticed that a large part of Yosemite would be closed during our time in the US. This was due to Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road being closed for the winter. “Okay”, we thought, “still half the park left to explore”. On the day we departed for Yosemite, we discovered that another road was just closed that same day due to a significant crack in the road. This crack in the road was around 75 m long and up to 2 m deep. So instead of half the park being open, now only a quarter of Yosemite was open and accessible to the public. We were disappointed to say the least, but the silver lining is: we now have another reason to come back!

That same crack in the road also caused us to have to walk an hour to Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Where you normally have a shuttle bus from the parking lot at Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza to Mariposa Grove, we now had to walk 3 km (one way) to get there. Although the hike wasn’t bad, we didn’t know this in advance and so this was also very unexpected!

Sequoia’s closure

If you thought Yosemite being closed (for the most part) was bad, it gets even worse! Not only was Sequoia NP closed, too, we had a non-refundable booking in the area that we couldn’t cancel. This meant we had to look for alternatives, instead of just adding an extra day to another location. Fortunately, we discovered this before our road trip as we mentioned on our preparation blog post, so we still had plenty of time to find alternatives. Regarding that alternative, we visited Kings Canyon NP. Definitely worth it, but this means Sequoia is still on our bucket list!

Thirsty days in Death Valley

If you thought this run of bad luck came to and end with Sequoia, you’re wrong! Indeed, we had bad luck in Yosemite, then in Sequoia and then in Death Valley. Three locations in a row! Two days before we planned on visiting Death Valley, our hotel informed us that there would be water disruptions to all facilities.

We had no idea what this meant, and to be honest, the email wasn’t really clear either. It said that portable restrooms and portable handwash stations would be available. They also said there were going to be delays at check-in and that certain restaurants were going to be closed. Sounds like fun! We had no idea if we could shower or not and if we could only use the portable restrooms. Especially the short notice was something that caused us a lot of stress, because we could no longer look for an alternative.

Once we arrived at the hotel, it became clear what the water disruptions meant to us: no brushing teeth with tap water, not swallowing water whilst showering,… Fun times guaranteed! Our hotel gave us only 2 bottles of water as “compensation”, which clearly wasn’t enough. The only advantage was that we were allowed to shower, but that was it.

Accommodation woes (part 2)

In the midst of our road trip, we found ourselves facing a sudden change in our glamping plans. We were really looking forward to our two nights stay in a tent near the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately only 24 hours in advance the hosts of Wander Camp told us that our last night would be unavailable due to prescribed fires and maintenance. This left us scrambling to secure alternative accommodation, especially on such short notice. Eventually we found an amazing budget hotel near Williams, so everything turned out okay in the end.

Battling bad weather

Throughout our 5 week road trip in the Southwest, we found ourselves at the mercy of Mother Nature’s whims. Unfavorable weather became an unexpected companion on our journey, a recurring theme. We could have known already when at the beginning of our trip, a park ranger on Alcatraz told us “it was the first time in a century that it rained in May”. Particularly San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and San Diego were not so sunny. But the worst was the weather in Yosemite! -7 °C at sunrise, we were totally unprepared for this. We both didn’t pack a warm coat, so you can imagine that we were seriously cold! The persistent rain and unexpected weather were always looming around the corner throughout these 5 weeks. Time for a return during the hot summer months!

Accommodation woes (part 3)

Arriving at our remote Airbnb in the desert of Joshua Tree, we were met with a closed door. On top of that, we had a code that refused to grant us entry. Messages to the hosts went unanswered, leaving us stranded with only one solution: a very expensive international call. After a few minutes of back and forth on the phone, they provided us with another code. To our surprise, the code that did work was 6 figures, but the one we previously got consisted of only 4 figures. 🤔 We’re not quite sure how that happened, but the good news is that we were finally able to get in! Huge phone bill, though.

Road trip scare

As we drove back to Los Angeles with our newly acquired (second) car, a sudden loud noise scared us. The noise resembled the crushing of a soda can. Moments later, we discovered a substantial crack on the windshield. A rock had struck our car whilst we were driving at 100 km/h (60 mph)! This is something we always fear when renting a car, but luckily we went for the extended damage waiver coverage. This way we did not have to pay a penny, although it still caused us quite some stress. We checked our car rental agreement multiple times (legal mumbojumbo), and were relieved when we saw the crack was covered.

Note to you (and self): Always go for the extended protection/damage waiver. You don’t want to end up paying hundreds (or more) for something that is not your fault!

Technological hiccups

One day after checking into our hotel in Los Angeles, our trusty MacBook charger broke. The charger had only been with us for a year, but presumably the traveling became too much for him. Being rolled up and put away every two days clearly took a toll on him. 😳 We fully understand, who can blame him! Being left without a charger also meant goodbye to our late-night Netflix session, or doing research for the next day. Luckily, our phone chargers continued to serve us faithfully but note to self: pack an extra laptop charger! Especially when you’re on the road for multiple weeks.

No Jurassic Park for us

Universal Studios Hollywood promised a day full of thrilling encounters. After completing the Upper Lot, we ran down the steps (no joke) to our next ride in the Lower Lot: Jurassic World – The Ride. As self-proclaimed Jurassic Park fans, we were really eager to go on this ride. Once we arrived downstairs, we saw no waiting line. An alarm bell began to ring… We asked an employee what was going on, you can already guess what’s coming next, right? The attraction was closed until further notice. They couldn’t say if the attraction was going to open on the day, or if it was going to take longer. What a bummer! Another shattered dream! Or was it? Read all about it in our Universal Studios Hollywood guide.

Fun fact
Apparently there are 345 steps from the Upper Lot to the Lower Lot. 😂 We ran them all!

Tasting sunrise (or not?)

One of the most anticipated moments of our trip was witnessing the sunrise at the Griffith Observatory. We saw countless reels, drone shots and photos of this place, so we had to do it. Most people suggested visiting this place for sunset. However, the Observatory is packed during sunset so we opted for sunrise. With alarm clocks buzzing at 4 AM, we woke up to have the whole place to ourselves. And then we arrived… We were greeted by a dense veil of mist that covered the whole city and the sun! We stayed for over an hour, hoping for a change in conditions, but unfortunately the mist persisted. Since this was our last full day in LA (we had to catch a flight the next morning), this was our one and only chance. 🥺

We had had a lot of setbacks at this point, but this was still one of the moments we were most disappointed! Most of the setbacks were not too bad in the end, but unfortunately we had no alternative or solution for this. Really a missed opportunity, but all the more reason to come back!

In conclusion

Our 5-week road trip through the enchanting landscapes of the Southwest was a testament to the unpredictability of travel. Despite encountering a series of unexpected challenges and having runs of bad luck, we’re still convinced this is the best trip we ever made! Some of the things that happened to us were unpleasant and caused us some stress, but we think all these things made the road trip even better! For us, it’s not just about the destination, but the journey itself – and the journey was magical. We wouldn’t change a thing about our trip, or maybe one thing: the duration. 😉 Next up: a 10 week road trip? 😉

Looking for more road trip adventures?

Our US road trip itinerary
5 week US road trip: Budget Breakdown
Money-saving hacks for your US road trip
Q&A on our US road trip

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