Expectations can be detrimental. When we set off on our indefinite journey across America, some expectations were fully formed, while others weren't at all. Texas was a place for which my expectations were embarrassingly low, and as it usually tends to go when this is the case, I was blown away (almost literally).
Most of these photos were taken in or around Marfa, TX, an artsy ghost-town just north of Big Bend. After we left Austin, we had no set plans for months to come. We headed for Marfa, expecting to find things. We found nothing. The entire city was dead. We noted this absence of life just after discovering giant Goathead burrs embedded in all four deflated bike tires, and just before a giant sandstorm came rolling in. As sand stung our faces and we pushed our bikes miles back to camp, I had a very deep and permanent realization that for the next two months, we'd be going wherever the wind wanted to take us.
Photos posted here were taken in Austin, Marfa, Big Bend National Park, Terlingua, Route 90 and Mt. Guadalupe National Park.
When I think of New Mexico and Arizona, I think of emptiness; vastness. There are vantage points drifting as far as the eye can see, giant gaping holes in the land, before it splits into massive, mile-deep canyons which paint the horizon. Cartoon-like, neon cacti are also plentiful with the occasional sprinkling of brightly hued desert flowers, creating a stark contrast against their barren backdrop.
By this point on the road trip, we were letting the open road determine our fate each morning and night. Upon arriving at Sedona (some of the absolute reddest rocks on the planet), we were told that giant “vortexes,” or even energy tunnels if you may, existed within and around these famous rock formations and not to be surprised if we witnessed people praying or stopping, dropping and doing yoga. Sure enough, we felt the energy in certain spots and found ourselves experiencing quite a few spiritual moments on these rocks, much yoga included.
Vortex (n.) - a mass of whirling fluid or air, especially a whirlpool or whirlwind.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” - John Muir
There’s a tangible electricity in California that can be mostly be attributed to the panoramic views of surreal cliffs jutting out over the sparkling Pacific. The Highway 1 drive is one that every American should do in their lifetime. The rush of adrenaline this state offers seems to go deeper than the oceans and cliffs, however. There’s still a sense of discovery to be had, and if you trace the history back to the concept of “Manifest Destiny,” you might have a better understanding of why.
L.A. and its surrounding neighborhoods undulate a certain heartbeat of our nation, a heartbeat full of hope and talent. When traveling even further from the metropolitan areas of L.A. and San Francisco, that feeling expands into nature itself, and it’s not hard to imagine why Teddy Rosevelt and John Muir fell deeply in love with the woods of California.
Starting at Joshua Tree, we headed north through the Tassajara valley, stopping spontaneously at a zen center nestled in the mountains before eventually making our way to Yosemite. We found dispersed camping for the night and avoided the crowds by waking up early to complete all 17 miles of the notorious Half Dome hike by 4pm. Never before had I experienced such a rush of adrenaline and a sense of spirituality from the land itself. From the Dr. Seuss-esque backcountry of Joshua Tree to the majestic redwoods of Northern California, not to mention the entire cliff-lined coast in between, there is much to be discovered right here on our very own Western Coast.
The Pacific Northwestern United States - where I couldn’t help but take pictures of leaves and compare them to the florescent green of my friend Liz’s rain jacket. And we definitely needed rain jackets because we were in a full on rainforest!
Oregon is a hidden gem full of tucked away waterfalls and moss as green as one can possibly imagine. We had quite the time here, driving up the coast and exploring little seaside towns, before heading inland on Highway 138 A.K.A. the highway of waterfalls to explore the dozens of falls that are directly off the highway. We also visited Bend, which I fell in love with immediately, and eventually stopped in Portland (where I did yoga, ate some of the best vegan food I’ve ever had and forgot to take any pictures). Waking up on the coast of Oregon and then snaking our way through the Pacific Northwest, already a month into living on the road, felt like I’d truly found paradise at the time, in the form of moss, flowers and falls. There was one beach, with all its vastness and driftwood, that I couldn’t help but diving into the freezing cold water, and it was one of the most liberating moments of my life.
Washington felt similar to Oregon in the sense of a lost paradise or rather, hidden oasis. We allowed ourselves three full days of getting lost in Olympic National Park and hiked as far into the mountains as we could possibly go. We clearly took advantage of all that nature has to offer in this area, hence all the pictures of leaves and logs.
New Orleans was the second stop on our two-month road trip throughout the United States. This southern city is the embodiment of jazz, culture and heritage. Live music can be heard on each street corner, with fresh seafood smells wafting in from across the bay and colorful, political mural art lining the alleyways. We biked for miles during the day and enjoyed fun, funk-infused nights on Bourbon and Frenchmen street by night.
As luck would have it, we also found ourselves in town for the second weekend of Jazz Fest and were fortunate enough to attend the festival for a day. We caught incredible sets by Lake Street Dive, The Revivalists, Earth Wind and Fire, Dave Matthews and Jimmy Buffett.
Despite having grown up in Hong Kong and traveled to a few of the farthest corners of the world, Richmond, Virginia will always be home. Richmond has come a long way in the past 10 years and has a lot to offer. I love the old town houses of the fan, the constant buzz of VCU, the tranquility of the James River and the consistently expanding restaurant, bar and music scene. The city is the former capital of the confederacy and the Robert E. Lee monument directly behind my house is a constant reminder of the history and significance this state capital holds.