I just spent 10 days road-tripping from Los Angeles to New Orleans and I never expected what I saw

For my summer vacation this year, I wanted to do what one good friend of mine called the “most American thing possible”: a road trip.

My friend Jack had a writer’s residency in Los Angeles, and we had been talking about checking out New Orleans for a while, so we decided to bridge the two cities by way of interstate.

Along the way, we’d check out parts of America I’d never visited: the open Southwest of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

I didn’t expect to find sea lions, stalactites, and a guitar-playing horse along the way — but they turned out to be key characters in our adventure.

On my first full day, I woke up to a book and a view of Los Angeles's famous Venice Beach. It's the sort of thing a guy could get used to.

I knew I was in Los Angeles by two sure signs: psychics and traffic...

...and malls...

...and the Getty Center, a museum that's a work of art in itself.

I was on the trip with my friend Jack, pictured right. Southern California native (and former BI Science team member) Leslie took us on a nature expedition in Malibu.

We came across a crew of sea lions -- who blended in perfectly with the landscape.

We explored tide pools...

...and befriended a California sea hare.

We celebrated with Hula Pie at Duke's, a beloved eatery on the Pacific Coast Highway.

And you can't leave California without going to In-N-Out.

We departed from L.A. on Monday, stopping at the Ludlow Cafe in the California desert.

It was diner food at its dinerest. That's a chilli dog if you can't tell.

The decor was unbeatable.

From there, the road to New Orleans was open. And long.

The roadside attractions in Arizona were unprecedented, like a giant golf ball.

I had never been to the desert. The peaks of Red Rock State Park near Sedona, Arizona, were breathtaking.

We pushed on to the curiously named town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. It's as arid as it is bohemian.

We came to White Sands National Monument in southeastern New Mexico. That's me getting sunburned.

We barreled on further. The sunset in the high desert was epic -- even when you were speeding by.

I discovered that the Southwest had a strong conservative streak.

The highlight of the drive was stopping to descend into the Carlsbad Caverns, which go 1,000 feet deep into the Earth.

The interiors were stunning.


The stalactites were epic.

There's even a souvenir shop some 1,000 feet deep.

After the spelunking, we headed into Texas, where we immediately chomped on brisket.

We drove through Johnson City, Texas, home of LBJ. Notice the Lady Bird Lane street sign.

Finally, we made it to Austin...

...and its famous chilli.

We continued east the next day. When the gas stations started becoming crawfish-themed, we knew we're getting into Gulf Coast country.

In Louisiana, there was a gas station with a tiger. Never seen that before.

We finally made it to New Orleans. Our first night in town, we met Anna, who lived in a camper on Frenchman Street. She played Nina Simone and sold us dark n' stormies.

It's hard to beat a 1 a.m. gypsy jazz set in a court yard.

The next day we wandered around the hip neighbourhood of Bywater. The street art ruled.

But the muffalettas -- a traditional New Orleanian sandwich made with olive salad and Italian meats -- were even better.

New Orleans is just looser and goofier than anywhere else in the States.

It's the kind of place where you feel obligated to buy a hat. And take a selfie with it.

You might end up in a dive bar talking about education reform at 3 a.m., too.

And the jazz -- like here at the Spotted Cat cafe -- was unforgettable.

But eventually, we had to leave Louisiana...

...and come back home.

Here's a look at some of the craziest trips people around the world make -- to work.

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