Over the last few years I’ve been renting cars or getting rides with friends to see as much of the USA by road as possible, I just sat down and worked out which states I’m ‘missing’ and I’ve only got Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Rhode Island left to see (though I’ve been to many places multiple times and I know there’ll always be new stuff to go explore so this isn’t really a list-checking exercise). I’ve stayed in a bunch of different cities with a lot of repeat visits and loved most of them, had mixed feelings about some and didn’t much care for one (Miami). I’ve visited a bunch of National Parks, National Monuments and a few State Parks. I’ve been snowboarding in the Appalachian Mountains, desert hiking in Moab and kayaking in the Everglades. I also once flew a small plane over Seattle/Puget Sound which was kind of scary. I’ve been in swing states for Presidential elections, New Orleans just before Katrina hit and New York a few weeks after 9/11. I’ve eaten ludicrous meals, including several things that shouldn’t have been deep-fried, across the country that I’m sure have taken years off of my life and I’ve met a whole range of lovely people (and a few unpleasant ones) from all walks of life across the USA.

I’m happy to answer questions about what I’ve done, who I’ve met, my views and experiences of the USA, my favourite/least favourite States or whatever else you might come up with. I’ve also travelled a fair bit around Asia, Europe and a bit of Africa and the Middle East so I could also make some global comparisons rather than just comparing everything to the UK if that’s something people are interested in.

As for proof I pulled together a quick Imgur album of me in various places around the USA – I apologise now for my horrible, horrible face. They can be viewed here - http://imgur.com/a/XTp65

EDIT I appear to have hit the front page just when I need to get some food, I shall return shortly to respond to your questions/abuse shortly I promise.

Comments: 5428 • Responses: 76  • Date: 

DancingSlab-O-Bacon419 karma

Favorite state and least favorite state and why?

MagicBez865 karma

Favourite state: South Dakota. Least favourite state: Wyoming.


South Dakota is beautiful and we happened to drive through it at the same time as the Harley Davidson 'Ride Home' celebrations so all the motels were booked up and full of bikers (all of whom were very friendly by the way). I ended up talking to a lovely lady with massive Dolly-Parton hair who owned a small independent (and fully booked up) motel who let us stay in her RV for $20, it was parked, unlocked, round back with a full tank of gas and was amazing. The next morning I got to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger elected Governor from the driver's seat of an RV with a front-mounted television in one of the most surreal moments ever. She said we could check out whenever we wanted and just told us to leave the keys in it.

Also WallDrug, I really, really love Walldrug - plus literally every person I met was incredible with many unironically wearing cowboy hats (I'm a sucker for the idealised mythology of the 'Old West'). One of my biggest regrets is not buying a pair of cowboy boots from what (they told me) is ths largest cowboy boot store in the World but I was out of cash so had to make do with a T-Shirt.

Everyone in Wyoming is rude and they have no reason to be - the first time I drove through Wyoming someone at a gas station was oddly rude to us and then later at a diner (I believe a Perkins) we got a waitress who had clearly had a bad day and was just super-grumpy and unpleasant throughout (I reduced her tip to a mere 10% - which as I understand it is a pretty bold statement in the USA). This created an in-joke that everyone in Wyoming was rude based on those two interactions (and how nice people in the USA generally are to visitors).

Then years later we returned to stay in Yellowstone for a few days (which is mostly in Wyoming), everyone in Yellowstone was lovely but whenever I got talking to them they were never actually from Wyoming. Once we left (via Grand Teton) and reached non-park Wyoming we immediately had a run in with a mega-angry truck driver who drove on our ass, followed us for ages, tried to cut us up and generally acted like a maniac. At one point he pulled ahead of us, pulled into a dirt layby and then chased along the side of the road literally shaking his fist at us and screaming! I honestly kept expecting to see him at every stop we made like that Twilight Zone episode.

...it was at this point I decided that Wyoming is actually populated exclusively by mad and unpleasant people who live in beautiful scenery and have no reason to behave that way. I literally haven't met a nice Wyoming native outside of a National Park yet. Afton's giant antler-arch couldn't make up for it.

workacct99762920 karma


MagicBez544 karma

Would that this were true. I think Montana should just be given Yellowstone.

muttwrangler125 karma

I live in Colorado and have spent a lot of time in Wyoming. Most of the real assholes you run into there are the gas field workers. My sister in law drives a Prius as a company car in an area near gas fields and the workers frequently flip her off and swerve their trucks towards her on the highway.

MagicBez86 karma

Seriously? This is madness!

We were in a generic 4x4 thing that the rental place in Seattle gave us in exchange for the tiny compact car they gave us in LA with a broken tail light so they can't have been upset by our choice of vehicle.

...to be honest I'm sure I'd done something stupid on the road to upset the guy, I'm foreign and don't understand all of the rules, but whatever it was he massively over-reacted.

Finniono93 karma

I rode a motorcycle across the US a couple summers back, and I gotta say, Wyoming was the best state in my trip. Did you stop by Jackson Hole by any chance? It was amazing. Not to mention the ride through the Tetons was absolutely gorgeous.

I got to stay on a beautiful ranch with rolling hills and horses and cattle. At night I could hear coyotes howling. It was by far the best part of my trip. The people I met were lovely. Although I think Jackson Hole is probably not representative of the entire state. Far from it. Seemed like a lot of wealthier city folk who'd moved to Wyoming for a change of pace.

I did not like Wall Drug at all. Partly because of the hype. Road signs for Wall Drug started springing up over a thousand miles away from South Dakota. They definitely did their job, because after seeing so many of those signs I had no choice but to stop.

It was just a giant tourist trap full of overpriced trinkets.

I think I covered about 35 states on my trip, and Wyoming is #1 on my list of states I'd like to return to. I'm dying to ride a snow mobile through all the trails they had out there.

MagicBez201 karma

We stopped at Jackson Hole - and yes the Tetons are beautiful (got to see a lot of moose!).

To be honest my dislike of Wyoming is a bit tongue-in-cheek, I just felt like people should be nicer when they live somewhere so beautiful (the people in Montana are very nice, why can't Wyoming be more like them?)

I think the second I saw the signs for Waldrug I knew what I was getting into, of course it's a tourist trap but it's just such an insane place to have one! Did you read up on the history of the place? It was founded by a pharmacist and his heavily pregnant wife in the middle of the Great Depression because "God told them" to go out into the desert and open a pharmacy in the middle of nowhere on a dirt trail. Unsurprisingly it didn't work and nobody came but then they started advertising the free ice water pharmacies were legally obligated to provide at the time and it became a business that thrived during the depression thanks to ludicrous signage. When they found out I was from the UK they gave me a sign to put up over here!

Abzug36 karma

The water offer was important at the time because of the need for travelers to fill their radiators up while going West.

I was there in the middle of October with a horrific sunburn (just got back from Cancun) and was shocked that there is no pharmacy in Walldrug.

MagicBez25 karma

I'm sure there is (I remember hunting for it) it is pretty tiny compared to the giant dinosaurs you can sit on, the church and the cowboy boy boot store though.


I reduced her tip to a mere 10%

Are you sure you are not Canadian?

MagicBez69 karma

Do they tip less in Canada? Oh my God have I been getting tipping wrong!? You have no idea how much tipping anxiety I go through in North America. It took me ages to realise that I was supposed to be giving bar people a dollar whenever they got me a drink - I felt like a dick when I realised.

worshiptribute5 karma

Wall Drug is awesome. I drove from NY to CA and my favorite state was SD as well.

MagicBez4 karma

Upvotes for you my wise friend!

Tk14388307 karma

What was the most surprising part of your travels, was anything the opposite of what you imagined

MagicBez926 karma

This may sound odd but as a British child who watched an awful lot of American TV I was actually expecting all of my "it's just like TV" preconceptions to be wrong and was quite surprised when several turned out to be true. I stayed on a college campus for a week or so and there were actual frat parties with people doing keg stands and those awesome red cups that you only ever see in films that I assumed came from some Hollywood props department. People were wearing special hats and badges for their wacky frats, it was thoroughly surreal. I visited a small town that looked so similar to the one from Back to the Future it really confused me, also houses with porch swings! and American flags flying! I know this will sound stupid from the perspective of someone who lives in the USA but to me actually seeing stuff I assumed wasn't really common surprised me.

Possibly more what your after I was really suprised by the amount of homelessness in San Diego, it's one of those cities that's always winning best place to live awards and suchlike and just looks so pretty that it was a real shock to see that level of poverty (not the USA but I was also surprised by how much skag there was in Vancouver).

...I may think of some better examples in which case I'll edit them in later.

EDIT Also I think I was expecting New York to be a lot 'harder' than it was, people were actually very nice, I work in London though so my scale may be off.

EDIT2 I said this in another reply but thanks to the Wire I also expected Baltimore to be super-tough and mean, it wasn't, it was all lit up and friendly.

kona42678 karma

Haha, "those awesome red cups you only ever see in films". As someone who's used to see them everywhere, I giggle at that.

MagicBez1713 karma

I bought some to take home - next time I have a house party they're coming out. We can all put on baseball caps and yell "spring break" at each other - it'll be just like the USA!

mstrgrieves349 karma

When I was younger and traveling around australia and new zealand, all anybody wanted to ask me about was "red cups". I'd try to strike up a conversation about living in their countries, but all they wanted to know is if I really drank beer out of red cups.

I seriously thought about starting a business exporting red solo (the brand) cups down there, and maybe selling chicken wings since they don't have those there either.

MagicBez310 karma

They're one of the great indicators of America!

See also: Nalgene bottles.

nm172138 karma

Woah, nalgene bottles are a US thing? The world is missing out.

MagicBez571 karma

Yeah, no quicker way to spot a US toruist than a Nalgene bottle and the Canadian flag patch they put on their bag so they can pretend to be Canadian if things get sketchy.

jumb0tr0n489 karma

San Diego attracts a lot of homeless people from around the country because of the pleasant weather and high level of amenities for the homeless.

MagicBez262 karma

I figured as much - same reason for Vancouver, it's the only Canadian city that's temperate so it's easier to survive the winter.

Derpese_Simplex141 karma

NYC used to be a lot "harder" massive gentrification and Giuliani (a former mayor) really changed things in a big way.

MagicBez296 karma

Oh I know the crime dropped significantly but I think I was expecting that more general 'hardness' that comes from big cities where everyone's in a rush, doesn't want to make eye contact, will shove a little to get where they're going etc. It's certainly the reputation New York has, but yes I know it's changed a lot since the '70s.

You can certainly get it in London (though it's mitigated somewhat by the innate need to form an ordely queue)

elliottgray4274 karma

Tell me about, Ohio...

MagicBez489 karma

Columbus is nice. Ohio seems to be in that unique club with Texas where people really like to tell you that they're from Ohio.

...also the O-H....I-O chant is adorable.

Terryhall248 karma

Are you actually Stephen Fry?

MagicBez284 karma

No, but I did get to talk to him once if that helps?

BRBEatingASammich112 karma

Go on...

MagicBez235 karma

I worked as research monkey on QI for a show so I got to meet him then.

(in terms of proof I have an old script somewhere and the key codes to all the studio doors on a laminated card - not sure I should post the second one).

Deadbeat_summer247 karma


MagicBez735 karma

1) I only met a couple of Texans and they weren't wearing cowboy hats so I'm not sure they were proper. We were there in summer so Dallas felt like a bizarre, glassy, ghost town. Texas is on my list of states to spend more time in - Austin in particular has a bunch of stuff I want to see (though I'm aware Austin's a bit of an oddity by Texas standards)

2) The UK should adopt: calling the ground floor the first floor, pretzel M&Ms, more 24 hour stores (that last one is starting).

The US should adopt: Roundabouts, outdoor drinking, brown sauce

3) I do feel a bit skinnier when in the US, especially when buying clothes, that said the US seems to have hubs of very fat people (like Disney World) while other places people seem entirely healthy.

People are more religious, and more up-front about it (I never thought there'd be a market for religious t-shirts until I visited the US) but I think that's true across a lot of things - people in the US will wear political T-Shirts too, It can feel like religion and politics are more like supporting a football team in the States than adopting a certain philosophical/political position.

I don't think ignorance is any higher than elsewhere in the World, in fact on aggregate I'd say it's lower than the global average thanks to widespread internet and news. That said the media does feel very US-centric, understandable given how huge the nation is though.

Stupid - no, I mean you'll find stupid people, but you could've found them anywhere.

4) I'm not sure about the average view - I'd guess: friendly, not too good with nuance, loud and boisterous? (not my views - going for a stereotype here).

sammaverick169 karma

Next time you are in Texas, see if you can attend a high school or college football game. You really get a taste of culture there.

MagicBez153 karma

I own the Friday Night Lights DVD box set (had to import it from the States) and that's convinced me this is a thing I need to do.

...also I need an excuse to use the phrase "it's a real Texas toad-strangler out there tonight" if it rains.

xiaorobear117 karma

The US should adopt: Roundabouts

Nonono, please, no more. We have like, ten of them, and no one knows how to use them properly so they just slow things down and cause accidents.

MagicBez38 karma

But they're safer and quicker! I can show you academic studies! Please come back!

...I've been on a couple of roundabouts in the States and you're right, some education work would need to be done.

shave_daddy5 karma

Isn't brown sauce pretty similar to A1 steak sauce?

MagicBez11 karma

People have tried to tell me that. I've tried it and I'm not convinced.

iamnata217 karma

What was the best thing you ate and in which state.

Also, no one ever mentions Vermont on these threads and I just want to say Vermont is so beautiful. Everyone seems to forget Vermont :(

MagicBez515 karma

I liked Vermont! I went to the Ben & Jerry's factory and a lady there gave me double-portions of ice cream because she liked my shirt!.

I also stayed in a tent at a farm there and was woken up by Coyotes, all the Americans made fun of me for being concerned but then a few weeks later a woman was killed by coyotoes. I feel I won the moral victory there.

kmccon185 karma

How did you like New Orleans?

MagicBez467 karma

I LOVED New Orleans, it was a strange mix, when I first got there I went for a wander through a part of town near where we were staying that clearly had poverty and crime issues. In that part - and I don't mean this in a pejorative sense - it reminded me of visiting African cities like Lagos in that I felt much more of an outsider and everyone was staring at us (we were the only white people and I think we were pretty obviously tourists in area tourists don't usually go).

Later I got chatting to a lovely guy with gold teeth and tattoos who got super-mad at us for going there at all, his review of the area was: "That place's full of robbin' and shootin' and killin' - they ain't got no love"

Then when you go down to the French Quarter it feels more like Europe than anywhere else I've been in the States thanks to the architecture and atmosphere, also you can drink in the streets which makes it feel more like home as well (one of the few places that didn't seem to care about ID either which meant I could buy rounds like a civilised person despite being underage at the time).

In conclusion I simultaneously felt the most at home and the most foreign while in New Orleans but the people were consistent freindly and oh man the food was good - everything was made spicy! I swear my pancakes for breakfast had Tabasco on them.

Trivia: The only places in the World I've found where McDonald's sell the McSpicy chicken Sandwich regularly are Louisiana, Singapore and China.

liz_dav40 karma

Did you stay at India House?

MagicBez84 karma

Sadly not, we were in an old Days Inn that I found a discount code for in one of those magazines they give out free at gas stations.

(as I say I've developed a few methods to keep these trips within budget)

LobsterTache179 karma


MagicBez541 karma

In the cities yes, out in the sticks or the South you may be handed Iced Tea and have to pretend that's a real thing.

I found a really nice tea place in Pittsburgh actually, they had as much of a selection as a lot of fancy places in London.

...a similar rule applies to cheese - I was trying to make Canneloni in rural Pennsylvania and asked at their Walmart for taleggio and mascarpone - I was pointed to the Laughing Cow. I should note that the Walmart cheese section is larger than most British shops and yet they've somehow filled it solely with varieties of cheddar. In a major city I'm sure you get any cheese your heart desired.

Tomasfoolery53 karma

Where's the Tea place in Pittsburgh?

MagicBez118 karma

I will do some Googling - it was pretty central, very close to the skyscraper that looks like a castle (I know this is really unhelpful).

Freed_lab_rat74 karma

The castle-looking skyscraper is the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt (I hope you took the tour, it's amazing), and you were most likely at the Spice Island Tea House on Atwood. Love that place.

*edit: I just realized you might also be referring to the PPG Place downtown, which also has spires. In which case I have no idea what the tea place might be, but I'm intrigued.

What was your overall impression of Pittsburgh, incidentally?

MagicBez103 karma

I like Pittsburgh, the Children's Museum is great as is the Andy Warhol museum. I also like the bridges and the food (Wingheart's is nice and sold me a thoroughly deadly pizza which I somehow finished despite the bacon, french fries, chili and extra cheese they put on it). I liked that a lot of it felt walkable too.

Downsides: It is a baffling ordeal to navigate your way in or out of the city by road and there is a Fondue place on Station Square that all my American friends think is nice and authentic but is actually neither.

mrkrj178 karma

What'd you think of Michigan? Did you come to Detroit?

What do you think of the culture surrounding softer drugs like cannabis when comparing the US to the UK (I'm assuming you are from the UK)?

MagicBez390 karma

I was in Detroit but not for long to form a fair opinion (it was snowy and the people looked unhappy).

Aside from people continually trying to buy drugs from me and sell them to me at truck stops (apparently I REALLY look like someone who has or wants drugs) I can't say I had any real exposure to drug culture in the States.

One impression I did get is that because the drinking age is so high and so strictly enforced a lot of high schoolers just get cannabis instead (also you guys have that cough-syrup phenomenon which I mainly learned about via South Park and Lil' Wayne).

animalcrackers1158 karma

Hey fellow Brit! I moved from London to NYC in 1996 and like you, have been fortunate to have road tripped across America several times. THere are some places in the States that are beautiful - I wasn't expecting Utah and Montana to be so stunning.

Colorado is magnificent, as are many other places. That really surprised me. What's your favorite place so far and tell me about the most awkward encounter you've had on your travels?

MagicBez272 karma

I covered this in an earlier reply but my all-time favourite place is South Dakota (if you're in New York you can do a trip up to Chicago and then take one road all the way to Seattle via South Dakota! - it's a brilliant journey!).

Awkward encounters: I was accosted by some very angry ladies at an Ani DiFranco gig I went to when I said I couldn't register to vote because I'm foreign, they insisted I was faking my stupid accent to get out of registering because I wanted to vote Republican. They then got more upset when I said I wasn't American because apparently the term "American" implies all of the Americas and is a product of a US-centric World view (I took their point on that but at the time it just made me look even more like the lying Republican shill they'd decided I was).

...it was also pretty awkward when the mad Wyoming truck driver started harassing us on the road but that story's already been told.

WyllieCoyote131 karma

How did you like massachusetts and where in massachusetts did you go?

MagicBez198 karma

The majority of my time in Mass. has been in Boston where I've been a few times. Boston's a great city, excellent museums and the only place in the USA I've found a decent curry.

I also enjoy doing my best Good Will Hunting accent much to everyone else's annoyance.

ripptyd119 karma

You are going to love Maine if you enjoy the outdoors. I recommend the Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park area. So much to do. Picture views every which way you turn. I live here and I always make it a point to go camping up there once a year. :)

MagicBez196 karma

Acadia is super high on my list!

Also I have literally never eaten lobster because I'm determined to have my first bite in Maine, ideally soft-shell (I have researched this!)

Suge_White119 karma

Congrats! You have now visited more of the US than 90% of its citizens. Two questions for you:

Now that you've visited so much of our land, are you able to explain to other Brits the size, scope and variety that it encompasses? Most don't seem to understand what it's like.

Also, what don't we appreciate enough? Sometimes the best things we should appreciate aren't appreciated.

MagicBez252 karma

I'm not sure the citizens of the USA appreciate exactly how wonderful your national parks system is. It's incredible and you've got some great nature going on there!

...and yes British people (and Europeans) have no sense of the scale of the USA, that's why they get very snobby about Americans who've never left the country - you have to realise that there's a lifetime's worth of stuff to see just in the USA, deserts, glaciers, islands, swamps, plains, mountains, cities, villages etc. Brilliant place to go exploring.

dogcrazyjen115 karma

So did you go anywhere in NY besides the city, just out of curiosity?

How did you fund this?

Where would you like to go back and spend more time? Find anywhere you might consider settling down eventually?

I am sure the British accent helped...we love us a good British accent. Makes you seem classy and smart. :-)

You face is not horrible, horrible. It isn't even horrible.

MagicBez317 karma

1) I've been to New York City three times (it took that many trips for me to feel like I knew and understood how to get around Manhattan) and have been to the North Country area as well (where it's really beautiful).

2) Saving up, planning carefully, staying with friends when possible, getting discounts on motels and car rentals by being British at people

3) I genuinely love the travelling so I'd go back to most places, most of the big cities have more things I want to see and do, to use New York as an example the more I visit the more stuff I want to do. The first time it was the classic tourist stuff, by the third time I was going to Knicks games, drinking in Hell's Kitchen, going to Daily Show tapings etc. big cities like that will always have something fun to check out. As for settling down I genuinely love the country and the people but I'm not sure I could live in the USA long-term (maybe a year or two tops) there's too many practical factors that would prevent it working for me.

4) I'm pretty sure its how I've escaped several speeding tickets, though it also caused me problems when everyone just assumed I was correct in my answers to a bar quiz.

5) Thank you for your kind lies

Gravy-Leg__109 karma

Why didn't you like Miami?

MagicBez503 karma

I appreciate this might risk offending people because I'm talking about things I don't like in someone else's country so I'll just reaffirm now that the USA is an awesome place and everyone should travel around it to meet all the lovely people. I'll now try to explain my issue with Miami:

It seems to be a perfect storm of attracting people I share little in common with, it's a huge financial hub so brings in people for whom success in life=money, it's covered in beaches so combines those people with a need to be physically beautiful and go to night clubs on the beach and be beautiful. It's a personal thing but I often find people who've clearly strived to look "perfect" quite ugly in a strange way because they've taken it too far and become like a weird parody of an attractive person.

This ends up with the whole city feeling quite artificial and unfriendly and not a place where I could fit in. That said the architecture is beautiful and having spent some time in Havana it was fascinating to see the Cuban story from the US-side. I'm sure there are lovely people and places there, I just didn't find them. Instead I found massive yachts and private island houses.

Also the drivers there are THE WORST, I mean people in Seattle can't drive but are quite friendly about it, people in New York are super-aggressive and use the horn all the time for no reason but at least know what they're doing and LA drivers exist in a hellish mass of insane freeways and drive at crazy speeds but are actually both competent and helpful. Miami drivers however seemed to be actively trolling me - people would slow down to let us in and then quickly close the gap again - at one point a guy's passenger girlfriend was visibly laughing at the fact that her partner had done this and it happened pretty regularly any time we needed to change lanes (we're tourists so that happens a lot). We had Florida plates so it can't have been an out-of-towner thing, they were just acting like dicks. I later spoke to a lady in Everglades City who'd moved out of Miami about this and she said "oh yeah they're dicks on the road over there" so I felt vindicated in forming this opinion.

thepragmaticsanction82 karma

if you ever make it back to florida, check out the keys. They are gorgeous, without as much of the dickish miami feel

MagicBez69 karma

I've done the keys! Stayed in Key West for a few days, saw the Southernmost point, went to the Hemmingway House - had a thoroughly average cheeseburger at that Jimmy Buffet place before going elsewhere to drink!

...we went out to the Dry Tortugas as well - really beautiful out there.

DarkSideOfTheNuum98 karma

I'm an American expat in London, so this is an interesting read for me. Thanks for doing the AMA!

My question is what would you say was the sketchiest/dodgiest place you have been to in America?

MagicBez194 karma

It's worth mentioning that I have a proud history of wandering through sketchy places without realising until afterward, also having been out at night in weird back-alleys of Moscow, Havana and Lagos I just assume I'm completely safe wherever I am in the US.

That said there have been a few, I wandered through what was apparently a very bad neighbourhood (certainly poverty-stricken) in New Orleans where everyone stared at us in quite an unnerving way.

Detroit was a bit interesting, though I didn't spend long there.

I also really wanted to go to a White Castle while in New York and ended up a little bit tipsy at the one by the Port Authority at 3am, it was actually perfectly fine but they had so many signs up warning about criminals (and that you couldn't stay in the store for more than 30 minutes) that it raised some alarm bells.

In LA I went to the Pico Blvd branch of Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles (it's amazing by the way) and only afterward realised that they apparently needed three surly security guys to guard the car park and door. That said one of the security guards was dressed up (and looked remarkably like) Eazy-E which made the whole situation seem far nicer. Also weirdly they were really good at catering for vegetarians (I had chicken and waffles though).

On a suprise one I was expecting Baltimore to be sketchy entirely based on the Wire but actually it was lovely.

Abzug94 karma

Did you do anything in the States that could not be done back home?

MagicBez302 karma

I shot some handguns (illegal in the UK) and took a bunch of guns, including a civil war replica musket thing to go shoot milk jugs on sticks out in the Appalachian woods somewhere (again I'm pretty sure that'd be illegal in the UK) - you'll be delighted to know that I dressed up in a baseball cap and chequered shirt to do this so I could feel properly American. I also ate a lot of food additives and suchlike that are illegal in Europe (though less by choice).

Obviously things like the National Parks are all unique, I can't see the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake back home, nor could I go to Caeser's Palace or up the Empire State Building.

...I was going to add visiting Shake Shack to this list but they just opened one near where I work.

EDIT Oh and I went to Sea World and saw some performing dolphins (also illegal in the UK).

Bacon_Bitz226 karma

EDIT Oh and I went to Sea World and saw some performing dolphins (also illegal in the UK).

Then how can the dolphins support their families!?! Government assistance?

MagicBez527 karma

We have a lot of welfare dolphins, it's a big problem.

iFilter142 karma

chequered shirt

You're there in spirit, but not quite in practice, mate. XD Here in the land of the free it's spelled checkered. :P

EDIT: God, guys, I know what a plaid flannel is. I was just pointing out the humor in adopting American clothing and continuing to spell it in the English way. No harm done, nothing to see here.

MagicBez129 karma

I met you halfway!

rotll94 karma

Which BBQ was your favorite? Memphis? Kansas City? Texas? Carolinas?

MagicBez168 karma

I know enough to know that I'm wading into a World of hurt by trying to answer this one.

...also I didn't try all of them so couldn't compare. Next time I do a trip in that area I'll be organising some kind of leader board, I'll require Reddit to provide me with each state's champion BBQ venue.

Wizzl24186 karma

What did you think of Arizona?

MagicBez419 karma

I have issues with Arizona because while I was there a spider hid in my shoe and bit my toe.

In England that cannot happen because our spiders are polite and respectful and don't have any venom so I freaked the hell out because presumably such a thing must be fatal while American friends made fun of me for making a fuss about the small spider bite.

...also one night in a swimming pool a flying bug the size of a bird attacked me.

What I'm saying is that I suspect Arizona is trying to kill me.

mock9483 karma

Did you visit any university campuses? If you have, how did they compare to the ones in the UK?

MagicBez211 karma

Two, I stayed at one in Pennsylvania for a week or so and when I was in Boston was hanging out with some Harvard students so I visited there briefly as well.

US college feel very different to UK Universities but now I'm writing in this little text box I'm struggling to put my finger on why. I think US colleges felt more insulating (note: I'm basing this on just two universities so could be very wrong - I know there's huge variance between UK campuses) with food halls and meal plans and suchlike. Also because any British person who's at university can drink so any UK campus will have several bars on campus (good way to bring money back into the university), not having those and instead having frat houses is very odd.

...also as a foreigner I find the entire frat/sorority thing very strange and entertaining.

OverStuffedHobbes82 karma

You mentioned cheese. When in Wisconsin did you try our delicious varieties? We make Onion, Hot Pepper(not pepper jack) bacon cheese, etc.

Also if you come this way again...Dane County Farmers Market, Madison WI. Go in June or July around 8-9 am. Truly magnificent sight to see.

MagicBez140 karma

I didn't try much Wisconsin Cheese but I very much appreciated being welcomed to the State by a giant inflatable mouse in a cowboy hat clutching a giant piece of it.

It immediately caused me to warm to Wisconsin.

DancingSlab-O-Bacon81 karma

Are people friendlier in the north or south?

MagicBez337 karma

This'll sound like a cop-out but I found people were friendly most everywhere. I think I got a slightly warmer reception in the South - a guy who worked at Taco Bell came out from behind the counter to shake my hand and formally welcome me to the state! - but that may be because they probably see fewer international tourists (aside from Florida I guess). In a major city an English person isn't any kind of novelty but when you hit small towns people get a bit more excited and keen to be a good host, make sure you're OK etc.

...I think there may be more of an urban/rural split in friendliness than a North/South one - though the people of Nashville were particularly nice.

strawberrypancakes66 karma

Did you make it to Philadelphia? I love living here.

MagicBez223 karma

Yeah I really like Philly (better than Pittsburgh) - had a Philly Cheese Steak, went to a very cool retro soda-fountain place, ran up the Rocky Steps, saw the Liberty Bell the lot.

Also did a really good tour of Independence Hall where I was the only British person in the tour group so I got to be the villain - the lady giving the tour would address me as "The British" and talk about all the terrible things I did. Good times.

kog131 karma

Yeah I really like Philly (better than Pittsburgh)

Them's fighting words.

I actually just took the tour at Independence Hall last year, it was pretty good.

Your experience reminds me of when I was in London and toured the Tower of London. The Beefeater tour guide said something like "Are there any Americans here? Yes? Just look around, all of this could have been yours if you'd only paid your taxes!"

MagicBez32 karma

Sorry, I do love Pittsburgh too, Philly just has that certain something going on that makes it better.

Rjschmitt065 karma

How drastic did the differences in accents sound to you, or do all Americans pretty much sound the same?

MagicBez133 karma

I can tell the difference fairly well (and apparently I can do quite a good Philly accent myself) - you can certainly tell when you're in the South or when you meet classic New Jersey types but I probably couldn't tell a Seattle accent from a Portland one or anything.

I'd guess I can distinguish maybe 6 types of US accent?

bopapocolypse65 karma

Most of the time the movies get the movies get the Philly accent (technically a dialect) all wrong. They get lazy and substitute in a working class New Yorker. Being from Philly, this is frustrating.

MagicBez95 karma

I copied mine almost exclusively from the guy who made me a Philly Cheese Steak. I hope it's authentic (the people who told me it was accurate were in DC so they may have been wrong).

evmax31862 karma

Did you spend any time in Virginia, or around the Chesapeake Bay?

MagicBez38 karma

I think I answered this elsewhere but whomever asked it didn't get the upvotes you did (I've been replying by recent posts rather than looking at the main thread - probably bad form).

I've been to Virginia a couple of times but the main trip was for a wedding which was taking advantage of the beautiful woodlands (so many deer!). It seemed really nice and very pretty to me - also felt like quite a 'balanced' place, it had seasons but not super-extremes of them. Also nicely between North and South I suppose.

JeremyNJ198457 karma

What did you think of my state of New Jersey?

MagicBez207 karma

My initial experiences of New Jersery were the New Jersey turnpike so for a while I felt like your State was primarily tarmac used as a way to get into and out of New York while picking up some cheap gas before you crossed the border.

I've since spent some more time around the Delaware River areas and some parks (not been to the shore I'm afraid) and realised that it's actually a nice place in parts with its own character - I think it just gets unfairly overshadowed by its famous neighbour.

Jeno9657 karma

What cities did you visit in Tennessee?

MagicBez97 karma

Nashville was the only big one, It's high on my return-list though because I really want to see a show at the Grand Old Opry and a bunch of other things.

Jeno9693 karma

If you ever come back I suggest visiting Chattanooga. It's a beautiful city!

MagicBez102 karma

Along with Walla Walla it's on my list based solely on its wonderful name!

hatryd55 karma

Were you by yourself? What percentage of conversations that you had began by people noticing your accent?

MagicBez129 karma

I was almost always travelling with at least one other person, I think in total I've spent maybe 2 days of travelling on my own (which was due to poor planning on my part).

The accent thing really depends on where you are, the more rural or non-touristy a place the more likely someone will strike up a conversation about it. I also got a pretty regular "So what part of Australia are you from?" which amused me. At a guess, when dealing with strangers it was maybe 40%, though I think a lot of them would've started a conversation anyway but "hey where are y'all from?" is a nice opener.

D0kk3n52 karma

What were your thoughts on Mississippi? Please tell me it you had a positive experience. Mississippi seems to be an easy target of jokes by many people who have never even been. Being my home state, it would be interesting to hear what you think.

MagicBez70 karma

I quite liked it, but then I liked a lot of the places that felt 'properly' Southern to my uneducated British mind. I'm pretty sure it was in Mississippi where we were on a raised highway over some wetland/swamp/bayou and I thought it had started raining but it was actually just a swarm of flies we'd hit.

Basically I liked it a lot but I don't know how much of that was because I put on a lot of classic country music and pretended I was in a movie. The people were thoroughly pleasant though (a lot seemed surprised to be meeting a British person in their town).


Did you ever make it into Reno NV or San Francisco CA? how did you like it?

MagicBez103 karma

I got to drive around Reno and see it from the highway - I was also pulled over by a Reno cop for speeding and having a broken tail-light. As the only Reno resident I spoke to he seemed nice enough.

I've stayed in San Francisco and really liked it, in some ways it's a bit like my hometown in the UK (by the sea, big gay community, big hippy community, generally politically left-leaning). In fact San Francisco's the reason I didn't get to LA for so long - the original plan was to do a few days in both but we liked San Franciso so much we stayed and skipped LA (spent a week or so in LA a few years later though).

Serial_Buttdialer113 karma

I'm glad to hear San Francisco is just like Brighton.

MagicBez66 karma

Upvotes for city recognition!

Tomasfoolery43 karma

Did you hit up Ohio, or West Virginia? Or that area where West Virginia extrudes in between Ohio and PA? South west of Pittsburgh?

If so, what did you think of the "Rust Belt"?

**edit if you haven't you got a place to stay if you want!

MagicBez59 karma

I went to some towns East of Pittsburgh that had seen better days (names like Uniontown tend to tip you off) and spent some time in Ohio. Speaking of which Columbus is a very cool little city.

Hicko1128 karma

what did you miss most about Britian??

Did the ladies like the British accent??

MagicBez146 karma

I missed brown sauce and the ability to easily get from any small town to any small town by train.

(actually I didn't really miss the second one because driving in the US is fun, but I think I would miss it if I stayed for a long time).

A waitress in Nashville spent about half an hour writing down things on her pad and having me say them to her, she seemed entertained by it, especially how her own name sounded. Also a girl groped me in a crowd in New Orleans though I don't think she knew I was British so that may not count.

boonamobile23 karma

Who has been to more places -- you, or Johnny Cash?

MagicBez49 karma

Mr. Cash, I hear he's been everywhere!

TheShittyBeatles22 karma


Your thoughts?

MagicBez82 karma

I mostly drove through but I did appreciate your lack of sales tax.

...I really wanted to visit a screen door factory but couldn't find one.

creatureofchaos19 karma

Did you go to any major sporting events while in the U.S.? If so, what were some of the similarities/differences?

MagicBez118 karma

Went to a Knicks/Heat game at Madison Square Garden.

Main difference was that it felt like more of a show - any time there was a break in play a bunch of people would come out and do gymnastics or they'd break out the T-Shirt cannons (is there anything more American than a T-Shirt Cannon?) - at half time there was even a magic show!

I'm used to UK football matches where there's no breaks and people take it too seriously and yell at the rival fans. Honestly I think I could take my mum to a US basketball match and she'd have a fun time, it's like a little festival!

Another difference is that they pump in chants, so the screens tell you when to chant for defence and whatnot - in the UK there are hundreds of elaborate songs and call and response numbers but they're never queued up by the venue.

...more recently I went to a baseball game in Tokyo - now THAT is a level of crowd organisation I've never seen anywhere.

perche18 karma

I don't think apologies are sufficient for your horrible, horrible face. I think I am due some monetary compensation.

MagicBez58 karma

I'm afraid all of my money has pictures of the Queen on it and as such would be valueless in a proud, free nation like the USA.

...I'd suggest you blame the Reddit requirements for 'proof' - I can assure you I wouldn't be sharing images of my hideous visage with the World otherwise.

perche7 karma

Sure, you tell me that after I am traumatized for life.

MagicBez38 karma

Just think how my parents feel!

bdsmchs17 karma

Please be perfectly honest. Would you move to America and/or become a citizen? If so, where and your reasons why? If not, your reasons why?

MagicBez85 karma

I would move to the US for a year or two but I doubt I could settle down there, there are a few reasons for this. Before writing them I'll put in a caveat that I hope nobody takes offense, some of these could be seen to be straying into political issues but they're really just about different ways of doing things, also my opinions are of course completely subjective.

1) The lack of things like good annual leave and benefits like paid maternity/paternity leave - I love travelling and most of my American friends seem to get nothing like the annual leave I do.

2) Private health care etc. I don't like the idea of depending on my job covering any health issues that might arise - the USA is the single most expensive place to stay for travel insurance costs and I always get the coverage so I know I'd be fine while visiting but I think I'd find the lack of an NHS equivalent stressful.

3) The political discourse is just so angry and crazy, I really enjoy politics and follow both UK and US (and World) politics very closely. US politics is by far the most fun to watch as an outsider because it's pretty mad, but actually living with it might break me. Also religion gets so tied up into politics in the US when I'm of the view that it should be an apolitical matter that doesn't come up when talking about how best to run a country. There shouldn't be a political party for your religious beliefs.

4) Related to 3) but American news reporting is pretty bleak too - I've watched a lot of it and am generally aghast as to how it can get onto air and be called news.

This feels really critical but I hope I've heaped enough praise on the country to make it clear that I really like the USA and the vast majority of its people.

paalmsread15 karma

Why do you refer to yourself as British, and not English, Welsh or Scottish?

MagicBez55 karma

Well that's what it says on my passport, plus I'm (nominally) part Welsh so it's a bit more inclusive.

As a rule most English people refer to themselves as British while Welsh and Scottish people will specify the country. It's a product of a long history of unpleasantness that I shan't get into here.

stubob11 karma

What's on your list of things to see in Colorado?

MagicBez30 karma

Well Denver is one of the major cities I feel I'm missing and the Denver Mountain Parks look beatiful.

If you have any tips I'd be more than happy to hear them.

You_Banned_Me_WTF31 karma

I have one: there's a highway colloquially named the Million Dollar Highway that runs over the San Juan Mountains in the southwest corner of the state. If you're coming from the North, drive through Curecanti Recreation area, stay in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and hit the Million Dollar Highway. The entire drive will be amazing. Find Telluride and visit, trust me!

MagicBez11 karma

Thanks for this!

Powdershuttle10 karma

Hit me up if you come to Zion Nat Park.

MagicBez8 karma

That's on my list so I shall!

JacksonBollocks9 karma

Was it weird to poop in a kayak?

MagicBez11 karma

Is this a reference to my face in the photo? I think that was because I was kayaking over an underwater geyser and the temperature had changed rapidly.

The_mustache8 karma

Alright, did you go through Idaho? And if so what part?

MagicBez23 karma

I went through the northern tip bit - in fact thanks to timezones I technically left Idaho before I entered it - so in a weird way I suppose I was never there.

drinkallthecoffee7 karma

which do you like better, chicago or new york?

MagicBez15 karma

New York, but to be fair I've only been to Chicago the once and New York three times, plus I have friends in New York who can take me to fun out-of-the-way places while we had to work things out for ourselves in Chicago (also driving through Gary Indiana does not set a good starting 'feel' for the city).

giddyjigga6 karma

In just driving along the southern coast (FL to LA) it's very flat and boring. When you travel through uninspirational areas, what do you do to entertain yourself?

MagicBez11 karma

Music, lots of music. Also a lot of general chatting.

...and at one point when driving from Moab to LA in a single day via Monument Valley, Mexican Hat and the Grand Canyon we invented our our version of Jeopardy with trivia questions in categories we made up (plus 'potent potables' which you aren't allowed to choose). That kept us sane driving through the Mojave at sunset (which is horrible because you can't see anything).

LordEnigma4 karma

How old are you? I live in the suburbs of Kansas City and would be happy to show you around a few places in Missouri and Kansas if you were ever in the area.

MagicBez4 karma

I'm 29, is this too old or too young for Kansas City hang-outs?

SlightlyOTT4 karma

What job do/did you do? Was it affected by the road trips, or did you leave beforehand?

MagicBez7 karma

I've had various jobs while taking these trips - some had generous annual leave and offered flexi time (so if I work over my hours I can have that time back as leave later).

Other times I worked and saved up money before heading off and another I had a TV job where we would do weeks on and then weeks off so I could go of for adventures in between.

dead_gerbil2 karma

I am brown. In the recent climate, I've become afraid to travel to some areas of the US. I used to have a sense of invincibility and also a wealth of optimism, but slowly turned into a cynic.
- Do you believe there is enough bigotry for me to feel concerned or am I just copy/pasting FOX News onto the midwest and deep south?

MagicBez2 karma

As a male, middle-class, white guy with all the innate privilege that provides me it's hard for me to tell. I can't say I've encountered any racism while in the US but then even racists don't tend to share their views with people they just met. I'll stick my neck out and say you're probably worrying more than you should but someone else in the thread might be able to give you a more informed reply.

...actually one guy from Michigan I met in Florida started telling me about how all the locals were lazy and didn't want to work but he was just biased against Floridians rather than a race - also this was in Everglades City where 20 years ago everyone in the town was loaded thanks to drug smuggling so I can see how they struggled to return to regular, lower-paid work.

perche2 karma

Do you have a lower class accent? Did anyone go on about what a great accent you have? Brits are often shocked when we say what a great accent you have because you all sound like Prince Phillip to us.

MagicBez24 karma

I'm sporting the classic home-counties accent which I think is the one Americans consider 'standard', it's not the hyper-posh tone of a Lord or Royal but is probably the one they hear most on TV.

...also I shamelessly British it up when I'm in the States without thinking, I'll start using words I never usually use like "fantastic" or "awful" or say I'm "dreadfully sorry". It basically becomes an elongated impression of Hugh Grant. I'm not proud of this but it has got me a lot of rental car upgrades, motel discounts and helped me during my handful of interactions with US police (who are armed and therefore terrifying to me).

HeartyBeast3 karma

I remember when I first visited the U.S (Atlanta) I started sounding like Donald Sinden after a few days - at least to my own ears. I decided that this is probably the first stage of adopting the other country's accent. You're not actually talking with an exaggerated UK accent, but you sound to yourself as if you are - next step, you try to soften it a bit to fit in.

Before you know it, you're saying "y'all".

MagicBez2 karma

I like using American phrasing but with a full British accent, "y'all" and "folks" are both great for that.