We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

reader routes

My Best Road Trip: An American adventure of life and death

This week’s best road trip sees Scout Mitchell travel from Duke City to Duck Nation with her fish Cecilia.

Google Maps Google Maps

  • Each week, motoring mag will feature a reader’s best road trip. If you’d love to see your top trip featured, email us on

MY BEST ROAD trip was driving from the desert of New Mexico to the Californian coast and up through the mountains of Oregon.

Who: Scout Mitchell
Route: Albuquerque, New Mexico to Portland, Oregon.
Distance: 3002km
Time: 4 days
When: January 2013
Vehicle: GMC Yukon XL

TWENTY-ONE STATES. 20,000 miles. Infinite memories. Spending my teen years as an expat in America, I embarked on a number of family road trips. Coming from Ireland where it takes three hours to drive from one side of the country to the other, the sheer vastness of the States always fascinated me.

Every summer, my family and I did a road trip as our family holiday. I’ve visited some of the most beautiful places in the country but my best road trip by far was the drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Portland, Oregon.

Scout Mitchell Scout Mitchell

The trip itself was a little bittersweet as we were moving up to the state of Oregon from New Mexico where we absolutely adored. It might have been more practical and less emotionally painful to fly the distance but we saw it as an opportunity to explore more of America. Plus, we had the pet fish Cecilia to be mindful of – her survival eventually became the highlight of the entire trip.

We set off on an icy January morning squashed into a nest of our belongings and snacks, me with Cecilia in a plastic lunchbox on my lap and an iPod loaded with angsty tunes to mark my dismay at having to move yet again and leave all my friends behind.

Scout Mitchell Scout Mitchell

Our first stop was Flagstaff, Arizona. From the offset, it can be hard to visually distinguish the states of Arizona and New Mexico — both have deserts and blue skies, but Arizona lacks the quirky and charming old-fashioned character of the latter; aesthetically (perhaps seeing as we are becoming closer to California), Arizona it is a lot more modern and cool and there are definitely more well-known tourist attractions than in New Mexico. Flagstaff itself I found unremarkable but I have since been informed the city is the alleged hidden gem of Arizona.

Unfortunately, the fuss escaped me. Flagstaff was just a stopover for the real business: the Grand Canyon the following morning, which is just as stunning as I had hoped it would be. however, it is freezing in the winter, but the warmness of the reds, oranges and browns make up for the discomfort.

Scout Mitchell Scout Mitchell

So far, Cecilia had survived crossing state lines. We wrapped her lunchbox up in a towel at the motel in order to ensure she survived the night.

After the Grand Canyon, we travel on to Sin City. Las Vegas doesn’t offer much to someone under 21 but I do believe that everyone should visit at least once even if it’s just to enjoy the Bellagio fountain show or, even better, its breakfast buffet. At $20.99 it is obviously quite steep, but the variety is excellent and it’ll be the only meal you eat that day. Or maybe even that week.

Unfortunately, the hotel in Vegas was much too classy to get away with bringing a lunch boxed fish through the lobby so poor Cecilia spent the night in an underground car park, enduring the most ungodly of temperatures. Sadly, even for Cecilia an especially hardy fish sometimes the going is too tough. The next morning, we were greeted by half-frozen slush and an unresponsive fish. Devastated but not very surprised, we travelled on to California.

Scout Mitchell Scout Mitchell

Just like the Mamas and Papas song, it is indeed safe and warm in the city of Los Angeles. Despite it being the middle of January, the temperatures were roasting. The people there are beautiful and you can spot tourists from a mile away. My family and I must have stuck out like a sore thumb with our three-days-on-the-road aesthetic.

Perhaps it was the warm west coast weather, we aren’t sure, but what happened next we couldn’t believe – Cecilia returned from the dead. We watched on in amazement as our fish thawed out and resumed circling the lunchbox with ease.

As a $2 Walmart fish, the odds were not in her favour but she prospered on and so did we as we hit the road again — not before stopping at the famous Randy’s Donuts (the influence behind House-O-Donuts from the Simpsons), which as an avid doughnut enthusiast I can confirm lived up to all expectations – the sugar-raised donut was a favourite in our car.

Scout Mitchell Scout Mitchell

We enjoyed a quick stopover in San Francisco and already temperatures began to get noticeably colder. The hills are steep to drive and are plentiful in this liberal city. We made sure to get some snaps of the Golden Gate Bridge before leaving. The foggy mist over the bridge was like something straight out of Hollywood.

Scout Mitchell Scout Mitchell

Nearing the end of the journey, we drove through the Shasta mountains and Duck Nation, Eugene before reaching our final destination of Portland, the place that would become our new home.

There is something truly liberating about driving out on the open road in America. You feel maybe a little carsick but more importantly, you are more cultured and wiser. You also don’t have to flush the pet fish.

READ: Reader’s road trip – Maui, Hawaii>

READ: Latest motoring news>

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.