Last Saturday morning, myself and 6 friends flew one-way into LA. The plan? Try and buy some cars and drive back. After two days of shopping, only one of the three of us car-searching had found anything, so we decided to enjoy the rest of the trip instead of burning more time on Craigslist.

Day 1

With a flight departing Cleveland at 8am, a short layover in St Louis, and arriving at LAX at 11:30 local time, we were already tired. We also had already arranged to look at a few cars from Craigslist, so we picked up a couple rentals, a Fusion and Challenger (National ‘Executive’ has its perks). As was alluded earlier, there was no luck on day 1 of car hunting, so we headed down to the Santa Monica Pier to be tourists for a bit.

Day 2

By the time we finished breakfast, more arrangements had been made for craigslist shopping, so we again headed separate ways. I tried to buy a Lexus LS400 but it had major title issues and loved a completely stock base model 1.6 NA Miata but it hadn’t been maintained much, if at all. The others checked out a Jeep Comanche that would end up coming home with us, and an e46 which was in much-worse-than-advertised condition.

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After dinner, we decided to have some fun and took the rental cars up Glendora Ridge Road, which was awesome. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the rental Challenger handled it, all things considered. The Fusion was lighter (probably), AWD, and turbocharged, but I kept up. The passengers’ stomachs in both cars didn’t fare as well.

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That night at the hotel we decided to call off the car search - in the morning a couple of us would go pick up the Comanche and the rest of us a rental and head out of town to enjoy the road trip.

Day 3

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The chosen Comanche had a non-op registration because it wouldn’t pass smog (non-issue where the new owner lives) so while half the group spent a few hours in line at the DMV, the rest of us went up to the Griffith Observatory to look around.

After plenty of Observing, we returned the rental Challenger and met up with the others to return the rental Fusion. Again leveraging my ‘Executive’ rewards status, we got a one-way rental of a 2018 GMC Yukon XL to haul all 7 people’s luggage and 5 of the people (the other two would be in the Jeep).

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We then grabbed a late lunch and headed to the Petersen Museum.

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It was good.

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At the end of the day, we got on the road out of town, and headed for Barstow for the night.

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Day 4

Day 4 began the road trip in earnest, as we hit the highway targeting the Grand Canyon Skywalk thing. More on that later.

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Along the way, we saw something just off the highway called the Pisgah Lava Tubes. Sounds like an interesting stop.

Turns out this is a long-extinct volcano just out in the desert. We clearly weren’t the first ones there, but being a Tuesday morning we certainly were the only ones there at the time.

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With the rental car safely stopped just past the end of the pavement, we explored for a while. Old lava turned out to be very cool (well, hot - it is the desert after all).

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After getting back on the road, we headed towards the Grand Canyon Skywalk. After a long trip to get there, it turned out to be just about the definition of a tourist trap, at over $70 a person to even be able to get near it. Most of us had seen the Grand Canyon before, so we opted to head towards Flagstaff for the evening instead.

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I like the desert.

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We made it into Flagstaff around midnight, but ahead of where we expected to be at this point.

Day 5

The next morning we set off to drive through the desert again, this time to Monument Valley in SE Utah. It was well worth the drive, and much more reasonable cost of admission.

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The pictures do the scale no justice. We drove down the “scenic path” pictured above to get a better view.

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Greatly satisfied, we headed for Four Corners on the way into Colorado. We arrived at 6:57PM.

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We headed to Durango, Colorado for the night.

Day 6

We drove north through the mountains, passed through Colorado Springs (where I met up with a friend I’ve not seen in 7 years), and went to Limon for the night. I’ll let the pictures explain what I can’t.

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We went down near the water to eat lunch

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Day 7

We drove out of Limon, CO across Kansas to Columbia, MO. It was flat, but not as flat as I expected.

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We noticed mid-Kansas when we stopped for lunch that the Comanche had taken to puking oil into the airbox. A replacement PCV and new air filter was sourced from the local auto parts store, and we were back on the road. This would be the only issue encountered on the entire trip.

Day 8

By this point in the trip, we were getting back into familiar territory, and most importantly scenery that we all see every day. We did stop just east of Indianapolis for some high-speed karting, which was awesome. Since we all were driving karts, there are no pictures. Sorry. We spent the night in Dayton, OH.

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Day 9

Being several hours from home on a Sunday morning (and we all had to go to work on Monday), we decided to not get right back on the road and instead spend a few hours at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (Dayton Aerospace Museum). It was worth it.

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From here, we made it back to the Cleveland airport, returned the rental, and went our separate ways.

Remarkably, we had driven 3000 miles across the country and never hit so much as a light rain. The dust from the desert was still all over the rental (as well as thousands of bugs on the front) when returned. It could not have gone better.

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While a slight bummer to have not bought a car while in CA, the trip was still incredible - it’s been nearly 15 years since I’ve been on a real vacation. I look forward to returning to some of these areas to spend more time there, especially Colorado (so pretty) and the LA area (so much to do).