Joshua Tree

We went to San Diego to visit a very good friend of Alina, and because there were a number of things to do from the 22 things-to-do list, that my friend Stuart, compiled for our trip to the US.

We called Alina’s friend, and she said: “Oh! How nice you’re here! You have six hours to drive to our place! Come and visit us, we’re waiting!” Jaw dropped! Alina, convinced that her friend was living in San Diego didn’t bother to see that she moved a year ago, just a bit south of San Francisco.

We changed plans, visited San Diego Zoo, and other places around and the drove into Arizona desert, to Joshua Tree National Park. At the park entry, with a 20 USD bill in my hand to pay the fee, the ranger asks:

“Were are you guys from?”

I said: “Oh! Romania!”

“Are you living here?”


He didn’t seem very happy and returned to the kiosk at the entrance. Then he came out with a notepad and said:

“Please put your wife’s name on the list and ask her to sign.”

We did so and returned the list. He handed us a plastic card and said: “This card will allow you to visit all US national parks for free, for life. It is because your wife’s handicap. I should give it only to permanent residents, but I don’t care. Enjoy your visit to Joshua Tree!”

Wow! We didn’t ask for any discount nor did we mention Alina’s handicap. He saw it and was a very nice guy. I’d wish there are more people like him back home.

Joshua Tree was beautiful: the desert, the rock formations, the scattered trees, everything. We walked for an hour or so, we had a picnic and in the evening we set off towards Nevada, on the famous Route 66.

As I was running out of gasoline, I stopped at what seemed the only gas station on a 100 km radius and to my surprise the price was double than the most expensive gasoline we bought until then.

We stayed in a motel and the next day we arrived in Grand Canyon National Park for a one-day visit.

Flying in the US is different

We left the hotel in Miami going to the airport and allowing two hours for check-in, a coffee and boarding. All well, checked-in, coffee, went through security, and while walking toward the gate we saw and airport clock: it showed that it was already two minutes past the flight departure. We ran to the gate just to see that we missed the flight and that to our (European) surprise the flight actually left 15 minutes before schedule. My wristwatch was 1 hour behind.

We asked what should we do and were directed to an airline courtesy phone for a rebooking which we did, just to find out that a rebooking would cost us 900 USD per person. I told Alina that I’d rather rent a car and drive across the south of US than paying that amount.

On our way out, we asked again an airline representative what to do. This time it was a nice girl who taught us not to say that we were late but that we went to the gate and the plane left ahead of the schedule. We tried again to rebook our flight, this time talking to a person at a counter. Miracle…the advice worked and we found a new flight just for 50 USD per person. The flight was through Minneapolis but it didn’t matter to us…until a few hours later.

I had no clue where Minneapolis was and while waiting in line at the gate I saw a display showing that the temperature in Minneapolis was -20C. Ooops! We were dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and our luggage was already on its way with the first plane.


Fortunately, we didn’t have to leave the airport, or board a bus, while changing flights but were the only dressed so light and with a nice Caribbean tan. Looking out on the airport windows Paul could see snow for the first time this year.

We are used in Europe, on anything other than low cost flights, to receive a meal, a free cargo luggage, etc. Here, in the US, you get soft drinks, but that’s it. Even if the flight is 5-6 hours, even if the fares are comparable or higher than flying internationally in Europe, you still pay for your cargo luggage, any food you may want, no blankets or pillows, no fun stuff for kids. To me, they really look and feel like European low costs (at least US Airlines and Delta which we flew this time).

But…we made it well into Los Angeles, got our rental car and off we were to San Diego where we didn’t know that our plans will be hit by another surprise.