Armchair travel: John Morris's 'amazing' road trip to California
'It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience I'm going to do again!'
P.E.I. photographer John Morris is not a man who ever sits still for long. He often pops up on social media from one of the Maritime provinces, taking photos of the Northern Lights on a dark shore or swinging from a rope into a Nova Scotia lake with a waterproof video camera.
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So friends and subscribers to his YouTube channel were not surprised when he began posting videos a couple of weeks before Christmas about his spur-of-the-moment 10-day road trip to California.
"Driving from Halifax to California was amazing," the 33-year-old Charlottetown resident enthused.
"But when I got to Las Vegas I started to rush, because I realized I hadn't done any shopping for Christmas and I don't like to be a last-minute shopper," he admitted.
He drove a rental car, staying with friends in some spots and hotels in others.
"I've always wanted to do that trip and I don't mind driving. I had the time, I had a little bit of money and I knew if I left it to the new year I might have weather issues," he said.
'It was unreal'
Was the trip what he imagined?
"It was better — it was unreal. I had huge expectations for this trip," he said, and it didn't disappoint.
His first stop was Quebec City, which he had never before visited, but is already planning to return for Winter Carnival.
"I walked around old Quebec, took lots of photos, tried some local food and just enjoyed it," Morris said. In fact, he enjoyed it so much he walked around more the following day.
Then he visited Napanee, stopping to stay with a friend.
"We cooked up some amazing vegan food and explored around Napanee," he said, noting the town was festooned with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights. They also checked out the trains that roll through town frequently on the way to Toronto from Quebec — a novelty, since there are no longer any trains at home on P.E.I.
'My knees were shaking'
Next, a highlight: Niagara Falls, also new to Morris.
"Oh my God it was amazing. And one of the hotels took me up to their top floor to get a great view of the falls," he shared. "That was really cool!"
The hotel manager opened up the windows for him so he could get a great shot, Morris said, noting, "my knees were shaking being so high up — I'm terrified of heights!"
New friends and 'a tonne' of beer
Morris next travelled to Moline, Illinois, a small spot in the "middle of nowhere" where Morris notes there is an interesting dispute ongoing with neighbouring Davenport, Iowa, to attract local businesses to the towns, which occupy opposite sides of the Mississippi.
He met two local women and "we went to out to some amazing Mexican food and sampled a tonne of local craft beer."
Next top: Lebanon, Kansas — not just because it was a manageable drive, but because it's touted as the "dead centre of the U.S.A." Morris said.
Not much to see except for a small park where weddings are held and a plaque, but more notable, Morris said, was the drive there.
"There were a lot of run-down towns like nothing you'd ever see on P.E.I. It was kind of sad."
An uneventful drive to Cedar City, Utah, led to a visit to a long-awaited attraction: Area 51, the U.S. Air Force facility in southern Nevada whose purpose is secret, leading to conspiracy theories and UFO folklore.
"Awesome, it was so cool," he said, saying he enjoyed just checking out the gates to the base in the desert.
Then on to Las Vegas, which was "really cool. I'm not a gambler but I checked out all the lights and sights."
Caesar's Palace hotel and casino was a highlight, said Morris.
"It was absolutely huge. Photographer Peter Lik has two galleries there I wanted to check out, with a lot of really inspirational stuff." Lik has seen great commercial success and claims to have privately sold a piece for $6.5 million, which would make it the most expensive art photo in history.
Final destination: San Francisco.
"I didn't do anything crazy," Morris said. "I pretty much just crashed and did a little bit of work."
He booked a flight home and made it back just 48 hours before Christmas.
He'll be back
The trip was "a once-in-a-lifetime experience I'm going to do again," Morris said, noting he's eager to get back to explore California.
Looking back, Morris said Old Quebec, Niagara Falls, Area 51 and Las Vegas were highlights — and there was icing on the cake. "The border guards were so friendly in Sarnia [Ontario]," he laughed.
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