In reflecting on the 3500 miles and four states we travelled through, the high points don't take much hard thought, so well do they stand out. Death Valley and neighbouring Panamint were exquisite in their desolate beauty, whilst the verdant forests of the Washington and Oregon coasts had an equal, if not opposite treasure. The Redwoods of north California awed me into silence and the realm of zen, whilst the excitement and energy of Las Vegas left an altogether different, but equally lasting impression.

So after some deliberation, I've compiled a summary of what I think were the highest and lowest points of our epic trip...

  • Best City - Seattle. It was "just my thing", although I think most would prefer San Francisco.
  • Worst City - Sacramento. Building an interstate highway next to some of the oldest buildings in California is not a good idea.
  • Best State - California, beyond any doubt. The sheer diversity of landscapes and experiences beats most countries.
  • Worst town - Pahrump, no question. This place needs a healthy injection of missing chromasomes.
  • Best View - Panamint, near Death Valley. The clear air of the Big Country knows no rival, although I'd say the view from the Seattle Space Needle on a good day would be really something. And not forgetting the view from a ski-lift over Tahoe! There's just too many.
  • Worst Brown Trouser Experience - on the way up to Panamint, with sheer drops and no crash-barriers.
  • Best Drive - Route 101 along the south-Oregon / north-California coast. Spectacular seascapes and towering bluffs come together in the Pacific's own "Big Country".
  • Worst Drive - Route 97 through central Oregon. Endless dull forest in the flat high-desert beats Travel Scrabble in the tedium awards.
  • Best Day - Day 2, crossing the Big Country from Vegas to Tahoe, whilst tiring, was an epic voyage.
  • Worst Day - Day 10, penniless in SF. Don't do it.
  • Most Zen-like moment - amongst the giant redwoods.
  • Weirdest "Double-Take" - seeing that "white cloud" on the horizon turn into Mount Shasta.
  • Greatest Disappointment - the miserable, closed-in weather of Washington and Oregon, denying views of their great volcanoes. Although snowed-in Crater Lake follows a close second.
  • Most Pleasant Surprise - LA is not as bad as you think... 
  • Most Unpleasant Surprise - Oregon Bob had been to Blackpool.

All in all, then, the west coast of the United States has an incredible range of scenery and experience to offer. Five interesting and unique cities separated by every kind of landscape, short of tropical rainforest, that you could imagine.

Do it by car, it's the only way, but take a few days longer than we did to tour it, as there's just too much to see inside of two weeks. California is fine at any time of year, but if you want to see the North-West, go in summer, when fine weather, I'm told is guaranteed. And with the price of gas, motels and food, it's really cheaper than you would believe!

The final verdict? One day I'll go and live there...