Rachel Thomas. 20, of Kendal, writes about her life as she studies for a year at university in Vancouver.

Inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On The Road I’ve been dreaming of an American road trip for years. Last week was Spring Break and my friends and I jumped at the chance to hire a car, drive down through Washington and back up along the Oregon coast.

Our first stop was Seattle. We spent a morning in the bustling Pikes Place Market where over 200 farmers, fishermen, bakers and craftspeople set up stalls each day to sell everything from handmade jewellery and vintage postcards to roasted chestnuts and freshly baked bagels.

The neon signs and gigantic clock face make for a pretty impressive entrance to Pikes Place and once you are inside the smells of freshly-cut flowers, frosted doughnuts and vintage leather is overwhelming. I didn’t know where to look first!

We watched the salesmen from the Fish Market throw three-foot salmons to each other whilst singing old fishermen chants and we had our fortunes told by an old rickety fairground booth:

Round and round the ball will spin/ Till it draws your good luck in/ Ah, I can foretell for you/ Good luck in a month or two

Hmm. I’m not convinced!

The market also boasts the FIRST EVER Starbucks. Despite finding a Starbucks on nearly every street corner in Seattle (this is not an exaggeration!) the queue for this one was stretching halfway down the road.

We must have walked around that market at least 5 times, each time spotting something we’d missed previously. I can’t say I was too happy when my friends found ‘Rachel’, the life size bronze piggy bank.

That afternoon we set off for Oregon blaring American country music as we drove down the interstate towards Portland (check out our favourite driving song at the bottom of this post!).

Oregon is one of the four U.S. states without tax and we made the most of shopping whilst we were there. We spent a day strolling around the city admiring its architecture, visiting a Mark Rothko exhibition at the Portland Art Museum and discovering Powell’s Books – the world’s largest independent bookstore.

Later that day we set off on my favourite drive of the whole trip. We passed through the snow coated Tillamook State Forest, crossed bridges over waterfalls and finally arrived at the coast.

I’m not sure if I can express exactly how beautiful the coast of Oregon is. We pulled over at viewpoints where we could see miles of jagged cliff faces, misty beaches, stormy seas and huge pillars of rock jutting out of the ocean.

We spent two nights by the sea. One in a sleepy town called Seaside, where we wondered the beaches and lost all our dollars in an amusements arcade and one in a town called Rockaway, where we rented a beach house and spent the evening cooking and watching old movies.

The drive home was long but good company passed the time well and we stopped to sample some good old American fast food before crossing the border to Canada.

♫ Country Girl (Shake It For Me) - Luke Bryan ♫

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