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On the road between the Arctic Ocean in Alaska and the deserts of New Mexico

date of entry 07/04/1999
mileage 255,819

capital Washington, D.C.

area 9.826.675 km²

population 317.238.626

GDP 15.094 Bill. US-Dollar

official language English

The USA is not merely a country, but virtually a continent. Accordingly, Gunther and Christine Holtorf gave themselves around two years in total from 1999 to drive through the whole of this land of unlimited possibilities in several stages, from the northern tip of Alaska to the desert on the Mexican border. This period also included 11 September 2001, which shook the nation to its foundations.
  • As well as traditional drop-shaped balloons, the International Balloon Fiesta offered some unusual models to admire. Companies use the festival to launch balloons with distinctive shapes into the sky.
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  • Between 1999 and 2001, Gunther and Christine Holtorf drove with Otto to virtually every corner of the USA. On their first visit to New York City on the east coast, the famous Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were still standing. A few days later, they lay in rubble.
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  • In the Midwest, Otto posed in front of the skyscrapers of Chicago. The skyline of the third-largest city in the USA is no less imposing than that of Manhattan.
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  • In San Francisco on the west coast, a drive over the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge was also a compulsory part of Otto’s programme...
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  • ... as was a visit to the glamorous gambling metropolis of Las Vegas in the neighbouring desert state of Nevada.
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  • At the southern tip, the trio’s journey took them to the Texan city of Houston.
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  • Houston is home to the NASA Mission Control Center, from where all the Americans’ manned space flights since 1965 have been directed. The lines on the big screens show the trajectory of rockets and satellites.
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  • The neighbouring Rocket Park contains an exhibition of artefacts relating to American space travel. One of these is the Saturn V rocket, which was used for the missions to the moon.
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  • The north was also explored in detail. On the Dalton Highway, Gunther and Christine Holtorf crossed the Arctic Circle with Otto and drove up to the northern edge of Alaska at Prudhoe Bay, where the USA’s largest oil deposits are located. There, the trio turned around just in time and escaped the onset of the polar winter with just a few hours to spare.
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  • This set of tyres was also found lying around in Alaska. In an emergency, it can also be somewhere to stay.
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  • The USA is famed for its glittering cities with their great valleys of skyscrapers. However, Gunther Holtorf was much more impressed by the absolutely endless expanses in the rural areas. One example is Monument Valley in Arizona.
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  • With its distinctive rock formations – such as Mexican Hat, shown here – the National Park feels like one great Western-film backdrop.
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  • Cacti and vultures by the roadside convey a sense of being part of a Sergio Leone movie.
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  • The Colorado River, which also flows through the Grand Canyon, has over the millennia cut a path 450 kilometres long and up to 1,800 metres deep into the rocky landscape of Arizona.
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  • The trio covered more than 45,000 kilometres in total on the often dead-straight highways that cross this huge country.
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  • Otto had the good fortune to be able to drive past this motor-vehicle cemetery.
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  • The USA is a land of superlatives – everything is a little bigger, faster or higher than anywhere else: for example, the Hoover Dam, which generates around four billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power in a year.
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  • Or Mount Rushmore in South Dakota: four past US presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, are immortalised on this mountain. Each head is about 18 metres high.
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  • Otto in the Indian summer in New England.
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  • In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the world’s biggest balloon festival takes off every October. Hundreds of balloons rise up into the sky over the nine days of the event. "The simultaneous launch of 600 balloons was an extraordinary experience," says Gunther Holtorf.
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  • Video: The USA – from Alaska to San Diego