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Archive for September, 2011

the end

I get up in the morning and decide to do the big drive all the way back to Vancouver.  Stopping first in Eugene, Oregon.  I really don’t expect this to turn out to be one of the most stressful days of my life.

Driving into town, it seems a nice quiet place, lots of people chilling on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon.  I drive around looking for somewhere to park and grab a bit of brekkie.  I turn down a one way by mistake, realising I’m driving into oncoming traffic I go to pull over, but no.  The car is fucked…….

Getting out and pushing it to the kerb I’m a bit freaked out – What am I gonna Do?????  I ask people on the street, nobody wants to help me.  Eventually I get into a supermarket and a guy there helps me to push the car into their car park, but really this could have been the most unhelpful town on the planet – nobody cared.

Without a phone I have to run around the town looking for free Wi-Fi to find the number of a roadside assistance company.  I find one, offering to possibly fix my car – or at least tell me its gone.  I call and the guy says he’ll be there in 20 minutes.  Cool.

He arrives, looks all understanding and says

– Lets get it on the back of the truck, I’m thinking cool, we’ll go to his garage or something.  Once its up he turns to me and says

– Where d’you want me to take it. I reply – how the hell should I know!!!!!!  I’ve never been here in my life.  Cant you take a look at it.

– I don’t know anything about cars, I just tow them he says.

Great. So we spend the next 45 minutes driving around Eugene looking for a garage that’s open on a Sunday.  Obviously nothing is and this guy’s suggestion is

– Why not just leave it in a car park. Great, I’m thinking.  And say why didn’t I just leave it in the supermarket car park – Yeh, you should have done that, totally, would have been the best idea, he says.

Once again I’m completely dumbfounded by this guy’s complete idiocy.  How stupid can he be.  But I end up paying him $90 to dump it in the greyhound car park. Apparently in the US this isn’t such a problem – In the UK they’d hunt you down and make you responsible, I later find out in Vancouver that nobody there cares about the car either – Its a massive piece of metal surely somebody has to be responsible for it!!

I get out, grab as much stuff from the car as I can, losing a ton of camping equipment, not forgetting my tub of home made kimchee, kept on ice the whole time, and head into the Greyhound station.  Only thing is its closed.  Great.  This means a massive walk to the train station where there are no trains, but a bus.

This get’s me to Portland, where I snag the last ticket on the train to Seattle.  Luckily the train has Wi-Fi and I book myself onto the last bus to Vancouver.  Only thing is I also look up the train status and find that its gonna be late. I grab a conductor and ask

-Is this train gonna be late? –  yes, he says – is it always late? – pretty much he says!!!

Once again, great, great, great.

Pulling into Seattle I’ve got 8 minutes to get to the greyhound station for my bus at 2200.  I grab a cab and tell the driver, an Ethiopian guy my story.  He literally puts the foot down and we drive like loonies through Seattle, getting there in four minutes.  I give him a tip and thanks – really, he’s been the only person nice to me all day.

Running into the station at 2157, I ask the people in the queue if the bus is here – no, great!! This time no sarcasm.  I queue up for a ticket behind two black chicks talking to the guy behind the counter and wait.  Time rolls by, they’re not buying anything just talking – c’mon, c’mon, I’m thinking, hurry.  They finish, and the guy pulls out a board that says – GONE FOR LUNCH, BACK IN 30 MIN.  Nooooooooo.  Another Greyhound employee is there I ask can you just give me the ticket.  Thing is this guy is like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman

– On his lunch, cant work, cant work on his lunch, cant work, he keeps on saying.  Greeeeaaaaaattttt, just great. Eventually he tells me the bus wont be here for ages. I calm down a bit.  Someone will be here to help me.  The bus turns up at 2216.  I get in the queue hoping the bus drivers gonna help.

– You cant get on the bus without a ticket, he says.  – But I cant get a ticket because the guy wont give me it, I reply.  He calls rain man over – on his lunch, cant work, cant work on his lunch break, is all he’s got to say.

Next thing you know the ticket guy turns up on his way to the staff lounge and the bus driver asks him to do it for me.  His answer

– I’m on my lunch break, I don’t work on my lunch break.  We he obviously has the Rainman well trained – actually,the Rainman is still saying this same thing the whole time.

I beg, I plead  –  I’m begging you man, please help me out.  My car blew up, the train was late.  – I don’t know why your begging, I aint doing it.  I DONT work on my lunch break.  I’m pulling my hair out now.  Is this for real?  Really, can people be such assholes?  Why?  What reason?  Why treat your fellow man like a complete piece of shit?  They leave me, well Rainman doesn’t, he follows me repeating his lines.  In a fit of anger I turn round and say – fuck off, you fucking retard.  I feel bad, because he obviously is a retard.

When the bus driver returns, I plead more.  He wont look at me.  He slams the bus door in my face.  The bus leaves at 2226.

Now I need to find a hotel.  I end up at the YHA American hotel.  A shithole.  And I’m offered a dorm for $50 or a single for $80.  I take the single, with shared bath.  I get to my room.  Its dirty.  Cant one thing go right.  They wont believe me when I tell them, and certainly wont apologize.  When they give me a new key, they want the old one back, but my stuff is in there.  This causes an argument.  Eventually I get into a room.

I go out and get drunk, two crack heads try to accost me, I tell them if they come anywhere near me I’ll fucking kill them.  They retreat.  Seattle really isn’t the nicest place in the world.

I have to get up at 5am to get the train to Vancouver – no more buses please. I can only describe this train as the slowest I’ve ever been on, but it gets me there.  And I’m so glad I’m back in Vancouver.  Its raining hard, and even that makes me feel at home.

Its over.  Thank god.

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dv 1

dv 4dv 2Leaving Nevada, turning off the Reno road near the infamous Area 51, I’m soon dropping down into the unforgiving desert that is Death Valley.  The scenery changes from a dry endless desert into a weird moonscape where nothing seems to grow.  Checking the days temperature as soon as I get Wi-Fi I find that at the time I was there it was 46c – pretty hot by any standards.

dv 3Death valley is the lowest point in the USA, in fact I get down as low as 190ft below sea level at one point – The lowest I’ve ever been in my life.  Its a weird feeling to actually be lower than the sea, but still be miles from any water at all.

dv 6dv 7I keep driving through until sand dunes appear on my right side – A walk in the heat takes me out to them where a few other tourists and myself bake in the sun while trying to take photos.  The scenery here is just epic.  Its one place where a photograph just cant explain the weird eerie feeling of the landscape.

dv 9A bit further on and I start to climb back out of the valley to the town of Lone Pine.  Here there are great views of The lower 48’s highest mountain – Apparently at some points you can see the highest and lowest places in the US at the same time – though I was in a hurry to move on before sun set.

sn 1 mt witneyI keep driving up the spine of the eastern Sierra Nevada until finally I make it to my stop for the night, Mammoth Lakes.  A hugely popular ski town in winter – in fact there was still some snow on the mountains, weird when essentially I was in the middle of a desert.  I spend the night having a well earned beer with some tourists in a out of place Tiki bar – I was drinking Sierra Nevada, what else!

sn 2 mammothNext morning I head towards Yosemite national park via California’s highest mountain Pass.  but first stop off at Mono lake to check out some weird rock formations.  Calcium comes out of the springs in the lake and mixes with carbon to form rocks which grow like deformed stalactites out of the lake.  all with an amazing mountain backdrop.sn 4

Crossing the Tioga pass takes you up to nearly 10000ft, and as soon as you get there the scenery changes – From arid desert to high alpine meadows and huge granite formations – This is Yosemite, one of the most spectacular national parks on earth.

y 1I spend the day driving through the park taking in views, enjoying the sunny weather and the fresh mountain air.  There is something truly magical about this place.  Its so big, so different from anywhere else I’ve been.  Then coming down into the Yosemite valley I get my first view of El Capitan, a huge granite monolith, just sticking out above anything else, commanding so much space.  finally at the end of the valley I get to see the world famous Half Dome, Like some giant tooth, so different from the other mountains, so unique.

I leave Yosemite wishing I had more time there.  It’s one place I’ll definitely be back to.  The rest of the day I spend leaving California and heading to Oregon where I plan to spend the night.

y 2y 3The next day I end up in all sorts of trouble…..

Next part 4 – The End

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lv 0 trump

lv 1 circusSo Las Vegas it is.  Like some sort of weird oasis it appears out in the desert from far away drawing you to it.  Gold high rise hotels, neon and the promise of good times.  I choose my hotel, Circus Circus, for two reasons – One because its cheap, and the other because of its connection to Hunter s. Thompson – The guy who brought us ‘Fear and loathing in Las Vegas, one of my all time favourite books (and movies, Johnny Depp is awesome as the Doctor, though Circus Circus wouldn’t let them film inside)

lv 2 encoreThis hotel is huge, and so much going on in every corner – gambling, drinking, eating, circus stuff, games, all sorts – though this is nothing to the casinos further down the strip!!  Hunter S. Thompson had this to say about it –

“The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday night if the Nazis has won the war. This is the Sixth Reich”. – Though it’s really wholesome family fun these days.

Anyway,eventually I negotiate my way through the chaos to the outside world and the Las Vegas strip.I walk down the top of the strip dominated by the golden Wynn and Encore hotels, stopping to eat beef head tacos at the amazingly named ‘Tacos El Gordo’, before making it to the centre of the strip.  Here I check out the amazing Venetian hotel – with its replica canals and fresco ceilings.  The sheer extravagance of the place just blows me away.  Feeling out of place I find some cheap bars to hang out in.  In fact cheap isn’t the word.  I’m paying as little as $1 a beer in some places – and for $2 you get a hot dog as well.

8 venetian 2But this place isn’t cheap, the money just seems to drain from your pockets – a couple of dollars for the machines turns into 10, and with poker machines at every bar stool its hard not to resist.  They really know how to squeeze every last cent from you.

lv 3 ceasersI’m happy when I meet a guy called TJ from Chicago and have a couple of drinks.  He’s travelling to Los Angeles to make it as a writer – Oh yes, straight out of a movie. We drink, meeting all sots of crazy characters and end up in downtown Las Vegas, where the beer is even cheaper and the bars more dingy.  At one place we eat a prawn cocktail for $2 – bit of a weird thing to be drinking at 2am in Vegas, but hey, stranger things have happened. After this we crash – heading back to Circus Circus for some sleep.

lv 5 revoThe next day i wake up glad i didn’t get food poisoning from the prawn cocktail and head to the pool for a swim before getting out into the mid day sun to check out some more hotels.  I pass through treasure island with its tropical getaway vibe and xxxx with its endless Beatles advertising, then on to Caesar’s Palace – this place is enormous, with huge Greco-roman statues and endless shopping and restaurants.  Across the road is the Bellagio and Paris, both well thought out, beautiful hotels.  The replica Eiffel tower is so impressive.

lv 4 parisBy this time I’m all hotel’d out.  i find a local microbrew place that sell great new york style pizza and load up.  After this its a case of drinking my way back down to my hotel via any cheap dive bar I can find.  I get back to the hotel and crash out straight away.

The next morning I contemplate staying, but decide not to and hit the road north again through Nevada and into the Eastern Sierra Nevada

Next part 3 – Up the back and over the top

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