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Posts Tagged ‘USA’

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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4 the road

1 lariatGetting in a car and driving through a chunk of American nothing has always had some huge appeal to me.  I loved American road movies like ‘Convoy’, ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Vanishing point’ – I especially loved the comedy ones like ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ and the ‘Cannonball Run’ – but maybe the biggest influence was Jack Kerouac’s book – On the road.  The book that made me hit the road in the first place.

0 nothingSo with a little bit of courage and a lot of naive romanticism I hit the road heading south from Vancouver to the American border.  My route was simple – First drive through Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah to the gambling and entertainment paradise of Las Vegas, Nevada – Then return back through California to Oregon and Washington.  I’d brought camping equipment, cowboy boots, and a tub of Kimchee given to me by a Korean friend.  The only map I had was an A4 size one that came free with the Lonely Planet which didn’t exactly provide the level of detail needed – In fact I spent quite a bit of time driving while trying to read the inside maps of that massive edition – though I never got lost once.

2 petrolAnyway, driving through northern Washington past Seattle it wasn’t long before the green northwest gave way to an endless landscape of dry grass and rocks.  My first stop was the town of Yakima, home to much of Washington’s wine trade and apparently the Palm springs of the state.  Here I fill up on a massive, tasty pulled pork sandwich at the Lariat before heading on and climbing up onto the central plateau of the rocky mountain states.  I made pretty good time, stopping in Dunkee – where a plump gas station attendant, wearing a t-shirt that says ‘freedom Isn’t free’ fills my car while telling that his cousin speaks seven languages.  I eat again outside Boise, Idaho.  Filling up on a huge club sandwich.

nowhereJust before Utah 1372km in, as the sun is setting, I stop in ‘the middle of nowhere’ to get gas – the attractions here are two alpacas, and being the only fuel in miles.  At this point I’m ready to sleep and decide to stop in the first town over the state line.  The road around here is just one straight line to nothing.  At one point my car begins to shudder and shake. What’s going on?  I realise I’m sitting at 185kmph – I haven’t turned for 45 minutes.  I slow down pretty quickly.

3 alpacaAfter 1559km and 16 hour driving, I stop at some town 160km from Salt Lake City.  A couple of beers in the bar across the street – only 3.2% in Utah!!, and I retire to my motel – car parked outside the room, just like in the movies.

5 salt lake churchThe next day I’m glad to have made a big push the day before.  I only have a seven hour trip today, nothing!  First I stop in at Salt Lake City, visiting the religious centre for the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints.  Its a nice if pretty bland town, but definitely worth checking out if you happen to pass.  The central cathedral is pretty impressive and the people are as nice as you’d ever meet.

6 mormon kidsI roll on, hammering down the road stopping at the eagles landing service area and Beaver, Utah – birthplace of Butch Cassidy no less, just after here I break the 2000km mark and I know I’m close.  Listening to Right wing radio talk shows is great around here – they really love Obama these guys!!

6 mormonJust before I cross the border into Nevada I drop through the Virgin river gorge.  Dropping straight off the edge of mile high Utah is an experience I won’t forget.  Red sandstone walls on either side, foot heavy on the brakes as I’m going down so fast.  The bottom is the desserts of Nevada.  Its pretty flat from here on in.

As soon as you cross the border the casinos begin. Big grassed areas in the middle of arid desert – pretty surreal.  Surreal too is at the moment I’m seeing Vegas in the distance on comes the Who’s ‘Who are you?’ – CSI anybody??beast

I drive straight into my hotel, Circus Circus, and get ready to hit the strip.  What a trip 2320km, two days, five states and a shitload  of fast food…

Next part 2 – The City of Sin

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bb san fran streetEverybody I’ve ever met that’s been here has fallen in love with this relaxed, fun city – and I was no exception.  How easy is it to fall for a place that’s just so pretty, so laid back, with so many interesting areas to wander, have coffee and just simply hang out and soak up the atmosphere.

aa mex mural

And in SF the atmosphere just oozes out  – The people, the buildings, the history,  the amazing arts scene, so much character, and no one seems to be trying at all.  aa vesuvio signThere just seems to be some sort weird thing in the water that makes things seem cool – In fact I felt so much cooler just being here!chinatown fortune cookie maker

The coolness factor is pretty visible when you take a wander through the amazing array of distinct neighbourhoods.  This range seems to give this actually bb did youpretty small city a sense of proportion way bigger than it is.  As you turn a corner and move from the bland modern functionality of Union square to the hyperactivity of Chinatown, then to the cafes and boutiques of North Beach its like moving from one completely different city to another.  The rejuvenated old pierssea lion 3 and ferry buildings of the waterfront seemingly have relation to the wooden Victorian town houses of the Upper Haight,  where hippie culture still lives strong on the corner of Haight and Ashbury – albeit next to Ben and Jerry’s!streetcar (The clock on this corner has stopped at 4.20pm for a long time, i wonder why?).  But something, just like the streetcars and cablecars binds and unifies the neighbourhoods of this diverse city.

ee haight 420But its not just the pretty streets or the cool inhabitants that make this place, the romantic movie made notion of SF runs deep in anybody with any interest in American counter culture, and for me two of my favourite culturalrock submarine highlightsof the last century happened here – This was the favourite haunt of beat writers like Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg, who we rockdrank in dive bars playing jazz, writing poetry and books like ‘on the road’; And also where the summer of love kick started a worldwide hippie phenomenon.  I got such a buzz being able to drink in a bar that a hero of mine like Jack Kerouac used to drink, or to hang out in bars along the Haight.

cc mural lady 2And then there’s the food – really this deserves a whole post on its own (and many people have devoted there life to writing about the food here).  So much good food, on every aa kerouac streetcorner something different – a quirky place selling coffee and hand made croissants so flaky people in Paris would be proud, Italian bakeries selling fresh focaccia, Chinese restaurants where even the waitressmusee mchanique doesn’t know when the meal will end, Northern Californian Italian places where the food makes you speechless, gastropubs making sausages that pair with incredible brews made in the basement.  The list goes on…and on – and all this made with some of the best local produce found anywhere on the planet.sfmoma head  It would take years of hard work to really get on top of the food scene here.  I’d relish an opportunity to try.

old newSo I’m pretty sure you can tell I’ve fallen in love with this city, just as everyone does.  And if you haven’t been – unlucky you!truth

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