Ja No Well Fine A South African expression which means ‘We’re not sure what’s going on but we’re quite happy to run with it.’
10,989 MILES ACROSS AMERICA One fateful, dark, freezing night (this was London, after all), there was a roast chicken, three bottles of red wine (mostly empty), and four crazy friends hatching the most brilliant plan in history. Somebody says, "Hey okes, how cool would it be if we were to quit our jobs, sort a car and drive around the states for two months?" And so this is how Drain (Dane and Rayne) and Nob (Nix and Rob) came to be standing outside O'Hare Airport in Chicago, going, "Now what?"
STATES WE NEVER GOT TO
OF WITH A BOTTLE S HELPED ALONG ! WA NE HT TO IG T FL GH RI NG THE THE LO ART THE TRIP IN CHAMPAGNE TO ST
DAY 1 STATES VISITED 01/50
Arriving in Chicago (Illinois) written by nix Whoo hoo! We’re in Chicago (albeit jet-lagged to hell). We’ve had our first experience of an American passport control (Heathrow’s ‘massive’ one-and-a-half-hour wait seems to be quite normal here), the L-train (on which we got our first views of the city), deep pan pizza (as delicious as it sounds) and a walk through the city by night (this was an attempt to stay awake past 8pm, but it was absolutely stunning). It’s quite unbelievable that we’re actually here! How’d that happen?
A STARTER PIZZA, WITH AN -P EP UNTRY DE AGO A SMALL CO FAMOUS CHIC COULD FEED SALAD THAT
DAY 2 STATES VISITED 01/50
Chicago (Illinois) written by Dane Good day Sports Fans,
N AND EVEN MADE CAGO - WE SAW THE BEA OUT AND ABOUT IN CHI ROB WAS HAPPY) PY TRE (THIS MEANT HAP IT TO THE UNITED CEN
I’m not really one for trying to find omens in my tea leaves but I did make a note that Hurricane Isaac and us made landfall in America at about the same time! While Isaac arrived with a lot of fanfare and media coverage, we were welcomed by Homeland Security (the scariest border people ever) and the amazing people that live in Chicago. I don’t know if Chicago is the friendliest city in America (and therefore the entire world) as this is the first place I have been to, but if every where else in the US is this friendly, I will be absolutely gob-smacked. En route to our hotel, the four of us laden with luggage clearly looking like the lost tourists we were, were stopped in the street by strangers asking if we needed help finding our way. More on this theme in a bit. Day 2 dawned and found us all awake fairly early. After a proper American style breakfast, we wandered around down-town Chicago and saw some of the sights. The highlight of the day was definitely heading to Wrigley Field to catch the Chicago Cubs, and although they were smashed by the Milwaukee Brewers (which would be my team for obvious reasons), the people we met were awesome! So we got chatting to two guys outside the stadium and when they heard what we were up to, offered to buy us a drink. Three hours later we stumbled out the bar with our new friends Nick and Mike (as seen in the caricature).
STEREOTYPE #1 NO-ONE WOULD KNOW WHERE SOUTH AFRICA IS. EVERYONE WE’VE MET SO FAR HAS A VAGUE IDEA, OR EVEN KNOWS A SAFFA. (THIS IS PROVISIONAL AND MAY BE RE-INSTATED AFTER VISITING SOME PLACES FURTHER AFIELD) BUSTED
OF BASEBALL AND SITE WRIGLEY FIELD - HOME S KNOWN TO MAN, THE DOG HOT OF THE BEST YED THE CHICAGO CUBS MILWAUKEE BREWERS PLA
US, NICK AND MIKE FOR A POST GAME DRINK
FOOT TRE FAMOUS FOR ITS 38CHICAGO CULTURAL CEN DOW WIN SS GLA D INE STA TIFFANY
CARBIDE AND CARBON BUILDING, BUILT IN 192 9
STATES VISITED 01/50
RT TAKES MERCHANDISE MA BLOCKS TY CI UP 2
Chicago (Illinois) written by Rayne Today has been an ‘admin’ day, in truth. After purchasing our Garmin SatNav and catching some breakfast with ‘real’ coffee, we sat down to a brain storming session to figure which way was the best way to leave the Windy City. Chicago had much in store for us today, despite the admin. Nix led the way on an architectural tour of the city (which was conducted in 31 degree heat) with a free map from the info office. Chicago really does have some incredible skyscrapers. This high speed jaunt round the city was then followed up with a fee evening of live jazz, held in the city’s Millennium Park.
URE PICASSO SCULPT FLAMINGO BY DER CALDER AN EX AL E - WE DIDN’T SE IT EITHER THE RIVER WALK
After we found Rob (we had lost him earlier), we settled down on the grass with a case of Budweiser to listen to the Jazz performers along with what seemed like the rest of the city. A fantastic way to end off the day. It will be sad to leave Chicago tomorrow, but the open road beckons and we are keen to meet our fellow travel companion at O’Hare Airport (Chevrolet or Ford).
THOMPSON CENTRE OT WITH ITS 160-FO WIDE ATRIUM
LENNIUM PARK JAZZ FESTIVAL IN MIL
JAUNT ALONG NAVY PIE R
DAY 4 STATES VISITED 03/50 YS OUR RIDE - GLAD
Chicago (Illinois) to Marshall (Michigan) written by Rob We’ve just driven 200 miles, we’re in a tiny town called Marshall somewhere in Michigan, and we’re gob-smacked at just how bad American drivers are. We love this country, we really do, but its drivers need a fat snotklap. Backtrack first, though. We picked up our car around midday. Her name is Gladys. She is a big, automatic Dodge Grand Caravan with a ton of junk in the trunk - as in the staggering amounts of camping equipment we bought. Tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, cutlery…and we still need to buy things like a braai and a novelty hat stand and a basketball hoop for me to attach to the roof of the car. Buying all of this took a lot longer than we thought it would. Lesson learned: Walmart is useless. Firstly, it’s the most cosmically depressing store on the planet. Secondly, I cannot understand why there must exist two stores two miles apart, completely empty of shoppers. How do they survive? What do the staff do for fun? Beyond, you know, mainlining bathroom cleaner in the back room. I suspect the air of death may have something to do with the poor sleeping bag selection there. Anyway, between Walmart, Target, Sears and something called Dick’s Sporting
Goods (where a nice man called Bob guided us through the landmine that is tent products) we left Chicago at around 4pm. We dropped through the city and skirted Lake Michigan into Indiana. Indiana, by the way, is the US state equivalent of Walmart. Sorry, Indianans, but when the first impression of your state is the biggest oil refinery on earth, followed by lots and lots and lots of toll roads, you’re doing it wrong. We crossed into Michigan around 7pm. We had aimed to be in the town of Marshall at 8pm for the big college football game - it’s the start of the season, and Michigan State were playing Boise in nearby Lansing - but we were way overdue. We rolled into town around 10pm, got a room at the surprisingly good and cheap Howard Motel, got scoped out by two very dodgy guys in the room next door who looked like they too were mainlining bathroom cleaner, and finished the day with Taco Bell and Budweiser, sitting by a motel pool under a full moon while traffic on the Interstate whizzed by. There’s no more American experience than that.
STEREOTYPE #2 JERKY IS ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD. IT’S NO BILTONG, BUT WE WERE PREPARED FOR A LOT WORSE. TACO BELL, HOWEVER, IS HIDEOUS. IT’S LIKE VOMIT IN GREASEPROOF PAPER. BUSTED
TASTY CORNFIELD - SO
DAY 5 STATES VISITED 03/50
Marshall to Detroit (Michigan) to Brant (Ontorio) Written by Nix So today we drove from Marshall to Canada... Brant, to be exact. On the way, however, we had to make a stop in Detroit to meet the lovely rapper Miz Korona (Paula Smiley) at Honest? Johns – what an awesome lunch/brunch. She told us a bit about the bat-shit-crazy government and how they would rather knock buildings down than let private citizens restore them. She also caught us up on the attention that The Foundation (an all female hip-hop night) is gaining, which Rob was most excited about. After we had finished our MASSIVE sandwiches (mine had more ham than you could shake a stick at) Korona led us to the Windsor tunnel. What a legend!
Onward to the camp site. We make a quick pit stop to pick up a braai (gas, sadly) as well as vleis and salad. We also procure a coffee peculator and real coffee, because by now we are all getting withdrawal symptoms – yes the coffee in America is THAT bad. After picking out our spot in Brant Conservation Area, driving past a skunk, and nearly running over a couple of romping spratlings, we put up our tents with minimal hassle. It was almost disappointing. A quick aside: There was a “complete” alcohol ban in effect (stupid Labour Day celebrations) – it did make me wonder how a “partial” ban would be enforced. So we went it search of a beer.
The Canadian border is an odd experience. You simply drive through Detroit (you don’t actually leave the city) and through a tunnel into Windsor. Bosh. Done. That is basically all there is to it. You don’t even have to get out of the car to go through border control – what a pleasure.
Finally after driving around trying to find a bar we settled in for a Bud at Charlie’s. We met Chris Strei, a budding musician and bartender. After a couple of beers we made our way back to our beautifully set-up tents, cooked the steaks and then hit the blow-up mattresses.
BRUNCH AT HONEST? JOHN'S WITH MIZ KORONA
SITE! OUR FIRST CAMP
THE BORDER INTO CANADA SEEMS TO BE IN THE MIDST OF DOWNTOWN DETROIT
G PROPANE VENDIN MACHINES!
WELCOME TO CANADA
TRIUMPHANT TENT SET-UP... NEXT A YOUTUBE TENT OFF
NIAGARA FALLS STATE SIDE
NIAGARA FALLS - CANADIAN SIDE
DAY 6 PROVINCES VISITED 01/10
Brant to Niagara Falls (Ontario) written by Dane It seems as though the Internet in Canada is slightly more difficult to come by than in the states. Day 6 dawned in the Brant National park outside of Brantford, Ontario and we made an executive decision to make the short hop to Niagara Falls and stay there for the night! However we wouldn’t be anywhere without our prerequisite stop at some rather large stores on the edge of town to stock up on more camping supplies - in this case, a cooler-box was required. However given that it was Labour Day weekend (and therefore the official end of summer) this stop proved rather unlucky as none of the shops had stock of what they call ‘seasonal goods’. And so, the hunt for a cooler-box continued… A short while later we arrived in Niagara Falls (Canada-side) and using our trusty SatNav, Emmy-Lou - so named for her sultry country-style tone when giving instructions – we were pointed in the direction of King Waldorf’s Tent & Trailer
BEFORE WE DESCENDED INTO THE BOWL
camp-site. After pitching a tent (literally, you understand get your mind out of the gutter) we then headed back into town to go and see the falls themselves. What can I say about the falls? You all know what they are and why they are cool, but being there in the flesh was amazing! Also, we got to take a boat ride on the Maid of the Mist which took us all into the basin of the horseshoeshaped falls to get soaked by the - you guessed it - mist that is kicked up by the waterfall. So, all in all, a pretty awesome touristy day. After our drenching, we headed back to our camp-site and with no ridiculous Labour Day beer bans in place, kicked back and chilled with some beers and a spatch-cocked chicken and corn on our grill (we can’t call it a braai as it is really an outdoor stove powered by propane!) It was epic!
LIFETIME GOAL RAYNE TOPHAM TO RIDE MAID OF THE MIST INTO NIAGARA FALLS
IT WAS! TICK ON RAYNE’S BUCKETLIST, AND WHAT A TICK
ROCKING THE BLUE PLASTIC JACKETS
A QUICK PHOTO OP ON ‘MAID OF THE MIST’ BEFORE THE SPRAY BECAME LIKE RAIN
FINDING OUR WAY INTO TORONTO
OUR FABULOUS LODGINGS
.33M - HIGH THE CN TOWER IS A 553 NS AND CONCRETE COMMUNICATIO NTOWN DOW IN ER TOW ON ATI OBSERV 1976 IN TED PLE TORONTO, COM
PROVINCES VISITED 01/10
Niagara Falls to Toronto (Ontario) written by Rayne Today is Labour day which marks the end of summer for the Canadians and Americans We left beautiful Niagara and went down the road to Toronto, where we pulled up at the India line camp-site, which said it was for tourists, but was clearly being used by people who had failed in life. Joyfully, a cop car patrolled the site, which was also conveniently located next to a train track carrying freight trains about 500 metres away from us. We stole the camp-site’s ice and got our own back. After setting up our tents and calling home, we headed to Yorkdale shopping centre, where we parked and got the subway downtown to Union station.
we walked straight into the middle of a Jewish festival and carnival parade. We sauntered around the city and visited the Blue Jays Stadium (baseball) and sampled a local pilsner at the Steam Whistle Brewery. For dinner we went to Toronto’s version of Piccadilly Circus called, Yonge Street (pronounced Young), and walked into the middle of a Brazilian street party, complete with food stores and concert. Over dinner at the Pickle Barrel- the Canadian version of Mug and Bean - we decided that whilst this city did not seem to have very much personality it had treated us to not one, but two festivals in one afternoon and was therefore alright in our books. Their highway system however…Insane!
Toronto has a pleasant waterfront along Lake Ontario where
THE JEWISH FESTIVAL WE STUMBLED ONTO
STUNNING NTO WAS RATHER WATERFRONT TORO
THE STEAM WHISTLE MICRO-BREWERY WHERE WE ATE HOPS (IT WAS A DARE), THEY ALSO HAD A MINI STEAM TRAIN
DANE WANTED A BLUE JAYS CAP. SO WE WENT SEARCHING
DEAR MO NTREAL CITY CO UNCIL,
MY COLL EAGUES AND I W YOUR AT ISH TO TENTION DRAW TO ASPE ROAD SY CTS OF STEM WH YOUR ICH WE REASSES FEEL NE SMENT. ED
ESCAPING THE DELUGE
PROVINCES VISITED 02/10
Toronto (Ontario) to Montreal (Quebec) written by Rob The lack of postings has been due to the chronic lack of wifi signal in Canada. Honestly, these people might rock at ice hockey, but their broadband game needs looking at.
change our plans, because there was no way in hell we were going to set our already wet tents up in the rain. Yes, we are a bunch of wusses. We’re also not wild about pneumonia.
But first, an open letter to a certain government body - see alongside.
After some discussion, we decided to camp (or rather, cabin) outside Montreal, and then drive in to take a look at the city. Dane drove from the camp-site to the Old Montreal district, which is when we discovered the invisible road markings. Montreal redeemed itself somewhat by being a pretty damn fetching city, even in the rain, and for having a kick-ass kosher dine, Schwartz’s. Huge beef-filled sandwiches, dill pickles, fries, hot peppers and cherry cola, all served by a cricket-loving Indian waiter, more than paid off for the day.
So as you can imagine, it’s been an eventful day. And a wet one. A thunderstorm in the early hours gave our tents a solid waterproofing-workout. Fortunately, all was well, and after our usual faffing about we managed to get on the road to Montreal around ten. We passed the 1000 mile mark at around lunch. So, you know, yay. Canadian highways are pretty dull, but the weather gods decided to liven things up with more downpours. One at about 4pm (it was a long driving day) stopped us cold: a massive, billowing curtain of water which forced us off the highway and into a truck-stop. At this point, we had to
The drive back was when we discovered that Montreal likes to mix things up on the roads. I write this from a very snug cabin with a very cold cooler box of beer.
FIRSTLY , WE NO TICE TH INVESTE AT YOU D IN RO HAVE AD MARK BECOME INGS WH INVISIB ICH L E IN WE WHILE W T CONDI E UNDER TIONS. STAND T BENEFIT HE COST S – AFT E R VANISHE A L L , I F A MAR S IN TH KING E RAIN, HAVE TO YOU WON REPAINT ’T EVER IT – IT IT A LI TTLE DI D OES MAK FFICULT E STORM. TO DRIV ACTUALL E IN A Y, IT M IMPOSSI AKES IT BLE. TW SODDING O WORDS EYES. , PEOPL E: CATS ’ SECONDL Y, AND WITH RE ROADWOR GARD TO KS. WHI LE WE’R SEE YOU E GRATI INVESTI FIED TO NG IN T YOUR HI HE UPKE GHWAY S EP OF YSTEM, VERY IN WE WOUL TERESTE D BE D TO KN RESPONS OW JUST IBLE FO WHO WAS R THE I OF SAID MPLEMEN UPKEEP. TATION WHEN YO REQUIRE UR DIVE THAT DR RSIONS IVERS B INTO UN E SHUNT DERPASS ED E S NARRO HEIDI K WER THA LUM’S B N UTT-CRA BY A TR CK, FOL IP ON A LOWED R I BRIDGE C K E T Y METAL G OVER A RATE STORMY TRAIN R BAY WHI ACES AL LE A ONGSIDE FINALLY , A N OVER A D THEN HUMP BI ACTUALL G ENOUG Y SEND H TO CARS AI SUBMIT RBORNE, THAT WH WE’D OEVER W WAS PAR A S TAKING RESPONS OF SOME IBLE MARIJUA OF THE NA CANA FINEST DA HAS ADMIRAB TO OFFE LE GOAL R. AN , TO BE IS A SA SURE, B LUTARY UT THIS LESSON OF LETT ON THE ING A T DANGERS OTALLY DESIGN STONED YOUR HI PERSON GHWAY S YSTEM. FINALLY , WHILE WE APPR YOU ARE ECIATE A FRENC THAT H CITY, YOU HAD WE DO W N’T IMP ISH ORTED T DRIVERS HE FREN . CH YOURS S INCEREL Y, DRAIN N OB
IF YOUR FEET ARE WET MONTREAL BY NIGHT AND RAIN, PRETTY EVEN
SCHWARTZ'S RECOMMENDED TO US BY THE OWNER OF A SHOP WHERE NIX BOUGHT A FRIDGE MAGNET. REINFORCED AS A GOOD CHOICE BY OUR CAB DRIVER. WINNING!
THE BORDER POST
TAKEN IN A BOTTLE STORE IN CANAAN
STATES VISITED 04/50
Montreal (Quebec) to Canaan (Maine) written by Nix Daylight broke and (thank the gods) it broke clear. We were on the road again, putting the nightmare roadwork-highways of Montreal behind us, and drove though beautiful forests all the way to the Border. Hello Maine! We were greeted by Ruddy (officer at the US border) after he had grilled us. OK, OK, he only asked us about our situation and our plans. Rayne asked the very important question: “Can we bring in one ear of corn?” To which poor Ruddy responded: “Yes, but why do you only have one ear of corn?” (It had been left over from dinner the night before). I am completely convinced that this question is the reason why Ruddy did not search all our camping equipment and bags (Nice one Rayne, you’re winning in life!) As we drove
into Maine, with stunning lakes dotting the picturesque forests, a Bald Eagle flew overhead. Yes, that happened. We drove into Skowhegan to get supplies for dinner and breakfast, and then onto the camp-site, where we could use our trusty KOA card (Kampgrounds of America - it gives us perks) – winning! This brings us to the entertainment section of the day. Dane and Rob + one rope + one tin cup (later a bottle of water) + tree branch = hilarity. It was all a brilliant plan to hoist a torch (thank you Ken - you legend) above our camp-site for light. Rob and Dane, you also win at life. An aside - we still haven’t seen a moose or a herd of stampeding beavers. Sad face Dane and Nix are sad.
CHEESE I N A CAN?
SIGNS OF SUMMER - STO WED BECAUSE IT IS NOW FALL?!? SUR PRISE!
BEER! AND ROUTE 66
DAY 10 STATES VISITED 04/50
Canaan to Bar Harbour (Maine) written by Dane Knowing that we only had a two hour drive ahead allowed us a brief respite from our usual routine of waking early and breaking camp as quickly as possible to get on the road. We had a rather relaxed morning, and after a few cups of coffee, we packed up Gladys and headed for the coastal town of Bar Harbour, Maine. After a quick picnic lunch at one of the scenic rest stops of Acadia National Park, arriving in the town itself was a pretty awesome experience! It really is a town straight from a postcard, although judging from the number of out of town license plates, the rest of America knows this as well and so we didn’t feel too out of place. After taking a quick stroll around the town to pick up necessary supplies (read: beer), we found ourselves a rather decent camp-site and booked ourselves in for two nights, because this is a place we definitely wanted to explore. One of the things I didn’t know about Maine was that apart from it’s lobster, it seems to be quite well known for it’s blueberries. After seeing blueberry-flavoured-everything in town, we decided that we must sample their two main cuisines in one go. Thus followed one of the meals of my life at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound.
OUR “RUSTIC” CAMPSITE. .. IT WAS TOUGH, WE HAD TO WALK AT LEAST 50M TO THE SHOWERS
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the concept of a lobster shack, let me explain. It is a rather rustic way of dining: forget Michelin stars for a minute. You park up, order your lobster (which is priced by weight) and a small selection of sides. They give you an order number and tell you to come and pick it up when it is ready. There is no table service; only some picnic tables outside with a bin to dump your lobster shells in. Plus you can take your own beer! Oh, the price? Cooked fresh Maine lobster for $8.95 a pound. The four of us ordered four three-pound lobsters, boiled in seawater, four corns on the cob (or mealies for our South African readership), side salads, coleslaw, potato salad and some butter, mayo and hot sauce. Unfortunately, I will never be able to eat lobster again as there is no way it will ever be better than that. To round it all off, we had some blueberry pie a la mode (with vanilla ice cream). All in all, a spectacular meal. Now, I’d better sign off, as whilst I have been typing this update, I have killed ten mozzies and had about six new bites, so I’d better go before they even the score!
R PICTURESQUE BAR HARBOU
FRESH MAIN LOBSTER BOI LED IN SEAWATER. COMES WITH ASSORTED SIDES. TASTY!
THE PRICE?!? FANTASTIC
DAY 11 STATES VISITED 04/50
Bar Harbour (Maine) written by Rayne Today we took it easy. After a week of breaking camp every morning and hitting the road, we had the time to relax and enjoy a few cups of coffee in our beautiful camp-site whilst planning our accommodation for New York. Planning done, we drove into the picturesque coastal town of Bar Harbour, famous for lobster dinners, light houses and blueberries. Maine is a very outdoorsy state as evidenced by the plethora of outdoor pursuits available to us. We could have gone kayaking, whale watching, puffin peeping, hiking or fishing, but in the end we settled on cycling the private carriageways around the area, which are only open to those on foot or bicycle. These carriageways were set up by John Rockefeller, who had become fed up with all the cars and trucks clogging up his peaceful coastal roads. We hired bicycles from Acadia Bikes in town and after cycling up a rather steepish hill, we headed into the network of cycle routes. We spent the rest of the afternoon cycling through autumnal forests and skirting the edges of Eagle Lake and Witches Hole, with the famous poplar trees beginning to change into their brilliant reds and coppers. For dinner we had take-out lobster rolls (another local delicacy) and sat around our camp fire, completely content. Maine took us by surprise. We had not expected this level of beauty and hospitality. It is quite simply a must see state, and one that could be visited over and over again.
BLUEBERRY PANCAKES BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
GEWAYS - STUNNING CYCLING ON THE CARRIA
SLANG GUIDE On a more interesting no te, we’re developing ou r own slang for the road. Here’ s a quick sample. NAV
STATES VISITED 04/50
Refers to the act of contr olling Emmy-Lou, our SatNav. Can be used as a noun to describe the pe rson in the passenger seat (“I’ m the nav”) or as a verb (“I’ m navving today”)
Bar Harbour (Maine) to Boston (Massachusetts) written by Rob
We love Maine. We really do. It has huge woods, cycle trails, lobsters the size of large babies, gorgeous bays, awesome blueberry pancakes and the most endearing accent known to man. What it does not have, however, is wildlife. Or rather, it does, but we didn’t see any.
bay or avenue of trees to liven things up. We drove into New Hampshire, crossed into Massachusetts, and parked up at our spot for a day or two, a Hyatt hotel, in Burlington. We’d decided that after ten days of camping, we were owed a few nights in a bed.
Not one moose. Not one bear. Not a single beaver or wolf or otter or even a damn quahog. We are really, really sad that we didn’t at least get to see a moose. The only one we even got a sniff of was in the LL Bean outlet store in Freeport, on our way to Boston. Some thoughtful taxidermists had stuffed two of them and mounted them for posterity. They were big. They were impressive. They were also very dead. We were so looking forward to seeing a live moose.
We were in our room, and doing the usual things one does after arriving in a hotel room (opening cupboard doors, switching lights on and off, stealing toiletries) when Dane said, “Rob, you have to try this! It’s amazing!”
What’s the plural of moose, anyway? Meese? Mooses? And why does LL Bean, an outdoor superstore, boast of being open twenty-four hours? As Bill Bryson once memorably asked, who exactly is going to buy a kayak at 3AM?
I went and sat beside him on the couch. It was a revelation. We sprawled. We luxuriated. Had the couch been liquid, we would have bathed in it.
There’s not a lot to report about the drive between Bar Harbour, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. We tried to stick to Route 1, the scenic route, but really all it was was a succession of slightly depressing small towns with the odd
“What?” I asked, poking my head round the bedroom door. “The couch. Just come and sit.”
Not much more to report. We decided to save Boston until tomorrow, ate at a nearby restaurant (watermelon sangrias, Sam Adams beer and strange, barbecue-chicken-andmango pizzas) and headed back to bed. Everyone else is asleep as I write this.
Term for a curious Ameri can practice at intersect ions. When in the right-hand-la ne, turning right, you can make the turn regardles s of whether the light is red or green, as long as there are no cars coming into your turning lane. Very odd. SEEK
Means to change radio station, or track on the iPo d. Usually deployed when something inadvisable co mes on, like a station that att empts to mix country mu sic with rap. This has happen ed. FOOT
A term not used often. It means, a good driver; someone who drives res ponsibly. Derives from the following: foot = leg-en d = legend. KJ
A bad driver who has jus t done something remark ably stupid on the road. I’m no t going to tell you what KJ stands for. MAFUTA
Our phrase for a very lar
HT NEXT TO THE ROAD OUR LUNCH SPOT - RIG
DAY 13 STATES VISITED 06/50
Boston (Massachusetts) written by Nix So after a night in a real bed, getting up to walk only two metres to a real bathroom – we were ready to great the day bright eyed and freshly showered. After breakfast we made tracks to Anderson/Woburn Station. After being politely advised to “Move quickly!” by the parking attendant we jogged into the station, detoured from the platform into the ticketing office, missed our train and then panic bought a day travel card (which was not, in the end, valid for our journey) and then realised that the next train was in two hours – epic fail. To kill the two hours we made our way to Woburn Shopping centre, pottered around killing time and then had a cup of coffee, before heading back to the station to catch our train. After we had finally reached North Station I think we were all a little relieved (lesson learned about checking train times before purchasing tickets, oh and asking about train schedules) and walked down into, Little Italy, or as it is also known, North End. Boston is a beautiful city and felt very vibey for a Sunday afternoon. Of course it helped that as we walked down into the town there was some sort of procession going on (brass band and everything – this is the same procession that we met at least four times throughout the afternoon. Say what you will, Bostonians have stamina!).
LESSONS ABOUT TRAINS LEARNING HARD 4 HOUR
After checking out Little Italy we headed down to Quincey Market to have lunch at Durgan Park (recommended by a lovely couple we met at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound in Maine). For those of you who know London a little, the area feels a little like Covent Garden. Then for dessert onward to Mike’s Pastry. Cannolis of every description are on offer and we understood after eating them why the place had been so rammed. We had a small breather in a square that hosted the statue of Paul Revere before making our way to Boston Common. This was the entertainment section of our day… I swear the squirrels had been fed LSD, and we watched one intrepid fella tumble, dive, swerve and roll away from invisible foes for about ten minutes – it was hysterical. By now we had figured out that the train left at 8pm or 11:15pm – so we needed to make tracks back to the home of the Boston Celtics (TD Banknorth Garden – which also housed our train station). Back at the ranch, Rob cooks us a nice pasta, Rayne and I do some washing, Dane figures out the rules of football and all is very domestic in the Hyatt House Inn. Boston is brilliant and we all agreed this is definitely a city we would like to return to visit for longer!
HOME OF THE BOSTON CEL TICS
A COPPERY PAIR BY THE POND IN BOSTON COMMON
CATCHING OUR BREATH AFTER A MEANDERING WAL K THROUGH THE COMMON
THE MEMORIAL GARDEN TO HONOUR THOSE LOST IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
I THE BEST CANNOL IN BOSTON
STATUE OF PAUL REVERE IN RECO GNITION OF HIS MIDNIGHT RIDE IN 1775
THE STREET PROCESSIO N STILL CONTINUING
PLACE - IT NEEDED SAM ADAMS’S RESTING DANE AND ROB HAD CE TO BE INCLUDED SIN IR STAPLE DRINK THE AS R BEE S THI ADOPTED
BASKING IN TIMES SQU ARE
STATES VISITED 09/50
Boston (Massachusetts) to New York (New York) written by Dane Lifetime goal achieved. Tick. It must be said that there was a moment when I thought it wouldn’t happen as driving into New York was an experience, but luckily Nix navigated that landmine supremely and we arrived at our flat (which is technically in New Jersey) to be told by the landlord that he wouldn’t be available for about half an hour. Cue leaving Gladys on the pavement and heading into the nearest bar and working some of the stress of the drive off by consuming some beers and chatting to the stereotypical American bartender in the stereotypical American bar. To be fair, he was fairly awesome and gave some very useful hints about Navigating our way from Jersey to NYC. The view from this side of the Hudson is pretty spectacular as it is the entire Midtown Manhattan skyline. Anyway, a few beers down an ready to hit Manhattan, we made our way to the city. It was as incredible as I thought it was going to be and completely mind blowing. After a couple of hours of wandering around, we headed to The
Burger Joint. Which is a newly create burger restaurant designed to look like a typical American style shack in the five-star Le Parker Meridian hotel on 57th Street (between 5th and 6th Ave - which is a fairly pricey part of town for those who don’t know Manhattan, as it is two blocks away from Central Park). We actually heard about this place when on our own quest to make the perfect burger; Heston Blumenthal, whose recipe we used, stopped by to get tips. Now The Burger Joint isn’t called that. It actually doesn’t have a name and is represented by a neon burger light in the lobby of this extremely expensive hotel. The line snaked its way back to the lobby and all you can have is a hamburger or cheeseburger, but you get to decide the garnish. Chips are the only side and the only way to have a beer is to buy a pitcher. After that we headed to Times Square to see the lights and then retired home knackered. What an amazing day…
LIFETIME GOAL DANE TAYLOR TO VISIT NEW YORK CITY
DAY 15 STATES VISITED 09/50
New York (New York) written by Rayne Today is September 11th, and we are standing at ground zero. The families of those who died in the attacks are coming here to attend a memorial service, marking the 11th anniversary.
TAKING THE STATEN ISL AND FERRY AFFORDED US A PRIME VIEW OF THE ISLE OF LIBERTY
Amongst the throngs of tourists snapping photographs of the memorial plaques and vendors selling tourist tat, it is impossible to miss the poignancy of today. We watched as a young girl had her picture taken with a member of the Ladder 10 Fire Station and then turned to him and sincerely told him “Thank you”. Often when travelling, you are confronted with a history that you have only experienced third hand through films or books. It is both rare and unsettling to be confronted with a history that is in your living memory and has personally touched you. Many will forever remember where they were when the towers came down. The day seemed to be an ordinary one for New Yorkers. There was a distinct lack of pomp and pageantry associated with today, which I had expected. Later we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to take in the city’s skyline. The new Freedom Tower was lit up in red, white and blue and two spot light beams stood in the sky - the city’s salute to its heroes and those left behind.
THE ICONIC VIEW OF MANHATTAN
ONLY IN AMERICA... CIT Y TOURS IN A CONVERTIB LE
BUILDINGS THE REFLECTED IN TOWERS TW E TH G IN REPLAC
IDGE IS THE BROOKLYN BR NIGHT WALKING ACROSS AT R LA CU ECTA SIMPLY MORE SP
THE BEST PIZZA IN NEW YORK
DAY 16 STATES VISITED 09/50
New York (New York)
AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF ARCHITECTURE LITTERS CENTRAL PARK
written by Rob Lorenzo doesn’t like getting his photo taken. Point a camera at the large West Indian chess player, and you’re liable to get an earful. He’s got his spot in Washington Square, his milk crate, his chess board with its rough wooden pieces, his tiny speakers pushing out tinny Bob Marley tunes. And for a five buck ‘donation’, he’ll play you some speed chess. He let me win. Blatantly. I am terrible at chess – really, quite cosmically bad – so when I suddenly triumph over a grizzled NYC old-timer, I start to get suspicious. I didn’t mind too much though. It was a fun few minutes before we had to head uptown, and on the milk crate next to me Nix was being taught Give and Take, a game resembling checkers. Downtown New York is fun: the village, Washington and Union Squares, Battery Park. All worth going to. Drain had been out doing bus tours for the day, so Nix and I made our way around meeting friends and colleagues. We had lunch with Bryan Derballa, a photographer buddy who
I worked with on a magazine story. He took us to Whole Foods by Columbus Circle, near to where he was shooting Fashion Week. Afterwards, we took a stroll through Central Park, which is absolutely gorgeous in the summer. I’d only ever seen it in the winter, frozen and dead, so suddenly coming across it in the sunshine was the bomb diggy. We walked to the statues of Alice In Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen, and then had a kip under a tree. We headed down-town in the late afternoon to meet my friend Tando for a drink, and then – after the chess game – missioned back up to mid-town for dinner with my uncle Jonathan. Peking duck, in a tiny little out of the way joint on 8th Avenue. Then we did Hells’ Kitchen. Which rocks. Seriously, it’s like New York with all the pretentiousness taken out: cool bars, good vibe, chilled people. I won’t tell you how many beers we drunk, but it was a lot.
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE LAZING IN CENTRAL PAR K
NIGHTCAPS IN HELLS KITCHEN
DAY 17 STATES VISITED 09/50
New York (New York) written by Nix After a well deserved lie-in, we made our way to 42nd and 9th (Hell’s Kitchen) for breakfast/lunch. The Galaxy Bar it was. 9th avenue is really cool, in that it is a little too far for most tourists to wander and so made it a really cool away to get a true sense of the city. Drain hadn’t seen Greenwich Village yet, and since Rob’s meeting was in the area, we went for a stroll. Soaking up the atmosphere allowed us some time to chill for a bit longer and absorb the vibe. Walking through Washington Square and seeing all the locals playing chess was a particular ‘movie moment’. After Rob rejoined the herd, we went for a pitcher of beer and some chicken wings at one of the student bars near the NYU campus. As evening fell, we headed to the High Line, which is an incredible park. It is a reclaimed monorail set above the streets in the Meatpacking district. Walking through it was a fairly surreal, you can hear the traffic and road noises below you but are surrounded by flora. It’s a strange sensation. By this stage we were really peckish and so headed to the The Bustop Café (which appears to be an converted bus stop waiting room) for dinner. Before we headed home we returned to 9th Avenue for a nightcap. All-in-all a pretty cool last day to our time in New York.
WALKING THROUGH WASHIN GTON SQUARE
TAKING A BREATHER IN AN UNEXPECTED SQUARE IT LOOKED LIKE THE LOC ALS HAD THE SAME IDE A
EAR PARK ILE NEW YORK CITY LIN THE HIGH LINE IS A 1-M NEW YORK ED VAT ELE MER FOR THE BUILT ON A SECTION OF LINE, IT E SID T WES R CALLED THE CENTRAL RAILROAD SPU IAL GREENWAY AER AN AS D NTE PLA AND HAS BEEN REDESIGNED
WE WEREN'T QUIT E SURE IF WE WO ULD EMERGE KIDNEYS INTACT - BUT IT WAS RA D
STATES VISITED 09/50
New York (New York) to Coopersburg (Pennsylvania) written by Dane Unfortunately today was the day that heralded the end of our New York adventure. It took me a while to make up mind about Manhattan - the tourist areas were completely overboard and a bit too much but once we got off the over-beaten track and into places a little less touristy like Hell’s Kitchen, the West Village and Brooklyn, I really began to enjoy it. Although it must be said turning up in the meatpacking district during fashion week whilst dressed in our sightseeing clothes and without seeing a shower all day was interesting. Today, actually, was all about the great American pastime shopping! We headed to Pennsylvania via The World’s Most Giant Outlet Mall in upstate New York to pick up some goodies. After a successful shopping haul, we hopped back into the car and headed to a camp-site in Coopersburg, hoping to see some Amish along the way. As with the Moose in Maine, the Amish proved elusive. And so did something else. Now I do not know a huge amount about Pennsylvania, but judging from the epic journey Rob and I embarked on to find the nectar of life (beer), I can only assume that they are not fond of alcohol in any shape or form. Once we’d arrived at the camp-site around 7pm, we were advised to head to the beer shop first as it was about to close. Rob and I dropped off the girls to start making camp and headed to get some dinner and beer.
After following the appalling directions given to us by the host, we reverted to the SatNav to get us into town. We headed into a strip mall with a bright neon light saying wines and liquor. The shop was boarded up. It has to be the only place in the world that a bottle store can go out of business. After Googling the name of the beer store given to us, we then punched in the address of said shop into the SatNav. Emmy-Lou promptly delivered us to someone’s back garden. After asking three different people for directions and none of them leading us anywhere near the bottle store, we finally found an old-timer that looked like he had had a beer or two in his time, and he gave us accurate directions to the store. Finally, we thought. But oh no. Once inside the shop, both Rob and I were asked to provide ID. Rob showed them his UK driving license and they looked at it as though it were radioactive. Out comes the manual that tells them whether the license is legit. Obviously being American, it has no provision for anything other than US, Mexico and Canada. And I was surprised they had the latter two. Cue us going to get passports out of the car, which were finally approved and off we walked with our beer. A final quick shop at a grocery store and home to a beautiful campsite set-up by the girls and a cold beer well deserved.
LY TIME GENO'S: THE ON KED OUR AS EN BE VE HA WE ATIONS LI FI AF L POLITICA BEFORE ORDERING
DAY 19 STATES VISITED 10/50
Coopersburg to Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) written by Rayne Welcome to the city of firsts! The first hospital, the first capital, the first paper mill, the first almanac; the list goes on. We arrived in Philly around lunch time after a scenic yet traffic-filled drive from Coopersburg through strip mall towns and some beautiful forests. We arrived at the home of the Schwabs (family friends of the Boffards), where Bill and Marge were there to greet us. Despite having just moved into their home in Narberth a few days before, they warmly agreed to house, feed and slake the thirst of four dirty and weary travellers. After a quick bottle of Yeungling (the local beer) and a crash course in Philadelphia’s sites and transportation system, we caught the local R train into down-town Philly. We were all starving by this stage, and thus made a beeline for the infamous Geno’s in the Italian section of the city. Geno’s Steaks has been in operation since 1966 serving up mammoth sized Philly cheese steaks - but only if you are Republican. If you are a Democrat, best make your way
across the street to Pat’s. The two restaurants have had a healthy rivalry going on for years. We chose Geno’s - but not because of our political affiliations, but because we were hungry and Geno’s was closer. Cheese steak is comprised of thin cut steak, slathered with either cheese whizz, provolone or American cheese with caramelised onion relish. It hit the spot, but as South Africans we certainly missed the I&J cheese-stuffed steaks we used to get as kids. We then made our way to see the famed Liberty Bell (‘An iconic symbol of American independence’). We even managed to seek into the National Constitution Centre and see the bronze statues of those men who signed the American Constitution into existence. Back to the Schwabs’ place and a fantastic dinner in town. Marge and Bill are certainly the most interesting and captivating people I have met. We laughed until our heads hit the pillow! Bill and Marge - thank you so much for having us!
DIBA NICE TO SEE MA ISED GN CO RE G GETTIN
WITH THE SCHWAB S IN PHILLY, WE ALSO GOT TO SEE THE LIBERTY BELL
CONSTITUTION CE NTRE WHERE WE SNUCK INTO SIGNERS' HALL
ANOTHER AN FLAG IC ER AM AT HALF MAST
US CENTRE OF THE D AN MM CO L VA NA
DAY 20 STATES VISITED 11/50
Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) to Annapolis (Maryland) written by Rob Bill and Marge didn’t just treat us to a spectacular dinner last night. By the time we made it downstairs, Marge had a spread arranged for breakfast, too: bagels, fruit salad and home-made jam, plus some spectacular coffee from Bill. Outside, the Philadelphia morning was spectacular: crisp blue skies and speckled clouds. If I was a kid, living in the United States, I’d struggle to think of a neighbourhood I’d rather live in than Narberth, PA. Remember all those American suburbs you’ve seen in movies? Tree-lined avenues, wide streets, no fences, beautiful houses? That’s Narberth. It’s breathtaking. We left the Schwabs late, having lingered a little too long plotting routes. On that note, a massive, massive thank you to Bill and Marge. They put us up, fed us, watered us, gave us beer and even donated a road atlas. They, it almost goes without saying, are both feet (see previous postings for explanation). Onward to Annapolis. Arguably the foremost naval town in America, and also one of the cutest, it was filled with whiteclad midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy, strolling the streets and munching ice cream. We had a late
lunch of ribs and crab cakes and beer, and took a stroll down to the waterfront, where neatly-kept boats lined up against the dock. Strolling along, we came to the Academy itself, and were surprised to find it not only open to visitors (this, remember, was Sunday evening) but completely free. A bored-looking cadet asked for IDs, and we were through. The USNA is the absolute apex of American pomp and ceremony. It’s Star-Spangled-Old-Glory-Hills-ShoresMontezuma-Tripoli, and everything else besides. It is breathtakingly beautiful, set right on the Chesapeake Bay beside the town, and filled with the kind of buildings that would make the Queen stop and exclaim “Ek se, woah.” Pride of the campus goes to Bancroft Hall, home to 4500 midshipmen, as the students are known. I ventured inside the enormous entry Rotunda. To one side, enormous oak doors with the gold lettering ‘Office of the Commandant’. Although I was a little wary of being yelled at by the man (“Just where in the blue hell do you think you’re going, sailor?”) , I walked up the enormous staircase into the memorial hall. At the far end, a huge banner hung from the
wall bearing the words, “Don’t give up the ship.” Midshipmen had been marching out of the hall in loose formation as we visited, but just as we were about to leave a trumpet struck up a tune and a squadron of particularly impressive ones marched out and, to the tone of a drill sergeant (or the naval equivalent), faced the flagpoles at the ends of the courtyards. As we watched, a man who I can only assume was the commandant himself - a black man with a row of medals and impeccable bearing - marched to the top of the staircase. At his signal, the midshipmen performed the colours ceremony, lowering the flags (American and Navy) while the trumpet sounded. It was quite a spectacle. I would have given anything – literally anything – to have had my grandfather with us as we walked the campus. He was a naval man, one of only four Americans to win an OBE, and this was the kind of thing he would have loved. I miss him. We didn’t, by the way, know anything about the colours ceremony. We eavesdropped on a couple nearby. What can I say: being on holiday means you become temporarily very nosy.
RAYNE IS RADIAN T, ROB IS FECK LESS, NIX RUNS AWAY FROM THIN GS, AND DANE IS SHADY
TO ST THE GUARDS ROB SLIPPED PA ER NN BA US SEE THE INFAMO
DAY 21 STATES VISITED 13/50
Annapolis (Maryland) to Washington (District of Columbia)
ARLINGTON E HONOURING THOS . .. ED RV SE WHO REMEMBERING THE PAST
written by Nix After being advised by Bill yesterday, we decided not to drive into Washington and rather take the shuttle in. So we sprang up at the crack of dawn to go to Washington. We arrived at the Capitol Reflection Pool, and decided to make our way to Arlington and work our way back through the Mall from there. Arlington is, in a word, massive. The military cemetery is set in rolling hills, is very well maintained and has some impressive monuments. The Kennedy Memorial was tastefully done, with what appeared to be an eternal flame set into the ground of the first family. Other members of the family are scattered in the surrounding hills with only small white crosses and to mark their graves. It is really well done and the people visiting are generally very respectful. Next we wandered to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where we stumbled onto a couple of ceremonies that were taking place. The first was the changing of the guard – which involves an inspection and rotation of a couple soldiers in full ceremonial military uniform. The second was the laying of a new wreath – which involved switching out the old wreath for a new one (presented by four representatives of a local school).
We then made our way over Arlington Memorial Bridge – it was a very wide river and seemed to go on forever. As we neared the end, the Lincoln Memorial became an enormous part of our view. For the record, Lincoln is huge! The Washington memorial is amazing with it’s reflection in the Reflection Pool and the view from the steps of the Lincoln is quite awe-inspiring.
importantly a house sculpture by Lichtenstein. It was trippy, but very cool. Once we got to the Air & Space Museum we had to create a plan of action again to maximise what we saw. So we decided to check out the naval plane carriers, the Wright brothers exhibition (they had the actual first plane) and the space exhibition. Highlight of the Museum – we got to touch the moon!
From there we walked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – it is staggering how many people are named on it and reminded us what a waste war is.
Lastly we checked out the Capitol building and its reflection pool before making our way back to the shuttle. All-in-all Washington was monumentally impressive.
Carrying on we went to go see the Whitehouse, I must say, it was a lot smaller than the movies had led me to believe, but we did get to see some ‘secret’ service (the name was on their car).
After a small nap in the shuttle, we made sure that our drive route was still feasible and then called a cab to go watch the football, drink beer and eat chicken wings in the Greene Turtle. It was a packed day, but well worth the effort.
By this stage we were starving, so went for a spot of lunch – and again we encountered the American’s love for salad and soup with everything, even a sandwich. We also had to strategise, because the shuttle was coming in two and a half hours and we hadn’t seen any of the Smithsonian yet. Cue mad dash to the Air & Space Museum. We cut through the N.G.A Sculpture Garden – which turned out to be a really cool diversion. We got to see a silver tree and more
QUICK ASIDE IF YOU (LIKE ME) THOUGHT THE SMITHSONIAN WAS ONE MUSEUM, YOU WOULD BE WRONG! IT IS IN FACT MANY MUSEUMS SCATTERED THROUGHOUT WASHINGTON.
EQUAL" N ARE CREATED ED THAT "ALL ME LINCOLN BELIEV
MONUMENT THE WASHINGTON NG POOL TI EC IN THE REFL
TENSTEIN... WE FOUND A LICH B IS HAPPY RO HAPPY
WE TOUCHED THE MOON!
NY BE ALMOST AS MA THERE SEEM TO RIAL AS MO ME M NA ET VI NAMES ON THE N ES IN ARLINGTO THERE ARE GRAV
THE RED FLAMIN GO'S CHILD
NEXT new bern
FOLLOWING THE GN RANDOM BROWN SI
DAY 22 STATES VISITED 13/50
Washington, D.C.(Virginia) to New Bern (North Carolina) written by Dane Today was meant to be a rather uneventful day of getting some miles done. We had a six or seven hour drive planned from Washington to North Carolina – but America had other plans for us. For any UK readers out there familiar with the Carlsberg ads with the theme of ‘If Carlsberg did…’, America is kinda like that. America does things properly. Rob took first shift behind the wheel and had to contend with leaving Washington in the rain. I took over at about half one after a rather interesting detour. Looking for a place to switch drivers, we spotted a road sign pointing out that the Stonewall Jackson Memorial site was at the next off ramp and so we decided that would be a good place to visit. What an amazing place. It turns out that it was where Stonewall Jackson, one of the most prominent generals in the Confederate Army, passed away. And someone had preserved the actual building where he uttered his famous last words, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees”. Not only was it open, and preserved/ recreated to look as it would have done when he died there, there was a custodian to tell us who he was and why his
death was significant to the Confederate Army.
THE RESTING PL ACE OF STONEWAL L JACKSON - A CO NFEDERATE HERO
After our stop, and some lunch, I took over the driving. At about three we hit some weather. And when I say weather, I mean Carlsberg weather. It was like driving into a wave. We had no choice but to abandon ship and take shelter in the Love’s truck stop. Looking at the weather forecast, and the sky, it seemed unlikely that we would be able to pitch tents in the weather and so we called our target camp-site and booked ourselves a cabin for the evening. Whilst Rob was on the phone organising said cabin, the lady paused and apologised for stopping listening. “Oh my lord, they have just issued a tornado warning for our area!” were her actual words. Great stuff. Never fear though; the tornado warning was a false alarm, and we headed into New Bern in nothing but some mild drizzle. After dumping our stuff in the cabin, we headed into town and had a superb dinner of shrimp po’boys. On our stroll back to the car, we noticed a little store all decked out in Pepsi merchandise. It turns out that it was the birthplace of said fizzy drink.
CHILLAXING IN OUR CABIN
DAY 23 STATES VISITED 14/50
New Bern (North Carolina) to Charleston (South Carolina) written by Rayne We woke up to the quintessential southern sounds of two guys shooting the breeze whilst preparing their fishing tackle for the day ahead (their white pick-up truck playing honky-tonk music). We’ve had to overhaul our morning routine, as it is clear that should faffing be admitted to the list of Olympic sporting events, we would all take gold in the next games. On average it takes us approximately two and a half hours to get out of our camp-site in the mornings. We knew we were doing it wrong when yesterday we watched a guy step out of his tent, stretch, dismantle his tent, pack it up, sling his towel over his shoulder and stride off to the showers. He returned five minutes later, freshly booted, got in his car and went on his way. This whole performance took a grand total of fifteen minutes. You see, now, why our morning routine requires a serious looking into. We ended up staying in a cabin last night due to the weather, so there were no tents to pack up, and it still took us two hours to get on the road. Further updates on the increase of speed in the mornings to follow. Today we headed for Charleston, following Route 17 south. We were traveling through South Carolina via Myrtle Beach. I must lament the low density urban sprawl that characterises the coastal towns we passed through. For twenty minutes we drove through dense forests on pristine roads and at times we were the only car on the road. Around one corner, we were then confronted with soulless strip malls, traffic and miniature golf courses. Signs advertising $5
bikinis and $2 hermit crabs jumped out at us from the side of the road, almost screaming for our attention. Ten minutes later we’re driving through a national forest. It amazes me that the community of Myrtle Beach can support fifteen miniature golf courses. We ate lunch on said beach out of the cool-box and got attacked by seagulls. After pitching our tents we headed into the historic town of Charleston, South Carolina. Nix ended up ordering the deep-fried flounder – the signature dish of Hyman’s seafood restaurant. It was beyond enormous. She nearly cried when she thought she’d finished the fish, but then realised it had another side to it. The restaurant also specialised in hush puppies. These are deep-fried balls of cornflour, sugar and beer, traditionally given to dogs (and slaves) to keep them quiet, hence the name. For our South African readers, think of a sweetened vetkoek. You get the idea. They were delicious, but slightly incongruous with the salt and pepper grilled shrimp I had ordered. Everyone is super keen for some southern home-baked pie. Thus far, the only pie we have had is the blueberry pie in Maine, and the salty crust and sweet filling has whet our appetite for the more eccentric offerings, such as pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, banana cream pie etc. The pie has eluded us to date. I will update you as soon as we find one. Tomorrow we continue the journey down south, following I-95 (get a map).
MPSITE, WITH PICTURESQUE CA CLUDED SH RED BI OPS IN
A FLOUNDER IS NOT FOR THE FA INT OF HEART, OR VAGUELY PECKIS H
SAVANNAH IS RA D BECAUSE OF IT S NUMEROUS TOWN SQUARES
STATES VISITED 15/50
Charleston (South Carolina) to Daytona Beach (Florida) written by Rob We’re encountering an unpleasant reality of this trip. Namely, that we can’t see everything. America – it almost doesn’t need mentioning – is absolutely enormous. It is the sort of country that packs more into a square mile than most other nations do into an entire province. There is always something round the next curve of the highway. There is always a diversion. And with only sixty-odd days to do it, there is always something you’re not going to see.
enough time there, it was just enough to appreciate how amazing it was.
In our case, it’s a lot of things. Give us some credit: we’re nothing if not ambitious in our mapping, but to do everything we want to means missing out on stuff. So we didn’t see a lot of the Carolinas, or of Virginia. They’re beautiful, rewarding states, but we had to move. So besides waking up beside a beautiful lake near Charleston, we saw very little of South Carolina.
As we were sitting back in our chairs under the trees, drinking a few cold ones, the camp-ground’s proprietor pulled up in his golf cart to see how we were getting on. A personable gent, he was a retired “law enforcement officer” from Oklahoma, and managed to give us a few solid tips about steakhouses in Texas.
We did, however, get to eat lunch in Savannah, Georgia, which I was really happy about. Savannah is beautiful. I mean, properly move-there-and-raise-kids beautiful. It’s the quintessential Southern city, and is arranged around a series of tree-laden squares drenched in Spanish moss, with benches at ground level. While we didn’t spend nearly
We crawled through a rain-sodden Jacksonville and we’re now in Daytona Beach, Florida, in our usual KOA camp-site. It’s hot and muggy. In other words, it’s Florida – complete with camp warnings about fire ant mounds and rabid possums.
In the course of the conversation, we got it into talking about gun ranges and gun control, and he said, quite conversationally, “That man in the White House is trying to take away our guns. It’s ‘cos he’s a Muslim. That’s all there is to it.” Of course it is, mate. Welcome to the South.
BLACKBOARDS AS TABLES - FUN
NOB AND DRAIN DO ABBEY ROAD (WE COULDN'T FIND A ZEBRA CROSSI NG)
PHOTO, HAVE TO TAKE A SOMETIMES YOU WEED? AT GO Y HORN I MEAN REALLY,
NEXT key west
DAY 25 STATES VISITED 17/50
Driving from Daytona to The Keys (Florida) written by Nix To steal a saying from Rayne – Got in car, drove far. We made the decision to bypass Disney World, as it was prohibitively expensive, and after seeing the commercialisation that America seems to love versus their country’s natural beauty we thought that the cash was better spent on doing things that played to this strength. Driving down through the Keys was apparently spectacular, although for much of it I was kitsched out exhausted. Once we made it to the most southern KOA, we got some advice from our hosts there about Key West. We set up camp, and made our way into town. Parking the car in a near-by parking lot, we went to go get a beer at The Turtle Kraal. We had been reliably informed that it was one of the authentic Keys bars – it was pretty cool. They had Yuengling on tap! And then onward to dinner across the way to the Raw Bar. Where we were encountered with dolphin on the menu. No, not what you are thinking – the waitress gleefully informed us that it was Mahi Mahi not Flipper. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Dinner was superb and after a Key-lime Pie (Yes! Finally PIE) we hit bed.
LUNCH IN KEY LARGO
IT WAS FANTASTI C TO FINALLY GET TH IS FAR SOUTH
IN FACT THAT DOLPHIN IS ED TO FIND OUT STY FISH TA RY VE A , WE WERE RELIEV HI T MAHI MA NOT FLIPPER BU
NEXT key west
THE MAP BECAME IRRELEVANT, AS GOT SOAKED AND IT WE COULDNâ€™T RE AD IT
STATES VISITED 17/50
Key West (Florida) written by Dane Today we went kayaking through the mangrove swamps of Key West - it was rad! We also visited a chilli sauce shop and wandered around the main streets of the town. Furthermore, it marked the end of our East Coast adventure as we have reached the southernmost point of the continental United States. Our return will take us via the Gulf coast and beyond.
LL AWESOME AND NEVER MIND IT WAS STI HOUT TIPPING WIT K WE ALL MADE IT BAC
BEER AFTER THE A WELL DESERVED S OF THE MANGROVE SWELTERING HEAT
CHILLER IN A BE ER JUG WINNING AT LIFE
COME ON GUYS IT’S ONLY 90 MILES...
DAY 27 STATES VISITED 17/50
Key West to Homestead (Florida) written by Rayne After days of storm clouds and torrential rain, this morning greeted us with blue skies and fluffy white clouds. We woke up on Sugarloaf Key and strolled the twenty-five feet to our camp-site’s beach where we enjoyed our special coffee we had bought in New York. We were alone staring out at the Keys. We watched a beautiful bright green Iguana crawl along the water’s edge - pure magic! We lingered past checkout at the camp-site- who wouldn’t?
THE IRED TO START COFFEE IS REQU PLAN ‘N AK MA ER BO DAY AND SO ’N
For those who don’t know, the Keys are a collection of tiny islands linked together by sand banks and arching bridges. They stretch for a hundred miles, and present the traveller with the drive of their life. You are flanked by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean and depending on whether you are heading to Key West ( the southern most key) or Key Largo ( the first key) they will be on your left or your right. We drove the 100 miles back to the mainland of Florida wishing we had had more time. We spent the night at the entrance to the Everglades in the strip mall depression that is Homestead. The good news is we have our camp pack up time down to speedy 1hr30mins, which is far more respectable.
DAY 28 STATES VISITED 17/50
Homestead to Venice (Florida) written by Rob
THE ABUNDANCE OF FAU NA AND FLORA IS AWE INSPIRING
Today we visited the Everglades. And that means today was only about one thing: alligators. You might wax lyrical about visiting the ‘glades for the abundant plant life, the natural beauty, the birds, the wonderful vibrance of nature, but let’s be honest: you go there to see a sodding huge reptile with a mouth like the gates of hell. Anybody who says different is lying.
know an enormous amount about the birds and plants as well, although it was disconcerting to hear said knowledge being delivered at the volume of a rock concert.
visit – so cheers, Lauren, you rock). Setting off on the walk, we soon ran across an Anhinga: a bird which thinks it’s a fish. And we saw more gators, including a baby one.
Then we were out of the forest, and into the long plains of grass that characterise the ‘glades. And that’s when Al let ‘er rip.
Which is how we found ourselves sitting in an airboat on a sunny Florida morning, being bellowed at by a swamp pilot. He had aviator sunglasses and a very impressive grey ponytail.
An airboat is a hell of a way to travel. It has an engine that makes a noise like an earthquake. And if you know how to drive it – and Al struck us a veteran – you can throw it into massive, drifting turns through the grass. It was all kinds of awesome.
A final stop before we really hit the road: Joanie’s Blue Crab Diner. If there is a better example of a back-country Everglades bar, I will be very surprised. Description wouldn’t do it justice. Just picture any movie you’ve seen such a bar in, then imagine a very large alligator (eight-foot-plus) sunbathing on the back lawn. Dane encountered it on a hunt for the rest rooms. He named it Mafuta.
There was an old saying of the British Raj: speak loudly and slowly enough, and the natives will understand. Our guide had clearly decided that this applied to tourists as well. “MY NAME IS AL,” he shouted. “WELCOME TO MY BACKYARD.” He climbed up onto his perch by the engine, thumbed the ignition and, with a guttural roar, he propelled us into a narrow channel of water. The Everglades, I was once told, are not a swamp but simply a very slow-flowing river. Honey, it’s a swamp.
And then Rayne had to kiss a toad. Not figuratively. Literally. Back on dry land, we did the second part of the experience: a wild animal show, featuring a scorpion, a skunk, a dopey alligator who was quite happy to let his handler roll him around, and the aforementioned toad. Tom, the animal guy, had clearly picked out Rayne as a bride-in-waiting. She obligingly puckered up. The toad, we can only assume, was quite chuffed with the situation.
“GATORS CAN JUMP TWO THIRDS OF THEIR BODY LENGTH. WHICH IS WHY I’M UP HERE,” said My-NameIs-Al, very loudly. And before long, we did see a gator, a five-footer named Speedbump, who took his name from his habit of lying in the middle of a channel and not moving. To his credit, Al wasn’t just a loud rotor jockey; he seemed to
We then took a slightly more sedate detour by driving to the Shark Valley park entrance, where you can cycle or walk a section of the ‘glades. There, a young ranger named Lauren Jagielska gave us a rundown on the birdlife in the park, and what we were likely to see (and, later on, some extra helpful advice on how to get to New Orleans and which parks to
The afternoon was uneventful. We found a camp-site near Venice, which is near Naples (apparently they have a thing for Italian cities up here). When we arrived, the gent checking us in said, “Of course, since there’s a member of your party from Florida, I can give you a 25% discount.” It took us a moment to get where he was going. Then I started speaking in a ridiculous Floridian accent. He also informed us that there was a cold snap on. I didn’t ever think I’d be glad to hear those words, but after the muggy, mosquito-filled hell of the keys, they were very welcome. Anyway, we’ve just discovered we’re pleasantly underbudget, and we have steaks the size of Mafuta on the grill. We can roll with that.
MUCH FUN AIRBOATS ARE SO “MY NAME IS AL ,” HE SHOUTED. “WELCOME TO MY BACKYARD.”
UEEZE RAYNE'S NEW SQ
CAN SO LITTLE THEY THEY START OUT , BUT THEY ES AV LE LY LI FIT ONTO HES EIR LEAFY PERC SOON OUTGROW TH
THE EVERGLADES A WALK THROUGH
DAY 29 STATES VISITED 17/50
Driving from Venice to Chattahoochee (Florida) written by Nix Once again I have the express joy about telling you about a long day of driving. We woke up at the crack of dawn, broke camp, and then made breakfast (by this stage we have now acquired a pot and pan). Rayne treated us to fried eggs on toast, which she cooked whilst I stalked a white egret, camera in hand. Unfortunately, he flew off before I could get close enough to take a good pic. Then it was into the car.
RET THE SKITTISH EG BREAKFAST OF KI NGS
We drove up towards New Orleans, following Lauren’s instructions, and ended up on the I10 West. Just stunning! Sweeping roads lined by dramatic trees - aside from the crazy truck drivers, it was a pretty epic drive. A quick lunch of left-over steak sandwiches, and onward we went. Later we stopped in the little town of Snead to get some groceries, where our very friendly check-out girl informed us that they didn’t see many tourists around here, especially international ones! Rob brought the tone down by making deranged chicken movements as we walked out the store! (He explained this was done to facilitate the dropping down of his sunglasses.) We made it to the camp-site with loads of time to spare before sunset, and this time it was my turn to cook dinner, so I made spaghetti bolognese. It’s been a really good evening, and chillaxed in front of a fire with some beers – wow, what a kak way to end the day!
WALKING AROUND PENSACOLA
A WHITE SQUIRR EL?!?
STATES VISITED 17/50
Somewhere outside Tallahassee (Florida) to New Orleans (Louisiana) written by Dane After the Kid Rock-lookalike checked us into our camp-site and delivered our firewood to our tent on his golf cart while swigging a beer, we realised that we were properly outside of the tourist area of Florida and getting into redneck-ville proper. After packing up our camp-site again, we asked Emmy-Lou to take us to Nawlins (as they locals say New Orleans) via Pensacola for lunch. Anyone remotely familiar with the 90s TV shows Pensacola or Jag will know that the town is one huge Navy base. So I was hoping to see some F-16 jets flying around. I have come to the conclusion that I must stop hoping to see things as inevitably I jinx it and we don’t see the desired thing, thus putting F-16s in the same category as moose and Amish people (which, incidentally, is the first time those three things have been in the same category of anything).
Pensacola was actually quite a quaint little town but rather sleepy and unremarkable although we did manage to get our first taste of pumpkin pie there. It’s good. One of the sad realisations that I have had on this trip is that small town America is literally on its last legs. Instead, it has been replaced with what they call Low Density Urban Sprawl - also known as strip mall hell. On the way in or out of any town there are huge rows of strip malls with the same shit in them: Walmart, Kmart, Target, Wendy’s, McDonalds, repeated ad nauseam. This point was really driven home when we decided to get off the interstate and follow the highway signs to the Route 90 scenic route through Alabama and Mississippi after fifteen miles on the scenic route of strip mall after strip mall, we headed back to
the Interstate because it was actually more scenic. We arrived at the India House hostel which is awesome and after ditching our stuff in our rooms made our way to Bourbon Street which I thought was where the jazz clubs were. Oh no, Bourbon street is like the Red Light district of Amsterdam meets the neon lights of Times Square, with about as many drunk tourists as you are likely to ever see. I think the reason is that all the cocktails (and I use the term loosely) contain something called Everclear 190, which is essentially rubbing alcohol - the 190 refers to its proof or alcohol content. For those of you familiar with Stroh Rum, that is only 160proof. We avoided those drinks.
STEL ON EARTH THE GREATEST HO
BEADS GET FLUN G AT YOUR HEAD - FOR FUN YOU UNDERSTAND
DAY 31 STATES VISITED 20/50
New Orleans (Louisiana) written by Rayne
TROLLEY CARS AN D STEAMBOATS MA KE NEW ORLEANS FEEL LI KE A STEP BACK IN TIME
IDE CHILLING ALONGS I THE MISSISSIPP
We are on the trolley car heading down Canal Street to the famed French Quarter, when the driver says, “Hey all you old school playas...next stop is Bourbon Street”! It is hot and humid, as only a Southern city can be. We are on a mission - this city is famous for a gigantic deli meat sandwich known as a Muffulletta. For those of you who have ever been cajoled into attending my birthday parties in London, you would have sampled this sandwich. Today we found the original just opposite the French Market and inside an Italian deli called the Central Grocery. What a find, and what a great lunch! Tonight is our night to cut loose and party. Whilst Bourbon Street is packed with tourists, two for one Hurricanes and Daiquiris and every bar sports it’s own live band, we are after something more authentic. Frenchman Street located just passed the French Quarter, is where the locals go to get their blues and jazz fix. Even if you are not a big fan of this type of music, you cannot help but be taken in by the rowdiness of the band, and of the patrons! It really is a city that has music and dance in it’s blood - it’s intoxicating.
HAPPY HAPPY RAYNE IS TIME A TT LE - MUFFUL
DAY 32 STATES VISITED 20/50 01/50
REPUTEDLY THE BEST PO’BOYS IN NEW ORLEANS
New Orleans (Louisiana)
SY! WE FOUND A BANK
written by Rob It’s official: the weather is following us. We are being hunted by the rain. A day or so after we pull up in a new city, we hear a rumble of thunder (“Found you!”) and the skies open. Today, it was a proper Nawlins storm, bucketing down at about midday and forcing our hungover selves into the hostel.
it had po boys on the menu, but it also had Chinese and sushi and a million other things, and it looked like the kind of place a truck stop hooker would stop by between jobs. It was almost deserted, and the shelves (it was a supermarket too) were almost bare. We decided, all things considered, that we weren’t quite ready for this level of authenticity.
Following a slightly damp breakfast, we set off on the main mission of the day: find the perfect po boy. You may not be familiar with the name, but you’ll have certainly had something like them. A po boy (think ‘poor boy’ in a Louisiana accent) is a sub, only with a slightly softer roll (known as a hoagie) and usually stuffed with shrimp or oysters. Our guidebook – the usually impeccable New York Times’ 36 Hours In… Guide – had recommended something called the Rampart Street Food Store for the best po boys in the city. Off we went.
We found our way back – god knows how – and before long, we were seated at Johnny’s Po Boys restaurant. I have the utmost respect for Nawlins cuisine, but I can’t say that my life is improved after eating a po boy. It’s…well, a sandwich. Fills you up, but so what?
Well, we walked. Far. We passed industrial parks and municipal offices and mysteriously empty bus stops. It was still spitting rain, and we were stomach-touching-back hungry. Eventually, we found what we thought was the place. It was – let’s be charitable here – dodgy. Allegedly
Things improved after that. We took a horse drawn carriage ride around the French quarter, deciding that although we couldn’t afford the fifty-buck-a-person bus tours, we could nonetheless spring for something a bit shorter. The carriage wasn’t actually pulled by a horse, but a mule, and if I’m being totally honest I struggle to remember much of what we were told about the area. This is not because our guide, Lucille, didn’t know anything – she was both funny and knowledgeable – but because
her style of speaking was almost incomprehensible. It was a constant, machine-gun barrage of information, delivered in a molasses-thick Southern accent to both us and the dumb schmucks on the road trying to swerve around her carriage: “This is the typical style of the French quarter with all these iron railings over on the right is the building where the governor of New Orleans once vomited out MOVE OVER GODDAMMIT by the way don’t go into the northern part of Dauphin Street because WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING JERK-OFF mules have a tendency to start dancing and talkin’ back if you don’t whip ‘em hard enough AND THE SAME TO YOU.” We decided, all things considered, to have a chilled night in. I loved New Orleans. It’s got to be one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited, and from the moment I stepped out the car on Lopez Street, I knew I was going to dig it. I’m sorry to have to leave. If nothing else, it has the only two decent record stores left in the continental United States. How Nawlins can afford to have two and New York City can’t even muster a single one blows my mind.
I NEED A HORSE! BEER RACKING UP THE BOTTLE COUNT
THE LONGEST TR AIN KNOWN TO MAN! (NOT REAL LY BUT IT TOOK FOREVER TO CLEA R THE ROAD)
STATES VISITED 20/50
New Orleans to Avery Island to Shreveport (Louisiana) written by Nix We bid New Orleans goodbye, after breakfast. Americans just know how to cook an egg. It doesn’t matter where they are, it must be ingrained into them at birth! Afterwards, we made our way down to Avery Island, home of Tabasco.
There are so many products now and after buying my fridge magnet and bottle of sweet and spicy Tabasco, (We are amassing quite a few magnets now) we were given a free bottle of BBQ Tabasco.
We have seen a driving pattern emerge: Dane will drive in rain, I will have stupid roadworks, Rayne will have to drive over a few bridges (she hates them). We haven’t quite figured out Rob’s poison yet, but I will let everyone know once it emerges!
Back on the road we decided to get as far as we could, to cut down on our drive to Dallas. This turned out to be Shreveport. After checking in at Merryton Inn (it was still raining cats and dogs), we made our way to the Cracker Barrel. Rob was delighted to find Chicken Fried Chicken on the menu. Less excited to find out that they did not serve any beer (our livers thanked them). Nevertheless, Trivia looked after us very well, and was thrilled to meet her first South Africans.
We reached Avery Island amidst more torrential rain (except this time I was driving) and had a wander around the Tabasco Museum, where Bray, our guide told us a little about the picking process, as well as the making process. What gob-smacked me, was that the pulp sits in a barrel for three years! Anyhow on to the Country Shop to commence the tasting!
We returned to the motel to find Aladdin had just started and so spent the next three hours (the Americans love them some ads) watching it before hitting bed.
OFF TAKING A LOAD IVE NS TE EX R AFTER OU E SHOPPING IN TH L AL ST RM FA O SC TABA
WHILE TAKING SHELTER BREAK K IC QU A OK WE TO IVERS DR D GE AND CHAN
DAY 34 STATES VISITED 20/50
ERWIN’S HOME IN DALLAS ABOVE AN D BELOW IN FRONT OF THE FA BULOUS BBQ REST AURANT
Gladys Does Dallas Shreveport (Louisiana) to Dallas (Texas) written by Dane After pushing through to Shreveport last night, we had a relatively short three-hour hop to Dallas today. After some rather confused instructions from Emmy-Lou who was asking us to take an off ramp that no longer existed (not just closed, demolished), we finally made it to Erwin’s house in Dallas. Erwin is a family friend of the Boffards and hospitable enough to put up four weary travellers in his home for two nights. He also managed to include a trip to the local barbecue joint and a guided tour of down-town Dallas including a quick hop on one of the trolleys he drives, albeit driven by someone else at that exact point! We also saw the building that JFK was allegedly shot from, the School Book Depository. All in all a pretty sweet day!
DAY 35 STATES VISITED 21/50
Dallas (Texas) written by Rayne The Texas State Fair is the biggest fair in America and after missing every festival, fair or football game the USA had to offer, we finally cracked the nod. For our South African readers, the Texas State Fair is like the Rand Show, just bigger and better of course! We ate the famous corny dogs (corn meal battered deep fried sausage on a stick) and jumbo turkey smoked turkey legs you carry around like a truncheon. Rob even found deep fried butter! The fair was fantastic and only presses home my belief that the Afrikaans are the long lost brothers of the American farmer. We had an early night watching the Dallas Cowboys get their butts handed to them by the Chicago Bears in the football.
TEXAS STATE FA IR
ICE CREAM THAT IS NOT AN SUPER TASTY G, LE EY RK IT’S A TU
DANE TRYING OU T HIS BASEBALL PITCH
ARGEST” PIG THE WORLD’S “L ER - SOUNDS TT BU D AND FRIE STATE FAIR S LIKE THE TEXA
ANT TRACTORS, GIANT CARS, GI .. EVERYTHING GIANT PICKLES. ERICA IS BIGGER IN AM
DAY 36 STATES VISITED 21/50
Dallas to Amarillo (Texas) written by Rob America loves it some billboards. Seriously, give a Yank a stretch of road, a giant pole and some some aluminium (or aluminum) siding, and they’re as happy as a highway patrolman at a Dunkin Donuts. Problem is, most of the billboards are either so terse that you’re not all that keen - “McDonald’s Exit 1786, 2 Miles Turn Right By Gun Shop” - or offer things so palpably bizarre that you couldn’t ever imagine wanting to try them. My particular favourite was “Fantasy XXX Adult Superstore And Kiddie Coral, Exit 25.” That is, until we started to approach Amarillo and began seeing huge billboards for the Big Texan Steak Ranch, advertising a Free 72 Oz Steak!!! in huge bursts of colour. Free steak, you say? That’s the kind of capitalism I can get behind. But that was later. Before our experience with the steak, we had to drive from Dallas to Amarillo. I say had to, but I was rather looking forward to it. For some reason, I’ve always wanted to drive through West Texas. The state didn’t disappoint: huge skies, flat as a pancake, baking hot. It was an amazing landscape, strangely reminiscent of driving through some parts of South Africa. This was real smalltown America; we drove through several one-light towns, and when we stopped for gas in a tiny hamlet called East Carollton, the gent who rang up the sale was packing heat. We camped outside Amarillo, by the airport. Say what you will about Texas, make as many comments as you like about tyrant Presidents and mad oil barons, but the place does one hell of a spectacular sunset. With beers in hand and desert rabbits hopping just beyond the fence, we felt pretty
darn content. And then of course, there was that steak… But first we had to get there. So we ordered a limousine. Naturally. Whoever decided, at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, to lay on free limo transport for the punters is a genius. There and back, if you please. And not only does the limo come with a driver who turns out to be a massive fan of rodeo, but there’s an actual set of longhorns on the bonnet. No bull. The steak house itself is unbelievable: part carnival, part museum, part restaurant. And before long, steaks the size of small infants were set in front of us, backed up by mountains of sides: slaw, salad, fries, rolls. It was all delicious. The steaks weren’t quite the best we’d ever eaten – that honour still largely goes to the one we ate on our last Spanish adventure – but they were up there. And really, if you go to Texas and don’t stuff your face with an entire cow’s worth of meat, you have failed at life. Ah, I can hear you saying, but why didn’t you go for the free steak? Because there was no way in hell any of us were ever going to manage that particular challenge. 72 Oz is roughly two kilograms. Doesn’t sound too bad, you might think. Two kilos of meat is doable. But can you eat all of it plus a baked potato, salad and rolls? And can you do it in under an hour? Best hope you can, because if not you’re paying $72 for the privilege. And by the way, if you order it, you’re seated on a stage under a massive timer. Good luck.
ED, STUNNING REAL TUMBLE WE OME TO TEXAS LC WE S ET SUNS
BEFORE OUR SOME DOWNTIME PICKED US UP FREE LIMOUSINE
MAFUTA... FLORIDA GAVE US MA-FOOTA US VE GA AMARILLO
EVERYTHING IS BIG IN TEXAS - AND WE DO ME AN EVERYTHING
DAY 37 STATES VISITED 21/50
N THIS THANKS CRAZY MA E FIELD IS AWESOM
written by Nix After the epic steak of last night we had very high hopes for the day. We started off relatively early, and made our way to the Cadillac Ranch. A mad farmer has in fact parked ten Cadillacs bonnet-down in the mud on his farm. We had to see this. It is as trippy as it sounds and pretty epic. If you bring spray paint you are allowed to go wild on any of the Cadillacs. I had my trusty Sharpy! (Thanks to the girls from OfficeTeam - you rock) So for the time being our trip blog address is on one of the Cadillacs for everyone to see. Next we went to Palo Duro Canyon - just wow. It is the second biggest canyon in the world and pretty stunning. We drove down and tried to go horse riding.
for lunch – which wasn’t actually a picnic spot. But we decided to christen it as one. It was overlooking the canyon and I am battling to understand how anything could compare. Challenge accepted - Grand Canyon here we come. After we had tried one last place that did horse rides – the response to our query was: “Weeeell I need to see if Je.. eeesse can saddle the hoooooorses”. Turned out that, no, he couldn’t. Oh well. We went to the ‘preserved”’ bit of Route 66 and had milkshakes and coke floats. All-in-all I was a little disappointed with it; they didn’t even seem to make an effort to preserve it properly. Next we made dinner.
One thing we are encountering is that we are now out-ofseason, which basically means that for horse rides they only do one trip a day now – cue sad-face Nix and Rayne (but we’ve decide to go riding somewhere else - maybe Napa Valley). The trip down the canyon was very scenic, and the layers of rock colours ranged from yellow to everything in between to purple. Just beautiful. We made a few stops in the park. One
It took two hours to get the stove to light: a shield of a Budweiser box, the beer cooler (which is now gone, but more on that later!), the tin coffee cups, three tin plates and eventually we had dinner. Cooking in the howling wind is not for the faint of heart, but at least it tasted good. Cue being rudely awakened by nature’s alarm clock… but I’ll let Dane tell you about that!
RK WE LEFT OUR MA
PALO DURO CANY ON YOU ARE STUN NING CUE TOURISTY PH OTO-OP
OF A AT THE BOTTOM WHAT’S RED AND URSE CO OF , RE AT HE PHIT CANYON...AN AM
TEXAS WAS A LE T-DOWN IN PRESERVING ROUT E 66
E TRIP YCHO BIT OF TH THIS WAS THE PS
GALE HOW TO COOK IN FORCE WINDS
DAY 38 STATES VISITED 21/50
Amarillo (Texas) to Denver (Colorado) written by Dane There is an ancient Chinese proverb that goes: “When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills.” Well let me tell you, we didn’t build, we bolted. Just before bed on Day 37, I said to Rayne, oh look, the iPhone weather app (notoriously bad for those of you unfamiliar with it) says that tomorrow may be a bit windy. Seeing that it had been a bit breezy that day, I thought it might mean a slightly stiffer breeze to deal with the next morning. Now I may have mentioned this to you before, but when America does weather, they do it superlatively. I may have temporarily forgotten that, and went to sleep with our tent walls flapping in the breeze. At 4am on Day 38, Rayne and I were rudely awakened by our tent and the wind having what I could only assume was a fight that our tent was losing. Having seen Nicole and Rob pegging in their fly sheet (I think that’s what you call the rain sheet thingy that goes on the top) the previous day, I said to Rayne, “Well let me go to the car and get our spare tent pegs and we can secure this damn tent”. I hopped out of the tent in my shoes, boxers and t-shirt into a maelstrom of destruction. Nob’s tent was in a lot worse shape then ours, with one side nearly horizontal. I ran over and shouted over the wind to see if they were awake (obviously, looking back on it there was no way they wouldn’t have been given that the side of the tent would have been in their faces). Anyway, I helped pull their tent upright and we decided it
was time to get the hell out of dodge. Whilst holding up Nob’s tent as they did a quick recovery mission of all their stuff, Rayne was left to her own devices in our tent which was faring better at that point. One could only imagine what was running through her head but at some point she decided to get up and open all the window flaps to allow the air to go through the tent instead of pushing against it. Those people who attended boarding school will be familiar with the concept of ‘flipping’ but for those of you who didn’t, the basic premise is that a bunch of seniors wait until some unsuspecting junior falls asleep and essentially flip his mattress whilst he is on it, so that he awakes with a crash onto the base of his bed with his mattress on top of him. The difference was that Rayne was awake and the wind was the seniors. It actually flipped the tent (double blow-up mattress included) onto Rayne. As you can imagine, packing up a camp-site in a howling gale was not easy and one of my overriding memories of this trip will be lifting up our chopping board to clear the table and watching one of our Tupperwares flying off into the distance. And you thought Usain was fast. Nearly two hours later, we had packed the camp-site and ourselves into the car, with everyone unharmed and only a few missing Tupperware to show for our ordeal and headed to Waffle House for a well earned breakfast and cup of coffee. Both will go down as one of the finest I have ever had and
thank god for American consumerism that allows for 24-hour breakfast joints. Rayne drove the first shift out of Amarillo and into the dawn (it only gets light at half past seven here) and I took over from her and got one of the drives of the trip so far across the border to New Mexico, through the grasslands and into the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado. It was amazing. The rest of the day passed relatively uneventfully and after stopping at another outlet mall, this time to stock up on winter gear as it was a bit cold when we had woken up, we arrived in Denver and were welcomed by Tate and Amy. Unfortunately Amy had to shoot off for a weekend in Florida, but Tate cooked us a very tasty home-cooked meal and gave us a warm room to sleep in (both very welcome at this point) and given that we had crossed over a time zone and had woken up at 3am, Denver-time, by 11pm we all dead to the world.
ANCIENT CHINESE PROVERB WHEN THE WIND OF CHANGE BLOWS, SOME PEOPLE BUILD WALLS, OTHERS BUILD WINDMILLS.
LUNCH A QUICK SPOT OF
A SCENIC PULLOU T FOR A QUICK BREAK AND DRIV ER SWITCH
FOUR WEARY TRAV ELLERS
DAY 39 STATES VISITED 23/50
CAPTION THIS IS NOT A STATE BOX. IT IS THE OF WYOMING
Denver (Colorado) to Cheyenne (Wyoming) written by Rayne We slept well last night. We had four walls and climate control. It was bliss! To coincide with our arrival, Denver had an over night twenty-degree drop in temperature. We woke up to a light dusting of snow which had fallen during the night. We did not mind though, as Tate treated us to the best cooked breakfast you are ever likely to find - whole wheat pancakes, omelettes and sausages. A super huge thank you to Tate and Amy! We got a very late start today and hit the road at 3pm and headed north on the I 25 to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We have realized that in taking the journey north we are going to need to get some winter gear. For this, we headed to our favourite place on earth - Walmart. We now own coats, jumpers, scarves, hats, gloves and base layers- Montana here we come. This all came to about £30 each- bargain! I write this from inside a super warm log cabin (think Wendy house) on the great plains of Wyoming. It’s currently -1 outside. Tomorrow the journey north continues.
DANE’S SEXY NE W SLEEP PANTS - BUT THEY WERE TOASTY
DAY 40 STATES VISITED 24/50
Cheyenne to Sheridan (Wyoming) written by Rob We went bowling last night. In small town Wyoming. If there’s a better way to see the locals in their natural habitat than at a bowling alley (that serves beer) then I don’t know what it is. To be fair, we didn’t do it just to go Americanspotting. We did it because we wanted to go bowling. Plus, it was right by our motel anyway. We all have our own styles. Nix is either dead-on down the centre into strike territory, or total gutterball, and there’s no real way of telling which one she’s going to pull out the box. Dane prefers to just hurl the ball down the lane as hard as he can and hope he hits something. Rayne seems to prefer a slightly more nuanced technique; her balls seem to curve back in, turning gutterballs into strikes. I prefer the full-body method of bowling, which generally means propelling my entire body into the air and using my flailing limbs to launch the ball at the pins. It works. Sort of. Sometimes. Although it gets a lot better after I’ve had a few. We were in Sheridan, a tiny town near the northern border of Wyoming. When we woke up in our cabin in Cheyenne this morning, down by the Colorado border, it was snowing. Not sprinkles either: full-on snow. Luna was buried, and the world was white. The walk to the bathrooms was interesting. We had gone from tropical heat and mosquitoes in the Keys to snowstorm weather in Wyoming. And in this case, we really can Blame Canada: a cold front sweeping down from
the north had turned most of the upper states into an ice block. So on we drove – carefully. Our intention was to continue north, but first, we had an errand to run. Nix wanted a hat. And not just any hat. The best damn tootin’ cowboy hat in the world. So we found Wranglers in Cheyenne, a store selling cowboy stuff. After much trying on of Stetsons, she settled on a rather nifty black Navarro hat, made by a company called Renegade. Shortly thereafter, she threatened to rename herself Calamity Nix, buy a ranch in Wyoming and perfect her shotgun aim. This has me worried. Every time we think we’ve found the most beautiful state, another comes along to whack it into second place. I thought New Mexico was one of the most desolate and beautiful places I’d seen, but Wyoming is on another level. Huge plains stretch to the horizon, running up to giant, snow-peaked mountains under a huge sky. And it’s empty. We drove hundreds of miles and only rarely caught sight of a building. At times, we had the entire road to ourselves. Which was just as well, given my tendency to daydream and come back to find everyone in the car screaming at me, with good reason, to get out of the oncoming lane. We stopped for lunch in Douglas, a tiny town somewhere between the middle of nowhere and sod-all. The café we chose had been in operation for thirty-one years, twentyfour hours a day, and looked it. It was an odd place: the
THE GREATEST BR EAKFAST SNACK EVER INVENTED, A CI NNABON, AND NA TURALLY TWICE THE SIZE AS WE'RE IN TH E STATES
owners seemed to have carted in every notable bit of architecture from the town and shoved it into the building. The fireplace was from the 1915 office of the Sheriff. The doors came from the old post office. That sort of thing. The owner was a friendly sort, and after lunch she insisted on showing Nix and me the attached ice cream parlour (of course). At one point in the conversation, she proudly proclaimed that Douglas was the home of the Jackalope. “And a Jackalope is?” I asked politely. “A horned rabbit,” she beamed. “A -“ ” - horned rabbit. Here’s a postcard with a photo.” She passed one over. It was indeed a rabbit. With a miniature set of antlers. It was almost certainly a fake, but if so, the hoaxer was particularly dedicated. Still, if nothing else, it provided a little exclamation point to lunch, and also gave us a little insight on what passes for local lore and mental illness in rural Wyoming.
THE JACKALOPE A CREATURE WITH THE BODY OF A RABBIT AND A SET OF ANTLERS, AND THE ABILITY TO IMITATE THE HUMAN VOICE. THE FIRST WHITE MAN TO SEE A JACKALOPE WAS TRAPPER ROY BALL IN 1829.
FINALLY A HAT
DAY 41 STATES VISITED 24/50
Sheridan (Wyoming) to Bozeman (Montana) written by Nix
WELCOME TO BIG SKY COUNTRY, CO MES WITH CLOUDS AN D MICRO-BREWER IES
After a clear sky dawned much to our delight, we made tracks to Bozeman. Rayne got the first shift of an incredibly picturesque drive (for the passengers anyway). For lunch we stopped at a salad bar in Billings for a much needed not-deep-fried meal. Thereafter Dane took over what was an incredibly stunning drive for the passengers and for the driver a test of manhood to keep the car on the road (gusting winds made his drive challenging – especially when it was coming from all sides of the car). Montana is simply one of the most beautiful places we’ve been, and strip-mall-hell seems to be left behind for the most part. We finally discovered small town America (sort of) in Bozeman. We checked into a motel and, after getting some advice from Dane’s mate Mark, we set off to the 3 Bar BBQ and Outlaw Brewery. What a magic find. It is hidden off road, next to a train track. We had found Dane’s Mecca. Thanks Hunter Lacey, you did indirectly educate us about beer, and what beer it was. After a couple of pints and an delicious BBQ family dinner (a smoked chicken, a giant plate of pulled-pork, three brats [bratwurst], mac-and-cheese, coleslaw, and potato salad and finally a loaf of toasted bread) – we were ticked – we made our way through Main Street and then home. It is after all Sunday. We also needed to get up relatively early for our Montana day out tomorrow. So an early night in was just the ticket.
D ALL MOTEL - SIGN AN OUR FIRST REAL
DAY 42 STATES VISITED 25/50
Bozeman (Montana) written by Dane Today we ate Bison. We did some other things too, which I will get to, but let’s start with the Bison. It was so good. Like a slightly peppery, gamey, super tasty beef. We saw something on the menu called Bison Potstickers and after a brief explanation from the waitress as to what they were (like mini Bison pies) decided to order those as a tasting experience for the table. After demolishing them in record speed time, we promptly all changed our main course order to something made of the big beast. Did I mention it was yum? So what else did we do you may be wondering. Well after a superb breakfast at Nova we headed to a Grizzly Bear sanctuary that was set-up and run by a couple who wanted to stop bears that were born into bad situations (circuses and things) being killed after their usefulness had come to an end. We spent an amazing couple of hours talking to the owner, learning about bears and American wildlife in general, all whilst watching the grizzlies at play. First up it was Lucy (who is to small to be allowed with the other bears) and then it was Jake and Maggie’s turn. Jake and Maggie’s were six years old (bears stop growing at age ten) and Jake was already 7ft and 780lbs (in metric - f***ing big). They are phenomenal animals and the time spent at the sanctuary will definitely stand out in my memory. The next activity will stick in my memory for all the wrong reasons. In fact, it may even impact on my future
offspring negatively. For the readers out there that even vaguely know me, the fact that I even attempted the next thing will be a massive surprise. We went on a horse ride through legitimate cowboy country. Being the novice that I am on horseback, I can’t say I was hugely impressed with the others when they decided that it would be a fun thing to do. Especially given that it was a two hour ride. However, when our guide, Alex, introduced us… to our horses at a thousand words a minute, it was difficult not to be a little bit excited to ride my horse, Bandit, through said cowboy country. To help you picture the scene, we literally went riding through the river that they filmed the movie, A River Runs Through It, on. All was going well as we walked along the banks and through the woods but it all went a bit pear-shaped when we came to a section of open land and Alex decided it would be a great idea to go for a trot. Her explanation was priceless: “It’s a 1-2 up-down rhythm. Okay folks off we go.” Let’s just say you might notice a new found squeak to my voice the next time we speak. However, after all that it was definitely an experience worth doing and I actually found myself thinking about learning to not hurt myself every time I am on a horse…
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT GRIZZLY BEARS THEY ARE FRIEND LY UP UNTIL TH YOU HAVE BACON E POINT AND THEY TRY AN D EAT YOU
I’M ON A HORSE!
E OF WATER AS TH THE SAME BODY IN ' IT OP OGH OT OU PH TH A RUNS FILM 'A RIVER
THE WORLD'S LA RGEST ACTIVE VO LCANO
DAY 43 STATES VISITED 25/50
Bozeman (Montana) to Yellowstone National Park written by Rayne Yellowstone National Park is simply outstanding! We entered the park through the north gate and spent the next six hours being utterly amazed by the park’s beauty, and what a crazy beauty it is. The park is situated on top of a super volcano which provides for the most dramatic landscapes imaginable. One moment you are driving through thick lodge pole forests, the next you are confronted with a plunging canyon. The rivers boil here. Yes, literally, they boil. Hot water escaping from the earth’s crust rises up in turquoise pools, royal blue rivers, mud holes and geysers. The forests at times appear to be on fire as great plumes of steam from these geysers wind their way up above the tree tops. There was scarcely a moment that our jaws weren’t off the floor. In addition to the beauty of the park there are herds of wild bison, elk,
mule deer, prong horns and apparently there are noose, but sadly they eluded us. Again. Today we had planned to reach the southern border of Yellowstone, exit into the Grand Teton National Park and make our way to the town of Jackson in Jackson Hole, but we simply could not bring ourselves to leave the park. We parked up for twenty minutes just to watch a bison graze and our decision was made. We wound our way to the west gate and in the golden light of sunset we watched Old Faithful erupt! It is an experience that will stay with me forever and a highlight of this journey. We spent the night at West Yellowstone at the Brandin’ Iron Inn at 7800 feet and zero degrees Celsius. Tomorrow the south of the park awaits.
NYON YELLOWSTONE CA
BISON. READ TEDDY BEAR
OLD FAITHFUL KABOOM
DAY 44 STATES VISITED 25/50
Through Yellowstone to Jackson (Wyoming) written by Rob Still no moose. And now it’s serious; we’ve passed through the last place we’re actually likely to see any meese. Yellowstone this morning was just outstanding - we had it in bright, crisp sunshine - but there wasn’t a single moose. We saw pronghorn deer, chipmunks, elk. There are 4500 bison in the park, and we saw every single one of them. But not a single moose.
Yellowstone is a caldera, the bowl of an enormous dormant volcano. Don’t look for the bowl, because if you’re in the park, you’re standing in it. It’s huge, and it’s overdue for an eruption by about 60,000 years. If you’re in North America and it erupts, you will die. It’s as simple as that. If you’re not in North America, you’ll still die, but you’ll get to think about it first.
What we had instead was geysers. Lots of them. From the gently steaming Grand Prismatic Pool to the bubbling Fountain Paint Pots, we got the full show. It was glorious, one of the most amazing things we’ve done on this trip. One of the things no one tells you about Yellowstone is that these geysers are everywhere you look, not just a few tucked away. And it leaves you in no doubt that you are on top of a hotbed, so to speak, of volcanic activity.
On that cheery note, onwards to the Tetons (impressive and imposing, but their park is no Yellowstone) and thence to Jackson. Visiting a ski town in autumn seems like a fail, but the town is pretty enough, and soon we were drinking beer at the Silver Dollar bar, where the bar is inlaid with genuine silver dollars. No fooling. We also drunk Moose Drool. It’s a good beer. You should totally try it.
BACTERIA - COLO URS! THEY’RE ALL AROUND US
THE SILVER DOLLAR BAR THE WORT HOTEL’S FAMOUS SILVER DOLLAR BAR. KNOWN FOR THE 2,032 UNCIRCULATED 1921 MORGAN SILVER DOLLARS INLAYED IN ITS SURFACE. THE MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR IS ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS AND MOST HIGHLY COLLECTED U.S. COINS OF ALL TIME. THESE LARGE SILVER COINS ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR VALUE, QUALITY OF STRIKE, DESIGN, AND BEAUTY.
FIRE! NO, NOT REALLY
BISON: TASTY AND NUTRITIOUS
ST PROBABLY THE MO JUST STUNNING, ES AT ST E TH IN E BEAUTIFUL PLAC
THE GRAND TETO NS
AR BAR THE SILVER DOLL MOOSE DROOL AT
UDED FED BEAVER INCL JUST ODD - STUF
STUNNING VIEWS IN UTAH
DAY 45 STATES VISITED 25/50
A long drive from Jackson (Wyoming) to Green River (Utah) written by Nix Today we awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed, and after some blue-berry pancakes (cooked expertly by Dane) and some coffee we hit the road. Yesterday we made the decision to drive eight hours and see how close we could get to Moab in order to have enough time to see the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. That turned out to be Green River. On the way we passed incredible scenery. Rayne took first shift through the sleeping ski-resorts and lifts. And when Dane took over he commented, about twenty min into his shift: “Just when you think the scenery is starting to get boring Wyoming throws this at us!” He was referring, of course, to rounding a corner on the highway and being greeted with a stunning, gigantic lake.
Later along very different surroundings (Dane still driving) we passed a very enthusiastic, but not very big dust devil. We stopped at the Bear State National Park rest area for lunch – chicken mayonnaise sandwiches… deeee-licious. I took over and passed into Utah – that is all. Rob’s shift was a lot more dramatic through sweeping canyons and finally about forty minutes from Green River a massive plain banked both sides by huge multi-layered mountains. This was at sunset – truly beautiful. Now we are sitting in our KOA camp-ground listening to the dulcet sounds of the highway, railway and passing coyotes while we wait for dinner. Right our steaks are ready so I’m going to sign-off. Good Night Utah.
NEXT ?!? WEEPING CLOUDS
DAY 46 STATES VISITED 26/50
Utah Desert (Green River) to Moab written by Dane Today we woke up in the desert. It was raining. We went to grab our free coffee at the camp-site and got chatting with the dude running the place and he informed us that it rains maybe 5 or 6 times a year. I am really beginning to get paranoid that this weather is chasing us. So on we proceeded to Moab. Pronounced Mo-ab in case you were wondering. We were incorrectly calling it Mobe. Anyways upon arrival in Moab we were greeted with more rain and hailstorms and the camp-site owner advised us that , “Tonight is one of five nights a year I wouldn’t recommend camping”. So we took his advice and headed to a very expensive motel down the road. After checking in, we turned our attention to the reason that brought us to Moab in the first place, Arches National Park. Now you may not have heard about this park but I guarantee you have seen pictures of it or seen it in the movies. Does anybody remember the opening scene of Mission Impossible 2? Where Tom Cruise was climbing the rock? Well it wasn’t that one. But it was down the road and the landscape was the same as that. Our streak of each successive state managing to blow us away continued. The national park provided lots of interesting shapes of rocks for us to view, my personal favourite was the fifty foot rock penis that provided me with about twenty minutes worth of puerile amusement.
SO HOW OFTEN DO ES IT RAIN IN THE DESERT - 5 TO 6 TIMES A YEAR... MAYB E IF WE VISITED MORE IT WOULDN'T BE A DESERT
However, the feature that Arches is best known for is the ‘Delicate Arch’ (I know, shocking really). And you will have definitely seen that. Now what they don’t tell you is that the arch is only accessible by a hike. Now having visited Yellowstone, where a ‘two hour hike’ is literally a nice 1.5km walk on a wooden path that might vaguely be uphill, we were expecting the same at Arches. However, when we got into the park we soon discovered that although the walk is fairly short to the Delicate Arch, it is indeed a hike. Initially it didn’t even look like we would be able to do the walk as the rangers had told us that it was closed due to flooding as obviously the desert is not accustomed to all this wet stuff falling from the sky that we brought with us. However, there seemed to be a break in the weather and we headed to the parking lot of the trail to the arch. Seeing that it was reasonably full and people seemed to be heading back from the trail. We thought that since we had driven forever the previous day to be here, we should at least attempt the hike. So we grabbed our water bottles and started the five kilometre round trip. It turns out they really did mean ‘hike’, and up the top of the mountain we were all slightly out of breath due to the altitude and exertion and we still couldn’t see this bloody arch. So we kept walking and eventually came to what looked like a pavement carved into the side of a mountain. So we followed that to the end of the rainbow.
EXISTENCE BEST SHAKES IN
! HAD TO BE DONE
GLOWING RED RO CKS - YOU HAVE TO SEE IT TO BE LIEVE IT
LARGER CH - A LOT LOT THE DELICATE AR PATED THAN WE ANTICI
WATER, ICE, EXTREME TEMPERATURES, AND UND ERGROUND SALT MOVEMENT ARE RESPONSIB LE FOR THE SCULPTED ROCK SCENERY
FROM THE RANGE IN SIZE LOGUED ARCHES TA 306 FEET CA 0 OF 00 T 2, ES NG ER OV ENING TO THE LO OP OT FO 3 A SMALLEST AT
DAY 47 STATES VISITED 26/50
Moab (Utah) to the Grand Canyon (Arizona) written by Rayne We left Moab this morning, in the sunshine, clutching our take-away coffees from the Wicked Brew Coffee Company, which was essentially a shack on the side of the road with a drive up window. Who needs Starbucks anyway? Today we headed for Arizona and the Grand Canyon. But first, we needed to drive through the Utah desert and the Navajo Reservation. I was on Nav duty and some twenty miles before we crossed into Arizona I noticed a demarcation on the Atlas, which read Monument Valley. Up until this point I had been utterly certain that this stretch of red rocks was not on our itinerary. And yet, here they were laid out in front of us. Whilst you may not recognise the name of this valley, you will surely have seen photographs of it. Needless to say, I was so excited by this lucky coincidence, we pulled off the road and, after balancing Robâ€™s camera on the roof of the car, we got the shot.
After that we put foot to the East entrance of the Grand Canyon at Desert View. Today we were in a rush, simply because the National Parkâ€™s Website said that camping in the park is only on a first come, first served basis and between March and mid-November it is not uncommon for all three hundred camp-sites at Mather Point to be sold out. We have been staying in motels since Cheyenne and have not used any of our camping gear since that fateful morning in Amarillo, we missed camping and our budget sorely needed a cheap night and at $18 a night, we HAD to camp in Grand Canyon. So we missed lunch, and very hungry and tired, we got our first view of the Canyon. And what a view it was! You will also be happy to know that even though we rolled into the camp-ground at 3.30pm, we got a site in this stunning camp-ground right next to Aaron from Ohio, a fellow traveller.
THE NAME "MEXIC AN HAT" COMES FROM A CURIOUSLY SO MBRERO-SHAPED, 60 FOOT WIDE BY 12 FOOT THICK, RO OUTCROPPING,TH CK E "HAT" HAS TW O ROCK CLIMBING ROUTES ASCENDING IT
, TALK ABOUT MONUMENT VALLEY ED DISCOVERY CT PE EX UN AN
OUR FIRST VIEW OF THE GRAND CANY ON
DAY 48 STATES VISITED 27/50
Grand Canyon (Arizona)
MILES LONG, ON: 277 RIVER THE GRAND CANY LE DEEP... MI WIDE, AND A RGE UP TO 18 MILES IT IS QUITE LA
written by Rob I’m running out of superlatives to describe America. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve mouthed the words unreal, incredible, amazing or insane. I feel as if I need to place an online classified ad: Adjectives wanted. Good price offered. Please send samples. Dane suggested that rather than plumb the depths of my rapidly diminishing word bank, I start substituting asterisks for words, and invite people to insert their own. So let’s try it out: the Grand Canyon is ***. No really, it is. Genuinely ***, with perhaps a little * thrown in for good measure. Every time I look at it from our position on the South Rim, my mind does a little backflip. You know when a TV shifts from normal picture aspect to widescreen? It’s a bit like that, only with wobbly edges as my mind struggles to catch up to the fact that my eyes are trying to take in the biggest thing they have ever seen, anywhere. We got this slammed home this afternoon. We had had a leisurely morning, with ace eggs and bacon cooked by Rayne, and then went up to the east of the canyon rim to attempt a short walk along it. ***, and ***. Holy ****. Problem was, by the time we got to Mather Point, the main
tourist area, we were a little over the canyon. The thing is so damned enormous that to meaningfully change your viewpoint, you have to drive or hike for hours. It’s get a little samey, impressive as it is. To give you an example, the Sky Walk – the clear-glass-floor walkway that extends out into the canyon – is over 250 miles from where we are. Not to mention $50 a person, so that’s not going to happen. So after we watched the sunset on the canyon edge, we headed back to camp and drank a lot of beer. This too was ****. Two further addenda. Firstly, we made a friend today: an elk. He spent some time chilling by our camp-site as we ate breakfast, quite unperturbed. We only spotted him because Nix thought she saw a horse through the trees. He appeared in close-up later, as we drove back to the canyon for the sunset. Just outstanding. Secondly, our equipment is starting to fail us. Not only have both of our mattresses developed leaks, but our little coffee stove has developed impotence, meaning it takes an hour to get coffee. And as insult to injury, Nix and I managed to destroy our beer container. The less said about that the better, except: don’t ever shop at Walmart.
AROUND JUST GET OUR HEADS WE STRUGGLED TO ACTUALLY IS ON AND CANY HOW VAST THE GR
THE GRAND CANY ON REVEALS A BE AUTIFUL SEQUEN OF ROCK LAYERS CE THAT AREN'T HI DDEN BY VEGETA TION
la s vega s
-LOU WE THANK YOU EMMY A ROAD 'S IT CAN TELL
DAY 49 STATES VISITED 27/50
Grand Canyon (Arizona) to Vegas (Nevada) written by Nix Thanks Grand Canyon, you were impressive. But now, after much natural delight we feel that we need some light input. Hello Vegas. But first, the drive to our illuminated destination. We left the Grand Canyon after breakfast with our lovely camp neighbour - Aaron. The four hours to Vegas wouldn’t take too long so, I must admit, we dithered. The drive itself was beautiful and again America didn’t disappoint. We drove out of the Grand Canyon and on to the Kaibob National Forest, but unfortunately the meese were once again scarce. The forest was pretty, and we’re now resigned to the fact that moose are possibly fables. By the way Rayne was a hero and spotted a sign to a preserved part of Route 66. This is what I had expected from Amarillo! Basically a whole town had been kept from this historic time period. We found the Roadkill Grill, and although we didn’t eat there, it was nice to realise that this wasn’t like the fabled moose, it really existed. We did however go to Snow Cap Café for a burger and
milkshake (the KOA book of awesome led us to this gem). Taaaasty! Then we jumped back into the car and made for Vegas. On the way making a short drive by of the Hoover Dam. I must admit, it was a wholly underwhelming experience. Now I’m told that the confusing layout of Vegas is to keep you trapped there so that you gamble. All it incited us to do was grit our teeth in frustration - because all we wanted to do at that point was check in! The MGM Grand is overwhelming, to say the leas,t and Vegas is best described as bat-shit-crazy! But our first night there was pretty chilled, although we did try to make it into one of the clubs. This turned out to be mediocre; I think we chose the wrong one. But to be honest after our rather epic day we’re ready for bed and would give it our all another day. Thanks Vegas you are nuts, but you have provided our much needed flashing lights fix after the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon and other parks we’ve visited our the past few days.
. CUNNING PLAN.. WE NOW HAVE A EAT TO SA TO N SO OF BI IMPORT A HERD
HOOVER DAM, IT S CONSTRUCTION WAS THE RESULT EFFORT INVOLVIN OF A MASSIVE G THOUSANDS OF WORKERS, AND CO HUNDRED LIVES. ST OVER ONE .. IT WAS ALSO A LITTLE DISAPP OINTING THE MOUNTAIN MAN IS GONE
la s vega s
DAY 50 STATES VISITED 28/50
Las Vegas (Nevada) written by Dane What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Well, apart from the pics! VEGAS: THE CITY DESIGNED TO CONFUSE, BAFFLE AND AMAZE
RTH A PICTURE IS WO S A THOUSAND WORD
la s vega s
DAY 51 STATES VISITED 28/50
Las Vegas MGM Grand to Excalibur (Nevada) written by Rayne
MAKING THE MOST OF OUR EXTRA DAY IN VE GAS
We decided another day in Vegas was required. However, our budget could not stretch to the Grand for another night so we relocated to Excalibur Hotel and Casino just across the road. This hotel had been recommended to us by Aaron from Ohio, our Grand Canyon mate who has also told us about Priceline which is America’s version of Last Minute. Nicole valiantly offered to go fetch the car after we checked out, so we carried our bags to the hotel’s bustling valet parking and taxi drop off point where we waited forty minutes, whilst being eye balled by bellhops and the hotel’s unimpressed looking concierge. Turns out you can get monumentally lost on a one was system in the desert. You should have seen the concierge’s face when we blocked a taxi though road with our dusty mini van and unpacked our laundry bags and portable braai. Clearly this is not how things are done at the MGM Grand! But eventually we managed to get us, the car and our bags across the road to our new and cheap hotel on the strip. We spent the day lounging by the pool, watching movies and hunting down the bars where we could cash in our free drinks vouchers the hotel gave us. Tip for Vegas - use your vouchers, there is no shame in being cheap. Also just because your hotel room costs $120 a night does not mean it will be nice! Back on the road tomorrow- Death Valley awaits.
THE IT IS AMAZING RE HE RY XU LU OF VARIETY
la s vega s
AMARGOSA OPERA HOUSE AND HOTE L IS A HISTORIC BUIL DING LOCATED IN DEATH VALLEY JU NCTION, RESIDE NT ARTIST MARTA BE CKET DANCED TH ERE UNTIL HER FINA L SHOW IN FEBR UARY 2012 - SHE ALSO PAINTED HERSEL F AN AUDIENCE... CREEPY
STATES VISITED 28/50
Death Valley (California)
.. DO THEY SIGN IS SO LOW. WONDER WHY THE G MIDGETS? IN ER ND WITH WA HAVE PROBLEMS
written by Rob We left Vegas early, with the intention to cross Death Valley in California, then make our way up to Sequoia National Park. Things got a little weird. We didn’t intend to stop for lunch where we did, but the town of Death Valley Junction was conveniently placed just outside the park, and we were seriously in need of a sandwich. It was the strangest, saddest town we’d ever seen. There was nothing there beyond a few decrepit buildings and a café selling burnt grilled cheese sandwiches. The town’s population was listed as 10, but the waitress told us that it currently sits at 4. That’s not a misprint. Earlier, we’d passed through Daniel, Wyoming (pop. 110) but this made it seem bustling and urbane by comparison. It was eerie. I stepped behind some sagebrush for a pee, and the silence was total. Well, aside from the sound of me peeing, of course. And it was hot - the weather, that is, not my pee. But that isn’t even the weird bit. One of the residents is a woman named Marta Becker. She’s a famed dancer and
artist, quite elderly now. Some time ago, she got fed up with big city life and moved to Death Valley Junction, where she built an opera house and stage to perform on. Because there were no audiences to see her (the waitress explained) she painted murals of people onto the walls of the building. We went in. It was one of the creepiest, saddest things I have ever seen. And this is before we reached Death Valley, which is extraordinary. It is not an environment you want to mess about with. It hits 43 Celsius in summer, and today it hit 37. Even a short walk up a sand dune left me panting for water. But the landscape was immense, a mix of rock formations, mountains and scorching salt plains. As Nix put it, the first person to ride a horse across it must have been terrified. And then there was that little issue about reaching Sequoia. We didn’t. Actually, we can’t. You can’t drive through Sequoia from east to west. There isn’t a road. We did not know this. This makes getting there a bigger pain in the neck than an arrow from a malicious Indian. We have also had to eliminate Lake Tahoe from our itinerary on account
of it being colder than Wyoming and the Grand Canyon combined. We are now in the town of Lone Pine, California, and there’s another little story before I end: our search to find a place to stay. We sought out a camp-ground above the town in the hills, only to discover it lacked any sort of showers - and after a day in the desert, the one thing we needed was a shower. Back in town, we went to the youth hostel, only to be told that the room price was $83.94. For that price I expect free coffee and 320-thread count sheets, so with more than a little interest we asked to see the room. I doubt I would have paid $8 for it, let alone over $80. We declined and started to investigate motels - all of which were just as horrendously priced. Who knew that the nothing town of Lone Pine would be a hotbed of price fixing? Anyway, I don’t know why they bother. There’s not a lot here. Good Chinese restaurant though.
OM NOM LOVING THE DESERT - MI ND YOU HE'S EXCITED AB OUT ANYTHING
Y A WORLD'S WHOO HOO FINALL ING! BIGGEST SOMETH
A BEACH?!? JUST DDLE SMACK IN THE MI OF DEATH VALLEY
THE ROUNDUP (1 920) WAS THE FI DOCUMENTED FILM RST PRODUCED IN LO NE PINE
STATES VISITED 29/50
Lone Pine to Yosemite (California) written by Nix The dawn dawned and we suddenly saw the light – figuratively and literally. Lone Pine is so expensive because there have been 460 movies shot there, including Iron Man, Tremors, Gladiator and many westerns shot in the far backward past. The question was then, where did the famous people stay? The answer, NOT in Lone Pine. But to be honest the grocery store had a small (minute) selection of lunch stuff, and a café for breakfast so we couldn’t complain too much. And only us four could find a movie set in the mountains by mistake. We did not however fill up with gas there - when I want to burn money I’ll go back to Vegas. The Alabama Hills are pretty stunning though, so the drive out to Yosemite was not taxing by any means. Yosemite is really different to what I expected (although I couldn’t tell you what I expected!). There are the cliffs, the lakes the
forests and I don’t really know where to start. We stopped at Tenaya Lake for lunch and were once again stunned into silence by the beauty of our surroundings. After lunch we continued our picturesque journey and arrived at the KOA at Yosemite. Rob and I dashed to the nearby town of Marisota to get some supplies while Dane and Rayne settled us into the camp-site. On the way out, we spotted some wild turkeys…. I have come to the conclusion that they are just really ugly guinea fowls. Ours are better, that is all there to it. Anyhow, for dinner we’re having chicken kebabs, corn and salad. Keen. Tomorrow we’re going to try find us some giant trees - happy face Nix is happy!
ROB ATTEMPTING TO FREEZE OFF HIS TOES
TENAYA LAKE WE ARRIVED AT CUE GOLDEN H NC LU R FO ! STUNNING BY EAGLE SWEEPING
S ONLY THE YELLOW TREE OW IN GR TO AR PE AP VERS RI TH VALLEYS WI
DAY 54 SEQUOIAS CAN GR OW SO CLOSE TO GETHER BECAUSE THEY MA RRY THEIR ROOT SYSTEMS AND SO SHARE NA TURAL RESOURCE S
STATES VISITED 29/50
Yosemite (California) written by Dane Today for the first time, our low fuel warning light came on. This would not normally be such a big issue but given that we were literally in the middle of fuck-off nowhere, up a mountain, in the dark with no pavement to walk on if the car did suddenly stop, it was a bit of a problem. We soon spotted a gas station but to no avail, as it did not have a teller and our cards do not work on the pay-at-pump things. So we plugged the nearest gas station into Emmy-Lou and were reliably (not so much) informed that our nearest gas station was 30miles away. Oh well, we hoped, and off we went. This all came about because we foolishly did not want to pay the Yosemite Park prices for gas ($5.50 per gallon [3.5litres]) - for those of you being ripped off for petrol elsewhere in the world and thinking that’s about normal, normal for us has been about $3.75 per gallon. I should mention that we started our trip into the park with over half a tank and given that we were only planning on doing about seventy miles in the actual park, thought that would be fine.
So it might be worth mentioning here that the 70 miles we had planned to do were to head to the bottom of the park to go see and see the Giant Sequoias (Redwoods). As Rob has previously stated, we are now all out of positive adjectives to describe the natural beauty that America has thrown at us but the Redwoods were special. Giant trees that are taller than the Statue of Liberty and equal to a thirty-story building, thick enough to drive a bus through and older than when Jesus was toddling around Nazareth. Which is pretty mind-blowing anyway you look at it. Oh we also saw pretty cool scenery along the way. So what nearly made us run out petrol was the fact that it took us nearly four hours to do the seventy miles because of a combination of slow speed limits and the fact that we were driving up and down mountains. However, we did make to the thirty-mile-away gas station in the end and then to the supermarket and headed home for some spaghetti bolognese and a cold beer.
GIANT SEQUOIAS GIANT SEQUOIAS ARE THE WORLD’S LARGEST TREES. THEY GROW TO AN AVERAGE HEIGHT OF 50–85M AND 6–8M IN DIAMETER. RECORD TREES HAVE BEEN MEASURED TO BE 94.8M IN HEIGHT AND OVER 17M IN DIAMETER. THE OLDEST KNOWN GIANT SEQUOIA BASED ON RING COUNT IS 3,500 YEARS OLD.
EL CAPITAN, SO NAMED BY THE MA RIPOSA BATTALIO WHEN THEY EXPL N ORED THE VALLEY IN 1851
THE LARGEST SEQUOIA'S ARE KNOWN TO MAN LIVING THINGS
HER HUSBAND OF A WOMAN AND LL TE S S AN DI IN SPLEASED SPIRIT AMERICAN FOUGHT, THE DI NORTH D AN ME WHO ARGUED AND DO LF STONE, THE HA SS THE VALLEY CHANGED THEM IN EACH OTHER ACRO CE FA TO R DOME, FOREVE
NEXT napa valley
DAY 55 JOHN PATCHETT OPENED THE FIRST COMMERCI AL WINERY IN THE COUNTY IN 1859
STATES VISITED 29/50
Yosemite to Napa Valley (California) written by Rayne We have consumed a gargantuan amount of beer on this trip. Sometimes it has been very good beer and gutsy ales, but mostly our booze intake has consisted of the boring, but drinkable Budweiser. Our taste buds needed a holiday from the Buds, so the Napa Valley portion of the trip could not have come sooner.
This last weekend, we were told, had been the harvest weekend where farmers and seasonal labour had worked to get all the grapes in before the first rains of the season came. They had also drunk themselves silly as we were told by the park ranger who had clearly enjoyed herself too. It seems that once again we have missed a party.
We enjoyed a pancake breakfast at our camp-site in Yosemite and headed down the Sierra Nevada mountain range to wine country and the little town of Calistoga. We had planned to stay in Calistoga itself, but the camp-site did not allow tents. This forced us to retrace our steps some four miles, where we pulled up into the Bothe-Valley State Park. It was Sunday night and the parkâ€™s campers had just left to drive home after their weekend stay and so we were left alone in what looked like a fairy tale forest in the autumn sunset.
We set up our tents and headed into town and to the popular Jole, which said it was a tapas style restaurant. Unfortunately no one had told the proprietor or chef what tapas was and a slightly confused mixture of food was served. Donâ€™t get me wrong, it was all impeccably cooked, just out of place and trying too hard. And the end of the meal the sentiment was that the chef needed a trip to Barcelona or Donostia. We headed back to our camp-site and bedded down for the night.
TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING...
NEXT napa valley
DAY 56 STATES VISITED 29/50
Napa Valley (California) written by Rob It rained in the night. For eight hours. We were rather hoping that California would prove to be warm and sunny, but by this point we’ve gotten used to being hopelessly naive and so greeted the very damp morning and our sodden tents with nothing more than a few suppressed sighs. For the record, we’re tired of camping. Sixty days of on and off tenting is no joke. Fortunately we decided to solve our melancholy with the most readily available solution: booze. This being Napa, tastings were on the menu, so after a quick breakfast in St Helena we hit the Mumm Napa vineyard for a champagne tasting. Drinking top-notch bubbly in a gorgeous if somewhat damp setting? Yes please. We followed this with some actual wine at the Twomey vineyard, which was equally awesome. Sadly, your reporter was the designated driver,so he had to content himself with small sips of wine. The road cops in these parts are no joke, either. Nicole and I left Drain in the Silverado Bar and went to nearby Vacaville to meet a friend of mine, Mike Lidskin, for some Mexican food. Hi Mike, if you’re reading this. When we rejoined Drain, they’d made friends - hello Tracey and Quin from San Francisco, and thank you for the recommendations. Also, Quin, sorry if that’s not your name; the bar was very noisy on account of the Giants having just won entry into the World Series, so I may have misheard when you introduced yourself. But thank you for the many rounds of drinks. And that was one hell of a baseball game.
AMENTO TH MIKE IN SACR MEXICAN FOOD WI
CHAMPAGNE TAST ING AND CASTLE TOURING
OOD IN SAN IS A NEIGHBOURH "THE MISSION", HE MISSION "T AS N OW INALLY KN ING TO THE FRANCISCO, ORIG NG LO THE LANDS BE LANDS" MEANING IA MISSION RN FO LI CA TA SIXTH AL
STATES VISITED 29/50
Napa Valley to San Francisco (California) written by Nix After another night of rain, we were happy to be heading into a city. Sleeping with four walls around us sounded like heaven. After trying to dry our tents out for a couple of hours, we gave up and packed them away wet. We made tracks into downtown Napa for a spot of brunch, ending up at an Italian bistro on the waterfront. It was really good, and the walk to find brunch was pretty too. On the drive to San Fran we hit 10 000 miles. Yeah baby! Milestone hit. We were concerned that we might not get there. Upon arriving at the city, we discovered that not only is the West Coast continuing to be exorbitantly expensive, but that the drivers are indeed the maddest we have encountered.
Dane successfully navigates us to a nearby Starbucks so that we can find a place near the airport to stay (thanks Mike, Tracey and Quin for all the advice). After settling in and freshening up, we made our way into the city itself. We arrived in the Mission district and found some amazing Thai food for dinner at Osha. The Mission for the record is really cool - provided you don’t wander further than Valencia Street, one block away it is dodgy! Cue random guy walking up to us spitting and yelling “I’m DEAD” - who the what now? We decided to call it a night since it was going to be a tourism-packed day on the morrow. Good night San Fran you are strange.
GOT TO ALCATRAZ THE CLOSEST WE
STATES VISITED 29/50
San Francisco (California) written by Dane If you want to give children a practical, real world example of why drugs are bad, take them to San Francisco. This example works on two levels - the first is the more visceral which is the random crackheads on each corner harassing door posts or pedestrians with the starved look and crazy eyes. The second takes a while to get used to and is not immediately obvious as it took me a while to realise. I was wondering around, looking at the city thinking that it was like it was designed by someone on acid and then the lightning bolt hit and I realised it probably was. Now Iâ€™m all for quirky but SF has a little too much weirdness to fall into that category. In fact, so much happened in our one full day there that it is very difficult to relate entirely in a blog. So what I have attempted is a real-time gauge of our impressions as the day progressed. San Francisco, you were weird.
ENDLESS ENTERT AINMENT FOR ROB
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS ng Inn on Wednesday morni Wake up in the Vagabond . (right next to the airport) Impression: Neutral
they Station (yes, that’s what Drive to our nearest Bart st lie nd frie ’s rld to ask the wo call their tube). Attempt lf ha a t ge d an directions Bart Station attendant for of San Francisco’s public on ati lan an hour detailed exp ces places to go and the pla transport system and the to avoid. other city is that nice to Impression: Very Good (no tourists)
Do the boat ride with a stereotypical laid back Californian captain cond ucting the tour. See som e seals and a submarine. Do not get any closer to Alcatraz than we did on the pier. Impression: Slightly Po sitive 15:00
Waiting for a bus to tak e us to the Tenderloin dis trict for lunch. Says bus will arr ive in four minutes. Impression: Positive 15:05
No bus, now says bus wil
l arrive in 25 minutes. Impression: Desponden t and Hungry
to the visitors centre. Get into town and head their not linked to the rest of Confusingly, the tube is y da e nt in search of a on transport, so now we we be d decided that it would travelcard. We found it an 4 a person. worth doing (just) at $1 Impression: Expensive 11ISH
arf to get the ferry to Head to Fisherman’s Wh next available sailing to Alcatraz. Find out that the o find out that only one Alcatraz is on Sunday. Als . p people off on the island company can actually dro bly en that the rock is proba Now call me crazy but giv out n, and the boats are sold SF’s most visited attractio uld son. Surely someone sho mid-week in the off sea t ou ab nk thi bly ssi er and po put two and two togeth at cause clearly the one bo buying another boat? Be . every hour is not enough l Off and not inclined to fee sed Pis : on ssi Impre ce positively about the pla 11-14:00
looking for an affordable boat ride. Find one for ten bucks a person and decid e to do it. Impression: Neutral
ille that is the dockside
pv Wander around tourist tra
An open-top tour bus dri ver pulls up next to us an d asks where we are going . Once we have explained the destination, he offers us a ride. Impression: Getting Bette
the tenderloin After lunch, we took a stroll through on and also a Saig le Litt district (which is known as slightly dodgy) is it as id place that most tourists avo to the Hydeded hea we and everything was fine as most touristy nd seco the do Powell cable car (tram) to ding in stan lst whi r, eve thing in San Francisco. How ed by a nad sere e wer we line to jump on the trolley, elli. Boc rea And ing man dressed like Ice T sing Impression: Trippy 17:00
bud) and watched Made it to a bar for happy hour ($3 -nil lead in the the San Francisco Giants take a one watched a very World Series against Detroit. We also tive innings which fat man hit 3 home runs in 3 consecu was pretty cool. Impression: Pretty Cool 20:00
Went to In and Out Burger for dinner. Impression: Over-rated
Once aboard, we asked where we should get off to get to our lunch destination. He told us not to worry as he would drop us off at our destination. Impression: SF’s public transport sucks but the people who run it are awesome . Also, where else in the world would an open-to p tour bus operate as yo ur free private cab?
k from the Waiting in line to get the trolley bac t giant rats. mos lds waterfront and spotted the wor Impression: Dirty 20:42
the hill and told Get kicked off the trolley halfway up to walk up the hill as it was stuck. Impression: Slightly Nervous
Arrive at Saigon Sandwic hes. This was a fantastic recommendation by Qu inn and Tracey and is the most authentic and best Bahn Mi I have ever had. For tho se of you not in the know, a Bahn Mi is the best san dwich known to mankind. It is a result of the French colonisation of Vietnam and it is a combination of a rice flour baguette and Vie tnamese filling. Deliciou s. Impression: Getting Bette r
operating our Standing in the drizzle next to the man er his breath, und ter mut him emergency brakes, I hear e brakes thes as n soo hill “Shit, I hope we get off this . ing” rain do not work when it starts Impression: Scared 21:00
e. Get off trolley and decide to go hom ding for bed Impression: Overwhelmed and hea
WORLD'S SYSTEM IS THE THE CABLE CAR SYSTEM R CA E BL OPERATED CA LAST MANUALLY
FISHERMAN'S WH ARF IS EXACTLY AS TOUR ISTY AS YOU THINK, BUT STIL L VERY NICE
ARE ANY OF YOU FROM SAN FRANSISCO? NO? GOOD, I CAN LIE THEN.. .
la salava beach
DAY 59 STATES VISITED 29/50
San Francisco to La Saleva Beach (California) written by Rayne We had a very sedentary day In comparison to yesterday. We got up, packed, drove to see the Golden Gate Bridge, found parking, looked at the bridge, left San Fran and drove to our camp-site. Tents set up, we walked along the train tracks to a beautiful beach declared a state park. It was beautiful and quiet, just ourselves, some surfers and some seagulls on the hunt for small crabs being washed up on the shore. It was too cold to swim so we headed back to the camp-site, where we spent the afternoon lazing in their super hot hot-tub, drinking beers and watching tiny humming birds drinking nectar. California is bleeding us dry, by the way. We now have under $150 a day to feed, accommodate and entertain the four of us. Due to the Americans being very big on celebrating Halloween, we got charged $ 60 to sent up our tent to night. To give you an idea of how ridiculous that is, a normal site is about half that, so we are skint.
IS DESIGNED TO THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE EARTHQUAKES AND HST WIT TO 8M TO SWAY UP
BEACH ME OUT BY THE TAKING SOME TI
IT WAS LIKE BE ING IN A FILM WALKING DOWN AB ANDONED TRAIN TRACKS
NEXT santa margarita
AMPIONS BREAKFAST OF CH
STATES VISITED 29/50
San Margarita (California) written by Rob As if California couldn’t get any stranger, today it threw a herd of zebras at us. There we were, innocently driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, when all of a sudden there’s a herd of zebras by the side of the road. Not painted horses. Actual zebras. Turned out they were part of the Hearst Castle grounds. Actual castle. It was built by the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who lived in an age where men could build castles and farm zebras and not be thought of as completely bonkers. We didn’t go into the castle. We were having too much fun on the highway. The PCH, or Route 1, is one of the those drives that Jeremy Clarkson rhapsodises about on Top Gear. We left Santa Cruz at midday, heading south through Monterey and Carmel, where Clint Eastwood was recently mayor (and wouldn’t you love to see the crime stats for
that particular town?) We joined the highway soon after, and it was just outstanding. Huge ocean vistas, winding roads, and sea lions. Did I mention the sea lions? There were sea lions. Hundreds of them, lolling on a beach near San Simeon, making insane blubbery noises. They, too, we’re outstanding. Only two things smudged the day’s pretty picture. Firstly, there aren’t any grocery stores in the little enclaves we passed - if you ride Route 1, pack lunch - and secondly, the gas costs $6 a gallon. Six. Dollars. A. Gallon. For comparison, the gas in Montana and Wyoming costs about $3.50. California doesn’t so much take the piss as forcibly remove any and all urine from any equation. After navigating the amazingly confusing roads of San Luis Obispo in search of supper, we are now camped in the hills of Santa Margarita. Today is day sixty of the trip. Jesus Christ on a bicycle.
HEARST CASTLE WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST CREATED THE LARGEST PRIVATE ZOO IN THE WORLD ON HIS RANCH AT SAN SIMEON. THE EVERCHANGING COLLECTION OF ANIMALS WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1923. THE DISMANTLING OF THE ZOO BEGAN IN 1937. HOWEVER MANY OF ANIMALS WERE PERMITTED TO RANGE FREE ON THE RANCH INCLUDING THE ZEBRA. WHICH ARE OFTEN SEEN GRAZING IN THE PASTURES ALONG HIGHWAY 1.
ALS 00 ELEPHANT SE LATION OF 17,0 ME TI ME SA E TH THE ENTIRE POPU E ROOKERY AT IS NEVER IN TH
SPENDING SOME TIME BASKING IN THE SUN, AND SO IN THE VIEW AL AKING ONGSIDE THE PA CIFIC COAST HI GHWAY
FABULOUS STRAWBERRY PANCAKES
E PACIFIC SWIMMING IN TH S: COLD EN IS BY CONS SU
STATES VISITED 29/50
Santa Margarita to Los Angeles (California) written by Nix This morning was the last camping morning we had. Rob made a few delicious strawberry pancakes for breakfast and we watched the deer walk in front of our camp-site. It was really stunning. That being said, thank God for the last day of camping. Ask me in a couple of months/years/decades and maybe I will be willing to camp again, but at this point Dane and I are so over camping it’s unbelievable. On the way we stopped at Santa Barbara for lunch. We had some cold meat sandwiches and lazed on a beach after scoffing them down, it was in a word – chilled! And so nice to finally have some sun to bathe in, even if the water of the Pacific is cosmically cold. The drive to LA was special. Imagine a whole ton of teenagers who want to drive but have not read the rules of the road, on the road - its an interesting experience. Dane got the first shift and me the second, I had the delight of
parking on a freeway. It was an odd incidence. But before we get to the 101 highway in LA, we stopped at an outlet mall. We have all come to the conclusion that Americans never pay full price for anything… and you know what they say: “When in Rome.” Afterwards we made our way to Jules’ house in the Hollywood Hills. It is amazingly complex, on the way to his house and we eventually gave up and went to a nearby restaurant that he recommended to us – Birds. This place was fantastic and there was not one deep-fried thing on the menu. Our bodies rejoiced. Then we made our second excursion into trying to locate Jules’ house. This time we found it. We had more than a few drinks with Jules, and caught up. It was a fun evening. Thanks Jules and Ellen for having us.
DAY 62 STATES VISITED 29/50
Los Angeles (California)
VIES ARE MADE, LEARNING HOW MO FECTS TO CITIES FROM SPECIAL EF
written by Dane So on our second-last day in America, we decided to be actual tourists (as opposed to the gypsies we have been for the previous two months) and stumped up the cash from our personal stash to hit Universal Studios in Hollywood. It must be said here that we probably would have been the cheapos that we have been for the rest of the trip had Jules not strongly recommended it. Also worth mentioning here is what a pleasure it was to wake up in a real honest-togod bricks and mortar house with plumbing, a kitchen and electricity. Oh and did I mention the spectacular views from the Hollywood Hills?
TRANSFORMERS RI DE BAT SHIT CRAZY
Back to Universal. Boy, was it worth blowing our budget for. After the tour around the movie lot complete with Jaws, the King Kong Experience and a few very cool tricks of how movies are made, we headed to the rides. Thy have just opened a new Transformers 3D Ride which was about the coolest ride I have ever been on. If you are ever in LA, just go and do it. After spending the whole day there, we headed back to Julesâ€™ place and cooked him a steak dinner (the least we could do in return for his hospitality) and the night descended into a blur of beer and YouTube. Fun was had by all!
SICAL STAIRS ROB PLAYING MU
STATES VISITED 29/50
Los Angeles (California)... The Final Day written by Rayne Today was the final day of our American adventure. Upon arrival at LAX, our total mileage was recorded at 10,989. Certainly nothing to sneer at, especially when the rental car dealer asked us if we had driven to Australia! Dane and I were sorely tempted to drive around the parking lot to reach 11,000 miles. For those of you not used to dealing in miles, over the past two months we have driven the equivalent of London to Johannesburg and back again! See the photo of the map with our rough route taken! Today we awoke in the Hollywood Hills and whilst Dane and I packed our bags, Rob and Nix drove down the road to donate our beloved camping equipment to a local Blind Childrenâ€™s Charity, who will hopefully find some use for it. Jules, our friend and LA guide, took us to Hollywood
Boulevard to see the infamous Chinese Theatre and Star Walk. We drove home via Sunset Boulevard. And then it was time to say goodbye. Not just to LA and America, but to friends. It is unlikely that Drain and Nob will ever live down the road from one another again. This is where our two paths diverge. Standing on the curb side saying goodbye, brought home the fact that this is the end of an era. The weather also seemed to want to mark the occasion. You may recall our arrival in the USA coincided with a hurricane making landfall and so it was fitting that hurricane Sandy has arrived in time to see us off.
STROLLING ALON G THE WALK OF FA ME
URE END OF AN EPIC ADVENT OUR FINAL PHOTO - THE
NEXT to be planned
TO DRAIN ESPECIALLY
THANK YOU FOR EVERYT HING, THE BITS INBETWEEN, GOOD LUCK AND SEE YOU SO ON.
B TO NO
THE RING WANDE UCH M R O O F O YOU ING T US K N H I T R THANK I US, D ING W H H LE G T B U I I A W CRED S, L GLOBE NG IN ITH U I W E B R E BE AND
PRACTICAL TIPS GHWAYS VIGATING THE HI OUR LIST FOR NA A: THE US AND BYWAYS OF
y for ays. These are necessar 1. Have quarters - alw en d many other am ities. the laundry, showers an p re expensive at the cam 2. Firewood- will be mo the of e sid k along the store. On the drive in, loo will be selling firewood urs bo igh road as nearby ne honesty box system. for less and based on an p ne! Get it when it’s chea 3. You will need propa en it wh sad be l you wil and always have extra as or al me ur yo ing cook runs out halfway through brewing your coffee. it to like coffee and/or need 4. On that note, if you in a percolator and be able to function, Invest . Coffee in the states mini propane camp stove ensive. By making you is generally bad and exp r of money and have bette own, you will save a lot coffee. (and y? So when you buy ice 5. Buy a plastic box. Wh ill ch ly use it to quick you will need to) you can to unpack your cooler g vin your beers without ha box. 6. Get a cooler box. t p-site and it appears tha 7. If you drive into a cam If ! are bly ba they pro people are living there, a garden with garden s, cat ve ha the residents t workshop etc. This is no gnomes or have set up a nt to stay. Leave quickly. somewhere you will wa that camp-site (or motel for 8. Before paying for a ve around to choose a matter) ask to have a dri e close to the restrooms, site, so you can select on playground and away away from the children’s es. from those unsavoury typ
9. Get a KOA card so yo u can get 10% discount every night you stay at a Kamp grounds Of America affiliated camp-ground. 10. If you are going to be visiting more than five national and state parks , invest in a ‘America the Beautiful’ card to get yo u and your party free entry. Most state parks cost about $10, but where you will save is at places like The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Ye llowstone where the entry fee is around $25 for a car. 11. Get a pair of showe r shoes! 12. If you are tenting yo u cannot be certain of a lush green grassy patch to pit ch your tent on. More likely than not you will be camping on mud, dust, beach sand, gravel, aco rns etc invest in a groun d sheet to protect the botto m of your tent. A $4 painters plastic drop she et is all you need. This is when Walmart, Lowes or a Hardware store is your friend. 13. Do not get attached to your ground sheet -it will go quickly. 14. If you are not from the States, it is sometime s difficult to find a real gro cery store and unless you know the name of a particular brand of supermarket, which will vary from state to state, you could end up follow ing your SatNav from ga s station mini store to tea room. Ask at your campsite and, if you are not the re yet, call them! In fact, if you don’t know someth ing and don’t have wifi, just call! There is always someone who will pick up the phone.
TRIP STATISTICS STATES VISITED 29/50 CANADIAN PROVINCES VISITED 2/10 MILES DRIVEN 10,989 MONEY SPENT $22,000 NUMBER OF CARS 2 NUMBER OF SATNAVS 1 NUMBER OF ATLASES USED 3 NUMBER OF WILDLIFE TYPES ENCOUNTERED 7 AVERAGE DAILY BUG BITES ON DANE 20 NUMBER OF COOKING DEVICES 3 NUMBER OF BEER COOLING DEVICES 3 HURRICANES ENCOUNTERED 2 STORMS ENCOUNTERED MANY LAUGHS HAD INNUMERABLE MEMORIES MADE INNUMERABLE
“On such a full sea we are now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” - JULIUS CAESAR, SHAKESPEARE