Well then, Ladies and Gentleman, on with the show. My travelling days have been somewhat curtailed due to a long-term illness.
In order to get some joy out of this exercise, I have decided to reminisce about my road trip across the United States of America by Greyhound bus. Are you sitting comfortably?
It is the summer of 1999, I am 24 years old and have managed to blag 4 months off work so that I can do Camp America. Not bad going as I was working at a Secure Residential Unit for young offenders at the time.
I’d opted to do Camp America as a cheap way of spending a sizeable amount of time away from home. As it turned out, I didn’t spend the weekly allowance I received as camp had everything I needed and so adding this to my meagre savings allowed me to buy a 30-day ‘Ameripass’ – which meant that I could hop on and off the Greyhound as I pleased over that time.
Rather than regale you with endless tales of wonder and excitement (for there were many), I shall endeavour to speak of some of the highlights.
Camp Mendocino, California
Camp Mendocino really was the biggest highlight of the trip. For starters, I had 3 whole months of sunshine. That’s day, after day, after day of bright blue skies and warm air. People of Britain, we can learn much from this!
And the camp itself was a wonder. Located 160 miles north of San Francisco, and nestled in 2,000 acres of beautiful redwood forest in Mendocino County, midway between Willits and Fort Bragg, I couldn’t have dreamed the landscape if I wanted to.
The Noyo River runs through the property and was used for swimming and boating. Then there was the challenge course (including climbing wall, ropes course and 600-foot zip line), hiking trails, remote camping sites, arts and crafts centre, bears, racoons and all manner of things that the inner city kids did not know what to do with on their arrival.
On my second morning, I was called to see the Director: who explained that one of the staff members had cancelled last minute and would I be up for handling the “Chippewa Tribe”? And thus began my adventures of managing 7 members of staff (aged 14 years to mid 30s) and up to 40 boy-children (aged 5-10 years) from the San Francisco Bay area.
Unforgettable experiences include:
- Having a 6 year old tell me to “Go suck your mother” in a grammatically correct sentence.
- Going into Fort Bragg on my first day off to escape the hordes of children and returning with a tattoo.
- Meeting a real life, living, breathing, motorcycle-riding Amazon.
Had I been able to control my muscles when we met (the delicious shock was just too much for my system), I would have dropped to my knees and worshipped. That, was one huge TICK on my fantasy wish-list.
- Said Amazon taking me to San Francisco Pride on our weekend off.
Now, I don’t do Pride because it’s never really interested me but hey; when your walking fantasy invites you someplace, it’s rude to refuse, right? So I went: and oh, my …
San Francisco, California
When camp was done, I headed back into San Francisco with friends I’d made; and Margo gave me a tour of the city as only a local can.
Those few days contain a multitude of ‘firsts’ and many diary-worthy moments – only I was too busy experiencing them to leave any written record (which is probably a good thing).
Unforgettable experiences include:
- Racing the streets at night in a BMW Z3 convertible: top down, afro blowing in the wind and thinking “I want me one of these!”
- Talking an ‘exotic dancer’ into performing the famed “Pussy Snatch”.
This has to be seen to be believed! and it took Da-veed a couple of days to recover from, as we’d talked him into being the prop for the act.
Eureka, Humboldt County,California
A friend I’d made at camp invited me to Arcata to experience her home town.
I arrived to find that she had purchased tickets to see Lynyrd Skynyrd as they were in the neighbourhood at the same time (God bless you, Jaime).
We spent a magnificent day in Eureka: a picnic lunch in the car park … followed by a dip in the river … followed by the only mistake I made on this trip.
Someone was passing round the Jägermeister and never having had it before, I gave it a go.
For the uninitiated, Jägermeister is a German alcoholic beverage made of a secret blend of 56 herbs, roots and fruits.
It is basically the Devil’s piss in a cough medicine bottle: goes down easily enough, but messes up your system in ways unforeseen.
This is the first and only time I have ever drunk it and that was the first and only time I have ever thrown up from alcohol. You have been warned.
But on to more important things. There I am, in an open air amphitheatre surrounded by giant redwoods: hippies to the left of me, rocking bikers to the right and good music all around. This still remains as one of the best gigs I have ever seen.
I fell in love with Chicago because of its ever-present river, multitudinous parks and plethora of bookshops. I spent days lost amongst layered shelves discovering new authors and then taking my purchases down to the water or grass to read.
Unforgettable experiences include:
- Buying an American first edition of the very first Harry Potter book without having a clue as to just how popular they would turn out to be. This may or may not finance a big trip in my retirement, we’ll have to wait and see.
- Spending a delightful afternoon in the park with 5 ladies in their early 70s. They were a group of women who had befriended on army bases in the Far East due to their fathers being stationed there.
They had made a pledge to maintain their friendship regardless of where they were in the world. So through written and telephone correspondence; through marriages, childrearing and widowhood and despite geography, they had nurtured their friendship for 50 plus years. And now every 3 years, they met in one of their hometowns and spent a week together – catching up, reminiscing and making new memories. It was a marvellous gift to share their stories, photographs and their history.
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthill/93179030
This piece was written and submitted as part of WordPress.com’s Weekly Writing Challenge. The writing challenges are designed to “help you to push your writing boundaries, show off your blogging chops, and, hopefully, spark more post ideas”. The posts should be specifically written in response to the challenge set.
This week, WordPress challenged us to “incorporate our Google Maps embed feature by plotting out some of the favorite places that you’ve been, or the places you want to go”. You can see how other bloggers responded to the challenge, on Map It Out.
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AUTHOR: I am might war. I have a love of music, the written word, travel, Anime, polar bears, people and “sticking and colouring”.