San Francisco- 2 hours to get through customs, immigration and agriculture, but a nice smiling officer when I finally got to the business end of the queue. Driverless cars with one passenger. Cylists. Lots of them, in that hilly city. The painted ladies, beautiful frontages, superbly re-furbished, but rough-as-guts clapboard shacks at the sides, and the backs are as messy as they come. At least the ones I saw were. Their interiors were copied and simplified to make the standard NZ villa of the late 19th century.
U.S. domestic aircraft give new meaning to the term "shoehorn". Especially SouthWest. Why they think it's more efficient to give a queue position rather than a seat number beats me. But they don't charge for baggage.
Montana defines wide open spaces. When you put the cruise control on 75mph and watch the prairie roll by for hour after hour, you have wide open spaces. Flying over a place isn't the same. Glacier National Park- magnificent. Beartooth Pass, almost as high as Mt. Cook (our highest peak) and a very interesting drive in light snow. Dillon rodeo- a fascinating afternoon's entertainment. Yellowstone, full of wildlife, but the thermal region is very dry. Old Faithful still works, though.
South Dakota. Deadwood, slot machines and motorcycle overflow from Sturgis. Mt. Rushmore. I'd expected ra ra ra and salute the flag, but it wasn't like that at all. In fact, it was a rather nice place to visit. Devil's Tower, but no UFOs, just climbers. No mashed potatoes either.
Washington. When they say "stop" they mean it. Big steel barricades that pop up out of the ground and rip a vehicle's undercarriage off. They let you see the White House through the railings again, though there is a policeman right behind you. A mall that requires a major expedition to cover. The Smithsonian Institution, which requires an even bigger expedition. I did it fairly lightly, but at least I included the National Gallery and the Udvar-Hazy hangar. Auckland's MOTAT would kill for that facility. Not to mention the aircraft in it.
Amtrak. I'd heard unpleasant stories about Amtrak, but the North-East regional service is good. Clean, fast, cheap and above all in these days of universal security, NO HASSLE! Apparently Joe Biden uses the service, which may have something to do with it.
New York, or rather, Manhattan. Bustle, chaos. Expensive accommodation; minimum-wage desk staff who lost our reservation and shoe-horned us into a broom cupboard, but the hotel was clean and extremely well located, just a few blocks from Times Square, two subway stations, Penn station and Macy's. They had an epidemic of bed-bugs in NYC, but our room had none, and it wasn't in a top-drawer hotel by any means. Manhattan has the best tap water I've ever tasted anywhere, and that includes NZ. I liked the flat fare bus and subway arrangement, and the ability to use the same fare card on both.
Windsor & Hartford, CT, and the wonderful hospitality of Shos and his wife, and of Nicole Marie and the Beethoven Radio staff. Storybook America, with its well-kept houses, neat lawns, no fences and tree-lined streets, exists in Windsor, CT.
Las Vegas. Crowds again, bright lights, colourful, vivid, and BUSY! Queue for Bellagio's buffet- an excellent meal on the whole, but not everything on the menu worked. Death Valley- 109 degrees F. The car had an excellent air-conditioner.
The canyon circuit. There's nothing like this at home. Red rock, white rock, fascinating geology. Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Antelope Canyon (expensive at $6 entry to the park plus $25 for the guided tour) Grand Canyon. The bargain of the trip was the annual pass for the National Parks and National Monuments. $80, but at $25 per car per park (give or take a bit depending on the park) we saved heaps. Grand Canyon. Rain, but spectacular anyway and photos don't do it justice. It's vast. Sunrise next day, impressive, but we really should have been on the north rim for it.
How come 91 octane is considered premium petrol? What happens to all those swanky European cars that demand 97 or thereabouts?
San Diego. O.T., Piq and Altoid at home. SD zoo. World-famous, and clearly the model for Auckland Zoo's refurbishment. Spreckel's organ concert, Selma joining us there. O.T.very unimpressed; me, rather surprised by some rough playing. An impressive organ, though, and very loud. Sightseeing by Tenor Tours Unlimited. Submarines, friend and foe in the Maritime Museum. We didn't get anywhere near finished there either. Fat Ivor's and the Quorum of b.com fans. Delicious ribs too, of course. O.T. & Piq are excellent hosts, and we enjoyed their hospitality very much.
Back to San Francisco and home. I left California on Tuesday and arrived home on Thursday and it felt like it. I hate night flights. Perhaps next time I'll spring for business class after all. Anyway, Americans, take a bow. I like you and your country.
We have no money; we must use our brains. -Ernest Rutherford.