Archive for the ‘leaving’ Category

west coast freight

In leaving, portland, san fran, travelling, west coast on December 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm

The 18hr train journey to Portland doesn’t start auspiciously. After hopping onto the bus from the ferry building in downtown San Francisco and traveling across the bay bridge to Emeryville (home of Pixar) we get to the station and are informed there has been an incident with a trespasser and the train at San Luis obispo, where I’d stopped earlier in the month, on the drive up to san francisco to have coffee and cake with Alex who I’d met in Bariloche.

The train was going to be two hours late, it was already ten o’clock at night. But what can you do, I sigh and look around at the other passengers waiting to board and I pull out the very large book that I’d snagged from the hostel in Los Angeles, which I’m close to finishing and glad to be so as I have another three books in the bag which needed to be read, which I’d actually bought and needed to be read so I could lighten the load.

Amtrak trains are on two levels, seating at the top and various things on the bottom, restrooms (don’t call them toilets, it upsets the average American) baggage, spaces for decades old arcade machines, played by young children, little shops for snacks and sundries. The seats are big, but old and cranky, they don’t recline all the way back and the pillows are slow in coming and there’s no blanky but the air-conditioning is set at an acceptable level, not too hot and not too cold.

But the views out of the wide window make up for it, tall green trees, acres of land with sprinklers flicking water across them, wide lakes stretching to a partially snow capped mountain on the horizon. Verdantly green triangular hills which remind me of volcanoes slumbering, ready to erupt again. Swathes of crushed, jagged rocks, across which the tracks of our train are raised, long dark tunnels through which your ears throb and pop.

Spindly trees line the course of the journey, thick and seemingly impenetrable, stretching away into the distance that you cannot see. Dappled sunlight seeps through cascading through the carriage dancing across flesh and foam, reflecting off the metal surfaces it alights on. The tracks follow the course of rivers and creeks, occasionally we cross and recross them, the sparkling water spilling out over rocks and fallen trees, as the day slowly awakens as the unblanketed occupants awaken, the red/purple sky strip of light swollen in the darkness.

Listen to the endless requests for reservations for the dining car, the reiteration of rules and regulations, the 2nd call for those who haven’t made their way to breakfast, lunch and if there are any other untoward stops, dinner. If I had my way the voice behind the calls would be crushed like a tin can beneath the thumb of a giant.

Trains in the states are slow, lumbering beasts, freight trains as I find out in Portland, are miles long, the railway lines in fact generally belong to freight companies and freight trains have priority. And standing at a railway crossing waiting for a freight train to pass can take a very long time. Time to break out the book or portable games unit. So the train rolls slowly, the old rolling stock not making it any faster, but its fun in a honey way, you give up on your own time constraints, and desires. The train will get there when it gets there and there’s nothing you can do about it, apart from quiet your buzz and sit in your chair. Which is what I do.

Sit and watch the time pass slowly through the ever changing view offered me by the windows either side.

America feels on that grand level now, like Argentina did as I swooped along the roads on the luxury buses. Big and vast and awe-inspiring, as you wonder what it must have been like way back when, when all you had was a horse-drawn cart and weeks and weeks to travel down a non-existent trail from one part of the state to the other. Now we can move so easily across states it makes a mockery of the hard work and effort and sacrifice that others made to make it possible.

I take a couple of photo’s and wander down the length of the train, try not to think about the rumbling in my stomach and hope that Nicole is there to meet me when I get to Portland.

PS fingers crossed the bike makes it in one piece. I’m pretty sure it will, but you never know, would be just my luck to have the bike get fucked as I travel through america rather than Argentina and Brazil.


In leaving, los angelenos, san fran, stateside, west coast on December 6, 2010 at 8:39 am

So I decided early on in the planning stages to make the west coast part of the journey include a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, the 1, which imaginatively runs along the Pacific Coast, from LA to San Francisco.

It had been recommended by a couple of friends and it was something I felt I had to do. Obviously I’d have loved to have done it in an open-topped convertible, big muscle car engine, wind across my bald scalp, big beats spilling out of the ride. But needs must and funds were drawing tight. So I opted for a ford focus, nice engine, air-conditioned, lots of boot space, and the pre requisite of a cable to connect iPod to the stereo.

Drove down with a friend, who’d travelled over from New York to join the road trip from LA to San Fran, where’d we be spending some time with long-lost west coast friends, and spent the first part of the day, listening to the first of the world cup quarter finals, as we made the slightly torturous way out of Venice Beach to get to the PCH proper.

The drive was going to be split, across two days, as we were booked into a hotel in wonderfully wooded Big Sur. My only plan for the following day was to be in a town with a TV showing Spain vs Germany in the morning, grabbing breakfast during the game and finishing off the drive to San Francisco by the early afternoon.

So lets not pussy foot about, LA was still swathed in the grey june gloom, making everything look flat and tepid. But you know what it didn’t make a difference. The PCH winds around some of the most beautiful coastline, ups and downs, moving from a dual carriageway, into a single lane either way as you clawed up the cliff side, with vegetation brushing the passenger door as a lane away the ground dropped away tumbling into the ocean, whose waters were a roilingboiling grey.

The Focus was an automatic and all I had to do was step on the gas and then on the break, piss easy. But the steep climbs and descents and following drivers who were constantly riding the brake, when their was no need, meant you had to be more alert than I initially thought I’d needed to be. And the ever present cliff side sliding away to the left was enough to concentrate the mind.

The whole drive reminded me of the drive I’d done previously in New Zealand, down the west coast of the south island. New Zealand was more jaw droppingly beautiful and savagely vibrant, than this one, the greens, blues and grays punishingly pure and clean, even through the rains that swelled and slapped on the roof, the windscreen, the bonnet. Here on this west coast the vertical challenges of the route were just as interesting, just as visually fulfilling, even if the landscape wasn’t as saturated with colour.

Pulled into Big Sur, fairly drained, without actually realising how draining it had been, took a shower, managed to grab something to eat, even though pretty much everything in the vicinity of the hotel closed at ten, and slept the sleep of the just.

Woke up bright and early and set out to find a Carmel, Clint Eastwood’s old fiefdom, which was an hour or so down the road, and driving round the picturesque place for a couple of minutes, searching for parking whilst simultaneously trying to see if I could spy a sign heralding the world cup being shown somewhere. Found a car park without too much trouble and then headed off to find the TV and food, giving me a chance to have a quick look at Carmel.

Carmel is one of those sleepy, quaint towns, one of those places which has some sort of heritage committee to keep it clean and pretty, and everyplace up to spec. Walking round it and the signs for the shops and eateries, made me aware of how constricting growing up in a place like this could be. Obviously I was just roaming through the pretty shopping district that made up its heart, where the tourists who’d travelled down the PCH would stop off and water and buy artifacts of their time on the road, and enjoy the prettiness of it, the cultured manneredness of it. I on the other hand found it a mite artificial.

But I wasn’t looking for a home away from home, I was looking for the football. Stopped into a place and was pointed up the road in the direction of a couple more establishments. Didn’t find the ones I was told about, but found a diner/restaurant with a big HD screen and an American owner who was rooting for Germany. I was for Spain, as I’d stuck my neck out and predicted them pre tournament even when faced with the scepticism of a west ham fan in new Zealand who’d said this would be Carlo Tevez’s tournament to shine, my faith in Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Torres, Alonso, Fabregas and the rest didn’t falter.

I then proceeded to live and die with the team, the only one apart from two german girls who arrived after half time who had any appreciation or interest in the football.  On a side note it’d been easy enough throughout my time in the states to find somewhere to watch the world cup matches, most bars and diners came equipped with a big screen showing some sort of sport, and I’d been converted in LA to the joys of watching sports in HD, making a nonsense of the inbuilt fear I’d have to spend ages tracking down a small bastion of football fever in the land of gridiron.

So with me yelling, stifling yells, and being alternately stared at, or ignored by the patrons, I managed to get through the match without swearing too much or antagonizing too many disinterested parties, though I like to think that my enthusiasm swayed some of them to see football as an interesting/exciting sport.

So it’s back on the road and we’re heading swiftly onto San Francisco, we’re staying with a friend out in Berkeley and we deviate quickly from the PCH , get a bit lost trying to hit a freeway despite some good directions and then hit proper Freeway madness on the way into the Bay Area. The solitude and singlepath of the PCH is left behind and even though we’re making swifter time, the ducking in and out of traffic around me, reminds me of why I don’t generally enjoy travelling on the shortest routes between places by car.

We slip off the six lanes of highway and into a quieter neighbourhood, the Freeway a high concrete embankment away. And just like that we’re in Berkeley

Leaving South London

In bike, leaving, travelling on January 17, 2010 at 1:24 am

The axiom buy cheap buy twice sprang to mind as I dragged the just broken bike bag down the street to the tube station. The fucker was overweight 31 kilos, which probably put paid to it, so I’m gonna have to buy another one In Japan, or at least a strap so I can move the bike around. Not an auspicious start to travelling with a bike, gonna have to lighten the load, probably in oz. It’ll be alright though just remember these three words in this order improvise, Adapt, Overcome. The marines know their shit, right now I’m thinking of making a strap out of some string and bungee cords. Pretty sure it’ll fuck itself up but you got to try. Anyone know any good bike bag sellers in Tokyo?
Writng this on the iPhone and really want to pull out the laptop and write huge missives.
Feel like I need to document everything, if i dont it didn’t happen. Never been on a night flight apart from I think my first to Barbados when I was like six, remember being amazed by how big the wheels were, so much bigger than little young me, think I’ve been in love with flying ever since.
Speaking of big things. Before I left the country I got to hold the hand of one felix atticus pippin (I’m welling up already, and I’m hoping these constant tear filled moments don’t continue every time I think of the friends I left behind) but back to the point in hand, I didn’t so much as hold his hand as his tiny tiny long nailed fingers grasped the very end of my forefinger. So small and yet so strong already, so much fight in him, I’m looking forward to making his acquaintance when I get back.

One Week Til The Great Escape Starts

In eat drink man woman, leaving on January 7, 2010 at 8:57 am

Just finished putting the last of my  stuff into storage, the paid for kind.

The unpaid for kind (thanks to the kindness of good friends with garages, basements, attics and wide open front rooms) will be done on wednesday. Then two nights sleep under a thin blankie on the sofa and its off to see the bits of the world which have captured my imagination since I was a teen. Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, The West Coast of the States, Vancouver, New York, then seeing the family in the West Indies, before heading back to Blighty for a passport stopover and a quick departure to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Thirty odd years of stuff, cd’s, books, hifi, photo’s, prints, clothes, shoes, old school reports, love letters from ex’s. Shit you thought you’d thrown out, but which magically reappears from the back of the cupboard. So much stuff to tell the story of a life, yet it fits into so small a space. Its amazing how much you can pack into 50 sq feet, when you have no other choice, and it probably only amazes you because you’re the only soul whose seen what was once spread across a three bed flat, placed into boxes and tetrised into a storage container. There will be much seperating of wheat from chaff when I return.

But for the time being its time to sit back and try to forget the ever present butterflies that flutter in the gut, reminding me that the city I’ve called home for most of my adult life won’t have me in it for at least a year. Will it miss me? Will I miss it? Will I want to return? and if I do return will I want to leave as soon as I get back?

The questions sit unanswered and I’m not really that tired, just a bit subdued. Time for a bath and garlic and chili prawns me thinks.