What airports taught me:
- most of the plugs don’t work. If you find a plug in an opportune place, more likely than not it will be inactive. Charging stations must be found and defended with your utter indifference to everyone else. That said, everyone’s indifference wavers fairly quickly.
- if you’re hungry, you’re probably just bored. Unless you are in the middle of a 9 hour layover. Then you’re not only hungry but half alive too.
- you meet the nicest people at the airport bars. Like 4-year-olds who climb onto a stool that is their height to sit next to you, and hold long, indepth conversations with imaginary barmen. “I would like a cocktail, please, with alcohol. As you can see, I am eighteeneen. And a chicken sandwich. And chicken salad. And roasted chicken. And an alcoholic cocktail please, yes.”
- the carpets are not at all exciting.
- the slow moving flat pathways are very exciting.
- there is wireless internet if you know where to look. It actually works in countries outside of NZ.
- USA airport security is almost funny with how ridiculously overdone it is. You remove shoes, bags, jackets, go through three scanners, two more scanners and then a handheld one for good measure. Also if you decide to take an empty shell casing from the firing range with you, be prepared to call Washington to ‘make sure it’s not a threat’.
What the desert taught me:
- there are many types of desert. But similar rules apply in all of them. Namely:
- absolutely everything has thorns. So don’t touch it. That cactus? Don’t touch it. The bush? Nope. The grass? You guessed it. Also fire ants. Everywhere there are fire ants. Don’t touch those either. I think they have thorns too.
- absolutely everything is alive. There is nothing dead in the desert. All the plants and shrubs and gnarled branches are thriving with life, if not their own, then sustaining another’s.
-tumbleweeds are really big. And very fast.
- you don’t feel the heat. BECAUSE IT IS DRY HEAT. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SWIM IN IT. Your body registers that it is hot, but it is not difficult to endure. Unless you’re in Blyth. I have no idea how people live there.
- wear sunscreen.
- it is quiet. The silence of it is one of the most incredible things in the world.
What the Grand Canyon taught me:
- there are no words to describe the magnitude of it.
- if you see three guys standing on the edge of the canyon that is quite obviously past the safety fence you should not jump… You overcome your absolute terror of heights and you jump the damned fence. And you stand on the edge and spread your arms and you feel alive for a change.
- mule deer are quite literally everywhere. Look for white butts in the shrubbery.
- when watching the sun set, do NOT watch the sun. Watch the canyon. Watch it come alive with color and light and space. And breathe.
What camping taught me:
- when it gets dark it stays that way. Use a torch. Unless you have a fire pit going. Because then, if you trip gracefully over the grille you had set meticulously to the ground not moments before and promptly forgot about, all you need to do is avoid falling into the aforementioned fire pit itself.
- the stars are endless. Find a place to lay down and watch the sky grow simultaneously darker and brighter with more stars than you can possibly imagine.
- a camera, no matter how spiffy, cannot catch the starlight
- sometimes one must pee in the forest.
What the open road taught me:
- in America, people drive backwards. Remember that. That’s a good thing to know.
- likewise, your indicators and your windscreen wipers are now reversed. Congratulations on wiping your way into a passing lane.
- Route 66 is a long stretch of light-colored road that goes on forever. It is a roadtripper’s dream.
- everything unravels slowly, like watching a photo develop. First, the mountains. Then they grow, and fill with color and detail, and you realize there are more mountains in front of those, and valleys under those still. And you really are not a stone’s throw away, but miles and miles.
What Las Vegas taught me:
- everyone is nice. Everyone.
- each casino is a city. Some are a country. Caesar’s Palace? Welcome to Rome. The Venetian? Canal rides through Italy. They are stunning and intricate things, and built like a maze.
- there will inevitably be a store for everything. Granted, it will be the designer version of what you need, but it’s there.
- every slushie on sale has alcohol in it.
- if you have to leave the Bellagio for a Cirque show in the MGM Grand, give yourself half an hour to walk there. It looks like it’s right there. It’s not.
- believe it or not, parking is free everywhere.
- a performance by the Bellagio fountains if worth a standing ovation.
- if you walk past Elvis outside the Bellagio, say hi. Really, do it. Because he will end up inevitably being originally from your home town, speak your language, and the nicest guy. Thanks, Ukrainian Elvis, you actually made my day that day.
- going to a firing range for the first time in your life will prove not only fun but successful. I now have a higher chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse. When you go to the Strip Gun Club, ask for Chris.
What San Francisco taught me:
- THE WEATHER IS THE SAME AS AUCKLAND. IT ISN’T THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT.
- you can see for miles from any hill.
- houses cluster on every hill like ants, and they are all different colors.
- you can get everywhere on the Bart.
- sadly, the gorgeous red bridge is too far to go for one day of exploring, but Pier 39 is well worth that sacrifice.
- the Rock is popular. Book in advance.
- Chinatown feels like China. Explore it. And definitely find a place to eat.
- the cable cars are adorable and utterly beautiful.
- stop at the cathedral, listen to the organist practice for Sunday. Close your eyes. Put your head back. Breathe.
What the Last Bookstore taught me:
- look for the neon sign you walked past 3 times. It might help.
- it is a maze, a labyrinth, a hideaway and my new favorite place in the world.
- it actually has books by the Strugatsky brothers, by Clifford Simak, by Alfred Bester amnd Poppy Z Brite. Or it did, before I bought most of them.
- it is in a dodgy part of town. Make sure, when walking home through it at 11pm, that your paper bag of books has at least one hard cover one.
What Los Angeles taught me:
- Big Man Bakes is the most appropriate and delicious breakfast.
- driving in L.A. sucks. also Figueroa st is the longest street in the world.
What airplanes have taught me:
- you fly in em enough and they are not so scary.
- there is never, ever, enough leg room.
- use the butt end of a plastic fork for the touch screen menus. You will have more luck than with fingers.
- the food isn’t bad anymore.
What this trip has taught me:
- my online friends are the most incredible people in the world.
- this is not like New Zealand where it takes, at most, 15 hours to drive the LENGTH OF AN ISLAND. You will still be in one state if you drive that long.
- don’t underestimate the desert. If you think you have a pebble in your shoe it’s probably a thorn the length of your knuckle joint.
- embrace everything. Except the cactus in front of your motel.
And trust me on the sunscreen.
Las Vegas is the city of insomniacs and daydreamers. Of sound and color and light. Its heart beats with the footsteps of hundreds and thousands and millions of people.
It is a living city.
The best word to describe it is Alive.
Las Vegas truly is alive. It never sleeps but always dreams, is not afraid to push and pull and twitch within itself, against the desert around it.
Las Vegas is loud, it’s exhausting, it’s hot and busy and filled with people.
I’m in awe of this place.
There are no words to describe the Grand Canyon.
The sheer magnitude of the place, the power it holds…
You see it in glimpses and it’s beautiful and the excitement is palpable, but then you step up. You hold the railing and you breathe in and then you don’t breathe out again. Because in front of you is this:
I actually climbed to the edge of it and sat with my feet hanging off. Photos later but… there are no words for how small you feel. How dwarved. How utterly humbled.
I will never forget it.
Today marks the first day of the official roadtrip from Arizona!! First stop: Grand Canyon.
Right now we are kicking it Winchester style in a motel room. But at least we know what state we’re in:
Since I, too, am slowly close to passing out for a nap, I will do my utmost to narrate the last few days for you quickly and well.
Yesterday, cognomen took me to Tombstone, an awesome little wild west town out by Sierra Vista. It’s a place where you show up and see people dressed as cowboys, with spurs and Stetsons. Old taverns and inns, gorgeous horses, old stagecoaches and a gentleman’s club unchanged since the 1880s.
That place was amazing. It looked like the Moulin Rouge set and god, it was all so tiny!! I can’t even imagine the place when it was full, with smoking and drinking and screaming and sex. Everywhere sex. Ah the wild west.
Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun in ages.
I am now a proud owner of a Bailey felt hat, an 8 ft bullwhip and a rock, gifted to me by an absolutely wonderful guy who led a tour through the Good Enough silver mine, as a “person who travelled farthest to see Tombstone” trophy.
Now, sadly, the gentleman’s club is allowed to be photographed but no photos may be posted on public media, so I can only leave you with my new favorite ad from 1881to keep your spirits up:
After, we drove a little way out to a ghost town called Fairbank.
Utterly gorgeous place, and I will post photos when I’m on a computer and not the tablet – my camera memory card can’t fit into this one – but it was also a place of a tragic personal injury.
Tragic. Simply appalling.
For those who remember the Lord of the Rings special edition DVD interviews, I would like you to recall the story of Billy Boyd’s splinter incident. In short, something that hurt SO MUCH that he was certain he had cut his foot off. Turned out it was a splinter so small you could barely make it out.
Mine is the opposite to that.
We were walking through the old cemetary – incredible place – and back through dust roads like this:
When I felt a stone in my shoe. Just something uncomfortable but nothing to write home about.
The further we walked, the more it hurt.
Turns out, at the end of all things, I had had something a little more intense in my shoe. To be more accurate, piercing the bottom of my boot. I had this:
Little tomahawk of doom. Was shoved right into the flesh of my foot. Needless to say it hurt.
Ah well. Injuries won’t stop me now!!
And with that, darlings, I leaveyou for the night. More to come. Here’s hoping our weather remains just as good as yesterday.
So it ended up being that I stayed up perhaps 30 hours before I finally made it to a bed to sleep, but I don’t regret a moment.
The flight from LA to Tucson (which I finally know how to pronounce, oops) took only an hour, and I was bowled over – as promised – by firefly when I landed. It was… incredible. I got to meet two of my favourite people from the internet, in person, in one day. We had dinner, scared most of the staff at Dennys to death with our conversations and their volume and I didn’t stop smiling the entire time. Then, of course, cognomen and I went back to Sierra Vista – about an hour drive – and I happily konked out for 12-odd hours.
Today, though, we went to a beautiful place called San Pedro Riparian.
Now, understand, I come from a country that is pretty much all hills and valleys, if we get a straight stretch of road we have a party. And here… everything is flat. Everything! It’s the most amazing thing to drive and see mountains grow closer, to see them pass by your side, to watch parks filled with cacti flash by as you take the highway.
This place was a wonderful national park of sorts, flat, windy, hot as hell and beautiful. Not quite the desert yet but a perfect way to work my way up there.
Now, also understand that where I come from we don’t have dry heat. We have humidity. In summer it sometimes hits up to 100% humidity. Here… it’s hot as heck, but about 3% humidity. It is SO MUCH EASIER to handle that level of heat without feeling like you’re swimming. It was a wonderful surprise.
The walk we did was just over an hour return, and filled with tumbleweed graveyards, fireant holes, sand, brush, and SILENCE. I can’t describe to you the amazingness of this silence! You would expect it to be filled with birds and cicada screeches but nothing, just the wind through the trees and the occasional dust devil. It was relaxing and releasing and I loved it.
We also met some cool little dudes sunning themselves on our walk:
All in all, a very successful first day in Arizona. Tomorrow we hit Tombstone and then firefly and I are organizing some things for the charity auction we have starting up on the first of June. More on that too, for anyone interested, as more comes up.
In the meantime, safe travels, safe stays, stay cool, and I will leave you with the mental image of myself pressed against the house glass doors silently shrieking when I see big lizards scurry across the fence.
There is something magical about watching dawn from 37,000feet.
Can’t say I had a particularly successful time sleeping on the 13 hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles – I managed perhaps three in the most exquisitely contorted positions – but that dawn was absolutely worth it. Pro tip: listening to Coldplay’s Atlas makes for the best accompanying soundtrack.
We’re currently cruising at 37,000 feet still, dipping once in a while around the rising sun, and most of the cabin is still sleeping. I wonder if they know what they’re missing? Outside it looks like snow. The clouds are crumbled like cotton wool, spaces between them winding like rivers, where you can see the ocean beneth. At the height we are, there is only the vague fog of lighter clouds occasionally obscuring the wing.
We’re 3 hours out of LA now, after that, one more 3 hour layover for me and then off to Tucson!!
(posted once landed, in LAX, 10:30am local time)
And so it begins!
It’s fairly early, not as early as I prefer to fly out – when I do fly… And rarely when I do prefer, considering my fear of it – but enough that the customs line doesn’t make you think of Crowley’s hell. Course, I did thik they were going to take me right back to the beginning when they found the pocket knife that I – admittedly – entirely forgot was in the most obscure pocket of my bag but they took it as ransom instead. Alas. My fault though.
I have a bit of a busy day ahead, or, I suppose, several once we hit our way through about three timezones. I’m off to Sydney on, approximately, half an hour, and after that – and a short layover of 3 hours – of to Los Angeles on a 13 hour flight. To quote Saito from Inception: “One of the longest flights in the world”. Though, thankfully, unlike Fischer, I don’t have to take it every two weeks.
After that, a short little wait till Tucson and then…
And then I get to meet cognomen and firefly (code names for code people, of course) for the first time, in person…
Quite honestly I am beyond excited. For those who know me well, I’ve been waiting for a trip like this for years. Always something would stop me going, either I would not have the money, or I would not have the time, or neither – which actually made it easier since I had TWO scapegoats that weren’t me – and then… It happened. Tickets bought, trip planned, and holy damn it’s finally here!!
No more post its counting down the days on my computer screen at work, no more dreams of what it will be like… I know it will be awesome. I will see the most incredible things. I will meet my favourite people (Jack will make a very important appearance on our drive through LA!) and I will allow myself, for two weeks, to relax. Fully and utterly. To enjoy the desert, to eat prickly pears, to stay at the Bellagio in Vegas, drive Route 66…
I can’t wait. I am fairly speechless at the thought!
The plan is as follows.
I will do my utmost to update on here with photos (where possible and internet allows) and I will do my utmost to update my twitter (if you like, the link for my page is on the side of my blog, the tweets come up there automatically).
I will also, for you lovely people on Tumblr, try to keep updated on there as well.
Here’s hoping I manage. But if not, then I will check in after, with stories and photos and the whole nine yards.
Now. Wish me luck.
And I will see you on the other side!
Bandit – OUT!