Saturday, 5 November 2011

American recap...

Apologies for the rather long gap since my last US update. You'll notice that there has been one from NZ already, so please bear with me.
Last words from the US were in or near Arizona, where I was due to meet my old mate Martin, who had agreed to join me for a 3 week holiday. He flew in to Phoenix where I met him at the airport, and we had al of 24 hours there before heading off in my big old wagon. We headed north and east-ish to start with, visiting the Grand Canyon, Bryce's Canyon, the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Devils Tower and the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. That took us up through Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Idaho, into Wyoming and then Montana (though not necessarily in that order). We decided that we would return to the Bonneville Salt plain for part of Speedweek, at the beginning of August, and that made Martins' return flight from Seattle a little awkward. He changed that to a San Francisco flight, which meant we could do the Bonneville event and then head to California for a few days of rest and recreation before his departure. As it all turned out, we scrubbed the Bonneville plan, taking a little more time in Montana and Idaho, before heading south through Oregon and California. We covered most of the Pacific Coast Highway from mid-Oregon southwards, ending up in SF with about 48 hours to spare. This we spent exploring the city of SF and testing the temperature of the Pacific - bloody cold by the way. Martin was delivered to his flight according to plan, and was last heard of safely back in Blighty, recovering from 3 weeks of my company and vowing never to repeat such foolish experience ! My cunning plan, which was successfully carried out, was to get him to do most of the driving while he was with me - after two and a half months of American roads and drivers, I was glad of a break. Don't think that Martin minded too much anyway.
With Martin dispatched homewards, I paid a quick visit to Barry and Stacey Sellar in SF. Barry was a key member of the Kilted Kippers Softball team, who moved to California a few years ago, and married the lovely Stacey around 3 years ago. They are now 3, the delightful Dashiel having arrived just a few weeks before my visit. My visit was short and sweet, and I left them to return to the North-West, revisiting Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, before turning South again, through Washington, Oregon and California. I returned to Barry and Stacey, staying for a couple of days, and Ghent headed Eastwards, through the central Californian valley, visiting Sacramento, the Giant Sequoia forest, Yosemite and Kings Canyon parks, Death Valley and Las Vegas before turning back towards the coast and Los Angeles. I also visited some very distant relatives, Don Wilson and his family, near Fresno in central California. They grow grapes on a vineyard, and while I had visions of a New World chateau with gallons of wine flowing around, I wasn't disappointed to find that their grapes are allowed to dry on the vine, and are destined to become raisins. Fascinating stuff and delicious too.
Back on the coast, I returned to SF, staying once again with Barry and Stacey, who were very kind in making it clear that they really DID want me to stay - they weren't just being polite. This was to be a momentous visit, however, as my time with the Big Purple Beast had come to an end - it was time to say farewell. With moral support from Barry, I managed to sell the Beast to a local garage - I didn't get very much for her, but then I hadn't expected to. The total mileage for my 5 month ownership was 30,000 miles, taking the overall mileage to over 203,000 so she was never going to be worth much.
Two days later Barry delivered me to SF airport, for a quick hop to LA, where I spent my last few days in the US of A. My onward flight was on the 10th of October, and I landed here in NZ on Wednesday the 12th. It was raining when I arrived and it's rained on and off ever since. However, I am now traveling again, this time on a large black motorcycle, spending 2 or 3 days wherever I decide to pause, assuming the Backpacker/Hostel has space. From Auckland I went north to Waipu, then Russell in the Bay of Islands, then Whangaroa, then Henderson Bay. A day trip from there took me up to Cape Reinga which was very windy, but sunny and spectacular all the same. From there I went over to Ahipara (last post) which was home for 3 or 4 days, and provided a screen for the RWC final. South from there to Dargaville and then east to Maungawhai Heads for a couple of days. Yesterday I travelled south, down through Auckland to a little place called Raglan on the west coast. This is close to Hamilton, where I'm going to visit some family friends tomorrow. They have asked me to stay with them, so while I'll be delighted to do so, I'm conscious that the are in their 80's and I therefore won't be overstaying my welcome. The hostel here at Raglan is some way out of town, along the coast road. It is also populated by most of the areas' surfer dudes who don't appear to have any taste in music whatsoever - they listen to the mindless "noise" which just gives me a headache ! The sun and the rain are competing for supremacy outside, and I'll shortly scoot into Raglan for some respite from the noise.
So, Hamilton next, then southwards down the west side of Norh Island before crossing to South Island. Hopefully, the weather will continue to improve, the winds will die down and I'll find some lovely places to visit.
That's about it for now, so until the next time,
Love to all
John M x

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