Monday, 4 November 2013

America part uno

The classic American road trip has inspired much in the way of words and passed into folk lore as a right of passage. All the beat poets who first clambered on the road may have been terrible lyricists but they sure had a thirst for travel. Almost as much they did for ale and reefer. So back in September, we spent two weeks in the US emulating the likes of Kerouac, Ginsbery et al by driving down the country's west coast and taking in the sights, the smells and owt else we could stick in the senses.

The trip started at the IBIS in Heathrow. We’d decided to sleep at the airport, believing that it would make more sense than getting a taxi at stupid o’clock to catch our early flight. What could go wrong? Well it's proximity to the terminal gave us even more of an excuse to get properly pished in the hotel bar. We got whammied enough to sleep through the alarm, then had to hotfoot it, quick sharp to the airport. The triple headache of hangover, lengthy in-flight movies and extreme fatigue meant that landing in Chicago felt like being slapped in the face. It was all a bit too much to begin with. The woman covered in sick talking to herself on the inter-airport terminal train was scary. The guy with the deep baritone passing us on the escalator saying ‘Hellloooo, welcommeee to Chicago’ made us feel anything but. Only the pub next to the gate made sense. We sat there for a couple of hours and made the decision to acquire fridge magnets from everywhere we stopped.

Chicago airport travelator
Landing in Portland was a vibe. It's like Dalston, except cleaner and less frayed around the edges. The crazies are crazier but they don't want owt from you. Beers tasted beerier. Burgers were bigger. Beards are just as beardy. The best bits of Portland were many but included visiting the seedy environs of the Devil’s Point on the Sunday night. Being my birthday (32 innit – fuck getting old), we turned up pissed to be confronted by a thick fug of weed and the sounds of the karaoke wafting through the chilly September air. It's only on getting inside that you realise it’s also a strip joint. Bonkers. Until then, I’d never seen a fat,elderly woman sing a ropey version of White Town’s Your Woman while an athletic stripper did her thing on a nearby pole. Never lived mate.

Outside Devil's Point
The day after was spent attempting to drive a car on the wrong hand side of the road. Doing this for the first time with the added frisson of a soul crushing hangover was a real challenge. Bereft of all emotion and chat, we got lost somewhere in Portland and ended up attempting our jaunt to the nearby Mount Hood in the opposite way to the directions we'd received. Cue tears at wheel of car due to total frustration at inability to act like a proper man. Cue despair. Cue more tears. Cue having to go to Starbucks for a piss. Cue hysterics. This was character building business out in the wilderness. For the first time, I felt what it was like to be grizzly man.

Paranoid and panicked outside Calamity Jane's diner
Tears almost came again when attempting to hire a car for the vaguely pre-planned road trip. In between sight seeing, we'd had another heavy one as our adieu to Portland and arrived at the airport attempting to find our hire car collection. We found the Enterprise desk, queued up and spoke to the over friendly dude on the counter, only to be denied due to a lack of credit card and licence in the same name. Spirits fell like a guillotine coming down on a neck in an European revolution. It was a real low. The pits. The worst. It was only due to the dude at National car hire ripping us off to the tune of 'shitloads' that enabled our trip to get off the ground at all. I've never thanked anyone so much for charging us soooo much.

Once we'd worked out how to drive an automatic, the open road took us out of Portland and north west to Astoria where such pinnacles of cinema as the Goonies and Kindergarten Cop were both filmed. We checked into our weird little hotel the Commodore and took in the sights. Big butties, ales in jam jars, sea lions squawking  and our necessary photo outside the Goonies' gaff.

After dining on oysters and getting a very early night we took off south, hugging the coast via route 101. We checked in at Cannon Beach (where the end of the Goonies is filmed), ate crab and watched surfers at Pacific City before arriving in the sleepy town of Yachats. We got pissed up with the locals in a dive bar, including one local red neck who claimed to run a pizza joint and had a hugmongous beard. He was called Dave and had bare vibes.

Goons at the goonies
Day three behind the wheel involved sliding down the west coast on a southern trajectory through the seaside town of Bandon and picking up some jalapeƱo and bacon toffee. Disgusting. We dined at a scruffy eaterie before entering redwood zone and purchasing plaid shirts and IPAs from a nearby supermarket. We spent that night in a wooden cabin in the redwoods which was as organic as you can imagine. We didn't hug any trees but came pretty close. Being proper down with nature and that we turned up with no camping gear at all and no real clue as to how to get a raging fire sparking. It took much wood, paper, lighters and the inevitable ripping down of nearby foliage to get a mild inferno popping. We didn't cook anything on it due to fear of disease and local big foot swooping down on us and stealing our sausages. But it did feel very real being out in the middle of totally nowhere, drunk and seeing things in the darkness.

Oh the views of Route 101
Route 101 took us to the Avenue of the Giants, a 30 mile stretch of road hemmed in by these supernaturally sized redwoods. They tower above you like, like, like, really tall giants. We even paid six 'bucks' to a dude in a hut to let us drive our hire motor through a tree. The gap wasn't all that big so we edged through the tree before reversing back into it to get the obligatory tourist photo. Yes mate.

We'd aimed to get to a winery but managed to mis time our arrival in wine country above San Fransisco, so ended up hitting up Guerneville, a small town 60 miles north of the big SF. We found the one spare room to hire at the New Dynamic Inn. Fears were raised by the shitty room and the local crackheads living below. On the way out we met one dude who was rifling through the bins. As nice as he was, he managed to instill 'the fear' in us. To counteract this, we went out and got shitfaced in the big gay bar. I stopped worrying about our belongings, the car and anything else at all. On returning we couldn't work the lock so instead of finding someone who could sort it out, we barricaded the door with the microwave and table. Safe as houses mate.

Our trip continued the following day with a jaunt round Bodega and Bodega Bay, the small fishing town where master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, filmed ornothology fright fest, The Birds. If you've seen the film, don't let it put you off going and getting as much Hitchcock-related tat as a brother can lay his hands on. We saw shitloads of birds and they treated us with the decency and respect we've come to expect from our feathered friends in the UK. From there we zorbed in to San Fran via the Golden Gate Bridge with our mouths hanging open.

Leaving the New Dynamic Inn

We done gone taken a whole load of photos of the trip - check them out on Flickr here...