Day 41. After a journey in  excess of 3,000 miles we’ve completed a loop of the west coast and arrived back in California. Our Sat Nav was displaying the kind of senility you’d find with an elderly woman so our journey was lengthened; she literally took us round the houses. We were both aghast when we first saw the Giant Redwoods. The size and girth is incalculable; to think they sprouted from seeds no larger than a pin head is baffling.

Day 42. It sounds trite, but there was a palpable sense of life in the Redwood Forest. It gives credence to Tolkien’s metaphor about trees being living, breathing beings. They have a calming influence over everything, everything seemed content. The monolithic giants scaled so high they seemed to be touching the sun; we were microscopic. The branches created a canvas and obscured all natural light meaning the forest floor felt crisp. It’s reassuring to think these trees were here hundreds of years before us and will remain for hundreds of years after us, being stewards of the forest. Like the Grand Canyon, it was nature at its most impressive.

IMG_2841

Day 43. For all the hope and grandeur that America may conjure up in your mind there are places here that feel just as isolated and hopeless as they do in England. The sparse seaside towns we passed through like Crescent City and Coos Bay are just as pallid and bleak as places at home. Because it’s placed on a map on the American west coast you make an assumption that everywhere will be an untouched scenic gem and although there is some outstanding scenery, it’s not all like that. We got to Sacramento and on arrival found out our host was actually a heavily sedated lapdog. That’s the impression he gave as he mumbled through sentences at glacial pace whilst fixing you with a hollow stare. It’s blatantly apparent that he’s been ‘waking and baking’ since was nine years old. He became even stranger when we saw him pruning a bus in his garden with a machete. Maybe the Marijuana induced psychosis is taking hold.

Day 44. In the most unsubtle fashion possibly, we’ve been told to go out tonight. What started as a suggestive, “you should go to a bar or something” turned into “you’ve got an hour to get out of my house”. I don’t know what furtive arrangements this guy’s got planned but they’re either so disgusting or illegal that we can’t be here. If it were a more exciting place the idea would be met more enthusiastically but it seems a bit dull here. I don’t want to come back and find him chained to a radiator with a rubber ball in his mouth.

Day 45. All over the world, drivers come under the ‘arsehole’ category but here they take it to another level. It takes a lot, maybe a near crash, for me to use my horn but here it’s gratuitous. If you don’t set off as soon as the light turns green they beep, if you reverse out in a car park they beep and because you can go through a red light if you’re turning right and there’s no oncoming traffic or pedestrians, they beep at you if you’re slightly hesitant. Red should just mean stop. I’ll be glad to do away with the car. Whilst we were eating, something happened that I couldn’t believe. Our food arrived and a nosy elderly woman stood up and turned around to inspect the food before asking “so what’s this here then?” I couldn’t muster a witty retort so I mumbled a few words back but by this point I was so affronted by her outrageous display I wanted to take my plate and eat in a locked toilet cubicle. I could never foresee this happening at home because, really, who’s that nosey to even give a shit?

Day 46. America has taken things too far. They’ve taken gravy and completely bastardised it. Whilst ours is the type godly men should bathe in, their abomination looks and tastes like chicken soup with the texture of custard. The miserable liquid was worsened with the accompaniment of a ‘biscuit’, which tasted like plain sponge cake. I don’t know why I did it to myself. We’re in a small town named Sonora, about an hour away from Yosemite. It’s a place where everyone’s white and drinks bourbon. For years I’ve avoided drinks to that nature, simply because I don’t possess the testosterone levels to drink it and keep it down. Seen as we’re here we thought it would be customary to sample some. It was a chastening experience; after every taste I held back my grimace and told the barman “it’s alright that” whilst stifling a cough. There are two sausage dogs at the house where we’re staying and Eve’s heart nearly exploded when she saw them. I doubt she’ll talk to me for the next two days.

Day 47. We knew we’d be smothered by the obese masses today yet it still managed to bother me when they converged around us at Yosemite. It’s a beautiful, distinguished place. The cliff faces are so grand that the waterfalls look miniscule as they cascade down. As mentioned, the day was slightly soured by the one big problem with America...Americans. We should’ve foreseen that with it being Saturday and nice weather there would be hundreds of large families losing and then gaining weight together whilst narrating out loud their own day for everyone else to hear. The trails are paved meaning unless you’re camping or traversing hostile ground, professional walking gear isn’t essential. Some semi-professional trekkers insisted on using three walking sticks, under armour and a camelback full of glucose. Compare this to me and Eve wearing trainers, carrying essentials such as biscuits and cigarettes. As much as you try drowning people out their volume is overwhelming and on occasions you’re too busy swearing at them to absorb the splendour of the park.

IMG_3035

Day 48. Not much happened today. Not every day is exciting.

Day 49. It turns out I wrote yesterday’s entry prematurely. It transpired that last night we ended up drinking Bourbon that cost more than my car (over 50 quid). After turning on the British charm, the bloke at ‘The Bourbon Barrel’ gave us a shot that cost $150 for free. It came after I innocently asked “what’s that stuff like?” whilst re iterating the fact I didn’t have that kind of money to spend on booze. He graciously poured us one anyway and became my new favourite person we’ve met. To get us the drink he had to climb up a ladder and open a cabinet that was under lock and key; we felt unbelievably important and successful even though it was completely misplaced. The drink itself was dark, brown and smooth; like drinking Barry White. Now we’re in Grover Beach; not much to say except we saw an Alaskan malamute nearly tear another dog to shreds in a park. I’d never condone dog fighting but it’s gripping to watch.

Day 50. Apparently, we are just two ‘cool cats’ trying to ‘seize the day’. Those were the words of a waitress who said it with no irony at all. I didn’t know how to react except for shocked and appalled. No three words in the English language are more ominous than ‘seize the day’, so with that in mind we went and had a really shit day; cold on the beach. Happy Hour saved the day. A few hours on and the day doesn’t seem too bad.

Day 51. There must have been over a thousand Elephant Seals amassed on the beach creating an orgy of rippling flesh. They lay together and on top of each other like the aftermath of a car pile-up covering themselves in sand, sleeping, emitting bellowing grunts and occasionally fighting. They are noble creatures; I think I found my spirit animal. The smell was akin to a toilet after four days at Glastonbury but that didn’t detract from their splendour, their shedding skin and drooping noses emphasising how glamorous they are. As they lay there helpless and prostrate I had a vision of me hurdling the fence and jumping off the small cliff to deliver a Randy Savage elbow drop into the pack. After the windy, nauseating drive along Big Sur we arrived at Salinas. The home we’re in is strange; the walls are adorned with awkward family photos of people in fields and a picture of a child holing an assault rifle. There’s inspirational Oprah Winfrey quotes all over the fridge.

IMG_3177

Day 52. Most days we eat regular things but some days, like today we foray into the unknown and order something different. Today it was Oysters, something I’ve always wanted to try and although they look like something you heave up during a chest infection, they weren’t that bad. I’d eat them every two or three years. We’re back to where we belong now, eating biscuits and watching Mad Men.

Day 53. We keep witnessing things that we don’t think will be surpassed. We saw the Hoover Dam then saw the Grand Canyon. We saw the Redwoods then saw Yosemite. Today we were gifted another incredible scene when we went Whale watching. To see a pod of Orcas and three or four Humpbacks in the wild transcends any natural event I’ve witnessed or may ever witness again. A Humpback emerged a few hundred feet from the boat like a titan but then disappeared balletic and artistically. There’s an air of mystery surrounding them and even though I saw them first hand their enigma still remains as strong.

Day 54. We finally got rid of the car and although it was a necessity, I won’t miss it. It’s time to get beeped at as a pedestrian than a road user. I take some pride in driving over 5,000 miles but if it weren’t for Eve and the Sat Nav I would be crying in the foetal position in a lay-by in L.A. Arriving in San Francisco, the first thing you notice is how similar the layout is to South American cities (not that I’ve ever been to one). The houses are small, colourful and stacked high and clustered on the hillside like Favelas.

Day 55. There are a few towns and cities we’ve been to where I’ve drawn comparisons with English places but San Francisco is completely individual and unlike anywhere I’ve been before. There’s equilibrium between frantic and calm; it’s a large cosmopolitan city set in the picturesque bay area. The busy streets and large buildings are offset by the serenity of the sea making it seemingly impossible to feel anything other than content. The cable cars offer a unique way of travelling up and down the steep streets but the queue to ride them stretched back to 2004. There’s no time to be idle and waste days as there’s so much to do, there’s Alcatraz and a massive bridge everyone’s on about. I could find my perfect man here if I escaped Eve for a few hours as there are lots of establishments frequented by men with excellent posture. We got into a conversation with an English girl who is studying here, not only was it refreshing to hear the accent but it was re assuring to know she shares our opinions of how absurd this country is. We lambasted the people, gun laws, drivers and the shit chocolate. However much we complain about England, I think the Americans have just as much to complain about here but they seem to be so blinded by patriotism they don’t realise how fundamentally rotten their system is.

Day 56. Normally I’d forego an audio guide to anything but the one at Alcatraz was interesting and gave me an hour’s reprieve from ‘them’. The island was insightful; I couldn’t imagine three hundred tourists wanting a guided tour of Armley Prison. Before that, the ascent of Lombard Street with its ‘zig zag’ road was gruelling and made me realise what a disgracefully unfit human I am. Street performers lined the pier and I was particularly impressed with one man’s version of ‘Lady In Red’. If you haven’t heard it on steel drums then you haven’t heard it done properly in my opinion. S.F Giants and Toronto Blue Jays fans were conversing freely with each other on the bus and at no point did I hear any discord between the fans nor did I hear any badmouthing of their own respective teams. No swearing, fighting, drinking or telling everyone how much you hate your own team. They can’t even do sport properly.

IMG_3371

Day 57. The Golden Gate Bridge is an immense feat of engineering but for all its glamour and splendour, it’s just a bridge. I can’t categorise it with the natural wonders as it didn’t invoke anything in me. If we stood or travelled across it, it might have been different. The day finally arrived where I went for a pedicure. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my idea, all I need now is a dress and my transition into womanhood is complete. At times it was more of an archaeological dig than a pampering session given the amount of filth she excavated. This woman displayed bravery worthy of a Purple Heart; she put her safety goggles on, revved up the angle grinder and went for it. My feet feel revitalized; they haven’t been this pristine since I was an infant. I handed out a tip yet I think she retired soon after we were finished. She paced up and down displaying a distance gaze, as if she couldn’t erase what she just had to do.

IMG_3441

Day 58. They don’t do airports properly either; there’s no Wetherspoons. How are you supposed to waste time in airport without binge drinking? We’ve arrived in Chicago and it feels like we’ve started our trip again.

Day 59. Chicago is as advertised: a city that is quite windy. The neighbourhood we’re in is quite trendy, like a lot of suburbs there’s boutique shop and coffee shops every ten feet. As chance would have it, we saw ‘Chance the Rapper’ driving down the street, windows down, clearly begging not to be spotted by the public. After eating loads of food for the sheer hell of it we headed back to the train where I saw something I’ll never forget and for the wrong reasons. A man stepped into the carriage and began a spiel about how he needed donations to be able to afford medicine for his injured leg. At first I passed this off as a scam, maybe a drug addict trying to get money but then I looked down at his leg and saw he wasn’t lying. The flesh had been ripped off until only sinew was showing and was clearly on the verge of becoming gangrenous. No matter this man’s situation, whether it was a repercussion of drug use or not, he was a human being who needed medical assistance but was now reduced to pleading to a crowd of strangers who didn’t care. For one of the richest nations on earth no to have a healthcare system that helps everyone is a travesty. I surmise that he will lose his leg as will so many others.

IMG_3636

Day 60. Whilst we’re in Chicago we felt obliged to do two things: try a deep dish pizza and go to a blues club. The former was underwhelming but the latter was memorable. ‘Lil Ed and The Blues Imperials’ captured everything of what I thought the music scene here is like; it felt raw and unrefined. The novelty of seeing an incredibly small man wearing a glittering fez was worth the admission fee alone.

Published by Josh Toulmin