Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I really did it, My Way


And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, Ill say it clear,
Ill state my case, of which Im certain.

Ive lived a life thats full.
Ive traveled each and evry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, Ive had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, Im sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

Ive loved, Ive laughed and cried.
Ive had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

I've now been to 37/50 states. I should pick up another 8 on my road trips to Vancouver if I move there.

My route, roughly

Dedicated to all the amazing people I met who hosted, drank, ate or just chilled with me along my way.

What's next?

Next.... that's a very good question! Just like when I was asked the question of where I'm from on my trip, I don't have an answer. Currently I'm not from anywhere, I'm living with friends back in Chicago for about two weeks until I find a country to move to. I have a Green Card application which just got approved for step 1, it's still a few months to a few years away from getting approved. So until then I need to find somewhere to be gainfully employed. I'm going to spend the next few days trying to figure out which country/city I'm going to move to. Vancouver if I can get a visa is my top option. Failing that Geneva in Switzerland seems like the most likely option.

Stay tuned....

And now, the end is near

Phase 3/3 complete!


Thoughts on retirement
One thing I definitely learned about retirement, it's not cheap, traveling around is what I want to do and hotels/food are expensive. One other important lesson is that when you retire, that's it, whatever lifestyle you set yourself you better be happy with it. You can't start going out to have nicer steaks, longer vacations if you meet new people, you have your set income, it can't get bigger, it can only get smaller so what ever you finish with, you better be happy with.

Thoughts on the trip:
This has long been a dream of mine to road trip the states, the circumstances weren't idea, but they were also the only ones which would have allowed me to do such a trip. If I were to do it again, which I'd have no problem doing I'd do it in one of those huge bus style RVs, a jeep in tow, some mountain and road bikes. Oh and a Harley, some of the roads I was on just screamed out for a Harley. I think that is how I want to spend my next retirement.

Blogging:
I've never blogged before so this was an interesting experiment which I've always wanted to pursue. It took an incredible amount of time to write the articles, crop and re-size photos, research names and spellings of places and so on. But in a way this was my companion on this journey, I'd be driving down the wide open road thinking of what I could write and what would be interesting. I also found it an inspiration to try find stories everywhere I went otherwise I'd have nothing to write about.

Traveling Solo:
I loved every single bit of traveling by myself, I don't think I would have enjoyed it in the same way if I had company. This was a solo trip, I just wanted to visit friends and get my head around a few things. If I met people good, but I never went out of my way to just go meet people. That's for another trip. I did go out of my way to try find magic and adventure in every state and I think I succeeded in that. Something which would have been a lot more difficult if I had a companion. You're driving down the road, you have window down if you want, the radio on or off if you want, you can take random right or left turns just because you think something fun might be down there and yeah, I found some amazing things that way. Also I feel traveling with a companion is more about the destination than the journey. It felt amazing to just let fate take care of me, sometimes putting myself in harms way to achieve this but it's how I wanted to do things, how I wanted to pursue them, how I wanted to experience them, how long I wanted and how I did it my way.

Thank you everyone for reading, I hope you've had as much fun reading my random rants and stories as much as I've enjoyed writing them. I've had almost a thousand views at this point and I truly hope I can inspire someone to do something similar.

Peace out

Barry

Awards

Biggest disappointment
Boston, I've heard so much about this place but it just failed to deliver. I'll give it another chance but I'd go with people next time. Architecture was mundane, people weren't great. If I didn't have my guide it would have been a lot worse.

Biggest surprise
Utah, a state of incredible beauty

Best Food
Quebec
Florida
Louisiana

Winner - Louisiana, hands down the best food in the nation. The Porembski Shrimp Creole is highly recommended.

Best Meal
Brad's Steak in Dallas
Cajun Po Boy in New Orleans
Duck in Quebec City
Jackson Hole Burger in NYC

Winner - Brad's 24oz Cowboy steak in Dallas. It took us over an hour to cook, and cooked to perfection it was. This steak was immensely enjoyable as we smoked 19 year old cigars and drank fine beers. Great job Bradley!

Most interesting person
Crazy lady who threw bread at me in Savannah

Best little town
Marathon, Texas above Big Bend National Park
West, Texas

Winner - West, definitely the best little town in this country, Amazing food, very interesting people and a definite sense of real life about the place. Check it out!

Place I wouldn't go back to
New Mexico
Nebraska
Iowa

Winner - Nebraska, awful place

Place I'd go back to
Key West
NYC
Quebec City
Miami Beach
Florida Keys
New Orleans
West, Texas
Austin, Texas
Sedona, Arizona
Grand Canyon
Zion National Park
Moab, Utah
Denver
Nebraska (Just kidding)

Winner - Grand Canyon. I found the solitude and challenge I was looking for here. Some of the best roads in the country are near here and the Camping was fantastic too. Lighting campfires under the stars, magical. Also, hopefully it'll be warmer next time.

Best road
Moab to I-70 along the 128
Grand Canyon to Utah along route 89
Lajitas to Presidio along Ranch Road 170 in Big Bend National Park
Zion to Moab along route 12 and 24
Sedona to I-40 on the 89A
Quebec City to Portland via route 201
Florida City to the Keys via Card Sound Road

Winner - Moab to I-70 along route 128 was a clear winner and I even place it above the Grand Canyon for scenery.

Most boring time
Florida panhandle, the only time I was bored driving in the whole trip. Yawn

Highest point
Completing the Grand Canyon hike
reaching the summit of Angel's Landing
Completing the trip
Miami Fashion Week back stage
hiking the dome of death
Driving 10,000 miles in 40 days

Winner - Angels Landing really pushed me more than I thought I could or was comfortable with. But I have to say getting back stage to Miami Fashion week, talking to all the models and meeting Ms. Spain was the highest point. I think a lot of people can hike Angel's Landing, not many people can get back stage to Miami Fashion week the way I did.

Scariest Moment
Dome of Death - Quebec City
Wall of Death - Going past South Bend on the way to Detroit
Hike of Death - Angel's Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

Winner - Hike of Death, I've never been more petrified or wanted to turn back from something in my life.

Lowest Point
Being stuck at the side of the road in Denver after the ice storm with no way to get out by myself.

Worst state
Virginia
New Mexico
Nebraska

Winner - Nebraska - simply nothing to do.

Best State for people
Florida
Quebec
Texas

Winner - Florida, the one state where I met the most strangers and interesting people.

Best hookups
Krystal by a long shot. She hooked me up with her friends in her native state, something I thought more people would do. I got to meet up with her Dad, oh and she's from the best little town in the country.

Best Supporting Actress
Allison kept me company on the long drives over the phone and entertained my silly little ideas such as working out how many bugs have hit my windshield, or what the Thing in the Desert was and many many more interesting conversations.

Best City
Quebec City, Quebec
Savannah, Georgia
Sedona, Arizona
Denver, Colorado

Winner - Quebec City, culture is hard to find over here since US and Canada are such young countries and so Quebec City is like a breath of fresh air. It feels like you're in a different country. Beautiful castles, old town and buildings throughout this city. Even a hotel made from Ice along with a Dome of Death! Very cool people too.

Best State - Overall winner
Quebec
Florida
Louisiana
Utah

Winner - Utah, just based on how beautiful and expansive the state is. You could not get bored in Utah if you're an outdoors person. Breathtaking views around every corner. I could spend months here.

Numbers breakdown

28,576.8 dead bugs
10,176.1 miles traveled
1630 dollars estimated that I spent on gas for the trip
660 most amount of miles I traveled in one day
331 dollars in fines I had to pay for this trip
254.4 miles driven per day on average
160 the most I spent on one nights accommodation
40 days and nights traveled
37 number of America's states that I've now visited properly.
27 states visited on this trip
3 tickets (2 parking, 1 speeding)
2 many unforgettable moments that I had to say, "life is so good right now".
1 trip of a life time that I'll never forget

Carbon Footprint and what I killed 28,576.8 of

A few of my more environmentally conscious friends (Isabelle ;o) have pointed out the toll on the atmosphere of traveling ten thousand miles in a V8 4.6 liter boat so I decide to pay my dues and use the website www.terrapass.com to calculate my carbon foot print for such a trip. The total is 9,782 lbs CO2 for the roughly $1,630 I spent on gas. Total cost to remove my footprint from the atmosphere.... $59.50. I encourage others to do the same.

On the flip side...

On average according to According to a biker website-lrlr.org (long reach long riders) and their calculations, an average of 2.35 bugs are killed per 1 sq inch of wind shield over the course of 1,600 miles.

# Bugs per 1 mile (in one sq. in)= 2.35/1600
# Bugs for total mileage = (2.35/1600)x10,000= 14.7 bugs per square inch of windshield

Approximate Sq inches in Lincoln Towncar windshield= 54x36= 1,944in

# Bugs killed on my entire windshield over the course of the 10,000 mile trip=
14.7 x1,944 = 28,576.8 dead bugs

This doesn't seem too outrageous, every time I stopped for gas I had to wash the windscreen to get rid of the little splattered buggers. I guess you could probably double the death toll if you included the front grill which was sickly covered in dead bugs.

Kind of makes me feel evil but...

What's the last thing that goes through 28,576.8 bugs minds before they hit my Towncar?

Their arse!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nebraska - Iowa - Girls Gone Wild - Parking Ticket - Chicago


I see my first ever tumbleweed in Nebraska, that's all I have to say about Nebraska.

I watch the LiverPOOl V Chelski game in a grill along the way, incredible game. I drive until I get to Omaha City. There's nothing going on in Omaha city so I cross the river and go to one of the Casinos which are legal on the Iowa side of the city. Can't get a game of poker going so just bet some dollars on slot machines and roulette just out of boredom. I find a Marriott hotel about 90 minuts away so I book it for the night. 660 miles travelled today and that's really taken its toll on me. When I book in I notice a large bus as I'm unpacking my boat with Girls Gone Wild writtten along the side of it. I can't really say what I saw in that pool that night but these girls definitely went wild. I'll leave that up to your imagination as to how.

I pull into the College town of Iowa City to watch the United V Porto game. United win 1-0 and I get a parking ticket for parking in a commercial spot, only $10.

I get closer and closer to Chicago and I'm starting to reflect on what I've accomplished, looks like I'm going to hit my 10,000 miles, I've seen every kind of weather from snow storms to blistering sunshine to hail to intense rain. I've toured a hotel made from Ice one week and been on Miami Beach the next. I've travelled across 25 states in the US and Ontario and Quebec in Canada. I've met people from every walk of life and had some of the most incredible experiences of my life. I've done this solo and wouldn't have it any other way. I pull into my mate Florin's place on my way back in Napperville and say hi for about an hour then back to Chicago and I'm back in my old apartment. I go for a few celebratory drinks with Jesse and meet up with my beautiful girlfriend Allison who I can't believe has stuck with me all through this. You're a rock star!

The next day I return the car to Hertz, I get talking to a Location Manager and I have never been more impressed with a customer service representitive in my entire life. He called up road side assistance and demanded that they pay for my towing, along with my oil changes. He was a rock star and managed to get me $160 cash back from the towing and two oil changes. The next day I send his boss an email stating what a stellar job this guy has done. My first time to ever do such a thing.

So the car is back, the dream is over, I've completed my 10,000 miles and I'm immensely happy. The real world is now kicking in though as I can no longer say I'm retired, but now unemployed with no fixed address and no solid ideas as to what country I'm going to be in at the end of this month.

Denver, Colorado


The funny thing about Denver is, everyone I talk to either knows someone who lives there or is moving there soon. I've been here once just at the airport on the way to my snowboarding trip to Vail. I'm interested to check it out. I'm supposed to go snowshoeing with Jen but I arrive later than planned as I had to spend the night in the mountains. We go to hike the famous red rocks instead. These provide the backdrop to what musicians describe as the best place in the world to play live. We go on the 7 mile hike and Jen I might add is a personal trainer and one of the most motivated people I've ever met. A mixture of macho-ness and pride keep me going to keep up with her while pretending I'm doing fine and I do fine until I hit the inclines where I've to take a few breaks on the way up. I find it a good tactic to start a conversation on a decline and then play the roll of listener on the inclines when you're out of breath and talking is difficult without looking like a wimp.

We complete the 7 mile hike and grab some much needed Chicken Wings and Fries. Some of the best chicken wings I've ever had I must say and believe me, I've had a lot of wings in my time. They're the greatest thing about America. We decide to chill that night and grab Forgetting Sarah Marshall and try Colorado Style Pizza. Which is pizza with a whole load of toppings thrown on top. Not a patch on Chicago Deep Dish or New York thin crust style pizzas I gotta say. But at least it's local. The next morning I leave early to get started on the 1007 mile trip back to Chicago.

Skidding off the Highway


So I've finished with the most incredible and scenic drive I've ever completed and I'm on I-70 hurtling towards Denver to visit my friend Jen. I'm passing Vail and dangerously low on gas so I pull in and try find a gas station. None to be found so I decide to check out the next town. A Huge snow storm hits and about 2 - 3 inches of snow is on the highway in a matter of minutes. The temperature drops below freezing, I'm going about 40mph when the car does it's first fish tail. I regain control easily enough but the snow keeps coming harder and harder. All of a sudden I'm down to a crawl and the boat has rear wheel drive so I have very little control. Then the car just goes sideways as I try to go up a hill and slides off the highway. It comes to a halt and I try again to move out. I'm not the only one stuck, all the trucks have pulled over to the side and are putting on snow chains. I try for about 30 minutes to get out but every time the car just goes sideways. Rear wheel drive is useless in icy conditions. For a brief period I block the interstate and with the help of a cop I get back to the side of the road, there's no way the boat is getting out of this and there's only 7 miles of gas left in the tank. I'm screwed.


This is definitely the lowest point of my trip, I'm getting frustrated and panicked that I've no way out of this situation. I call Hertz road side assistance but the reception was very poor and the call kept dropping. Eventually I find a tow truck and convince him to pick me up first. He does and I'm put on the top of the truck and am towed out ahead of everyone else stranded on the motorway. The charge is $165, I call hertz who say they won't pay it so it's down to me. I hear that the tunnel ahead is closed to everyone but those with snow chains so there's no way down the mountain from here. I fill up on gas.


I've always wanted to go to Breckenridge but not like this. I head into the town and find a few hotels. I ask how much a room is and the guy goes $100. I have no place else to go but I'm still not going to get screwed by these guys. So I say, sorry buddy, there's no way in hell I'm giving you $100 for a room in April, the season is almost over. He goes $75, I say I was offered $59 in the hotel next door so he offers me it for $50. Sold I say and he even gives me an upgrade.

How cool, a town called Mack in Colorado!

Greatest drive of the trip


The drive from Moab back up to I-70 along route 128 was simply the best scenery of the trip. For me, this drive was better than my experience in the Grand Canyon. It's everything an epic drive needs, incredible breathtaking scenery as you meander along the valley cut out by the Colorado River. Huge towering red cliffs on either side of you. Every moment was postcard perfect. The road was sparsely populated also which added to the experience.

Once you cross over the Colorado you emerge on the flat pains above the gorge. Rolling hills with cattle walking around freely, it was breathtaking.

Union Pacific trains

The only cow to ever have licked it's tongue at me

It was so picturesque and beautiful, definitely the best drive of the trip. Things however, were about to take a turn for the worst.

Moab - Arches National Park


Delicate Arch in Canyonlands National Park, this arch is pictured on all the license plates in Utah.

I spent Easter Sunday morning looking through the town of Moab, Utah for somewhere to get an oil change, my second of the trip and the warning light had been going for days now. There's the dad who runs the shop, and about 8 kids of at least two different ethnicity running around. One of the older boys was the one doing my oil change, he took 2 hours. All the kids were his bros and sisters so another Morman encounter. I didn't have enough time to do Canyonlands due to his ineptitude so I just went to Canyonlands for a quick hike before my drive to Denver.


Balanced Rock, this thing is incredible, the size of 3 school busses and precariously perched on a thin support. I wonder if either of these will fall in my lifetime.

Utah, Mormans and interesting characters.





The drive through Zion National Park to Moab is incredible, few drives do you get to pass through so many national parks. The scenery is breathtaking. I pass by Bryce Canyon which I'm disappointed not to have the opportunity to hike but time is running out. I extend my trip by 2 days taking the total to 40 days and 40 nights.

On my way to Moab, you can't help but notice advertisements for homes along this little travelled road. They're advetised as, private, secluded, fenced properties. Why anyone would want a secluded fenced property on a remote road? they're Mormans is why. I soon find out the steriotype of Utah is true.


I spend the night in a tiny little village that I pass through, I'm too tired to continue any further, I find a nice little motel and they have rooms. I ask if there's anywhere to eat and the receptionist recommends The Patio. I say I'll check in later and race down to get some grub. I get there, sit down and enjoy me 3.2% beer and some BBQ Briskit which was quite tasty. I get talking to the owner who's sitting at the bar and she points out a Morman man, with his first wife who are dining. They couldn't look more normal. Mormans famously practice polygamy and I find out that they don't mix their wifes, but live seperate lives with each of them, and there's a heirarchy too, first wife, second wife and so on.

Buffalo!!

So while I'm trying to figure out if his 1st wifes name is Monday or Tuesday a group of people come in. The two girls and one of the guys sits down at the table, the other two guys sit down at the bar beside me. I immediatly figure I could be in some trouble here based on the reaction of the bartender. Fortunately in these sink or swim situations with unsavory people, I tend to excell. So rather than trying to react, I initiate conversation instead. Wyatt was one of the guys names, Tom was the other. Tom looks like a decent enough guy just rough around the edges. He sits down, gets a glass and pours some budweiser from the bottle he brought into the bar into the glass much to the dislike of the owner who still choses not to intervene. Wyatt on the other hand, is a cattle rancher and rough around the edges and to the core. He sits down with this huge cooler cup which is instantly recognized as cheap whiskey by the smell.


We're chatting away and as I tell them I'm from Ireland, they say I don't sound like I'm from Texas. They think I mean Arlean, Texas which I guess sounds similar as how I prenounce Ireland. I end up having a laugh with these guys while the bar tender keeps staring at me wondering what I'm doing. Wyatt even gives me some of his petrol tasting whiskey which I call 'pure shite' much to his amusment. Alls well that ends well, they walk out without paying their tab and I say on for another few minutes before heading home.


Oh one thing, you know when you're in a small town when I get a phone call in the bar and it's for me. The motel had called the bar seeing if I was going to check in or not that night. Last thing you'd ever expect.


Wyatt with his cup of whiskey, me and Tom.

Hike of Death


Almost at the Summit


The knife edge ridge you've to climb up, sheer cliffs on either side. Probably one of the most scary things I've ever done.

video

I arrive up to Zion National Park, park outside it and use the free shuttle buses to navigate around it. After checking out the trails I chose Angel's Landing. It's only 5 miles there and back, and it's nothing special until you reach the final half mile. You hike up a steep and very narrow knife edge sandstone ridge. On one side is a 1200 ft drop, on the other is an 800 ft drop. I'm not afraid of heights but I found myself completely terrified being up there. Exhilarating is the only word to describe it. You can see the drops on both sides of you and you're walking on sandstone which isn't the strongest of rocks by any means.



The summit offers incomparable, fairytale views. Almost 1500' below, the Virgin River winds around the base of the valley.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meeting the locals



Suffering mildly from dehydration from the Hermit hike, the temperatures were dropping below freezing again so I decided not to camp out again so I went down south to Williams for a nights rest in a hotel. Pretty nerve wrecking flying down the road through the forest with Deer and Elk chilling out at the side of the road. They seem smarter than the rabbits I've met on my trip because they run away from the road.


The next day I get up early and drive back into the Grand Canyon National Park. The drive through the park is pretty poor, there's a few look out points but nothing compared to what I experienced on Hermit's Trail. Once you get out of the other end of the park, you're traveling through the desert and along the highway there's stalls operated by Native Americans. I had to drop into one of the stalls and meet some of the first natives of this country that's been my home for 2.5 years. It was pretty cool talking to them and telling them about my country.

One of the stalls that the Native Americans sell their jewlery from.

It's very surprising traveling through this desolate part of the world that the Natives live in such squaller, they were living in small little groups of run down trailers. I thought they'd have a higher standard of living.



I end up in Utah with their very odd Alcohol rules where beer can not have a higher alcohol content of 3.2%

Hiking the Grand Canyon


So 90% of the 4 million people who visit the grand canyon never leave the visitor centers or the look out points. I'm determined not to be one of the 90%. So I find out about the trails into the Grand Canyon. The Ranger Station recommends that you don't hike down to the Colorado River and back in one day. I looked at a few trails but the one that stuck out was the Hermit Trail. It's unmaintained which I like, hiking along a paved path is too much like a treadmill. Also you don't know what you're going to come across. There were 3 rock slides I had to navigate. It looked like the least traveled trail in the Grand Canyon so I went for it. Described as best for 'experienced desert hikers in top physical condition', and it's location at the far West end of the Park I figured there'd be the least amount of people there.


I was right, I saw maybe 10 people all day, most of whom were surprised I was doing this hike alone which made me curious and nervous. It started off as a steap descent into the canyon, then leveled off to a slow decline as you walk along the edge of the cliffs. I figured out how to use Cairns pretty quick to find where you're supposed to go. But on one of the three massive rock slides I had to navigate through I got lost for about an hour. You go to the bottom and realize there's a cliff and at the top you're at the bottom of another cliff. It was fun though hopping from rock to rock, watching the lizzards skirry away when you approached.


It was on this trail that I really feel that I found what I was looking for from the Grand Canyon. Solitude, a challenge that pushes you past what you think you can do, and epic scenery. This is something you can't get from the viewing areas. It feels like you versus the canyon. Next time I'll leave early morning and make it to the Colorado River and back.

I made it down to almost Cathedral Stairs, so a total of 2,500 ft down into the canyon, and about 10 miles. I really wanted to make it down to the Colorado river but I only had about 4 hours of daylight left and I'd forgotten my torch. So I returned back up the trail. Wow, I can see why you've to be in top physical condition. Going into the Canyon is easy, getting out and climbing 2,500 feet is no easy task. This was a serious hike, I had 5 liters of water with me, a load of assored energy bars and water treatment tablets. I suffered a little from dehydration once I had finished the hike but

The Grand Canyon



I arrived into the Grand Canyon around 5pm and accommodation wasn't looking likely. I get the last tent site in Mather Campground on the South Rim. I book the campsite for two nights then go watch the sun set over the canyon. As you can see, breathtaking. My dreams and preconceptions were definitely met and exceeded. Apart from watching the sunset I was surrounded by people and it just wasn't what I wanted. Too many people with annoying accents talking loudly and it just felt like it took away from the experience. It was distracting.


Resourcefulness

So, I go to the store and stock up on firewood and grabbed a steak, popcorn and some sweetcorn. I set up the roaring fire, cooked up the popcorn. I bought three tinfoil type plates earlier also, so put the sweet corn in one with some water to cook them up. I had no spoon or fork so it was hard to eat them, but in a feet of incredible resourcefulness I took apart my popcorn pan and used the coat hanger type wire from it as my fork for the steak. I put some sea salt on the steak and cooked it up. It cooked a little over medium but tasted damn good. I felt like Mac Gyver with my ingenuity.



The night was great, there's few better things than sitting by a fire you've made and maintained with your bare hands. The temperature had dropped and was heading to near freezing so sitting by the fire under the stars was pretty magical. I went to sleep in the tent which wasn't too comfortable when the temperatures dropped below freezing and I struggled mostly with the cold from the ground. It was good to be roughing it though.

Sedona


I was in Sedona about 3 years ago when I was here for work, Claire and I drove a convertible Mustang to here, I loved it so much I had to come again. You turn a few corners through some canyons and you are suddenly presented with one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is Red Rock country, it's just like you see from the old western movies. Towering red rocks sculpt the landscape, the town is very arty and has some great local artists. The food was terrible in the place I went to but that was the only blight on my trip to one of my favorite places in the states.

After I wondered quickly around the town, I went on one of the best drives of the trip so far. The trip from Sedona to Flagstaff, North on route 89A is breathtaking. You're driving through deep forrested valleys, the road twists and turns and a beautiful postcardesqe landscape around every corner.

Dead Snake

video

Huge Dead Snake

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stage 2/3 Complete!


Phoneix was my goal for the second part of my trip and I've made it here. Based on time, Part 3 will be very different to my original plan. About another 3,500 miles completed.

Meeting the Governor of Arizona

Back in my days as a programmer. I was luckily selected to fly to Phoenix Arizona to work on a client site, Avnet. They're a distributor of computer products, embedded systems, semiconductors, interconnects, passives, electromechanical, RF and microwave components. This was my first experience of consultancy which would later bring me to the states full time (Full time until recently). Dealing with customers, IT guys, managers of all levels in both the client and your own company. The good and the bad, it was pretty exciting and more fun than sitting as a code monkey for 8 hours a day. We worked hard, about 11 hour days but we also played harder, introducing our clients to the 'Precision Drink' which was a Jeagerbomb. This is where I met a good friend of mine Claire, no visit to a client site has ever been as fun as the 3 weeks we spent down there. Working from 8-8, then heading out and about till about 3 or 4 every night. It was crazy, but crazy fun.


We also got to meet a guy called Tony Allen, I don't remember what he did, but everyone called him the Governor. He was called this because it looked like he just walked around, shaking hands, kissing babies, waving to the fans in Governor fashion. He's been a good friend since and also a true hero and inspiration in my life. He introduced me to Captain Morgan Rum, always have two glasses in your freezer for when a guest comes over and you need a touch of class, but the most lasting influence he's had is that he was the man who introduced me to Scotch Whiskey. Since that first glass of Glenfiddich 12 on the rocks, I've come to love the stuff, along with Irish Whiskey. Highlights are my Johnny Walker Blue from Kev (Thanks Kev!) and when I was 24, I drank a whiskey that was older than I. The Macallan 25 year old. As soon as he opened the bottle you could smell just how good it was going to be. (Seriously, thank you Alix!!!!).



It was one of my goals of this trip to make it as far as Phoenix and see his new born baby boy Miles and his wife Evie. Mission acomplished :o)

The Town too Tough to Die



Tombstone, Arizona. I had to check it out. Very cool little town where all the locals dress up as they would have back in the day. Massive beards, gun holsters, dresses, corsets everything. And they're paid to just walk around town and hang out, you see them shopping, sitting down having beers for lunch. It was very well done. There's whip shows on in the middle of the street and gun fights a couple of times a day. The taverns are pretty cool too.

Side note, if you're ever in Tucson, they're famous for their mesquite grilled food. Don't eat it, it's pure crap. The only time in my entire life I've never finished a steak, it was that bad.

The Thing!

This is definitely one of the highlights of my trip. The drive along I-10 from Las Cruces to Phoenix is deathly boring. There's some nice mountains in the distance and you pass over the Continental Divide, that's about it. So, for about 200 miles every 5-10 miles or so you see a massive billboard advertising 'The Thing?'. I remember hearing something about The Thing in the Arizona Desert, but couldn't remember what it was. So, for about 200 miles of driving, you're constantly asking yourself, what is The Thing? And your imagination wonders and comes up with the most amazing Things that this thing could be. It really stimulates your mind and makes what would be a boring drive, really quite interesting. Anyway, I arrived at The Thing, paid my $1 to get in and wow, it was nothing like what I had expected, but astonishing none the less. The reason I liked it so much is how much it gets you thinking about what it could be. So, if you're inclined to google what it is, you'll probably lose the best thing about the thing, which for me was wondering what the hell this thing was.

The Most interesting Thing!

So, you're driving along the desert, you see a car every 35 miles maybe, it's pitch dark, there's nothing around but this road. So what's the last thing you'd expect to see? A Prada store is something you'd probably never guess!

Prata Marfa store, there's no car park, no telephone or power lines into the building, it's just totally isolated out in the middle of the desert. I find out later that it's an art piece. The door doesn't open, it just sits there with all the expensive Prada merchendise inside it. Definitely not what you expect flying through the desert.

Dream comes true


The one thing I've searched for this whole trip was an entirely empty road stretching out as far as you could see. Not one single car in eyesight. I finally found this heading from the dreadful Fort Stockton to Big Bend National Park. Big Bend is the least visited of all the national parks due to the fact it's in the middle of nowhere, right on the Mexican boarder.

I pay the $20 to get into the park and enjoy a very beautiful scenic drive through it. I head to Chisos Mountains and find the Lost Mine trail, it's 1,200 ft to the top and about 4.8 miles round trip. Challenging enough but the views from the top are definitely worth it. Panoramic views of the whole area. Not that many people on the trail and it's definitely tougher at the top when the temperatures reach 90 degrees (About 34 Celsius).


I then drive towards Lajitas and onwards to Presidio. This is definitely one of the most scenic drives of the trip, you're passing along the Rio Grande which boarders Mexico and the US. The inclines here are 15% which is the maximum allowed incline on a road. You're passing ghost towns and abandoned houses along the way. I even see a dead snake on the road.


Mexico on the left, Rio Grande in the middle and US of A on the right. I head up towards Marfa to get back on the I-10