Thursday, 6 April 2006

Travels With Charley

Well, i've read Lolita (if it wasn't for the lure of illicit hot pre-teen action it would have been unfathomably dull), Zen And The Art of Motorcyle Maintenance (another struggle), Travels With Charlie (from the mighty pen of the incomparable Steinbeck). I've seen Rainman, Midnight Run, Easy Rider, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Joyride, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (which has also been appreciattd in its literary form) and a multitude of other films that celebrating an automotive tour of the great United States of America so I think i'm ready to give it a shot. Did a bit of cost comparisons on the best way to spend these next five weeks and while it would be a bit cheaper to go via rail there would be some excruciating travel times where I’d be stuck on a train or a bus with only myself for company (i'm not very good company). Well, driving around by myself is a little bit more expensive and the problem of entertaining myself still remains but i'd certainly have a lot more freedom and I can probably sleep in the car every once in a while offsetting some of the cost (although my collosal frame may have trouble getting comfortable in the backseat of an economy car i'm sure I will survive). Well, my Charley isn't a poodle but is a plaster cast who I can’t wait to be rid of and my Rocicante is not a house on wheels but is a Chrysler Sebring. I also don't have the great American novel behind me but I do have a silly hat so I think i'm in good stead. Headed into downtown to pick up the vehicle, an economy wasn’t available so I got upgraded to the Chrysler. Besides a few minutes behind the wheel of Mo's sportscar I haven't really driven since Sydney - I told myself that dealing with downtown traffic for the past six months should give me a little bit of an advantage but the problem with being a bike courier is that most of the time one is actively breaking the road rules. However, apart from a few issues with centering the car in the lane (in Australia the driver has to put themselves on the right whereas over here to centre the car you have to be on the left) there didn’t seem to be too many issues. Getting home was the first task but once I was on my way it seemed to be pretty smooth sailing. Border crossing was pretty simple - my finger prints ar now on file with the USG from now until the end of time or the end of the empire, whichever comes first). I've been warned that once you cross the border you immediately notice the difference but apart from slightly better roads and everything in miles rather than ks ididnt notice anything too signifcant. Got to Seattle around fiveish and made my way into downtown where I got stuck in my first traffic jam for ages - not very pleasant when you need to go to the toilet, you have no idea where you are and the whole place is a maze of one way streets. I couldn’t even find a place to pull over - i've never seen so mny paid parking places iin my life - they were charging even for a 20m stop. Eventually drove out of dontown and settled myself before finding a very expensive hostel (back in downtown). Everything seems to close really early here, perhaps because its a Tuesday. Will probably not stay here for very long because I want to get on my way and i'll be coming back through seattle anyway on my return. First impressions of the city ar okay but not great - the homeless here seem to bee as prevalent as vancouver and there gangs dressed in colours hanging around on the corners (at least where I am - it would almost be comical if it wasn't for the fact that this is the USA annd they're probably all armed). As i m not planning on hanging around the city for too long on this leg of the trip I decided I should make an effort to check out whhthe nightlife had to offer and after wandering around for a little while I came upon the Crocodile Bar, a grungy little saloon that aapparently is oone of the best small live music venues in town (that's according to some of the mods I met in there anyway - apparetly Niirvana and pearl jam used to play there regularly altough consering the city i'm currently in I would guess that most live music venues could also claim that honour). Jam packed ith lots of people who were way cooler than me but friendly enough nonetheless. Was given a CD by a struggling local band whch I shall listen to at some stage in my travels and was subjected to some of the best Elvis costello covers i've ever heard.
In any event, the road trip has begun but there's a long way to go so next stop ...

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