Articles tagged with "united states"

Willcox

Willcox

Heading back from Chiricahua to Tucson, we passed through the tiny town of Willcox. As we crossed the railway tracks, we saw a restaurant in an old dining carriage, and on a whim we stopped. The town felt remote, and the railway reminded me of ‘Bad day at Black Rock‘.

The restaurant was a fantastic place. There was not much on offer for vegetarians, so I just had a starter. This was small town America where portions are vast and grease is good, and long before I’d finished it I was disgustingly full.


Chiricahua

Chiricahua

After the conference I had two days to spare in southern Arizona. You can’t do much there without a car, but luckily a friend had been observing at the nearby Kitt Peak National Observatory and had a motor. He’d just finished his observing run, and we headed out into the desert.

Our destination was Chiricahua National Monument. It was a little bit cooler in the hills there than it had been back in Tucson. Near to the car park there were quite a few people on the trails, many of whom did not look very much like hikers at all and occupied most of the width of the narrow paths. As we got further away, there were fewer and fewer people, and the wilderness was spectacular.

After a few hours we reached a turnoff for ‘Inspiration Point’. I was initially not too fussed, as we’d already covered a lot of ground and seen some pretty inspiring things. Luckily we decided to check it out, and soon reached the most impressive viewpoint of the day.


Sears Tower

Sears Tower

I headed for the Sears Tower. There were almost no queues, but still it took me a long time to get to the top. There was a forced viewing of some promotional video, and then they tried to take a photo of me to superimpose on some cheesy view. This happens in all sorts of places, and I can never really believe that anyone would actually buy the photos. I waved the photographer aside and strode through to the lift.

It was an overcast, dull day and Chicago looked huge. There were not many people on the viewing platform. I got into a conversation with someone, who asked me whether I knew what a particular building was. I didn’t, and presumed he was not from around here. He turned out to be a DJ from Texas and we talked about music for a while. He asked me if I was from around here, which surprised me a lot. I thought my English accent was a dead giveaway.

The DJ gave me his card, and I wandered on. The clouds seemed to be breaking up a bit, but I didn’t have too much time before my flight on to Tucson, so I headed back down the tower. I got back on the metro, and as we clanked out towards O’Hare, the Sun suddenly broke out, and by the time I got to the airport the skies were completely clear.


Chicago

Chicago

I got into trouble at immigration. I thought I might do – my passport has been through some rough times and is battered and fraying. But that was fine. The problem came when the immigration officer asked me what the purpose of my visit was. I wasn’t exactly sure what to say – I’d come for a conference but that was only one day, and then I would have two days free. On the green form I put ‘tourism’. “What is the purpose of your visit?” asked the officer. I began to explain my situation. I was tired and I rambled. He cut me short. “What. Is the purpose. Of your visit. Sir?”, he said, angrily. “Work”, I said, and he looked at me with disgust, crossed out what I’d written on the card, stamped my passport and waved me through.

I got a train into the centre of Chicago, and wandered around aimlessly. I’d seen ice in Lake Huron as we flew in, but Lake Michigan was ice-free and it wasn’t cold. I found my way to Millennium Park and Anish Kapoor’s ‘Cloud Gate’.


Ends

Ends

Early the next morning I packed up, said goodbye to Dave who was travelling on for a few more weeks, and headed for the airport. The last surprise of the trip was waiting for me – my flight to Miami would be twelve hours late. I was so psyched up for going home that this was a huge disappointment. I re-arranged my connecting flight from Miami to London, checked in my backpack, and trudged out of the airport, wondering how to kill 12 hours. I ended up spending a couple of them stood at the end of the runway, outside the perimeter fence but still spectacularly, perilously close to the jets taking off and landing. Standing about twenty metres behind a large plane taking off is something I highly recommend – I don’t know what I expected but I didn’t expect to have to hold onto the fence to stop myself being blown into the road.

After that entertainment, I walked a couple of miles from the airport to the nearest TrolĂ© stop, and headed back into the city. I found an internet cafe, sent messages to my family telling them I’d be 24 hours later than planned, wasted time looking around shops and generally wishing I was already on the way home. In the evening I headed back to the airport, bought a ridiculously strong coffee and a delicious greasy churro, before getting my Ecuadorean exit stamp, boarding the plane and heading off into the night. We landed in Miami at about midnight, and then I had 18 hours to kill until my plane to London. American Airlines didn’t remotely offer to accommodate anyone so I won’t be flying with them again in a hurry. I spent a few uncomfortable hours dozing on a bench, then got a bus to the city centre. I sat in a park overlooking Biscayne Bay and pondered.

Finally, it was time to go. I left Miami, caught the flight to London, and on a cold February morning I found myself at Heathrow, unemployed and homeless. This had been the trip of a lifetime, but it was great to be back.


Beginnings

Beginnings

It was a cool, foggy morning on 18 October 2005 as I left Ealing for the airport. I’d been packing until 4am, and then left the house at 4.30am, so I had a hard time at Heathrow stopping myself from falling asleep and missing my flight. I managed it though, and flew west. I was flying to Buenos Aires via New York, and I arrived at JFK airport in the early afternoon, a little bit refreshed after sleeping all the way across the Atlantic.

I found my way to Howard Beach subway station and took the long ride to Manhattan. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day as I emerged at 34th St and Penn station to find the Empire State Building right ahead, and I decided to go up. The queues were not bad, but made worse by the harassment from over-enthusiastic audio-guide sellers, falsely claiming that there were no information panels at the top to try and flog their gear.

I brushed them aside, looked deliberately angry on the cheesy photo they insisted on taking of every group going up to superimpose onto a fake view and sell at an exorbitant price, and got into the lift. A short climb up some stairs at the top, and there I was, high above New York in the afternoon sunshine. London seemed a long time ago, and South America still a long way away.

I enjoyed the views, and the assault of noise coming up from the streets far below. I was tempted to stay up there for sunset, but my onward flight was at 10pm and I thought that missing it would not be good, so I came down at about 6pm, had a quick wander past some of the famous streets of Manhattan, grabbed a huge portion of cheap greasy pizza, and headed back to the airport for my flight to Argentina.