Coming down

Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Dec 26, 2005

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , Nevada
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

So, this is the beginning of the end: the west coast of the continental US. Maybe it's the fact that I'm nearly finished that led me to not enjoy San Francisco. Or maybe it's just boring and crap. It certainly wasn't different enough from home to be interesting.

The hostel that I staying in was nice enough, clean and well-located. I was surprised to find that the guy behind the front desk was from Tipperary, but as I spent more time in the hostel I discovered the place was practically overrun with Irish people... far too many, in fact. It was sort of a critical mass situation, where if you put enough Irish people into one room it feel just like Ireland. Specifically, it felt like a student residence - lads watching football while talking about how drunk they were last night. Precisely the sort of people I managed to get away from for about three months.

I arrived off the plane from Honolulu fairly fresh (the plane was practially empty, so I was able to use my seat and the one beside me as a bed), and so I spent the first day seeing the sights: Alcatraz, Telegraph Hill, Lombard Street, etc, although I was kind of doing it on autopilot - I wasn't that bothered seeing any of this stuff. But by the end of the first day I'd seen an awful lot, with only the Golden Gate bridge left.

So I spent a large chunk of the second day sitting down with the Amtrak timetable, sorting out where I was going to go for the next two weeks. It turns out that Hurrcane Katrina has basically topedoed my original plan to visit Houston and Memphis, because New Orleans was the south's transit hub. The train that runs from LA to Orlando now terminates at San Antonio - so that's as far south as I'm going to get before heading straight to Chicago (I have to say I'm not bothered by the change in plan). I booked my train tickets that same day - I don't want to be caught out in case tickets get scarce around christmas.

On my last day I dutifully went to see the Golden Gate bridge. It's a big bridge. And it's orange. It's a nice walk over it, but pedestrians are only allowed to walk down and back along one side of it, as I discovered when I strayed onto the wrong side as passing cyclists shouted "asshole!" at me (cheers, America! CLEARLY NOT LOCAL, DIDN'T SEE THE SIGN).

From there it was on to Las Vegas, which I had been quite excited about seeing. I didn't plan on gambling as my budget can't stretch that far, but there's a good bit to do which doesn't involve gambling. Of course, Vegas has figured out that people like me would be coming to say, and have ways of making us cough up cash anyway. The main thing to do is walk up and down the Strip, looking at the various casino floors. I was staying quite far south at the Luxor (the black pyramid), in a room which really beat the hostel dorms I'd mostly being staying in up until now. Due to internet deals, the price for a Vegas double room was the same as the price of a hostel private room - can't really argue what that. But I can argue why it cost $35 to get some laundry done - like I said, they have ways of making you pay.

I had a go on the rides in the Stratosphere and New York, New York hotels and I found then very tame compared to stuff I'd been on in Japan and Korea. But I got a day's entertainment out of them, as per my US strategy of ignoring pretty much everything the guidebook says and just go and do what I think looks like fun (Goodbye, Freemont Street Experience in the dodge part of town! Hello, Star Trek Experience at the Hilton!).

I had planned to get a helicopter out to the Grand Canyon, but it proved to be too expensive. I ended up getting a bus, but it worked out quite well as I got to spend a few hours at the canyon, walking around a section of the rim. Interestingly, there was a Polish guy there who seemed to have the same opinions on travelling in the US as I did - that it's not as good as I had hoped.

Reading back over this, it occurs to me that it really sounds like I'm running to US down a lot. I think this is simply because it couldn't possibly seem as interesting as some of the places I've seen. I'm also having to readjust to western culture after months of having to work go get anything done, from buying a train ticket to ordering some food. And it's probably better than I adjust now, far away, instead of getting home and complaining to you guys all the time. I guess I'm also very aware that I'm coming to the end here - about two weeks left - so I'm starting to come down after all the highs what have come before. I expect I'll be over that in a few days, but it was bound to happen and it sucks when it does.
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mikeymouse on

America f**k yeah
So dude how is the land of the brave and free? is it like i remember it? Land of the free, but don't do that, don't do that, and don't even think of doing that ;)
Ya gotta remember Hunter S Thompsens words on dealing with americans (or was it just vegas people)
'Don't take any guff from these swine'

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