Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Monday, August 18, 2003

Hi all,
I am back, Simon couldn't keep me from the keyboard for long - I swear I am having internet withdrawal symptoms and start palpitating if I can't get online for a number of days. One thing I have worked out is that all the public libraries provide free internet access so I am now a library card holder in 4 states and loving it. You register for a computer then they give you an hour on and then you can go back in the queue for another machine - its a very good system.

Anyway is still proving very useful and I have started to get really cheeky with my offer prices and still getting good luck. I offered just 20 pounds for Albuquerque and got put in a $220 Hilton and because we arrived at midnight they gave us an upgrade to a King Suite (normally a $50 upgrade!!) We even got free cookies. So this traveling lark can be done on the cheap without being done on the cheap!! Anyway this is what we have been upto since New Orleans. You will be glad to hear the over indulging of food and alcoholic beverages has been reduced somwhat. Purely because I don't want to look like a beached whale in the Cook Islands a week on Sunday!!

Anyway here goes.....
Wednesday 13th August
Time to leave New Orleans after quite a long stay in one place. We went to catch our Amtrak for a 30 hour trip heading west. In 30 hours we would still only have been in 2 states. Louisiana where we are now and Texas. I am still shocked as to the size of this country. Our train was even better than the last a bit newer and it was a double decker. We went to the Movie lounge to watch a movie, it was quite simply the worst film ever. It was called "The Core" and was all the bad bits from Independance Day and Armageddon and every other America saves the world movies that we have seen. It was about a mission to get a space shuttle to the core of the earth to jump start the electro magnetic field that had stopped with a good looking Nasa Astronaut as the female lead and a college lecturer!! Whatever - talk to the hand as the face ain't listening - In a Jerry Springer Stylee!) Anyway other than that it wasn't a bad journey. We seem to be very lucky weather wise as when we left Boston it started raining and you have probably heard the weather (and electricity) in the North East has been suffering ever since. Within 10minutes on the train it started chucking it down in New Orleans which is fine when you are on the train. We passed through tobacco fields and cotton fields and crossed over amazon like rivers and through lush green forests. Then it grew dark and you couldn't really see anymore so I started reading my book "Life of Pi" that Nic bought me. (thanks Nic xx) It was absolutely brilliant and I read the whole thing before I could go to sleep. It was winner of the Man Booker Prize 2002 and is just brilliant. Go and buy it!!

Thursday 14th August
Woke up to a different planet!! The green had gone - we were now in the desert. We passed through Houston about midnight and we had a one hour stop so I got off to have a wander (while SImon slept like a baby!) It was still pretty warm but a storm was brewing and now at 7am I was in a whole other country but still in the same state - it is very bizarre. We went through canyons and then landscapes so flat you thought it would never end and then just as quickly you would be railing past huge rock faced mountain and deep gorges - it was beautiful. There was nothingness for about 300 miles - nothing except the occasional small community with 4 houses and a church, then nothing again. All this time we could see Mexico just across the river and then about 2 hours before El Paso I saw a tornado twister - I thought it was pretty exctiting but the guy on the seat behind me told me it was only small. It looked pretty impressive. We went through quite a storm and the lightening was just amazing - really big forks. We went past ranches and saw cowboys with cowboy hats on riding horses, big tumbleweeds blowing through the desert. Its bizarre because you go to Texas and you expect to see cowboys and tumbleweeds and roads that have no end but then when you see it you're still surprised. The storm had passed as we neared El Paso and we saw our hotel from the Train. We were staying in a Travelodge which is just like any British Travelodge except it had a heated outdoor pool! We went to the hotel and checked in. We went out to see what El Paso had to offer. Now the north of downtown El Paso is in Texas and the south of Downtown El Paso is in Mexico the only separation is a river and a couple of heavily manned bridges. There was nothing Texan about this town!! The first language was Spanish and nearly everyone we saw was Mexican. They have Border Control cycling round on bycycles to make sure that people don't try and swim across the river. We went to get some Fajitas then some sleep.

Friday 15th August
We headed down to the Public Library as it had free Internet Access to sort out some finances and send a few emails. We then went out to see El Paso by day as we were moving on tonight to Albuqurque. Its quite a small town with a million shops selling cheap clothes (made in Mexico of course!!) Its quite a pretty town with a backdrop of huge mountains. We headed to this "Eat all you can for $4.99" buffet which was packed so we figured it would be a safe bet. It was pretty good with lots of Southern Fried Chicken, Fajitas, Spaghetti, Ice Tea, Dr Pepper, Coke, Ice Cream, Banana & Custard, Jelly, Coffee - all included in the price. So we did as the sign said "Eat as much as you can" and left paying just $10.60.

I notice the budding mathematicians amongst figuring out that 2 $4.99 don't make $10.60. That is the annoying thing about America no tax is added to the price tag. Its like our Vat being added at the end with the twist that you don't know what the rate is. Each state has its own Tax rate so you see a T-Shirt for $10 in Washington it would cost you $11 as their Tax rate is 10% but in El Paso a $10 dollar Tshirt cost $10.60 to make things even more confusing the Tax rate in DC is actually only 6% but Washington has a city Tax of 4% so you pay state tax and city tax and then you could pay for example a hotel tax or if a bar is playing live music there may be a 2% entertainment tax... you with me?? No me neither anyway the best bet is to add 10% onto whatever before you think you can afford it Oh yeah and then another 20% for a tip!! Phew!

Anyway we were pretty stuffed and it was a good deal for $5.30!! We then had a walk around town to walk off lunch. There isn't really that much to see here - the Tourist Info leaflet mainly displays restaurants and hotels so we were glad to be just stopping off and not planning a fortnight vacation (sorry two weeks - they don't use fortnight here). Anyway we headed back to our hotel and collected our bags and headed to the Greyhound station as the Amtrak doesn't go North. I boarded this bus with some people that were getting off in Chicago which from here is a bloody long way by bus!! It was a 3 day journey and one couple had a baby with them. So we got on our bus for just a short 6 hour trip (believe me 6 hours feels really short now - I will never complain about the 1 hour 40 to London ever again.) Oh yeah and those hick towns I mention "do" exist we stopped every 2 hours for a fifteen minute rest stop - one town was called "Truth or Consequence" and it seemed to have nothing more than a garage, a porn shop and a church!

We arrived in Albuquerque at midnight and walked just a few blocks to our Hotel (the one with the cookies!!) It was really nice had a pool and the room was huge with views for miles we ate our cookies and crashed!!

Saturday 16th August
There is very little to tell you about today as Simon got up and went swimming, I stayed in bed till about 11.00 (its hard work co-ordinating a trip like this you know!!) then we went to the Public Library where Simon spent 3 hours typing up the previous Travelpod - I am glad these libraries offer free internet access as the hotel was a buck a minute!! We then had a Starbucks and head to the train station to catch the Amtrak to Flagstaff. It was a fairly uneventful trip, only 3 hours (or so I thought!!) got chatting to some people. Now the time changes in the US I thought I had figured out. They have ET - Eastern Time, CT - Central Time, MT - Mountain Time and PT - Pacific Time. We were in MT and I knew we didn't go into PT until we got to California, what we did though was go into MST - Mountain Standard Time which is MT that doesn't observe Daylight Saving Time and therefore don't put their clocks forward in the Spring, so they are MT in the winter and PT in the summer. Anyway it meant our clocks went back again so we were on the train for an extra hour which was fine. We got to Flagstaff at 9.20pm. Flagstaff is 7000 feet above sea level so gets quite chilly at night and it was so nice to get off the train and feel the need for a fleece - I know that sounds odd but it was relief from the sticky heat. We got in a cab and headed to our motel which was just up Route 66. We stayed in a Rodeway Inn which was just a regular motel in amongst about 100 other motels. We called in a Pizza Express takeaway and hit the sack as we had an early start tomorrow.

Sunday 17th August
We got up at 6.30 as we were leaving today for the Grand Canyon and the bus was 8.30. The good thing about Motels are they offer free breakfasts so 4 danish pastries later (each!!) a good few cups of coffee we made the walk to the bus station to get our bus. This was provided as part of our unlimited Amtrak use so wasn't a standard bus it was a shuttle mini bus and was quite nice. It only took 2 hours to get to The Grand Canyon. The bus dropped us off in a wooded area just a 3 minute walk from the Canyon Rim and you had no idea you were anywhere near one of the 7 wonders of the world. We started to walk towards it and then it hits you. It is truly one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. To give you an idea of the size it is approx 277 mile long, 10 miles wide and over a mile deep.

They have free shuttle buses that take you to various points spread out about 15 miles along the South Rim. We spent some time at the visitors centre and headed up 9 miles toward the South West of the Rim. This was the busiest route and some of the viewing points actually had car parks at the so did get quite busy with people. We then decided to take the green route which took us about 5 miles along the South East of the Rim, it also only had 2 stops where the other route had 14. We went to a point called Yaki Point, it was by far the best view of the Canyon by a long way and not another person was there!! We hiked along the Rim for about a mile and sat on the edge of the rim with our legs dangling below for about 20 mins, not speaking and just listenig to absolute silence. It was blissful. We spent the whole day at The Canyon walking around and venturing down into the rim a little (not too far as we knew there was only one way out - uphill!!) We got some lunch at the onsite grocery store which caters for all the hikers and campers who stay there. We then headed back to the bus at 6pm to catch the bus back to our Motel. We headed to a diner next door called The Mason Jar. We had a right fruit and Nut Cake of a waitress who got everything about our order wrong but had a damn good steak and chips - oh yeah and lots of free refills.

Monday 18th August
We got up the next day and checked out of our motel and headed into Flagstaff which we were expecting to be a bit of a waste of a day. Our train didn't leave for Vegas until 9.30 so we had all day to kill and it was great place to be stuck in. We headed to the Library to book some accomodation in Las Vegas and San Francisco - we got The Frontier in Las Vegas which was centre strip for just 20 pounds a night and we got The Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Sqaure in San Francisco. We then went and spent the day wandering around Flagstaff which is a really nice little town. We went to an Irish bar for a few beers to help us sleep on the train and then caught our train for an overnight to Vegas.

Thats about it for now - The next you hear we may have won our fortune in Vegas - or we can't afford anymore internet access and this is the last entry - Hopefully we will be in touch soon.

Take care all and keep up the emails.
Liz and Simon
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