9. Around the world – Experiencing unknown delights
The United States and Canada
With many itineraries tried, a viable route was decided upon, dates set and a round-the-world airline ticket purchased.
My first destination Would be the United States, starting in Boston and ending in Hawaii, travelling to as many towns or cities as I could. I would get a 3 month VISA for the United States and I intended to utilise it all.
23rd of July As my travels had started over a year ago, it was yet another early start, 6am at the Airport at Heathrow. I started my round-the-world adventure as I intended the entire trip to be, a life enriching experience, so with confidence I asked about a free upgrade to business class. They weren’t forthcoming but as I looked like a budget traveller wearing trainers, shorts and a t-shirt I wasn’t surprised. This became standard practice as the years went by, I would invariably ask for an upgrade but looking like a budget traveller not a business executive, I was always refused.
Once in Boston, I took a taxi to the hostel. Right away I felt the hostel wasn’t going to be to my liking.
After a good night’s sleep it was time to explore Boston. It was cloudy and wasn’t very warm which didn’t endear me to Boston. The closest ‘point of interest’ was the library, which didn’t make for a very exciting start.
I then looked around a shopping mall before catching a bus to Harvard. I inquired about a possible future entry. The high-light of the day was seeing a street performer performing uncovered escapology, the crowd witnessed his double jointed’ness’ and ability to dislocate joints at will.
Thankfully the day ended in a far better light than it started.
The following day I took another bus to Harvard to see some more of the campus, a metro to a touristy shopping area, another metro to the J.F.K. memorial, yet another metro to Boston Common and finally a metro and bus back to the hostel. A busy but uneventful day.
2 months previously I had arranged to meet a friend from university at a famous bar in Boston at a set time on this day. It took me 2 hours to find the bar but I arrived on time, I waited and waited, I even phoned his mum in England but to no avail. I then proceeded to the Greyhound bus station, where I had to wait another 6 hours for my overnight bus to Niagra Falls.
I went to the Canadian side of the Falls which despite being very touristy was quite a built-up town. There was only one hostel at Niagra and it had steps everywhere but my choice as a budget traveller was limited to the hostel or sleeping rough !.
I had a stereotypical Canadian breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup before going on the tourist’s favourite, Maid of the Mist, a boat ride around the base of the falls. I then went up the street full of shops selling expensive tourist tack and into the huge newly built casino. The fact that people would sit in-front of a machine for hour upon hour feeding it dollar after dollar amazed me.
As I mentioned before, Niagra is very touristy but I thought it had a very friendly atmosphere and was a great little town.
One night in a hostel full of steps was enough. I got the morning Greyhound up to Toronto, where immediately I got the impression of cleanliness and modern environment of Toronto. I checked-out the main street and the huge Eton centre (a complex full of shops, entertainment, restaurants, etc).
I found a hostel which is a university dormitory for most of the year but for the summer vacation it becomes a hostel. It was a huge place with only a few guests so I got a private room. After my dinner, one of the best street vendor hot dog’s I have ever had, I decided I wanted some beer. Off I went to find a liquor store, I knew general stores couldn’t sell beer, but I had no idea the liquor stores in Canada were so few and far between. I wheeled round for an hour and still no liquor store, I returned to the hostel tired and with no alcoholic refreshment !.
I had only been travelling for a week and already I was exhausted, too much wheeling and too little relaxing, so I had a very quiet day. I got out of bed at 1pm, went out to eat and resumed my beer hunt – this time with success. Then sat watching US sitcoms on TV all evening with, my favourite, cheese puffs and alcoholic refreshment !.
Checking-out a Canadian Chinatown was the day’s mission, would it compare to San Francisco’s ?. It did, it wasn’t as big but the colours and smells of all the weird and wonderful products were as vibrant. The Chinese characters on the many signs and Chinese language being spoken gave it that authentic ‘oriental feel’.
Despite the previous days rest I was still getting pain from my wrist due to too much wheeling. So I spent the evening at a strip club watching Canadian flesh and drinking over-priced beer !.
The CN tower was the following days adventure. Going up the tallest structure in the world is a very touristy activity but it was worth the expense as I got a great view of the ‘Great Lakes’. The glass floor area which allows you to see the ground far, far below and the muscular German tourist who pulled me up a flight of stairs to the upper outside viewing platform, at the time, were worth noting – But are pointless details now !.
I took the metro to the inaccessible Eton centre station. Then spent 5 hours in the strip club watching more Canadian flesh and drinking more over-priced beer !.
Another lazy morning in bed, a 3rd and final visit to the strip club and this time a free hot dog from my new friend, the street vendor. That evening preparations were being made for the following day’s Caribbean street carnival, I could feel tension in the air, a physic feeling !. I watched more American sitcoms and went to bed.
The next morning I woke and immediately put the radio on, my physic feeling had been correct, someone had been shot and killed just 2 minutes from the hostel.
It was time to leave Canada and re-enter the United States, I got a Greyhound to Buffalo. This time there was no mention of wheelchair access at the hostel so I decide to stay just one night. However, when I arrived the hostel had recently been modernised and the bathroom wheelchair access was second to none.
I saw a sign advertising a free Shakespeare in the Park concert – being a budget traveller, the word ‘free’ is highly appreciated and therefore a must do or must see activity – It turned out to be a quite professionally performance of different Shakespeare plays. It was an outdoor concert, the stage area at the bottom of the hill and the audience sat on the grassy slope leading up the hill. It was a warm evening but earlier that day it had been raining which meant the grass was wet and very slippery.
Sitting half way up the embankment, I suddenly felt my wheels slip and soon I was skidding down the hill in a 4 wheel drift position. The performance was still going on, the people sitting below me were sent scattering, as I picked up speed to the point where it was all going to end horribly. The performance had stopped and at the velocity at which I was skidding, it was looking like I could end up on stage in a pool of blood. Luckily or unluckily, I hit mound of dirt and I was sent flying like a projectile from my wheelchair, I hit the ground and bouncing twice. I was physically unhurt but my pride was severely bruised.
The performance, on stage, restarted. But my stunt driving show, the show of the night, had finished. Two guys helped me back into my wheelchair and I went to sit with them, this time heavily secured half way up the embankment. We sat and drank beer while watching more of the performance, as the beer effects increased, our conversations became more frequent and the volume amplified. Despite my earlier magnificent stunt show, we were ‘encouraged’ to leave, our amplified voices were causing annoyance. Even the actors on stage were being disrupted by our “un’Shakespeare’like” talk of fast women and fast cars !.
We decided to head back to the one guy’s house for refreshments. I choose the wrong time to voice my adverse and immature opinions on Marriage. I never got the refreshment, When I saw his wedding ring and wedding photos I knew I had said the wrong thing to a newly-wed and instantly his previous beer generosity became dislike !.
As planned, next day, I got back on the train and headed for New York where I immediately transferred to a Washington bound train. As I took the efficient Washington metro to the hostel, I was stopped and, embarrassingly, someone tried to give me money much like a what homeless tramp would beg for. When I found the hostel, I immediately located the hostel, showered and changed my clothes !.
To recover from my ‘incident’ in Buffalo, I spent the morning in bed. In the afternoon I went on the FBI tour, like many things in Washington, it is free – a budget traveller’s favourite word, free. I queued for hours but it was worth the wait, I saw the American public’s worrying fascination for guns.
The tall, pencil shaped structure of the Washington Monument, made famous in so many American movies, is nothing more, nothing less than it looks in movies. I returned to the hostel too find row and rows of people sitting on the door step, the reason being is that it is not advised to walk the streets at night because, despite being Americas capital, the high number of police a
day I couldn’t go on the tour inside because of some garden party celebration. I then went to the Air and Space Museum, I am not normally a Museum loving person but this was the best museum I had ever seen. Then to the Capitol Building, famous for its dome roof, where all the big American government department heads and state senators meet. For an unknown reason, people in wheelchairs got a free private tour, I tried to sound invested and ask questions but 2 or 3 times I could not refrain from yawning !.
The following day I went on a tour of the pentagon with other people from the hostel, going through the ‘corridors of power’ in a building which has restricted public access was exciting. I then returned to the Air and Space museum to see some more of the exhibits which I failed to see in this expansive building the previous day, before returning to the hostel with a punctured tyre.
After repairing and re-inflating the tyre, next morning, I woke to visit the white house. A huge advantage to being in a wheelchair is that there is a separate queue, bypassing the 5 hour queue which everyone else has to join for the limited number of tour places available. To get a tour place able bodied people must arrive at 5am for the limited number of tours between 9am and 11am but being in a wheelchair I can and did arrive at 8:50am, just 10 minutes before the first tour. The tour was worth my 10 minute wait but if I had queued for 5 hours I would have been very disappointed.
Later on, I got the train back to New York, all the stereotypes of New York taxi drivers being crazy and dangerous are correct. my ride to the Banana Bungalow hostel in New York was over quickly, with no respect for the rules of the road and weaving through holes in the congested traffic seemingly half the size of our car. Despite being advised that the hostel had wheelchair access, it didn’t – it had a lift but I could not get into the bathroom – This was Banana Bungalow, a party hostel so I didn’t care. Characteristically for Banana Bungalow, the hostel was very dirty but had big comfortable beds which provided me with a good sleep.
Breakfast – New York style. I went into a general store for a sandwich, I knew sandwiches in America were large with generous filling but this was New York a bigger and better America than normal. The sandwich I got was obese and not with copious amounts of salad, it was 2 regular, meagre slices of bread with a light covering of mayonnaise and then an inch thick ‘door-stop’ of meat. A sandwich – New York style.
I had 2 days in which to explore New York, the famous icons around New York my itinery. I went to the epicentre first, Times Square, The chaos of New York became evident with over 10 million people passing through Times Square every day. Then Broadway and 42nd street, the birthplace of so many musicals. I then went down to see the world’s financial hub, the Wall Street stock exchange. From there the free Stratton island ferry past the statue of liberty, the symbol of American freedom. Finally the, not so famous, Battery park market. I went to bed exhausted.
Although American’s speak English, New Yorkers, appear, only to speak it to a small degree they appear to have picked up a ‘regional dialect’ which makes full understanding impossible.
My sleep had not given me sufficient rest so still exhausted I left the hostel to explore some more of New York’s famous icons. 5th Avenue, New York’s up market shopping district then the Empire State building, with views of the sprawling metropolis with the contrast of the huge ‘green’ Central Park. Finally Macy’s, reportedly the largest department store in the world, but it must recently have been on a diet !.
I returned to the train station, where I had come from only 2 days previously, exhausted after my 2 day world-wind tour of New York. I was taking a short ride down to Philadelphia where I intended to relax after the hustle and bustle of New York. As I should of known by then, my ‘travelling plans’, more often than not, don’t always happen as I intend.
This time it was the sleeping arrangement at the hostel in Philadelphia. It was about a year before I was forced to sleep on the floor in a hostel TV room, now it was to happen again. All the bedrooms were upstairs so my only option was to sleep on the floor in the TV room downstairs, albeit on a mattress. Thank god for small mercies !.
Sleeping as the last person went to bed and waking as the first rose, I managed a precisely a third of the amount of sleep I needed. Doing nothing would mean wasting possible new unchartered travelling experience so I headed down to the US Mint, the American coin makers factory, albeit with my eyes only half open.
It was a very uninteresting activity, but I wanted to record the record the interior exhibits, for what ?., I don’t know. As my flash went off to take a photo of an impressive looking eagle statue, numerous flashing sirens started and piercing alarm bells ringing. I assumed that I might see some action from an armed gang trying to rob the factory, but no, no armed gang, just me and my camera trying to take an innocent photo. 2 security guards sprinted into the room and started to interrogate me about my criminal act of photography !.
My sleep deprivation explains how I missed the numerous signs that prohibit it photography. So I spent an easy afternoon at Penn’s landing, a semi-famous harbour and another evening watching TV, with my favourite, ‘cheese puffs’.
Sleeping on the floor in the TV room was not an ideal situation to aid relaxation, so I took a Greyhound bus to Atlantic City, a tame Las Vegas on the east coast. I needed to find a budget hotel to ail my tired limbs !. I found a good cheap room above an Irish Pub which was in an ideal location, virtually on the beach.
In Atlantic City I gained the immediate attention of all the unsavoury characters – tramps, drunks and general weirdo’s. But the privacy of a hotel room gave me the time and space I needed to unwind and relax.
The next morning, the aging lift had broken which meant I was stuck upstairs. Within 45 minutes it was fixed but the hotel staff offered me a free night for the inconvenience caused – for only a 45 minute wait I could break the lift everyday and stay there for weeks for free every night !.
That afternoon, I wheeled down the rest of the old style wooden boardwalk and saw some of the many casinos. Across the road from my hotel was a strip club which, being so close, I felt it my duty to explore !.
The following day, unfortunately, the lift was working so I proceeded down the boardwalk to a casino which offered free bingo, free with a catch !. I decided to see how free it was. I was taken right through the casino, past all the slot machines, card tables, roulette wheels, restaurant and bar, so I could see how fantastic the casino was.
The free bingo was upstairs so a blond casino Barbie doll took my free card upstairs to play for me. I assumed I couldn’t win, nobody would win. But I was wrong, the Barbie doll came down stairs and told me I had won, not too much, but enough for 2 more nights’ accommodation. Of course the money was on a card used for credit on their own casino slots but I used a tiny amount on the 5c slots and cashed in the rest. Maybe it wasn’t so unfortunate the hotel lift was working, if it hadn’t, I’d have missed the lucrative free bingo.
Later, I saw an unimpressive Las Vegas style cabaret and again, drunk way to much at a strip club resulting in me collapsing on the floor in my room, which is where I slept. Surrealistically, my reason for staying in a hotel was to avoid being forced to sleep on the floor !.
Nursing my hangover, I headed downstairs to the Irish Pub where their hangover cure was aptly named a ‘Poor Richards Special’ – it was a surprising good hangover remedy of soup and steal sandwich.
Atlantic City had proved to be a cheap destination, with free accommodation and a casino win.
Later that day I took a Greyhound back to Philadelphia where I slept on the floor in the hostel before catching a train back up to Buffalo. I wanted to re-experience the good times which I had on my previous visit, I should have known the previous spontaneous visit couldn’t be repeated.
In New York a stereotypically obese black lady sat next to me. Remember, America is bigger, so this woman wasn’t just fat but overly obese. She used her seat and half of mine. After 10 minutes of agony, my confidence kicked in and I asked her to move.
I arrived in Buffalo with a sense of expectation. The blisters on my hands were of no consequence, I wanted more fun travelling experiences.
I soon realised that my previous past experiences in Buffalo were just that, past. On my first of 2 days I did nothing but see a movie at the cinema and on the second day all I did is go to see a movie at the cinema. The most interesting thing I did was eat at McDonald’s 3 times in one day without throwing up !.
My initial sense of expectation about fun travelling experiences hadn’t materialised. I didn’t want to stay in Buffalo for a 3rd boring day so, stupidly thinking the train would be more exciting, caught the train east bound to Albany where I caught the west bound train at back through Buffalo to New York and on to Chicago.
Arriving in Chicago 22 hours later, after sleeping on the floor of the train, I swore never to catch a train one way then come back along the same route again, total stupidity !.
In Chicago the buses are different to any others in America, they still have the same wheelchair lift but they have a different clamp mechanism to secure wheelchairs. I got the first one during the busy rush hour – I got to my stop, the driver got the lift ready for me to dissent, but I couldn’t move the clamp mechanism was stuck. I was wrestling with the clamp release mechanism, lifting it is the usual way to release the clamp but nothing happened, I was pushing down, pushing it forward, left and right but still nothing happened. The other passengers were getting annoyed at the delay. Other passengers and the driver were trying to help but to no avail they were even trying brute force to open the sturdy clamp mechanism. The driver eventually asked all the other, infuriated, passengers to get off and catch the next bus. The driver phoned his manager and an engineer to come down in a car, they got on the bus, walked over to me and pulled the release mechanism backwards, towards me. It opened, easily. I was free despite causing much rush hour commotion. The manager and engineer just stood there with a puzzled looks on their faces, as if to say ‘What ?.?.?.’.
I found the hostel which was similar to the one in Toronto, a university dormitory for most of the year but a hostel for the summer. They gave me a 2 bedroom self contained flat with bathroom, kitchen and living room all to myself.
4 weeks had gone by and surprisingly it had only rained once, my first day in Chicago was the second – Chicago the windy city or should it be Chicago the rainy city !.
It was only midday which gave me time to explore Chicago, albeit in the rain. My first stop was a very impressive, newly built, all marble building which uninspiring turned out to be a library. Then up and back down the 2 main streets of high-rise Chicago.
The following day I saw a free outdoor jazz jam which was so informal that it had to be the work of musical geniuses. I then went to a Nike Town store which is a 3 story shop devoted entirely to anything and everything with the Nike brand and next door the Sony Centre which is the same but exclusively Sony products.
A morning trek to see what I hoped might be an interesting spectacle, was a waste of arm power. I went to see the largest commercial building in the world, Merchandise Mall. It is a very touristy activity to go and see ‘the largest something’ or ‘the tallest something else’. I didn’t know what to expect but it was a very large grey rectangular block type building, it looked very much like a prison. It had only 2 floors for shopping and 13 floors of ……. other commercial stuff.
The building of Illinois of the other hand was architecturally interesting, it was also a shopping mall but it had strange inverted curved walls and weird sculptures outside .
I bought some beer so I could drink and watch TV that evening at the hostel. There wasn’t a TV in my flat so I went down to the TV lounge, opened my first beer to watch the movie, no sooner had I done so than the security guard came over to me and told me alcoholic beverages weren’t allowed. Hardly a security matter but I decided I would take the beers up to my room finish the one I was drinking and put the other 3 in my bag for consumption at a later date, but he was adamant, he was going t confiscate all 4 beers now. I was equally adamant that he wasn’t. I eventually decided my arguments were falling on deaf ears so I wheeled off mid argument with all 4 beers. The Security guard didn’t follow so I went up to my room and consumed all 4 in quick succession for maximum effect while listening to music on the radio.
Having not learned my lesson from the previous morning’s unsuccessful outing, I went to ‘the tallest building in the world’, Sears Tower. In fact, that was an interesting experience, looking over Chicago’s network of canals, the other high rise buildings, dwarfed by their ‘grand-daddy’ and beautiful lake Michigan.
I went to the stock exchange, absolute chaos, then the beach, deserted, then to Hooters, a restaurant with big breasted Barbie doll waitresses. As I waited for the bus to return to the hostel, someone tried to give me money much like a what homeless tramp would beg for, this for a second time. When I found the hostel, I immediately returned to the hostel, had a good shower and went to bed.
With only a month gone and only the beginning of my first world trip. The metropolis of New York and Washington, the nation’s capital, were long gone – my writing becomes shorter in descriptive content but faster and easier to read with-out any loss of detail.
There was an air show advertised, which was very impressive. 2.5 million people were expected to see the vast array of flying machines. The highlight being a thunderous and very low fly-past of a Stealth Bomber. The following day I visited the Planetarium, which to be honest, was a waste of time because firstly, it’s a museum and secondly, I had no interest in its contents. Sitting in the warm sun on the banks of Lake Michigan over-looking the Chicago skyline was much more relaxing.
I then took the over-night train to Memphis, luckily for me but unluckily for everyone else, I found a bag of pillows and before the attendant could give them out I tipped them all on the floor near my seat to make myself a comfortable mattress. In Memphis, I found a cheap hotel so I could rest in privacy and watch TV in bed. Watching TV was the best thing I did in Memphis, my exploration revealed that Elvis is still alive !. Maybe not physically but Elvis mania is Memphis’s over-powering theme. I only spent one night there before taking the train down to New Orleans.
I had learnt of a cheap hotel in New Orleans, it had no TV or private bathroom but I got a private room with air conditioning, a necessity in New Orleans. The tourist’s favourite street in New Orleans is named Bourbon Street which has an amazing party atmosphere. After a good night’s sleep I went down to the huge Riverside mall made famous by a recent accident with a colossal tanker. I then took a ferry back and forth across the Mississippi River. While wheeling through the park beside Mississippi River I met a blond, big breasted lady named Jill. I took her address in Las Vegas and promised to visit her (This was the first meeting of a good, long lasting friendship). I then went to the French Market before partaking in drunken activities on Bourbon Street. I started my escapade in a bar with a 3 for 1 happy hour, after making some friends in that bar a bar crawl ensued.
Suffering a major hangover, I went back to Bourbon Street to ‘people watch’. I met a pimp and his prostitute, they were an interesting pair, very ‘cool’ and had money to burn. That evening I could drink with last night’s new group of friends or hang around with my new pimp friend, I ended up missing them both and getting drunk alone.
After only 3 hours drunken sleep, caught the train to Anniston in Alabama where I had arranged to meet Garry (The ex-US marine who I had met in San Diego the previous year). We drove for an hour to reach his small, wooden house on the Georgia-Alabama border, I had arranged to stay with him, his wife and beautiful daughter for a week. That week I really felt the Southern hospitality I had heard so much about, spent a day with Garry and his wife’s parents, went fishing on the colossal lake on Garry’s door-step, was a guest of honour at Garry’s church, had barbecue party, ate at a Korean restaurant which turned into a full day’s excursion, went shopping at a tax-free military base supermarket, shot Garry’s two guns – the easily obtainable and perfectly legal 38 Smith and Wesson sent me deaf.
We had an interesting and expensive day in Atlanta. The trip started well with a look around ‘underground Atlanta’, the problems started when we decided to take the metro to Centennial Olympic Park. A long journey made us realise that we had caught the metro in the wrong direction, we crossed the bridge to the opposite track when a security guard came rushing over to explain in no uncertain terms to Garry that drinking soda in a metro station was strictly prohibited. after Garry’s telling off we got the reverse train to Centennial Olympic Park, we had virtually exited the metro station when Garry lit up a cigarette, another security guard rushed over, this time Garry was told off but also issued a fine. After seeing the Olympic Park we went experience a classic American phenomenon – ‘kerb service’ – greasy food served through your car window as you sit in nothing more than a car park.
After Atlanta we headed for Garry’s brother in law’s house to see his classic American hot rod. As could see the shining beast as we entered the driveway, a ‘71 Firebird with a modified 8 litre engine protruding from the ‘hood’. Garry’s brother in law had bigger and better competition cars so he offered Garry the keys to this illegal toy, illegal because of the omission of seat belts. The rumble of the engine, the speed, the acceleration, the power slide we pulled were all utterly amazing. The expense of playing with this toy for an hour were not bore by us, we took the car out with a full tank of fuel, we bought it back empty, with far less tyre rubber and the engine in a terrible state (it overheated and stopped twice requiring push starts).
Before I left Garry’s family home, Garry’s wife cooked me a traditional southern style roast dinner then Garry took me back to Anniston station to catch a train back to Washington.
I slept on the train floor again before the train arrived in Washington. On my second visit to Washington I visited the supreme court, the Capitol building and the Air and Space museum again. The next day I caught the train down to Newport News and then a speeding bus down to Virginia Beach. The hostel had no wheelchair access, reluctantly I choose to sleep out in the yard under the stars. Very surprisingly I had 4 wonderful night’s sleep and many, many sweet
On my first day in Virginia Beach I saw a charity parade of colossal proportions before exploring the beach, boardwalk and pier, as had become the ‘norm’ someone lent me a rod and I caught 3 fish. I spoke to a married couple from Washington, I talked to them about my experiences and adventures which I was having at that time and my future intentions as a budget traveller in a wheelchair, they tried to gave me $20, I tried to explain that charity is not needed or wanted.
The following day was spent at the beach, ‘baking’ in the intense sun, with the other hostel guests. After another dreamy night’s sleep under the stars, I was interview by a reporter from the local paper about my travel experiences and my intention, at the time, to find work. Again, I spent the day relaxing on the beach in the quiet and tranquil atmosphere of Virginia Beach.
After seeing the unimpressive sunrise I got the bus back to Newport News and the train through Washington to New York. I tried unsuccessfully to use my, expired, rail pass to get to a ticket all the way to California, I hoped they wouldn’t notice the expiry date on the pass but unfortunately they did and I was refused. I tried this procedure of trying to get a free ticket with my expired rail pass 3 times over the following 3 days but each time they noticed.
I had enjoyed my original 2 day stay in New York so I decided to stay for 5 more days. The problem was the complete lack of available hostel beds, I tried several hostels but to no avail. I went to see an old friend who lived in New York but I couldn’t stay there. I was highly opposed to staying in an over-priced New York hotel, so with no other option went to the biggest hostel in New York hoping for a miracle !. They were still adamant that they had no beds but as I had no-where else to go, but sleep on the street, I decided to wait in reception. At 1am someone appeared from behind reception and told us (me and other 5 people) that they had found some empty beds. We followed this person upstairs to an empty room with 12 mattresses on the floor which meant me and 5 other people had gone through utter despair for nothing.
After the relief of getting night’s sleep, I headed back to Times Square and Broadway, I discovered that people in wheelchairs could see Broadway musicals at a subsidised rate which was less than the cost of a cinema ticket. That day I saw the first of many Broadway musicals sitting next to people ‘dressed to the nines’ while I sit there in shorts, T-shirt and trainers only paying a tenth of their ticket price. That day I saw ‘The life’ before going back to Times Square .where I drank beer flavoured water in a strip club and then waited for a bus in the pouring rain for an hour.
On my final few days in New York I spent far too much time and money in strip clubs and porn shops. I did manage to get to a ‘Ricki Lake show’ TV show taping and see ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway.
I decided to get a train from the East to West coast, a trip of over 3,000 mile, stopping once in Glenwood Springs in the Colorado Rockies for a day. I boarded the train in New York bound for Chicago where I would immediately transfer to the train bound for the West coast. As was becoming a regular occurrence, I slept on the floor.
There was a ‘strange’ feeling in the air, I couldn’t put my finger on it but something was amiss. Then an announcement was made, The train ahead of ours had been derailed which meant a long delay. This meant more boredom, at least until I met the delectable girl from Ireland. We chatted and chatted for the length of the delay and the final journey into Chicago. We soon realised that we had missed the connecting train to the west coast in Chicago, Amtrak being responsible for 50 people missing the connection, offered us either a free night’s stay in a Chicago hotel and catch the train tomorrow or fly people ahead to catch the train in Denver. A night in a posh hotel and a night out with a delectable Irish girl was undoubtedly my preference !.
We went out for a meal and drinks to the Hard Rock Cafe, by pure chance, they were celebrating BB King’s birthday so party atmosphere was enjoyed. I got very drunk resulting in the inability to successfully transfer from my wheelchair to the bed so I collapsed on the floor which is where I slept, still clothed.
I woke early the next day, with a terrible hangover, somehow I found the courage to buy some more alcohol for evening consumption required for sleep assistance, before boarding the train to Glenwood Springs. The regular occurrence of the previous 2 nights became a reality again, sleeping on the floor in a drunken daze !.
My new, delectable Irish friend got off the train in Denver, leaving me to witness the natural splendour of the Colorado Rockies. For the first time the train arrived on schedule into Glenwood Springs. The hostel had no wheelchair access but I was getting used to that. During my dinner in Pizza Hut a had a severe attack of breathlessness or momentary heart failure so the hostel were called, they came to pick me up and put me to bed. The incident probably occurred because Glenwood Springs is located at 10,000 feet above sea level which means that there is less oxygen to breath.
The next day I felt fine so decided to go white water rafting on the Colorado river, as there had been no rain for the previous several weeks, the white water was virtually still so the ‘excitement’ and ‘thrill’ of white water rafting became more like rowing a boat around a lake !.
The reason for Glenwood Springs’s name is the natural hot springs. I visited the biggest, a man-made pool which is naturally heated to 104 degrees – Fahrenheit not centigrade or I would have been boiled alive !.
My dip in the hot springs pool had made me late to get to the station, but a lifeguard found me a lift across Glenwood. I boarded the train bound for San Francisco, I slept on the floor again for the fourth time in five nights.
I arrived in San Francisco having travelled for 73 hours and travelled 3,379 very long miles.
Once in San Francisco I became irritable and just wanted to find a bed. The only one available was up a flight of stairs, I had no energy to find an alternative so I got someone to carry me up so I could get some much needed sleep.
I spent the flowing day exploring the huge and magnificent Chinatown, the exquisite food being the highlight. The following day’s taxi ride to the station became my private sightseeing tour including a drive down Lombard St, the wiggliest street in the world. I missed the direct Amtrak train so caught a commuter train to Bakersfield then an Amtrak bus to Santa Barbara.
With 2 months of my 3rd trip to America but my first world trip gone, My life changed forever, I was no longer what you might term a “tourist traveller”, I became a lot more relaxed. Alcohol and parties were to become a regular occurrence and subconsciously I became a lot more relaxed.
I travelled a total of 11,731 miles on Amtrak trains.