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TOTAL STATS FOR WHY AMERICA 2015

LENGTH:                    89 days

US STATES:               24

MILES COVERED:      9,386

WORDS WRITTEN:    81,604. Prior to this post. That’s basically a book.

JD Salinger attempts to match the insightful perception into the American psyche of our blog (cough)
JD Salinger attempts to match the insightful perception into the American psyche of our blog (cough)

As a reference point The Great Gatsby is 47,094 words, Catcher in the Rye is 73,404, and To Kill A Mockingbird is 99,121. So if you have read the whole damn thing – well done. We salute you!

MONEY SPENT PER PERSON:  $12,000 / £9,000 each. Mind you, it’s still counting…

CARS:

Dodge Challenger, white – 21 days;

Vanishing Point
Vanishing Point

Dodge Challenger, red – 3 days;

Vanishing tyre pressure
Vanishing tyre pressure

Chrysler 200, silver – 4 hours;

Vanishing cool
Vanishing cool

Chevrolet Camaro, black – 41 days;

Vanishing stomach
Vanishing stomach

Ford Mustang (convertible), metallic grey – 21 days;

Vanishing roof
Vanishing roof

STATES VISITED:

Florida, Georgia, South Carolina (one hour), Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, [Tennessee again!], Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, [Texas again!], New Mexico, Colorado, Utah (one minute), Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington.

HOTELS:

Deborah and Doug’s Grand Hotel, Edmonds – 6 days;
Super 8 motel – 5 days (five different motels);
Holiday Inn Express – 5 days (two different hotels);
Bonnaroo’s finest campsite – 5 days;
Marriott Spring Hill Suites, New Orleans – 5 days;
America’s Best Value Motel – 4 days (four different motels);
Nanks and Megs Venice Towers, LA – 4 days;
Airbnb apartment, Austin – 4 days;
Freehand, Chicago – 4 days;
Days Inn motel – 3 days (three different motels);
Ian Passmore’s Pass More Time Hotel, Pleasanton – 3 days;
Log Palace, In The Sticks nr Leavenworth – 3 days;
Eastside Lodge, Portland – 2 days;
The Marina, San Diego – 2 days;
Hyatt Regency, St Louis – 2 days;
Legacy Hotel, Little Rock – 2 days;
Current River campsite, Van Buren – 2 days;
The Hutton, Nashville – 2 days;
Crowne Plaza, Detroit – 2 days;
Homestead Motel, St Luis Obispo – 1 day;
Best 5 Motel, Salinas – 1 day;
Ocean Lodge, Santa Cruz – 1 day;
Post Hotel, San Francisco – 1 day;
Ocean Cove Lodge Motel, somewhere on Highway 1 – 1 day;
Holiday Inn, Dallas – 1 day;
Howard Johnson, Wichita Falls – 1 day;
Historic Route 66 Motel, Tucumcari – 1 day;
Roadway Inn, Espanola – 1 day;
Mesa Verde Inn, Cortez – 1 day;
The Crown Inn, El Centro – 1 day;
Hannibal Inn, Hannibal – 1 day;
Travelodge, Orlando – 1 day;
Hilton Garden Inn, Orlando – 1 day;
Extended Stay America, Jacksonville – 1 day;
Marriott Courtyard, Savannah – 1 day;
Thomson motel – 1 day;
Hilton Downtown Chattanooga – 1 day;
Best Western, Louisville – 1 day;
The Townsend, Birmingham, MI – 1 day;
La Quinta motel, Indianapolis – 1 day.
Barry and Ann’s place, Phoenix – 1 day;
Mark and Lorraine’s Countryside Retreat – 1 day.

HOTEL COUNT:  42 hotels/motels/campsites/houses over the whole journey.

BEST HOTEL:      The Townsend in Birmingham, Michigan.
BEST MOTEL:      The Hannibal Inn. An indoor pool outside your door.
BEST LODGING:   The Log Palace in Washington.
WORST HOTEL:   The Travelodge in Orlando. Lucky that was Day 4. It never got that bad again.

ANTHEMS:     Anything on the American Playlist – however, the following became iconic of the journey:
Slow Ride – Foghat
Whisky Rye – Tex Ritter
God Gave Me Love God Gave Me You – Frijid Pink (like epic guitar solo, man)
Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer – Johnny Russell

Most played on the random playlist: A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash. Me & Julio Down By The School Yard – Paul Simon. Snakedrive – RL Burnside.

MIKE COUNT:              12
NICOLE COUNT:          6

TOP MEALS:
Matt –  Shrimp po boy and rosemary grits in New Orleans, elk burger with fries in Savannah, crabcake benedict everywhere – Savannah, San Diego, Seattle – you name it. Oh all the meals are amazing – just so consistently MASSIVE.
Rob – Breakfasts (good).

WORST MEAL:
Matt – Oats with orange juice and milk. Together. On the oats. In Chicago. (To be fair, no-one suggested Matt eat this, he just poured orange juice on oats by mistake, then fronted it out when someone pointed out his ‘mistake’, added milk and had to eat it. This was very funny, but America can’t be blamed for basic English stupidity/pride…)
Rob – Breakfasts (bad).

BEER COUNT:
The USA is home to some outstanding craft beers. We thought, beforehand, that America was awful for brews – but just don’t believe the hype. There are literally countless beers – every town, county and state has a microbrewery – and there are countless awesome-yet-supremely-different varieties. The IPAs are, usually, wonderful. It’s been a hoppy pleasure. So – too many beers to mention, but most have been outstanding.
TOP TIPPLE:
Mack ‘N’ Jack. But Sweetwater’s Road Trip in Florida is also close to our hearts for obvious reasons.
DAYS SOBER:
21. Out of 89. There’s a reason that some people have called us ‘alcoholics’ throughout this experience. We call ourselves ‘discerning hedonists’.

WEIRDOS:
Yeah, this has been a fun stat throughout the blog – but, frankly, we’re probably the biggest weirdos of all. To the Americans, that is.

SPORTS FOLLOWED:
Anything and everything. All the American sports, plus sports like football and Tour De France from overseas. Following the Women’s World Cup in the USA – and watching the American girls win – was special. As was supporting Tampa Lightning at the ice hockey and being there as they won the Eastern final.

Go Bolts!
Go Bolts!

SPORTS PLAYED:
Rob won, annoyingly convincingly, American pool: Phase One 17-9; Phase Two 11-10; Phase Three 7-4 and Phase Four 18-14. That’s 4-0 overall – or 53-37.
Matt won shuffleboard from Phase One, 4-1.
Rob won darts 3-1 and never, for the record, cheated.
Rob and Matt were both useless at Washers, bowling and frisbee. (I don’t acknowledge being rubbish at any of these, apart from bowling – Rob.)

Matt tries to figure out what this thing does.
Matt tries to figure out what this thing does.

TV HIGHLIGHT:
Got to be watching the last two episodes of Season 5 of Game of Thrones with hundreds of other cheering, jeering and emotional fans at Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. Not sure how we top that next season…

TV LOWLIGHT:
Fox News. Appalling right-wing vulgarity. Yet so watchable. Oh, and God channels get a special mention too. Disgrace: preying on the naivety of impressionable minds.

WEIRDEST ANIMALS:
Disappearing zebras – California; suicidal turtles – Arkansas; ‘bear-cow’ – Oklahoma; disappointing lack of llamas in general.

BRUSHES WITH THE LAW:
Day one – fighting and arrests. Plus Matt’s speeding in Memphis, ‘border crossings’ at risky times and idiot cops at the Taste of Edmonds Festival. Basically, we had our brushes – but we survived with a clean record.

NATIONALITIES:
Yes, we’re British – but most people think we’re Australian. We’ve had a few Irish too, though. And Matt is once called Jamaican by a cop. Ridiculous.

GIRLS IN LOVE WITH OUR ACCENTS:
Loads. But, frankly, all Americans love the sound of a British lilt. And then they love trying to imitate said accent. Badly.

MATT’S BEST PLACES:
1 – AUSTIN, Texas
2 – NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana
3 – CHICAGO, Illinois
4 – SAN FRANCISCO, California
5 – MISSOURI in general

ROB’S BEST PLACES:
1 – NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana
2 – GEORGIA in general
3 – WASHINGTON in general
4 – DETROIT, Michigan
5 – AUSTIN, Texas

 

GREATEST EXPERIENCES:
This is the toughest question to answer as, obviously, we just want to say ‘all of it over 89 days’. But we’re asked it a lot so…

MATT:
1 – Standing in the back of a convertible Mustang, travelling along Highway 1.
2 – VIP-in’ it at Bonnaroo.

MEDIA!!!
MEDIA!!!

3 – Camping with rednecks in Van Buren, Missouri.
4 – Making a film in a ghost town in New Mexico.
5 – Running with ‘bulls’ in New Orleans.

ROB – Sky, sun, a straight road, no traffic, Tom Petty on the stereo, and a 5 litre, V8…

WOULD WE DO IT AGAIN?: No. We have 26 other states to do now. Stayed tuned for whyamerica2016. Here’s hoping…

PHASE FOUR STATS

And, like that, they were gone.

So we’re back in the UK now and this crazy journey is now nothing but a memory, a blog and a massive hole in our bank balances. But, nevertheless, we still have work to do. And, like the Yanks, we love our stats. So, before we do the ‘total journey stats’, which cover the full 89 days, here are our stats for the fairly lengthy Phase Four…

LENGTH:                     26 days
MILES COVERED:      2121
CARS:                         Chevrolet Camaro, black
Ford Mustang (convertible), metallic grey

Lovely car
Lovely car

STATES VISITED:        3 (California, Oregon, Washington)

HOTEL COUNT:          Deborah and Doug’s Grand Hotel, Edmonds – 6 days;
Nanks and Megs Venice Towers, LA – 4 days;
Ian Passmore’s Pass More Time Hotel, Pleasanton – 3 days;
Log Palace, In The Sticks nr Leavenworth – 3 days;
Eastside Lodge, Portland – 2 days;
Homestead Motel, St Luis Obispo – 1 day;
Best 5 Motel, Salinas – 1 day;
Ocean Lodge, Santa Cruz – 1 day;
Post Hotel, San Francisco – 1 day;
Ocean Cove Lodge, Jenner, Highway 1 – 1 day;
America’s Best Value Inn, Crescent City – 1 day;
Mark and Lorraine’s Countryside Retreat – 1 day.

Total: 12 hotels/motels/houses/log cabins in phase four.

BEST HOTEL:              Ian, Deborah, Mark, Nanks – thanks! But nothing beats the Log Palace…
WORST HOTEL:          Best 5 in Salinas. Not bad but it was opposite a better-looking motel. And there was a prostitute / pimp fight outside. Actually, that was brilliant.

MONEY SPENT:         For the first and only time – on budget. Mind you, lodging was often free…

ANTHEMS FOR P3:      You’re So Vain coming up Highway 1, along with Goin Up the Country and Cocaine, both from videos in Phase Four.

Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion happily appeared on the playlist to atmospherically soundtrack a few epic moments. As did the lesser known classics All I Wanna Do – The Beach Boys, Green Grass & High Tides – The Outlaws, & Hang on Sloopy – The Strangeloves.

Oh, and any AC/DC from the Hells Belles gig.

MIKE COUNT:              0
NICOLE COUNT:          0. Gutted. End of an era.

TOP 3 MEALS:              Matt – crabs benedict at the end in Seattle; clam chowder at The Spinnaker in Sausalito; takeaway sushi in St Luis Obispo. All about the seafood…

Rob – Yeah, clam chowder. San Fran, Bodega Bay & Florence. And the stuff that we stole from someone else in metal bar in Portland. That was damn nice, or I was extremely drunk.

The crab benedict of soup-based starters
The crab benedict of soup-based starters

WORST MEAL:              Matt – Breakfast in San Francisco before my epic walk. Nothing wrong with the pancake ‘n’ eggs brekkie – as big and grease-laden as all Yankee breakfasts – but i was way too yucky to enjoy any of it.
Rob – Frozen Haiwaiian BBQ leftovers, due to overzealous fridge in motel.

BEST GOLFER ENDORSED SOFT DRINK:

Mmmmmm, Jack Nicklaus
Mmmmmm, Jack Nicklaus

BEER COUNT:             We’re fat now due to heavy beers and loadsa food. So, er, tons.
Top Phase Four tipple: Mack ‘N’ Jack. No contest.
DAYS SOBER:              10. Out of 26. A new record, we feel.

WEIRDOS:                     Anyone organising the Taste of Edmonds, plus all the people getting hypnotised there – and the hypnotist herself. Also, the real life ‘freaks’ (bearded woman, midgets etc) down at the freakshow on Venice Beach, LA. Although mainly this just consisted of lots of things with an additional head, snakes, turtles, midgets etc. Oh, and Matt. When he was getting all excited about the smallest park in the world.

SPORTS FOLLOWED:   Anything Seattle-related – The Seahawks (football) who have season warm-up games on the TV, and the Mariners (baseball) and Sounders (soccer).
The British Premier League and other football leagues. It starts again. We’re glued.

SPORTS PLAYED:
Matt still winning shuffleboard from Phase One, 4-1. (Just for the record, that’s one game of 5 legs, not 4 games to 1  – Rob)
Rob won American pool in Phase One, 17-9; won Phase Two 11-10; and won Phase Three 7-4. Rob won Phase Four 18-14. Git.
Rob winning darts 3-1. Matt no longer claims Rob cheated. Matt misread the rules.
Washers: anyone who isn’t Rob and Matt is good at Washers. But, probably, this is our fave sport that we played in Phase Four.
Girl’s Night Out game – no-one’s a winner at the Log Palace in Washington.

TV FOLLOWED:       The news is the only thing we watch as we keep an eye on the fires across the state.

WEIRDEST ANIMAL:      Chipmunks near Leavenworth. They risk life and limb just to tease Tanner the dog. And, frankly, the hummingbirds do exactly the same with Oliver the cat back in Edmonds. Oh, and the wasps at Leavenworth need mentioning here. Evil. Phase Four is a treat for animals, like the sea lions on Highway One – but we also recall a mysterious field of zebras somewhere on the 1, near Pfeiffer’s Beach. A whole field crammed with them. In America!! We return. There’s nothing there. Weird…

African animals should not be wandering aimlessly in America
African animals should not be wandering aimlessly in America

GREATEST EXPERIENCE: Matt – Standing in the back of a convertible Mustang, travelling along Highway 1. Mind you – chilling in the Log Palace comes close. Oh, and Twin Peaks day.
Rob – Highway 1. All of it.

BRUSH WITH THE LAW:     Taste of Edmonds Festival. We were gonna cause trouble with them for making us wait for so long to get in. For no reason.

BEST CITY:                     Portland or Seattle or San Francisco. Tied.
MOST INTERESTING:    Los Angeles. So much to do due to its sheer scale.
WORST CITY:                 Crescent City. It’s barely a city. And it ‘aint no crescent.

Day 90. Tuesday 24th August

Any good serial, which is what this has been, should have a cliffhanger ending, especially as, well, we wouldn’t mind doing this sort of thing again sometime in another country – as long as I get to do it in a car that does 0 – 60 in less than 7 seconds – so technically this is just Season 1. Matt using ‘The End’ as the end feels a bit final, despite how entirely appropriate a song about the Oedipus Complex is in relation to our journey!?!

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure when Tuesday starts, probably somewhere in the middle of The Avengers: Age of Ultron (which for the record is not good and feels like it goes on for about a week). Although this is Day 90 it’s still technically the trip, plus we were allowed 90 days on the visa so might as well use them all on the blog. Also, it seems a bit harsh to leave us floating over the Atlantic somewhere…something really exciting could happen on Day 90 that puts the whole experience in a new perspective and gives us previously unknown insight into Anglo / American relations in the modern age. Er, it doesn’t. The most exciting thing that happens is I manage to spill beer all over Matt whilst attempting to stow the tray on my seat. Hilarious.

To be honest I’m still reeling from having to give the car back, it felt very strange to go to a rental office and not come out with an even better one. I wanted a Corvette. Now I’ve got to get used to the idea that I don’t actually have a car at all. This is very upsetting. What’s also upsetting is that when we get on the plane this is the view from the window…

America
America

When we touch down at Heathrow, 3 terrible films and no sleep later (the last Hobbit and The Theory of Everything, FYI) this is the view from the window…

England
England

And then we have to get back through London to my flat via the letting agents so I can pick up the keys. This is not fun, especially when you have a huge bag with no wheels. Eventually we reach mine and sort of collapse in front of the TV for the rest of the day. There’s nothing on. Obviously.

I go to bed, this really is the end, I feel like I could sleep for a week. Then I hear Matt making a commotion in the bathroom. ‘Rob,’ he says ‘I’ve got a problem.’ Matt has brushed his teeth with Cortizone 10. Cortizone 10 is not a toothpaste, it is a maximum strength anti-inflammatory cream. To quote from the tube: ‘If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Centre right away.’ I’m not familiar with my local Poison Control Centre.

And it is here that you must leave us, with Matt trying to force himself to throw up, having survived 9300 miles across 24 states in 89 days, only to succumb to an unfortunately liveried medical cream on the 90th. What will become of him? Will he ever return to Plymouth? Will international listings journalism lose one of their leading lights? Will I be accused of intentional toothpaste chicanery? Who knows…

Cortizone 10. NOT Colgate
Cortizone 10. NOT Colgate

DAY 89 – MONDAY AUGUST 24 – THE FINAL DAY

And now, the end is near, and so we face the final curtain. Our friends, we’ll say it clear, we’ll state our case, of which we’re certain. We’ve enjoyed a trip that’s full. We’ve travelled some of America’s best highways. And more. Much more than this. We did it Rob’s way.
Ho ho ho – no, we really did do it both of our ways. Our classic, inimitable ways, where we miss out loads of must-see sights and do weird and ridiculous things instead across an epic 9,300 miles, 24 states and 89 days. But, like all good and crazy things, it must draw to a slow and agonising end. Today, it’s the end. Thankfully it’s not agonising – it’s just sad and slightly depressing. And it’s not slow. Like the whole trip, it goes just too quickly.
We rise, feeling understandably morose and asking each other just where all those days went? Once upon a time we were meeting Ying on Day One in Tampa before an absolutely mental first night that involved arrests, fights and other ridiculous antics that you can only find out by asking us for that oh-so-uncut version (yes, we were not the aggressors – we just watched bizarre events unfold in front of our virgin American eyes). That was pretty much three months ago. But it could have been yesterday, judging by the way we feel today.

Addictive stuff
Addictive stuff

Still, we pick up our dressing and pick up our clothes, and pack those final few surviving items that have withstood wear, tear and damage across the States. I pop out to buy Deborah and Doug some thank you presents after their incredible hospitality over the past week and then some. We all have some more ‘Trailmix’ – a tasty melange of nuts, raisins and M’n’ms that we’ve all grown partial to. D and D left for work early doors so we did our goodbyes with them last night – but we do say a fond farewell to Tanner the dog and Oliver the cat, as well as the house, the road and Edmonds altogether.
Then it’s time for our Mustang’s final outing. Rob is clearly feeling the pain by this point. It’s strange – we’ve travelled together the whole way, in four sports cars, one family car and a car owned by Ying’s mum, but the vehicles have always felt like Rob’s, not mine. He’s been the driver for the bulk of the adventure. He’s been the one who’s been excited by the top speeds, the soft roofs, the wheelspins, the grips, the alloys – hell, the whole shebang. So while I’m sad to see our final sports car go, in reality I’m sad for Rob. The sports cars have elevated his adventure from ‘once in a lifetime’ to ‘once in a lifetime and insanely cool’. Rob deals with it. He smashes the speed limit one last time. He hides his disappointment, just for me and his dad.
Luckily, Rob’s mood is quickly picked up as we’re having crab benedict for brunch. Of all the foods we’ve had across America, it seems crab benedict is the one dish that we’ll remember the most. I guess it sums up our trip, really – a down-‘n’-dirty American ingredient like crab that’s done with an English muffin, as well as a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce. A weird mix of ingredients that shouldn’t work but turn out to work exceptionally well – bizarre, exciting and all over the place. Oh, and cool. And slightly posher than the usual brunch…

We. Are. Family. Rob and Ian with Irene and Imagine at the end of three months of mayhem, majesty and magic moments
We. Are. Family. Rob and Ian with Irene and Imagine at the end of three months of mayhem, majesty and magic moments

We’ve chosen 13 Coins as our benedict spot and, luckily, Deborah’s daughter Irene is bringing Imagine to the party. It’s the last time we’ll see Rob’s American family for a long time. So, the five of us choose a choice seat in this really quite upmarket restaurant next to Seatac airport on the edge of Seattle and Rob and I tuck into what’s quite possibly the best crab benedict of the whole trip – particularly as it’s made with the same Dungeness variety that we tucked into two nights ago at the party. Imagine and I mess about while the grown-ups talk about life, loves and forest fires. It’s a fitting end to the trip. At the end of the meal, we’re stuffed. Ah, for one last time, that oh-so-familiar feeling in this country that loves to serve you enough food for a family of 17, all crammed on to one plate.
We say farewell to Irene and Imagine and then drive the Mustang a few yards up to the Alamo rental car hub next to the airport. I kiss it goodbye. I then leave Rob to say his emotional farewell to the wheels and to sort out the paperwork, a job I’ve expertly sidestepped throughout the journey. And then we’re alone at the airport. No car. No money. No time to do any more exploring in this grand country they call the USA. No energy either. At least we have our bags, some souvenirs of the journey, plenty of memories and Rob’s dad in tow. At least we also have this blog. This may be for you, the reader, to experience what we experience – but it’s also for us. Because we’re pretty sure our memories are fading. Wonder why…

Goodbye, sweet prince
Goodbye, sweet prince

And that’s it. Soon we’re past the ridiculously over-excessive American airport checks and on the plane watching first the ground disappearing into the distance, and then Seattle, and then America, and then our adventure. It’s over. We don’t need to say much more. I’ve given you 1,000 words here. I’m not going to write the 2,000-word daily essay that I usually do in a bid to give you guys as much flavour as I can of our adventure. I’m just going to give you this song instead. Apart from the fact the YouTube picture symbolises the sunset we fly off into, the song is one of our favourites on our American playlist which we’ve listened to across the country, plus it’s an iconic song from Apocalypse Now, that beautiful movie we were so lucky to catch silhouetted against the palm trees in a graveyard in Los Angeles. Jim says it better than we could anyway.
So, our final day. Our journey’s end. Stayed tuned on this blog – as it’s not yet finished – for our ‘touchdown in England’ entry, our ‘conclusions’, our final ‘stats’, our final photobomb posts and our closing country music song that we promised you all. But, for now, here’s Mr Morrison to close us out. Take it away, Jim:

Day 88. Sunday 23rd August.

Sunday, I wake up on the floor in the basement at Mark and Lorraine’s. Matt is sort of on a mattress on the other side of the room, at an angle perpendicular to its length so that only his legs are actually on the mattress. He’s still wearing all his clothes from last night.

I drag myself up and head upstairs, everybody else is already there, apparently having either slept somewhere else in the house or having left and come back again. Mark’s parents, brother and sister in law have also come round so technically there’s even more people.

One thing I know today is that whenever we do finally go to leave, it will take forever, as this is the last time my dad and I will see all of these people on this trip, and therefore for quite some time. It’s not even worth contemplating for several hours. Instead we take a look back over the last few months with my relatives and try to draw some conclusions. Matt takes people through some of the highlights of the blog, yes there were some. It’s like one of those episodes of a sitcom where they can’t be bothered to write a new story so manage to incorporate lots of clips of old episodes.

There was the time we nearly got arrested on the first night after a fight at the hotel, the ghost tour in Savannah, completely ignoring all the rules at Bonnaroo, the hotel with a swimming pool in, Matt getting pulled over, the 18 hour drinking session in New Orleans, reversing a Camaro into a ditch at 1am, rafting in New Mexico, making a western, watching Apocalypse Now in a cemetery or driving up Highway 1 standing up in a convertible Mustang…

I draw our route on a map so that everyone can get an idea of the scale of 24 states and 9300 miles in 88 days…

Our route, sort of. Where did we go in the middle again?
Our route, sort of. Where did we go in the middle again?

It doesn’t look as impressive like that. I keep getting it wrong anyway, that’s not the precise route we took, that one doesn’t even go into Alabama. So, I can’t actually remember where we’ve been. That’s probably a more accurate reflection of the journey.

Anyway, we do some other things to waste time before the inevitable, including having a drive down to see the river. Yeah Mark and Lorraine have a river, (and a waterfall, but that’s dry at the moment due to the prolonged drought) and you have to drive to get there. Specifically we have to drive through a forest in Calem’s ridiculously massive truck.

When we get back from that we have some rather lovely BBQ chicken and must then, sadly, begin the goodbye process. 90 minutes later we actually manage to drive the long track back to the road, with the top down, waving. Thanks guys, it was awesome, and the only way to end our journey.

Back at Doug and Deborah’s we consider packing and generally aren’t very happy about the whole leaving situation, especially as we seem to have decidedly more things than we did before. In the end we all go to bed and just hope this is a bad dream and we’ll wake up back at Day 22, wherever the hell that was. I miss Day 22.

DAY 87 – SATURDAY AUGUST 22

Nooooooooo. Gosh darn it! This is our last ‘party day’ in the USA? The final hoedown of the whole 89-day trip? You cannot be serious, man! Say it ‘aint so! Well, it is. And, hot-diggity-dawg, us boys are gonna make it large. Like, seriously large. And we know just the guys to help us make it an all-American shindig that we’ll never forget: Rob’s family.
Day 87. Who’d have thought we’d have made it this far? Who’d have thought we’d be facing our last waltz in America? They said it couldn’t be done. They were wrong. And they’d probably love to experience the cracking day we have out past Arlington. Whoever they are.
Basically – and this is the theme of many of our posts on this blog, we know – we can’t remember lots of what happens today. We really have hit alcoholic stage, I’m sure. But we can remember the morning – breakfast, sorting our mass of clothes, souvenirs and tat that we’ve dragged with us across the country, me watching the fascinating hummingbirds that frequent the garden teasing Oliver, the family cat, and watching Doug take the Mustang from us and driving into the sun. He reckons he’s taking it to Mark and family’s ranch so we can travel in the people carrier with Deborah. We reckon he’s taking it on his own 89-day journey across the country and then, probably, into the night, where we’ll never see it again.

Calem and the Washington's
Calem and the Washingtons

Finally we leave and stop at Costco, my favourite store in the world, again. I eat lots of free food and we buy a load of beers for today’s shindig out in the country. And then, in no time, we’re out at the ranch, meeting and greeting the famille once again ahead of the day’s festivities. Mark is already stoking up the barbecue. Michelle and Dennis are here, with the kids: Cierra and Kiley. Calem and his family are here. Big Ron, little Ronnie. Val and the girls inside knocking up the burgers for the barbie. The enigmatic neighbour from next door. Irene, Deborah’s daughter, and her girl, Imagine. Ian is here and has been for the past couple of days. TONS of beers, spirits, wines. All manner of food. A dog. Many more people who I’ve obviously forgotten to mention here. A magical party atmosphere to boot. Hell, it’s all here – all here except Doug. Wait a minute: where’s Doug? Where’s our Mustang? We spend 20 nail biting minutes waiting for Douglas and the convertible to turn up. Perhaps he has gone east for a life on the road? Ha, Doug turns up, car in one piece, and looks far cooler than us in it. Thank goodness.

Calem, Dennis, Ronnie, Rob, me and some shots. Some deadly shots
Calem, Dennis, Ronnie, Rob, me and some shots. Some deadly shots

So, as I say, the rest of the day gets blurry after beers three or four. And certainly I have little clue what happens after about 4pm when Calem and Dennis reckon it’s about time to get the state-themed shot glasses out and hit the spiced Bacardi. These boys know how to party. All this time, we’ve just been amateurs across the USA. What I do remember, though, is plenty more games of washers (the game we were introduced to last week) and becoming slowly worse at the whole thing; dancing some sort of hoedown with the kids, who are great fun throughout the day; more guitars, more listening to Calem’s band; more shots; more beers; a bottle of Cointreau for some reason; and tons of fun under the stars. It’s an electric party that, for Rob and I, as well as Calem, doesn’t end until about 4am. At least.

Before the crab... more shots!
Before the crab… more shots!

One top memory is a pair of headlights appearing in the distance at about 2am. Or 1am. Or something. Rob and I remark as to ‘why on Earth someone is driving up to the end of a party at 2am’. The driver gets out of the four-by-four and plonks a massive dungeness crab on the table. It’s a surreal moment. I’ve never been to a party that has crab delivered at 2am. But it appears it’s the norm here – and we love it. Actually, it’s one of Mark’s pals who’s been out catching crab in the day and wants Mark and us boys to tuck in. We do, cracking claws and shell like there’s no tomorrow until there’s no crab left. It may be the best crab we’ve ever tasted. It may be the best party delivery we’ve ever been lucky enough to sample.

Kiley, Imagine and Cierra share a hoedown with Mad Dog Matt
Kiley, Imagine and Cierra share a hoedown with Mad Dog Matt

Again, don’t know what happens next but I definitely sleep in the strangest position ever with my face on the mattress and my legs and body somewhere else in the room. Rob is already snoring when I make it to the room. The last room we ever sleep in together. A poignant moment. Nah, not at all – we can’t wait to sleep in rooms without the other one there. We would like, though, more parties out in the Washington countryside like the one we’ve experienced today. Sadly, we can’t. We’re at journey’s end. Luckily, though, the past three months have, in essence, been one big party anyway. One big party in the American countryside.