Saturday, 31 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 56; this day in 1990

Up again, collected our cheques and set off for the Twin Cities.


Made it to Chicago Avenue where Neil and Joffs stay and had a fantastic New Years Eve party - everyone was there. Phoned home at midnight eastern time (5am GMT, oops!) and woke up Ma and Pa.

Bit homesick tonight as I was at Christmas but had a great night nevertheless.

(note; lemme just explain these seemingly constant cheques. Our pay form the factory was broken into several payments and were sent to any forwarding address in the town of your university)

"Our" house in Minnesota.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 55; this day in 1990

Awoke at 11am and everyone went to Butch's Cafe for some chow and some drinks. Got back late and played cards before crashing out.

(note; again, a pathetic diary entry for what was a fantastic part of our trip, with some superb people! I mentioned Butch and his lovely wife Mary a few years back
here; if you'll pardon the cliché, he was one of those larger than life characters you occasionally meet. He was tall in size, barrel chested, with a loud booming voice and it was a brave man that took him on. His 'cafe' was just that - a small-ish place with tables, a pool table and plenty of beer in the fridge. I remember one morning setting off to meet people there, I had just showered and washed my hair, and off I went. Now, Belgrade can be a very cold place - it was minus 15 while we were there - and, unbeknownst to me, the deal is that you make sure you dry your hair thoroughly before you venture outside. On my walk there that morning, I put my hands up to my hair, because I could feel it starting to freeze, and strands literally snapped off (I know, I know, you don't believe it!!), but let me tell you, I ran all the way to the cafe as fast as my legs would carry me and told everyone, gasping to catch my breath, much to their amusement.

The T-shirt below is the one Butch gave me when we were leaving Belgrade for good. Yep, it's faded and yep, the lettering is fading too. Well let me tell you, I wore this T-shirt to death! I wore it, I washed it, I wore it again, I washed it again.

And I still have it and I still wear it (only occasionally mind, it's vintage dahling!) and I think of them every time I see it.

Food, beer, recreation, lemme hear ya say yeah!

Someone drilling a hole in the ice in the middle of a frozen lake, so we can fish (!)


Me, several hours later, apparently not frozen solid, still having a good time (certainly more than I ever thought I'd have standing in the middle of a frozen pond for an entire afternoon), even though I caught precisely nothing, nada, zip, tipota, niente!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 54; this day in 1990

Finally made it back to the motel at 10am after Mike had toured Chicago trying to find it. The guys had actually called the police 'cos we hadn't got back (tee hee!). On the road again, hopefully to make it to the Cities late tonight or early tomorrow.


We made it at last! Got to the Caddyshack and had a few drinks, then on to Butch and Mary's in Brooton.

Had an early night.

Well, 2am!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 53; this day in 1990

Set off again after playing American football with John and Mike in the car park. Saw the French guys (note; who?) and then drove through terrible conditions to Fuddruckers, just before Chicago.

Had some chow then drove into downtown Chicago.

Dropped John, Kim and George off at the motel and Mike and myself drove to Division Street and Rush Street. I couldn't believe it - we actually found 'Mothers' where
About Last Night was filmed.

Wait 'till I tell Selina.

It was absolutely brilliant. Got talking to Elena from Spain, one of the waitresses. Bought a sweater, walked around the bars and took a LOAD of photos.

Finally crashed out in the back of the van.

Fantastic night!

note; Selina was a friend with whom I worked with before I left London for my big American tour! We were a similar age and had both grown up watching the Brat Pack, our favourite film being About Last Night (which I also alluded to
here), starring Rob 'Too Good Looking For His Own Good' Lowe, James Belushi, Elizabeth Perkins and Demi Moore; it's the film that hubby-to-be Bruce Willis tried to have banned / recalled 'cos he didn't like films circulating of his new wife "gittin' it ohn" with the aforementioned Robert, in her birthday suit!

Ha ha, tough luck Brucie, I still got my copy!!

"Dan? Are you with your girl? Git your ass down to Mothers, NOW!!!"

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 52; this day in 1990

Oh well, Christmas has come and gone in the blink of an eye and now we're driving towards Tennessee. Found out that I'll get to see Chicago which pleases me quite a bit.

Drove into Tennessee and encountered our first ice and snow since the Canyon; a very pretty place.

Bought some beers and booked into a motel. Got dressed to go out, wearing my new jeans. Went to Printers Alley, then to a $14 club, finally on to Turf. Red flashing light ahoy!

Home to bed.

(note; Two things. Firstly, the picture below is of the huge Michelob bottle I mentioned 'yesterday'. I neglected to mention that I emptied it first!! Secondly, 'red flashing light ahoy' was the little codeword we had between us for any place that made us feel a bit uncomfortable, for whatever reason.

It's a bit of a shame that all I had to say about Tennessee was those few lines above. We sure picked our moments to arrive somewhere new though - there's no doubt when we walked into Turf, we stood out like a whole row of sore thumbs and I can remember feeling particularly unwanted. Looking back though, perhaps we were just tired - we sure were pumping in some miles each day - and maybe we misread the negative vibe (although you could argue that perhaps one person, or two people getting it wrong is understandable; we were FIVE people!)

Still, that place was everything you imagine a busy Tennessee club to be; the place was smokey, it was busy, and with a live band playing very very loudly.


Monday, 26 December 2011

Cannonball Run Days 50 & 51; these days in 1990

Day 50 - Christmas Day

Got to Disney World at 10am and it is a pretty impressive place. Went on a space ride which was brilliant, saw a Christmas parade, saw Mickey Mouse, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Swiss Family Robinson. Rang home at 3pm local time and was a bit choked talking to everyone. I swore to myself that I’d never have another Christmas away from home unless absolutely necessary.

(note; lol, I love how I started that sentence SO determined, “never to be away for Christmas again”, but finished rather wishy-washy, “unless absolutely necessary”!

Left Disney and drove into Kissimmee for the second time and had a huge Christmas buffet at The Kettle; turkey, beef, ham and stuffing made it seem a little bit like Christmas.

Booked into a motel and everyone fell asleep, so I said goodbye to the 25th watching TV alone.

Not an incredibly great Christmas.

(note; when typing this up, I laughed out loud at my final sentence – I’d spent the day in Disney World! I even high-fived Donald Duck, for crying out loud! It’s pretty obvious I was homesick).


Day 51

Up at ten, cashed our cheques and set off for “The Cities”.

On the road again. Once more a fairly non-eventful drive (note; sheesh!). we got to Georgia, the town of Macon and it had a very dodgy feel to it, so we agreed to get out of there. I found a huge Michelob bottle which I kept as a souvenir.

We found another cheap motel and stayed there for the night. (My turn to get the bed, yummy!)
Missing home.

Christmas Day 2011

You still reading?? Well, bless yer cotton socks, you don’t give up easily now, do you?

Well listen, I’ve got some good news for you. You know how I skipped a load of diary entries half way through December ‘cos I’d started working at that fruit factory? Well lo and behold, a very similar thing happens in the first week of January, pretty much marking the end of this “trial by diary entry”.

Hang in there kid!

Of course, being the utter fool that I am, I missed saving a post for the 25th, hence squeezing the two entries above together. What a complete plonker I really am Rodney. I manage to remember all the dull days, like the 3rd of December, or the 20-something of November but DON’T save a post for Christmas Day!


Well, my very limited Christmas list consisted of two books, both food related, and guess what? I received 100% of my desired presents; it’s clear I’ve been exceptionally well behaved this past year.

Joseph very kindly purchased my Jamie Oliver book with his own cash - £10, so a considerable sum, even for a 9 year old.

And Annabel also very kindly purchased my Nouha Taouk book.

Well, ok then, I ordered it from Amazon, paid for it then wrapped it. She then wrote “From Annabel” on it – but it amounts to the same thing.

I was delighted to get both of them – haven’t cooked anything from them yet – and am hoping they’ll be good kitchen companions throughout 2012.

Our Boxing Day was spent how we always spend it; just the four of us, not getting washed or changed, eating our way through the contents of our fridge, watching DVD's or films recorded from the TV and generally slobbing about; marvellous!

As always, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, that you had food in your belly, were in contact with those you love and, if you were really lucky, a glass (or two) of something delicious.

Peace and love

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 49; this day in 1990

Well, woke up and walked straight to the beach. Did some more shopping and went to the beach for the afternoon. Had a snooze and when we woke up, we got changed and decided to spoil ourselves for Christmas Eve, so we went for a slap-up meal; a steak dinner! John bought me a really cool hooded top (I think as a thank you for staying behind), and I bought him a T-shirt in return. We both agreed that we’d had a great couple of days.

Picked up the other guys and drove straight to Orlando. We saw Christmas in, driving up the interstate.



Back to the future for a moment, and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a mention of the here and now. As always, thanks to M being Lebanese, we do half our celebrating on the evening of the 24th (as do other nations, I know), so round to my monster-in-law we went for a fabulous slap up meal of tabbouleh, kibbeh, baba ghanoush (or moutabbal), along with regulars such as smoked salmon, prawns and chicken.

Very, very, very delicious, and very difficult to stop eating. SO difficult, in fact, that I rarely do stop, only putting down my cutlery when either I;

a) feel like I'm going to be sick or

b) I have to leave my belt completely undone (which is never a good look at the table!)

Anyway, very un-surprisingly, both kids were feeling under the weather, Joseph in particular, and he ate almost nothing at all, looking very fed up about the whole thing too.

We went home probably a bit earlier than we would've done otherwise and after the kids were in bed, we did some final touches to the decorations, to the tree etc, and I took a few pictures of one of our candles.

The reason being, was that Joseph, before 'retiring', pointed out that the wick of one of our candles looked like a little angel.

(suspension of disbelief required ........ NOW!)

Oh, come ON, you can see what he means!!!

"Hark, the herald angel sings, glory to the new born King ......"

Friday, 23 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 48; this day in 1990

Dropped the guys off at the ferry port for the Bahamas and John and I drove straight to the charter boats to see if we could go fishing. We could, so we had breakfast, filled up our cooler with drinks and went to sea. We’d finished by midday having caught some nice Kingfish and then spent the early afternoon doing some shopping and then in the Elbo Room. Had a snooze on the beach and when we finally woke up, we went for a shower and a tidy up at the Holiday Inn. Went back to the Elbo Room for a drink, then to Summers where the waitresses wore rather nice outfits. Then along to the Candy Store disco where the waitresses wore hardly anything!

Danced like a madman, met an American girl and a South African girl, went for something to eat and on to a very naff club.

Bed at 6.30am.

Great night.

(note; Ex-SQUEEZE me?? 6.30am? As in, the morning?? Boy oh boy, can’t you tell that was 21 years ago!!!)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 47; this day in 1990

Up at 20.30am and cleaned out the van. Had breakfast, picked up another cheque and set our sights for Fort Lauderdale.

Had a drink at Fuddruckers (note; a burger and cocktail chain) and then phoned the agents for information for a trip to the Bahamas. John couldn’t go on his South African passport so I volunteered to stay with him while the others went.

Early nights for all.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 46; this day in 1990

Turned up at work as usual but the computer was down so we were told to be back at 3pm. Lazed around the pool doing nothing until we went back to work. Still nothing so we played football until 5pm and were finally told there would be no more work.

We stocked up with beer and started our party. (note; it was a Friday) It went on until 2am and me and Simon rang for a pizza and watched a film until deciding to call it a night.

(note; And that was it! The last day at Gracewood Fruit Factory, the reason for my rather sporadic diary keeping. The place was run by a terrific guy called Don (in the previous picture), and thanks to pretending we too were studying agriculture, we managed to secure work for just under two weeks, 12 to 14 hours a day, earning enough to keep our Cannonball Run going until the end of January, as planned).

click to enlarge

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 45; this day in 1990

Another day at work, but with a difference – we got paid!! $570 for work, minus the $43 for the room at the hotel that we never had!

Tomorrow we should have another wage plus two weeks bonus. At last I’m liquid again. Sorry for not keeping the book up to date!

(note; I seem to have been apologising to myself for not keeping my own diary filled in?!)

Finished early today.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 39; this day in 1990

Good night; went to Uptown disco and had a really good time. A bit of trouble with George and Kim having an argument (George upset just about everyone) but it all got sorted.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 34; this day in 1990

Up late, had breakfast with John and spent the day lazing about.

Not much.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 33; this day in 1990

(Note at top of page reads); Have decided we’ll be back home well before planned.

Woke up early this morning to avoid paying the camp fees but got nabbed before leaving so we had to pay.

(note; don't tell me I was involved in petty thievery?? Sheesh ....)

Carried on down the Keys and stopped off at a harbour for brekkies and I had a laugh at a guy trying – and failing – to ride a jet ski. Carried on further and a real storm blew up. Rather windy to say the least. Got a photo of TC’s helicopter (from Magnum) and finally came to Key West.

At last. Took some photos of the marker, strolled around the shops, got a badge, had a quick beer and then set off back to Vero beach.

Arrived late.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 32; this day in 1990

Woke up at about 10.30am, showered and began the drive to George’s cousin – John K. Met up with him at about midday and he was hungover from the night before (he said I looked like a gypsy – thanks John). Said our ‘au revoirs’ and set off for Miami. We got there as it was turning dark and the rain was almost as bad as the storm in Louisiana. We phoned from a Holiday Inn to try and get in touch with this guy Dave who was supposed to live there but didn’t succeed. Leaving the Holiday Inn, a white double-stretched limousine pulls up and an all black rap group - the singer looked remarkably like Rob Base – got into it and pulled away.

Sat in our van in the pouring rain, we decided to drive to Key West; the southern most point of North (Continental) America. We arrived there after midnight and we were tailed by the police for about a mile. They finally pulled us over and after checking us out, explained that hours before, a white Chevy van similar to ours had been used in a robbery. After I posed with the police for a photo, they said goodnight.

George tooted at them and waved and they even waved back.


Found a site and crashed.

(note; again, another encounter with the police seems to have escaped any extended use of brain power or ink usage, but I can remember it as clear as if it had happened this morning. It became pretty obvious fairly quickly that the police were following us and we were trying not to look in our mirrors or out the back windows. The police car turned off the main road and we thought we’d got it wrong. Then, out of nowhere, with blue lights flashing and sirens blaring, they were right behind us again. George pulled over to the side of the road and we waited. We had our windows down and they instructed George to get out of the car, slowly, and to keep his hands where they could be seen. This was all said in a “100%, no-nonsense, don’t-mess-with-us” voice. George got out of the van slowly, Kim was almost crying in the back and I was sat dead still. I heard them ask for George’s license and ID, which, as I looked down, could see in amongst the paperwork on the shelf above the glove compartment. Without thinking, I reached down, grapbbed the paperwork and then opened my door, jumping down from the slightly raised cab, all in one movement.

As I landed on my feet, facing towards the back of the van, the other policeman – who had been covering the passenger side of the van, and was stood with his hand poised over his belt at one side – simultaneously (and loudly) told me to stay exactly where I was, to keep my hands still, whilst unclipping his holster and drawing his gun. I froze – as you would – and stared straight at him. He asked me to turn around to face away from him and to put my hands on my door, which was still open. It all happened so quickly, but as scared as I remember being, I could still make out George’s voice, explaining who we were, where we’d come from, where we were going, etc.

By the time the cop had come over to me, his partner seemed satisfied with George’s explanations, so instead of being searched, I got a pat on the back! I’ve attached the photo, not that you can see anything, but because whenever I see it, all the above comes flooding back in an instant).

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 31; this day in 1990

Woke up at 9am to go to Disney World but Kim had left the van lights on, therefore no battery, no start; so after we’d sorted all that out, it was too late to go. Looked around the shops, posted my postcards and went for some grub.

We decided this evening to drive to Vero Beach ‘cos our funds are running very low. Kim owes me $130 odd, and George and I only have a hundred each. We got to Vero beach very late and paid $20 to stay in a state park.

Getting ready for the shower, a racoon came right up to me so I gave it what was left of my egg salad. George took a couple of photos but I don’t know how they’ll come out ‘cos David Bailey he ain’t!

Went to bed, exhausted.

p.s. Saw Tom Selleck in a red Ferrari.

(note; I think it was him!)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 30; this day in 1990

Woke up and paid a rather hefty sum for our night ssleep; $20. Oops!

We got showered up and drove into Kissimee town, about 5 miles from Disneyworld. Had a big breakfast and wandered around all day. We saw some alligator wrestling and a house called Xanadu, which is a house designed for the 21st century.

Driving along this evening, we saw an English pub called the Fox and Hounds so we went in for a drink. We met a guy who apparently knows Jimmy Jones, so I’ll have to go to one of his shows and ask him if he knows ‘Jerry’ (as if!). Played some pool, then crashed out.

Brill night.

(note; Jimmy Jones is/was a comedian from ‘back in the day’, familiar to me only because one of my uncles – this uncle - thought he was terrific).

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 29; this day in 1990

Woke up after a great nights sleep and I'd lost my keys with my key-rings that I'd collected, including the Top Gun one I'd bought Paul. It also looks like I've lost my beloved Zippo lighter. George and me inspected the damage to the shower building where we'd revered into it. Got showered, grabbed some firewood and got out of the area.

Drove non-stop, playing silly word association games and got to a place just down the road from Disney World (Kissimee). Bought a pair of Converse All Star trainers for $16 (£8) and a key-ring with my name on it, to start my collection again.

A non-eventful day (note: there I go again) but we should be going to Disney World tomorrow or Thursday.

p.s. I had a shower with a little green tree frog last night. It sat on the mirror while I shaved.


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 28; this day in 1990

Woke up to the aftermath of the storm! No wonder they call Louisiana the WET state!

Another uneventful drive (note; I don't know why I kept calling the drive "uneventful"? Perhaps I expected to see a 400 foot tall Mr Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters every time I put the key in the ignition!!).

We finally made Florida and pulled into a gas station where we saw a serious drug bust. There were bags of heroin or cocaine here, there and everywhere, just like on TV.

Got to a place to stop for the night and decided to have a party 'cos it was early. We drove to a garage to buy some drinks and a police officer pulls up next to me at the gas station. Thanks to me not having our headlights on when I drove in, we had a conversation which went like this;

Old Cop: "I wanna see your licence".

Me: "Err, you can't". (note; bad choice of words)

Cop: (shouting) "Dammit boy, I wanna see your f***ing licence NOW!!" (applies his handbrake and gets out of his car).

Me: (crapping my pants) "Err, well, you see, it was stolen in Santa Monica and I'm from out of town ..." (stutter, stammer, blah blah)

Cop: "I.D. NOW!"

Me: (running to the back of the van and waking up a dozing George). "Wake up George, we've got trouble".

(note: Now, in my diary, I skip to another part of the scene but I can clearly remember another part - I don't know why I omitted to write it down. What happened was, the old cop (who, by the way, reminded me SO much of Sheriff J.W. Pepper, the Southern state cop played by Clifton James in The Man With The Golden Gun), followed me around to the back of our van to watch me while I tried to find my ID. As I was rifling through the mess that was the back of the van, half a dozen or so empty beer cans and bottles literally fell out onto the floor, rattling as they went. In the USA, it's an offence - or at least it was - to have ANY alcohol that had been opened, while you are driving in a vee-hicle.

So, you could have a bottle of whisky on the seat with you, but if the seal was so much as broken, you could be arrested. And although I hadn't been drinking and driving, the empty beer bottles said otherwise. Thankfully however, Sheriff "Pepper" didn't seem fazed by them).

Anyway, he seemed satisfied with my passport and my story and we all calmed down. Inside the cafe/gas station, he comes up to me and the usual conversation commences between him, me and the store clerk, about where I'm from, and how not many people from out of town happen through there.

It ended with me slapping him on the arm and saying in a loud, Southern American state accent (think the Dukes of Hazzard), "well, I'm gonna get me back in my van and turn my goddam lights on 'cos you damn near scared the s**t outta me back there".

He cracked up and slapped me on the back.

Thank God!

Went to bed knackered (and relieved"!)

p.s. Finally made Florida

Friday, 2 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 27; this day in 1990

Woke up to G & K getting in the van. Apparently they had a great night. We got dressed, washed some more clothes and after getting a keyring off Tom, we got on our way.

Went on a ferry to get off Galveston Island and drove through some unbelievably heavy fog. An uneventful drive - took some photos of some lightning, don't know if they'll come out - and then landed in the middle of it. Don't know how we slept through the incredible rain and thunder. The lightning lit up the whole sky.


Had a dream about a certain N.Butty.

(note; good grief Peppermint Patty, now THERE is a blast from even deeper into the past, not without embarrassment either. Unless I'm very much mistaken, I think this refers to my English teacher Nicola Butterworth (nee Lang). It's possible that every boy of a certain age in my school had a crush on this woman. I remember her coming back from one particular school summer holiday with a different surname and not being able to work out why. Naturally I was devastated to find out she'd married a Mr Butterworth (the swine) but this didn't stop me getting a good O level grade in my end of school exams, just to show her what a mistake she was making, marrying some bloke who might not have an English O level!!

Thanks Miss - I still enjoy writing, thanks to you.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cannonball Run Day 25 & 26; these days in 1990

Fri 30th - Day 24

Woke up with the sun coming through the window. George had parked just off the freeway surrounded by greenery. Very nice!

Got going again and got to Dallas at around 12.30pm. Found the bank I needed and went in. My money was on it's way but wouldn't arrive until late afternoon (note; I STILL don't understand how the American banking system works/ed! Did I literally have to wait for MY money to be posted to a different geographical location? Is it still the same, all these years on? Ridiculous!).

Anyway, we drove around for a bit, dropped off some laundry and sat writing letters and reading books. FINALLY picked up my money after being chatted up by Shawn, one of the (female) tellers (note; ........ sorry, I just can't find the words to express my cringe-making cockiness. AS I've mentioned, youth has a lot to answer for!)

Then we picked up our laundry after being chatted up by the assistant. She was yuk! (note; AAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

So then the guys ask me what I wanted to do, so I said to go into Dallas to go out. So George puts the van into gear and drives straight out of Dallas, which is why I'm rather pissed off at the moment. Didn't say much on the way to Galveston Island. Read my book and went to sleep, not entirely in a good mood.


Sat 1st - Day 25

(rang home)

Woke up still a bit fed up after missing Dallas on a Friday night. Anyway, we all got showered and cleaned the van out, then took a drive down town. The anniversary of Charles Dickens was going on so everyone was in traditional costume. Very quaint. We went for lunch along the boulevard on the beach and had a proper lunch.

Me and George had fish and chips (red mullet) and Kim had stuffed crab! Then we bought some beers ('cos it was a Saturday) and went back to the RV park to play pool.

Me and George had a row. Well, a heated discussion anyway, about how the holiday was turning into a "cannonball run" (note; hence the title of these posts), and we sorted out our differences. Cool! Drove around town a bit after getting dressed up - shirt, jeans, new boots - and found the Holiday Inn.

Had a drink and headed for the van after speaking with Tom, an RV owner. George and Kim got lucky and spent the night in a limo drinking champers and spent the night in a motel.

Good night though.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 24; this day in 1990

Had the best kip I've had in a long time; slept right through.

Had another shower and got ready to go for our longest journey yet (in one go) - 10 hours to Dallas. A hell of a lot of messing about with my money. They won't send me anything without written consent. I guess I'll have to send it express.


That's what I did and I got in the driving seat at 4pm. At 6.15pm I realised I'd written the wrong address on the envelope. It would be headed for Dallas instead of California (note; I'm sure I meant to write those destinations the other way around - California was a LONG way behind us by then). Stopped to make a 'phone call and the woman managed to re-direct my letter.

Then a fairly non-eventful drive until about 1.45am when I began to feel sleepy so George took over.

I fell straight to sleep.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 22 & 23; these days in 1990

Day 22

Woke up at about 10.30am after a wonderful nights sleep and said our farewells to John. Got ready and put all our stuff back in the van.

It didn't start! Flat battery, so we got a jump from one of the Rangers and he charged us $15 for it - bloody cheek! Stopped off at a Western Union to find out if my money had been delivered but they sent me to Valley Branch. Back in the van and disaster! The engine temperature and the oil pressure both soared. We took it to the Chevron garage and for just $12 they sorted the problem out; a frozen pipe coming from the radiator. Then off to the Grand Canyon for a photo's session.

Took some incredible pictures, then after meeting with a couple from Orpington, we went to a gift shop where I bought some postcards, a badge and a yo-yo. I fell in love with a this beautiful suede jacket, a bit like mine but with tassles - very USA! Gorgeous jacket but I didn't have $290 on me - never mind.

Finally got underway to Phoenix and gave a lift to a couple whose car had broken down and dropped them off in Flagstaff. The view on the way to Phoenix was beautiful. The driving was going so well that we passed Phoenix and I drove to Tuscon where we found a dodgy little campsite and as we were all exhausted, we pulled in and got straight into our beds.

Thank heavens we're out of the snow 'cos it's still freezing.

Day 23

Woke up to be told we're not allowed to stay here but we can pay anyway!

We left Tuscon and drove to McDonalds to have somne breakfast. THen to a garage to fill up on our way to El Paso, first town inside Texas.

Fairly uneventful drive down but as we got into El Paso, everywhere we looked, there were people carrying hundreds of pairs of cowboy boots. Not wanting to miss out on what seemed to be the sale of the century, we parked up and found out the source of the 'boot sale' (ahem). It was a huge sale in a hall and there were thousands of pairs of boots, some reduced from $300 down to $75.

George and Kim found a pair each and I couldn't believe that there wasn't one pair I liked out of all of them. FInally found a gorgeous suede pair marked from somewhere in the region of $250 down to $30 - bargain! They match my jacket at home and my bag - cool dude! (note; OH-MY-GAWD!)

Drove through the night until we found the state park. Had a lot of trouble keeping our fire going but finally managed to eat eggs and bacon.

Got into bed after shaving and showering and fell straight to sleep at midnight.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 21; this day in 1990

Good grief! Woke up this morning at 10.30am ans everywhere is covered in my favourite stuff - SNOW! It is freezing, literally. Kim went nuts 'cos she's never seen snow before. It was a lovely day, but it was not long before the snow clouds rolled overhead. I've never been in such a blizzard since England's bad winter 4 or 4 years ago (note; WAS it a bad winter in 1986-87?)

Met a nice guy called John from Luton. I went through murders trying to arrange for money to be wired from California to Grand Canyon. Won't be able to get it until tomorrow. S**t!

Well, it was so cold today, it looked like tonight would be a hell of a lot colder so me, George, Kim and John booked into a chalet room. $54 for a room with two double beds - good job I've got my new sleeping bag - bathroom and a TV, fully heated of course. We bought some beers - a suitcase of bud - some wine, and sat watching TV until midnight in the warm when we all fell asleep.

Absolute bliss!


"Just a little something to break the monotony ..."

' just thought I'd drop in something a wee bit more up to date, for your perusal.

Did I mention recently, that our DVD and Freeview equipment has gone up in smoke, like, literally? In order that people aren't permanently hissing the words "bad parent" in my general direction, my children don't get to watch TV from Monday to Friday.

They don't miss it, as they're too busy doing other stuff; playing with their toys, reading the hundreds of books they've amassed, not to mention doing their homework and their musical instrument practice.

Ironically, this is another reason my own mother questions my parenting skills (along with not giving them chocolate and sweets whenever they ask for it, because "all kids like sweets"). Amazing the difference one generation makes.

Anyways, on this occasion the children were watching the TV (for 'twas the weekend) and I was lying on the floor, still wading slowly through the supplements that came with the Sunday newspaper from the week previous, when suddenly, there was a loud bang (ok, a pop then, but it was a loud pop) and the screen went dark blue. I looked up from my reading, Joseph asked what had happened, but all I could offer was a rather pathetic, "I'm not sure".

Although I was still looking at the blue screen, my nostrils filled with an electrical burning (it wasn't the rosacea this time!) and I looked down at our slightly dated Freeview box, perched in the small shelf under the TV, whereby I discovered the source of the electrical burning. Smoke started to puff slowly from the vents on either side of the machine, before becoming stronger and thicker. I leapt into action, Bodie and Doyle styleee, and grabbed the plug out of the wall (having had to toss aside the kids' playboxes), gathering up the smoking machine and running down the hall, before opening the door and literally throwing the, by now "past-it's-best" Freeview box, into a puddle in the front garden, where I would've been more than a little impressed with the cooling "hiss" it let out, if it weren't for the fact that I knew we were now down to just five television channels.

Well, four really - I rarely watch anything on 5 (sorry 5!)

Anyways, just for a real laugh, fate then stepped in to really bugger things up. The very next evening, the DVD tray refused to come out, trapping one of the kids' movies inside, and refusing to play even that!! Of course, the children were quick to accuse me of not keeping my end of the bargain, with Joseph firing this at me - "you said we could watch TV and DVD's at the weekend and now (cue annoyed dance by him) we can't do either of those things" sob sob, whimper whimper, annoyed dance continuing with gusto.

Well, he did have a point, so after comparing prices between Ebuyer, Amazon, John Lewis and Argos (hey, I like to explore all avenues), I eventually ordered a PVR from Argos and a DVD player from Amazon. I could bore you with the picture quality of the DVD player but I figure I've bored you enough lately, so will endeavour to crack on and get to the point.

After installing the above equipment on a Friday evening (see what I did there? All ready for them to come downstairs to on Saturday morning, clev-verrrrr!), I asked for a drum roll and then flicked all the switches and pressed all the buttons, firing it all into life. Saturday morning means cartoons and one of Annabel's younger programmes had various animals wondering what to do for their friend's birthday.

The animal whose birthday it was was a panda, and they were discussing various facts about pandas. We were all staring at the TV, albeit for different reasons; the kids because they were back to having access to a ridiculous amount of channels to flick through, and me because I was quietly smiling to myself at our lovely new visual equipment. We all heard the facts however, which went something like this;

Did you know that pandas spend most of their day eating? (At this, Joseph turned to me and said "cooooool" 'cos eating is one of his favourite things to do). The narrator on TV continued.

Did you know that when a panda isn't eating, it is either resting or sleeping? (Joseph turned to me and let out a louder and longer "cooooooooooool, I'd LOVE to be a panda!!

At that moment, I honestly think Joseph was imagining himself being reincarnated as one of these large black and white beasts.

The narrator wrapped up their piece to camera. "Pandas stay very close to their mothers for up to the first three years of their lives (Joseph still smiling) ...... before heading out into the wild on their own".

Annabel and I looked straight at Joseph who looked horrified, turned to me with no hint of a smile on his face and simply said, "maybe not!"

Even Annabel thought it was hilarious - just not as hilarious as me!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 20; this day in 1990

Woke up at 10.30am and we were already on the move (note; George had got up early and set off - I can remember it was a very nice feeling, waking to the moving motions of the van, NOT being the one having to drive first thing).

We're on our way to the Grand Canyon!

Arizona is just like the spaghetti westerns; miles and miles of open desert with tumbleweed blowing across the freeway. We drove to 'Williams' where severn guys were acting out a gunfight. It was all a bit childish!

Anyway, we did some shopping and carried on towards the Grand canyon. We stopped off once more to get some firewood from the side of the road - George had to get half a tree trunk!

We made it to the Grand Canyon; $10 entry and $10 for the camp.

What an absolutely incredible sight. People told me what a sight it would be but I was definitely not prepared for anything like it. Without a doubt, the most fabulous sight I have ever seen.

We only looked for five minutes 'cos we're going again tomorrow to take some photos.

Well, the showers here have taken the record; 75¢ for a five minute shower. Well worth it though. Refreshed and clean, we drove back to our parking spot and got the fire going. Kim had celery and yoghurt, while George and me had spaghetti with meatballs, beans and toast, with loads of rosie. wew sat talking and laughing for a few hours before turning in for the night.

The wind is howling outside at the moment but we're all tucked up in our sleeping bags.


p.s. Came across a few patches of snow; ice really, but it was (South African) Kims' first ever glimpse of snow.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 19; this day in 1990

Good grief, my first night in the van where I didn't freeze and I slept right through. Iwas as warm as toast, so immediately I was in a good mood. We pulled into a garage and had our usual cold water-basin wash and a cup of coffee. We then walked into the heart of Vegas (in 70° of blistering heat), to check out where to go in the evening. We found the Mirage hotel and went right in. What a place! Free drinks and snacks if you play the slot machines, and the waitresses??!!

We paid 3$ to have a tour of the dolphins and the white Siberian tigers, with a great guide called Lenny.

We found out that the dolphins came from Florida, the palm trees were individually flown in at $2000 a piece. The volcano that erupts at the front of the hotel costs between $1500-2000 everytime it goes off. The complex cost $15 million so who knows what the hotel itself cost.

Had an incredibly cheap lunch (full brekkie $1.99). We took a slow stroll back along 'the strip' to pick up our photos we'd dropped off ealrier in the day. Not only are they very small but at $80, oh dear! Never mind; it was great looking back through them.

We got back to the van and after half an hour, we were changed and walking back into town, when we decided to have some grub. we strolled into Dunes (a very flash casino), like we owned the place. we had 12oz steaks each for $4.99 (about £2.50); what a laugh! The drinks bill was separate so we left it on the table and didn't pay $10. (note; yes, that's right, we "stole" £5 from a multi-billion dollar casino. Don't worry, it's on my personal My Name Is Earl style list).

Took some photos of Caesars' Palace and then went into the casino at the bottom of Mirage hotel. what an incredible sight. We got a drink a played the slot machines. Small stuff, admittedly, but we hadto have a gamble in Las Vegas.

The card tables were $25 - $5000, so we stayed well away and I didn't even understand craps (note; still don't). Then this incredible reggae group started up. It was like something out of Cocktail. The queue to get in to the Lagoon saloon was quite long so I waited in line while the other two went outside to get a piccy of the volcano.

A girl started talking to me in the line, then these two blonde girls start chatting too, so before long I don' t know who I'm supposed to be talking to (note; cringe).

Finally, the three of us got in and sat down just as the band came back on. It was so cool, sitting in a casino in Vegas, spending money, drinking cocktails. All the while, this rather lovely Oriental girl kept smiling at me so I decided to get up and dance. I was about to walk over, when this blonde American girl got in my way (note; why did I specify "American girl? I was in America, for crying out loud, what was I expecting??). She started talking and we got dancing. George and Kim left for the van and I sat talking with Lainey.

An hour of talking later, I waved adios to the Mirage and Lainey and Anna - her sister - dropped me off back at the van. I got address and said au revoir. straight into the van and straight to sleep. what a great night, one of the best.

Oh yeah, I nearly knocked a tray out of a waitresses hand, testing George's sight. Funn-nee!

(note; hmmm, yes, I'm sure it was hilarious. On the Lainey front - we stayed penpals for several years before she visited the UK, touring with her drama group, specialising in drama for the deaf. We met up a couple of times while she was here, and thanks to her own commitment and passion for what she was doing, I embarked on a one year college course in British Sign Language, passing my Level 1 course (with flying colours). I still occasionally use BSL now, all these years later, and I still think of her whenever I do).

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 18; this day in 1990

Woke up in a foul mood 'cos I was freezing! Went straight into the showers to warm up and spent ages just standing under the hot water.

We got underway after washing the van AND all our filthy washing, driving to Bakersfield to do some shopping; ie, a sleeping bag, so I don't freeze again tonight!! Finally, we got on our way and our next destination is slightly more glamorous than the rest; Las Vegas!!!

We drove (between us), approximately 500 miles until we saw the strip of lights in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Yee-hah, Las Vegas!!

We drove through town at about 10pm and saw all the famous names; Caesars' Palace, Stardust, The Mirage etc. What a fanstastic sight. Anyway, we decided to crash for the night so we parked in a camp (without paying) and fell straight to sleep, exhausted.

(In our new sleeping bags, woo-hoo!)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 17; this day in 1990

Had a restless night and set off early for San Fransisco; we tasted what real traffic is like! Drove across the Golden Gate bridge, bought Paul a top and took some photos, including the infamous Alcatraz.

Then we crossed the Richmond bridge, then east towards Oakland. San Fransisco (although we barely skimmed the suburbs), was quite industrial. Phooee! (note; looking at a map now, we couldn't have driven through a more built up, industrial part of San Fran' - must make it back there someday).

Took a photo across the Oakland Bridge at San Fransisco Bay. When we stopped to fill up with gas, I took over the driving and went non-stop to Kingsburgh campsite where I shaved and had a boiling hot shower.

Did a bit of reading and fell straight to sleep.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 16; this day in 1990

Had a damn good night sleep; right through to 9.35am for a change. Still quite cold though. Pulled ourselves together and got ready. The showers were free and absolutely gorgeous, loads of boiling hot water!

Then Kim and me went down to the store to buy some munchies and I phoned home; it's Paul's birthday. Had a great chat with Mum, Dad and Paul. Although I miss them, I hung up the 'phone and was really over the moon. Great to talk to them after a week (which felt more like a month).

Cooked ourselves eggs, sausages, bacon and bread with a beautiful cup of rosie. Then I had to wash up, oh poop! Covered in black grease, yuk!

Bought a Big Sur badge to start my collection again, thanks to the b******s that nicked my jacket. Then carried on north until we got to one of many vista points for some stunning photographs. After deciding not to stop at a very dodgy campsite, miles from anywhere, we settled on Half Moon Bay campsite. Took some great shots of the ocean and sunset.

Monterrey was also a stop off point today. Fisherman's Wharf was lovely (although smelly) and got some pics of sea lions and the harbour. Bought a California Dreamin' badge.

Good day.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 15; this day in 1990

Up at sparrow's fart (note; apologies once again for my crassness - this was a term coined by George meaning 'very early' and although I know it is hopelessly immature, it still makes me laugh out loud when I just so much as think of it!). It is absolutely bloody FREEZING!

We drove to San Luis Obispo where George and I took a photo' of a De Lorean (Eat your heart out Dr Emmet Brown!). Then we decided to go for breakfast and found a little village called the apple Farm where we stuffed our faces for $30.

Then we hit the road again and drove along a very dodgy coastal road on the side of a mountain for about 12 miles, reaching Ragged Point; very beautiful.

I got some photo's of the ocean and also some birds overhead while I threw bread into the air whilst taking the photo at the same time (note; ker-azee stuff eh??).

We kept on until we found a nature reserve/campsite called Big Sur where we decided to stop while it was still light. we bought some firewood (plus some wood we'd picked up along the way). Got a roaring fire going, made tea, spaghetti, macaroni and jacket potatoes. I took a picture of George accidentally setting fire to his marshmallows!

The forest is the home of the giant redwood and we should be going in search of them tomorrow.

' had a few of the beers we'd bought and sat laughing round the fire. We made a little friend we called Noodle the Cat, 'cos he ate all our left over noodles.

Went to bed very late and slept like a log.

Great day.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 14; this day in 1990

George has got a hangover this morning (tee hee). We all had fantastic hot showers this morning for a quarter (25¢) - lovely jubbly! Drove into town - Santa Barbara - to go to the bank and then we drove up State Street; a very long road, to Max's restaurant for some lovely grub. ' did some shopping and then got underway. We went through a little town called Solvang; totally Danish, all windmills and houses, really cute!

Then drove to the campsite in El Chorro. Very boring evening, nothing happening. The other guys went straight to sleep but I'd bought the new Clive Barker book so I sat up by torchlight for about four hours!!

Sleep was pretty broken 'cos it was so bloody cold.

Hardly slept a wink.


Friday, 18 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 13; this day in 1990

Up at midday today and most people had gone off to Magic Mountain. When they returned, we packed up our stuff, said thanks to Jean for the use of his floors (!) and got on our way again.

Driving along the coast, we watched the sun disappear and it was beautiful, right up to the point where it vanished behind the smog, completely! We never fully realised how bad the smog problem was.

We finally got into Santa Barbara and it is beautiful; found the campsite in Carpenteria and it just happens to be RIGHT on the beach; the Pacific ocean is about 50 yards away.

Took a walk into town (dodgy light ahoy), bought some beer - little Michelobs - and then got speaking to a guy parked next to us. He gave us some firewood and we got a pretty good fire going. George and me sat up fairly late and then climbed into the van.

I seem to have spent all day and all evening just laughing!!

A good day.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 12; this day in 1990

Up fairly late today, still feeling a bit woozy. We all watched a bit of TV and then went to a bar to shoot some pool; right on Venice Beach. Co-o-ol!

Ordered pitchers of beer then home to get changed before going to the Oar House (note: only just realised the play on words there; told you I was young and stupid, doh!).

While we were out our van was broken into; luckily most of our stuff had been brought in. One of George's bags containing clothes and his camera, my cherished jean jacket with my Beetle badges on were stolen though.

Oh well, live and learn.

(note: that diary entry ended there but again, remembering clearly, there's a teensy chance that I may have forgotten to lock the van - I did get the blame for it but managed to forget to put that little nugget of information down for prosperity!)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 11; this day in 1990

The mechanic woke me up this morning at 10.30am by bashing on the window. The guys came back soon after and I went into Gabby's for some grub; had a pastrami sandwich and Jolene - another barmaid - gave me a beer. I said she had to be joking and she told me that when she's behind the bar, then you have to drink.

Oh well, I figured we weren't going very far, never mind!

Watched MTV for a while and then challenged this guy to a game of pool. Then George comes running in. "Our van's fixed!"

Okey dokey, said goodbye to the very friendly people of Upland and we got on our way. Three days and $1500 later, we're finally heading for LA; yee HAH!

We had a little trouble finding Santa Monica but when we did, wow! Met up with John V.H, Brett, Steve, Rod, Etian and Jean; what a crowd!!

We all went to the Red Onion and had a great night.

(note: it's funny how some things stay so clear in your memory - I can remember everything about this evening out - great club, very exciting. Also, every time I hear Sheryl Crow sing about the Santa Monica boulevard, I remember this shot and this night)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 10; this day in 1990

Well today was more or less spent in the same way as yesterday. I opened a bank account with the Bank of America, then went for a walk of about four miles.

Went into "Gabby's" at about 4pm and introduced myself to this guy called Jay; a really nice bloke. We played pool against him until about 1.30am the next morning.

I found out that on Tuesday night, his brother had been beaten up and a Mexican guy had pulled a 9mm pistol and taken shots at the bar, so we ended up waiting for them to come back but they didn't show.

(Note: WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING??? I can remember this night vividly - I can only put it down to the stupidity of youth, stand by your (new) mates and all that clap-trap!)

Anyway, took some photos; me, Jay, Monique and their dog.

George and Kim stayed at John and Paulette's and I kipped in the van on my own.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 9; this day in 1990

Oh well, up again at 7.50am and Ronnie and his boys were not over the moon at seeing us, as they had been working overtime on our van. Anyway, Ronnie gave us his brother-in-law's garage address so I drove it down to him; looks like another long day.

He sent us to another garage - his brother-in-law!

We sat in the van all day until about 5.30pm, when this guy John stopped to talk to us. He and his wife invitied us back to their motel room to wash up and brush up. Then they dropped us off back at the van and I went with them for a beer while George and Kim stayed 'in'.

Made a few friends, including the barmaid Monique - she never let my glass get empty - which was nice of her! At 2am (when the bar closes) she made me some spaghetti and said goodnight.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 8; this day in 1990

Woke up at around 6.45am absolutely freezing. Drove to a garage, had a wash and brush up, then to a restaurant for brekkies. Sorted the van out for license and smog check but it looks like we need a new carburettor.


Well, the above was all written at midday. We sat in the garage until 7.30pm - a whole day wasted on absolutely nothing. We drove the van around for a bit and then it died on us again. We got it back to the garage and got ready for a nights sleep. I walked back to get some drinks and when I got back, George and Kim had hung all the curtains around the van, giving us a little more privacy.

An hour or so later, there's a knock on the window; oh oh, it's a cop! We explained our predicament, showed him some ID and he seemed satisfied.

A few beers and then sleep.

What a day!

p.s. - I had a 'cadenza' then slept like a rock. (note: although cadenza is a musical term, my travelling buddy used it when someone was freaking out or having a fit - can't remember why I was having one on that day, but had one I must've done!!)

p.p.s - fifty nine, seventy nine, ninety nine - our new theme tune. (note: it was the jingle for fast food diner Taco Bell. It played endlessly, regardless of which frequency we were tuned to in the van. When things got a bit tight financially, we spent a LOT of time - not to mention loose change - in Taco Bell)

p.p.p.s - phoned home at midday

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 7; this day in 1990

Woke up at 10am and hung around the house.

We've more or less agreed to buy this van off four Swedes; Christina, Lisa, Michael and Stephen; they got to Laguna Beach at about midday. The van is great - we've nicknamed it "The Milly Mobile".

We dropped the Swedes off at Upland and then drove to George's great auntie Margaret. What a COOL lady; 82 years of age and still bopping around in shorts and trainers. She gave us a big picnic dinner, we chatted for an hour and then we said our goodbyes.

Even though it was only 8pm, we were all shattered, so we parked the van and made the beds up in the back. Talked and laughed for an hour and fell asleep.

A good day consisting of; buying a Laguna beach t-shirt and buying a van for $1000.

By the way, Mountain Avenue is the LONGEST road I've ever seen - 10 miles long!

(pic to follow)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 6; this day in 1990

Woke up at 10.30am and got ready to go and meet Denise but everyone wanted to go and look for a van. Necessary, of course, but I was still a bit miffed all the same.

Got back into town late afternoon and I took the bike to see if she might still be on the beach. No luck!

Took a walk into town on my own - jeez, it's a hell of a long way and it is PITCH black - scary! Still no sign of the girl so I walked back up the hill at 2am and went to bed knackered.

A nothing day really.

(Note: a "nothing day"? How quickly I forgot that it was winter back home, I was young and carefree and I was just setting out on a walkabout - as Mick Dundee would call it - starting in California! What a dope!)

(pic to follow)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 5; this day in 1990

Oh well, up again at a ridiculous hour of the day - 8am (note: did I really think that was so ridiculous?) - and started lugging the crap out of the garage for the sale. We got the Honda 250R going and George and me took it in turns to cruise up and down, trying to look cool!

We hung around the house until midday and then hitched our way to the beach and started to bake. It was gorgeous.

George and me spent a good half hour in the ocean before forcing Kim to join us; she refused so we basically threw her in! we found out pretty quickly how see through her costume really was!!

We carried on throwing ourselves around in the water and bodysurfed for a while. The girls in Southern California certainly live up to their name; they are GORGEOUS! If only Paul was here (note; my brother). He'd have a ball. We left the beach at 3.30pm and went up to the cafe on the plateau where we had breakfast on Thursday.

Oh, by the way, I bought a pair of shorts from Claire's garage sale - pretty cool man! George and I have sand in our shorts which makes walking rather uncomfortable. We made sand models which proved to be a riot and then went for a 'pollo dog' which was like a curry inside a hot dog. We finally headed home and ate tacos with the family.

Then a shower and we went out at 10pm for a couple of hours. At the Mariner rooms, this guy was doing his very best to get talking to this girl. Luckily for me, she seemed to be looking at me instead of him. At about half midnight, she walked past the guy, came over to me and introduced herself. I chatted with Denise and we went for a drive in her Saab (very nice) and for a couple of drinks.

Anyway, she gave me a lift home and we arranged to meet tomorrow.

Went to bed and crashed.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 4; this day in 1990

Woke again at 6.40am on the dot but this time went straight back to sleep. Sid woke us all at 8.45am and asked if we wanted to go to the Del Mar Grand Prix; a friend had given him free tickets and he invited us to go with him. Of course we said yes!

On the drive there we stopped off at two more of Sid's restaurants (I think he collected some takings!) and after about an hours drive, we arrived at Del Mar. The atmosphere at the race was incredible - loads of cars to look at including a 1974 Porsche 911 that had been converted into a 959 - wait 'till Dad sees the photos!

We watched a few of the races including one that had a three car pile up. One of the drivers had to be cut from the car after the fire marshalls had erected a screen so that people couldn't see exactly what was happening. We had something to eat and then made our way back home.

On the way home along the coast, we saw the most incredible sunset I have ever seen. It hung just above the sea for as long as it could before disappearing below the horizon. A bit further on, the sun (even though it was out of sight), sent up it's rays making the sky look just like a five-year olds drawing of the sun.

We got home and ate BBQ style on the patio and talked about our day and about how many photos we'd taken. Then we all headed into town for our first proper night out. We hitched all the way down, realised we had no ID (no ID, no drinks), so we hitched all the way back up, grabbed our passports, then hitched all the way back down again.

Had a great laugh with George (Kim stayed home), spoke with two very nice girls, before hitching a lift all the way home again and crashed out.

Totally. Like, TOTALLY!

(note: "totally" was quoted in just about every American film around this time. Actually, I think it still is!!)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 3; this day in 1990

Woke up at 6.35am feeling wonderful after a fantastic nights sleep on a sofa bed with a quilt. Amazing!! George and Kim awoke at the same time and we chatted for about an hour before going onto the patio at the back of the house. The view of the sun coming up at 7 in the morning, just above the mountains was breathtaking. Kim stayed in bed and George and me sat out the back for about an hour and half.

we saw a humming bird coolecting nectar a few feet from where we were sitting and then a couple of young deer strolled past. A really lovely sight first thing in the morning.

Anyway, finally everyone in the house was awake and we were offered a lift into town from Sid. A quick shower and change later, we were strolling around Laguna town.

The first thing we all agreed on was breakfast!!

We had eggs (scrambled), sausages, toast served with grapes, strawberries and melon. And of course, a Michelob (note; this was my beer of choice for much of the late 80's and early 90's). It came to $48 altogether. We finished our breakfast and as we had already bought our postcards, we sat where we were to write them all, sat on a plateau overlooking the beach.

Then we went back into town, bought a beach towel, I finally bought my Ray Bans (yee-hah!) which were $68 and then hit the beach. After an hour of burning up, George and me decided to brave the cold Pacific Ocean. We ran straight in, then ran straight out again, then headed home.

We got changed and Sid took us to one of his restaurants and treated us to pizza and a beer. Then we drove to Donna's school to watch them beat another team at volleyball. A bit of college football foolowed (crap, although the cheerleaders were pretty good!) and back home.

Bit of TV, few beers and then to bed, absolutely shattered.

p.s. Sid's restaurants are called "Z-Pizza".

Monday, 7 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 2; this day in 1990

Woke up at 6.45am 'cos it was bloody freezing. Met our roomate. Nice guy but a bit dodgy.

The view from our $8.25 a night dormitory was absolutely fantastic and the weather was gorgeous. Only a few clouds, and the sun was beautiful hanging over the sea.

Anyway, we didn't fancy the sights or sounds of San Pedro very much so we told George to get in touch with his Aunt in Laguna which he promptly did. She said it was fine for a few days, to go and stay at her place. No sooner said than done! We caught a bus to Los Angeles Amtrak train station and only just caught the train to San Juan Capistrano. An hour later we were there and we found ourselves waiting once again for a bus. After a trip on a No.91 followed by a No.1 we were in 'Laguna Beach, California'.

George's Aunt came and picked us up at the bus station. After a trip round the supermarket we finally made it to her house "On Top Of The World"; 3064 Nestall St.

We hung around the house for the rest of the day admiring the view from the back of the house, overlooking a valley, and met the rest of the family; Donna, Seth and Sid (not forgetting Kayla the dog).

George and me drank a few of the beers that we'd bought at the supermarket and realised that our jet-lag had caught up with us.

George and Kim crashed at 7.30pm and I followed at 9pm.


(confused? click here for an explanation)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cannonball Run Day 1; this day in 1990

Well, we left a tearful family behind at Heathrow at 10.30am and went straight through to customs and passport control, boarding our plane almost immediately.

The 7½ hour flight to New York went pretty smoothly on a 747 (the beef casserole was not too bad). A few beers on board, a few hours sleep and we were ready to land.

New York looked great (from inside the airport!) and it was our first sight of limo's and yellow cabs. We couldn't believe how easy it was getting through passport control and customs. Not one question asked. Phoned home and spoke to Ma, Pa and Paul and let them know everything was ok.

Then a four hour wait for our connecting flight. George and Kim (note: the two South Africans I made the trip with) told me they'd seen Debbie Harry - my idol!!

Ha ha, I said, very funny.

Then another flight of 6½ that went fairly quickly 'cos I slept all the way, even though I'd paid $4 for some headphones to watch the in-flight movie they were showing.

We got to baggage reclaim and who is standing right opposite me?

Debbie Harry!!

Took a quick photo' of her!!

Anyway, we took a van (called a cab here) to San Pedro where we checked in to a youth hostel. Very dodgy. Got in a few hours sleep but not much 'cos the place was a bit iffy!

(confused? click here for an explanation)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

“Oh my Gahd! Space aliens!! Don’t eat me! I have a wife & kids; eat THEM!”

Aah yes, of course, the effortlessly quotable Homer Simpson, the funniest of all yellow characters in Springfield. Whenever the kids (mine, not the ones at school) ask me to impersonate Homer, the title of this post is the line I throw at them.

By merely pulling a slightly funny face, I can pretty much nail Mr Simpson first time. Pulling faces is a pre-requisite to nailing any impersonation, come to mention it.

What, you didn’t know?

Well, there you have it, there’s a tip for you; scrunched up face equals success.

Check out any decent impersonator on TV and you’ll see they contort their faces in varying degrees, in order to get the pitch and voice just right of whoever it is they’re taking off.

And although the jokes are way above Annabel’s head and, for the most part, still above Joseph’s, he is starting to ‘get’ some of the humour of the comments, rather than just the slapstick of Homer dropping a hammer on his foot, or his skateboard jump not quite making the other side of the canyon.

(It’s still funny).

Only earlier this week did I realise that the Simpsons currently airing on our (UK) Channel 4 is a brand new series. I joined mes enfants in the TV room to catch Marge reminiscing when she was younger, and how she’d spurned Homer for the advances of a smooth, equal rights and feminist-supporting activist. As the two of them embrace, he comments in disgust on the lighthouse on the beach where they’re standing, explaining to Marge “how it’s phallic shape is penetrating the sky”, and that anything “penis shaped” is designed by men to hold power over women throughout history.

Now, I know there’s nothing wrong with the word penis, but I thought I’d take a look at Joseph and Annabel anyway.

Well, Annabel just returned my look, smiled slightly and then turned back to the TV. At roughly the same time, Joseph burst out laughing, hitting the sofa for added effect and sat back up to watch the television.

I looked back at the screen, wondering if he was laughing at what I thought he was laughing at, when he piped up, “oh, it’s so funny isn’t it Dad? “Peanut shaped”. It doesn’t even look like a peanut!”

Cue my laughter, louder than his was!!

You can pretty much rely on the Simpsons to make you laugh. However, you can guarantee that your children can make you laugh, of that there’s no doubt.

On the Simpsons though, this is their 23rd season, having first aired on our screens way back in 1989, just before Christmas. I never really got into it straight away, until an old friend explained it’s magic.

In fact, this post coincides with something else I wanted to say.

My wife, M, is sure I’m going through some sort of a mid-life crisis. She is of course completely wrong, but I shall humour her here, for your reading pleasure. The thing is, I’m not ageing all that well, that’s the upshot of it.

I’ve discussed hair loss on several occasions and we’ve (well, I’ve) decided, that it’s boring to mention it – I’ve even chastised Chris Evans for banging on about it on his breakfast show). But, for the sake of this post, I must make another quick mention.

So, hair loss?

Well, ok, I s’pose I don’t have much choice, so go on then – hair loss it is, it’s a go-er.

A-hah, but what about wrinkles and crow’s feet – or the nice way of saying it – laughter lines?

You know, I really don’t mind those. When I see them on other people’s faces, I think it gives them character, helps tell a story about that person. Yeah, wrinkles and ‘laughter lines’ are in, good.

Wait for it, wait for it …… bags under your eyes! What about those?

Wha’? Bags?? You’re kidding? Oh, bloody hell, is there nothing I can do about those, other than sleeping with cold sliced salad pieces on my closed eyes at night? The thing is, if I go to sleep on my back, there’s a teensy chance I might snore, thus waking up M, not to mention waking myself up with bloomin’ apnoea or whatever it’s called. Fine, begrudgingly, the bags can stay.

Ok? Is that it? Can I now please slow down the ageing process, please? Thank y …..

Not so fast laddie, not so fast, we’re not done with you yet. Ready?

*deep breath*

Rosacea, heh heh heh ……. checkmate!

Lemme hear y’say it. That’s right ….. ro-zay-sha!

WHAT? Not the …..?

Not when your face flushes and ……?

Not the occasional red nose and cheeks and all that ……?

Ha-HAAAAAH, YES, that’s the one!!! How d’you like THEM apples???!!

Hah, WE WIN, the ageing process wins.

Ageing – 1

Dad – nil.

Get IN, result!

Yeah, they’ve all got me. I’m going down, and going down fast. Not without a fight though, no sir-ee Bob!

So, taking all this into account, I can kinda see why M feels I’m having that crisis she mentioned.

For me though, what I want to write about for the next few months has nothing whatsoever to do with a crisis, mid-life or not.

It was the Simpsons start date that got me thinking. I said I didn’t really get into those genius yellow inhabitants of Springfield until I actually went to America, way back at the end of 1990.

November 6th to be more precise.

And then I was thinking, oh my goodness; that was 21 years ago, I’m forty-two now; my US trip was half my lifetime ago.

Holy cow!

I went up into our attic and had a rummage through our considerable boxes of “stuff” until I found two things.

One – my album of photographs I took in the United States (they were still called photographs then, not digital pics).

Two – the diary I kept during my three-month road trip there, which I called The Cannonball Run (explanations all in good time).

Boy oh boy, reading that diary sure brought back some memories for me. Some good, some a bit cringe making, but it was interesting to see how a twenty-year gap in noting down “stuff” didn’t really change my style of writing; I still write very similar to how I did as a ‘lad’.

(Make of that what you will!!)


Now I’ve brought it all down, what shall I do with it?

Well, M has been on at me for months – nay, years – to sort through the attic, so I thought I would make a start with this item, my USA trip diary. I know, I know, it’s a small start but a start nonetheless.

Now I know it’s a big ask, but if you could humour me for the next 12 or so weeks, I’m going to just copy out what I wrote all that time ago, when I was wrinkle, laughter lines and eye bag free. When my long, thick hair blew all around my face while I stood by a snow covered Grand Canyon to have my photograph taken.

And good grief, didn’t I look young?

(If you’re really unlucky, I may include some photos with me actually in them!)

Flicking through it, there were days that I missed; there’s even a couple of missing weeks – it’s possible I may have been on some kind of bender – so hopefully it’ll be over before it gets too tiresome.

I’ll write truthfully, even if what I’ve written makes me want to curl up and die.

However, if I want to mention something more up to date, more current, more in the here-and-now, I’ll probably just tag it on either at the start of the post or at the end.

In other words, I haven't a clue if it will work or not, but what’s the worst that can happen, eh?

If I’m honest, I seem to be sailing through one of my “busy doing I don’t quite know what” periods right now, but I’m painfully aware that I’m not keeping these pages as updated as I like to.

Am I being lazy?

Possibly, but I’m looking forward to it anyway.

As they say in New Yoik – have a nice day!