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.