...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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August 23, 2005 || 11:07 am

Sorry for lack of updates - being in the middle of the desert somewhat does that to you. However, I am incredibly thrilled to be able to report that Team Green Jeep has made it to the Pacific! Yesterday at around 5.15 pm we arrived in Berkeley, California, and saw the ocean. Wowee. Meanwhile, here's a day-by-day update of what we've been up to since I last had internet.

Wednesday - we made it to Yellowstone. Nice but too crowded. Watched Old Faithful do its 100ft geyser thing which was sort-of impressive but the fact that you were there with 1000 other people somewhat diluted it. The smoking landscape did give an eery impression of the closeness of the centre of the earth, bubbling away, but actually we were generally underwhelmed by the more rocks&trees scenario. Hmm. But we camped in a beautiful place in Grand Teton NP - at least it was beautiful before the most immense thunderstorm exploded overhead and we were forced to leave our lovely campfire and our waiting dinner to hide out in the car. Tried to wait out the storm and in a brief lull we returned to the fireside but the rain returned and it was eventually game over and we turned in to our tent in freezing conditions! Drinking beer somehow did not lessen our coldness - and we had no whisky...

Thursday - Grand Teton NP to Salina, Utah. Left the rain behind, thank goodness! We drove out through Jackson Hole and the rest of Wyoming under overcast and spitting skies. Lunch at the Red Baron Drive-In was also grey. But then we crossed into Utah and somehow the skies became blue - we could see the storm behind us but managed to out-drive it and took a cunnig eastward detour that totally outfoxed the evil gods of thunder. Mormons seem pretty normal so far, there are adverts for divorce lawyers by the interstate and every materialistic thing imaginable. Buying booze was also unproblematic. Salt Lake City is HUGE. We grilled out by the Salt Lake around dinner and arrived late to the tiny town of Salina, the last stop before over 100 miles of desert.

Friday - Salina to Canyonlands. We woke up to find that Salina is a great small town - with Mom's Cafe, a real local diner, a small-town auto garage where I got an oil change and check-up, and all the rest - I felt instantly at home. The Koreans running the motel where we pitched up late last night were astonished to see me, staring at me wide-eyed as if I was an unimaginable celebrity or else had a horn growing out of my forehead - I never did quite work out what was so strange about my appearance. Went to the Arches National Park, which was fun but again always these things where you are meant to look at something are not aas 'exciting' to me as simlly driving for two or three hours to get there through the most ridiculous, incredible landscapes of ruptured, striped, brightly coloured cliffs, distant canyons and ridges, close-up encounters with vertiginous chasms rising right next to the hard shoulder, and the endless shifting vistas with a sky that turns from hazy on the horizon to intense blue overhead. Camped in Canyonlands National Park, which was absolutely wonderful - grilled fish, potatoes, zucchini, beer, drinking whisky till midnight watching the stars.

Saturday - Beatie's birthday! We drove from Canyonlands to Tonopah, Nevada. After leaving the red rocks and dramatic show of Utah and crossing I-15, we entered the emptiest landscapes we have seen so far - ten miles of scrubland, semi-desert range followed by a pass through a serrated sierra ridge, and repeat, for 300 miles. One understands why people wanted to take mind-altering drugs out here. Eventually we turned south-west and the landscape became weird smooth excrescences from the ground - sci-fi landscapes, airbrushed sunset skies, you see where those comic writers and illustrators, and all those UFO stories, come from. Black lava flows from small extinct volcanoes, no people, the odd trail of dust from a vehicle on a dirt track miles away in the distance. We placed bets on how long one straight bit of road was that we could see stretching into the distance before it curved around a hill - it was 23 miles and we realised that you could fit most of London into the valley that we could see across and traversed in minutes.

Eventually ended up in Tonopah, a weird mining town with many motels, a couple of casino-cum-saloon bars and restaurants, lots of trailer parks which looked incredibly depressing places to exist. a lot of people seemed to be staying in town - the Best Western had only one room left and was way too expensive for us so we ended up in the Economy Inn. Ate at the Ramada - very depressing and strange Engish theming, old Fry's chocolate signs, pub stuff and 'Dickensian' aaccountrements. Weird band on stage playing faded bluesy somethings. People slumped in front of the slot machines, eyes glazed. We wondered why there was this obsessive need to gamble all the time, as soon as it is permitted - even the gas stations have slot machines.

Sunday - Tonopah to Yosemite National Park. We got to Yosemite around lunchtime. Again, very crowded. But much more spectacular and awe-inspiring than Yellowstone, for some reason. The organisation of these National Parks is rather disconcerting - Center Parcs-like shuttle buses, 'villages' of stores, campgrounds, eateries and lodges, well-trodden 'hiking' trails being attacked by people wearing full-on hiking gear when (as we proved) you only need a pair of flip-flops and some water to be able to get up them. But still, you can swim and paddle in the rivers in the middle of the unimaginably tall canyons, where you have to tilt your head right back to be able to see the sky. We camped the night and had a rather lovely campfire dinner of sausages, baked sweet potatoes, grilled red peppers and salad, surrounded by climbers recounting their tales of derring-do around rather more impressive campfires than ours.

Monday - Yosemite to Berkeley! What can I say - we arrived, after a morning swim and walk in the park, a baking drive through central California and the shock of re-entering city traffic, to the famous Lucy Begg's house on the Berkeley/Oakland border. We drove up to the top of the hills to overlook the city and its famous fog which was utterly unbelivable - totally covering San Francisco, so that it might never have been there at all (see below for crappy photo). After much gossipping and Mexican food, it was time for well-earned bed. And today now we are sitting in a cafe with real coffee, fruit on the menu, a compost bin and a recycling bin and wi-fi. Ah, the West Coast....




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