We often assume that speaking a common language gives people a better understanding of each other but America gives me more of a culture shock than anywhere I have ever travelled. It’s for this reason that I was nervous arriving sleepless (I have a self control failure with films on planes), jetlagged and knowing I had no accommodation booked for a third of my trip. Normally, this wouldn’t worry me; England is easy and I can get around in Europe. America? No. It’s too big and I can’t walk everywhere. To reach one destination I had planned, a three day (each way) solo hike across rattlesnake country was an option. It was the last option but still…
I hadn’t intended for things to go that way- my plans had been rather abruptly cancelled the previous week. The road trip that wasn’t to be had been preying on my mind- I’d been chewing things over whether I wanted to or not, holding open a heart wound that not even I could actually see. Shoving my hand through chickenwire and into the canal to retrieve my dropped diary had left long swollen scratch marks down my inner arm; it was the smallest of many things causing me pain but the only thing I could complain about without having to tell a long backstory.
I was about to spend five nights (which would turn into six) with a total stranger but of course, this stranger was also a wastelander- we were family by default. Of all the ridiculously long “Gwyneth Paltrow Oscar speech” thankyou lists I’ve had to write, Maee aka leatherworker Rhea Designs has my gratitude for life for being a safe lighthouse for my first week in the US as well as adventure buddy and bringer of Butterfingers bars. It was a full house- several housemates, a chinchilla, a happy licky dog with a big crocodile head (apparently) and Maees parents! We started adventuring in teams, leaving me little room for thoughts, which was a good thing. Keeping moving is my tried and tested cure for most blues.
I must tell the story out of order as I went on adventures in the middle of other ones; I visited a steampunk cafe with a new stuntman friend you’ll meet in two blogs time, went hiking with an armoured car loving friend, got lost, went mushy over hummingbirds and I have a whole future post about a canyon shaped like the devil. Maee, myself and the crew visited an abandoned zoo, sewed things in the garage and drank coconut water, tried new Vietnamese food with Tai tea, explored a Western film set that sat empty in the mountains, put the world to rights many times over with our partner-in-awesomeness Micah and swapped trinkets.
Want to see? 😉
I have feelings about zoos and my feeling about this one is I’m glad it was shut down! These are where the animals lived. The information posters said camels, big cats, bears, zebras… and goats for some reason. (Was this like a Jurassic Park thing?!)
We passed a crew doing a photoshoot in one of the graffiti covered buildings and made our way down the sloping path while black, red and white woodpeckers called overhead. I’m used to knowing most of my surrounding wildlife so always feel a bit lost when I’m no longer surrounded by calls and creatures I can greet like old friends. Maee introduced me to a stink bug though… 😉
Later, Maee casually mentioned that the wedding chapel from Kill Bill is not, in fact, in El Paso, Texas but just 20 minutes away and then promised to take me after I squeaked about it. I’d thought such a beautiful filming location would be full of tourists (it’s also the set of Westworld) but nope, for a long time it was just us and the lizards I named John and Wayne. It turns out somebody does actually live there though- one single house is occupied! We ran around the place until a few more people showed up to shoot country and western fashion and a country and western music video.
It was here that I gave some clues to you- if you could guess where I was, you’d have your name entered twice in my next giveaway which I am preparing at the moment! Three of you are in twice. 🙂
Can you IMAGINE this being the view from your front door?! No people! <3
The tree next to the chapel reflected in the window and it looks as though the tree is inside! Isn’t it gorgeous?!
I LOVE this skirt thingy!
Maee made the waistcoat too- I have the most beautiful friends. <3
I belong to several groups on facebook and I’ve found they’ve been fantastic for making contacts and new friends! I met Alyssa last year when I visited the US- we ate teeny tiny cupcakes in San Jose and this year Alyssa gave me a guided tour of Santa Monica and Venice beach. It’s ‘where the freaks hang out’, we were assured by a well meaning numpty. 😛 I didn’t find any freaks- just crafts people, tourists, scantily clad off duty drag queens (one of whom called out to compliment my outfit), interesting people, and skaters comparing skills on the ramp. One old man owned the place with great joy and a baseball cap- flipping about on the ramps, jumping off the side to seamlessly meet his board halfway up and giving high fives to the boys struck with hero-worship. We found a shop that sold Transformer sculptures, lots of ice cream, artists with little makeshift huts and booths that I would later be reminded of when I visited a hippy commune, and Venice’s famous “muscle beach”… which I had shockingly never heard of. I am a gym-goer but don’t venture into ‘the testosterone room’ aka the one with the free weights full of very large men going “HUEEEEEEEY” and sweating. I can’t help but laugh. Muscle Beach is an exclusive club… painted bright orange, situated riiiiiight on the beach where nobody could miss it, flanked by enormous jars of protein powder, full of massive free weights and populated by very very large men going “HUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYY” and sweating profusely. I got a spectacular fit of the giggles and was saved by the scantily clad drag queen from earlier, now on duty flyering with a wave and a ‘hows it going?’
A shop selling models of Transformers and xenomorphs? I think so!!!
I saw my first wild sealion (the one below, in fact) at the end of Santa Monica pier and had time for some gorgeous healthy lunch at a Hare Krishna temple before I dashed off to catsit for a friend.
Here’s the thing about America that I have to really get used to (other than Trump, education system, healthcare system and guns); walking just isn’t done. Back home, the ten minute trip to the shop I’ve walked multiple times a day is done in a car here. There is no ‘city centre’ to mooch around- you need to know exactly where you’re going- and if like me you have no car and are hellbent on walking, distance is misleading. What looks like a twenty minute trip in the UK is actually three hours, and the road signs are laid out differently- pretty much the exact opposite to the UK, leaving me very, very lost. I got it eventually and discovered the wonders of Uber- which finally allowed me to get around without losing several hours.
By this time I was ten days into my trip and having spent 48 hours on the sofa with small, soft and clumsy Audrey the cat while binge watching the Walking Dead, it was time to head out to the location I’d set my heart on reaching… by any means necessary.