I am reflecting on the last 60 years, and writing 60 blog posts in 60 days. 30 about people and 30 about events, places, experiences and entities.
A cheap way to get around America
I’ve been to the USA three times, plus two trips to Hawaii. America is a land of strange contrasts but I loved my time tin the States and I have a number of good friends there, including my best friend Paul, who requires his own chapter of 60 in 60.
After the first summer at Camp Schodack I had six weeks to travel before my flight back to London from New York. This is a brief list of people and places from that first trip.
Camp Schodack, where I spent two fantastic summers, in 1983 and 1984
· Stayed with Joshua’s family, roller coasters and amusement parks, NY Mets baseball game at Shea Stadium.
· Stayed with Andy’s family, my first NFL game, NY Giants v Philadelphia Eagles.
· Washington DC to indulge my interest in US politics, the Lincoln, Washington & Jefferson monuments, the Watergate and Whitehouse. Arlington cemetery and the Aerospace and American history museums in the Smithsonian Institute.
· Flew to Miami with a couple of the BUNAC campers. Got food poisoning. Met up with a couple of friends I’d met in Holland.
· Disneyworld at Orlando (one of my teenage goals ticked off).
Some of the contents of the backpack I carried around the world, with mementos collected along the way
· Hitch-hiked from Florida to California on the I10 highway via New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, Yuma and finally to San Diego where Paul lives.
· After a week in southern California hitch-hiked to San Francisco. Met a couple of Aussies at the BART station and joined them to go to A David Bowie concert at Oakland. Ate at an Ethiopian restaurant and found a grove of gum trees at Stanford university.
· Hitch-hiked back to Bakersfield then headed east again to Mesa Verde National Park, site of ancient Indian dwellings.
· Spent a couple of days with a couple of blokes from Israel who were desperate to see a bear! We did spot a couple from a safe distance as we crossed a bridge, somewhere in Colorado.
· Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in the same day in near record time, and paid dearly for it. Half an hour after I got back to the rim I couldn’t walk! The next three days of hitch-hiking saw me hobbling painfully up to cars to accept my rides.
Words don't do justice, you have to see it to appreciate it
· Around this time Australia II was staging its amazing comeback in the America’s Cup and I decided to stay on the road and try and get to Rhode Island for the finale. Sadly I didn’t make it that far. I was in Ohio when they won the final race and celebrated with a beer with the guy who picked me up.
· The only time I rented a motel room on the entire trip was one night in Texas to watch the 1983 VFL Grand Final on ESPN, Hawthorn beat Essendon.
· Saw the biggest bag of dope I’d ever seen when I stayed the night with some blokes in Denver, a whole garbage bag full!
· Baseball games in Houston- the Astros, San Diego-the Padres, and Chicago-the Cubs and St Louis- the Cardinals.
· Climbed the Gateway Arch at St Louis- I love being in high places with a great view.
· I arrived back in New York the day before my flight after six weeks on the road.
America Take Two.
When I went back to Camp Schodack the following year I was in transit back home. My UK visa had run out and I had a flight booked from Los Angeles back to Sydney in October.
My mate Malcolm came to camp with me and we travelled together for a couple of weeks before he returned to NY and home to London and I continued on my journey west.
Highlights of my second trip. For the first part of this trip I had Trailways bus passes, $10 for 24 hours of travel, although I worked out if you added a zero to the ticket it converted to ten day’s worth of travel!!
· Washington DC for a second time, more political sight-seeing.
· Philadelphia, a college football game at Penn State and the Liberty Bell.
· Boston, Bunker Hill monument, the tea party harbour and Fenway Park to see the Red Sox.
· Montreal where we stayed with Stu and his family from camp.
· Niagra Falls and the Maid of the Mist then to Toronto.
· 10 days in Chicago staying with Al, one of my camp counsellors, at Psi Upsilon Fraternity House during Rush Week at NorthWestern University. Lots of parties and drinking. Mal and I farewelled one another in Chicago.
Farewell to Malcolm in Chicago. Sidenote, Mal is one of two people I know who can speak false languages in a totally convincing way. He used to make up songs in mock French or Russian and get me to sing the chorus!!
· Saw the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
· Minneapolis where I stayed with a couple of girls I had met at Disneyworld the year before. Watched them run their first marathon then watched the 1984 VFL Grand Final on ESPN at about 2 in the morning. The Bombers got revenge on the Hawks.
· Mt Rushmore, an amazing spectacle created by Gutzon Borglum.
· Devil’s Tower National Monument, made famous by Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
· Seattle Washington, the Space Needle, site of World Expo 1962.
· The spectacular Oregon Coast. Stayed the night with a family who picked me up, and fed me a huge steak dinner.
· San Francisco, Lombard St, Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars and the Bridge.
· Went to election rallies in Chicago- Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for Vice President, and for Walter Mondale her running mate. The highlight was heckling Ronald Reagan and upsetting his Republican supporters at a rally in San Diego.
· Arriving in San Diego to stay with Paul after eight weeks on the road. I helped him move into his new place with Vicki. We took a trip to Yosemite National Park and I met his brother Damon. Excursion to Tijuana Mexico and another Padres game.
Paul, packing the truck for our trip to Yosemite
· After 5 ½ months in America and 2 ½ years away from Australia I flew out of LAX for home via a 3 day stopover in Tahiti. I flew into Sydney completely out of money so headed straight for the highway and hitch-hiked south to Pop and Julie’s place in Maryborough. I got back to Perth a few weeks later.
Ten years after my first overseas trip I had another opportunity to travel when I was selected to represent Australia at the Jeanne Sauvé International Conference for Young Leaders to be held in Montreal in 1992. I was doing youthwork at the time with Fusion and running the Chip Inn drop-in-centre at Warwick Church of Christ.
With Jeanne Sauve at the Conference in her name in Montreal. She died less than a year later. NB. That may be a mullet!!!
· I spent a week in London en route, catching up with friends like Tania and Nick and doing some sight-seeing.
· The conference in Canada was great, over 200 young leaders from around the world, sharing ideas and experiences. One young African woman made a lasting impression on me when discussing democracy and the right to vote in America. “I can tell you that if I had the right to vote I would never not use it”.
· Good friends Laurie and Sonia Haynes met up with me in Montreal during their own adventures around the world.
· After the conference I tracked down a friend from Schodack, Kevin and discovered he was getting married in Boston that weekend so he promptly invited me to the wedding, a whole weekend event at a camp style resort. The bride and groom were all out partying until 2am the night before the wedding and somehow made it to the service in good shape at 9.30 the next morning!
· Stayed with Cindy, the drama counsellor cum getaway driver from Schodack, in NY for a couple of days and went to the top of the World Trade Centre.
· Stayed with friends from our church, Calvary Chapel, who had returned to live in America, Ron and Kay in Vermont and Keith and Michelle in Illinois.
· Andy from Schodack picked me up in Chicago and drove me to Illinois.
· Flew from Chicago to Los Angeles where I was picked up by Skip and another mate Mike from church. The three of us went to a pastors’ conference at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa where I got to meet one of my heroes, Chuck Smith.
Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel
· Went to Disneyland with Mike and Skip.
I love amusement parks, rides and roller coasters. Space Mountain at Disneyland is awesome.
· Stayed with Paul and Vicki at Escondido and had a close encounter with a rattlesnake on a hike to scope out fly-fishing spots.
· Flew back to Perth after a month away from home. On reflection, while it was a great opportunity for me and an awesome trip, the fact that I left Carolyn at home with three kids under 5 to look after was not fair and placed a lot of extra stress on her.
In all I have been to 31 states in America, hitch-hiked thousands of miles and met heaps of wonderful people. I don’t recall any encounters with loud obnoxious Yanks, rednecks or Trump-style voters although this was thirty years ago and the country has changed. I found the people to be warm, friendly and extremely hospitable. They are proud of their country certainly and have a different attitude to the role of government and civic responsibility than Australians. I love America, it’s a vast and beautiful country and I hope to get back there again and see some more of it.