Monument Valley

#NorthAmerica

After being home for two weeks now I’ve finally been able to fix up and add photos to all the posts about my trip to #NorthAmerica.

Check them all out. Consider the new updated blogs the director cut versions of the trip.

Downtown Los Angeles – Day 1

Hollywood – Day 2

Studios and the Coast – Day 3 & 4

Viva Las Vegas – Day 5 & 6

Grand Canyon & Rural Arizona – Day 7

Monument Valley – Day 8

Quaint Little America – Day 9 & 10

On the Road Again – Day 11 & 12

Texas Time – Day 13 & 14

Swamp Places – Day 15 & 16

4th of July in New Orleans – Day 17

Walking In Memphis – Day 18 & 19

Tennessee Wilderness – Day 20 & 21

East North East – Day 22 & 23

Washington D.C. – Day 24

D.C. To NYC – Day 25

Islands & Games – Day 26

So Much Cake – Day 27

Live from Central Park – Day 28

We Went to the Theatre – Day 29

Cya Later New York – Day 30

Bustin’ Open Boston – Day 31 & 32

Oh So French! – Day 33 & 34

A Tasty Version of Canada – Day 35 & 36

A Nicer Version of NYC – Day 37

What Up Toronto? – Day 38

Not Just Your Average Waterfalls – Day 39

The Luther, Oh Cheesus & The Boarder Crossing – Day 40

The Last Bus Day – Day 41

Another Food Safari – Day 42

Chicago State of Mind – Day 43

See Ya Later Americator – Day 44

Chicago Skyline

See Ya Later Americator – Day 44

To say the least I’m pissed off to be going home. America has produced some of the best memories, experiences, foods, and people that I’ve ever met and now some idiot had booked me a flight home (please note that that some idiot was me).

My last day in the States was spent wandering around Chicago in the morning. I took a cup of Freedom (Starbucks) and walked along the Chicago river. In the 1880s the Chicago river was filled with so much waste that it was starting to poison the people who lived in Chicago. So some bright spark decided to reverse the river, it would now flow away from Lake Michigan and towards the Gulf of Mexico. This was a massive and unimaginable feet at the time. Even today as I wander up and down the river it is hard to visualise the amount of work that has gone into this great city.

Last lunch was a reuben (I’m gonna miss these guys) followed by a walk out to the Adler Planetarium to get a snap of the endless Chicago skyline.

Chicago Skyline

At the beginning of my trip I sat in traffic at LA and now I’ve sat in traffic in Chicago. After taking an hour to drive 20 miles I think I’ll happily take LA traffic any day. We spoke to some locals in the bus to the airport. They furthered my point that this stereotype around obnoxious is incorrect. Most of them were from cities and they were perfectly nice. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that across the trip I only have one memory of a cranky person, and he was a New Yorker (who are notoriously cranky people).

The airport security was slow and very American. Shoes off, pat down, metal detector, metal detector wand, bag searches, and then finally we were through. I said my goodbyes to Alice (one of my Contiki friends) and then I started my 23 hours of transit home.

Landing in LA I was reminded why LAX is actually one of the worst places in the world. Walking out of the arrivals terminal I had to find the international departures terminal. This is easier said then done. I was tired (I was used to east coast time and by now it was well and truly past my bed time), I was hot (it feels like LAX traps all the humidity and all the pollution of the city in the airport), and I was getting irritated by the noise (SO MANY CARS).

As soon as I sat down on the plane I fell asleep (later on I questioned why I didn’t see the safety demonstration only to remember that I slept through it). As soon as the engines kicked into gear I woke up, just in time to see the last lights of LA and America.

I’ll be back soon to embraces the freedom, devour the greasy foods, walk when I’m not supposed to through Time Square, and to hopefully not loose my passport.

Chicago State of Mind – Day 43

Saying goodbye to the Contiki crew meant that I only had a day and a half left in the US. This was an emotion and a thought that I didn’t want to deal with. So I went shopping.

In Chicago there is a section of downtown called the Miracle Mile. Think super expensive shops with super classy shopping centres. After wandering around I realised that I was in fact dreaming and needed to go somewhere that caters to the student travel budget. So I found myself wandering back into the classic tourist shops (I also found myself wandering back into the doughnut shop from yesterdays food safari).

On my way back to the hotel I walked along Michigan Avenue, next to Millennium Park. Along the footpath was a chess stall set up for passers by. The aim of the stall was simple. Players walk up, make a few moves and then leave the game. The next person walks up and plays a few rounds then leaves. Eventually someone will take the game, but not necessarily because of one single players actions, but more likely from the actions of a collective. Sydney, your move!

By now it was mid afternoon and I decided that I needed to make my way up the Willis Tower (formally the Sears Tower). On a clear day you can see around 50 km from the tower, and well out over Lake Michigan. As well as that you can look back into Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. It was a fitting way to spend my last afternoon in America. At the top of some tower looking over one the biggest skylines in the States, and watching the sunset reflect off the shores of Lake Michigan.

Sears

From the top of the tower I thought about all the tall buildings and monuments I’d climbed in this trip and the cities that stand below them. The more I thought about those cities the more I realised that Chicago had been one of my favourites of the trip, potentially more so then NYC. Chicago has this clean, diverse, friendly, and yet potentially rural feel to it. Drive 60 kms out of Chicago and you’ll be heading out into the Illinois farm towns. This is a place I’d defiantly return to.

Chicago 1

To close up my last night in the States I ordered the biggest iced tea I could find, ate a sandwich with so many meats it should have killed me, and settled in for a night of my new favourite reality TV show, Duck Dynasty. Seriously YOU NEED TO WATCH IT!

Another Food Safari – Day 42

With all this food that I’ve eaten across my journey, I find myself questioning why I’m not fat? I think it could be because of all the walking that I’ve been doing. I mean you’ve got less then 32 hours in a place so you need to make the most out of it. Walking is often the quickest and cheapest mode of transportation around places. I think most day we’d walk around 10 km give or take.

This morning we took off on a food safari around Chicago, this time it was a walking food safari (so I guess in theory it would be a little healthier then a sitting down food safari). Leaving the hotel we made our way to a hot dog place, where we ate (you guessed it) Chicago Dogs. Chicago Dogs are regular hot dogs with a pickle, onions, chillies, and pepper. It’s a Chicago thing. Before our next stop we made an little intermission grabbing some coconut macaroons from a food truck. Well worth it.

Chicago Dog

Dorite Doughnut

The next stop on our food safari was Do Rite Doughnuts. If doughnuts had a royal families, Do Rite Doughnuts would be the Mighty Royal Highness of all the kingdoms of doughnuts. Everyday they smash out a couple hundred doughnuts. Once they sell them all they close up. Some of their exuberant doughnut flavours include buttermilk, maple syrup and bacon, chocolate, pistachio, and so many more. So if you want some you’d better get in early.

After eating so much so food it was settled that eating would be put on the back burner for a little while. Walking around the block we saw the worlds largest free air Picasso sculpture. #funfact Picasso gave a massive iron sculpture to the people of Chicago, simply because he liked Chicago. We did a few more touristy things around Millennium Park. We saw the giant reflective bean thing, which was cool, some water fountain thing, and the start/ end of Route 66.

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Route 66

After all this touristing I was starting to get hungry again! On our way to our last stop we made another pit stop at a DQ (Dairy Queen). Here they claim they make the worlds thickest thick shake. So thick that you can turn it upside down and it won’t spill. I had a go, and even though my upside down turn of the cup was very fast, it still stayed in place!

Our last stop was Harold’s Chicken Shack. Rapper Kendrick Lamar once flew from Italy to Chicago for the chicken at Harold’s. I mean it was alright, but then again I’m not the biggest fan fried chicken.

After a little exploring followed by a seriously big sit down we had one last Contiki group engagement. We were off to Wriggly Field for the baseball. I saw a game at Citifield but this time the game would be a little smaller, a little more intimate, and a little ( actually a lot) longer. The Cubs played the Rockies and the game went on so long that it was actually the longest game ever played by both teams. And people say cricket is a long game!

Chicago

The Last Bus Day – Day 41

Departing Cleveland in the middle of a rainstorm we drove west towards Indiana, and eventually Illinois.

After spending 20 days on a bus, today was my last bus day. Out of a 40 odd day holiday spending half of it on a bus sounds like a long time. But I’m not going to complain. I knew what I was signing up for before I took my first seat on the bus way back in LA. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to slowly work their way across America. You see the site (even though you don’t get long to see them), and you meet plenty of colourful locals.

Before we arrived in Indiana we made a stop off at an old Amish homestead. It was fascinating to see the motives behind the Amish way of life. Most of the reasons for their primitive ways of life comes from their ex-communication and persecution from the Mennonite church. For example, they don’t use electricity or the internet simply because of the evils that it might bring. However in saying this Amish people still use banks, still use mail services, telephones (when needed), and doctors.

Driving through Indiana our tour director put on a film about something or rather called The Sandlot. The thing with the buses is that as soon as you get on and the bus starts moving you fall asleep. So I didn’t see any of the movie but woke up just in time to see the Chicago skyline. #funfact Chicago has the largest skyline in the US after NYC.

We booked into our hotel and then took to the streets to find dinner. If you’ve been reading these regularly, then you probably think all I’ve done on this holiday is sit on buses, and eat food. Well thats about half of it.

For dinner we ate Chicago deep pan pizza. So imagine a quiche but replace the eggy stuff with pizza toppings and the pastry base with a pizza dough base. That my friends is a deep pan pizza. It goes into the top 5 things that I’ve eaten on this trip I reckon.

deep pan pizza

deep pan pizza

When we finished our dinner and rolled out the pizza joint we went back to the hotel for a night of partying and head shaving. Some of the possessed people on the Contiki thought it would be a good idea to shave their heads for charity. I think alcohol was a big factor in their decision, but hey when on Contiki #NoRegrets

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Tornado Warning Cleveland

The Luther, Oh Cheesus & The Boarder Crossing – Day 40

Today is the day where I’ll find out whether or not I’ll be allowed back into the USA.

Getting on the bus to the boarder everyone asked me if I was nervous. To tell you the truth I wasn’t. I was on holidays, and I was out for an adventure. The worst case scenario was that I’d be turned down from the boarder and I wouldn’t be able to fly home from the US. Instead I’d thumb my way back to the nearest town in Canada and sort myself out from there. I wasn’t worried, because I knew there’d be worse places to be stuck in the world.

At the boarder I handed over my emergency passport and the many forms I’d collected over my 4 weeks without a passport. The customs officer took my forms, spoke to my tour director, and then took me away to another building. On the way out the customs officer said they’d waive a $580 fee, which I would have been happy to pay. After some photographs, finger pints, and questions I was given a temporary visa and allowed onto the bus and into the country.

We crossed into the States at Buffalo, New York. From there we drive into Ohio and towards the town nicknamed the Mistake On The Lake. The lake is Lake Erie, the mistake is the city of Cleveland. I mean it’s not that bad. We went to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, which was very cool! But realistically there wasn’t much happening in Cleveland besides one of the greatest food experiences of my life!!!

Down the street from our hotel there’s a burger joint called Burgers 2 Beer. They sell some of the most extravagant and experimental burgers I’ve ever seen, tasted and then eaten. Round 1! Take a krispy kreme doughnut and cut in half. Smash out a burger and place it between the doughnut halves. You have my friends the Luther. Round 2! Take two grilled cheese sandwiches. Cook one with Swiss cheese, cook the other with American cheddar. Smash a burger between them and throw a little extra cheese on it. Serve with aioli. You now have what is called Oh Cheesus! Both of these went onto the list of best food experiences that I’ve ever had.

The Luther

Oh Cheesus

To make tonight a little more exciting we had a tornado warning enforced for the city of Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs. As terrible as it is, I would have loved to have seen a tornado whilst in America.