May 14, 2010 GMT
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San Simeon, CA. 23.4.10

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"Oooh! You don't want to leave today dearie! Terribly high winds on the way!" warns the landlady as I pack up in Flagstaff.
"Pshaw!" I think. "I've ridden through Patagonia don'cha know. No man's put me down yet!"


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Thirty miles down the road I'm nearly crying with terror. My adrenal glands have gone haywire, and there's nothing you can do to relieve adrenaline at 60mph except scream. It seems far worse than Patagonia: either I've forgotten how bad that was or I'm more sensitive now, having, in the final analysis, been blown into a ditch in Argentina. I pull off the highway at Seligman, the first exit, and attempt to calm down.

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I try not to show the lady who runs the 66 Motel how trembly and weepy I am as I check in (she's about 86 and rides a chopper). Andy Bell's advice rings in my ears. "Above all, remember you're British."


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By chance, I'm just in time to catch the second half of the Arsenal-Barcelona Champions League game, in which our boys pull back a draw from the jaws of ignominy. Splendid work, made all the splendider by the subsequent arrival of Pau and Carme on a rented Harley (they're not spelling mistakes - they're from Barcelona). And they don't know the score! Inevitably, we drink beer, and, less inevitably, end up applauding a Norwegian bloke as he plays some kind of Scandi-didgeridoo. A Scanderidoo. Amazing.
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Arizona - while good in many, many ways - has a relatively high proportion of Mouthy Racist Idiots. One of them attempts to strike up a chat at the gas station in Seligman, using a sort of pun/metaphor based on the name of my bike - an Africa Twin - and the notion of Barack Obama's "brother". I can't - or won't - recall the exact details, but even if he hadn't been a fucking moron, the "joke" alone would have warranted the flat-eyed stare I offered him in response.
(The State of Arizona has just passed a law making it illegal to be Mexican or something - fact.)
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Thanks David Wood - random fella on an F800 - for the pic
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I'm not expecting a whole lot of sympathy for this next bit, but here goes anyway. You know when you go on holiday for two weeks, and the second week goes by much more quickly than the first? Well, I'm finding that if you go on holiday for 20 months, the last four months zip by at a quite horrifying lick.
Secondly, the last day or two of a two-weeker are generally infused with a spiralling sense of dread about going back to work. A 20 month holiday has that as well, but it seems to begin in the penultimate country of the holiday; in this case, America. These feelings are heightened, for me, by two quite important factors:
1) If you start counting from when I went to Africa, I've actually been on holiday for six years.
2) What in holy, boiling Hell am I actually going to do when I get back?????


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I know what I'd do if I had the cash - carry on north from Vancouver, go to Alaska, turn left at the end and ride home through Asia. And then go directly to Africa again etc etc. As it is, I'm - honestly - wondering whether stacking shelves in Tesco can be quite as bad as it's made out to be. Luckily, thousands of years ago, someone invented beer, so you don't have to worry about this stuff all the time.


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Navajo dude
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So - Lake Havasu City next. Nobody would ever go there (although sunset over the lake is lovely) had some nut-cake not decided to buy London Bridge in the early 1970's, ship it to Arizona brick by brick, and rebuild it in LHC.
(There's a theory that he thought he was getting Tower Bridge. I so want it to be true. Let's pretend it is.)
It does actually look superb, apart from the concrete "English Village" on the east side.


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LHC also boasts the Firehouse, and - quite simply - it's yet another brilliant American bar, where everyone will talk to you, the lager's far cheaper than you think, and - when the time is right - there's sufficient Rush and AC/DC on the jukie for you and your new pals to go FLIPPING MENTAL until it's time to go home. Excellent!


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Presently we must draw a mental curtain across this amusing tableau of Londonesque fakery, but not before we examine what happened in my motel room when The Earthquake hit.
Boiling it down to its humiliating essence, what I've learnt is this:
Do not be in the nip - ever - in an earthquake zone.
So - I'm nude, in my room, everything's fine, and I'm going to have a shower. THEN THE FUCKING BUILDING STARTS MOVING. What in the name of writhing Satan? I'm almost literally shitting myself. (Perhaps it's a good thing, laundry-wise, that I'm not wearing my trousers.) What in Christ do I do? Is it about to get worse? Do I have time to locate a pair of underjocks, or should I run outside, nude, shrieking and bewildered?


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It's raw, primal panic of a variety I haven't tasted since - oooh - two days ago (the "breezy" road out of Flagstaff). Being naked, terrified and 44 is something perhaps everyone should experience. Or - better - shouldn't. Then , without warning, the ceiling collapses! Not really. It just stops. Five minutes later, it's all fine and I decide to go for a stroll. Perhaps the Firehouse is open...


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There's more wind-related terror on the ride from Lake Havasu to Vegas, but this time I suck it up like a Rocky V Hoover. Presently Her Maj and I make it to Circus Circus, the (in theory) shittest, and (in reality) best value hotel on the Strip. I pay $17 a night for a four-star room - if you've been to CC before, it's just been renovated. Unbebloodylievable.


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Downstairs, and ten bucks in the video poker machine built into the bar allows you "free" beer all night (if you play the machine slowly and carefully). It's certainly possible to debauch on the cheap in Vegas. The tricky part is keeping an eye on your animal urges. One extra $20 bill in the machine and you've blown it. One room-service portion of Buffalo wings at 4.00am and you've blown it. Luckily, Circus Circus has a 7-Eleven not eight minutes walk away, so you can stock up on bananas and tuna sandwiches at your leisure. Ignore the "No Pedestrian Traffic" signs; they're only there to force you back into the casino, should you attempt to leave the building. Resistance is useful.


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And then there's T. For the avoidance of doubt, T. looks like the middle sister of Beyonce and Alicia Keys - i.e. OMFFFG. I can't begin to tell you how difficult it is to stick to your atheist principles (ha!) under this kind of pressure; T. is a Christian. Also she has a boyfriend. But she looks like a Beyonce/Keys mash-up!!!!


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It's Vegas, so I tell her - truthfully - that I literally love her, and consequently need to marry her immediately.
She protests a bit, throwing the Jesus/atheism/boyfriend/motorcycle bum thing(s) back in my face. But - praise be to liquor - there's some kissing anyway, right there in the casino. Not enough for my liking, but significantly more than nothing at all.

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It has to be mentioned that her "friends" (they weren't her friends, they just turned up) were a) a nutter woman, and b) a Canadian Baptist preacher. After a lengthy discussion regarding the immorality of atheism, the Canadian Baptist Sunday-School-Teaching preacher ended up in his room with TWO prostitutes. I went home alone, to pine in my room over T.
Moral - I am stupid, and Canadian Baptist Sunday-School teachers are a little bit more disgusting than they make out they are.


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Sign in a casino. Subtext: Even if you don't
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Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at May 14, 2010 04:43 AM GMT
 


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